Dear Catholic Exchange,
I have recently been attending the "Tridentine Mass" and would much prefer it over the "Norvus Ordo" liturgy. In the Tridentine Mass, we are asked not to just pray at Mass, but to "Pray the Mass." In addition, the use of Gregorian Chant and Latin choral hymns make the Mass prayerful and reverent. As a young adult, it took virtually no time at all to realize how much more reverent that mass is! It seems that, compared to a "Norvus Ordo" Mass the Tridentine Liturgy as ancient as it is must be preserved and continued. I admit I'm embarrassed to want to encourage outsiders to come to a Catholic parish because of the Norvus Ordo Mass. I see way too much "irreverence" in our masses today because of attire, contemporary music, talking and even sometimes clapping after a "beautifully emotional" song that is played during Holy Communion and/or after the Mass has ended. This makes it seem that our masses are what some would say are more "man" centered than "God" centered. Therefore, in regards to the Norvus Ordo, is there anything I can do to encourage more reverence at our Masses today? God bless you!
Thank you for this excellent question concerning reverence and the sacred liturgy.
We should start with a brief definition of reverence in the context of the liturgy. Fr. Hardon defines reverence as the virtue that inclines us to show honor and respect for God. Reverence is an interior disposition. However, as you rightly note, reverence is typically reflected in our external actions, in the way we show honor and respect for God, especially at Mass.
The first thing we can and must do to encourage reverence at Mass is to foster the virtue of reverence within ourselves, that we dispose ourselves for sacred worship through prayer, regular Confession, spiritual reading, and other such aids offered through the Church. This reverent disposition will also play itself out in the way we conduct ourselves at Mass. Do we observe silence in church or do we treat the church as a meeting hall? Do we wear our "Sunday best" to Mass, or do we push the envelope when it comes to modest, appropriate dress? If we do our part in this regard, without being obnoxious to those who are not quite there yet, we can help create a culture of reverence in our parish.
Next, I would suggest not judging the Mass as though we were there as movie critics or liturgy police. It is truly sacred worship, and when it comes to the Bread of Life, we are beggars — we need what is offered on the altar. We're unable to save ourselves, and if we don't partake in the Eucharist then we don't have life in us (cf. Jn. 6:53). This is serious business, and it's much better for us to put aside for the moment concerns about the music, the ministers, the external surroundings, etc. and throw ourselves at the feet of Our Lord, who really comes to us at each and every Mass. When distractions inevitably arise, we should do our best to offer them, along with our very selves, in union with Our Lady of Sorrows, and then serenely put the matter aside and redirect our attention to the sacred mysteries unfolding in our midst.
Sometimes the apparent irreverence is a mere matter of personal taste, or it might be a relatively minor or accidental occurrence that would not be considered a "liturgical abuse" or even involve any irreverence. Don't assume the worst. If the matter seems significant, find out what the Church's liturgy actually calls for in this situation. In this regard, we encourage CUF members to contact us (www.cuf.org) with their questions and for how to bring any legitimate concerns charitably and effectively to the appropriate authorities, beginning with one's pastor.
Your question arose in the context of your preference for the "Tridentine" Mass. In that regard, I recommend our new edition of The Pope, the Council and the Mass (www.emmausroad.org), which comprehensively addresses the liturgical reform that took place immediately after the Second Vatican Council. This book painstakingly distinguishes between legitimate, approved liturgical changes from scandalous, irreverent practices that never were sanctioned by the Church.
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
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