I am a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, having been part of the first group of former Anglican clergy to be ordained in 2012. Since then I have received great blessings through this wonderful journey into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
I grew up and later ministered in parishes in the Church of England which adopted wholeheartedly the Novus Ordo of the Roman Rite and tried enthusiastically, in all things liturgical, to be as alike as possible to the parishes of modern Catholicism. This made it very easy to make the transition into the Catholic Church but resulted in me finding the distinctive liturgy of the ordinariate alien.
However, this Lent, following several suggestions from parishioners, I began celebrating one Mass a week using Divine Worship, the ordinariate’s Missal. To my surprise, I have found that it has brought numerous benefits to myself and those who have attended, and has become something which we have continued to celebrate
faithfully each week.
There are several options to choose from when celebrating Mass according to Divine Worship. We have settled for a celebration which feels very much like the Extraordinary Form in English. Mass begins reverently with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (Psalm 42, also called the Judica me) and the Confiteor, said first by the priest and then the people. As the priest ascends to the altar, the Collect for Purity, found in the Sarum Missal, is said:
“Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secretes are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name: through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Mass is then celebrated ad orientem, with kneeling to receive Holy Communion. Finally, before leaving the altar, the Last Gospel (the Prologue from John’s Gospel) is read by the celebrant.
It is a very different form of the Mass and several weeks of rehearsals for myself and the servers took place before we felt able to begin a dignified celebration on that first week of Lent.
To begin with it felt a bit clunky. But as the weeks progressed the words have become more familiar and the ceremonial more natural and meaningful. The form of celebration more clearly and obviously emphasises the sacrificial nature of the Mass. This is appreciated by many of those who attend.
For some, it is a nostalgic encounter, reminding them of the Mass of their youth, while for others it has been a new experience which has enriched them. A few find the ad orientem celebration difficult and the language too archaic. But because there was not previously a Mass on this day, nobody has been offended or upset – and many have been pleasantly surprised. One of the young servers told me that he has now memorised the beautiful Prayer of Humble Access, which is said before Holy Communion, and he uses it privately before every Mass he attends.
I have certainly benefited from using an additional form of the Mass. Sometimes liturgy can become so familiar, especially when it is celebrated daily, and we can take it for granted. Celebrating using Divine Worship has given me a deeper appreciation of Christ’s great gift to us and has also helped to further deepen my love for the Mass.