Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Extraordinary Form and the New Evangelization



by The Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider

Turning Our Gaze Towards Christ

In order to speak of new evangelization correctly, it is necessary first to turn our gaze towards Him Who is the true evangelizer, namely Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word of God made Man. The Son of God came upon this earth to expiate and atone for the greatest sin, sin par excellence. And this sin, humanity's sin par excellence, consists in refusing to adore God and in refusing to keep the first place, the place of honor, for Him. This sin on the part of man consists in not paying attention to God, in no longer having a sense of the fittingness of things, or even a sense of the details pertaining to God and to the adoration that is His due, in not wanting to see God, and in not wanting to kneel before God.

For such an attitude, the incarnation of God is an embarrassment; as a result the real presence of God in the Eucharistic mystery is likewise and embarrassment; the centrality of the Eucharistic presence of God in our churches is an embarrassment. Indeed sinful man wants the center stage for himself, whether within the Church or during the Eucharistic celebration. He wants to be seen, to be noticed.

For this reason Jesus the Eucharist, God incarnate, present in the tabernacle under the Eucharistic form, is set aside. Even the representation of the Crucified One on the cross in the middle of the altar during the celebration facing the people is an embarrassment, for it might eclipse the priest's face. Therefore, the image of the Crucified One in the center of the altar as well as Jesus the Eucharist in the tabernacle, also in the center of the altar, are an embarrassment. Consequently, the cross and the tabernacle are moved to the side. During Mass, the congregation must be able to see the priest's face at all times, and he delights in placing himself literally at the center of the house of God. and if perchance Jesus, really present to us in the Most Holy Eucharist, is still left in His tabernacle in the middle of the altar because the Ministry of Historical Monuments -- even in an atheist regime -- has forbidden moving it for the conservation of artistic heritage, the priest, often throughout the entire Eucharistic celebration, does not scruple to turn his back to Him.

How often have good and faithful adorers of Christ cried out in their simplicity and humility: "God bless you, Ministry of Historical Monuments! At least you have left us Jesus in the center of our church."

The Mass is Intended to Give Glory to God, Not to Men

Only on the basis of adoring and glorifying God can the Church adequately proclaim the word of truth, that is, evangelize. Before the world ever heard Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, preach and proclaim the Kingdom, He quietly adored for thirty years. This remains forever the law for the Church's life and action as well as for all evangelizers. "The way the liturgy is treated decides the fate of the Faith and of the Church," said Cardinal Ratzinger, our current Holy Father Benedict XVI. The Second Vatican Council intended to remaind the Church what reality and what action were to take the place in her life. This is the reason the first of the Concil's documents was dedicated to the liturgy. The Council gives us the following principles: in the Church, and therefore in the liturgy, the human must be oriented toward the divine and be subordinate to it; likewise the visible in relation to the invisible, action in relation to contemplation, the present in relation to the future city to which we aspire (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2). According to the teaching of Vatican II our earthly liturgy participates in a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy of the holy city of Jerusalem (ibid., 2).

Everything about the liturgy of the Holy Mass must therefore serve to express clearly the reality of Christ's sacrifice, namely the prayers of adoration, of thanksgiving, of expiation, and of petition that the eternal High Priest presented to His Father.

The rite and every detail of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass must center on glorifying and adoring God by insisting on the centrality of Christ's presence, whether in the sign and representation of the Crucified or in His Eucharistic presence in the tabernacle, and especially at the moment of the Consecration and of Holy Communion. The more this is respected and the less man takes center stage in the celebration, the less the celebration looks like a circle closed in on itself. Rather, it is opened out to Christ as in a procession advancing towards Him with the priest at its head; such a liturgical procession will more truly reflect the sacrifice of adoration of Christ crucified; the fruits deriving from God's glorification received into the souls of those in attendance will be richer; God will honor them more.

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The rite and every detail of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass must center on glorifying and adoring God by insisting on the centrality of Christ's presence, whether in the sign and representation of the Crucified or in His Eucharistic presence in the tabernacle, and especially at the moment of the Consecration and of Holy Communion.

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The more the priest and the faithful truthfully seek the glory of God rather than that of men in Eucharistic celebrations, and do not seek to receive glory from each other, the more God will honor them by granting that their souls may participate more intensely and fruitfully in the glory and honor of His divine life.

At present and in various places on earth there are many celebrations of the Holy Mass regarding which one might say, as an inversion of Psalm 113:9: "To us, O Lord, and to our name give glory." To such celebrations apply Jesus' words: "How can you believe, who receive glory one from another: and the glory which is from God alone, you do not seek?": (Jn 5:44).

