Editor's Note: This series, introduced last Wednesday features the apologetics of Kevin M. Tierney, in collaboration with Jacob Michael, in a series simply called "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi" which, of course, translated means roughly how one prays is how one believes. As you can see the differences between the two are as clear as black and white. One, the Latin Mass is full and reverent, the Novus Ordo sterile and bland. It needs innovation and novelty to spice things up. The Latin Mass merely depends on the Divine. This series will compare the Propers of the synthetic Novus Ordo with the absolute Propers of the Traditional Latin Mass to show all that the NOM comes up far, far inferior, if not worse. Many might place the blame on the venom of the vernacular, but we all know what vipers injected this poison. It must be sucked out and spit out forever. Hopefully this series will give readers motivation to expedite that process in the counter-revolution dedicated to taking back the Mystical Body of Christ for Christ! Today Kevin begins a detailed look at the Propers of the Traditional Latin Mass as it had been for centuries and the novelty of the New Order. We begin with:
Lent is certainly one of the most important times of year for the Christian. It is that special time of year where we are penitential, fasting for 40 days in penance and prayer in anticipation of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This mirrors what happened with Our Blessed Lord in the desert. During this time of fasting by Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Devil tempted him. Likewise, we are tempted by the devil to forego our fast, and take the easy way out. One of the fortifications against this temptation is the prayer and nourishment we receive at Holy Mass. It is with the prayers of the Holy Sacrifice that we reflect on that call to mind the struggle we wage. It is with the grace of the Eucharist we are given the strength to resist Satan and continue in our journey of fasting, as we eagerly strive for heaven. As we Catholics prepare for this penitential season, and undertake the voyage, we should have in our liturgy, that which trains our minds and our souls for spiritual warfare, and nourishment in the Eucharist.
The latter is provided in both rites of the Latin Church, the Traditional(or Tridentine) Mass, which underwent it's last revision in 1962, and the Novus Ordo Missae, promulgated by Paul VI with Missale Romanum. Determining whether or not the former is provided, strong mental and spiritual preparation for these trying times through the prayers will be the focus of this article. We shall examine the Propers of each service (those prayers which change, as opposed to the Ordinary prayers, which always remain the same every Mass.) When it is opportune, we will also focus on what the priest is doing at the altar during the performance of these sacred mysteries, and the symbolism (or complete lack thereof) represented.
The authors do not hide their preference in this article. It is our firm belief that the prayers of the Traditional Mass much more so than the Novus Ordo, prepare the faithful of the Church Militant for the Lenten season. This is an examination all Catholics of the Latin Rite should undertake, no matter which version of the liturgy you attend. The fact remains, despite anyone's circumstances, opinions, etc, Holy Mother Church gives the faithful a choice, as to which liturgy to participate in. It is our intention to help those willing to make that choice to better understand the issues involved in that decision.
With that said, let us begin our examination of the service of Ash Wednesday, which kicks off the Lenten season. It is also the time Catholics begin their fasting, their mortification of the sins of the flesh so as to prepare themselves to be better servants of God, as indeed, the blessed Apostle Paul remarked about in 1st Corinthians 9:27:
With that said, we shall start with the blessing of the ashes. For the sake of coherency, we shall assume that both liturgies begin the ceremony with the blessing and application of the Ashes at the beginning, as there is a variance as to when this happens between the two liturgies. We shall first begin with the opening prayers of blessing between the two Rites (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):
Lord, bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness and bless † all those who receive these ashes. May they keep this lenten season in preparation for the joy of Easter. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.(NOM, blessing of the ashes)
Already we see some noted differences. Much time could be spent on the difference between the focus on the priest, and the focus on the faithful in these prayers, but much of this has already been done. Let us first look at what the intention of these ashes is. For the Traditional Mass, it is "that whoever shall be sprinkled with them for the remission of their sins may receive both health of body and safety of soul." The application of these ashes will have a specific purpose; the sprinkling of them is for the remission of sins, and the safety of our body and soul. This is a sacramental. It is not an 8th sacrament, compared to say the Holy Eucharist, but there is an imparting of grace into the Christian with these ashes. Let us also note the comparison here with the first sacrament the Christian receives, that of baptism. The baptism is a reminder of our new life, the ashes a reminder of our frailty, and of man's weakness, of death. We also see a description of the people who receive these ashes, penitent, imploring God, accusing ourselves, becoming conscious of our sins and deploring our crimes, and beseeching God's goodness.
