Monday, July 16, 2007

Summorum Pontificum on the Latin Mass

I just got back from vacation, so yesterday I read the new Motu Proprio on the Tridentine Mass for the first time. I still need to read more commentary on it. But here are a few things that caught my interest.

1. The explanatory letter to the bishops that accompanies the Motu Proprio gives the Pope's main reason for doing this. "It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church." The Pope candidly admits that in the past, "at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church's leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity."

This gives us a great insight into Benedict's pastoral heart. I see him as a pastor who wants to keep everyone in the fold, no matter what their preference for liturgy is.

2. He stresses that the Tridentine Mass is an "extraordinary" form of the Roman rite. This should--hopefully--assuage fears that he is trying to overturn Vatican II. The Novus Ordo remains the ordinary form of the Roman rite.

3. One line in the explanatory letter especially struck me: "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful."
Sometimes in hearing people talk about the liturgy, a certain disdain and even contempt for the old rite comes out. Certainly it needed reform, as Vatican II desired. Benedict's reminder here that the liturgy always remained sacred is very welcome.

I recall something that happened in a class I took in the early 1990's. We were discussing the liturgy, and the priest/professor, who certainly supported the new rite and the reforms of Vatican II, remarked that something was still missing. The reform of the liturgy hadn't attracted more people to worship, but in fact more Catholics were staying away from Mass. More work still had to be done to truly reform the liturgy.

What do you think about it?