In my life, I have often encountered people who say something like the following to Catholics who love the traditional liturgy—or, for that matter, who wish to see the modern liturgy celebrated in a manner manifestly in continuity with its predecessor:
“You’re making too much of incidental things. No matter what form or style, it’s the Eucharist, isn’t it? Whether Latin or vernacular, Tridentine or Novus Ordo, sung or spoken, in an American auditorium or a European cathedral, the Eucharist is still present, and we are still nourished by it. Compared to this, nothing else really matters, does it? The rest is accidental, external, debatable, changeable. In fact, someone who gets caught up in ceremonies, rubrics, music, and so on, just shows that he’s been distracted from what is essential. After all, the Mass is the Mass.”
The problem I have with this all-too-common line is that it radically underestimates how the way we worship influences what exactly it is that we believe (lex orandi, lex credendi) as well as how prepared we will be to receive our Lord in the right spirit of adoration and humility when He does come to us. It reflects a modern materialist anthropology where nothing matters except “getting the job done”; whether the job is done nobly or poorly seems to matter a great deal less. It displays a breathtaking naivete about the subtle intersection of the sacramental economy with human psychology. It represents a break with twenty centuries of Catholic thought and practice.
Make us a Mass,
Fake us a faith,
patch up a patch.
Redo its look,
And make us a perfect Mass.