So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Word of Advice To All Warriors at the Front Lines of the Liturgical Cultural Wars

Don't make the fight about you, or even about your liturgical preferences. Unless, of course, your preferences coincide with the teaching of the Church and the preferential option of reverent, dignified and beautiful liturgy. Propose the truth in charity. Make clear the nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Speak history. Do not engage in conspiracy theories. Make obedience your rule of life. I.e., obedience to Jesus Christ and the Magisterium of His Church.

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The Forty Years War—no, not the war fought in fits and starts between 1385 – 1424 between the Burmese-speaking Kingdom of Ava and the Mon-speaking Kingdom of Hanthawaddy Pegu—that is, the forty plus years diversion from the implementation of the liturgical reform envisioned by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, is but a mosquito's lifespan in the history of the Church.

Some will continue to argue conspiracy theories and attempt to demonize members of the Concilium who oversaw the renewal of the Liturgy under Paul the VI in order to undermine any further renewal of the Ordinary Form (currently the Missale Romanum Tertia Editio Typica) and to distract others from taking responsibility for the authentic implementation of the renewed Liturgy. That is, the liturgy that was approved and promulgated by the soon to be beatified Supreme Pontiff Paul VI. That said, there were, indeed, real and substantive hijackings of the reform of the Liturgy after the Pauline Missal was promulgated. Even Pope Paul VI had serious misgivings about the direction some folk were taking the renewal process. Good Pope Paul was right to be very concerned about significant problems that were taking place under his watch, among them:
  • limited dispensations or exemptions (indults) from liturgical norms granted to a few local churches (e.g., communion in the hand) which, to put the pun to it, got way out of hand.
  • ad orientem worship was pushed aside by versus populum worship. Contrary to any argument put forth by those who insist on versus populum worship, the overwhelming architectural/liturgical orientation of Latin Rite sanctuaries for our nearly 2000 year old heritage has people and priests facing in the same direction toward the liturgical East. Furthermore, to this day the rubrics for the Ordinary Form contained in the GIRM/Roman Missal assume ad orientem celebration.
Apology for The Missal of Paul VI

The Ordinary Form is the one and same Sacrifice of Calvary celebrated by the Church from the moment Christ Himself instituted the Holy Eucharist. Is the celebration of the Ordinary Form free from abuse? No, far from it. Part of the problem is due to a pernicious thought, i.e., that attention to rubrics has been relaxed.
The rubrics may have been adapted or modified, some dropped, some added, but there has been no relaxation of the prudential liturgical norms which have served and shaped the Liturgy for literally two millennia. Necessity required adaptation of the norms, and some new norms appear to conflict with others (largely due to shoddy translations which have then, unfortunately, been amplified by bishops' conferences), but any reduction or relaxation is not as profound as some might wrongly imagine.
Some folk persist in the misguided notion that, contrary to Sacrosanctum Concilium 22, they can do anything they like to fashion or shape the Mass into their own image. The Pauline Mass has been subject to severe distortions, in some cases nearly beyond any similarity to the older form. If we follow the distortions to their source, we can confirm that most of the distortions proceed from an agenda—the agenda belonging to a loose association of relativistic ideologues more than an organized conspiracy—held by individuals or groups that oppose forming the flock in the Tradition of the Church.
The Apostolic Tradition is to the Church as roots are to a tree. Cut the roots and the tree will topple in the first windstorm. Haters of Tradition know that by cutting people off from Tradition they can then substitute another tradition, i.e., their own. Tradition-hating folk also hate Tradition because they fear a loss of freedom to do what they want. In that sense, they should be afraid. The freedom proposed by the Church is the freedom to do what is right. Doing what is morally right requires obedience to truth, the truth undefiled and taught with authority by the Church, the Church faithful to Christ, His commandments, His teaching. A properly formed conscience, then, is fully conformed to the teaching of the Church.
For far too long the faithful have been subject to a truncated understanding of the Church's liturgical tradition based on revisionist histories meant to serve the narrow and anti-Catholic interests of cafeteria Catholics who are more interested in conforming Christ and His Church to the world instead of illuminating the world with saving truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ handed on in the Liturgy.