The Six Principles of the Liturgical Reform

The Second Vatican Council put forward the following principles regarding a liturgical reform:
  1. During the liturgical celebration, the human, the temporal, and action must be directed towards the divine, the eternal, and contemplation; the role of the former must be subordinated to the latter (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2).
  2. During the liturgical celebration, the realization that the earthly liturgy participates in the heavenly liturgy will have to be encouraged (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 8).
  3. There must be absolutely no innovation, therefore no new creation of liturgical rites, especially in the rite of the Mass, unless it is for a true and certain gain for the Church, and provided that all is done prudently and, if it is warranted, that new forms replace the existing ones organically (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23).
  4. The rite of Mass must be such that the sacred is more explicitly addressed (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 21).
  5. Latin must be preserved in the liturgy, especially in Holy Mass (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 24 and 54).
  6. Gregorian chant has pride of place in the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116).
The Council Fathers saw their reform proposals as the continuation of the reform of Saint Pius X (Sacrosanctum Concilium 112 and 117) and the servant of God Pius XII; indeed, in the liturgical constitution, Pius XII's Encyclical Mediator Dei is what is most often cited.

Among other things, Pope Pius XII left the Church an important principle of doctrine regarding the Holy Liturgy, namely the condemnation of what is called liturgical archeologism. Its proposals largely overlapped with those of the Jansenistic and Protestant-leaning synod of Pistoia (see Mediator Dei, 63-64). As a matter of fact they bring to mind Martin Luther's theological thinking.

For this reason, the Council of Trent had already condemned Protestant ideas, in particular the exaggerated emphasis on the notion of a banquet in the Eucharistic celebration to the detriment of its sacrificial character and the suppression of univocal signs of sacrality as an expression of the mystery of the liturgy (Council of Trent, session 22).

The Magisterium's doctrinal declarations on the liturgy, as in this case those of the Council of Trent and of the encyclical Mediator Dei and which are reflected in a centuries-old, or even millenia-old, liturgical praxis, these declarations, I say, form part of that element of Holy Tradition that one cannot abandon without incurring grave spiritual damage. Vatican II took up these doctrinal declarations on the liturgy, as one can see by reading the general principals of divine worship in the liturgical constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.

As an example of a concrete error in the thought and praxis of liturgical action, Pope Pius XII cites the proposal to give to the altar the shape of a table (Mediator Dei 62). If already Pope Pius XII refused the table0shaped altar, one can imagine how much more he would have refused the proposal for a celebration around a table versus populum!

When Sacrosanctum Concilium 2 teaches that, in the liturgy, contemplation has the priority and that the entire celebration must be oriented to the heavenly mysteries (ibid. 2 and 8), it is faithfully echoing the following declaration of the Council of Trent: "And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has holy Mother Church instituted certain rites, to wit that certain things be pronounced in the Mass in a low, and others in a louder, tone. She has likewise employed ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights,incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolic discipline and tradition, whreby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice" (Session 24, chapter 5).

The Church's magisterial teachings quoted above, especially Mediator Dei, were certainly recognized as fully valid by the Fathers of the Council. Therefore they must continue to be fully valid for all of the Church's children even today.

The Five Wounds of the Liturgical Mystical Body of Christ

In the letter to all the bishops of the Catholic Church that Benedict XVI sent with the July 7, 2007 Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the Pope made the following important declaration: "In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too." In saying this, the Pope expressed the fundamental principle of the liturgy that the Council of Trent, Pope Pius XII, and the Second Vatican Council had taught.
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The first and most obvious wound is the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass in which the priest celebrates with his face turned towards the faithful, especially during the Eucharistic prayer and the consecration, the highest and most sacred moment of the worship that is God's due.

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Taking an unprejudiced and objective look at the liturgical practice of the overwhelming majority of churches throughout the Catholic world where the Ordinary Form of the roman rite is used, no one can honestly deny that the six aforementioned liturgical principles of Vatican II are never, or hardly ever, respected, despite the erroneous claim that such is the liturgical practice that Vatican II desired. There are a certain number of concrete aspects of the currently prevailing liturgical practice in the ordinary rite that represent a veritable rupture with a constant and millennium-old liturgical practice. By this I mean the five liturgical practices I shall mention shortly; they may be termed the five wounds of the liturgical mystical body of Christ. These are wounds, for they amount to a violent break with the past since they deemphasize the sacrificial character (which is actually the central and essential character of the Mass) and put forward the notion of banquet. All of this diminishes the exterior signs of divine adoration, for it brings out the heavenly and eternal dimension of the mystery to a far lesser degree.

