The Novus Ordo is currently the “ordinary expression” of the Roman rite in the Catholic Church. As such, that means that most priests within the Roman rite will celebrate this form of the Mass, which means, in turn, that this will be the form of Mass that is most widely seen.
This fact alone would make one expect uniformity in its celebration. Moreover, the Novus Ordo is but a single rite of the many rites in the Western Church. Thus, a person wouldn’t expect a great amount of diversity when looking at this one rite. Yet find diversity he will. In the present situation of the Church, there are as many forms of the Novus Ordo as there are parishes to celebrate it. Indeed, one might reasonably say there are more differences between various celebrations of the Novus Ordo than there are differences between older Western rites that are entirely distinct from each other.
Permit me, my friends, to give examples of this great diversity. In the Novus Ordo, you have several options. You can choose among the following for any celebration of Mass according to this missal:
- Celebration with the priest ad orientem or facing the people
- Celebration entirely in Latin or entirely in the local language
- Celebration with a mixture of Latin and the local language
- Reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hands
- Reception of Holy Communion kneeling or standing
- Celebration where the music is either the Propers found in the missal or four hymns of choice
- Celebration with boys serving at the altar, or girls
- Celebration with both boys and girls serving at the altar
- Celebration where the priest alone distributes Holy Communion, or where he is helped by laypeople
- Celebration where the priest may use the Roman Canon or one of the new replacement Eucharistic prayers
- Celebration where the Confiteor and Kyrie are said, or where one of the a new penitential acts is used instead
- Celebration that begins with the priest saying, “The Lord be with you”, or one of the new options
I needn’t go on. You get the point. Please note that the list is arranged in such a way that the traditional practice is mentioned first. Note also that the “or” options are what most parishes use, which is especially troubling since, by using the “or” options, these parishes introduce inevitable differences from other churches (particularly as regards the choices of music, penitential form, Eucharistic prayer, language, and gender of altar servers).
What if there’s a really traditional church that wants to have only the traditonal options (the first choices on each part of the above list)? That’s all well and good, but a Novus Ordo said like that will look nothing like the Novus Ordo a few miles away. Is it really good for the Church to have so many different forms within a single rite?
My suggestion, then, would be the following [maybe the next Holy Father could implement them… :) ]:
- Mandate ad orientem (after reasonable preparation)
- Mandate reception of Holy Communion kneeling on the tongue (giving good explanations as to why)
- Mandate that the priest alone may give Holy Communion, and not laypeople (after giving a good explanation as to why)
- Mandate that only the Propers may be sung, in Latin, and to a set tune, instead of the constantly-changing four-hymn platter we’re constantly served
- Mandate boys only as altar servers (after giving a reasonable explanation why)
- Mandate the Roman Canon as the only Eucharistic Prayer
- Mandate the Confiteor and the Kyrie as the only option for the penitential act
- Mandate “The Lord be with you” as the initial thing the priest says to the people, getting rid of the new options
That leaves the question of Latin vs. local language. I would say the Canon should be in Latin, but the mandating of that should wait, so as not to bombard the faithful with too much change at once.
I’m convinced that the Novus Ordo would be uniform and beautiful if such mandates as listed above were made. Anyone want to agree?
As always, thoughts are welcome.