Compare this, with that of the Novus Ordo. The intent of the ashes is "the mark of our repentance." There is nothing about the ashes being used for the preservation of body and soul. What entails the "Lenten season?" These things are left unanswered, and indeed, ambiguous. There is not much to comment on these prayers, simply because not enough information is revealed.
The Traditional Mass then includes 2 further prayers, giving us 4 prayers compared to the two of the Novus Ordo. Let us examine the 2 prayers of this particular Mass, and given our understanding of what the Lenten season is, see how it prepares us.
We see in this prayer more things that the Christian needs to remember during the observance of Lent. The Traditional Mass reminds us of "the frailty of human nature." We are sinners. Due to the first sin of Adam, our dignity inherent in human nature has been compromised, to where, if God were to judge us on this, we would deserve death. Indeed, death is a punishment of original sin. This prayer is focused on the utter unworthiness of man in his sins before God. We put ashes on our head in a symbol of our lowliness, also to obtain forgiveness. We also put these ashes on our head as a reminder of the just punishment of our wickedness, that of death. Yet through God's mercy, we may receive pardon, and the rewards promised to the penitent. That is why we mark ourselves with the cross. While also reminded of our frail human nature and the curse which hangs over all of us, that cross releases us from this curse, if we remain faithful to it.
This prayer again places the emphasis on our penance, our fasting, that this gains favor with God. God looks favorably upon his obedient sons and daughters, striving against the sins of the flesh, trust in his mercy. Furthermore, the sprinkling of the ashes on our foreheads, the priest implores God that this may do two things, a spirit of compunction, and the granting of our righteous prayers. The ashes are not only a mere symbol in the Traditional Rite, but something to drive us to repentance and trust in Christ, because these ashes have been blessed by God.
This prayer is available in the Novus Ordo, but is only an option. The Ninivites are a rather interesting story. Their penance in sackcloth and ashes turned God's wrath away. Now we see another aspect of our fasting and penance, turning God's wrath away from us. The continual focus of these prayers is our just condemnation before God for our sins, but with his grace, and our fasting, appeasing that wrath. This can be appeased because of the Cross of Calvary, which shall come. Anything we do we must unite with the intentions of Calvary.
If this prayer is not used in the Novus Ordo, the entire blessing of the ashes makes no mentioning of fasting, no mention of penance, no mention of our frail human nature, no mention of the consequences of our frailty(death), and no mention of the ashes being more than something merely symbolic. Already the differences between the two rites are substantial. We will now take a look at a particular rubric, right before the application of the ashes to the Christian people. (These will be indicated in red font.)
The priest then sprinkles the ashes thrice with holy water, singing the anthem Asperges me . . . and incenses them thrice. After which, having first received the ashes on his own head, from the highest in dignity of the clergy, he proceeds to place them, in the form of across, on the heads or foreheads of the clergy and people, saying to each:
This does not appear in the Novus Ordo even in English. What is the Asperges me? It is a beautiful chant before a Latin High Mass which symbolizes baptism, the washing of one's soul. This again ties the ashes to baptism. The cleansing actions of each are stressed. This is gone from the Novus Ordo, as again the ashes are the "Mark of our repentance."
Sung at High Masses throughout the year
Both rites, in the application of the ashes, recite Genesis 3:19, "Remember man that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." Only if option A is used in the Novus Ordo that is. The prayer which reminds us of our sins, our frail human nature, and the punishment of human nature in death is replaced with:
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel. (Application of Ashes, NOM)
If this option is chosen, no mention of our frail nature, no mention that we are dust, no mention we shall return to dust, no implication of death, the differences go on and on. Through personal experience, this option is used not a few times. Therefore, the chances are there that those who receive this blessing instead of the Traditional one, do not get the understanding Tradition gives us about what Ash Wednesday is, and what these ashes signify.