Now the five wounds (except for the new Offertory prayers) are those that are not envisaged in the Ordinary Form of the rite of Mass but were brought into it through the practice of a deplorable fashion.

A) The first and most obvious wound is the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass in which the priest celebrates with his face turned towards the faithful, especially during the Eucharistic prayer and the consecration, the highest and most sacred moment of the worship that is God's due. This exterior form corresponds, by its very nature, more to the way in which one teaches a class or shares a meal. We are in a closed circle. And this form absolutely does not conform to the moment of the prayer, less yet to that of adoration. And yet Vatican II did not want this form by any means; nor has it ever been recommended by the Magisterium of the Popes since the Council. Pope Benedict worte in the preface of the first volume of his collected works: "The idea that the priest and the people in prayer must look at one another reciprocally was born only in the modern age and is completely foreign to ancient Christianity. In fact, the priest and the people do not address their prayer to one another, but together they address it to the one Lord. For this reason they look in the same direction in prayer: either towards the East as the cosmic symbol of the Lord's return, or where this is not possible, towards an image of Christ in the apse, toward a cross, or simply upwards."

The form of celebration in which all turn their gaze in the same direction (conversi ad orientem, ad Crucem, ad Dominum) is even mentioned in the rubrics of the new rite of the Mass (see Ordo Missae, 25, 133, 134). The so-called versus populum celebration certainly does not correspond to the idea of the Holy Liturgy as mentioned in the declaration of Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2 and 8.

B) The second wound is communion in the hand, which is now spread nearly throughout the entire world. Not only was this manner of receiving communion in now way mentioned by the Vatican II Council Fathers, but it was in fact introduced by a certain number of bishops in disobedience to the Holy See and in spite of the negative majority vote by bishops in 1968. Pope Paul VI legitimized it only later, reluctantly, and under specific conditions.

Pope Benedict XVI, since Corpus Christi 2008, distributes Communion to the faithful kneeling and on their tongue only, both in Rome and also in all the local churches he visits. He thus is showing the entire Church a clear example of practical Magisterium in a liturgical manner. Since the qualified majority of the bishops refused Communion in the hand as something harmful three years after the Council, how much more the Council Fathers would have done so!

C) The third would is the new Offertory prayers. They are an entirely new creation and had never been used in the Church. They express not so much the mystery of the sacrifice of the Cross as the event of a banquet; thus they recall the prayers of the Jewish Sabbath meal. In the more than thousand-year tradition of the Church in both East and West, the Offertory prayers have always been expressedly oriented to the mystery of the sacrifice of the Cross (see, e.g. Paul Tirot, Histoire des prières d’offertoire dans la liturgie romaine du VIIème au XVIème siècle [Rome, 1985]). There is no doubt that such an absolutely new creation contradicts the clear formulation of Vatican II that states: “Innovationes ne fiant . . . novae formae ex formis iam exstantibus organice crescant” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 23).

D) The fourth wound is the total disappearance of Latin in the huge majority of Eucharistic celebrations in the Ordinary Form in all Catholic countries. This is a direct infraction against the decisions of Vatican II.

E) The fifth wound is the exercise of the liturgical services of lector and acolyte by women as well as the exercise of these same services in lay clothing while entering into the choir during Holy Mass directly from the space reserved to the faithful. This custom has never existed in the Church, or at least has never been welcome. It confers to the celebration of the Catholic Mass the exterior character of informality, the character and style of a rather profane assembly. The second council of Nicaea, already in 787, forbad such practices when it lay down the following canon: “If someone is not ordained, it is not permitted for him to do the reading from the ambo during the holy liturgy“ (can. 14). This norm has been constantly followed in the Church. Only subdeacons and lectors were allowed to give the reading during the liturgy of the Mass. If lectors and acolytes are missing, men or boys in liturgical vestments may do so, not women, since the male sex symbolically represents the last link to minor orders from the point of view of the non-sacramental ordination of lectors and acolytes.

The texts of Vatican II never mention the suppression of the minor orders and of the subdiaconate or the introduction of new ministries. In Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 28, the Council distinguishes minister from fidelis during the liturgical celebration, and it stipulates that each may do only what pertains to him by the nature of the liturgy. Number 29 mentions the ministrantes, that is the altar servers who have not been ordained. In contrast to them, there are, in keeping with the juridical terms in use at that time, the ministri, that is to say those who have received an order, be it major or minor.


