“The present condition of Catholic worship has come about because it has been shaped by principles and attitudes of secular modernity. The result is that the Liturgy, instead of providing an alternative vision of life to that provided by secular modernity, now cooperates with and disseminates principles that are destructive of Catholicism. … Modern liturgical practices are defective, and they are in place, and they reinforce people’s understanding both of their faith and of how the faith should relate to the modern world.”
— Fr. Jonathan Robinson, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward (2005), pp. 18, 343
“Obviously, the reformers wanted a completely new liturgy, a liturgy that differed from the traditional one in spirit as well as in form; and in no way a liturgy that represented what the Council fathers had envisioned; i.e., a liturgy that would meet the pastoral needs of the faithful…. That is why a new rite was created, a rite that in many ways reflects the bias of the new (modernist) theology. The traditional liturgy simply could not be allowed to exist in its established form because it was permeated with the truths of the traditional faith and ancient forms of piety.”
— Monsignor Klaus Gamber, Reform of the Roman Liturgy, p. 100
“[A]fter the Council … in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product (produit banal de l’instant).”
– Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to La Reforme Liturgique en question (Le-Barroux: Editions Sainte-Madeleine), 1992, pp. 7-8.
I do not object to the Novus Ordo (NO) as if it were illicit, much less invalid. I simply choose to support the Usus Antiquior (UA) as an act of creative protest. To use a military analogy, precisely because the new, main citadel has been compromised, we should make a tactical retreat to the overlooked security of the old citadel. As even a comedian like Jimmy Fallon realizes, the abuses of the NO are by this point phenomenologically indistinguishable from the NO itself. Just as the medium is the message, so the liturgy is the religion, even when said liturgy tends more to dyscatechesis than devotion. Since, however, I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I distinguish the NO from the NO-as-typically-experienced (NOTE), and the UA from the UA-as-typically-assisted (UATA).
It may be admirably stoical to “put up with” the NOTE, but it is just as noble, if not more so, to hew closely to a form of worship which consistently and unambiguously emphasizes the paschal depths of the Mass. My attachment to the UA, which, by the way, is still in its infant stages, is what I call a liturgical discipleship. I choose to submit to the semiotic rhythms and structures of the Mass which formed over a millennium of saints in the Latin rite, and which is surely much more akin to the Eastern liturgies than “the El Camino of liturgies”. Without in any way denying the sanctifying presence of God in the NOTE, I am simply choosing to vote with my feet, in order to immerse myself in the Church’s most sustained form of prayer, and thus further conform my mind to Her Tradition. The NOTE will continue its pastoral gyrations while I continue my traditional discipleship in the UATA. When extraordinary ministers are a dozen times more common than the UA, something’s either wrong with the word ‘extraordinary’ or with the Church.
The problem is that the canonical supremacy of the NO not only gives an uncritical air of authority to the abuses widely endemic to the NOTE (“If it’s good enough for Rome…”), but also further inures us to the abysmal state of liturgical and catechetical formation in the Church today. While I do not believe that the NO is gravely theologically defective, I believe that the NOTE is clearly anemic and an easy source of scandal to pious celebrants. Its genesis also seems remarkably connected to the Church’s decline in the past half-century. The NOTE, by its very nature, is more flippant and more distracting than the UATA, and I think such a hegemony of mediocrity should be resisted with the soldierly grace of Confirmation. If the majority of NO Masses were like the following, I suspect that the “traditionalist” movement would visibly contract.
As I continue to emphasize, attachment to the UA is not mere snobbery, and certainly not an adolescent addiction. It is a free act of resistance to the reign of triviality and humanistic immanentism (cf. EG §89) which has tattooed itself to the NO in most places. If the consensus is dreck, then the smart choice, to quote Dostoevsky, is beauty: for “the world shall be saved by beauty.” To acquiesce to the norm as it stands is to defect from the ideal as it is given. As Aidan Nichols argues–in close connection with the opening quotations of this post–the Enlightenment bequeathed to the Church modern liturgists whose work is “[a]nthropocentric, moralizing, voluntaristic, didactic, [and] subjectivist” in contrast to the authentic theocentric nature of the traditional liturgy (Looking at the Liturgy, pp. 28-29). Why, in the name of a protracted loyalty, should we play along with such a benighted scheme?
