Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which marks the one year anniversary of Bishop Soto's installation as the Ordinary of the Sacramento Diocese. It is also the fortieth anniversary of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, heretofore known as the "Novus Ordo Missae" or the "Mass of Paul VI," as opposed to the Extraordinary Form or the "Tridentine Mass." That last is something of a misnomer, for the Mass as it was codified by Pope St. Pius V (one of my favorite popes) had actually existed for many centuries before the Council of Trent.
To mark this occasion, the New York Times of all things published this op-ed from a traditionalist Catholic commenting on Pope Benedict's desire to restore a greater sense of the transcendent and the holy to the Mass. The Ordinary Form isn't going anywhere, but it is the Holy Father's wish that through greater availability of the Extraordinary Form, the two forms of the one Rite will influence each other. It drives me crazy when people say that the priest "turns his back on the people" when he offers the Mass ad orientem. What is actually happening is the priest and the people are facing the Lord together.
Friends of mine who are old enough to remember the pre-conciliar Church say that while the priest offered the Mass, the people were in a sort of spiritual free for all in the pews. Some followed along in their missals, some said the Rosary, some just stared off into space, or slept. Although the words have been much abused, I agree that there ought to be "full, conscious, and active participation" by the people (what that entails exactly is a long discussion all by itself.) What I do not and cannot agree with is the once prevalent belief that Vatican II represented a rupture and repudiation of the Catholic past; that was taken for granted and the argument was whether that was a good or a bad thing.
I believe the Holy Spirit gives us the popes we need (and once in a while the popes we deserve.) Our previous Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, held the line on moral issues when there was enormous pressure to change the Church's teachings on everything from women's ordination, to contraception, to homosexual activities. John Paul, in an inspired bit of wisdom, spread his hands and said people were attributing to the Pope far more power than he actually possessed. Pope Benedict XVI is transcending the squabbles of the past by rejecting their major premise: Vatican II was not a rupture with the past. The Church was not born in 1965. We must reject the hermeneutic or rupture for the hermeneutic of continuity, as Benedict said back in December of 2005 to the Curia.
It's an exciting time to be a seminarian and to be a Catholic!