Before I get down to the serious business of justifying my salary, here are my observations and thoughts on the Novus Ordo as I have experienced it to date in this city. I think there is considerable influence of Orthodox custom (at least subconsciously) in how they approach the Mass, but I’m not going to labour the point and nor do have enough evidence to justify this claim.
At the Roman Catholic churches I have been to out here, there are large queues at the confessional, and confession will take place right through Mass and after it too. They make full use of the Sacraments and sacramentals. In my short time here, I’ve seen bread blessing and relic veneration in Catholic churches and the vessels containing Holy Water at the back of church are very large and well used. Many Masses seem to have “trimmings”: litanies, rosaries and other devotional prayers both before and after. It is custom to receive Communion on the tongue; kneeling if there are altar rails, standing if there are not. I have only witnessed Communion under one kind. There appears to be no involvement of Eucharistic Ministers or lay readers, I have yet to see any evidence of their existence. The priest will do all the readings if he has no server, if he has one, his chief server will read prior to the gospel. (This is not part of GIRM where servers can only have one function). Sadly servers are male or female but their reading has been of a very high standard. Congregations sadly are predominantly female and middle aged. There are quite a few religious sisters present, all in habits. I feel that if this were the standard of things in the UK, then we’d be quite happy. I’d say that the Novus Ordo is being executed here without the politics of protestantisation, it is said in all holiness and with all reverence.
The priests will sing parts of the liturgy where they can. It seems to be quite normal out here and I have yet to hear one who can’t sing and there is often a competent, lay male cantor to lead the congregational singing. Sadly what is on offer are the bland, Gellineau inspired Mass settings that sound more like lullabies than liturgical music. There seems to be no tradition of hymns writing. I have yet to hear an original tune for hymns… most have been rousing Wesleyan numbers with Romanian words. It seems slightly incongruous to me. But the Novus Ordo makes room for hymns in the Mass, so hymns are sung. Liturgy is all in the native tongue, but it is in the Eastern tradition too.
Liturgical music aside, to me there is a problem with the Novus Ordo itself. It is a Mass that insists on speaking to the people. It is wordy in the extreme and speaking to the people also means that frustratingly (and this has little to do with my limited Romanian and more to do with a sense of the sacred) the priests will often fit in a lengthy sermon and several mini ones into the Mass at various points. There is no adlibbing during the Liturgy here, and definitely no abuse of the Liturgy, but I have yet to hear anything but the shortest of Eucharistic Prayers, and Low Mass still takes a long time. They don’t seem to understand the concept of a quick Mass here (probably because there is no Irish in them). They expect a wordy, lengthy Mass. The Eastern Liturgy is also very wordy and lengthy, but it is a song of love and humility. It is not directed via the people to God, but directly to God. The silence of the Vetus Ordo does much the same thing as does the plainchant. It is the Novus Ordo that is out of step and here especially where it is said so well, there is an agony for me because of the overwhelming presence of Tradition in the form of Orthodoxy. The lack of real Tradition in the Novus Ordo is strikingly obvious out here. A priest is a warrior on earth who is here battling for souls partly by singing to God for hours on end; that is his life. Orthodoxy makes this abundantly clear. It is more difficult to listen to a priest talk to his congregation for so long, which is what happens in the newer Roman Rite. I do not doubt that this is a reason why there are so few men. Men as a whole do not liked to be talked to, women usually are more tolerant. It is also difficult for the priests. The Novus Ordo is a strain and a contortion even for the most devout of priests; they are facing the wrong way in all senses of the expression.