|Pope Francis offering the new Mass ad orientem in Sistine Chapel.|
Before I get to that, first let me unfold the meaning of the "hermeneutic of rupture," which I agree is exactly what happened, and explains to a great degree all that is so weird and otherwise incomprehensible that happened in the life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Why were churches wrecked? Artwork and beauty destroyed? Why don't newer churches look like churches? (Actually, they are starting to, again; but this question refers to many churches built between around 1970-2000.) And so on. You know the questions; they may be your questions.
The hinge is the term "hermeneutic," which means a principle of interpretation. Is the interpretive key you apply to the documents of the council one of rupture and discontinuity? Or is it one of continuity and organic transition?
I don't know if anyone coined these terms before Pope Benedict, but in any case, he made them his own, as he called for Catholics to recognize this problem. And he was plainly right, even as defenders of "rupture" try several responses, each more untenable than the other. They claim:
(1) There was no rupture; all those who say they experienced drastic change are simply mistaken. All those stories of destroyed artwork, wrecked churches, and wildly manipulated Masses are just urban legends. We have always been at war with Eurasia. (This is what I call "Operation Memory Hole": the effort to pretend all or most of the craziness just never happened.)
(2) There was drastic change, but that's what the Council was about. This, in turn, subdivides into:
(2a) The Council couldn't call for it openly, so it wrote its documents in deliberately ambiguous language, expecting the post-conciliar work to go where they didn't dare go.
(2b) The Council did call for it openly, you are just too dumb to see what the documents really mean;
(2c) The Council and its work represents a decisively new way of "being Church," which is evolutionary; and as a result, it is right and proper that the Council documents themselves be superseded, in the post-conciliar period, by a "Spirit of Vatican II" that must continue to guide us into ever-new emanations and realizations. (OK, I'm hamming it up a little here; but not much. This is pretty much the position of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and the crowd at the National "Catholic" Reporter.)
(3) Yeah, all that seems disruptive happened, but that's really an organic development anyway, and it's just that you're too delicate and hidebound to realize it.
(4) We don't really care about Vatican II; we only care about what we have now, which we like better.
By the way, if you think I'm making up any of these responses, I am not. I have seen and heard them made in various settings, by laypeople, clergy and supposed "experts." There are a lot of folks who are heavily invested in a hermeneutic of rupture -- both emotionally and financially invested -- and so they will defend their position to the uttermost.
In any case, back to the liturgy. Pope Benedict's entire approach to the sacred liturgy embodies the "hermeneutic of continuity," and it is my own as well. And it was in pursuit of a long-term reconciliation that he freed the celebration of the older form of the Holy Mass.
So back to my thought-experiment. Recently I found myself wondering: if there were some sort of "merger" between the older form and newer, what might it look like? I hasten to point out: while the rubrics of the new Mass are loose enough in places that some of this may be possible, it's pretty clear that this entire scheme I am about to unfold would be illicit; so don't do it! (My headline is meant to be provocative, not a recommendation.) But it's fine as a thought-experiment.
Here's what I came up with.
It helps to realize four features I presuppose in what follows that can be realized right now: a church that is structured in the traditional way; use of Latin predominating; traditional vestments and sacred vessels; and ad orientem posture--that is, the priest facing the Lord, with the people, rather than "turning around" to offer the sacrifice. These are all perfectly licit in the new Mass; the extent to which they've become rare is a consequence of the misbegotten "hermeneutic of rupture" described above.
To help show where the ideas come from, I'll use italics to denote a distinctive feature of the older form, and bold to indicate something definitely from the new. Note well: if I don't add either, that means what I'm describing is actually true--right now--of both.
After the priest vests with all the traditional items, including the maniple and biretta (note: allowed right now), he enters led by the ministers in cassock and surplice. In a "high" Mass, the choir/assembly sings the Introit in Latin or the vernacular. He approaches the altar, perhaps placing the chalice on it, and at the foot of the altar he and the servers recite the "foot of the altar" prayers. In a Mass without anything sung, the assembly might join in, or else listen. These prayers might be in the vernacular.
In a "high" Mass, the priest might then proceed with incense; in any case, he then kisses the altar, and -- if not already sung, recites the Introit, vernacular permitted. He then goes directly to the chair, and facing the altar, leads the Kyrie and Gloria in Latin or in the vernacular.
After leading the collect, he sits down as a lector proclaims the first reading and the gradual or tract from the pulpit, the vernacular permitted. Following this, the priest or deacon goes from the chair, facing the altar and tabernacle, bowing to reciting the prayers beforehand. Then he proclaims the Gospel from the pulpit. The readings could be chanted in a high Mass. When desired, there would be an option for proclaiming the Gospel in the traditional manner, "toward the north." If proclaimed in Latin, it would be read again, in English, at the pulpit.
The sermon would follow, then the Credo, begun by the priest from the chair. The prayers of the faithful, if included, would follow; then the altar would be prepared, and the priest or deacon would receive the gifts from the faithful. The priest then approaches the altar. If not already sung, he recites the offertory antiphon. (Note: the offertory antiphons still exist! But because they don't appear in the Missal, even in the Latin, rather they are in another liturgical book, they have been utterly missing for decades. Yet the GIRM refers to them.)
Now the priest, assisted by the deacon and ministers, using the offertory prayers from the older form, places the bread and wine on the altar. He keeps the bread on the paten. Incense follows in a high Mass, including the traditional prayers with the server giving the called-for responses. (I think a priest himself might licitly pray the traditional incense prayers at this point in the new Mass.) He turns for the "orate fratres" which can be in the vernacular. He prays the offertory collect aloud, and then proceeds with the dialogue and the preface, recited or sung aloud.
The Roman Canon is normally silent, with or without music overlaid (Note: there are those who argue that this is permissible in the new Mass; I have heard the argument, but cannot here reproduce it). The rubrics would give permission to offer it aloud "occasionally." The signs of the cross omitted in the new form would be restored. The Mystery of Faith would be intoned as in the new form, except where use of a traditional Mass setting made it impractical; in which case, the priest would say it sotto voce.
The priest would lead the people in singing or reciting the Pater. The Libera nos would follow, in silence, with the gestures with the paten omitted; the priest would bow and recite, silently, all three prayers preparing for communion (note: in the new Mass, one of these is recited aloud; and one of the two can be omitted). The priest would turn and give the Pax Domini. There is no other "sign of peace." (Note: the sign of peace as currently practiced is, actully optional.) The priest would then lead the Agnus Dei aloud if it is not sung. Then the priest leads the Domine, non sum dignus three times.
Then the priest turns and shows the Body and Blood, saying aloud, Ecce, Agnus Dei; the faithful respond, Domine, non sum dignus three times; the priest then makes his communion, and then comes down to distribute holy communion at the rail. (Note: the new Mass did not eliminate use of the rail.)
After communion, the priest performs the traditional ablutions; the communion antiphon, if not already sung, he recites without the greeting beforehand. He offers the Placeat tibi, then the Benedicat vos, then the Ite, missa est. The last Gospel is omitted, except on special occasions, and the Leonine prayers follow. (Note: once the new Mass is concluded, nothing prevents the priest and people praying these prayers right now.)
What do you think? No doubt I have glossed over some of the fine points. I have, for example, not mentioned many of the gestures and movements particular to the old-form solemn high Mass, because I'm not so familiar with them, and not really wedded to them. Feel free to address that in the comments.