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Sunday, July 08, 2007


David Deavel


For the first six months or so after being Catholic I went to a Ukrainian Parish most Sundays and then again for a three month period a couple years later. I, like you, feel incredibly enriched by the Eastern Church and sometimes wish I were back there. (By the by, perhaps your language problems stem from the fact that you tried to learn "Slovanic" instead of "Slavonic"?)

I've only been to an "Extraordinary" mass a couple of times, so my problems with the Novus Ordo are more theoretical than experiential. But it seemed to me that the TLM was closer to what I experienced in the Eastern rites than is our Novus Ordo. I have heard Eastern Christians agree with this conclusion. My guess is an extraordinary rite dialogue mass is very much like an Eastern liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. But my experience is too limited. Anybody else with experiences of both forms of the Roman Rite and the liturgy of St. J. Chr. have any thoughts?

MMajor Fan

I really enjoyed reading your perspective. I have a lot of sympathy and respect for the Eastern Rite myself, as my stepfather was Russian Orthodox. My brother and his wife, who had never been to an Eastern Rite or an Orthodox Church, were totally bowled over by the sanctity and unity of the laity in prayer, and the very tangibility of the use of incense, when we all attended our step dad's funeral mass.

About the Latin Mass. I'm beginning to feel as old as Methuselah! So many people have never been to one, and so forget that it was the ordinary for farmers, auto mechanics, homemakers, school teachers, clerks... the sorts of folks I grew up with in a small town who all packed the Church on Sunday and were totally involved in the Mass with nary a linguistics degree among them! Rather than isolate, I remember the unifying effect of the Mass, as people followed along in Missal in English, yet like listening to sacred music in the background, absorb the Latin as the tongue of the Church. I love the Pope's book on the Liturgy. He's also old enough to remember what it really was like ha ha.

fr richard

First, just a note of explanation about the color photo of our church, above. The reason for all the tree branches is that the photo was taken on Pentecost Sunday, and our churches are decorated with green branches to remind us of the freshness of the new life given to us by the Holy Spirit. At least in the Slavic Byzantine Churches, Pentecost is also called "Green Sunday."

Secondly: We have male servers, lectors and cantors largely because we still have minor orders that are connected with these functions, which are also steps to the priesthood/diaconate and therefore it is more fitting that such roles should be filled by males. In some parishes men are actually "ordained" to these minor orders and will remain in them without going on to the diaconate or priesthood. And since there is no absolute prohibition against it, women are still able to fulfill these functions if needed.

David, I attended a Roman rite Catholic school in my childhood where we attended the Tridentine Mass on schooldays(obviously many, many years ago), so hopefully my memory is correct here.

Put simply, as I recall, the similarities between the Tridentine Roman Mass and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom are a richness in the language of the prayers and in the ritual gestures, a genuine sense of the sacredness of the celebration and an awareness that it transcends the boundaries of ordinary daily life and is truly a fitting act of worship, emphasizing the participation and unity of the Church both in heaven and on earth. Both are very Scriptural and pay great attention to the awesome act of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Both have a structure that does not depend on innovation or "options" but rather tradition.

Some differences: Eastern Liturgy is a continual back and forth in prayer between the priest (and perhaps a deacon) and the congregation, in united prayer, which is always sung from beginning to end. Tridentine Mass has much less participation by the people, with the servers making most of the responses on behalf of the congregation, and can be done without any singing. Eastern: most of the praying by the priest is done aloud. Tridentine: A great deal is done silently by the celebrant. Eastern: more open to the vernacular, and a bit more relaxed. Western: fixed on Latin with a great emphasis on rubrics.

Maybe that helps a bit.

David Deavel

Thanks, Fr. Richard. That's probably how I'd summarize it, too. It seems to me from reading Sacrosanctum Concilium many times that what the Fathers wanted out of the Roman Rite was something a bit more like the Liturgy of St. John--i.e., more congregational singing of the liturgy itself, some openness to vernacular for parts of the Mass, etc.

The problem is, as Thomas Day has put it memorably in his books, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE MICHELANGELO and WHY CATHOLICS CAN'T SING: the result of the Consilium is even less like the Eastern liturgies.

John Michael Keba

Some time back, I read a conversation between two Orthodox saints (I believe one was St. Seraphim of Sarov, but perhaps not) who had achieved living theosis. They both noted the light that they saw emanating from each other.

I suspect that, when they attended the Divine liturgy, and were they to so today, or either of the Roman Masses, they would see, after the consecration, light streaming out of the chalice, or the Host glowing with something like Cherenkov radition. How could they not, for all three forms of worship are valid, and God is present physically at each.

Those of us struggling far from theosis simply cannot *see* what must be there right before our very eyes, and our sense of the sacred is informed and activated by so very many other things. It is subjective.

The Father Neuhaus article linked elsewhere on this site states that "Benedict notes that, over the many centuries of the Roman Rite, popes have from time to time made modest changes. Pius V did so in 1570, John XXIII did so in 1962, and Paul VI did so in 1970, the last producing what is called the Novus Ordo."

That is not actually what the Holy Father said. He noted the general reforms made by various popes through the Blessed John XXIII, then in a new paragraph wrote

"In more recent times, Vatican Council II expressed a desire that the respectful reverence due to divine worship should be renewed and adapted to the needs of our time. Moved by this desire our predecessor, the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, approved, in 1970, reformed and partly renewed liturgical books for the Latin Church."

A panel of scholars reformed the liturgy, and Pope Paul VI approved their work. And that would be fully consonant with the "needs of" the "time," for ours is a scientific age, and a scientific and scholarly reform of anything is de rigeuer.

There is a Japanese organic farmer, a fully-trained soil microbiolgist, who has mostly abandoned modern scientific agriculture and is a pioneer in the sustainable agriculture movement. Masanobu Fukuoka has been growing rice, white clover and a winter grain on the same 1.25 acres for decades without tilling, weeding or chemical fertilizer. He doesn't even grow the rice in standing water. Yet his yield compares with "modern" farms, and the soil becomes richer and more life-bearing with each passing year. He describes his break with modern methods in "The One-Straw Revolution" (Rodale Press, 1978) and has this to say about scholarly solutions:

"When a decision is made to cope with the symptoms of a problem, it is generally assumed that the corrective measures will solve the problem itself. They seldom do. Engineers cannot seem to get this through their heads. These countermeasures are all based on too narrow a definition of what is wrong. Human measures and countermeasures proceed from limited scientific truth and judgment. A true solution can never come about in this way."

I cannot think of a better description of what happened in 1970 to the Roman Church. The Bugnini "engineers" sought to correct problems with the old liturgy and their solution sent the Church into shock. It was as if they injected an engineered "virus" designed to remove some benign tumors that were nevertheless impairing the function of the Mystical Body of Christ, but the cure got out of hand. The Body adpated, and the worst of the liturgical deformations are over (or at least reduced in frequency and scope), but the healing is still ongoing.

Perhaps, if the above analogy is at all valid, the freeing of the 1962 missal is like going down ito the vaults to obtain some marrow from the bones of those saints who thrived under the Mass of St. Pius V. It cannot help but strengthen the blood.


Fr. Richard:

I appreciate your comments tremendously. I've tried to put my finger on why I found myself so enamoured with the Byzanine liturgy when I attended it and why I found traditionalist celebration of the Roman Rite (I'm including in this the NO, done ad orientem, etc.) so stale. The differences you highlighted were the core things that came to my mind and I can't figure out what to think of them. Other than that the Byzantine liturgy struck me as real and living today without giving up tradition whereas the other struck me as nostalgic.

Kris Snyder

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