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).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mass facing "the audience"?

A troubling caption attached to a photo accompanying a recent article at the Catholic Register (CNS) speaks volumes regarding the understanding of the Mass by woefully misinformed and low-information Catholics.

The caption reads:
Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and other bishops celebrate Mass facing the audience.
So then, the congregation is an 'audience', is it? Any tradition-minded Catholic, which is to say any faithful Catholic with an ounce of formation in the Faith, must be gagging at that characterization of the congregation as an audience. The very term used speaks to the heart of many problems associated with certain unsanctioned changes in the manner of the celebration of the Liturgy, not the least of which is a complete contradiction of the concept of participatio actuosa, or actual (not active!) participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Audiences can be highly engaged, but the connotation attached to the word is one of passivity. The congregation is never passive. Receptive, yes; but never merely passive. In either the Extraordinary or Ordinary Form of the Liturgy, the congregation is or should be constantly engaged in intentional worship while always striving to be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit. Catholic worship never has as its goal an emotional high achieved through the hyperactivity of the audience congregation. Catholic worship is authentically charismatic because Christ, Who sends His Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine which becomes Jesus' very Body and Blood, is the principal actor in the Divine Liturgy. By the grace of God, which is to say the power of the Holy Spirit, we are immersed in the Spirit and become more what God intends us to be. I.e., more like Him in likeness.
(T)o make the fruits of the sacraments requires that a person be properly disposed. This means use of sufficient grace via the sacraments is not automatic. There must be, at least in the case of an adult, an openness to use the sufficient grace which is available in a sacrament. When the recipient is properly disposed, the sufficient grace of the sacrament is efficacious. 
This principle holds that the efficacy of the sacrament is a result, not of the holiness of a priest or minister, but rather of Christ Himself who is the Author (directly or indirectly) of each sacrament. The priest or minister acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) even if in a state of mortal sin. Although such a sacrament would be valid, and the grace efficacious, it is nonetheless sinful for any priest to celebrate a sacrament while himself in a state of mortal sin. 
The principle of ex opere operato affirms that while a proper disposition (openness) is necessary to exercise the efficacious grace in the sacraments, it is not the cause of the sufficient grace. Catholics believe that what God offers in the sacraments is a gift, freely bestowed out of God’s own love. A person's disposition, as good as it may be, does not automatically bring God's blessing.—Wikipedia.
If we are free of mortal sin, we are permitted to receive the Holy Eucharist. The degree to which we are properly disposed is the degree to which we, God willing, will receive the fruits of the Sacraments.

An audience consists of spectators. A congregation consists of witnesses gradually becoming more like God by participating in the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary. Along with our non-Catholic eastern brethren, Catholics refer to the process of transformation in Christ as theosis.
Paul the Apostle taught in numerous passages that humans are sons of God (Chapter 8, Epistle to the Romans). Paul conceives of the resurrection as immortalization. Paul also writes that "all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians he writes "we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." The fact that Christians attain "the same image" indicates a close union and even identification with Christ, the image of God.
In John 10:34-36, Jesus is described as defending himself against a charge of blasphemy,
"The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? [Psalms 82:1-7] If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?"—Wikipedia.
Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395)
"For just as He in Himself assimilated His own human nature to the power of the Godhead, being a part of the common nature, but not being subject to the inclination to sin which is in that nature (for it says: "He did no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth), so, also, will He lead each person to union with the Godhead if they do nothing unworthy of union with the Divine."
Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430)
"'For He hath given them power to become the sons of God.'[John 1:12] If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods." 
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."—CCC460.
Catholic Christians say 'congregation'; secularists and pagans say 'audience'.

The CNS article by Sean Gallagher titled Catholics recall the winds of change brought by Mass in the vernacular, while perhaps not intending to criticize the plethora of malevolent changes which have occurred, actually does much to expose the many flaws following in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

Mr. Gallagher's report presents some of the many troubling assumptions which have led to countless liturgical abuses.
"There was a spirit of (liturgical renewal) there already long preceding the council," Father Casey told The Criterion, Indianapolis' archdiocesan newspaper. "Then, when the council came, they were ready."

So was the faculty of the Latin School, led by its rector, the late Msgr. Joseph Brokhage, whom Father Casey described as "an excellent theologian and a very fine liturgist."

"When we saw where the council was going, Msgr. Brokhage started talking about it in our assemblies," Father Casey said. "Then he demonstrated it."

Msgr. Brokhage prepared (misinformed?) the high school seminarians so well for the liturgical renewal (deformation?) that they took a leading role in helping to prepare (misinform?) priests serving in parishes across central and southern Indiana for them.