V –The Motu Proprio: putting an end to rupture in the liturgy In the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI stipulates that the two forms of the Roman rite are to be regarded and treated with the same respect, because the Church remains the same before and after the Council. In the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, the pope wishes the two forms to enrich each other mutually. Furthermore he wishes that the new form “be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.”
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Four of the liturgical wounds, or unfortunate practices (celebration versus populum, communion in the hand, total abandonment of Latin and of Gregorian chant, and intervention of women for the service of lectorship and of acolyte), have in and of themselves nothing to do with the Ordinary Form of the Mass and moreover are in contradiction with the liturgical principles of Vatican II.

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Four of the liturgical wounds, or unfortunate practices (celebration versus populum, communion in the hand, total abandonment of Latin and of Gregorian chant, and intervention of women for the service of lectorship and of acolyte), have in and of themselves nothing to do with the Ordinary Form of the Mass and moreover are in contradiction with the liturgical principles of Vatican II. If an end were put to these practices, we would get back to the true teaching of Vatican II. And then, the two forms of the Roman rite would come considerable closer so that, at least outwardly, there would be no rupture to speak of between them and, therefore, no rupture between the Church before and after the Council either.

As concerns the new Offertory prayers, it would be desirable for the Holy See to replace them with the corresponding prayers of the extraordinary form, or at least to allow for the use of the latter ad libitum. In this way the rupture between the two forms would be avoided not only externally but also internally. Rupture in the liturgy is precisely what the Council Fathers did not what. The Council’s minutes attest to this, because throughout the two thousand years of the liturgy’s history, there has never been a liturgical rupture and, therefore, there never can be. On the other hand there must be continuity, just as it is fitting for the Magisterium to be in continuity.

The five wounds of the Church’s liturgical body I have mentioned are crying out for healing. They represent a rupture that one may compare to the exile in Avignon. The situation of so sharp a break in an expression of the Church’s life is far from unimportant—back then the absence of the popes from Rome, today the visible break between the liturgy before and after the Council. This situation indeed cries out for healing.

For this reason we need new saints today, one or several Saint Catherines of Sienna. We need the vox populi fidelis demanding the suppression of this liturgical rupture. The tragedy in all of this is that, today as back in the time of the Avignon exile, a great majority of the clergy, especially in its higher ranks, is content with this rupture.
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The five wounds of the Church’s liturgical body I have mentioned are crying out for healing. They represent a rupture that one may compare to the exile in Avignon.

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Before we can expect efficacious and lasting fruits from the new evangelization, a process of conversion must get under way within the Church. How can we call others to convert while, among those doing the calling, no convincing conversion towards God has yet occurred, internally or externally? The sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrifice of adoration of Christ, the greatest mystery of the Faith, the most sublime act of adoration is celebrated in a closed circle where people are looking at each other.

What is missing is conversio ad Dominum. It is necessary, even externally and physically. Since in the liturgy Christ is treated as though he were not God, and he is not given clear exterior signs of the adoration that is due to God alone because the faithful receive Holy Communion standing and, to boot, take it into their hands like any other food, grasping it with their fingers and placing it into their mouths themselves. There is here a sort of Eucharistic Arianism or Semi-Arianism.

One of the necessary conditions for a fruitful new evangelization would be the witness of the entire Church in the public liturgical worship. It would have to observe at least these two aspects of Divine Worship:
  1. Let the Holy Mass be celebrated the world over, even in the ordinary form, in an internal and therefore necessarily also external conversio ad Dominum.

  2. Let the faithful bend the knee before Christ at the time of Holy Communion, as Saint Paul demands when he mentions the name and person of Christ (see Phil 2:10), and let them receive Him with the greatest love and the greatest respect possible, as befits Him as true God.
Thank God, Benedict XVI has taken two concrete measures to begin the process of a return from the liturgical Avignon exile, to wit the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the reintroduction of the traditional Communion rite.

There still is need for many prayers and perhaps for a new Saint Catherine of Sienna for the other steps to be taken to heal the five wounds on the Church’s liturgical and mystical body and for God to be venerated in the liturgy with that love, that respect, that sense of the sublime that have always been the hallmark of the Church and of her teaching, especially in the Council of Trent, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei, Vatican II in its Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium and Pope Benedict XVI in his theology of the liturgy, in his liturgical magisterium, and in the Motu Proprio mentioned above.

No one can evangelize unless he has first adored, or better yet unless he adores constantly and gives God, Christ the Eucharist, true priority in his way of celebrating and in all of his life. Indeed, to quote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: “It is in the treatment of the liturgy that the fate of the Faith and of the Church is decided.” +

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Bishop Schneider is auxiliary bishop of the archidiocese of Saint Mary of Astana and Secretary of the Kazakhstan Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the author of the celebrated volume, Dominus Est – It Is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion,published by Newman House Press, and was a keynote speaker at the Call to Holiness conference in Metro Detroit in 2009.

