The Six Marks of the New Mass
The following is my review of the article written by Father Stephen Somerville, S.T.L.
In 1969, Max Thurian, a Protestant theologian, who helped to found an ecumenical monastery in France, said, “It is now theologically possible for Protestants to use the same Mass as Catholics.” How is this possible? How can Protestants with a good conscience accept to offer the one true Catholic Mass?
Remember that the year in which Max Thurian speaks of is 1969. Vatican II ended just 4 years earlier, in the year 1965. The Liturgy Commission set up by the Pope in 1964 was mandated to prepare “a reform of the mass”, and all other liturgy services of the church. This commission, called Con-silium, did reform the Mass rather quickly, and Paul VI did approve of the new order, or “Novus Ordo” of Mass in the April of 1969. This turned out to be a New English Mass that is used in Catholic Churches around the world today. It has many differences from the Traditional Latin Mass, though you can notice it is quite similar to a Catholic Mass. We must think: How should right-thinking Catholics think of this New Mass? What should we do, as right-thinking Catholics think of the Novus Ordo Mass, the New Mass?
To find the answer to this question, let us describe the New Mass in the way of skilled theologians and liturgists.
They first describe the Novus Ordo Mass as ECUMENICAL. This means made to encourage unity and agreement with non-Catholic religions. It is made with the prime focus to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”. One must focus on what we believe in common, and turn down the beliefs we do not share. The Novus Ordo Mass change a variety of prayers, including the Collects’, so that they would speak less of fasting, less of the world as an enemy of our Lord, less of Hell, less of Eternal punishment, and so forth.
The New Mass is also described as ANTIQUARIAN. This means focusing on the early ways of the Church, instead of the enriched Catholic Mass that was developed over the course of medieval times, in the renaissance, and so on. It is more of a simple and austere form of worship. This includes fewer genuflections by the priest, shorter prayers, lesser use of incense and bells, and so forth. This is the antiquarian aspect of the liturgy.
The third aspect of this New Mass is that it is COMMUNITY-BASED. The community is the horizontal dimension, which centers on us. The opposite of this is the vertical dimension, which focuses on God. The Novus Ordo Mass tends to focus more on the people rather than God. The Catholic Churches are built horizontally these days, with little or no tower that points upward. Notice the big entrance lobbies for people to interact and talk. In these ways the new mass is community-based.
The fourth aspect is that of a DEMOCRATIC church. This means governed by the people, rather than by the priests, bishops, and the Pope which is hierarchic. It means that the Mass is not led by a priest, but rather by many lectors and readers taking turns, many Communion Ministers, including women and teenagers, by many ushers or “ministers of hospitality”, and most of all a parish liturgy committee that chooses the style and structure of the Masses. This is the democratic aspect of the Novus Ordo Mass.
The fifth aspect of the New Mass is to be DESACRALIZED. It means signs of reverence and mystery are then reduced to a low standard or the minimum, if not removed altogether. A lot of this attitude was mentioned along with the antiquarian aspect of this New Mass. The New Mass also lacks in communion railing, Latin language, simpler vestments, and priests who lack the proper vestments. Most priests now don’t wear clerical attire even outside the Mass. The Mass is celebrated facing the people rather than God. This is liturgy desacralized.
The sixth and last aspect of the Mass is that it is PROTESTANTIZED. This means it is more in harmony with the views of the Protestants. Because of the rise of ecumenism, the designers of the new liturgy focused on making the Mass more Protestant in tone and content. We could call this deviance as well. The doctrine of the Real Presence is toned down, which is the reality that the bread and wine are truly Jesus’ Body and Blood. Therefore the tabernacle is off in a corner or not shown altogether, as it will be in the back room. Fasting is not to be done three hours in prior to Mass, or from midnight, but is lessened to the amount of one hour. Confession, barely known by Protestants, is less among Catholics. The risk of a bad communion is thereby greater. The role of the priest is lessened as well. The sacrificial way of the Mass has been lost in this New Mass. The Mass has become a “sacrifice of praise” now. A quality of a sacrifice is it to be propitiatory, which is appeasing God’s anger over our wretched sins. If we think that God is too kind or loving to demand sacrifice for sin, or we believe that God is too powerful to be offended or bothered by our sins, then we have lost the Faith. In this case a propitiatory sacrifice makes no sense.
These are the six marks of the Novus Ordo Mass: Ecumenical, Antiquarian, Community-Based, Democratic, Desacralized, and Protestantized.