The Ottaviani Intervention – TLM vs. NO

Today I present the translated text of Cardinal Ottaviani’s famous intervention regarding the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae, the missal reformed under Paul VI. As we approach the 1-year anniversary of Traditiones Custodes, it is important that we are increasingly aware of the deeper theological significance of the differences between the TLM and the NO. These are not merely superficial differences, as it might seem to someone sitting in the pews who has not bothered to study these things seriously; it is, however, evident to those priests who celebrate with both missals that the dissimilarities are profound. This study, presented to Paul VI by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci, is extremely helpful for those looking for a solid introduction to the gulf between 1962 and 1969. It is not taking any cheap shots, as it is easy to do with the new missal by pointing to the worst kinds of abuses… This is a serious theological critique.

For the footnotes and some more information, see the SSPX’s original page on this text here.

Letter from Cardinal Ottaviani to His Holiness Pope Paul VI

Rome
September 25, 1969

Most Holy Father,

Having carefully examined, and presented for the scrutiny of others, the Novus Ordo Missae prepared by the experts of the Consilium ad exequdam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, and after lengthy prayer and reflection, we feel it to be our bounden duty in the sight of God and towards Your Holiness, to put before you the following considerations:

1. The accompanying critical study of the Novus Ordo Missae, the work of a group of theologians, liturgists and pastors of souls, shows quite clearly in spite of its brevity that if we consider the innovations implied or taken for granted, which may of course be evaluated in different ways, the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent. The “canons” of the rite definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery.

2. The pastoral reasons adduced to support such a grave break with tradition, even if such reasons could be regarded as holding good in the face of doctrinal considerations, do not seem to us sufficient. The innovations in the Novus Ordo and the fact that all that is of perennial value finds only a minor place, if it subsists at all, could well turn into a certainty the suspicion, already prevalent, alas, in many circles, that truths which have always been believed by the Christian people, can be changed or ignored without infidelity to that sacred deposit of doctrine to which the Catholic faith is bound for ever. Recent reforms have amply demonstrated that fresh changes in the liturgy could lead to nothing but complete bewilderment on the part of the faithful who are already showing signs of restiveness and of an indubitable lessening of faith. Amongst the best of the clergy the practical result is an agonizing crisis of conscience of which innumerable instances come to our notice daily.

3. We are certain that these considerations. which can only reach Your Holiness by the living voice of both shepherds and flock, cannot but find an echo in Your paternal heart, always so profoundly solicitous for the spiritual needs of the children of the Church. It has always been the case that when a law meant for the good of subjects proves to be on the contrary harmful, those subjects have the right, nay the duty of asking with filial trust for the abrogation of that law. Therefore we most earnestly beseech Your Holiness, at a time of such painful divisions and ever-increasing perils for the purity of the Faith and the unity of the Church, lamented by You our common Father. not to deprive us of the possibility of continuing to have recourse to the fruitful integrity of that Missale Romanum of St. Pius V, so highly praised by Your Holiness and so deeply loved and venerated by the whole Catholic World.

A. Card. Ottaviani
A. Card. Bacci
Feast of St. Pius X

A Brief Critical Study of the Novus Ordo Missae
by a group of Roman Theologians

I

In October 1967, the Episcopal Synod called in Rome was requested to pass a judgment on the experimental celebration of a so-called “normative Mass,” devised by the Consilium for implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This Mass aroused the most serious misgivings. The voting showed considerable opposition (43 non placet), very many substantial reservations (62 juxta modum), and 4 abstentions out of 187 voters. The international press spoke of a “refusal” on the proposed “normative Mass” on the part of the Synod. Progressively-inclined papers made no mention of this.

In the Novus Ordo Missae lately promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum, we once again find this “normative Mass,” identical in substance, nor does it appear that in the intervening period, the Episcopal Conferences, at least as such, were ever asked to give their views about it.

In the Apostolic Constitution, it is stated that the ancient Missal promulgated by St. Pius V, July 13, 1570, but going back in great part to St. Gregory the Great and to still remoter antiquity,[3] was for four centuries the norm for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice for priests of the Latin rite, and that, taken to every part of the world, “it has moreover been an abundant source of spiritual nourishment to many holy people in their devotion to God.”

Yet, the present reform, putting it definitely out of use, was claimed to be necessary since “from that time the study of the Sacred Liturgy has become more widespread and intensive amongst Christians.”

This assertion seems to us to embody a serious equivocation. For the desire of the people was expressed, if at all, when—thanks to St. Pius X—they began to discover the true and everlasting treasures of the liturgy. The people never on any account asked for the liturgy to be changed or mutilated so as to understand it better. They asked for a better understanding of a changeless liturgy, and one which they would never have wanted changed.

The Roman Missal of St. Pius V was religiously venerated and most dear to Catholics, both priests and laity. One fails to see how its use, together with suitable catechesis, should have hindered a fuller participation in, and greater knowledge of, the Sacred Liturgy, nor why, when its many outstanding virtues are recognized, this should not have been considered worthy to continue to foster the liturgical piety of Christians.

Since the “normative Mass,” now reintroduced and imposed as the Novus Ordo Missae, was in substance rejected by the Synod of Bishops, was never submitted to the collegial judgment of the Episcopal Conference, nor have the people—least of all in mission lands—ever asked for any reform of Holy Mass whatsoever, one fails to comprehend the motives behind the new legislation which overthrows a tradition unchanged in the Church since the fourth and fifth centuries, as the Apostolic Constitution itself acknowledges. As no poplar demand exists to support this reform, it appears devoid of any logical grounds to justify it and make it acceptable to the Catholic people.

The Vatican Council did indeed express a desire (para. 50, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium) for the various parts of the Mass to be reordered “so that the distinctive character of each single part and its relationship to the other part may appear more clearly.” We shall now see how the Ordo recently promulgated corresponds with this original intention.

An attentive examination of the Novus Ordo reveals changes of such magnitude as to justify in themselves the judgment already made with regard to the “normative Mass.” Both have in many points every possibility of satisfying the most modernistic of Protestants.

II

Let us begin with the definition of the Mass given in n. 7 of the Institutio Generalis at the beginning of the second chapter of the Novus Ordo: De structura Missae:

The Lord’s Supper or Mass is a sacred meeting or assembly of the People of God, met together under the presidency of the priest, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord.[4] Thus the promise of Christ, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” is eminently true of the local community in the Church” (Mt. 18, 20).

The definition of the Mass is thus limited to that of a “supper,” and this term is found constantly repeated (nos. 8, 48, 55d, 56). This “supper” is further characterized as an assembly presided over by the priest and held as a memorial of the Lord, recalling what He did on the first Maundy Thursday. None of this in the very least implies either the Real Presence, or the reality of the sacrifice, or the Sacramental function of the consecrating priest, or the intrinsic value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice independently of the people’s presence.[5] It does not, in a word, imply any of the essential dogmatic values of the Mass which together provide its true definition. Here the deliberate omission of these dogmatic values amounts to their having been superseded and therefore, at least in practice, to their denial.[6]

In the second part of this paragraph 7 it is asserted, aggravating the already serious equivocation, that there holds good, “eminenter,” for this assembly Christ’s promise that “Ubi sunt duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo; ibi sum in medio eorum” (Mt. 18, 20). This promise, which refers only to the spiritual presence of Christ with His grace, is thus put on the same qualitative plane, save for the greater intensity, as the substantial and physical reality of the Sacramental Eucharistic Presence.

In no. 8 a subdivision of the Mass into “liturgy of the word” and Eucharistic liturgy immediately follows, with the affirmation that in the Mass is made ready “the table of God’s word” as of “the Body of Christ,” so that the faithful “may be built up and refreshed”—an altogether improper assimilation of the two parts of the liturgy, as though between two points of equal symbolic value. More will be said about this point later.

The Mass is designated by a great many different expressions, all acceptable relatively, all unacceptable if employed, as they are, separately and in an absolute sense. We cite a few:

  • the Action of Christ and of the People of God;
  • the Lord’s Supper or Mass;
  • the Paschal Banquet;
  • the Common participation in the Lord’s Table;
  • the memorial of the Lord;
  • the Eucharistic Prayer;
  • the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy;
  • etc.

As is only too evident, the emphasis is obsessively placed upon the supper and the memorial instead of upon the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The formula “the Memorial of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord” is, besides, inexact, the Mass being the memorial or the Sacrifice alone, in itself redemptive whilst the Resurrection is the consequent fruit of it.[7]

We shall later see how, in the same consecratory formula, and throughout the Novus Ordo such equivocations are renewed and reiterated.

