We need to rethink versus populum celebration of Holy Mass and adopt instead ad orientem worship. Joseph Ratzinger got it right in his The Spirit of the Liturgy. I’ll take Benedict XVI’s vision every day and as many times as it takes on Sunday.The following pictures of the same Mass from above illustrate the beauty and sacredness which Father Z is promoting:
As Klaus Gamber stated, and Ratzinger repeated, the shift from ad orientem worship to versus populum was the single most damaging change made in the name of the Second Vatican Council. Together with that came the jettisoning of Our Lord from sanctuaries, the de facto abolition of Latin along with worthy sacred music, irreverence due to Communion in the hand and the downplaying of kneeling and genuflection, etc. etc. etc.
As Father Z wrote in another recent post:
As I have written a thousand times, unless there is a renewal of our sacred liturgical worship of God, no other initiative of “New Evangelization” will succeed. It all comes back to worship. That’s the activity, according to the virtue of Religion, that coordinates the hierarchy of our relationships with persons (Divine, angelic, human) and our loves (making sure that GOD has the throne of our hearts and minds). If our relationship with God isn’t squared away, and that must include liturgical worship, everything else will be on shaky ground. How can we who accept the claim that the Eucharist (the Sacrament and Its celebration) are the “source and summit” of our Catholic lives think that we can undertake something as sweeping as a New Evangelization apart from a renewal of Holy Mass, the Divine Office solemnly celebrated, and all our other rites? And yet when we hear our leaders, our shepherds, go on and on and on about this or that project or initiative, how often do they connect it – heck, even mention – the centrality and urgency of sacred liturgical worship of God?Of course, when Father Z and other traditionalists talk about "renewal" of the Mass, they mean a return to the Traditional Latin Mass. They want to see more - if not all - Masses celebrated as pictured above. Father Z and all of his traditionalist followers believe that the TLM is the salvation of the Church and the world. That is actually Father Z's motto: "Save the Liturgy. Save the World." Look at the reverence and sacredness. These people are serious about worship.
An article recently written for Crisis Magazine by a fellow Brooklynite explains very clearly the reasons for the traditionalists' belief that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is essential for the salvation of the world. The article is entitled, "What the Traditional Mass Means to Me." [HERE] It is written by James Kalb. I know Mr. Kalb. We attended the same Mass at the one and only TLM here in Brooklyn.
Mr. Kalb is a convert from the Episcopalian Church. As stated by Mr. Kalb, he believes that the TLM is the true representation of Catholicism:
I came to the Church through the Traditional Latin Mass.
I would have converted anyway. It was becoming more and more obvious that the Church was where I belonged, and it seemed pointlessly obstinate and even artificial to remain apart from her. But the Traditional Mass made the situation clearer, because it made it more obvious what the Church is.Mr. Kalb writes further:
The Traditional Mass made it clear that the Mass is something different from all that. The formality, the silences, the use of an ancient language, the orientation and gestures of the priest, the indifference to popularity—all those things meant the Mass wasn’t anything like an ordinary meeting. It wasn’t about the people present, and at bottom it wasn’t even their doing. To the contrary, those present evidently understood what was going on as awe-inspiring, mostly invisible, and dependent on someone other than themselves. There was no other way to make sense of how they were acting.
So the Traditional Mass made it clear that there’s a basic dimension in Catholic Christianity, the reliable concrete presence of God, that I couldn’t find anywhere else. That realization clarified what the Church is—she is the way God maintains a visible presence in the world—and the necessity of becoming part of her for those who want to live a complete life.Notice all of the things which Mr. Kalb points to as setting the Traditional Mass apart: "formality, silences, use of ancient language, orientation, gestures of the priest." Mr. Kalb feels it is these outward gestures and rubrics which make the Mass Catholic. As Mr. Kalb writes, the "New Mass" is basically Protestant:
This discussion started as a conversion story, and every conversion has its more personal aspects, so I should also mention benefits the Traditional Mass had for me in particular. The New Mass, especially the earlier translation, was very close to the Episcopalian eucharistic service I was used to before becoming Catholic. The two had evidently been designed to be as similar as possible. That was a problem for me.
What the intentional similarity suggested to me was that the New Mass didn’t give nearly so distinctively Catholic a view of things. I won’t claim that view was fair or that I knew more about the needs of the Church than Bl. Paul VI did, but that was what I saw. The New Mass looked to me like it had been produced less by saints and the sensus fidei fidelium than by an interdenominational committee of credentialed experts and then modified in accordance with the demands of particular communions. For that reason I found it hard to trust unreservedly. It seemed to have been produced in cooperation with people I had good reason not to trust and wanted very much to escape from.Mr. Kalb feels that the "Novus Ordo" Mass and the Episcopalian service he attended were intentionally made similar, and therefore he has a deep distrust of the "Novus Ordo" Mass. That is a common criticism of traditionalists against the Ordinary Form of the Mass: it is too "Protestant". It just does not have a Catholic feel to it.
Traditionalists would tell you that the Mass pictured above is a true Catholic Mass. As Mr. Kalb writes, this Mass shows the real presence of God. However, there is a problem. The Mass pictured above is a high Anglican Mass celebrated at Holy Rosary Church, Portland, Oregon. You can watch the video HERE. Except for the use of Latin, all of the elements of the TLM which Mr. Kalb and other traditionalists feel are so important are found in the Anglican High Mass. People even kneel at the communion rail and receive on the tongue with the use of a paten. If you watch the video, you will hear beautiful Gregorian chant. The Mass is celebrated ad orientem, which Father Z says is so essential. It is very difficult to tell this Mass apart from a TLM.