Should there be rubrics guiding the proper presentation of the Mass?

Of course there should be. Even in an ideal world where faithful Catholics are, well, faithful, servers and priests (and now lay readers) necessarily require a true guide in order for the Liturgy to be conducted in a true, dignified and beautiful manner. Every play has a script that determines what is said and done, a script that determines what is said and done by the various actors. The director serves to realize the script. The older form of Holy Mass is an excellent script, to say the least. The newer form of the Mass has a beautiful and elegantly concise script, but few pay attention to the directions necessary for the Story (the Sacrifice of the Mass) to be communicated (celebrated) reverently. Sacristans and liturgical committees, as well as clergy of the various ranks, could be much better informed and better formed to ensure the proper celebration of the Mass according to the authentic spirit AND letter of the Second Vatican Council.

It is not difficult to understand why some folk prefer the older Form and have given up on the Pauline rite. Tinkering with the TLM is practically unthinkable, given the precision of the rubrics constructed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit over the course of centuries.
After some 50 years of tinkering, it should be abundantly clear that the rubrics for the Pauline Mass can and should be informed by the rubrics of the older Form. Those seasoned rubrics, many if not most of which are very much applicable to the Novus Ordo Mass, bear the imprint or logic of the Holy Spirit. If we faithfully employ those rubrics as much as the Pauline Liturgy permits, i.e., if we apply them in spirit and in truth to offer God His due worship, the Holy Spirit will act in and through our humble service according to His Will.
Rubrics are to the harmonious celebration of the Mass as harmony is to the composition of beautiful music. Rubrics are to the Liturgy as grammar is to the creation of great literature. Rubrics condition in us orthopraxy—i.e., right action—and foster in us an awareness of God present in the silent actions of the Mass. Rubrics, then, enhance our awareness and understanding of our relationship to Christ in the Sacred Liturgy. Sacred actions and signs dispose us to the action and influence of the Holy Spirit just as beautiful poetry disposes us to transcendental aspects of the human experience in ways that prose often does not. Divine poetry disposes us to the grace of God. The new translation of the ancient Latin prayers of the Mass create opportunities for the hearer to discover the beauty and goodness of God much more than the banal, lame, discordant, awkward, tedious and truncated paraphrases to which we were formerly subject.

The hallmark of the Catholic disciple is obedience.

Who decides which form of Mass is true or not? Me, the laymen in the pew? You, the priest, the servant of God and the Church whose personal preferences mean very little compared to the teaching of a legitimate Council and a Roman Pontiff? If Paul VI was a legitimate Bishop of Rome (and he was!), and if, by promulgating what we now call the Ordinary Form of Holy Mass, he taught authoritatively on a matter of faith and morals, then do we not have an obligation to obey and worship in the manner prescribed by Holy Mother Church as the 'ordinary form' of the Liturgy?
If we consider ourselves faithful Catholics, and if we value our story, that is, our heritage and identity, we should acknowledge (revere, study, even attend on occasion...) the older form of the Mass and understand and celebrate the Ordinary Form in continuity with the ritual that "formed" countless saints down through the ages. Bear in mind, what we refer to as the Traditional Latin Mass or the Usus Antiquor is one of several versions of the Sacred Liturgy. We must necessarily include in our understanding the Dominican, Mozarabic, Sarum and other liturgical rites that have presented themselves under the umbrella of what might be referred to as the Latin liturgical tradition.
For centuries in various countries where the faithful have been ruthlessly persecuted, the Mass in its various forms—celebrated with loving care—shaped people into warriors well equipped to resist capitulation and well equipped to suffer and die for the Catholic Faith. If martyrdom is tied in any way to a form of the Mass, then the Ordinary Form of Paul VI is producing its fair share of red martyrs, too.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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