Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Old Rite

A friend and I were just discussing the dwindling numbers of Catholic parishes that are still stuck in what he called the "Old Rite" by which he means, with obvious irony, Masses dominated by cultural signs and symbols of the 1970s and 80s, including music from the usual suspects, dated vestments, felt banners, ego maniacal teachings, and all the rest.

The phrase "old rite" is now retired since B16's Summorum clarified that the difference between 1962 and 1970 Missals is better thought of as one of form, not rite. So perhaps my friend has a point here: this could be a new use of the phrase since the Masses that have these features have very little in common with Catholic liturgy in their externals.

More and more, we are gaining clarity that these years were a great oddity in Catholic history when people decided that it was hugely important to do only things that Catholics had never done and never do things that Catholics had previously done. It was a period in which a new liturgy was invented that reflected the times but which now seems incredibly dated -- however much elements of those times survive in our own times as if by automatic pilot.

And talk about stasis: I do know of parishes that have done the Mass of Creation every week for 20 years. And why? There is really nowhere else for the "Old Rite" to go: it has been done, it hasn't worked even in terms of the standards set up by its advocates, and it cannot sustain a vibrant and living faith.

Any suggestions for the phrase "New Rite?" How about an ordinary form done with Gregorian propers.

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