In The Traditional Rite, the Mass does not even begin yet. The choir sings Joel 2:13 and 2:17. While Joel 2:17 is sung in the Novus Ordo, Joel 2:13 is not. This occurs during the Lectionary readings of the Novus Ordo, but Joel 2:13 is optional. What is Joel 2:13?
Again, while the Traditional Mass focuses on fasting and penance, the Novus Ordo has the focus of fasting and penance for the beginning of Lent as something which could be done, not necessarily something one should do. The intention of this study is to determine which liturgy better represents the Catholic understanding of Lent for the faithful.
The Traditional Mass then goes into a responsorial of Esther 13, which again, includes for us some very important information the Novus Ordo simply does not contain for the faithful to learn through the prayers.
Here we are called to make amends for that which we did in ignorance. Us Christians at times stumble, not aware fully of our sins. Ash Wednesday is to make us fully aware of these sins, and to repent of them, in repentance and the works of repentance, penance. We further see the Traditional Rite stressing very much so that if we do not do this before the day of death, we will not get a second chance. Once we die, there is no further chance of repentance, but judgment, to either eternal life with Christ Jesus, or eternal condemnation to hell forever separated from him. Once again, there is nothing to mention of this in the "Revised" Missal. One is almost tempted to think the "revising" of the prayers revises anything to due with fasting, penance, and repentance, the three most important things in an Ash Wednesday service! There is still one more prayer for us to consider, before the Mass even begins in the Traditional Rite.
This prayer calls to mind the purpose of our fasting. It reminds us of our Lords fasting and preparation in the dessert for 40 days, in preparation for his ministry. During this time, he faced spiritual warfare of the likes we could never imagine. The Devil came to him, and attempted numerous times to tempt him, offering him the entire world in the process. Christ resisted this temptation. This of course was probably easy for God incarnate, but he did this for a purpose, for us. During our time of fasting, the devil will attempt to hit us with everything he has, to make us turn from God, and indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. Our self-denial is linked to Christ's becoming man, taking on the form of a servant, so in that service, he became exalted above all. Likewise, we are called to do the same. We hate sounding like a broken record, but none of these vital reminders are contained in the Novus Ordo as we receive the ashes. This highly symbolic act is almost devoid of any symbolism of greater things. We now start the beginning of the Mass. The Introits are the same for both liturgies, Wisdom 11:24-25, 27. We will now begin with the Collect, or as the Novus Ordo calls it, the Opening Prayer.
We already see a small, yet very importance difference. While the Novus Ordo reminds us of the "discipline of Lent" they fail to tell us what exactly that discipline is. The Traditional Rite leaves no stone unturned, as that discipline is the "fitting piety the venerable solemnities of fasting, complete with steadfast devotion." Here the priest prays to God in the Traditional Rite that he give us the strength to undertake these fasts with piety and devotion. What is unclear in the "revised" liturgy is absolutely clear in the Traditional Rite. We will notice something that becomes clearer as we continue; the Novus Ordo goes out of its way to avoid mention of fasting in the prayers. One wonders why this is, being Ash Wednesday, more than any other day, should call to mind fasting and penance.
As we have mentioned before, in the Mass readings, the reading is the same from Joel, but the one verse which explicitly mentions fasting and reparation is rendered optional. We now go onto something the Novus Ordo completely does away with, the Tract of Psalm 102:
Based on what we know so far as to what the Novus Ordo has omitted in the "revised" liturgy, this is no surprise. The Traditional Rite, keeping in mind the season of Lent, asks God not to repay us according to what we have done. Before we mention what our forgiveness is based on, the people are to kneel, the posture of prayer, and also of desperation. We then go onto begging the Lord to forgive us for His name's sake, not for anything we do. Even our fasting does not warrant God's forgiveness in and of itself. Since God is merciful and just, we ask Him to forgive us on account of mercy, and then, with the graces He gives us, mortify those sins of the flesh, and grow in holiness trusting in Him. Vere dignum et iustum est, it is right and just that such a passage should be included in the service in regards to Ash Wednesday, calling to mind our trust in God, and his mercy, something that again, we see nothing of in the "revised" Missal.