The present article, "The Extraordinary Form and the New Evangelization," was first presented on January 15, 2012, as the keynote address at the fourth meeting of the Parisian association, Réunicatho, which came into being shortly after the Motu Proprio
Summorum Pontificum. We here present the unabridged translation of the keynote address given by the conference's guest of honor, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, as it was first published in the Paix Liturgique Newsletter 16 of March 2012 and subsequently on the Paix Liturgique website under the title, "Bishop Schneider and the Liturgy: Milestones for the Third Millennium." The article also appears in the Summer, 2012, issue Latin Mass magazine, pp. 6-10.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Counts of Jesu Christo, Part II



The Massacre of the Holy Innocents by Fra Angelico

By Michael P. Foley

This article is a companion to an article of the same name in the christmas 2008 issue of the Latin Mass.

It might seem odd to think of anyone else besides the Infant Jesus or the Holy Family during the octave of Our Lord’s Nativity, but the Church in her wisdom does precisely that. Immediately following Christmas Day are the feasts of several holy men and boys known as the comites Christi, “the comrades of Christ.” Comes not only means “companion” but it is also the Latin word for the noble title of count. As this would suggest, the comites Christi are somehow close to their Lord in the way that a royal entourage is close to its king. The Church acknowledges a spiritual intimacy by placing the feasts of certain saints close to that of the birthday of their Sovereign: the Byzantine rite, for example, pays special honor to the Princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, by celebrating their feast on December 28.

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It might seem odd to think of anyone else besides the Infant Jesus or the Holy Family during the octave of Our Lord’s Nativity, but the Church in her wisdom does precisely that.

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During the same week, the Western Church honors St. Stephen (December 26), the first martyr in both act and desire and hence the first to be honored after Christmas; St. John the Evangelist (December 27), the disciple closest to Christ during the Last Supper; the Holy Innocents (December 28), close to the Infant Jesus by their martyrdom; St. Thomas Becket (December 29), whose death at the hands of a Christian king on this day in 1170 so shocked Christendom that his feast day was given the privilege of remaining within the Christmas octave; and St. Sylvester (December 31), the Pope who lived to see the civic peace that followed the Roman persecutions and whose feast thus aptly gives voice to our prayers for the new civic year.

Three years ago, we looked at the feasts of two such counts, Saints Stephen the Proto-Martyr and John the Apostle.1 This year we turn our attention to the rest of the Roman rite’s Christmas Camelot: the Holy Infants, St. Thomas Becket, and Pope St. Sylvester.

The Holy Innocents (December 28)

Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: “A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Mt. 2:16-18).
St. Matthew’s chilling description of the massacre of Bethlehem’s baby boys does not indicate how many were killed in Herod’s effort to murder the Infant Jesus. The Byzantine liturgy mentions 14,000, the Syrian churches speak of 64,000, and some medieval authors, inspired by Revelation 14:3, speak of a staggering 144,000. Based on fertility rates and the size of the population of Bethlehem and its environs at the time, however, a more realistic estimate places the number of the slain somewhere between ten and twenty.

Matthew’s account is also silent about the date of the massacre, except for hinting that it happened within two years of the apparition of the Magis’ star. The Armenian feast day honoring the Holy Innocents falls on Monday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost in accordance with a belief that they were killed fifteen weeks after the nativity of our Lord. The Byzantine calendar has the feast on December 29, while the Syrian and Chaldean calendars have it on December 27.

The Church of Rome, from what we can tell, has always kept the feast of “Childermas” (Children’s Mass) on December 28, ever since it first began being celebrated there in the fifth century. In so doing, the Western Church presents an interesting array of Christly counts on December 26, 27, and 28: first St. Stephen, the Proto-Martyr who is martyr by will, love, and blood; then St. John the Evangelist, who is martyr by will and love (John is considered a martyr because of the attempts made on his life even though he died a natural death); and lastly, the Holy Innocents, who are martyrs by blood alone.

But if they are not martyrs by blood alone, how can they be martyrs at all? Isn’t a martyr someone who dies because he consciously professes faith in Christ? The very fact that the Church acknowledges the murder of these little ones as holy martyrdom is itself significant, as it tells us something about the nature of salvation and childhood. A child normally does not attain the use of reason until the age of seven, and even then he is under the care of his parents, who act as a kind of “surrogate reason,” helping him develop his rational faculties. Yet an infant, under the supervision of another surrogate (his godparents), may be baptized long before he has the ability to believe in the creed for the simple reason that just as he did not personally choose the curse of original sin with which he was born, so too need he not choose the cure of baptismal grace in order to be saved.