III

We come now to the ends of the Mass.

I. Ultimate end. This is that of the Sacrifice of praise to the Most Holy Trinity according to the explicit declaration of Christ in the primary purpose of His very Incarnation: “Coming into the world he saith: sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not but a body thou has fitted me” (Ps. 34, 7-9 in Heb. 10, 5).

This end has disappeared from the Offertory, with the disappearance of the prayer Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas; from the end of the Mass with the omission of the Placet tibi Sancta Trinitas; and from the Preface, which on Sunday will no longer be that of the Most Holy Trinity, as this Preface will be reserved only to the Feast of the Trinity, and so in future will be heard but once a year.

2. Ordinary end. This is the propitiatory Sacrifice. It too has been deviated from; for instead of putting the stress on the remission of sins of the living and the dead it lays emphasis on the nourishment and sanctification of the present (no. 54). Christ certainly instituted the Sacrament of the Last Supper putting Himself in the state of Victim in order that we might be united to Him in this state but this self-immolation precedes the eating of the Victim, and has an antecedent and full redemptive value (the application of the bloody immolation). This is borne out by the fact that the faithful present are not bound to communicate, sacramentally.[8]

3. Immanent end. Whatever the nature of the Sacrifice, it is absolutely necessary that it be pleasing and acceptable to God. After the Fall no sacrifice can claim to be acceptable in its own right other than the Sacrifice of Christ. The Novus Ordo changes the nature of the offering, turning it into a sort or exchange of gifts between man and God: man brings the bread, and God turns it into the “bread of life”; man brings the wine, and God turns it into a “spiritual drink.”

Thou art blessed Lord, God of the Universe, because from Thy generosity we have received the bread [or “wine”] which we offer Thee the fruit of the earth [or “vine”] and of man’s labor. May it become for us the bread of life [or “spiritual drink.”].”[9]

There is no need to comment on the utter indeterminateness of the formulae “panis vitae” and “potus spiritualis,” which might mean anything. The same capital equivocation is repeated here, as in the definition of the Mass: there, Christ is present only spiritually among His own: here, bread and wine are only “spiritually” (not substantially) changed.[10]

In the preparation of the offering, a similar equivocation results from the suppression of two great prayers. The “Deus qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti et mirabilius reformasti” was a reference to man’s former condition of innocence and to his present one of being ransomed by the Blood of Christ: a recapitulation of the whole economy of the Sacrifice, from Adam to the present moment. The final propitiatory offering of the chalice, that it might ascend “cum odore suavitatis,” into the presence of the divine majesty, Whose clemency was implored, admirably reaffirmed this plan. By suppressing the continual reference to God in the Eucharistic prayers, there is no longer any clear distinction between divine and human sacrifice.

Having removed the keystone, the reformers have had to put up scaffolding; suppressing real ends, they have had to substitute fictitious ends of their own: leading to gestures intended to stress the union of priest and faithful, and of the faithful among themselves; offerings for the poor and for the Church superimposed upon the offerings of the Host to be immolated. There is a danger that the uniqueness of this offering will become blurred, so that participation in the immolation of the Victim comes to resemble a philanthropical meeting, or a charity banquet.

IV

We now pass on to the essence of the Sacrifice.

The mystery of the Cross is no longer explicitly expressed. It is only there obscurely, veiled, imperceptible for the people.[11] And for these reasons:

1. The sense given in the Novus Ordo to the so-called prex eucharistica[12] is: “that the whole congregation of the faithful may be united to Christ in proclaiming the great wonders of God and in offering sacrifice” (no. 54, the end).

Which sacrifice is referred to? Who is the offerer? No answer is given to either of these questions. The initial definition of the prex eucharistica is as follows: “The center and culminating point of the whole celebration now has a beginning, namely the Eucharistic Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and of sanctification” (no. 54, pr.). The effects thus replace the causes, of which not one single word is said. The explicit mention of the object of the offering, which was found in the Suscipe, has not been replaced by anything. The change in formulation reveals the change in doctrine.

2. The reason for this non-explicitness concerning the Sacrifice is quite simply that the Real Presence has been removed from the central position which it occupied so resplendently in the former Eucharistic liturgy. There is but a single reference to the Real Presence (a quotation—in a footnote—from the Council of Trent), and again the context is that of “nourishment” (no. 241, note 63).

The Real and permanent Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the transubstantiated Species is never alluded to. The very word transubstantiation is totally ignored.

The suppression of the invocation to the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity (Veni Sanctificator) that He may descend upon the oblations, as once before into the womb of the Most Blessed Virgin to accomplish the miracle of the divine Presence, is yet one more instance of the systematic and tacit negation of the Real Presence.

Note, too, the eliminations:

  • of the genuflections (no more than three remain to the priest, and one, with certain exceptions, to the people, at the Consecration);
  • of the purification of the priest’s fingers in the chalice; of the preservation from all profane contact of the priest’s fingers after the Consecration;
  • of the purification of the vessels, which need not be immediate, nor made on the corporal;
  • of the pall protecting the chalice;
  • of the internal gilding of sacred vessels;
  • of the consecration of movable altars;
  • of the sacred stone and relics in the movable altar or upon the mensa—when celebration does not occur in sacred precincts (this distinction leads straight to “eucharistic suppers” in private houses);
  • of the three altar cloths, reduced to one only;
  • of thanksgiving kneeling (replaced by a thanksgiving, seated, on the part of priest and people, a logical enough complement to Communion standing);
  • of all the ancient prescriptions in the case of the consecrated Host falling, which are now reduced to a single, casual direction: “reverenter accipiatur” (no. 239);
  • all these things only serve to emphasize how outrageously faith in the dogma of the Real Presence is implicitly repudiated.

3. The function assigned to the altar (no. 262). The altar is almost always called mensa.[13] “The altar or table of the Lord, which is the center of the whole Eucharistic liturgy” (no. 49, cf. 262). It is laid down that the altar must be detached from the walls so that it is possible to walk round it and celebration may be facing the people (no. 262); also that the altar must be the center of the assembly of the faithful so that their attention is drawn spontaneously toward it (ibid). But a comparison of nos. 262 and 276 would seem to suggest that the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament on this altar is excluded. This will mark an irreparable dichotomy between the presence, in the celebrant, of the eternal High Priest and that same Presence brought about sacramentally. Before, they were one and the same presence.[14]

Now it is recommended that the Blessed Sacrament be kept in a place apart for the private devotion of the people (almost as though it were a question of devotion to a relic of some kind) so that, on going into a church, attention will no longer be focused upon the tabernacle but upon a stripped bare table. Once again the contrast is made between private piety and liturgical piety: altar is set up against altar.

In the insistent recommendation to distribute in Communion the Species consecrated during the same Mass, indeed to consecrate a loaf[15] for the priest to distribute to at least some of the faithful, we find reasserted a disparaging attitude toward the tabernacle, as toward every form of Eucharistic piety outside of the Mass. This constitutes yet another violent blow to faith in the Real Presence as long as the consecrated Species remain.[16]

4. The formulae of consecration. The ancient formula of consecration was properly a sacramental, not a narrative one. This was shown above all by three things:

a. The Scriptural text not taken up word for word: the Pauline insertion “mysterium fidei” was an immediate confession of the priest’s faith in the mystery realized by the Church through the hierarchical priesthood.

b. The punctuation and typographical lettering: the full stop and new paragraph marking the passage from the narrative mode to the sacramental and affirmative one, the sacramental words in larger characters at the center of the page and often in a different color, clearly detached from the historical context. All combined to give the formula a proper and autonomous value.

c. The anamnesis (“Haec quotiescumque feceritis in mei memoriam facietis”), which in Greek is “eis tén emèu anàmnesin” (directed to my memory). This referred to Christ operating and not to the mere memory of Him, or of the event: an invitation to recall what He did (“haec… in mei memoriam facietis”) in the way He did it, not only His Person, or the Supper. The Pauline formula (“Hoc facite in meam commemorationem”) which will now take the place of the old—proclaimed as it will be daily in vernacular languages—will irremediably cause the hearers to concentrate on the memory of Christ as the end of the Eucharistic action, whilst it is really the beginning. The concluding idea of commemoration will certainly once again take the place of the idea of sacramental action.”[17]

The narrative mode is now emphasized by the formula “narratio institutionis” (no. 55d) and repeated by the definition of the anamnesis, in which it is said that “The Church recalls the memory of Christ Himself” (no. 556).

