The title of this article is taken from the words uttered by Cardinal Egidio da Viterbo in 1512 during the inaugural oration of the Fifth Lateran Council: “Homines per sacra immutari fas est, non sacra per homines.” Against that backdrop, imagine the following conversation between two seminarians, both studying for their dioceses. They have discovered and fallen in love with the traditional Latin Mass and want to embrace its riches, but they disagree over how to go about doing so.

Michael: It’s possible to bring tradition into the Novus Ordo Mass. We just choose better vestments, better music, a better ceremonial guidebook, we use incense, and so forth… We learn from the Latin Mass how things ought to be done.

John: Here’s my hesitation. Isn’t every attempt to make the new Mass more traditional a kind of innovation—at least compared to what bishops, other clergy, and most laity are expecting, and especially if one steps much beyond the available matrix of options? And, even in the best-case scenario, where a priest can “get away with it,” what happens interiorly to a priest who’s making his Mass “traditional” week after week, year after year—doesn’t that habituate him into thinking that he is the architect of his fine liturgies? That they are his, to traditionalize as he will?

Praise the Lord

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