Similarly, the Holy Innocents did not choose martyrdom or even Christ, but this is not due to any failure on their part but to the undeveloped state of their minds. What matters here, as with baptism, is the action done to them. The fact that they died not only for Christ but instead of Him makes them flores martyrum, the “flowers of the martyrs.” As St. Augustine eloquently puts it: “They are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution.”2 The Breviary Hymn for the feast, Salvete Flores Martyrum, alludes to this botanical epithet, along with a touching portrayal of the Innocents playing with their symbols of martyrdom before the altar of God:
You, tender flock of lambs, we sing,
First victims slain for Christ your King:
Beside the very altar, gay
With palms and crowns, ye seem to play.
The Mass of Childermas

As this bittersweet image attests, even though martyrdom is a glorious event in which the Church rejoices, it is difficult not to be moved by the thought of helpless toddlers being cut down in the streets. The Church, therefore, taking heed of Matthew’s citation of “Rachel weeping for her children” from the prophet Jeremiah, assumed the role of a second Rachel and mourned for these little ones. Except for when the feast fell on a Sunday, violet was the liturgical color, and the Gloria and Alleluia were suppressed. In the early centuries, Roman Christians also abstained from meat on Holy Innocents’ Day. It was on the octave day of the feast (January 4) that the Church turned her thoughts to the young martyrs’ glory, the Mass being celebrated in red with the Gloria and Alleluia. In the 1950s, however, the octave was eliminated, and so currently in the 1962 calendar red is the color of Childermas, and the Gloria and Alleluia are used. The station church of the day, St. Paul Outside the Walls, was chosen because it is believed that it contains the bodies of several of the Holy Innocents.3


Massacred of the Holy Innocents (detail) by Reni Guido

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But if they are not martyrs by blood alone, how can they be martyrs at all? Isn’t a martyr someone who dies because he consciously professes faith in Christ? The very fact that the Church acknowledges the murder of these little ones as holy martyrdom is itself significant.

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Childermas Customs

The twelve days of Christmas are a time of “topsy-turvy” customs, where social ranks and pecking orders are inverted in giddy imitation of the grandest inversion of all, the fact that Almighty God humbled Himself to be born a man in a chilly and foul-smelling stable. Childermas is no exception. In many religious communities, the novices had the privilege of sitting at the head of the table at meals and meetings, while the last person who had taken vows in the monastery or convent got to be superior for a day. Young monks and nuns would received congratulations and have “baby food,” such as hot cereal, served to them for dinner.4

A similar flip-flop occurred in the family. Customs like decorating the crib or blessing the baby were standard ways of observing the feast, and the youngest child was allowed special privileges and honors, even becoming master of the household. Not all customs, however, bode well for the young ’uns. In some places, children awoke to a spanking from their parents “to remind them of the sufferings of the Innocents!”5 Lover of tradition though I be, I do not recommend resuscitating this particular observance. It does, however, serve as a useful reminder to spoiled children when they complain about not being treated as royally on this day as they would wish.

In the Philippines and Spanish-speaking countries, Childermas is the equivalent of April’s Fools Day, a time of pranks and practical jokes called inocentadas. And, of course, all of Christendom once abstained from servile work on this day—along with the other twelve days of Christmas.

St. Thomas Becket (December 29)

Thomas Becket was born on December 21, the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, in either 1118 or 1120. He became a trusted subordinate of Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who appointed him Archdeacon of Canterbury and eventually recommended to King Henry II that he be appointed Chancellor of England. Thomas and Henry became fast friends, sharing a commitment to hard work but also behaving in occasion “like two schoolboys at play.”6 Thomas acted vigorously in the interests of his monarch to the full extent of his conscience, but he disdained the licentious ways of his peers, hating “foul conduct or foul speech, lying or unchastity.”7 He also mentored the King’s son. The future Henry III later said that Becket showed him more love on the first day at his home than his father had in his entire life.

Becket became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Some believe that his consecration is what eventually led to the placement of Trinity Sunday on the universal Roman calendar, since Becket procured permission for England to observe this feast as the anniversary of his archbishopric.8 The new Archbishop soon began defending the rights of the Church against the encroachment of the royal government. The most galvanizing issue was whether English clergymen were subject to ecclesiastical courts or the King’s. (In those days, as with our current practice of military courts, different segments of society were subject to different laws and magistracies.) Becket refused to budge, and the King eventually had him convicted of charges of malfeasance during his chancellorship. Thomas stormed out of the trial and fled to France, where he was protected by King Louis VII.