In short: the theory put forward by the epiclesis, the modification of the words of Consecration and of the anamnesis, have the effect of modifying the modus significandi of the words of Consecration. The consecratory formulae are here pronounced by the priest as the constituents of a historical narrative and no longer enunciated as expressing the categorical and affirmative judgment uttered by Him in whose Person the priest acts: “Hoc est Corpus Meum” (not, “Hoc est Corpus Christi”).[18]

Furthermore the acclamation assigned to the people immediately after the Consecration: (“we announce Thy death, O Lord, until Thou comest”) introduces yet again, under cover of eschatology, the same ambiguity concerning the Real Presence. Without interval or distinction, the expectation of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time is proclaimed just as the moment when He is substantially present on the altar, almost as though the former, and not the latter, were the true Coming.

This is brought out even more strongly in the formula of optional acclamation no. 2 (Appendix): “As often as we eat of this bread and drink of this chalice we announce Thy death, O Lord, until Thou comest,” where the juxtaposition of the different realities of immolation and eating, of the Real Presence and of Christ’s Second Coming, reaches the height of ambiguity.[19]

V

We now come to the realization of the Sacrifice, the four elements of which were:

  1. Christ,
  2. the priest,
  3. the Church,
  4. the faithful present.

In the Novus Ordo, the position attributed to the faithful is autonomous (absoluta), hence totally false from the opening definition—“Missa est sacra synaxis seu congregatio populi”—to the priest’s salutation to the people which is meant to convey to the assembled community the “presence” of the Lord (no. 28). “Qua salutatione et populi responsione manifestatur ecclesiae congregatae mysterium.”

A true presence, certainly, of Christ but only spiritual, and a mystery of the Church, but solely as assembly manifesting and soliciting such a presence.

This interpretation is constantly underlined: by the obsessive references to the communal character of the Mass (nos. 74-152); by the unheard of distinction between “missa cum populo” and “missa sine populo” (nos. 203-231); by the definition of the “oratio universalis seu fidelium” (DO. 45), where once more we find stressed the “sacerdotal office” of the people (“populus sui sacerdotii munus excercens”) presented in an equivocal way because its subordination to that of the priest is not mentioned, and all the more since the priest, as consecrated mediator, makes himself the interpreter of all the intentions of the people in the Te igitur and the two Memento.

In Prex Eucharistica III (Vere sanctus, p. 123) the following words are addressed to the Lord: “from age to age you gather a people to Thyself, in order that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of Thy name,” the in order that making it appear that the people, rather than the priest[20] are the indispensable element in the celebration; and since not even here is it made clear who the offerer is, the people themselves appear to be invested with autonomous priestly powers. From this step it would not be surprising if, before long, the people were authorized to join the priest in pronouncing the consecrating formulae (which actually seems here and there to have already occurred).

The priest’s position is minimized, changed and falsified. Firstly in relation to the people for whom he is, for the most part, a mere president, or brother, instead of the consecrated minister celebrating in persona Christi. Secondly in relation to the Church, as a “quidam de populo.” In the definition of the epiclesis (no. 55), the invocations are attributed anonymously to the Church: the part of the priest has vanished.

In the Confiteor which has now become collective, he is no longer judge, witness and intercessor with God; so it is logical that he is no longer empowered to give the absolution, which has been suppressed. He is integrated with the fratres. Even the server addresses him as much in the Confiteor of the “Missa sine populo.”

Already, prior to this latest reform, the significant distinction between the Communion of the priest—the moment in which the Eternal High Priest and the one acting in His Person were brought together in closest union—and the Communion of the faithful had been suppressed.

Not a word do we now find as to the priest’s power to sacrifice, or about his act of consecration, the bringing about through him of the Eucharistic Presence. He now appears as nothing more than a Protestant minister.

The disappearance, or optional use, of many sacred vestments (in certain cases the alb and stole are sufficient—n. 298) obliterates even more the original conformity with Christ: the priest is no more clothed with all His virtues, becoming merely a “graduate” whom one or two signs may distinguish from the mass of people:[21] “a little more a man than the rest” to quote the involuntarily humorous definition by a Dominican preacher.[22] Again, as with the “table” and the altar, there is separated what God has united: the sole Priesthood of the Word of God.

Finally, there is the Church’s position in relation to Christ. In one case, namely the “missa sine populo” is the Mass acknowledged to be “Actio Christi et Ecclesiae” (no. 4, cf. Presb. Ord. no. 13), whereas in the case of the “missa cum populo” this is not referred to except for the purpose of “remembering Christ” and sanctifying those present. The words used are: “In offering the sacrifice through Christ in the Holy Ghost to God the Father, the priest associates the people with himself.” (no. 60), instead of words which would associate the people with Christ Who offers Himself  “per Spiritum Sanctum Deo Patri…”

In this context the following are to be noted:

  1. the very serious omission of the phrase “Per Christum Dominum Nostrum,” the guarantee of being heard given to the Church in every age (John 14, 13-14; 15; 16; 23; 24;);
  2. the all-pervading “paschalism,” almost as though there were no other, quite different and equally important aspects of the communication of grace;
  3. the very strange and dubious eschatologism whereby the communication of supernatural grace, a reality which is permanent and eternal, is brought down to the dimensions of time: we hear of a people on the march, a pilgrim Church—no longer militant against the Potestas tenebrarum — looking toward a future which having lost its link with eternity is conceived in purely temporal terms.

The Church—One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic—is diminished as such in the formula that, in the Prex Eucharistica IV, has taken the place of the prayer of the Roman Canon “on behalf of all orthodox believers of the Catholic and apostolic faith.” Now they are no more nor less than: “all who seek you with a sincere heart.

Again, in the Memento of the dead, these have no longer passed on “with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace,” but only “who have died in the peace of Thy Christ,” and to them are added, with further obvious detriment to the concept of visible unity, the host of all the dead “whose faith is known to Thee alone.”

Furthermore, in none of the three new Eucharistic Prayers is there any reference, as has already been said, to the state of suffering of those who have died, in none the possibility of a particular Memento: all of this, again, must undermine faith in the propitiatory and redemptive nature of the Sacrifice.[23]

Desacralizing omissions everywhere debase the mystery of the Church. She is not presented above all as a sacred hierarchy: angels and saints are reduced to anonymity in the second part of the collective Confiteor: they have disappeared, as witnesses and judges, in the person of St. Michael, from the first.[24] The various hierarchies of angels have also disappeared (and this is without precedent) from the new Preface of Prex II. In the Communicantes the reminder of the pontiffs and holy martyrs on whom the Church of Rome is founded and who were, without doubt, the transmitters of the apostolic traditions, destined to be completed in what became, with St. Gregory, the Roman Mass, has been suppressed. In the Libera nos the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles and all the Saints are no longer mentioned: her and their intercession is thus no longer asked, even in time of peril.

The unity of the Church is gravely compromised by the wholly intolerable omission from the entire Ordo, including the three new Eucharistic Prayers, of the names of the Apostles Peter and Paul, Founders of the Church of Rome, and the names of the other Apostles, foundation and mark of the one and universal Church, the only remaining mention being in the Communicantes of the Roman Canon.

A clear attack upon the dogma of the Communion of Saints is the omission, when the priest is celebrating without a server, of all the salutations, and the final blessing, not to speak of the Ite missa est[25] now not even said in Masses celebrated with a server.

The double Confiteor showed how the priest—in his capacity of Christ’s Minister, bowing downplay and acknowledging himself unworthy of his sublime mission, of the “tremendum mysterium” about to be accomplished by him and of even (in the Aufer a nobis) entering into the Holy of Holies—invoked the intercession (in the Oramus te, Domine) of the merits of the martyrs whose relics were sealed in the altar. Both these prayers have been suppressed; what has been said previously in respect of the double Confiteor and the double Communion is equally relevant here.

The outward setting of the Sacrifice, evidence of its sacred character, has been profaned. See, for example, what is laid down for celebration outside sacred precincts, in which the altar may be replaced by a simple mensa without consecrated stone or relic, and with a single cloth (nos. 260, 265). Here too all that has been previously said with regard to the Real Presence applies, the disassociation of the convivium and of the sacrifice of the supper from the Real Presence Itself.

