Tuesday, 1 December 2009
What's Wrong with Catholicism? The Novus Ordo!
What's wrong with Roman Catholicism? The Novus Ordo! At least that's what many conservative Roman Catholics will tell you. The First Sunday of Advent marked the
40th anniversary of the implementation of the Novus Ordo or 'new order' of the Mass, and British Catholic Damian Thompson has a wryly humourous post marking this commemoration on his blog (click on the post title to view). Scroll down the comments page to the comments by Benedict Carter for an articulation of a conservative Roman Catholic viewpoint on all this.
I must say, having attended quite a few Novus Ordo masses, that I can to some extent sympathise with the lament of conservative Roman Catholics over the loss of the numinous and transcendent aspects of the old Latin mass that the introduction of the Novus Ordo seemed to bring about; it must have been quite a wrench for the generation that experienced the change. Even as resolute a Lutheran as Hermann Sasse remarked that the Novus Ordo introduced the spirit of Zwingli into the heart of Rome.
But at the same time I remain ambivalent about those lost aspects of traditional Roman Catholic worship; if one thinks of what happens in worship as a set of concentric circles, with God's means of grace in the centre, then the response of faith that those means elicit forming the next circle, and so on, then much of what ultra-conservative Catholics lament as lost by the Novus Ordo is at best on the perphery or outer boundary (or even outside the circle set altogether!), rather than at the centre of worship.
Futhermore, to what extent, I wonder, second-guessing myself, does the craving for numinosity and transcendence that marks the journey of so many of my generation suggest the failure of faith to grasp the reality that God's presence and grace is there for our justification wherever his people are gathered in his name around his Word and sacraments? (These are thoughts, not theses, I hasten to add.)
Perhaps the best response to the problem of the loss of a sense of the transcendent in worship, whether among Lutherans or Roman Catholics, is not to restore the worship practices of a bygone era (e.g. the Latin Mass!), but to teach people to pray the liturgy and enter more fully into its drama. Without the response of faith the most awe-inspiring and beautiful liturgy is incomplete and ultimately lifeless, is it not?
(Note - As of 3.12.09 I have edited this post in light of a discussion with Phil in the comments section that led me to realise that there were ambiguities in the original that could lead to misunderstanding. I put it down to haste in posting the original!)