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The Traditional Latin Mass helps anchor the New Rite of liturgy, so tossed about by waves of institutionalized abuses and weakened by destabilizing options that focus on man's fellowship instead of Christ's Sacrifice.
While prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1993, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) commented
on the lack of stability accompanying the Novus Ordo, or New Rite, liturgy:
One cannot manufacture a liturgical movement. ... What happened after the Council was something else entirely: In the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it — as in a manufacturing process — with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.
This "fabricated liturgy" of which Pope Benedict spoke was not so much the essential Novus Ordo Mass as legislated in its traditional form offered ad orientem (toward the altar) and said in Latin. This Mass can be offered reverently, as shown in the featured image.
The problem with the New Rite of Liturgy, or Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, as it's now called, is that it lacks rigidity. Its many legitimate options — including the priest facing the altar or the people, saying it in Latin or the vernacular, using the Roman Canon as in Eucharistic Prayer I or using a highly abbreviated Eucharistic Prayer II — all make it susceptible to the many abuses that later came about and are not essentially part of the New Rite itself.
These abuses so common as to be called institutionalized include reception of Holy Communion in the hand, common use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, commonly offering Holy Communion under the species of wine, and a profane use of the sign of peace.
Many non-essential aspects allowed in the Ordinary Form of Liturgy devalue the sense of sacred, such as replacing sacred hymns with flowery, secular songs, and replacing the traditional organ gathering dust in many parishes with profane instruments like guitars and pianos — this in spite of the fact that paragraph 116 of Vatican II's "Sacrosanctum Concilium" specifically called
for Latin Gregorian Chant to be given "pride of place" at Mass.
Aspects of God-centered liturgy urged by Cdl. Robert Sarah
, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, are not fostered by the way the Ordinary Form is commonly "performed," with the priest facing the people, man standing to receive Holy Communion and the idea of rubrics being looked down upon. Too often the "presider's" personality is the focus, and he's praised for entertaining the people with jokes and off-hand gestures. In fact, if people are not emotionally engaged on a superficial level during Mass, they often complain that they "don't get anything out of Mass."
The ever-fluid New Rite is prone to fostering bad theology, where table, fellowship and meal are emphasized instead of altar, sacrifice and the sacrament of Holy Communion. This focus changes from priest to priest and parish to parish, as the Mass of Paul VI, with its many options and abuses, lacks a cohesive structure.
In stark contrast to this fluidity, the ever-rigid or immutable rock known as the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, or the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), is indeed extraordinary for its beauty and resilience. The fact that Mass attendance has taken a nose dive since the Mass of Paul VI began in 1969 at a time when those who attend the TLM do so with extraordinary fidelity, speaks for itself. People who go to the TLM take their faith seriously and are there to pray.
When defending the use of the TLM in his 2007 motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," Pope Benedict XVI declared
, "These are to be maintained not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be passed on in its integrity, since the Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi)."
Priests additionally benefit from the TLM. Offering the TLM helps young priests understand who they are as a priest — a "sacerdos" ("giver of holy things"), who acts "in persona Christi" ("in the person of Christ"), the same Christ who uses them as instruments to offer Himself as the spotless Victim on the altar of sacrifice in atonement to God the Father for the sins of mankind.
The lack of rigidity in the New Mass contributes to a priest's lost sense of identity as an "alter Christus" ("another Christ") while additionally burdening him with having to entertain his parishioners. In the TLM the priest disappears as he puts on the actions, vestments and words of Christ in Whose priesthood he shares.
The immutability of the Extraordinary Form has such clear symbolic value in presenting Catholic theology. This God-centered way of praying lends much-needed help to priests and parishioners in an age when structure is so devalued.
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