The process of desacralization is completed thanks to the new procedures for the offering: the reference to ordinary not unleavened bread; altar servers (and lay people at Communion sub utraque specie) being allowed to handle sacred vessels (no. 244d); the distracting atmosphere created by the ceaseless coming and going of priest, deacon, subdeacon, psalmist, commentator (the priest becomes a commentator himself from his constantly being required to “explain” what he is about to accomplish)—of readers (men and women), of servers or laymen welcoming people at the door and escorting them to their places whilst other carry and sort offerings. And in the midst of all this prescribed activity, the “mulier idonea”[26] (anti-scriptural and anti-Pauline) who for the first time in the tradition of the Church will be authorized to read the lesson and also perform other “ministeria quae extra presbyterium peraguntur” (no. 70). Finally, there is the concelebration mania, which will end by destroying Eucharistic piety in the priest, by overshadowing the central figure of Christ, sole Priest and Victim, in a collective presence of concelebrants.[27]

VI

We have limited ourselves to a summary evaluation of the new Ordo where it deviates most seriously from the theology of the Catholic Mass and our observations touch only those deviations that are typical. A complete evaluation of all the pitfalls, the dangers, the spiritually and psychologically destructive elements contained in the document—whether in text, rubrics or instructions—would be a vast undertaking.

No more than a passing glance has been taken at the three new Canons, since these have already come in for repeated and authoritative criticism, both as to form and substance. The second of them[28] gave immediate scandal to the faithful on account of its brevity. Of Canon II it has been well said, amongst other things, that it could be recited with perfect tranquility of conscience by a priest who no longer believes either in transubstantiation or in the sacrificial character of the Mass—hence even by a Protestant minister.

The new missal was introduced in Rome as “a text of ample pastoral matter” and “more pastoral than juridical” which the Episcopal Conferences would be able to utilize according to the varying circumstances and genius of different peoples. In this same Apostolic Constitution we read: “we have introduced into the new missal legitimate variations and adaptations.” Besides, Section I of the new Congregation for Divine Worship will be responsible “for the publication and constant revision of the liturgical books.” The last official bulletin of the Liturgical Institutes of Germany, Switzerland and Austria[29] says:

The Latin texts will now have to be translated into the languages of the various peoples: the “Roman” style will have to be adopted to the individuality of the local Churches: that which was conceived beyond time must he transposed into the changing context of concrete situations in the constant flux of the Universal Church and of its myriad congregations.

The Apostolic Constitution itself gives the coup de grace to the Church’s universal language (contrary to the express will of Vatican Council II) with the bland affirmation that “in such a variety of tongues one [?] and the same prayer of all… may ascend more fragrant than any incense.”

The demise of Latin may therefore be taken for granted; that of Gregorian chant—which even the Council recognized as “liturgiae romanae proprium” (Sacros. Conc., no. 116), ordering that “principem locum obtineat” (ibid.)—will logically follow, with the freedom of choice, amongst other things, of the texts of Introit and Gradual.

From the outset therefore the new rite is launched as pluralistic and experimental, bound to time and place. Unity of worship, thus swept away for good and all, what will now become of the unity of faith that went with it, and which, we were always told, was to be defended without compromise?

It is evident that the Novus Ordo has no intention of presenting the Faith as taught by the Council of Trent, to which, nonetheless, the Catholic conscience is bound forever. With the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, the loyal Catholic is thus faced with a most tragic alternative.

VII

The Apostolic Constitution makes explicit reference to a wealth of piety and teaching in the Novus Ordo borrowed from the Eastern Churches. The result—utterly remote from and even opposed to the inspiration of the oriental Liturgies—can only repel the faithful of the Eastern Rites. What, in truth, do these ecumenical options amount to? Basically to the multiplicity of anaphora (but nothing approaching their beauty and complexity), to the presence of the deacons, to Communion sub utraque specie. Against this the Ordo would appear to have been deliberately shorn of everything which in the Liturgy of Rome came close to those of the East.[30] Moreover, in abandoning its unmistakable and immemorial Roman character, the Ordo lost what was spiritually precious of its own. Its place has been taken by elements which bring it closer only to certain other reformed liturgies (not even to those closest to Catholicism) and which debase it at the same time. The East will be ever more alienated, as it already has been by the preceding liturgical reforms.

By way of compensation the new Liturgy will be the delight of the various groups who, hovering on the verge of apostasy, are wreaking havoc in the Church of God, poisoning her organism and undermining her unity of doctrine, worship, morals and discipline in a spiritual crisis without precedent.

VIII

St. Pius V had the Roman Missal drawn up (as the present Apostolic Constitution itself recalls) so that it might he an instrument of unity among Catholics. In conformity with the injunctions of the Council of Trent it was to exclude all danger, in liturgical worship of errors against the Faith, then threatened by the Protestant Reformation. The gravity of the situation fully justified, and even rendered prophetic, the saintly pontiff’s solemn warning given at the end of the bull promulgating his missal: “Should anyone presume to tamper with this, let him know that he shall incur the wrath of God Almighty and of his Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul” (Quo Primum, July 13, 1570).[31]

When the Novus Ordo was presented at the Vatican Press Office, it was asserted with great audacity that the reasons which prompted the Tridentine decrees are no longer valid. Not only do they still apply, but there also exist, as we do not hesitate to affirm, very much more serious ones today. It was precisely in order to ward off the dangers which in every century threaten the purity of the deposit of faith (“depositum custodi, devitans profanas vocum novitates.”—I Tim. 6:20) that the Church has had to erect under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost the defenses of her dogmatic definitions and doctrinal pronouncements. These were immediately reflected in her worship, which became the most complete monument of her faith. To try and bring the Church’s worship back at all cost to the ancient practice by refashioning, artificially and with that “unhealthy archeologism” so roundly condemned by Pius XII,[32] what in earlier times had the grace of original spontaneity means—as we see today only too clearly—to dismantle all the theological ramparts erected for the protection of the Rite and to take away all the beauty by which it was enriched over the centuries.

And all this at one of the most critical moments—if not the most critical moment—of the Church’s history! Today, division and schism are officially acknowledged to exist not only outside of but within the Church.[33] Her unity is not only threatened but already tragically compromised.[34] Errors against the Faith are not merely insinuated but positively imposed by means of liturgical abuses and aberrations which have been equally acknowledged.[35] To abandon a liturgical tradition which for four centuries was both the sign and the pledge of unity of worship[36] (and to replace it with another which cannot but be a sign of division by virtue of the countless liberties implicitly authorized, and which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic religion) is, we feel in conscience bound to proclaim, an incalculable error.

Who led the reform – Bugnini, or the Holy Spirit?

Eamonn Clark, STL

Cardinal-Elect Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has given an interview. It is worth reading, primarily for the following paragraph.

So, all that is taking place is the regulation of the former liturgy of the 1962 Missal by stopping the promotion of that, because it was clear that the Council, the Bishops of the Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were putting forward a new liturgy for the vital life of the Church, for its vitality. And that’s really very important. And to resist that is, is something that is really quite serious, too.

Never mind that the Council didn’t itself reform the liturgy, nor that it was never suggested to create a “new liturgy” but simply have a restoration of sorts. The overall attitude/vision of Roche put forward here is congruent with the speech given by Pope Francis in 2017 to Italian liturgists. Anyone who is interested in what is happening right now in the world of Catholic liturgy absolutely MUST (re)read this speech. It is like an intellectual tell-all. This is the speech where he made one of the oddest statements perhaps ever uttered in public by a Roman pontiff: “After this magisterium, after this long journey, We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.”

The men leading this charge think that the work of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia (or just “the Consilium”), the liturgical committee which was commissioned by the Second Vatican Council to implement the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The claim of inspiration is not about the document, Sacrosancutm Concilium, which is a huge claim on its own, especially given the “pastoral” as opposed to “doctrinal” character of the Council, as Ratzinger/Benedict XVI pointed out;1 it seems very much to be the work of the Consilium which is being claimed to have inspiration. This sort of claim is without any precedent in the entire liturgical history of the Church, as far as I can tell – do correct me if I am wrong. Nobody claims that their liturgical reforms are “inspired” by the Holy Spirit, and traditionally liturgical developments are seen as being “protected” (a weaker influence of the Holy Spirit) only in special cases, like the commemoration of saints or generally the teaching content of prayers when adopted for a long time in a great number of places. What happens in liturgical reforms throughout the ages is that the general custom of the Church, in Her liturgy, is guided somewhat by the Holy Spirit, overall away from the introduction of error and toward the edification of souls, in the long-term – or something very close to this. Because the liturgy is the public worship of God by the Church, it stands to reason that God would be invested in its development and growth towards a form which more and more adequately reveals and instructs about the mysteries which it contains, including through legitimately diverse forms (i.e., the Eastern liturgies). This process, after the Last Supper, has gradually come to occur typically through minor reforms of bits and pieces of the liturgy, done in tandem with the growth of local liturgical customs. As the centuries have gone on, these changes have become smaller and less frequent.

