Ordinariate worship is a liturgical provision of the Roman Rite, which incorporates prayers and devotions from the Anglican tradition while being fully Catholic in content and expression (any Catholic may participate in Mass in an Ordinariate parish, and, according to the usual stipulations, may receive Holy Communion). The liturgy of the Ordinariate is similar to the extraordinary form of the Mass, commonly known as the Latin Mass or Tridentine Mass, the biggest difference being that the Ordinariate form of the Mass is in sacred English such as that exemplified in the Lord’s Prayer (thee, thou, thy, etc.), a precise and treasured use of language that is found in poetry, music, and theatre, best described as “Prayer Book English.” This “high church” liturgy has many traditional characteristics. For example, communion is usually served on the tongue while kneeling. However, the liturgy is close enough to a regular Catholic Mass that any Catholic would have no problem adapting to it. In all of its glory the Ordinariate Mass uses a rich assortment of ancient chants, beautiful prayers, and incense to lift the soul to God.
A Historic Form of the Mass
Ordinariate liturgy as published in Divine Worship: The Missal, is the third form of the Roman Rite (the other two being the ordinary form and the extraordinary form). This form of the Mass traces it’s roots back to the Sarum Use, the form of the Mass used in much of the Kingdom of England while the country was still a thriving center of Catholic faith and piety, prior to the reformation. Then due to the political machinations of King Henry VIII, English Catholics were torn away from the rest of the Roman Catholic Church and the King declared that it was he, and no longer the pope, who was head of the church. This of course, was just one piece of the many reformational movements that were taking place across Europe to which the Church responded by calling the Council of Trent, reaffirming the teachings of the Catholic Church in opposition to the many conflicting reformational doctrines that were going around and by issuing a standardized form of the Mass, the Tridentine form, to be used the world over within the Latin Rite of the Church.
A Liturgy that Nourished Unity
Yet during this time, it was Sarum Use Mass and its developments that nourished many English speaking Christians during five centuries of separation and it was these prayers that would eventually lead them to seek reunification with the Roman Catholic Church. It is because of this history and the power of liturgy to bring about unity within the Church that, moved by the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict erected the Ordinarites and issued Divine Worship: The Missal in order to preserve this form of the Mass. The goal of the Holy Father was that these English liturgical and pastoral developments would not be absorbed into into the Latin Rite, but rather that they would become a distinct provision of the Latin Rite, in order that a mutual enrichment might take place within the Church, a greater fullness of a catholicity of diversity as the Church grows evermore into the fullness of unity that is the Body of Christ as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegatio).