I’ve been reading about the liturgical positions of ‘traditional Catholics’ for some time now. On certain issues (Communion in the hand, altar girls) I remain pretty unconvinced. On others, especially musical issues discussed in places like chant cafe, I find the arguments very persuasive.
One issue on which I feel relatively undereducated, however, is the topic of why some traditionalists think the EF is the better form of the Mass.* Specifically, it seems to me that most of the arguments for why the EF is superior are not actually essential differences between the two forms, but rather, only indicate why the EF is superior to the OF as the OF is generally celebrated. Gregorian chant, for example, is not an advantage of the EF over the OF, because it is the normative music of both forms. Communion via altar rails is not an advantage of the EF over the OF, because they can be used in the OF as well. Ad orientem is not an advantage of the EF over the OF, because it is the standard orientation in the OF as well, and so forth.
Now, I realize the argument often goes like this: “Sure, those things can be included in the OF, but they almost never are. The EF, on the other hand, requires them. So the EF is the better form because it requires the best liturgical practices (and so, always gets them), while the OF permits inferior practices (and so, almost never gets good ones).” Fair enough. But my question here is specifically, what if the OF were celebrated as perfectly as possible?
So imagine: an OF where full Gregorian propers are sung. The priest chants the entire Mass. Some parts of the Mass, perhaps the sung ordinaries, are in Latin (or the whole thing is in Latin, if you like). Full use is made of processions and incense and such (i.e., procession before the Gospel reading). Ad orientem is used. Communion rails are used. The Roman Canon is used.
Is the EF still better than such a Mass? Why? I am hoping to hear very specific reasons, not generalities. Stuff like “this particular prayer is eliminated from the OF; it’s good and should’ve been retained” or “this order of things works better aesthetically” or “it’s better that the priest say this prayer quietly rather than aloud for reasons a, b, and c.”
I know that one of the arguments for the EF often advanced is its antiquity. But honestly, historically, how different was it from the Mass as celebrated before it? Was the difference between a Mass 50 years before Trent and 50 years after Trent really much smaller than the difference between the EF and my ‘perfectly celebrated’ OF? How about the difference between the Tridentine Mass and the Mass as celebrated in, say, the 6th century: is that gap any smaller than the gap between the EF and a perfectly celebrated OF? Again, please be specific as possible. A general “Yes, the OF is the most massive change in the form of the Mass in the Church’s history!” is not terribly helpful. I’m hoping for something more like “This ancient historical writing indicates that these particular parts of the Mass in the first century in Rome were in the same order as the Tridentine Mass, while the order is different in the Missal of Paul VI. Ergo, the difference between the EF and OF on this issue is greater than the difference between the Tridentine Mass and a first century Roman Rite Mass.”
- I realize this is a contentious topic. I do not at all mean to pit one form of the mass against the other. I think we can all agree that the Church leaves Catholics free to believe that one Missal or the other does more justice to the Mass, as long as no one questions either form’s validity and licitness. I truly believe that we can have a charitable discussion on this topic. No one here is saying that the EF or OF is bad. I am hoping for a thread with lots of specific discussion of particular issues using reason and avoiding personal attacks or questioning of others’ motives.