There is a resurgence of interest among young Catholics in the Tridentine Mass. It is very understandable. When you have attended so many liturgies in which reverence and the sense of sacrifice to an awesome God are missing, you leap at the chance to experience what worship is really all about--about us puny humans approaching the altar of our Creator who holds our fate in his hands. I will even dare to draw a suprising parallel between the sexual "revolution" and the liturgical "revolution": both have succeeded in trivializing the unquestionably sacred and making it boring and unremarkable. The "romance" of the human adventure has in many, many cases been gutted out of each realm.
Usually, the resurgence of interest in the Tridentine Mass is viewed as a threat to the modern liturgy--far from it. My thesis is that to understand and enter fully into the spirit of the modern liturgy you must understand the Tridentine liturgy, just as to fully understand the impact of the New Testament you must be intimately familiar with the Old Testament. After all, it was always the intent of the Church that the modern Mass should emerge as an organic development of the old Mass--not as a rejection of centuries of liturgical practice, a liturgical practice that nourished and was central for most of our well-known saints. It is funny that many who love St. Francis of Assisi seem so hostile to and suspicious of the Mass that was central to his life.
So if you want to really appreciate the modern Mass and fully enter into it, get a booklet missal of the Tridentine Mass and read the English translation and the accompanying notes. You can get an inexpensive Latin-English Booklet Missal online at EcclesiaDei.Org. As one acquaintance put it to me, the little explanatory notes in English in this booklet are a "little Catechism" packed with theology.
And fear not: Ecclesia Dei is in full communion with John Paul II--the name of the organization comes from the 1988 Apostolic Letter of John Paul II urging "respect" and a "wide and generous" approach to the "feelings of those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition." As so much else with this Pope, the results of his writings and actions are far more wide-ranging than they at first may appear. Because many sense this, many already refer to him as John Paul the Great. What John Paul the Great is doing here is providing us an essential organic link to true liturgical renewal. He is leading us to learn again the lessons of reverence and awe from the old liturgy so that the new liturgy will blossom further.
The prayers of the Old Mass have a striking clarity and theological crispness that open our eyes to what we celebrate at every Mass, new or old style. Here are some examples. When we say the Centurion's prayer in the Old Mass--three times!--that we are not worthy to receive the Lord under our "roof," into our house, prior to Communion, we are, in a very concrete and blunt manner, in the characteristic manner of speaking found in the Gospels, speaking volumes about our bodies as the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are proclaiming the Theology of the Body of John Paul II.
Here is another small, striking example. Shortly before the consecration, the priest prays in the old Mass that the Lord "[o]rder our days in Thy peace." This majestic phrase captures what we seek in our continual conversion: that we live whatever days we have left in the order of God that produces peace. That is what we seek in any Mass we attend, in Latin or English, celebrated facing the altar or facing the people.
So the issue between the Tridentine Mass and the new Mass ( the "Novus Ordo" or "New Order" Mass) is not one of conflict between languages or postures. The issue really is whether we will take a synoptic approach to both liturgical forms. Will we see them together as the Church intends us to see them, or will we pit them against each other as the author of lies would have us do?
Let us pray both liturgies together just as we read the Old and the New Testaments together. In fact, we can paraphrase a wonderful phrase of St. Augustine about the Old and New Testaments found in the Catechism and apply it to these two treasures of the Latin Rite: "The New Mass lies hidden in the Old and the Old Mass is unveiled in the New" (compare Catechism of the Catholic Church, 129). Get a booklet missal and discover the New Mass hidden in the Old.