So, while the NO can be said reverently, as Sacrosanctum Concilium stipulated, such reverence is, by this point, best fostered and “signed” by hewing to the form of the liturgy which the NO is supposed to have manifested. To cite Fr. Kocik once again:
What is needed is not a ‘reform of the reform’ but rather a cautious adaptation of the Tridentine liturgy in accordance with the principles laid down by Sacrosanctum Concilium (as happened in the immediate aftermath of that document’s promulgation in 1963), using what we have learned from the experience of the past fifty years. In the meantime, improvements can be made here and there in the ars celebrandi of the Ordinary Form. But the road to achieving a sustainable future for the traditional Roman rite—and to achieving the liturgical vision of Vatican II, which ordered the moderate adaptation of that rite, not its destruction—is the beautiful and proper celebration, in an increasing number of locations, of the Extraordinary Form, with every effort to promote the core principle (properly understood) of “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful (SC 14).
In other words, if you really care about the Church, then you care about the Liturgy (cf. CCC §1136 ff., §1324 ff.), and if you care about the Liturgy, then you are–at minimum–well within your rights to cease tacitly endorsing the dilapidated state of the Church’s normative worship by hewing closely to that liturgical form which the NO itself strives to make more manifest. By assisting at the UA, I am fulfilling the conciliar hope that the faithful would be more active participants in the Gregorian rite. This is the great instinct which has drawn so many into the Church via the Anglican Ordinariate, and it is an instinct ably explicated by Fr. Hunwicke:
I know many readers will disagree; but I believe that an important way ahead in the direction of resacralising the Novus Ordo is through the sanctioning of alternatives derived from the Vetus Ordo. Happily, the Ordinariate Ordo Missae has led the way to a very significant and exemplary extent. Its authorisation deserves to be bracketed with Summorum Pontificum and the New English translation of the Missal, as one of the three major achievements of the last Pontificate in terms of Liturgy; and as a major contribution, from our beloved Anglican Catholic tradition, to the whole Western Church. …
(2) Moving in exactly the opposite direction: alternative Eucharistic Prayers should be ruthlessly cut back. Their introduction was a flagrant violation of Sacrosanctum Concilium 23….
Here again, the Ordinariate Ordo Missae leads the way. It prints, in its main text, (an Anglo-Catholic translation of) the Canon Romanus, the First Eucharistic Prayer, used daily and universally in the Roman Rite until the disorders of the 1960s. (In an appendix, it does provide the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer “not to be used on Sundays or Solemnities”.)
… However much the Roman Rite varied in its various dialects and in different centuries, the Canon was the profoundly sacred moment of Consecration and of Uniformity, both synchronic and diachronic, binding together all who had ever celebrated, all who were at that moment celebrating, that Rite. I regard the introduction of alternative Eucharistic Prayers as by far the worst of the post-Conciliar corruptions. In an act of amazingly arbitrary Clericalism, the revisers placed the central Act of the Rite totally at the mercy of the daily whimsy of each celebrant.
In other words, the NOTE, according to the guidelines called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium itself, is not an authentic note of the Church of all ages, so why play along with the Glib Tinkerers, especially when richer fare is available? You can either endorse the banality you see at the NOTE, or lead by example by assisting at the UA while the many waters rage outside. To persist in trying to untangle–with revolutionary fervor–the many knots woven into the NOTE, is simply to tighten the knot of the NO which the Church, arguably, has never seen unfurled. By contrast, just as the way to unravel a knot is to massage it back to its original shape, so the way forward into the depths of liturgical catechesis is backward into the depths of the time-tested liturgical catechesis known as the Usus antiquior, among many other names.