"When it finally hit and you had to have an altar facing the people (Who said so? Not the Holy See, that's for sure!), there was a team of us that he put together," Father Casey said. "We did demonstration Masses around the archdiocese for priests in the deaneries."
Note aside: the current Missal still assumes ad orientem worship. The rubrics require the priest to turn toward the congregation at specific points in the Mass. If the priest is already facing the people, why are there rubrics directing him to turn and face the people? The abandonment of rubrics which were and are essential to the preservation and proper celebration of the Mass is a testament to the attitude of opposition to legitimate authority imposed on the Church during the anti-authority rebellion of the 1960s and 1970s.

"When we saw where the council was going, Msgr. Brokhage started talking about it in our assemblies," Father Casey said. "Then he demonstrated it."

The assumption that individual priests could anticipate and implement changes on their own authority, regardless of whether or not the changes were either mandated or definitely not mandated, is the height of arrogance. All the abuse, confusion and poor catechesis which has led to a massive loss of identity and a loss of a sense of the sacred can be laid squarely at the feet of priests and laity who appropriated authority which never belonged to them. The fact that so many Catholics are completely ignorant about the nature of the Mass is a damning testament to the shabby catechesis which accompanied the unsanctioned changes in the Mass. Shabby catechesis which, by the way, persists to this day.

Msgr. Brokhage prepared the high school seminarians so well for the liturgical renewal that they took a leading role in helping to prepare priests serving in parishes across central and southern Indiana for them.

That certain priests co-opted and corrupted impressionable high schoolers in order to enact unsanctioned changes in the liturgy and the architecture of churches is simply unconscionable.

Father Vogelsang said introducing the vernacular into the Mass and changing the gestures and orientation of the celebrant "made a big difference," saying "it has forced better celebrations."

Do we really need to cite as evidence against the notion claimed in the above statement the overwhelming number of Masses celebrated every Sunday that barely resemble the Mass as it was intended by the Second Vatican Council, a Mass in continuity with the past (pace critics who have reasonable arguments against the Ordinary Form) with Latin responses and Proper and Ordinary chants, and, at most, an entrance hymn (not excluding the Inroit!) and closing hymn and the readings and Universal Prayer in the vernacular? The loss of Latin in the Mass, i.e., the loss of the Church's mother tongue, is nothing short of cultural genocide perpetrated against the faithful by Church-hating bishops, priests and laity who desire(d) nothing less than the reshaping of the Liturgy (and God) in the image of man. Deo gratias for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who called us to liturgical sanity. Deo volente, the Mass will someday soon have back its proper orientation and dignity. The path to that restoration be achieved by the emerging younger generation of priests and lay faithful who thirst for authenticity and are seeing past the fog of ignorance and outright lies and conceit of certain members of the prior generation.

Option became rupture and loss.
In addition to allowing for the use of the vernacular in the Mass, Vatican II's liturgical renewal also gave the option (A highly truncated version of the facts and therefore not an entirely accurate statement.) of the priest facing the congregation during the Mass.

"Once you did that, all of a sudden your gestures, your facial expressions and your tone voice became crucial," said Benedictine Father Columba Kelly, 84. "You have to be present to what you are doing. You're not there to entertain. You're there to lead prayer." (More than lead prayer, dear Father, much more.)

Father Vogelsang called this attentiveness to facial expression and vocal tone "stage presence."

"You can't just stand there and mumble everything," he said. "And an awful lot of our priests had gotten into the habit of just mumbling the Latin." (Mumbling? One wonders whether or not the good Father is aware that the Mass was and is still prayed in a variety of distinct tones or levels of voice.)
Father Vogelsang said introducing the vernacular into the Mass and changing the gestures and orientation of the celebrant "made a big difference," saying "it has forced better celebrations." (Where has Fr. Vogelsang been living for the past 40 years? Clown Masses, Polka Masses, Big Puppet Masses, priests performing magic tricks during homilies as entertainment and priests leaving out or changing the text of the Mass beyond what is permitted by the rubrics. These and other serious manipulations of the Liturgy are examples of better celebrations?! Please.)
Father Vogelsang called this attentiveness to facial expression and vocal tone "stage presence."

Stage presence, indeed. In light of nearly 2000 years of historical precedent regarding the practice of ad orientem worship, that phrase says all that needs to be said about the supremely stupid and completely unjustifiable enactment of Mass facing the audience people which is currently in vogue.

Catholics should know better. Priests should know better. Visit the page at this blog and the linked resources by minds far better prepared to argue in defence of ad orientem worship than yours truly, and you, too, will know better.

Regarding the nature of the Mass and authentic Catholic worship,
for the faithful, no explanation is necessary.
for the rebellious and irrational, no explanation is possible.

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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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