Letters to the Editor

Extraordinary "Ordinary" Form

(In reference to “Embracing Mystery” in the June 23rd issue) 
 
For my first 21 years as a Catholic I went to Mass in Latin celebrated in what is now called the “Extraordinary Form.” I don’t remember being very inspired by any part of it except the opportunity to receive Communion. I often felt that the rest of Mass was what you endured to get the ultimate blessing of Catholicism, Jesus with us in the consecrated host.
 
During almost all the 50 years I have been a priest, the Mass has been in English. I am delighted to be able to celebrate Christ’s presence and sacrificial love in the language we use every day. For about the last 20 years I have been at home celebrating Mass in Spanish. I sense how this helps people far away from their homes and families feel more at home in their church.
 
I believe that the reason the eternal Son of God left heaven and became fully human in Mary’s womb was so we could more easily feel at home with him and he with us. First John describes this blessing very simply: “What was from the beginning , what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – now made visible.” (1 Jn1:1) God and His love for us remain a mystery but one now present in what is so down to earth and ordinary….bread and wine, work of our hands. I rejoice to be facing God’s family gathered and saying in the language we use every day, “Take and eat,” “Take and drink.”
 
In the reflections recently shared by people using the Extraordinary Rite, we find: “There’s a reverence that I sometimes lose in the Ordinary form because of the sign of Peace and holding Hands during the Our Father. The ritual should be a very individual experience because we all are an individual soul and the time to have fellowship and interact should come after the ritual itself.” 
 
 In Mt. 5:6 Jesus tells us: “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret.” Many parishes now have Adoration chapels just for this. But when Jesus gathers us at the Table of His Word and Body we need to be united by common prayer and singing as well as quiet gestures of respect and affection. In 1 John 4:12 we read: “No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us.” 
 
To me our new “ordinary” rite is an extraordinarily well-done ritual that includes more Scripture and, encourages homilies that help us see its relation to our lives. Sung responsorial psalms make me think of David calming the soul of troubled Saul. Intercessory prayer brings the urgent needs of our tortured world before our Father. The Eucharistic prayer is punctuated with three joyful acclamations: “Holy, Holy, Holy,” as we come before the Sovereign Mystery of God; the Memorial Acclamation recognizes the Sacrifice now present through consecration; and our Great Amen unites us to this eternal offering of Jesus. 
 
Our hope is that this improved ritual will enhance our awareness and active participation. But more importantly, that this participation will enable the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with loving surrender to ABBA, with joyful affection for one another, and with renewed energy to make God’s Kingdom come and Christ’s love reign wherever we go. AMEN. AMEN. AMEN.
 
Father Mike Smith
Saint Matthew Church
Statesboro
 

Letters published do not necessarily reflect the views of the Southern Cross or of the Diocese of Savannah.

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