Suffice it to say, what occurred in the late 1960’s at the Consilium was a bit different. The dishonesty of Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who spearheaded the work of the Consilium, was sufficient to get him banished to Iran by the same pope who commissioned him in the first place, St. Paul VI.

Knowing the history of these things is no longer optional for anyone who is involved in theology, or in public ecclesiastical life.

There is a nice 3-part series being put out right now which I would encourage readers to watch. The first two episodes are out – PART 1, and PART 2. It is not a perfect production – on several levels – but as an introduction to the the old liturgy, the history of the reform, and what exactly is going on right now, it is helpful. One of the gems comes from the second episode, where the textual changes to the liturgy are shown graphically:

The thought that the Holy Spirit has any direct involvement with major liturgical reforms done by committees, let alone inspires such reforms, which is a category that only properly applies to the original writing of Sacred Scripture, is entirely novel. May I suggest that the ideas of some men about how to change the text and rubrics of one slice of the Church’s liturgy (the Latin/Western slice) are not equivalent with the words of Isaiah, or Genesis, or Matthew. The language we use to talk about these things matters. If Scripture is inspired, and the work of the Consilium is inspired, then how do they differ in authority?

Go read Francis’ speech. Pay attention.

For those readers of mine in higher theological studies – especially if you are looking for a good topic for a dogma STL thesis – start considering what the role of the Holy Spirit is in liturgical reforms. One can make various distinctions, such as inspiration vs. protection vs. providence, etc., which would be relevant. It is the most timely sort of topic, and it is sorely needed. This tension is not going to be swept away by the next pope, one way or the other. It will be here for a while. We may as well settle in, and we would be fools not to arm ourselves with knowledge.

We must also pray and fast for our bishops, including our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

1 – “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), July 13, 1988 (Santiago, Chile)

On the Motu Proprio “Traditionis Custodes”

Eamonn Clark, STL

Some things which are helpful for the continued consideration and implementation of “Traditionis Custodes” (TC) are below, as well as some of my own personal thoughts/observations:

St. Thomas on the changeability of human laws, as to improvements and as to the force of custom

Canons 85, 87, and 90 of the CIC – See Bishop Paprocki’s letter to his diocese for an example of this in action

Those who comment on the TLM as being full of “schismatics,” “division,” etc., have probably not spent very much time around large communities that are centered around the TLM and spend too much time reading blogs. It’s an off-base assessment, even if there is a kernel of truth.

Some “trads” really are too “rad.” They are their own worst enemy. Especially those who have remained around parishes/shrines/ministries without canonical irregularities, they will now have the opportunity to welcome or scare away all kinds of Curious Georges who have read about the TLM in the news and want to see what all the buzz is about. They need to play extra nice for a while.

There are plenty of new Mass advocates who are just as problematic as the rad trads, just in the opposite direction. They should sit this one out.

Following closely on that, those who think that the old Mass is causing problems and that it should therefore be done away with think much like those who are of the persuasion that “Facebook is killing people” and a sex-change operation will help those suffering the psychological disorder called “gender-dyshporia.” When there is a problem, it seems that as a general rule the true proximate efficient (“pushing”) cause has to be identified and addressed on the level which it actually exists. Biological problems call for medicine, psychological problems call for therapy, and spiritual problems call for spiritual remedies (good preaching, good confessing, more prayer, more fasting, etc.). A legal or liturgical remedy for a non-legal and non-liturgical problem is likely to cause more problems than it will fix, just like shutting down free speech on social media or cutting someone’s body apart to make them feel better about themselves.

It’s not clear what the right demographic is to measure how “popular” the old Mass really is. It’s certainly not “how many Masses/locations/attendees.” It is probably something more like “how many people discover the TLM and prefer it to the new Mass.” This is a more difficult number to find, but it would be possible if really desired.

Sociological studies have never before been used to determine how to legislate regarding the liturgy, at least as far as I am aware. And we do not even know precisely what the results of the survey were. It is odd, unprecedented, and unhelpful.

The predictions that TC will cause more division than unity are already coming true.

Many critics of the old Mass think that the preference is about taste. Perhaps it is for some, but many or even most TLM advocates have the opinion that the old Mass is not just subjectively better, like chocolate vs. vanilla, but is objectively better. It will behoove TLM supporters to explain why in great detail, and it will behoove critics to listen.

Pope Francis and those surrounding him ideologically truly believe that the liturgical reform was a special act of the Holy Spirit. This explains that somewhat bizarre statement of the Holy Father from some years ago during an address to Italian liturgists (August 24, 2017): “We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible,” with the call to avoid “superficial readings, partial receptions, and practices that disfigure it.” Anyone who wants to address the real concerns of the cadre of prelates involved in drafting TC and pushing it will have to contend with this critical hermeneutic. It is just not subtle enough to dismiss them as “modernists” or “bullies” or what have you. They believe what they are doing is from God and defended by God. If you disagree, you will have to explain why without the ad hominem arguments, which will only solidify them in their opinion.

On the more practical side, TC is sloppily written, full of loopholes which are ripe for various kinds of exploitation. We will see many clergy take a “lacuna matata” kind of attitude, making broad use of the ambiguities in favor of their own desires – good or bad, it is just a fact. There has not been enough time for a lot of great canonical takes on TC, but be on the lookout.

I am not sure that the answer to my question in my previous TC post about whether a pope could suppress the Eastern liturgies is “yes.” We need to have the discussion about just how much the liturgy in its various forms belongs to the whole Church, which therefore acquires rights over their use. That discussion will need to be held by people better educated on these things than me…

For a while, this will be my last post on the Motu Proprio. More could certainly be said, but these are some things which I have not seen talked about so much which I think could help a fruitful discussion. Pray for the Holy Father, and for all bishops, to whom we owe due obedience and filial devotion, even when we think they act badly.

Comments are off.

An Abandoned Rite

Fr. Grzegorz Brodacki, O.Cist.

“Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.” We find this statement in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the last ecumenical council (§4). Here many will say, not without irony, that the subsequent radical reform of the Roman rite (or rather its destruction followed by the creation of something completely new) showed very well what such “preservation in the future and fostering in every way” mean in practice. However, such an abandonment of an existing rite, even though not to such extent and not on the universal level, is not something unprecedented in the history of the Church’s liturgy. In the course of the 17th century the Cistercian Order almost unanimously abandoned its rite of the Mass so as to accept the Roman rite with few features of their own rite.

What were the reasons for which the authorities of the Order decided to stop using the proper Cistercian rite? To answer to that question, we must know something about its history and its character.

The Cistercian Order was founded in 1098 in Burgundy in France out of a desire to renew the monastic life by returning to the literal adherence to the Rule of Saint Benedict. However, while the Rule speaks much about the structure of the canonical hours, it is completely silent about the rite of the Mass. What is more, Saint Benedict does not even indicate how often the Mass should be celebrated in the monastery. So, the first generations of the Cistercian monks had to find other principles to arrange the rite of their Mass. One of the principles was authenticity; they decided to use only renowned sources. This mainly regards the textual layer of the rite. The chant books were copied in Metz which at that time enjoyed the reputation of having the purest Gregorian tradition. Also, the texts of the missal (called at that time the “sacramentary”) were taken from the most respected churches of Burgundy.

Other principles were simplicity and poverty. One can say that properly these two principles shaped mostly the external layer of the Cistercian rite. The substance of the rite – taken from the existing monastic customs and from neighbouring churches – remained intact, but the Cistercians decided to remove or simplify all that they saw as accidental and superfluous.

Let us take a look at a typical conventual mass celebrated every day at a Cistercian abbey. The first difference with respect to the other rites at the time was the scarcity of ministers: for Sundays and feasts the priest was accompanied by a deacon and subdeacon, while on ordinary days even the subdeacon was unnecessary.

Just after the preparatory prayers at the foot of the altar, the ministers proceeded to the preparation of the chalice, but the pouring of the water was reserved to the priest. Once the lesson had been sung, the subdeacon could join the choir to help in singing.

