The Divine Worship Mass: What is it?
“That’s a new way of doing Mass.” “I’ve never seen the Novus Ordo done that way before.” “Is that just the Traditional Latin Mass done in English?” These are a few of the comments we at St. George have heard from visitors about our form of the Mass (not to mention my personal favorite: “What was that?!”). This is why we find it important to explain what our form of the Mass, which is called Divine Worship, comes from.
Technically, it is not correct to say that it is new. Its ultimate source is actually the Sarum Rite, which comes from England about 1000 years ago. This is one of the forms of the Mass that was allowed in the British isles by the Pope for centuries. In fact, England always had a special place in the Catholic Church, largely because she had a distinct spirituality that Rome has always appreciated and allowed (something like the way that the Eastern Catholic churches were allowed to continue their traditions, but England was still properly Western).
The Sarum traces its origins back to St. Augustine of Canterbury who organized and restructured the English Catholic churches back in the 7th century. There were a few other forms of the Mass allowed in England, but the Sarum appears to have been used more than any other, and it is what was used by the Anglicans who separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. After much adaptation (and a fair amount of distinctly Catholic portions removed), this is what became the form of eucharistic liturgy (which is not a valid catholic Mass) that is found in the Book of Common Prayer.
This was somewhat “re-catholicized” by the Anglo-catholics in the 19th century into what is now called the Anglican Missal (among a few other forms that still exist today). Whether in its earlier “de-catholicized” form or the later Anglican Missal form, it was this form of worship that fostered the Catholic sentiments of many Anglicans and guided them to return to the Catholic Church. This became more and more obvious over the last few decades as greater and greater numbers of Anglicans and Episcopalians converted and became Catholic.
As this occurred in increasing numbers since the late 1990’s, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 decided that it was good to allow these new Catholic converts to continue with many of the forms of spiritually that led them to their conversion. He thus chose to use those Anglican forms of worship as a basis and restore many of the lost aspects of the Sarum Rite so that, once again, a distinctly English form of the Mass could be established and protected in the Catholic Church. In fact, we could almost nick-name this form of the Mass “The New Sarum Rite”. It is entirely in Old English (as was the Anglican practice), but it is distinctly Roman Catholic (with the Roman Canon for the primary Eucharistic Prayer) and has prayers that were a part of the Sarum Rite itself.
So then, it is not really “new”, but it is also not just “something old” that ignores that work of the Holy Ghost over the last 500 years. It is a valid rite of the Catholic Church, wherein a traditional reverence is observed and the evangelistic work of our Lord is acknowledged and respected. This is the Divine Worship form of the Mass.
Fr. Chori Seraiah
St. George Catholic Church