Death of Saint Thomas Becket by Meister Frnacke

* * * * * * *
Some believe that his consecration is what eventually led to the placement of Trinity Sunday on the universal Roman calendar, since Becket procured permission for England to observe this feast as the anniversary of his archbishopric.

* * * * * * *

Through the mediation of papal diplomacy, Becket returned to England in 1170. But the truce was not to last. Becket excommunicated three bishops when at the will of the King they crowned young Henry III at York, usurping a privilege reserved to Canterbury. Henry II, at the end of his wits, is then said to have retorted, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” There are several versions of what exactly he said, but whatever it was, it was interpreted by four of his knights as a command to kill the archbishop. The men left their weapons outside the cathedral, confronted Becket within and, after he refused to absolve the bishops, returned with their weapons.

They met up with Becket as he was approaching the sanctuary for Solemn Vespers and this time drew their swords. Unlike the stylized movie version, the assassination was gruesome. The eyewitness account from his faithful cross-bearer reports that the knights’ blows opened his skull, spilling his brains onto the pavement. The killers then exulted, saying, “Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.” Thus, as a hymn in his honor puts it, St. Thomas became “both priest and sacrifice in the church of Canterbury for the sake of the laws of justice.”9

It did not take long for all of Europe to venerate Becket as a martyr, and within three years he was canonized a saint by the Pope. A year later, the King himself did penance and was scourged at Becket’s tomb. The shrine was the most popular pilgrimage site in the British Isles until Henry VIII’s thugs destroyed it and the saint’s bones in 1538. St. Thomas’ four murderers fled England and eventually sought forgiveness from Pope Alexander in Rome, who had excommunicated them. The Pope made their penance a term of fourteen years of service as crusaders in the Holy Land.

Legends and Customs

There are several colorful legends about St. Thomas Becket, most of which pay homage to his lovable gruffness. Becket purportedly gave tails to the inhabitants of Strood, Kent, after they sided with the King and cut off the tail of the archbishop’s horse as he rode through town.10 In Otford, Kent, the saint did not like the taste of the drinking water and struck his crosier on the ground to form what is now called “Becket’s Well.” Otford is also said to lack nightingales because one of them made a racket while Becket was trying to pray, prompting him to banish them from the town. But this does not mean that the saint hated the fowls of the air. On one occasion, a little bird that had been taught to speak escaped from its cage and flew into a field. A hawk swooped in for the kill, and as it was about to strike, the panicked bird cried out what it had heard others say in times of distress, “Saint Thomas, help!” The hawk was struck dead, and the bird escaped unharmed.11

There are no universal customs on St. Thomas’ feast day, but it is not difficult to find ways of paying tribute to “England’s most vibrant flower,” as he has been called.12 English food and ale are a good start, along with the 1964 film Becket starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. Based on a play by Jean Anouilh, the movie takes considerable liberties with the biographical details, starting with the fact that it portrays Becket, who was a descendant of the Normans, as a Saxon underdog. Nor was Becket a carousing and opportunistic nihilist prior to his elevation to the See of Canterbury, although he did become much more ascetical at that point, changing, as he once said, from being “a patron of actors and a follower of hounds to a shepherd of souls.” One sign of his transformation was a hair shirt that he wore under his archbishop’s garments (as was discovered by the monks who prepared his body for burial.) Still, the movie is a dramatic and psychological masterpiece, and it accurately portrays some of the challenges St. Thomas faced in his life.

Pope Saint Sylvester (December 31)

Saint Sylvester was Supreme Pontiff during the reign of Constantine, the Roman Emperor who ended the persecution of the Church and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. There are several legends connecting the Pope and the Emperor, though their historical value is dubious. According to one, Constantine was baptized on his death bed by Sylvester; according to another, the baptism took place earlier in his life, when he allegedly contracted leprosy. One memorable version of the legend states that Constantine was told that the only cure for leprosy was to bathe in the blood of 3,000 newborn infants. As the infants were being gathered, Constantine recoiled at this barbarity as incompatible with Roman dignity. That night, Sts. Peter and Paul appeared to him in a dream and told him to go to Pope Sylvester, who baptized and thus cured him in the basilica of St. John Lateran.13 Today, an inscription at the base of the obelisk outside the basilica records this legend.


Pope Saint Sylvester I photo by Nick Exsillo

* * * * * * *
Saint Sylvester was Supreme Pontiff during the reign of Constantine, the Roman Emperor who ended the persecution of the Church and made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.

