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, January 10, 2016

A(nother) Call for Ritual Sanity (rant warning = moderate)

The Ordinariate has received its new missal. Meanwhile, we tradition-minded Novus Ordinarians are frequently (mostly, that is) stuck with liturgies that are removed from the rubrics intended to, among many things, protect the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from tinkering.

Once again, stating the obvious.

The celebration of the Mass on any given Sunday in most North American parishes resembles a cafeteria or a nightclub experience more than reverent Catholic worship: the music is awkward and frequently contains heterodox texts; deep reverence for the word of God and the Holy Eucharist is merely paid lip service; priests act like talk show hosts and barroom comedians.

It has been said elsewhere by learned voices far better prepared than yours truly—Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, for one—that there is a pressing need to restore to the Mass, at minimum, certain fundamental orientations and practices which safeguard the Mass from abuse and which preserve and communicate the Apostolic Faith.
  • Ad orientem worship. Priest and people worshipping God facing liturgical East as has been the practice from the beginning of the Church.
  • Communion on the tongue, which fosters intimacy and reverence for the most precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
  • Restoration of the traditional Offertory prayers which immerse us in the sacrificial depths of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
  • Chanting of the Proper chants (Introit, Offertory and Communion) assigned to each Mass. Chants that "enflesh" the distinct character of each Mass.
One could easily add that a restoration of the beautiful Prayers-at-the-Foot-of-the-Altar would greatly enhance an appreciation for the awesome nature of the Mass and the absolute necessity of humility as we approach the sanctuary of the Lord.

During these in-between times, that is, these times after the widespread abandonment of our Latin Catholic patrimony and before the restoration of the dignity of the Mass according to the authentic vision of the Second Vatican Council, for starters, we must contend with and defend the Mass from the bizarre, ridiculous and downright diabolical manipulations of innovation crazy priests and liturgists—professional manglers or rank amateurs—who attempt to impose their narcissistic inventions on the Divine Liturgy while ignoring the heritage of the Church upheld by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.


Unfortunately, any good intentions that the much maligned Archbishop Bugnini and the Consilium may have had during the coordination of the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy were undone by an obvious oversight: Bugnini's Consilium forgot that people need scaffolding (rubrics) like vines need trellises in order to grow in the direction of the light and to help them rise upward to keep them from rotting in the dirt. Human beings need (liturgical) laws to guide them in right action, right worship. As it is, the garden of the Sacred Liturgy is without the necessary trellises to help support the cultivation of right knowledge and right practice or right worship.

By all appearances, and in many ways, the Consilium somehow forgot—if the liturgical mayhem which has followed in the wake of the Council is any indication—to realize the intentions of the Council made clear in the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, the dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. How on earth did the Bugnini Consilium not see the obvious need for tighter rubrics? Did they so lack a basic understanding of human psychology and the example of the anarchic 1960s in which they were fully immersed that they trusted the Liturgy to the narcissistic proclivities of men and women driven to conquer not only others' bodies but the Body of Christ and the Liturgy? Did they forget that the Mass requires a defence from sacrilege?

The rubrics or liturgical norms are part of the very fabric of the Mass. The rubrics are like the fine thread which holds together a perfectly tailored suit or dress. Without attention to the rubrics, and by attention is included the necessary application of considerable pressure on priests to conform to the rubrics, the content of the Mass has been tinkered with to the point that many Catholics have little idea about what constitutes right worship, i.e., worship that is pleasing to God.

By whose authority?

Sadly, many in the hierarchy were of a similar antinomian or anarchic mindset to those who subjected the West to the worst aspects of the sexual revolution. The tendency to think oneself the sole arbiter of the moral and spiritual life is the culmination of Luther's sola fide doctrine. His doctrine, you will recall, liberated believers from the responsibility to measure or confirm their faith in communion with the Church Christ Himself founded for the salvation of souls.
Protestant groups display a wide variety of different doctrines. However, virtually all claim to believe in the teachings of sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone"—the idea that we must use only the Bible when forming our theology) and sola fide ("by faith alone"— the idea that we are justified by faith only).

The great diversity of Protestant doctrines stems from the doctrine of private judgment, which denies the infallible authority of the Church and claims that each individual is to interpret Scripture for himself. This idea is rejected in 2 Peter 1:20, where we are told the first rule of Bible interpretation: "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation." A significant feature of this heresy is the attempt to pit the Church "against" the Bible, denying that the magisterium has any infallible authority to teach and interpret Scripture.

