Phenomenology of the Mass, Part II

It was pointed out in the comment box for Part I of this series that there are more Trinitarian elements in the EF than I noted. First, during the Priest and Server exchange, the “Glory be to the Father” is said. Furthermore, many Introits have a “Glory be to the Father.”

Moreover, we could add that the triplicity of the Kyrie is itself trifold in the EF, being said Nine Times.

At any rate, let me continue my analysis. I should be clear that I am analyzing the Mass said on weekdays in the OF, and the Low Mass of the EF.


Extraordinary Form Ordinary Form
First Reading First Reading
Gradual Responsorial Psalm
Cleanse my heart and my lips, O almighty God, who didst cleanse the lips of the Prophet Isaias with a burning coal, and vouchsafe, through Thy gracious mercy, so to purify me, that I may worthily announce Thy holy Gospel. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen. Almighty God, cleanse my heart and my lips that I may worthily proclaim your Gospel.
Yet another prayer in preparation.  
Silently: By the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out. Silently: By the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out.


In the typical Low Mass of the EF, the Gloria is prayed. The Gloria is not prayed in the typical OF Mass. The Gloria is emphatically a prayer of worship, of praise. It is also decisively Trinitarian in Structure.

At this point, we can note a few complexities of analysis. At High Mass, the Gloria is sung, or rather chanted. It is a noble, ecstatic moment. The people chanting the great prayer of praise. Now, every Sunday Mass of the OF involves such singing, or at least recitation. At some OF Masses, the beautiful Latin chants are utilized. At some, various new melodies are utilized, some better than others. Sometimes, it is simply recited. But at Low Mass, it is not recited or chanted by the people.

We thus run into the important phrase in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is a text of an Ecumenical Council, that it is desired that there be “actual participation” (translations vary). Our Lord was God made flesh. Hence, “being in the body” is integral to Christian economy. It is my opinion that such “being in the body” was what the Fathers of Vatican II meant when they uttered this directive for liturgical reform. At the Gloria, and at the Pater Noster, and at numerous other parts, the OF has the congregation itself reciting or chanting the prayers with, or in dialogue with, the priest. This “physical” participation does allow a way of entering the dialogical character of the Mass not typically enacted in the Low Mass. True, “active participation” can have various forms. Its essence is internal prayer. Nonetheless, the becoming human of the Word is that integral factor that, I think, guided the Fathers at the Council to point the reform in this direction. Anyone who has assisted at an Eastern Liturgy will readily note that such “physical” participation is the very warp and woof of such a liturgy.

Thus, we have an “on the other hand” to consider. What are the different kinds of “ways of being” that emerge from these two different kinds of Mass, the High Mass / ordinary OF (with physical participation) and the Low Mass?

Put aside caricatures. I am not saying that the Low Mass involves being inert and no physical movement, etc. It does involve limited vocal participation. So, perhaps a better word is “Vocal”. It is difficult to analyze. I grew up immersed in Liberal Chicago Catholicism. Then went to Notre Dame, where, by God’s providence I met believers who showed me the Rosary and spoke well of the Church. I was blessed, in D.C. while a graduate student, to assist at Masses with a well-known Cistercian Monk, who chanted the Novus Ordo so marvelously (High Masses) that I nearly died of the beauty. I appreciated that the “vocally dialogical” character of the Novus Ordo could be so profound, so utterly un-banal. (Unlike many instantiations of it in the suburbs.) I then discovered the Eastern Liturgies, esp. Maronite and Melkite. Once again, and twice again, I was blown away by the beauty and high theology. “True Worship” I said to myself. Only recently have I been experiencing the EF, thanks to Pope Benedict’s famous document.

I am making no caricature – not consciously. And this is my background, which surely affects my analysis. My suggestion is that the way of being when vocal participation occurs is more complete, “fuller”; for me, more satisfying. Which is why, if I attend a Sunday EF, I go to High Mass. In short, it seems to me that I am invited “up”, “towards the sanctuary” when I am, together with the servers, responding and dialoguing with the priest. I found it interesting that a congregation recently, almost spontaneously, joined the servers at Low Mass saying, “Non sum dignus ut intres…” whereas, if I am not mistaken, the Missal calls for only the servers to make that response audibly.

Can there be a unique participation when one does not vocalize? I have heard the argument, “Yes”. Interestingly, the OF has an option of such a Mass. I experienced one or two in Laredo, TX. One can enter spiritually within the veil, contemplatively. I don’t deny this; I only think that this spiritual hack (me) can enter worship better when I vocalize. Then, it seems to me, do I enter worship more fully.

Let me make a related remark that cuts at this differently. Pius X wanted more “vocal participation”; so, he allowed hymns to be “tacked onto” the liturgy at the various parts. Why? Some say that the laity were not so easily able to enter the complex chants of the Mass. These hymns had good theology in the 20’s through the 50’s. But in the 70’s and 80’s they deteriorated; now they are quite inane.

Many recognized that to have hymns inserted into the liturgy left untapped the resources available in the Public Liturgy. Hence, many called for a reform (before the Council). Michael Davies said a reform was necessary – precisely to tap into the riches available but infrequently accessed.

So, I am suggesting that Pius X’s desire could be fulfilled if the very Graduals, etc., were recited by the laity, at least by a talented choir or schola. The OF has many such elements that are never accessed; instead, we hear banal hymns – unless we are lucky enough to worship at a place that utilizes the resources. (I am lucky enough.)

If we follow out on this suggestion, we could inquire whether it could be a natural development of the EF to extend, in some measure, the responses of the altar boys to the laity in general. If Benedict hoped for the “mutual enrichment” of the two forms of the Latin Rite, and I think he hoped for this, perhaps such an extension would constitute one such enrichment.

I have said nothing of the OF itself. However, the implication is clear in my first post. Indeed, quite clear. For the sacrificial language is notably lacking. The differentiation of priest and people is underplayed. The Gloria is also lacking in the daily Mass. Yet this is a very rich prayer. Observe also the power of the prayer the priest recites before preaching the Gospel. In the EF, it is truly of biblical proportions. We are facing sin and grace, light and darkness, death and life. We are not merely hoping for some good. The OF prayer is significantly muted by comparison. The difference we see here with these ordinary parts of the Mass is exacerbated when we examine the propers. (On that, see Lauren Priestas.)

One thought on “Phenomenology of the Mass, Part II

  1. This is not new. Even though I attend a NO Mass on Sundays, I use a TLM 1962 Missal. Every NO Mass I attend I am reminded of the stark difference between the prayers said in each rite. There was a time when I started doing this a long time ago, I also would use my Magnificat. That is when the difference between the “OF” and “EF” became so clear. That is when I started my research into why would they make such a change to the Mass? As I, and others, have indicated before, they took a beautiful Mass glorifying God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and tried to throw it out. By this I mean, I remember as a child the parish priests, all CSC FROM NOTRE DAME (I grew up in South Bend), told my parents and the other parishioners, that they were not to say anything negative about the “New Mass.” The old “Latin Mass” was gone, never to be said again. Of course, that was not true as Pope BXVI indicated in Summorum Pontificum. The TLM was never abrogated but it took decades for Rome to admit this. And as all these priests, at all levels, who were involved in coming up with a new mass, as they die and their memoirs are printed, we find out how diabolical they were in putting the new Mass together and trying to dispose of the Mass of All Ages. Well, thanks to efforts of some brave orthodox priests, the New Mass might have been instituted but the TLM was rescued from being tossed, never to be heard from again. And today you have a resurgence of the TLM, not among the old but the young! There was a very good reason for the Mass being said only in Latin and today we see more and more why. Another pope will soon come along and throw out the “New Mass” and only the TLM will be said throughout the world. The vernacular doesn’t work and you can see why by going to different parishes in one city and thinking your at a different Mass in each one! Again, I know and accept that the NO is valid and licit but the foundation it is built on is corrupt.

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