Old vs New Mass: It's in the signs

Rev. Robert Brucciani

What is the Mass?

The Mass is the greatest of all the treasures of the Church, the most precious jewel in the crown of the Bride of Christ.

The Mass is the perfect prayer, an infinite prayer. It has to be an infinite prayer, because it is offered to God to repair the infinite offence to God of Original Sin and the infinite offence of our actual sins. It is the only prayer that is enough to unite men once more with God.

We were made for God, to be filled with God, to share in His Divine Life, but sin ruined all that. The Mass is the remedy, the infinite act of justice-entwined-with-mercy, the infinite act of love of God for His creatures by which He draws all things to Himself; it is the infinite prayer.

The Mass is a sacrifice which is, by definition, a prayer offered to God alone. Now, a sacrifice is more perfect when the gift offered is more perfect; in the Mass the gift is Jesus Christ, a man who is also God; there cannot be a more perfect gift. A sacrifice is also more perfect when the priest offering the gift is more perfect; in the Mass the priest is also Jesus Christ who merely uses the minister (the ordained priest) as an instrument.

The Mass is the perfect prayer because it is God offering God to God.

As it is the infinitely perfect prayer, it cannot be multiple or repeated. This perfect prayer, the Mass, is in fact the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. Every time the Mass is offered, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary is brought before us – not in its bloody, painful horror, but in a sacramental way, which means that the reality is there, but hidden behind signs. The appearance of bread and wine are signs of the Body and Blood of Jesus which are really present once the priest utters the words of consecration. The separate consecration of the bread and the wine at the Mass is the sign of the separation of the Body and Blood of Jesus in His sacrifice on the Cross, which is essence of the sacrifice.

This infinite, perfect prayer—the Divine sacrifice—is made present to us at each Mass, not only so as to remember the Sacrifice of Calvary, but so that we may join ourselves to it by offering with Jesus the sacrifice of our own minds and hearts, our own body and soul, our own adoration, thanksgiving, petitions and reparation. God’s prayer and our prayer both ascend to God together and, in return, He showers His grace upon us so that we share more perfectly in His life. In effect, the Mass is the perfect prayer that draws man back to God. And it is not just a spiritual union with God; when we receive His living Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion, it is a physical union too. It is nothing less than the beginning of heaven here on earth.

Now, both the old Mass and the new Mass, when celebrated properly with the right intention and by an ordained priest, are both the same Sacrifice of Calvary made present in a sacramental manner; they are both perfect in this regard. Where they differ is in the non-essential signs each employs to point us to an understanding and reverence of the reality.

The old Mass

The fixed, non-essential signs prescribed in the old Mass emphasise the true nature and sacredness of the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. Their reverence and beauty encourage us to adore God made present before us in His infinite act of love for us. These signs of the old Mass call us to join ourselves to the Sacrifice, to return love for love. They dispose us to be wrapped up in God. These fixed signs are embellished by the solemn ceremonies, the vestments, the sublime melody of Gregorian chant, the angelic harmony of polyphony and the extraordinary edifices which were built for the old Mass cathedrals, basilicas, churches and chapels. Such signs of the old Mass accumulated over the centuries; they unite us to the apostles and saints who were moved by the same signs to adore God and sacrifice themselves.

There is the use of Latin too; it unites us in a sacred language, the same wherever you are in the world, the same wherever you are in time.

The new Mass

The new Mass is not like that. The non-essential signs of the new Mass are largely an invention which followed the Second Vatican Council (1962–5) even Pope Benedict XVI says this. The new rite of Mass was an invention to make the Catholic Mass appear almost identical with the Protestant Mass, so that the two religions could be merged into one.

The non-essential signs of the new Mass hide the reality of the Sacrifice of Calvary for our sins. They hide the reality of transubstantiation which is the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. A sense of the sacred and mystery is missing in its signs.

The signs of the new Mass present the Mass as a celebratory meal by the people who are told that they are already saved. The priest, instrument of Christ sacrificing Himself, is portrayed as the president of an assembly an animator of the community. The embellishing signs, such as the vestments and the music, present infinite reality with inadequate signs of infantile banality. The churches built for this Mass can rarely be described as anything else but ugly.

The multiplicity of languages in which the new Mass is celebrated cuts us off both from Catholics around the world and from the saints through the centuries.

Old versus new Mass

The signs of the new Mass weaken the faith of the priest and faithful, and they encourage a sacrilegious disrespect of the Real Presence. The new rite of Mass is unworthy. In the old Mass, the only thing that is unworthy is the minister! But God knows this, and so does the Church; that is why he is hidden away under beautiful vestments, made to face Him rather than the people, and made to say the most important prayers in silence.

There was a great priest called Fr. Frederick Faber of the London Oratory. He described the old Mass as “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven”. If he had lived to see the new Mass, he would have been heartbroken. All the signs are wrong.

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