The doctrine of private judgment has resulted in an enormous number of different denominations. According to The Christian Sourcebook, there are approximately 20-30,000 denominations, with 270 new ones being formed each year.—Catholic Answers.
Among other false dichotomies, Luther pitted the salvation of the individual against the salvation of a people. Which is to say, Luther's doctrine created antagonism between the Body and individual believers leading to the fragmentation of the Body of Christ. Luther, among others, elevated the individual as the final arbiter of truth. The sola fide and sola scriptura heresies, then, go hand in hand. Said doctrines have enabled a tyranny of the individual over the very Church and Faith that Christ established. The result is that said doctrines have fractured the Body of Christ and have led many souls into serious error.

The reformers of the Mass appropriated to themselves the authority to modify the Liturgy in ways that can only be described as inorganic, artificial, academic and contrived (cf. Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy). They overlooked the importance of the rubrics which preserved the focus on integral components or details of the Mass that were necessary to preserve vital structural or architectural pillars of faith constituting vital content of the Mass. Furthermore, the reformers of the Mass woefully under appreciated man's ability to assume license where none is or should be permitted. That is, man's unfortunate ability to promote change for the sake of change leading to rupture and a loss of Tradition.

Floor but no windows.

Left in the hands of artless renovators, the foundation of the Liturgy is still there, but the Liturgy has, in many ways, become opaque to the beauty and truth of the Holy Spirit. It is entirely consistent, given the guiding aesthetic, that most churches built in the last 50 years resemble entirely the fast-food liturgy that the Mass has become at the hands of artless and liturgically illiterate priests and people. Liturgical relationships tend to be conditioned by the spaces in which the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated, which means the Mass, if housed in a shopping mall of a church design, will likely pander to the baser instincts in man, especially consumerism. Cafeteria liturgies tend to produce cafeteria (c)atholics.

The changes made to the Liturgy, while not precluding the true consecration of the bread and wine, have made abuse more likely than not because change was forcibly interpreted as license to commit additional but unsanctioned changes or innovations or improvisations. History is a reliable witness to the negative effects of cutting at "the source and summit of the Christian life", i.e., the Holy Eucharist.

Beautiful and true and good elements essential to Catholic worship left when the sense of respect for liturgical law was excised from the minds of Catholics. Those elements—some would say elements designed by the Holy Spirit Himself—are only hinted at in the orientations and practices briefly listed above. When those and other elements were cut from the flesh of the Mass, reverence for the Holy Eucharist began to evaporate quickly and in place of Catholic worship a spirit of preoccupation with innovation for the sake of innovation (and entertainment and capitulation to pop-psychology) and spiritual narcissism sat down in parish pews. When said unholy spirits sat down to juice and biscuits, people walked out, many never to return.

A psychology more than a philosophy of autonomy accompanying the renewed Mass permitted—to the minds of the minions of the "Spirit of Vatican 2", that is—that hermeneutic of rupture identified and roundly condemned by Pope Benedict XVI. Bugnini's work, unfortunately, did little to protect the Mass from ideologically driven priests and laity who were/are embodiments of an era of anarchy.

Quo vadis?

Perhaps it is best for the mental and spiritual well being of "Novus Ordinarians" seeking to worship God with due reverence, in order to preserve a sense of sanity, to move to an Ordinariate parish now that the new Ordinariate Missal will be in use. Faithful Catholics might consider praying that the little seed found in the Ordinariate might grown to become a massive tree capable of sheltering a multitude of God's faithful who, made weary by years of dwelling in a barren land and exposed to the elements (e.g., relativism and a watered-down gospel), find the peace of worshipping God according to the design He intended and which is preserved in a typical celebration of the Liturgy according to the rubrics preserved in the Ordinariate Form of Holy Mass.

Postscript

Having re-read the preceding essay more than a few times, this blogger must admit that parts may read as promoting a complete abandonment of the Ordinary Form. Readers should not conclude that the criticism of the celebration of the Mass in ways unacceptable to the Tradition-minded should be taken as license to flee the Ordinary Form. No, the reorientation of the Mass must be the goal, not its wholesale abandonment. One should make friends, allies, that is, through gentle conversations which focus on the nature of the Mass and by modelling Catholic worship with reverence of heart and mind and body.

If, however, one must make a temporary departure to a safer shore—the Ordinariate, an Eastern Catholic rite or the Extraordinary Form—in order to preserve one's sanity, then so be it. Catholics cannot be expected to sit in a pew and choke on a diet of liturgical bile week-after-week without complaining at last a little bit. Enabling parishes that treat the Liturgy like entertainment or a picnic or an experiment in spiritual narcissism by offering material support to such a parish would be misguided. Better to shift one's support to a parish that honours the Holy Eucharist.

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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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