"The Tridentine Mass: Why I Couldn’t Go Back," my blog post of March 8, evoked numerous comments—63 to be exact. These surely set me thinking. Thanks to all who pitched in! At this point, I prefer not to revisit the debate, but to move forward constructively in two directions. I ask two questions: 1) what values of the Tridentine Mass might be more present in the current order of the Mass? and 2) what values might those who favor the Tridentine Mass be more aware of?
1. Many cite the sense of the sacred, the beauty, the reverential sense of God present in the Tridentine Mass. One can rely upon the ritual. It engages the spirit, and is more contemplative and prayerful. I would like to think that the current order of the Mass can and should also have these values. But only if the various moments and periods of silence called for in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (No. 45) were observed more consistently. The Instruction rightly emphasizes singing and music (Nos. 39-41). I would describe this as singing the Mass rather than singing at Mass and this too could help deepen the sense and experience of the holy.
2. On the other hand, those who favor the Tridentine Mass might recall that as the Catechism indicates, the Mass is not only a sacrifice but also a meal or banquet re-presenting the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles (CCC 1323 and 1382). Secondly, while it is true that the strong focus of the Tridentine Mass is upon God, the Mass is not only about God but God-with- us. I would hope, for example, that more elements of the Prayer of the Faithful (awareness of and prayers for the needs of the church and world, especially the poor) could be part of the celebration.
A few final thoughts. I would encourage those who attend or celebrate the Tridentine Mass to share their experience of its values. Let me repeat that at least for now I myself would not choose to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. But I do favor choice and thus admire the family that brings the children to both the “old Mass and new Mass” and will let them eventually make their choice.
Peter Schineller, S.J.