Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Same Rite

One of the aspects of the MP that pleases me greatly is the Pope's reported emphasis on the idea of a single Roman Rite with two forms: ordinary and extraordinary. This makes a great deal of sense, though both traditionalists and progressives will resist the designation, and oddly for the same reason: each is invested in the idea of rupture over continuity.

At the CMAA colloquium last week, participants had the opportunity to sing for the same Mass (St. John the Baptist) in the same rite done in both the extraordinary form and the ordinary form--both in Latin. How do they compare? The designations fit in every way. The 1962 Missal form was elaborate and gorgeous, but would probably strike a modern Catholic who had never attended it as a bit remote from the congregation. The 1970 Missal was plainer, more accessible, more direct, but also very wonderful in its own way.

Certainly one could say that the old form was more robust, precise, and artistically multi-dimensional. While the new form was simpler and relatively linear in structure by comparison, it had a strong reach into the minds and hearts of the people, and seemed to call more on their own faculties in liturgical action. (I know these aren't universal features; I'm speaking only of the experience last week, and one could imagine the reverse.)

What was most striking were the threads of unity that connected the two forms. Both Masses were sung completely, including all propers from the Graduale and a full poyphonic Mass setting. And they were, in fact, clearly the same rite.

One mundane point that I couldn't help notice: the extraordinary form took one hour and 20 minutes. The ordinary form took one hour and 35 minutes.

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