This past week, Pope Francis spoke to an Italian liturgical conference and made a definitive statement, with magisterial authority, that the changes to the liturgy from the Second Vatican Council’s document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, are “irrevocable.” This is not only a papal pronouncement, but a lived reality. In most of our parishes, the vast majority of our parishioners only know the Mass as it is celebrated since the promulgation of what is called the Novus Ordo, whose Roman Missal is now in its third edition.
And yet, the Church, since 2007, has permitted the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, according to the 1962 Tridentine Missal. This is perfectly legitimate and acceptable. It is not a liturgy which most of our parishioners would be familiar with any longer, but it is one that still enriches the minds and hearts of people throughout the world. In our Diocese of Brooklyn, we are blessed with the celebration of the Extraordinary Form in some of our parishes upon occasion as well as in two parishes on a weekly basis.
The pope is calling us to recognize the reality of the lived experience of most of our parishes when it comes to the celebration of the Eucharist and that is in the Ordinary Form.
The changes to the liturgy are as the Holy Father stated “irrevocable.” And that’s good because the Church, as the Mystical Body of Christ in history, grows and develops.
Instead of reconsidering the Council’s reforms, he said, priests and liturgists should work on “rediscovering the decisions made” in reforming the liturgy, “internalizing its inspirational principles and observing the discipline that governs it.” Well said!
But that does not mean we can easily jettison our past. The Mass has many different, beautiful forms, both in the Eastern Church and in the West. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and we can never allow its rubrics to be divisive. Those who pray better with the Extraordinary Form should never be threatened by the existence of the Mass as it is more commonly celebrated today.
The “Old Latin Mass” is still available when people need it. It is venerable and good, and needs to be respected. Those who pray better with the Extraordinary Form should understand the evangelical aims of the new Missal and never doubt the authenticity of the current celebration.
Regardless of which Mass we attend, no one should ever question the piety or loyalty of fellow Catholics according to how they celebrate the Eucharist.