My point in showing the pictures of the Anglican Mass is to prove that rubrics alone mean nothing. Just because something feels sacred and reverent, that doesn't automatically mean it is. The Anglicans in the Mass pictured above did everything exactly right. But they were still doing nothing more than worshiping ordinary bread and wine. Our Lord was not present at this Mass.
Mr. Kalb states that he cannot trust the Novus Ordo Mass because it is too similar to the Episcopalian service. As I have shown, the High Anglican Mass is also very similar to the TLM which he claims to love. That obviously doesn't bother him. Can he explain this?
Mr. Kalb ends his article by writing:
To summarize a somewhat rambling and personal account, it seems to me that the Traditional Latin Mass helps believers and the Church, because it helps believers see what the Mass and Church are all about. It helps people see the Mass as more than an ordinary assembly and the Church as more than a collection of individuals with varying tendencies and idiosyncrasies. So it helps the Church reach people with what she has to offer. It also helps the Church see herself as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, and so helps focus her on her nature and mission. What could be better, or more Catholic, than all that?I use to be of the exact same opinion as Mr. Kalb. In fact, he and I once discussed this very subject in which he expressed these same ideas, and we were in total agreement.
So what really sets the Mass apart? What really makes the Catholic Church different? Does the priest have to face ad orientem? Do people have to receive kneeling and on the tongue? Is Gregorian music essential? Does the salvation of the Church and the World depend upon the use of male only altar servers and no women in the sanctuary? Is it using only the organ and no other instruments? Father Z, Mr. Kalb, and most other traditionalists feel that the rubrics of the Mass set it apart from protestant prayer services. If the Mass looks and feels more sacred, then it. Yet I am sure that they would be the first to agree that an Anglican Mass, no matter how much it may resemble the TLM, can never be sacred. Why? For the simple reason that Christ is not present.
It is the presence of Christ that makes something holy. We surely have learned that lesson from this past Christmas season. Christ was born in a lowly manger, surrounded by dirty animals, laid on a bed of probably not very clean straw and wrapped in rags. Yet, this was the holiest place on earth at that time because Our Lord was there.
Our Lord was crucified in a garbage dump among other criminals. The people surrounding Our Lord were jeering loudly and blaspheming. From all outward appearances, Satan had won the day. Yet, this was again the most sacred place on earth because Jesus Christ was there, and He was winning salvation for the whole world.
As I have shown, the one essential element in determining sacredness is the presence of God. The Pharisees in Jesus's time looked very good on the outside. They did everything exactly right. Yet, Our Lord called them "whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." (Matt. 23:27) One of the primary lessons we should learn as Christians is that we can never judge a book by its cover. We can never trust our physical senses to differentiate between right and wrong. "There is a way that seems right to a man but the ends thereof are the ways of death. (Prov. 14:12).
In II Samuel 6, we are given the story of King David bringing the Ark of God back to Jerusalem. As the Ark entered Jerusalem, "Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets." (Versus 14-15).
|King David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant|
Michel's attitude towards David encapsulates the view of the traditionalists towards those whom they call "Novus Ordo Catholics." They find the Ordinary Form of the Mass to be vulgar and irreverent. They think the OF is destroying the Catholic Church. As James Kalb wrote, he cannot trust the Novus Ordo Mass because it is too similar to the prayer service he had attended as a Protestant. And as Father Z wrote "the shift from ad orientem worship to versus populum was the single most damaging change made in the name of the Second Vatican Council."
But look towards Africa, South America and Asia. The Church is growing dramatically in these areas. And what is the predominant Mass by far? The vulgar and irreverent Ordinary Form, the "Novus Ordo."
|Catholic Mass in Zambia looking like David dancing in front of the Ark|
From a USA Today article dated March 12, 2013 [HERE]:
As the number of regular churchgoers drops in Europe and the United States, the number of faithful in Africa has risen dramatically, greater here than anywhere else in 50 years. In Africa, between 1978 and 2007, the number of Catholics grew from 55 million to 146 million, according to the Vatican. A recent study by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life show the continent's Catholic population at more than 175 million.
"(Previous popes have) seen a church that is incredibly vivacious and lively and exciting which is what I think some popes have certainly lamented about the decline of the church in Europe and the rise of secularism," said Mark Faulkner, a senior teaching fellow at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. "They see the opposite in Africa where they do see a very vibrant Christian community.This doesn't do much to support Father Z's argument that the "Reform of the Mass" is the key to the new evangelization.
I was once in lockstep with the traditionalist mindset. I often complained about the OF, saying that it was impossible to pray at this Mass. Then I decided that it wasn't up to me to decide upon the form of the Mass. I stopped fighting the Ordinary Form and actually started praying with it. That has made all the difference. I find the OF to be just as reverent - and in some ways more reverent - than the TLM ever was. However, my feelings mean nothing. The fact is Jesus Christ is present in the OF, and that makes it sacred. That is the only essential factor.
Herein lies the danger of traditionalism. Traditionalists pride themselves on the fact that they are very learned. Many of them know Latin. They can explain the Mass to you backwards and forwards. They can tell you the meaning of the different postures and gestures of the priest in the Mass. They know their stuff. But the fact remains, they make their judgments based on what they can see, feel, taste, hear and smell. And their judgments are superficial and small minded. They are not listening to the judgments of the Mystical Body of Christ. They are Michel calling David vulgar.
Christ and His Church are always at least one step ahead of the rest of the world. The Holy Spirit saw a dying Europe and He directed the Church to other parts of the world who would accept the saving message of the Gospel. Don't believe those who say the Church is dying. It isn't the Church that is dying but our western culture.
And it isn't the "renewal of the Mass" that will fuel the New Evangelization. It is the renewal of our minds and hearts that will spread the saving Gospel. It is our submission to and acceptance of the Will of God.
I think the following Youtube video says it all: