Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Justifying my quote--Part I

As Schola Master and Choir Director for the former Toronto Apostolate of the FSSP, I have been quoted in The current edition of The Catholic Register. A friend from Rome has written asking that I justify and clarify me comments:

“The Extraordinary Form is the fullest form of Catholic worship to God,” wrote David Domet, 53. “It is how the Mass was celebrated in Rome for over 1,500 years: it was only codified… at (the 16th-century Council of) Trent to promote uniformity in the rite. The roots of this (liturgy) are (in) the Temple in Jerusalem… The said or sung propers, the psalms of the Mass, connect us with the roots of our faith… When I sing the Gregorian chant and chant the psalms, it is the closest thing we know to the manner in which our Lord Himself would have heard and sung the psalms.”
Part the First: The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is the fullest form of Catholic worship to God.
Polemic arguments tend to arise when one expresses the opinion that the Holy Mass as celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is a fuller and more complete expression of Catholic worship for the greater glory of God and the edification of His people. If indeed this is true, then it would logically follow that the current or more modern liturgical books are somehow deficient in their expression of the fullness of the worship due to God and needed by us. How then can this be argued without descending into a polemical debate clearly out of keeping with the desires of Pope Benedict XVI in his Motu Proprio SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM?

In paragraph 1323, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” As Catholics, we believe that the Consecration of the species through the words of the priest is the re-presentation of the blood atonement of the LORD at Calvary offered once to the Father and brought forward in time and space for us to be present there and Him, here. This is the same in the Extraordinary or Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and in all of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church and in the schismatic Orthodox and some other Old Catholic Masses and even a few Anglican Masses said by former Catholic priests or those ordained by the referred to Old Catholic bishops. The Eucharist is confected and therefore the Mass is “validated” by the form, matter and substance. However, the consecration can occur even if done outside of the Holy Mass. Since it is the words of the priest combined with the proper matter the Eucharist can be confected by a priest sitting in shorts at a coffee table outside of the Mass or on a hay-bale wearing blue jeans. The words of consecration make it valid and the sacrifice offered up to the Father; but it is the service of prayer and praise before and after in our Divine Worship that is for the greater glory of God and our edification and it is the lack thereof that may render it illicit, sacrilegious and even sinful. Unless it were Cardinal Nguyễn Văn Thuận in his jail cell putting a drop of wine in his hand and consecrating the Blood of Christ offered up to the Father then such a careless attempt at Mass would be truly, objectively sinful to the LORD. What we do for God cannot equal what He does for us. But whatever we do for Him, we must do all we can with the talents and energy He gives us to reach perfection in our leitourgia—our public duty to Him. This is why the great cathedrals were built over decades and centuries; why Palestrina wrote his four-hundred Masses and motets and why Michaelangelo laboured so expressively in the Sistine Chapel and why when Jedd Clampet put on a suit and tie he referred to it as his "Sunday goin a meetin' " clothes; these simply must be our best!

If it is true that the words of the priest at the Consecration confect the Eucharist then what is the point of the remainder of the Mass? Perhaps as some liturgists and antiquarians suggest, we should return to a practice of early Christians. Therefore, let us go to a Synagogue to sing the Psalms and then go to a private home, have a meal and then at the end of the meal have the Eucharist whilst we recline on cushions on the floor? Perhaps we should just recline spread around any gathering hall imitating the Last Supper of the LORD. This is a debate that raged throughout the professional liturgists over the last forty to fifty years; but their time is ending. Their work has been proven to be dross and they left no progeny to carry it on. We are now at a point of transition as the biological realities take hold.

After the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and as Christianity was spreading, still in the first century, liturgy was developing. No longer did these Christians worship in the synagogue but in their own homes or where possible within separate structures—churches, as have been found recently in parts of what is now, Jordan. In Rome of course, the Christians worshipped in the catacombs. St. Justin Martyr in his First Apology wrote: “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.” St. Justin was describing the Mass. Therefore, we know that whatever was being done to celebrate the Eucharist in first century Jerusalem and its surroundings, developed organically by the time of the Saint’s death in 161AD. The Early Church Fathers took the Temple worship as passed on to them by the Apostolic Fathers a Liturgy of the Word and enjoined to it what we now call the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The word Mass comes from ite missa est the dismissal, literally meaning “go, you are sent.” Perhaps the Eastern Rite Catholics and Orthodox express it more clearly where it is called, The Divine Liturgy or Divine Worship.

The Mass as we have it today is from apostolic times which has developed organically as theology developed. Transubstantiation was believed from the very beginning but it was only defined in the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. Surely one would not suggest that we should do away with his teachings or Thomism itself.

To disprove the protestant or evangelical Christian and anti-Catholic claim that the Mass came much later or the opinion of some liturgists in the latter half of the 20th century that true worship should be bare and stripped down as that described above is to ignore the truth as expressed by three ancient rites of the Catholic Church. When the Crusaders came through Mount Lebanon in the 10th century they were surprised to find the Divine Liturgy. While different from what they knew in Europe they recognised the Mass in the Maronite Rite, which is my own background. These Maronite monks knew of “Peter” and after were always united with Rome even though there had been no contact for centuries. Two other rites trace their history back to St. Thomas the Apostle. The Chaldeans (also the Persian Rite) in what is now northern Iraq on the Plains of Ninevah are the oldest indigenous Catholics in the world still on their land (though that is clearly becoming tenuous) and the Nasrani in India, descendants of the ancient Jewish diasporas evangelised in 52AD by this same apostle. Different from those Latin Rite Catholics in Goa and other parts of India, from whom did these learn their liturgy—their public duty if not from the Apostle himself? Yet the liturgy of these "St. Thomas Christians" in what is known as the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankar Rites both bear greater resemblance to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite than the Ordinary. Can anyone deny that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in its manner of celebration in many places bears more resemblance to that of the heretical Lutherans or Cranmer’s Elizabethan Prayer Book than of our eastern Christians and our Catholic and Jewish roots?

I mention Jewish roots because that is the root of the Mass and in its Extraordinary Form, the Temple Worship is more clearly present and fulfilled in the Holy Eucharist. I have spoken recently with a Hebrew Catholic who believes that in the Ordinary Form the Catholic Mass has hidden its Jewishness and this is more clearly expressed in the Extraordinary. Since it was this worship that grew organically from the ancient Temple who are we to replace it? Don’t take my word for it, consider what Pope Benedict XVI in The Spirit of the Liturgy wrote: “We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it—as in a manufacturing process—with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.”
The Mass is more than the Eucharistic consecration. It is a prayer of thanksgiving—a eucharistia and praise to the Triune God. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite makes this abundantly clear throughout with the oft repeating of the “Glory be…” and the various prayers addressed specifically to the Holy Trinity. Beginning with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (added by Pope Pius V at the Council of Trent but formerly said by the Priest on his way to the Altar) the Bishop or Abbot or Priest and his assisting Ministers and by extension the people present all profess their joy at being present at the Holy of Holies but also their unworthiness. These prayers at the beginning of what we know call the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite establish to us that what we are about to do is something outside of ourselves. It establishes through our words and actions, internally and externally that we are about to do something that is out of the regular.

Throughout the EF, particularly in its sung or solemn form, this is made clear. The depth of the prayers, the invocation of the Trinity, frequent invocation of the Blessed Virgin, the Communion of Saints and the Angels, specifically the Archangel Michael, (such as at the incensing), all invoke great spiritual power. The silent Canon promoting prayer and contemplation and mystery, the elimination of the personality of the priest through the posture, the frequent genuflections to the Real Presence, the reception of Holy Communion in a solemn and dignified manner whilst kneeling, on the tongue and by the consecrated hands of the priest; all of this increases the depth of the peoples prayer and thus, their faith so that they can truly at the end of the Mass, be sent. Within are also the psalms or scripture verses contained in all five Propers which are not optional and cannot be substituted by devotional hymns. They are sung or in the case of a Missa Lecta they are read aloud, but they must be said. The great psalm at the opening prayers at the Foot of the Altar and at the Lavabo together with the Prologue of St. John at the end consistently and continually reinforce the Lex orendi, lex credendi of Catholic life and praxis.

While the above is true, the historical application of liturgical understanding by people was not always apparent and catechises was not always properly provided. But let us not debate that for 1,900 years most people were simply illiterate--yet they seemed to understand more than we. The oft sited remarks of little old ladies with doilies praying their rosary during Mass was why no less than Pope St. Pius X exhorted the people to “pray the Mass.” Now at the dawn of a new century a Pope desired a greater interior attitude amongst the commonfolk. People were no longer illiterate, education was no longer the domain of the wealth or those entering clerical life. The common folk could read, could be fully catechised, the hand missal was available with the people’s tongue written side-by-side with the Latin.

The liturgical movement grew in the 20th century to foster, not change in the liturgy but change in how we approached the liturgy. This is clear in Pope Pius X’s motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini and those documents issued by Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei and De musica sacra et sacra liturgia. These documents exhorted bishops, priests and the faithful to change how we approach and participate in the Mass. It was Pope St. Pius X who coined the phrase “actuoso participationem.” Badly translated as active, actuoso has a deeper meaning to include full, actual or true, it has come to be interpreted as outward activity—externals, if you will, and on the part that we all must by doing something outwardly and forgot what it meant inwardly.

The lack of implementation of the true liturgical movement allowed a false liturgical movement, what became the “spirit of Vatican II” to prevail. That “spirit” invaded Dominicans in North America and Europe whose influence was felt worldwide. Those in the Concilium who put before the Holy Father for promulgation a new liturgy that was something less than what existed before were the greatest purveyors of the false spirit. I have previously made the argument that the post Vatican II liturgical reforms, except for the new Lectionary, were complete by 1965. The Missa Normative of 1970 simply went beyond anything articulated in Sacrosanctam Concilium. However, let me make it clear, this is not an argument that the modern liturgy is invalid; it simply and objectively is less than what it was and must be drawn closer to its historic root. Let me also make it clear that while I attempt to attend Mass as frequently as possible during the week, it is most often in its newer Ordinary Form. What is described above existed for over 1500 years grew organically from the first century. It was and remains the highest form of Catholic worship to God. Therefore, it would follow that removing that from it which made it so makes its replacement somewhat lower in its worship. It does not make it invalid, nor does it discredit, but it simply must follow that if you remove prayers and penances, psalms and the pleading assistance of Saints and Angels then you have lowered its degree of worship. If you turn a ritual that is focused totally on God to one that is more focused on ourselves as is often the case, you cannot help but lower its meaning and its efficaciousness.

This is not to say that all people who attended the former before or now are holier or that those people who do not are less than so. This is not the Pharisee versus the Tax Collector. But, externals are important. The lex orendi, lex credendi, the manner of how our prayer of prayer becomes or influences how we believe is a fact of our sensual nature. If coming in to Mass I am struck with a deep sense of adoration and prayer and worship then I too can be lead to that same sense of deep contemplation and mystery with the meta-physical and the Triune God. If we offer to God and to the people less than that because of our laziness then what are we truly able to gain from it?

Setting aside the currently used banality of the ICEL translation, even the Latin original of the Second Eucharistic Prayer neglects to even mention sacrifice. Before the Holy Mass is a banquet it is a sacrifice. We eat the Eucharist, truly it is a meal, but before that it is an offering—a sacrifice which is made most clear in the Roman Canon or First Eucharistic Prayer. The Mass is first and foremost the re-presentation to the Atonement of Christ the Lamb, sacrificed for us and pre-figured by Abraham (the father) and Isaac carrying the sticks for the sacrifice as Christ carried His Cross. The heavenly Father then provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac again prefiguring Christ crucified. The blood of the lambs on the doorposts and lintels in Egypt prefigured the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. The blood of the lambs—pesach, covered the people and saved them from death—just as the blood atonement of Jesus on Calvary covered the sins of the people. All of these sacrifices, those which pre-figured Christ and the one, true and everlasting one of Jesus are made clear in the usus antiquior consistently everywhere. This sacrificial dimension is less clear in the more modern liturgical expression of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is there and it can be made clear but it takes more attention on the part of the Priest and Levitical Ministers—liturgists, lectors, cantors. If one sings the Gregorian Propers in English but more particularly in the Latin from the 1972 Graduale Romanum (for the Novus Ordo), one uses the I confess as the Penitential Rite, the Roman Canon or First Eucharistic Prayer and as well if the priest and people face the same direction for the Liturgy of the Eucharist together with the use of incense then the lines are not as blurred. One can also conclude that the number of options and the substitution of the Propers with hymns many of which are not theologically sound combined with the invasion of secular forms of music, contributes profoundly to this deficiency.

To justify the statement that the “The Extraordinary Form is the fullest form of Catholic worship to God,” must be carefully addressed so as not to alienate. The rancour over “which Mass is better” must be avoided. It follows though that if one takes the position that one Form is higher than another then one who prefers another Form could take a position that the former is an elitist or dismissive of other forms of Catholic worship or indeed is becoming pharisaical. But this is not the case. In the EF, we are familiar with the terms High Mass and Low Mass to describe the difference between a Missa Solemnis or Missa Cantata and Missa Lecta. Therefore, we have always acknowledged that there is something “higher.”

Make no mistake. The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is the normal manner of worship in the Catholic Church. It is edifying and can be celebrated with great beauty and solemnity. This has been proven in Minneapolis at St. Agnes, in Chicago at St. John Cantius in Toronto at The Oratory and in little churches and big cathedrals throughout the world. However, it contains within its basic structure rubrical deficiencies, casualness, variety and a false interpretation that has lead to abuses and as Pope Benedict XVI has himself called, "deformities." Going forward, we simply cannot continue with the same practice undertaken since 1970 or the shenanigans and experimentation with the 1965 Missal. Nor is this to say that there were no abuses prior to the reforms. Any priest that celebrated the Mass in 18 minutes or slurring the words was unfaithful to the liturgy, the need for Mass on the hood of an army jeep, notwithstanding. The fact that Mass is now said in the vernacular and facing the people has exposed Father Experimenter for what he is.

In conclusion, the Holy Father has said that the two Missals, that of 1962 and that of 1970/2002 (which we hope to see by 2012) are two Forms of the one Latin Rite. Legally speaking, both are equal, there is no difference. Objectively speaking, that is simply not possible and the future of the Ordinary is one where it will be shaped by the Extraordinary to bring it fully to the intent of the Fathers of the Council—The Reform of the Reform.

Part II


The Ottaviani Intervention

The Day the Mass Changed Part 1 & 2--Adoremus Society

The Case for the Latin Mass--Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand

A Short History of the Roman Mass--Michael Davies

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