There is an astonishing difference between the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form.
In the Ordinary Form we are generally singing a Joyful hymn at the beginning. Most Churches completely ignore what the Church says about that first song, choosing as a norm option four, disregarding any instruction about the Roman Gradual or Simple Gradual, entirely overlooking the fact that we have rejected the Word of God. While this song is going on the priest enters the sanctuary, moving mindlessly toward the altar to kiss it and then retreat to a presider’s chair where he readies himself to address the people.
The Extraordinary form teaches us something entirely different. Here the priest hesitates to approach the altar. In this place he is reminded that he is completely unworthy to approach the Holy of Holies and he asks the Lord to distinguish his part from a people that is not holy. Discérne causam meam de gente non sancta. Moments later he will bow deeply at the waist and confess his sinfulness. He will profess that it is only with the Almighty’s help that he is even able to approach the Divine majesty. Only then will he climb the steps to the altar, and only after recalling the sacrifice of the martyrs who have gone before him and intercede for him on behalf of his sinfulness does he finally kiss the altar.
There was a time in the ancient church before Saint Pius V, when these prayers at the foot of the altar were done in the sacristy. Then the Mass began with the Introit. Possibly because these prayers out of sight may have been constantly omitted, the 16th century reform placed them at the foot of the altar in the sight of God and everyone else.
Nowadays, even though the rubrics make a specific call for silence in the sacristy and in the vestibule, these places are often the place for chit chat about the weather, the sports rivalries or whether or not the candles have been lighted. The Sacristy is hardly considered a place of prayer.
Maybe the increase use of the Extraordinary Form may invite us to consider that atmosphere of prayer, and invite us to bow our heads and acknowledge our sinfulness before we so joyously bound into the sanctuary with great abandon, this time preparing ourselves to address the Almighty God, instead of the people to which we ourselves belong.
I, personally, had no desire to learn how to do the Extraordinary Form. My intention was to celebrate the Ordinary Form in the manner that Sacrosanctum Concilium imagined it: In Latin, with English readings and orations. If it stayed the same Mass after Mass it would be in Latin. If it was for this mass only it would be in English. Of course, Mass would be celebrated “ad orientem.”
I learned the Extraordinary Form because a Bishop asked me to, telling me that there were 100 families in the region asking for it. So in 2012 I celebrate my first Extraordinary Form Mass. On a two week vacation I celebrated in the Extraordinary Form every day so that I could really learn it and be comfortable with it.
Three things happened. First, it completely transformed my priesthood and it affected the way I celebrated the Ordinary Form. Every Mass became completely Christocentric. Many people recognized this and it caused a greater spirit of prayer in believers. Secondly, boys who served the mass began to think of vocations to the priesthood. Ordinary boys who would play and roughhouse with great abandon became little soldiers of Christ with great seriousness in the celebration of the Mass.
Thirdly, it caused a reaction of visceral anger and anguish on the part of liberals who were now convinced that I was completely nuts. Their angry letters caused my provincial superior to judge me in a manner that had little relation to reality. So from 3000 miles away he made decisions which changed the nature of the parish and disrupted my life. And I am grateful. Because I landed in a place that appreciates the Extraordinary form, that loves reverent prayer and even has 24/7 adoration. And I am no longer subject to that provincial.
This was the last full day. We were to go to the final Mass, but there was a foot race. Because of the foot race many roads were closed. Verizon does not have control of the GPS towers and my phone consistently told me and Uber drivers that I was three block from where I actually was. So an hour later and after four Uber drivers passed right by us saying they could not find us, we went back to the Domus and said a quiet private Mass. Then we headed out to what turned into a St. Paul day, first to the Patriarchal Basilica where we had the soldiers reminding us what kind of world we lived in. ST. Pual Outside the walls was beautiful. But even more impressive is the Abbey of Tre Fontane. This is the sight of the Martyrdom of St. Paul.. We had a beautiful visit, then we entered the Trappist Church and were present for one of their midday prayers. After returning home for a short rest, we headed out for the final dinner and then a gelato before heading home to pack and prepare for the morning.
The Day with Fr. Z., The wonderful Mass. The Music was outstanding and really reflected the text. I had prayed and celebrated a low mass in the morning, and then hearing the same texts sung to the choral rendition of Aurelio Porfiri was just stunning. Fr. Z showed off some seminarians who were recipients of his Biretta project. . We also met up with some Regina corespondents from the International scene.
The beautiful day ended with a trip to Piazza Navona, and a marvelous dinner at Jon Lewis's favorite place, La Scaletta.
In the evening we went to St. Mary Major. We took our breviaries and, beside a little sight seeing, we did an hours of prayer. It was a bit surreal to pray the Rosary in a 13th Century Cloister, I was all by myself.
We elected to visit the four major Patriarchal Basilicas on this short trip and today we visited St. Mary Major. There I ran into an old friend from my Calvert House days. Michael O'Conner was then an undergrad. Now he is a Dominican priest (for five years) and he is doing a doctorate in Rome. We also visited Gammarelli. The sisters purchased a few palls, and I acquired a few shirts. Also a Gammarelli, The Sisters ran into an old friend from St. John Cantius from Chicago. Gammarelli has a 200 year old vestment that is all hand embroidered. Anyone with $10,000 is welcome to it. The Day ended with Solemn Vespers presided over by Archbishop Ganswein.
Today was the first full day, and it was the 10th anniversary of the opening of Summorum Pontificum. We began, as we began each day, with a quiet Mass in the Chapel. Mass was always in the Extraordinary form. The we spent the day listening to conferences. Cardinals Mueller, Sarah and Burke all spoke It was great to see old friends and to be in the company of believers.
Omnia Christus Est Nobis
Christ is everything for us!
I am a Roman Catholic Priest from California. I spent 13 wonderful years years as a member of the Province of the Pacific in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The outline of my life can be traced here.