ONE BUT A FOOL would claim that War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy is a better book than To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee because it contains more words. Similarly, it would be foolish to pretend that one form of the Mass is better than another form because it contains more Scripture. Nevertheless, people often claim the EF is “not as good” as the OF because—according to them—the OF contains more Scripture. But is that true?
I wanted to find out, so I created the following chart. I was surprised to see it’s not even close! The EF contains about twice as much as the OF:
* PDF Download • COMPARISON CHART (“OF” vs. “EF”)
—“Which Has More Scripture?” The Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form?
Rules of the Game: I was careful to be perfectly equitable to both forms. For example, it would have been wrong to “cherry pick” certain EF feasts—such as Sabbato Quatuor Temporum Pentecostes—which has six (6) readings before the Gospel! Likewise, it would have been unfair to include the “extra” verses from Scripture that can lawfully be added to the Introit, Offertory, and Communion in the EF because not every parish adds those “extra” verses. It would also have been imprecise to assume that EF choirs will sing the beginning of the Gradual twice; it’s allowed, but not every choir does that. The Lord’s Prayer is sung in both forms, so there was no point in adding it to the chart. It would not have been fair to choose a ‘quirky’ EF day, such as Palm Sunday, since the 1961 reform eliminated Psalm 42 on that day. It should be remembered that the Ordinary Form does not always have two (2) readings before the Gospel, but on Sundays it does—so I chose a feast where the OF has a 1st and 2nd reading.
Ordinary Form Challenges: The challenge with the OF column is the post-conciliar Missal has a multitude of different options that may lawfully be chosen. In the OF, much depends upon the personal tastes and preferences of each celebrant. Many OF readings have a “long form” and “short form”—and either is allowed. Furthermore, nothing prevents the Proprium Missae from being sung in the Ordinary Form—and our website has promoted this for years—but a minority of OF parishes currently sing the Mass Propers.1 (Most OF parishes replace them with some other song or hymn.)
The Word of God: Professor László Dobszay says:
The Bible and the Gospels are holy to the very last letter. The very last “and” uttered by the Savior has meaning and conveys grace, simply because it was He who said it. Nobody has the right to select or omit the words of the Bible according to their perspective or taste. The Bible demands reverence and pious devotion, and it is only in its entirety that it has consecrating power. But another question is whether all parts of the Bible are equally suitable for becoming a pericope—able to pervade, organize and characterize the liturgical day. When we discuss the choice of pericopes, it is not the biblical text that is criticized, and no distinction is made between the status of the various holy texts as part of Divine Revelation and doctrine. All we say is that one text is not as suitable to be a pericope as another. One section might be too abstract; another can only be properly understood in its full context (together with a following paragraph to be read the following Sunday). There can be commands or recommendations worthy of the deepest consideration, yet they can lack the striking effect needed for a pericope. Different descriptions of the same events may express the liturgical meaning on different levels of perfection.
Never Repeated? Father Valentine used to say: “My favorite parts of Sacred Scripture are those which with I am the most familiar.” Some people feel Scripture should never be repeated. For example, the “Our Father”—from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2—is repeated at each and every Mass. Some ‘progressive Catholics’ object to this because they believe Scripture should never be repeated. They want different Scripture whenever they go to Mass (and it’s become quite common to select the ‘continuous’ readings rather than the saint’s readings although both are allowed). Generally speaking, the ‘progressive’ position is that Sacred Scripture is 100% didactic, whereas the traditional belief sees Sacred Scripture as a prayer. Indeed, the venerable praxis of the Church is that certain parts of Scripture should be repeated constantly. On the other hand, during the 1950s it was felt that “Justus Ut Palma Florebit” was repeated a bit too often—and I don’t find such a notion unjustifiable.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 A good example is “Benedíctus es Dómine Deus patrum nostrórum” (Daniel 3), a massively long hymn that can be used as the Responsorial Psalm for Trinity Sunday in the Ordinary Form. I’d wager that fewer than 20 people in the entire universe realize this is a fully-legitimate, fully-approved, 100% correct option in the Ordinary Form.