The Relationship between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Liturgy

Article excerpt

[This lecture was presented at the Sacred Music Colloquium 2010, June 21--27, 2010]

A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I spent a weekend observing the parish, praying in the church, and interviewing the now-deceased Monsignor Schuler. In the course of that interview he commented about the history of the Church Music Association of America (CMAA).

"Back in the fifties," he noted, "there were two groups, the Society of St. Cecilia and the St. Gregory Society. We had great battles about the interpretation of the quilisma. Then in the late fifties and early sixties, especially as the council was unfolding, it became clear to all of us that we had much bigger problems to address than the quilisma was giving us." As all of you know, these larger challenges were the impetus for the merger of the two groups into what is now the CMAA.

I think that if Monsignor Schuler were here today he would certainly be pleased to see the progress that has been made in the association, especially in the last couple of years. I attended undergraduate school here at Duquesne in the late sixties and early seventies. I attended Mass at Epiphany regularly--quite often the 2:00 a.m. "printers' Mass" as it was sometimes called. I can tell you that in the 1970s only in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined Palestrina's Missa Brevis being sung here. Truly, a lot has been accomplished.

So, I speak to you tonight with most fond memories of the short time I had with Monsignor Schuler and with a deep gratitude to Bill Mahrt and all of the colloquium planners for affording me this opportunity.

BACKGROUND

My topic this evening pertains to the relationship between the two forms of the Mass. First, I want to say that I would prefer not to use the terms "ordinary" and "extraordinary." Even though these are the official terms, I don't want to seem prejudiced by constantly referring to how extraordinary the older form of the Mass is. So I will use the terms Novus Ordo and the Tridentine or traditional Mass. I hope that will be acceptable.

The way I have chosen to explore this relationship is to look at the Tridentine Mass as something of an older sibling to the Novus Ordo. As such, the Tridentine Mass has a little more experience--actually about fifteen hundred years or so--and, therefore, a few things to teach the Novus Ordo. It's a bit like when I started driving, one of the first things my older brother did was to teach me how to disconnect the odometer. That way, when I told my father I was going one place, but my intention was to go somewhere else, I could disconnect the odometer at the right mileage and thereby make the miles on the odometer match the mileage that my father would surely have estimated as appropriate for the trip. So in a similar--but let's hope somewhat less dysfunctional--way, there are a few matters relating the world of worship and the life of the Catholic Church concerning which the older and more experienced Tridentine Mass might well mentor the younger and perhaps more exuberant, but less experienced Novus Ordo, with the hope that in some not-too-distant century, the two forms of the Mass can come to family reunions as happy and well-adjusted Masses.

Now, at the outset of this exploration, I must first make a small confession to you--one a little more serious than disconnecting odometers. I am one of those who have gone to the "other" side. I travel a hundred miles each week to attend a Tridentine Mass, and it has rejuvenated my spiritual life and my hope for the future.

So how do I explain this clearly reactionary and irrational behavior? I am not sure that I can, fully. I don't completely understand it myself, but maybe a little background might be a good starting place from which all of us can figure out what has gone wrong with me.

My first professional position was as a church musician. …