So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, March 3, 2017

A lamentation on an Ash Wednesday (Novus Ordo) Mass.

Ash Wednesday begins a season of giving up. ... giving up vice and lax attitudes, and other useless (and possibly spiritually dangerous) attachments, that is, which are obstacles to God's grace. We journey with Jesus through His approach to His passion and death. True! True, it is a time of preparation for the magnificent feast of Easter, Jesus' resurrection and triumph over death. Ours is walk led by Jesus; we walk in the company of the Holy Spirit.

Jabber walky.

Priests who celebrate the Novus Ordo liturgy are prone to a severe disadvantage, a fact I re-encountered at a local Novus Ordo Ash Wednesday Mass this past week that I attended due to work-related obligations which kept me from attending the Ordinariate liturgy I would have normally attended. What is that disadvantage? Let's call it a temptation for the priest to place himself at the centre of attention, a temptation quite possibly born of and reinforcing a spiritual narcissism or some misplaced need for approval. That imposition can come in many forms, some subtle and others large, all significant, and not in a good way.

Me, myself and I.

The homily preached by a good and caring priest began in the trap: "This is how I plan to keep Lent... ." Unfortunately, a series of awkward and protracted justifications followed. The Novus Ordo liturgy, as it is commonly celebrated, seems to intensify a need for approval. The "I" word, as in the priest referring to his experiences and his person, saturated the otherwise useful ten minute discourse.

If there's one thing priests could give up this Lent (and henceforth) is the need to engage the congregation by force of his personality and/or autobiographical anecdotes which form parentheses around the word of God.

What's missing?

The traps priests set for themselves seem magnified by versus populum celebration of the Mass, i.e., Mass said facing the people, as the Novus Ordo is commonly celebrated. In the instant cited above, said priest was also caught up in constantly eyeballing the congregation both before and during the homily and, sadly, during the Eucharistic Prayer and, specifically, during the consecration. Ad Orientem worship helps the priest avoid the prison of this obvious pitfall.

Another annoying practice associated with versus populum celebration is the tendency of priests to attach the name of the communicant to the phrase "The Body of Christ [insert name of communicant here]". Not only is the personality of the priest over emphasized in Novus Ordo celebrations, insult is added to injury by drawing attention to the communicant at the very moment one should be most forgetful of self and most mindful of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Why should anyone expect otherwise? A liturgy oriented to the congregation rather than oriented to the adoration of God is a liturgy that constantly reinforces movement away from worship of God to a fascination with mundane things which, if not checked, can lead to idolatry.


The informal reception after the Novus Ordo Ash Wednesday liturgy described above was loud, a gathering of twenty or so people in the foyer of a generic chapel, and did not respect the sensibilities of people who remained in the chapel afterwards to rightly spend some time in reflection and prayer. The people gathered in the foyer seemed more interested in blathering about mundane matters than engaging in edifying conversation related to the meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent. A mood of thoughtful and subdued reflection on one's mortality would be appropriate for Ash Wednesday. Sadly, such a mood did not appear to persist past the chapel doors.

Do not despair!

For those who tire of the noisy Novus Ordo parish Mass and who sit on a limb hanging over a decision to abandon Mass or venture further into the Faith, do not give up! Attend an Extraordinary Form Mass or Divine Worship (of the Ordinariate). There is peace to be found; the word of God can be found and clearly heard. The sacraments can be celebrated reverently and worthily. You just need to spend some time searching online—at this blog, for example are listed several links to Mass locations for the Tradition-minded—and then follow up by attending a Latin Mass (TLM/Usus Antiquior) or by immersing oneself in the Divine Worship of the Ordinariate or perhaps an eastern Catholic liturgy.

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