For the Gospels, we see that the same passage for both liturgies, with the Novus Ordo again leaving two verses optional, Matthew 6: 17-18. This optional passage by Our Lord in red goes as follows:
One wonders why this is optional in the Novus Ordo. If it is not mentioned, what does it entail? The fact that our fast is for God, that God rewards us based on this fast? One does not know, we are left with numerous questions, and no answers from the text itself. This is indeed ambiguity at its finest. What happens is in no way false, but rather unclear as to why it occurs. Where there is uncertainty, it can be exploited for either positive or negative results. Those who seek positive results normally have little need for ambiguity.
This is one of the few instances I would actually give the advantage, so to speak, to the Novus Ordo though the Third Secret said in the TM basically covers this with the words "Protect us, O Lord, who assist at Thy mysteries; that, fixed upon things divine we may serve Thee in both body and mind." Finally we see a mention of charity and penance in the NOM, but it is surrounded by "our Lenten works." Where is fasting in the "Lenten works?" We don't see it. Even when the Novus Ordo presents a good prayer, this prayer comes short of mentioning one of the primary elements of what Ash Wednesday is supposed to convey, that of fasting. Now onto the prefaces, of which there are 4 in the Novus Ordo. I will use Preface Number III, the Joy of Fasting:
Through our observance of Lent you correct our faults and raise our minds to you, you help us to grow in holiness, and offer us the reward of everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him the angels and all the choirs of heaven worship in awe before your presence. May our voices be one with theirs as they sing with joy the hymn of your glory.(Preface, NOM, the Joy of Fasting)
This is becoming quite redundant, but we cannot help but point out these significant omissions on the part of the Novus Ordo. Unless one looks at the title of the preface (which of course is not said during the preface) one has no clue it is about fasting. It is only "our observance of Lent." Our observance of Lent doesn't necessarily entail fasting, rather merely acknowledging it is Lent. We know we fast only because that is what Holy Mother Church has always taught.
The Preface of the Traditional True Rite is quite different. Fasting is mentioned almost right away, and furthermore, this fast curbs vices, lifts up our minds, and we ask to be bestowed strength and rewards. The Traditional Rite furthermore denotes our unworthiness to partake in singing with the angels and saints since we ask that God may bid our voices to be admitted while we say with lowly praise. Something similar occurs in the Novus Ordo, but one doesn't see the may be entreated to join or lowly praise. Almost as if we are on equal footing in praising God. We are still clouded by sin; therefore our worship is not as perfect as that of the Angels and Saints. The next relevant prayer I believe is that of the Postcommunion:
We once again wonder why the Novus Ordo goes out of its way to avoid mentioning fasting. The Priest in the Traditional Rite asks God that the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist afford us help in our fast, so that our fast is pleasing unto God, and profitable for healing. Our fast is acceptable before God because it is united to the Cross. These are small changes, but theologically rich changes. What is our "Lenten penance" if not fasting? Here also in the Traditional Rite, there are two additional Postcommunions for the Invocation of the Saints and a Prayer for the Living and the Dead, a reminder of the dogmatic Communion of Saints with the Church Triumphant invoked in the Second Collect and intercession for the Church Militant and Church Suffering in the Third Collect. We doubt you'll find any reference to such in the Novus Ordo anywhere any more. In the Traditional Latin Mass these prayers are said at every Holy Mass throughout Lent in the Collect, Secret and Postcommunion.
In conclusion, we must again remember what our intention was in writing this article. As we embark on this penitential season of Lent, we are reminded of what Lent signifies. Lent signifies our human frailty, and our need to fast, to prepare ourselves for the glories of the Resurrection. While the Novus Ordo mentions the Resurrection quite a bit, we submit that it mentions it, without mentioning proper preparation for this glorious event. If we are not properly disposed and prepared for such a glorious event, the day could come, when this event arrives, and its fruits are not applied to us. The Holy Father has given us a choice here in which liturgy to attend, and we should attend a liturgy that is most conducive to the salvation of our soul. For Ash Wednesday, we should attend a liturgy which most exemplifies what Lent means to Catholic tradition. Since Ash Wednesday has passed, it is our hope that we have contributed to the Christian faithful as they make this most important decision especially in light of where they will attend next year on Ash Wednesday.
NEXT: Comparing the Propers of Lent: First Sunday of Lent
vol 15, no. 67
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi