More Roman than Rome

DigbyAnderson exhorts us to a fullAnglo-Papalism with a wholehearted adoption of the Tridentine Mass or at least the forthcoming translation of the Novus Ordo

The Mass is at the heart of Catholicism and the rite is the text and rubrics of the Mass. So all Catholics will be interested when significant changes are made to the rite. And indeed significant changes have been coming from Rome for some time now and more are on the way. Should Anglo-Catholics be thinking of how to implement them? The questions apply to those who already use the Novus Ordo and are especially relevant to those who use that Ordo for a certain reason.

Reading of the new changes conjured up voices from the past. There was the voice of Fr Mead, Parish Priest of St Andrews, Worthing talking in the early 1970s. He was complaining about yet another visit from Fr Bennett of The Annunciation, Marble Arch, 'He has been on at me again...wants to know when I will be making the changes (from the English Missal to Missa Normativa). Fr Mead was 'thinking about it' - again. After another visit and more deep consideration, he told Fr Bennett that he had indeed decided to make changes, 'You know we have two hymns at High Mass (most similar parishes at that time had three or four), well, we are now going to have only one."

 

The normative rite

The new rite was normative. This was the most frequent reason given by priests for changing the rite in their churches. The other was that churches still using the English Missal would be left behind or be out of step. I do not recall anyone who wanted to change, no one who actually liked the new rite. Not all were quite so sure about being left isolated, at least for long. There was Fr Northcott of St Saviour's, Luton: he too changed but said, 'You know, my dears, Rome will probably have its own Oxford Movement in a few years and bring it all back' It has.

For these and most Anglo-Catholic priests the choice of rite was not a matter of preference but of authority and being in step with the rest of the Church. A few saw there were in fact two choices to be made, not one. It was not a choice only between the English Missal and the Normative Rite. There was a choice to be made about whether to use the Latin or which translation of it to use. For a time, the Nashdom Benedictines produced and used their own translation which was much better than that licensed by the Roman hierarchy. Even that hierarchy's 'official' translation in one early edition came with a episcopal preface, admitting it was unsatisfactory and promising a better one soon.

For priests who still think this way, that it should be a matter of authority and conformity not aesthetic preference, the current and coming changes are not just interesting. They should be implemented. There are three of them. The Tridentine Rite has been placed on a par with the New Order, indeed they are said to be the same rite. It is a 'jewel' and to be made available to all parishes. Roman Catholic Priests should learn to celebrate it.

 

The new English translation

Next, a new English translation of the New Rite is coming in eighteen months time. The existing translation's infelicities are admitted. Even more telling, it is admitted that mistranslation was used as a way of smuggling in theological changes. The new translation will be a translation, not an explanation in keeping with some extra-liturgical understanding. How else could it preserve the authority of the normative Latin rite?

Last, there are several individual changes. The Sovereign Pontiff has endorsed by mention or personal example the use of beautiful vestments, the reception of the Host on the tongue while kneeling, the use of Latin for certain texts in the otherwise vernacular New Rite, such as the Gloria and Canon. It has been repeatedly made clear that Mass facing the people is founded on a historical misunderstanding and is far from obligatory. Plainsong is to be revived. It all adds up to a considerable liturgical revolution. Many liberal priests will find the various changes uncongenial. Their liberalism will be all the more affronted by the message of the changes. They constitute a refutation in fact of liberalism's dearest belief and persuasive device, that you cannot put the clock back. Benedict XVI has put the clock back.

Let us return to our question. What should we Anglican-Catholic priests do? More precisely what should we change and how frequently, universally, selectively? One does not throw jewels away. Room must be made for the celebration of the Tridentine Rite. Perhaps this should be in selected parishes but it should be widely announced. Walsingham should certainly set aside an altar permanently equipped for its celebration. The catholic societies which have always insisted on the relation of authority and liturgy, such as SSC, should be giving a lead. The flying bishops should be competing to be the first to celebrate an extraordinary Pontifical High Mass to welcome the return of the precious jewel.

 

Restoring the Latin

Should they celebrate the rite in Latin or the English of the English Missal or a mixture with, say, the canon in Latin? Arguments can be made for any of these three. The new translation of the New Rite, when it is published, should be used instead of the second-rate old one. This much is clear. The one thing which cannot be used once the changes are made and available is the Novus Ordo in the current English mistranslation. And the move to more dignity and solemnity in the worship of the Almighty especially in his Sacramental Presence should be welcomed. An end to nudging familiarity, sentimentality and vulgar sloppiness.

There will be some who argue that their people cannot take it. That cut no ice in the Seventies and it should cut no ice now. More likely there will be priests who do not like the change or the effort it requires. Their personal preference and inconvenience is irrelevant. As regards the traditional Rite, the missals are available, the altar cards are stocked by the Westminster cathedral shop. DVDs and manuals on the manner of celebration are easily had. One looks forward to seeing lots of adverts for Extraordinary Rite celebrations in New, or should it be Old Directions.

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