We now arrive in the liturgical year at Passion Sunday, recalling the last year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When reading the Gospel, one becomes more and more aware of the brewing confrontation between Christ and the Jewish High Priests, which lead up to His betrayal and His crucifixion. Likewise, we faithful must be reminded of our own unworthiness to participate in such a glorious event. While continuing our fasts, we must be reminded that without the power of the cross, we deserve just punishment for our sins.
Indeed, the next two weeks before the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord is a time where negative theology (the idea that we are sinners in need of Christ for salvation) should be heavily emphasized, since in the end, our sins make us culpable in Christ's death. As we have explored the deficiencies in the Novus Ordo in regards to negative theology, it should come as absolutely no surprise which liturgy better presents what the faithful need to hear. Yet at times, this must be continually stressed, if we are to demonstrate without a doubt the Novus Ordo's inherent inferiority. It is not simply in the way it is celebrated that makes the New Mass absolutely inferior to the Traditional Mass, but the prayers themselves speak of this profound inferiority. Let us examine them.
As is the custom in this series, The Traditional Mass will be marked by TM and both in Latin (in blue type) and English (in black type), the Novus Ordo Missae by NOM and in maroon type, as in marooned by synthetic novelty)
The Introits are the same for both liturgies, Psalm 42(or 43 for the Novus Ordo), the prayer asking God to give us justice and to distinguish us apart from those who are ungodly. Incidentally Psalm 42, the Judica me is the prayer said every day in all Low Masses of the Traditional Latin Mass during the Prayers at the foot of the Altar, while in the Novus Ordo it is reserved only for this Sunday. Because both Introits are the same, we will move right on to the Collect where you will see very clearly how any similarity ceases.
Even at the beginning of the prayer there is a huge difference. In the collect of the Traditional Rite, it is stressed that the prayer is for God's family, the Church. This is a reinforcement of the idea that if you are to be a part of God's family, you must be part of the Catholic Church, a doctrine that has certainly fallen out of vogue in the minds of theologians and "liturgical experts" of the past 40 years. Since the advent of the "anonymous Christian" one is part of God's family, even if he doesn't know it. While of course nothing the Novus Ordo says in the Opening Prayer is necessarily false, we must remember again why this series is being written: To show that while nothing false is said, it omits many problematic issues for Non-Catholics and modern men. The idea that the Catholic Church alone is God's family is not inclusive, and hence, many reason modern men do not like exclusivity and the idea that not all division is bad. The Catholic Church is rightly divided from the errors of the heretics. In fact, during Passiontide a second collect is added and it is particularly to pray for protection against the persecutors of Holy Mother Church: "We beseech Thee, O Lord, mercifully to receive the prayers of Thy Church : that, all adversity and error being destroyed, she may serve Thee in security and freedom. Through our Lord..."
The Traditional Proper also covers something that the Novus Ordo consistently goes out of its way to avoid, the issue of temporal adversities, and that God may heal us of them, and protect them. Many today paint an issue of God that God is not concerned with the temporal, but only the eternal. While our ultimate goal is to achieve that life which is eternal, a right ordering of one's temporal life can help to achieve this goal. God, realizing this, has consistently told His people to turn to Him for whatever they need in order to live a right and just life on Earth, and He shall help them. Since this is downplayed in the Novus Ordo (That God helps us in temporal adversity) the image can be given that God is not a strong part of our everyday life. If we do not need to worry about temporal adversities, we really don't need to call upon God for that much now, do we? One can see these small changes leading towards profound impact.
As we begin to focus on the end of Christ's earthly life, culminating in his crucifixion, both liturgies focus on God establishing things anew. Christ, through His death on the cross, brings about a New Covenant. The problems begin again when we look at what is omitted in the Novus Ordo, where one looks at what may be omitted. For today's omission, the fact that God will do something new, and make a river in the desert is what we can get rid of. The second part of this verse smacks of the supernatural, a miracle, which as we have demonstrated before, the majority of times a miracle is mentioned in the Scriptural readings, it is optional to talk about it. There is great theological significance in this one passage. Right after God talks about making things new, He tells the people that it has sprung forth, and asks them if they perceive it. This question is asked assuming some (if not many) will not see it. There are those who will not see this, and hence, will not partake in its benefits. Yet the offer was originally given to them. If one notices a parallel between this prophesy and the future actions of the corrupt Jewish high priests, one is paying attention, and should be commended.
The idea that Jews must be converted to Catholicism is something that isn't really talked about today. The dogma has not been officially denied, it's just been emphasized far less. Many believe that the Old way is still in force for the Jew. Even when the Novus Ordo covers an important passage, the verse they may take out destroys the importance of the passage.
Comparing to the Traditional Epistle reading, this becomes clearer. The Traditional Reading talks about Christ being the new way that was prophesized in Scripture. It refutes the notion of going back to the Old way simply because there is nothing to go back to. Christ is the High Priest, and He is the one whose offering is accepted by God. The offerings under the Old Covenant had some benefit, yet the blood of Christ, Who sacrificed Himself, has infinite more benefit. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a very hard epistle for those who push that salvation is possible outside of the New Covenant. When focusing on the last year of Our Lord's life, this is a good passage to focus on. This is one of the most effective arguments against forsaking Christ and returning to our Old Sinful ways. There is nothing to go back to for the Christian who knows Christ is "the Truth, the Way and the Life."
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy. (NOM, Responsorial Psalm)
While the Gradual of the Traditional Latin Mass focuses on God delivering us from our enemies, the Novus Ordo speaks of wondrous things the Lord has done. It mentions leading the Jews out of captivity, but doesn't mention God came against the Egyptians. This would be an example of God intervening in temporal situations, which the Gradual calls for God to do. The Novus Ordo shifts the emphasis, once again bringing about the problem we noted before. The Tract continues this emphasis on temporal issues, yet also notes that the temporal issues have eternal consequences. This of course is omitted in the Novus Ordo. Focusing too much on the "end game" can be a bad thing, as we do not prepare ourselves for that end game. The second reading in the Novus Ordo continues this problem, as it is possible to omit the verse St. Paul speaks of in Philippians 3:8-14 that mentions St. Paul declaring what was given as a gain he gave up for the sake of Christ, an example of those things temporal having eternal ramifications.
The Traditional Gospel focuses on the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, that they claim to be acting in God's name, but cannot see the Messiah He promised them right before their very eyes. Furthermore, they can't even see God incarnate right before them. They believe that the man Who is God incarnate before them is a devil. The Jews of Christ's time had become so blinded in their sin, God appears before them, and they call Him a devil. This is probably the most serious sin, to call good evil, and evil good, and to justify why you are doing this. This is what ultimately set in motion the plan to get rid of Jesus. While He had made some extravagant claims before, He now equated Himself with the Almighty, by using the name "I Am" to describe Himself. That is the name of the Almighty Himself.
This is replaced in the Novus Ordo by another passage of John's Gospel which outlines the absolute hypocrisy of the Jews. On second thought, it may outline their hypocrisy, as the verse which is optional is the famous saying of Christ "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Christ did this to show their absolute hypocrisy, that they were mired in sin, yet so judgmental of the sins of others. He also did this because the Pharisees were looking to trap Christ in a quandary, since the Law of Moses commanded a woman caught in adultery to be stoned. Many believe the writing in the sand Christ wrote were the sins of everyone else, sort of a "Let's not get started on your sins, because you're worse than she is." Christ shows His mercy over the uncompromising nature of the Law, foreshadowing what is to come in the New Covenant. Yet by choosing to omit the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders here, the theological significance of the entire passage is leveled. The readings of the Novus Ordo, with their optional verses being omitted, do not clearly indicate that the Old has passed away, and the New is what we live in now. This only gives fuel to the anathema that the Jews wait for the Messiah is not in vain and that the Jews no longer need to convert.
While the Novus Ordo talks of the sins being taken away, the Traditional Rite not only covers the same, but also talks about the bonds of those sins being loosed in the Secret. Why are those chains broken, because now that our sins have been cleansed, God's wrath is no longer set against us! This is again the problem the Novus Ordo continually has in it's prayer over the gifts, while it covers the expiatory work of Christ (taking away sins), it does not mention the cause of that effect, the propitiatory work of Christ (our bonds being loosed.) If those sins have been forgiven, then God remembers them no more, and His wraths against those sins are appeased. By choosing not to cover this aspect, one does not really talk about the very personal nature of God and the fact that we are accountable to Him for our sins, again, an aspect of negative theology, which, in the Novus Ordo has taken on a totally negative opinion rather than the true sense of negative as in negating sin. Here again this is stressed in the second secret for Passiontide in petition for protection against the enemies of the Church.
Now let us move on towards the Prefaces. The reader will notice that during Lent, I did not cover the Prefaces, that being because the Preface of Lent was the standard being used for both. (The Novus Ordo has numerous optional prefaces, so for the sake of consistency I used one.) Now that we are Passion Sunday, for the Traditional Rite, the Preface of the Holy Cross is used. For the Novus Ordo, the Preface of the Power of the Cross is used.
A blurring of the facts again occurs in the Novus Ordo. While the Preface of the Holy Cross mentions why the Cross itself was necessary (that whence death came thence also life might arise again), the Novus Ordo does not mention this. This again points to the exactness of the Traditional Rite, and the banality and ambiguity of the Novus Ordo. Nothing is false in either preface, yet one is far more exact. As Catholics with a legitimate choice for where to attend Mass, do we want the entire faith, or the watered down version, in effect a "Catholicism-lite," if even that? The differences are not too substantial in the remaining prayers, so they will only be listed for one to compare for themselves.
In conclusion, for the readings of Passion Sunday, we see that little changes have huge impact. An omission in one area can either change, or make useless the lesson being imparted by a text. The texts in question in both liturgies talk about the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Way, yet thanks to the options, if the options are employed, one does not really get that impression. This again leaves whether or not the Mass is reverent and has any meaning solely in the arbitrary hands of the priest who can decide to omit or not omit. Are we willing to take that risk? Since cutting corners has become so popular in these times, how many will see the difference? While it might be saving a minute or two overall, in truth by not omitting those pertinent passages it could be saving many souls. Whereas in the Traditional Latin Mass there are no options and everything is according to the Rubrics established, in the Novus Ordo its left to the discretion of the celebrant. No consistency there. Think about it. Would you rather have the quick and the superficial, or what is consistent and full of spiritual substance?
NEXT: Comparing the Propers of Lent: Palm Sunday
vol 15, no. 91
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi