What’s the difficulty with the Ordinary Form ?


Fr Ray Blake has written an interesting piece on his reflections on the Ordinary form after sitting in the congregation for the EF Mass at Maiden Lane on Monday. He considers whether if Mass is celebrated Ad Orientum and in Latin, is there actually any discernible difference for members of the congregation between the EF and the OF?

For the celebrant things are different but for a member of the congregation the two forms can be almost indistinguishable, except maybe the absence of prayers at the foot of the altar, but then I have seem “preparatory prayers” done in the OF during the entrance hymn, and I have seen an ambo used for readings and heard the sermon end in a series of intercessions in the EF.

Predictably, the majority of his commentators fall on the side of the EF preferring it primarily for its historical continuity, its silent canon and its prayerfulness.

I was particularly intrigued with Fr Ray’s reflections on the relaxed attitude of the congregation at Maiden Lane to the rubrics:-

What impressed me was the prayerfulness of the congregation. The congregation’s following of the rubrics were less disciplined than at the OF, people stood during the Sanctus whilst others knelt, some knelt more or less through out or sat or slid between the two. Most joined in the dialogues, a few joined in the Ordinary quietly, a few followed missals, a few had Rosaries in their hands, most just prayed quietly. The celebrant was reverent, but  characteristically matter of fact, the servers were relaxed.

There seems to be a misconception that the EF, particularly celebrated as a Low Mass, is exactly the same where ever you go unlike the OF which always seems to suffer from, shall we say, parochial embellishments. My somewhat limited experience of Low Mass in the EF is quite to the contrary. I have attended some Masses where the dialogues are said by the congregation, or people join in with the Ordinary. I have even been to Low Mass where hymns in the vernacular were sung – something which l believe was quite common pre-vat ll. In my own parish, the Low Mass is completely silent. So much so that the last one l attended, l was muttering the Credo under my breath, and someone who was sat in the pew in front of me turned round and scowled. Not a terribly ‘prayerful’ attitude some might say. I haven’t been back since.

I suppose my point is the OF CAN be and SHOULD be as prayerful as the EF. There is no reason why there should be any fundamental differences between the way we approach the two rites. Preparing the music for the Latin Mass tomorrow in the OF, there is virtually no difference in what we will be singing. The sung propers are the same as the EF (Mass of a Virgin not a Martyr), we won’t be singing any vernacular hymns and the organ will lead the processional and the recessional. The only differences are, we do not have as much time at the Offertory to sing a Motet or a hymn. In this instance we are singing the Salve Mater but after the Proper there may not be enough time to sing more than one verse. Mistime it and Mass has to wait. In the EF, if we are singing a polyphonic Mass, the Benedictus would normally be sung after the consecration. In the OF it has to be sung straight after the Sanctus which can leave the priest waiting for an incredibly long time to start the Canon. This is why most parishes who sing Polyphonic Masses tend to sing a plainchant Sanctus so they don’t ‘hold up ‘Mass.’ Tomorrow we are singing Mass XV.  I have purposefully chosen to go the plainchant route rather than the polyphonic route so that the congregation can join in in what is ‘the chant of the people’  after all.

The other thing l want to say, is that the EF can be and should be as inclusive as the OF.  If people want to join in with the dialogues it should be fine, if they want to sing, particularly if women want to sing the chant, then that is ok too.   Yep, some scholas (the majority) still only allow men to sing the chant.

I hope that ‘traddies’ that attend our Friday evening EF Low Mass will also attend our OF Latin Mass tomorrow. As a friend of mine always says about the OF, “if it’s good enough for the Pope, then it’s good enough for me.”


One thought on “What’s the difficulty with the Ordinary Form ?

  1. Andrew Witcombe-Small says:

    Thank you. I was there, having just become a member of the ALL. The whole thing was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

    I am starting to fantasize about moving to Brighton and worshipping at St MM’s. Not likely to happen, but …

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