Hauterive

Before the gospel, the deacon asked the abbot for his blessing. After the Credo, the deacon brought the sacred vessels (let us remember – these already contained the wine with water) to the altar, but there was no special offertory prayer other than In spiritu humilitatis. Then, only on feast days and only at this moment, incense was used. The way of incensing was quite curious: the priest traced a circle over the offerings with the thurible, then incensed the right side of the altar, the left one and again the right and the left side of the base of the altar. After that, he gave the thurible to the deacon who in turn incensed the right side of the altar cross and then went behind the altar to the left side to do the same there.

The Canon of the mass was substantially identical to its counterparts elsewhere. It is important however to point out two particularities: first, the elevation of the sacred species was introduced somehow reluctantly and gradually, so it became universal only in the 15th century. Secondly, kneeling was practiced to a limited degree. The community knelt down for the Canon only on ferial days, while the sacred ministers did not kneel ever.

The Pater noster was followed by a series of prayers for peace and, at least at the beginning, for the reconquest of the Holy Land. Also, the way of distribution of the Holy Communion was quite remarkable. The sign of peace was given uniquely to those who were to receive Communion. In conformity with the Rule of Saint Benedict, the monks approached the altar by seniority, they knelt on the highest degree and received the species of bread directly on the tongue. Similarly, kneeling on the left side of the altar, they drank the consecrated wine without touching with their hands the chalice held by the deacon and subdeacon. Then they passed to the sacristan standing between the altar and choir and drank a little bit of unconsecrated wine in order to “purify themselves,” probably from the possible remnants of the sacred species in the mouth.

At this point the role of the celebrant was practically over. He had only to wash his hands at the piscina (i.e. a kind of a little well placed at the right side of the altar), recite the postcommunion prayer, and then could go back to the sacristy, with no final blessing, which is noteworthy. In the meanwhile, the sacred ministers were occupied with purification of the sacred vessels, not upon the altar but at the ministerium (i.e. credence table). The rite of purification was quite complex: it consisted of several ablutions with wine and water and even of licking the paten.

Even this summary description of the Cistercian Mass gives one an idea of the extreme simplicity and sobriety of the medieval rite. However, not only this was its weak point. The situation was even more difficult, since there was no detailed and exhaustive description of its ceremonies. Actually, the medieval Usus contained special chapters speaking about various types of the mass (conventual with two ministers, conventual with one minister, private mass), but those descriptions were anything but complete and satisfying. As long as the Order was vivacious, conscious of the richness of its proper tradition, the new generations of priests were taught the rite by their elders. By contrast, after the Council of Trent, when a new generation of men joined the Order, the sense of the Order’s own identity, expressed in large part by liturgical customs, faded more and more. Those men knew almost exclusively the post-Trent Roman rite which at that time was spreading with astonishing success, enjoyed the authority of the pontiff, corresponded to the spiritual tastes and needs of the epoch and, last but not least, was meticulously described.

We can suppose that all those factors provoked a gradual abandonment of the medieval Cistercian rite. The first step towards its romanisation, made 1611, was a permission to say private masses according to the Roman missal granted to the monks of the Order. To facilitate that new possibility, in 1617 the Roman Ritus servandus was inserted into the new edition of the Cistercian missal, since there was no Cistercian counterpart to it. In the following year the general chapter formally adopted the Roman Ritus celebrandi. Liturgical unrest was in the air. Claude Vaussin, who was elected general abbot in 1645, decided to publish liturgical books that would put an end to the increasing liturgical confusion, and doubtlessly also to the fights between the “traditionalists” and the partisans of the Romeward trend. Eventually, in 1656 under his authority the Breviarium cisterciense juxta Romanum was published, and one year later came the analogous Missale cisterciense juxta novissimam Romani recognitum correctionem. Thus, the traditional Cistercian rite (with the small exception of the Congregation of Castile) ceased to exist. While the romanisation was not total and complete, as there remained, for example, several Cistercian features for the rites of Holy Week, the rite’s substance was henceforth purely Roman.

During the first half of the 20th century there was a considerable renewal of the Cistercian Order in both branches (the Strict and Common Observances) which led at least three monasteries (Hauterive, Poblet, and the now-closed Boquen) to restore the primitive rite that had fallen into disuse, but even those attempts ended in a debacle after the introduction of St. Paul VI’s Novus Ordo Missae.

As we can see, the necessity of protecting the liturgical richness of the Church has not only been urgent in our own times. Undeniably, the abolition of the traditional Roman rite was something unusual in the history of the Church; however, the abandonment of the primitive Cistercian rite shows to us a phenomenon which differed only in scope, not in quality. The lesson that we can take from this is that every liturgical tradition is worthy of protection and cultivation. Nowadays many speak about regionalization, decentralization, and the exaltation of minorities, but few are able to apply these principles to the liturgical life of the Church. If we believe that the Holy Spirit leads the Church and inspires various communities growing in Her bosom to express their faith, their charism, and their way of life, even through liturgical forms, a blind unification cannot be understood as anything other than a big mistake and a deep impoverishment.

Fr. Grzegorz Brodacki, O.Cist. is a priest and monk of the Cistercian Archabbey of Jędrzejów in Poland.

A Public Service Announcement: The Return of the Liturgia Horarum

Eamonn Clark

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus liturgia horarum.

HERE

That’s right, the 4-volume Latin Liturgy of the Hours is (are?) back, after several years of being, unbelievably, out of print.

You can put in a pre-order now. (Disclaimer: I did email them several days ago and have not heard back – but that’s not too surprising, honestly.)

It makes the perfect gift for the N.O.-friendly trad in your life.

The Grotesqueness of the Mass and the Problem of Evil

Dali_Crucifixion_hypercube.jpg

I would like you to imagine the classic love story. You know the one: The daring knight rescues the damsel in distress from the fiery dragon. The details really don’t matter. All the story needs, seemingly, is a knight, a dragon, and a princess. However, it seems that there is one other element needed in the story, and that is the element of danger. For the story to work, the knight must triumph in the end, but only after a battle in which he might have lost. And this seems to be true, not just from our perspective, but from the perspective of the princess as well.

I mean, if the story is to be believed, the princess loves her knight, and love seems to include a desire for the beloved to be safe from harm. Yet, imagine how the princess would feel if the daring knight, instead of facing the dragon in hand to hand combat, camped a mile away from the castle with a sniper rifle, killed the dragon from a safe distance, and then waltzed in to pick up the princess. A bit anticlimactic isn’t it? Don’t we all feel, as much as we might not like to admit it, that if we were the princess, we’d prefer our beloved risking it all to save us? Don’t we, in a secret place in our heart, want our knight to be scarred?

Now, I’m not going to try to understand the motivation for this desire. I don’t know where it comes from, I only know that it seems true that we have it. But, I do think it has to do with what comes after the knight’s daring rescue. While the knight and princess gallop away on a snow white stallion, isn’t there already a natural bond forged by their shared experience of the dragon? If the knight had faced no danger and suffered no injury in his battle with the dragon, wouldn’t the princess, as much as she loves her knight, feel estranged from him? Wouldn’t she ask herself, “Does he understand what the dragon did to me?”

I have often had that question about my relationship with God. Knowing how much my sin has hurt me and made me despicable to myself, and reflecting on the glory and perfection of God, I sometimes have asked myself, “Does He understand what sin did to me?” The answer God gave me at the cross, and continues to give me every day in the Mass is, “Yes, because sin has done it to me too.” There seems to be a deep psychological reason that the bread and wine are consecrated separately in the mass: We want a God who knows what it feels like to have his blood separated from his body, in the same way that we have spilled our blood living in a broken world. Of course, we want a God who is all-powerful, who triumphs over sin and death, no denying that, but we also want a God who bleeds in the process. We want our God to carry the same scars we do.

That is “the grotesqueness of the mass.” In the mass, as a continuation of the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the cross, God makes himself vulnerable to us, so that He can share in our weakness. Our suffering becomes the point of encounter with God. In the mass, God enters our brokenness, our loneliness, our anger, our numbness. That is the horrible beauty of the Mass and the cross: that the hour of good’s triumph over evil is when good is weakest. It is when God looks most like a man. God suffers with us, in order to make Himself capable of being understood by His creatures who have so long suffered under sin, that they are unable to comprehend a life of love without suffering.

the_body_of_the_dead_christ_in_the_tomb-copy-300x45.jpg

And yet, we know that this is not the end. God chose to suffer not just to meet us in our suffering, but to bring us out of it. We have hope that there is a love that transcends suffering, and though, in our broken human condition, we can’t experience it now, (or at least, our experience of it is limited,) our hope in God is that some day we will. That is why the problem of evil (Why does a good God allow suffering in the world) is not so much a problem as it is a recognition of our broken selves. As fallen men and women, our experience of our own brokenness makes us want others to have experienced our suffering. This is not because we are evil and sadistically want others to suffer, but because we want to know we are not alone. The cross not only gives us that reality, but also the hope for something more: something we cannot fully comprehend now, but something we know we’ve been missing. Evil exists because in our broken state, we need evil to help us recognize the good. In the evil of the cross, we see the ultimate good, and that ultimate good gives us hope for a good without evil, a love without pain, a final victory over sin.

jesus_returns-300x225.jpg

Post by: Niko Wentworth

Main image: The Deposition from the Cross, Bl. Francis Angelico, 1434

Adventures in Liturgy: Funeral, or Celebration of Life?

Recently, I was distributing Holy Communion during a Mass of Christian Burial. The coffin was to my immediate right, and the family of the deceased to my immediate left. The Communion Procession was moving in an orderly fashion, when suddenly there was a bottleneck. When I looked up to see what was happening, I couldn’t believe my eyes: having just received Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, people were greeting members of the immediate family who were sitting in the front row. I was stunned! I whispered quietly, “Please keep moving, you are blocking the other communicants.”

How did we get here? Answering this question is simultaneously simple, and equally complex. While one may say people no longer know how to act properly in public, I propose that there are other realities at work as well.

The General Introduction to the Order of Christian Funerals states, Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life which has now returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.[1] Our worship, whether at a funeral or many regular parish Masses, has become so anthropocentric, that we have lost a grip on the reality that we gather to worship, praise, and thank God; instead we often make ourselves the source, center, and end of our liturgical celebration. At a funeral, we gather not for a celebration of life, but to encounter the mercy of God and the promise of eternal life found only in Christ.

Secondly, we live in a world without sin. To admit that there is sin in the world and that we are sinners does not mean that we are bad people. To admit that we are sinners and that there are acts that are objectively right or wrong, proclaims that we are human beings who need to be redeemed through the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Death is a consequence of sin. The Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sin.[2] To admit that we are sinners is to acknowledge that the deceased, and all those present, is truly human, and that God alone is the healer of our pain, and the source of forgiveness.

Death is very hard, and the reality of separation from those we love most dearly is heart wrenching. At the rite of final commendation and farewell, the community acknowledges the reality of separation and commends the deceased to God. In this way it recognizes the spiritual bond that still exists between the living and the dead and proclaims its belief that all the faithful will be raised up and reunited in the new heavens and a new earth, where death will be no more. [3]We have come from God and we are returning to God: our origin is a reality, and to return to God our goal. Is this basic reality present to the minds and hearts of believers today? While life is to be lived and lived to the fullest of the potential God has given us, do we keep before us that our time on earth is not what gives us meaning, but rather that we are destined for God? The preaching, life, liturgy, and catechesis of the Church needs to proclaim loudly that our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.[4] A celebration of life fails to lead us to embrace our true citizenship.

If the Liturgy truly forms our faith and shapes our living, our approach to death and the Rites of Christian burial may reflect more accurately that we believe that all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us one throughout our lives do not unravel in death.[5]

Post by: Fr. Jordan Kelly, O.P.

Main image: A Funeral at Ornans, Gustave Courbet, 1850

[1] Order of Christian Funerals, hereafter OCF, #5.

[2] OCF, #6.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Philippians, 3:20.

[5] OCF, # 71.

The Liturgical Creeps

In my time in parish work, and in my exploration of the world’s great (and little) churches, I have encountered many interesting phenomena. As you might imagine, that involves a spectrum, with the simply “good” on one end and the simply “bad” on the other, with plenty of ho-hum stuff in the middle. But there is also a category of things sort of “in the middle” which don’t really fit well into such a simple paradigm. They deserve their own little separate space.

In psychology, there is something called the “uncanny valley.” Here is a chart:

uncanny1

At this point, I’m not exactly sure how I would rearrange the variables on this chart to explain these experiences, but they are definitely of the kind that would fit into that valley which just feels “off.”

Electric candles – especially votive candles – are a big one.

Yes, it’s cheaper. Yes, it’s less dangerous. Yes, it’s cleaner. But isn’t that all part of what makes it not as good? It seems far “less human” than it should. All you do is put in a coin… Some electrons move… And there you go. That’s it. No careful management of the flame as you transfer it from a candle already lit, no satisfaction of getting your wick to light, no organic timeline for when it will go out, and nothing is actually burnt up and “wasted” on God. The last bit is probably the most important. Here’s 2 Sam. 24:22-24:

But Araunah said to David: “Let my lord the king take it and offer up what is good in his sight. See, here are the oxen for burnt offerings, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of oxen for wood. All this does Araunah give to the king.” Araunah then said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept your offering.” The king, however, replied to Araunah, “No, I will buy it from you at the proper price, for I cannot sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

King David was worried about not spending enough himself for a burnt offering of oxen. One can only imagine the king’s reaction if Araunah had offered to put coins into a candle machine that just moves electricity in a circle.

This does not necessarily mean that the one using a candle machine is doing a poorer job praying, but perhaps over time it could have an effect on a person’s perception of worship, leading to the thought that what’s in your wallet is more important than what’s in your heart… After all, there are no “suggested donations” for a machine.

Another big one is recorded music.

We don’t accept lip-syncing at concerts. Why would God accept a recording from a CD at Mass? This can be especially prevalent at funerals, where a well-meaning family wants their loved one’s favorite song played, and while it is certainly difficult to deny a grieving family, the songs are often inappropriate and are never anything much more than a catharsis over memories when what the funeral rite is primarily for is prayer for the soul of the deceased.

Recorded music also shows up outside liturgies as “filler,” when silence is, I suppose, too unsettling. You will find this in many churches in Rome, Paris, and beyond. While the music is often “good,” the fact that it is an mp3 means that those voices and instrumentalists are not actually there praying with you – it just sounds like it. And to me that can be a bit more unsettling than silence.

Notice once again the lack of “waste” – it is a mere digital re-presentation of someone else’s work.

On the other hand, once I walked into Wieskirche in Bavaria and there was a magnificent little choral arrangement being sung by a small group. Wonder and joy, the opposite of the liturgical creeps?

img_20150307_141613389
Notice the real candles. The detached altar was nothing to write home about, but everything else was!

The “liturgical creeps” are then, I suppose, when something a little “fake” is helping mediate or ground prayer that reduces the “waste” of human effort. It’s a working definition, at least.

Perhaps you have had the experience yourself. What else fits into the liturgical uncanny valley?

 

Post by: Eamonn Clark

 

Main image: Opening title from the popular 90’s kids’ show, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”

Uncanny chart: By Smurrayinchester – self-made, based on image by Masahiro Mori and Karl MacDorman at http://www.androidscience.com/theuncannyvalley/proceedings2005/uncannyvalley.html, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2041097

Re-Turning Towards the Lord

Let’s be bold and ask the question: if the priest has his back to the people when he faces ad orientem, Who does he have his back to when he faces them?

Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently gave an address to the “Sacra Liturgia” Conference, entitled “Towards an Authentic Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.” In this address, he said the following:

…[It] is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.

Cardinal Sarah’s appeal to return to ad orientem worship is not made in a vacuum. There has been a growing interest in the traditional practice that has kept pace with a growing scholarship in this area.

The whole question of the orientation of the liturgy takes as a starting point the fact that the liturgy is the communication of something innately beautiful – that, in the highest sense of the word, liturgy is an art.

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI argues that beauty is no mere decoration, but rather an “essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.” The gestures and signs of the liturgy form a sort of divine choreography. This divine choreography – the “ars celebrandi” – arises not from arbitrary or superficial principles, but from the astounding depth of the Paschal Mystery and the truth of the Christian faith. For our purposes, it is important to see that the ars celebrandi cannot be underestimated for its ability to invite real immersion into the liturgy. Indeed, for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, it is “the primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite.” With stakes so high, it is necessary to embody within the celebration of the Mass the right imagery.

Behind the recent remarks of Cardinal Sarah, there is a world of theological debate about the choreography of the liturgy – particularly the orientation of the priest. To situate the debate, we will examine two major works on the topic: Turning Towards the Lord by U. M. Lang and The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).

Within this context of liturgy as art (and without delving too much into the liturgical polemics in the wake of Cardinal Sarah’s address last week), we will investigate some of the reasoning that advocates for versus populum have used, the response by those who advocate ad orientem, and the prevailing recommendation to correct the issues.

Arguments In Favor of Versus Populum

First, it will be most helpful to have an idea for the argument for keeping the new practice of celebrating Mass versus populum.

1. Advocates of versus populum would point out that the Mass originates in the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. In that context, Christ was reclined around a table with his apostles. Thus, the Mass in the modern day ought to be reflective of a communal meal, with priest and the people facing each other in order to be true to the origins. Doing so would fulfil Sacrosanctum Concilium’s call for “active participation” in the liturgy by the faithful, by inviting them into the communal act in so direct a way. Since “active participation” is such a major concern in the last century’s liturgical reform, it has seemed most expedient to construct new altars that invited versus populum celebration.

2. By way of anticipating objections, advocates for versus populum are guarding against “archaism” in liturgy. Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Mediator Dei, warns against any misguided archaism:

The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and more proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savour and aroma of antiquity … [I]t is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device.

Lest the Church fall into this archaism, supporters of versus populum argue that we must allow the liturgy to develop the way that it has. New forms and new practices are all the more fitting for new ages of the Church. Accordingly, they argue that there is no reason to reverse the trend of celebrating versus populum.

Responses to these Arguments

Is the appeal to bring back ad orientem celebration simply “archaism”? Are its proponents just advocating liturgical nostalgia?

Quite the contrary. The defense of ad orientem celebration is robust, thorough, clear, and convincing. Lang points out several flaws in the reasoning for versus populum. That the Last Supper was merely a meal, Lang takes issue. The Mass did begin as a meal, but its development did not end there. The Eucharistic sacrifice commemorates the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus – the Paschal Mystery. It is not merely a meal. Lang explains: “it was the new reality, not the meal as such, that Christ commanded us to repeat in memory of him” (93). To think that the development from the Jewish festal meal to the distinct act of liturgical worship in Christianity could or should be reversed, Lang concludes, would be “a most deceptive archaism” (93).

The second flaw with the appeal to the Last Supper is that it does not match up with the reality of the actual meal in the first place. According to Lang, “it was customary for the diners to recline on couches arranged in a semicircle, with small tables being used for holding food and dishes. In this arrangement, the place of honour was on the right of the semicircle” (93). In effect, it is not true that the Last Supper would have meant that the people would face each other, as has been perpetuated by the art of the 13th century onward. Although a contemporary reading of the Last Supper meal would impose such a reality, it is more likely that all the diners were facing the same direction at the time. Thus, the appeal to the Last Supper fails, not only because it is a mistaken view of the Mass as merely a meal, but also because it does not take into account the actual historical conditions of the Last Supper.

If the image of a meal does not fully capture the symbolic meaning of the Mass, are there other ways in which we may understand the Mass? Ratzinger puts forward another image: the Exodus. In the liturgical exodus, the priest is not just a “presider” – rather, like Moses he leads the people towards the Lord from slavery to the Promised Land. The priest facing the same direction as the people expresses the meaning of pilgrimage in our participation in the Exodus of the New Covenant – the Paschal Mystery of our Lord.

As a final response to the proponents of versus populum, Lang addresses the accusation of archaism:

This is not a form of archaism, if only because it was the virtually universal practice in the Latin Church until the most recent times and is part of the liturgical heritage in the Churches of the Byzantine, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopian traditions. (98)

The practice of offering Mass ad orientem simply has too rich of a history and is too universal in its usage to be oversimplified to archaism.

The Defense for Ad Orientem

Having discussed the flaws in the versus populum argumentation, it is fitting to look at the whole argument for facing east in the offering of Mass. We will look at this argument based off the history of Church, the symbolism behind the orientation, and the necessity of maintaining proper symbols.

The history of the Church’s liturgical celebrations and the symbolism contained within these decisions are so interwoven that we will discuss them together. The Jewish custom for worship consisted in the synagogues facing the temple. All the ritual celebrations pointed back to Jerusalem as the focal point of Jewish worship. It was here that God centered his relationship with His chosen people.

As the Christians developed their own identity and broke from Jewish customs, it was no longer important to face the temple. Now, Christians faced towards the New Jerusalem. How could this be manifested in the direction of worship? Facing the east quickly became the Christian response, not only in liturgy but in prayer in general. Lang gives some biblical examples:

[F]or instance, the sun of righteousness (Mal 4:2), the feet of the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east (Zech 14:4), the day dawning from on high (Lk 1:78), the angel ascending from the rising of the sun with the seal of the living God (Rev 7:2), not to mention the Johannine light imagery. (41)

In addition to these examples, the Son of Man came with power and glory, appearing as lightning in the east, shining as far as the west (Mt 24:27,30). For the early Christians, the image of the rising sun was very significant. They would face that direction in order to face the Lord.

This eastward orientation held true nearly universally and affected all types of Christian prayer. Origen (around AD 231) explains the connection in his treatise On Prayer:

It should be immediately clear that that the direction of the rising sun obviously indicates that we ought to pray inclining in that direction, an act which symbolizes the soul looking where the true light rises.

In case Origen is not enough of an authority, St. Augustine is in agreement: “When we stand at prayer, we turn to the east.”

The architecture of ancient Churches points out that the liturgy was almost always celebrated ad orientem. In the cases where the doors were facing to the east, which was a minority, the celebrant and the people would all look to the doors together. When, as was the case most often, the apse faced east, the celebrant and the people all faced the apse. The common direction became important no matter what the architectural direction was. (Remember that pews are a recent invention, and most ancient churches did not have seating of any kind except for the elderly and infirm.)

Finally, the defense of ad orientem drives home the point most powerfully when it argues that the symbolic significance of the direction of prayer is of utmost importance. Lang states:

The sacrificial character of the Eucharist must find an adequate expression in the actual rite. Not even the best mystagogical catechesis can make up for the decline of understanding of the Mass among Catholics, if the liturgical celebration sends out signs to the contrary. (115)

So it is clear that there is significant symbolic importance to celebrating the Mass ad orientem. Does this hold true for versus populum as well? The Congregation for Divine Worship, explains albeit in a 1993 editorial, that the symbolism does not hold up for versus populum:

It is fitting to explain clearly that the expression ‘to celebrate facing the people’ has no theological sense but is only a topographical concept … Theologically, therefore, the Mass is always facing God and facing the people. In the form of celebration one must be careful to avoid confounding theology and topography, especially when the priest is at the altar. It is only in the dialogues from the altar that the priest speaks to the people. All the rest is prayer to the Father, through the mediation of Christ in the Holy Spirit. This theology must be visible. (Quoted in Lang, 126)

As a sacred art, liturgy grips the imagination with symbols that carry divine meaning. If you change the symbol, you lose that meaning. If you want to retain the symbolism – if you want to ensure that the meaning of “facing God” is maintained – then you ought to make sure that symbolism is expressed visibly.

Unfortunately, liturgical practice in the last few decades has forgotten the cosmological and theological significance of the celebration of the Mass ad orientem and has thus changed its practices unnecessarily. Lest in our celebration of the Mass we betray the imagery that most befits it, the Church indeed must reconsider how she intends to incarnate the Mass’s deep reality in its ars celebrandi.

Recommendations for the Future

Since it seems that the significance of the liturgy as a procession and as a sacrifice to God is best protected in the celebration of the Mass ad orientem, it is fitting to provide the scholarly recommendation for how to amend the liturgy in its current situation. Ratzinger says, “This mistake should be corrected as quickly as possible; and it can be done without further rebuilding” (84).

Cardinal Sarah gives the following exhortation:

I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their back to me” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord!

How ought ad orientem worship be implemented? First, with prudence, catechesis, and confidence. But what will ad orientem look like in the particulars of the Mass? That may be outside the scope of this post to make concrete suggestions (others, like Fr. Ryan Erlenbush, have provided some much-appreciated guidance). The point here is that the Mass, as a divine choreography that communicates supreme beauty, ought to express visibly its intrinsic orientation – its ars celebrandi ought to be configured to Christ’s prayer to the Father.

Ad orientem worship is not only well-founded in theology and history, but is also spiritually advantageous to the faithful. Cardinal Sarah, recognizing the demands of pastoral charity and prudence, sees this upcoming Advent as a great opportunity to “turn again towards the Lord.”

-Post by Jacob Gruber

 

Main image: Pope St. Pius X celebrates a Pontifical Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.