latin mass 1Written By: Fr. Jason Kuntz

A friend asked me this question a number of years ago.  I think that some Catholics get the feeling that since the extraordinary form is more traditional, has longer and more detail prayers, is more solemn, it must be objectively better.

This is mistaken. As long as the Mass is celebrated validly, the reality is the same: The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on Calvary is made present so that we may offer ourselves to the Father with Him.  

The Mass is Calvary.  This is true whether it is the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form.  Yet, the fruits that we obtain from the Mass are proportionate to our participation in the Sacrifice of Calvary – our self-offering of our lives to the Father with Christ.

Any argument as to whether one form of the Mass is to be preferred to the other must be based on this latter truth: “What helps me more fully participate in the sacrifice of Calvary?” 

Some will argue that the extraordinary from is more conducive to prayer, that it communicates the sacred better, that it communicates the faith better.  

From my own experience attending the low mass of the Extraordinary Form, I felt disconnected from the action of the priest – he was speaking in a quiet voice, and I had nothing to say the whole Mass.  While I knew that it was the sacrifice of Calvary and I was still participating spiritually, this was not expressed in the actions of the rite.  The primary purpose of the reform of the liturgy was to express in the rite that the lay faithful are not mere spectators of the Mass, but true participants – offering themselves to the Father together with Christ.   It was for this reason that the priests prayers are said audibly, the people recite responses, and Mass may be celebrated in the vernacular.   

I hope one day to learn the extraordinary form as a priest and to grow to appreciate it more.  I am confident that experience of both forms of the Liturgy will enrich our understanding of the Mass and expand our participation in it.   However, I do believe that the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy more often meets the pastoral needs of people today and helps them participate most fruitfully in the sacrifice of Calvary.

What do you think?  What helps you participate most fully in the Mass?

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