From my reading of the motu proprio (on his own authority), the pope wished to make it clear that the former rite, because of its usage over hundreds of years, continues to be a legitimate expression of the church’s fundamental law of prayer (“as the church prays, so does she believe”). He was primarily motivated by his desire to reconcile Catholics who continue to revere this form of the Mass and wish to have freer access to it. But while the Mass we have been celebrating since 1970 may be no more valid than any of its predecessor rites, it came about as the result of a great church council (Vatican II) which called for a renewal of the Mass and all the sacramental rites of the church so that their rich meaning may be more readily accessible to all the faithful. The council called upon the “pastors of souls [to] realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.” The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stated unequivocally that the Church “earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people, is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” Wherever the revised rites of the Mass and the other Sacraments have been celebrated with both reverence and enthusiasm, Christ’s faithful have been empowered to live out their baptismal calling by loving and serving the Lord.
I respect those who express nostalgia for “the good old days,” but there can be no going back to the future. I think I speak for many priests and a great many of the faithful when I say that I am profoundly grateful for the many positive fruits that were generated by the Second Vatican Council. Chief among them is a deeper appreciation of why the bread and wine become the very substance of the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is no less than this: Christ becomes fully and truly present so that we who receive him can become the very substance of his Body — the Church — so that in us and with us and through us he can continue to transform the world. Deo Gratias!
Father Jack Feehily