* * * * * * *

What we do know is that during Sylvester’s pontificate Constantine built several of the great churches of Rome, not only the Lateran but Santa Croce, the original St. Peter’s, and a number of cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. The Pope no doubt collaborated with this effort, and he also sent legates to the Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council in Church history. The first Roman martyrology was compiled during Sylvester’s papacy, and his name is associated with the “Roman school” of chant.

As mentioned above, there is something appropriate about issuing in the new civic year with the first Bishop of Rome to enjoy civic peace, when our hearts are filled with hope for “peace on earth.” But the reason for the feast day is more literal: after twenty one years of service to God as Pope, Sylvester was buried on December 31, 335.

Silvesterabend

Sylvester’s feast is so closely tied to December 31 that in many countries New Year’s Eve is simply known as “Silvester” or “Silvester Night” (silvesterabend or silvesternacht in German). In France and French Canada it was traditional for the father to bless the members of his family and for the children to thank their parents for all of their love and care.14 In central Europe, a pre-Christian ritual of scaring away demons with loud noises was retained; from this is derived our custom of fireworks and artillery salutes in welcome of the new year. In Austria, December 31 was sometimes called Rauchnacht or “Incense night,” when the paterfamilias of the family went through the house and barn purifying them with incense and holy water.15

And speaking of luck, Sylvester Night was a favorite occasion for attempts to peer into the upcoming year. The reading of tea leaves was once popular, as was pouring spoonfuls of molten lead into water and interpreting the future from the shapes it took. Young maidens prayed to St. Sylvester in traditional rhymes, asking him for a good husband and hoping through his intercession to catch a glimpse of Mr. Right in their dreams or in the reflection of a mirror.16

On the more pious side of things were vigil services of various kinds thanking God for the gifts of the year and seeking blessings for the new. To this day, Holy Mother Church grants a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, to a public recitation of the great Latin hymn of thanksgiving, the Te Deum, on the last day of the year. A partial indulgence, on the other hand, “is granted to those who recite the Te Deum in thanksgiving.”17

* * * * * * *
All of these ancient feasts speak in different ways to the Church today and the contemporary world. On Childermas, for example, some have begun to remember in their prayers the victims of abortion.

* * * * * * *

The Feast of St. Sylvester was also considered a good time to feed the body as well as the soul. In Spain and other Spanish-speaking areas it was considered good luck to eat twelve grapes at the twelve strokes of midnight. In Austria, krapfen, apricot-jam doughnuts, are traditionally eaten when the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve. In Poland, Poncz Sylwestrowy (“Sylvester’s Punch”), a strong rum mixture, was similarly imbibed.18

Conclusion

December 28, 29, and 31 celebrate a range of saints, from those who died thirty three years before the Crucifixion to those who died over 1,100 years after. Yet all of these ancient feasts speak in different ways to the Church today and the contemporary world. On Childermas, for example, some have begun to remember in their prayers the victims of abortion. Like their Bethlehem counterparts, the unborn now are innocents being slain by cruel Herods, but unlike the Holy Innocents they are bereft of the privilege of dying explicitly for Christ. Interestingly, there were once folk beliefs in German-speaking countries about some unbaptized babies going to Heaven on Childermas Day.19

Similarly, it would not be inappropriate to pray on St. Thomas’ Day for the return of the Church of England, and indeed of the entire English nation, to the Catholic Faith. Thomas gave his life to protect the Church from subordination to the Crown, as would another Thomas, St. Thomas More, four centuries later. In fact, More drew great consolation from knowing that he was to be executed on July 6, the day before another feast day honoring the brave Archbishop, the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. Thomas Becket. Let us pray that “Our Lady’s Dowry” re-embrace its ancient Faith and that Pope Benedict XVI’s generous provisions in his 2009 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus be accepted.

Lastly, when St. Sylvester died he looked out on a world that no longer butchered Christians and was beginning to appropriate Christian morality in its laws and mores. Today we look at the photographic negative of that picture, as persecutions of Christians increase worldwide and Western society increasingly abandons its sacred heritage. As we celebrate in the octave of Christmas the Light that came into the world, let us pray that It dispel the shadows of our age and its global godlessness. St. Sylvester, help!

[Michael P. Foley, an associate professor of Patristics at Baylor University, is the author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and Wedding Rites (Eerdmans, 2008).]

Notes

  1. “The Counts of Jesu Christo,” TLM 17:5 (Advent/Christmas 2008), pp. 44-47. [back]

  2. Augustine, Sermon 10 on the Saints. [back]

  3. For more on station days, see my article, “Making the Stations: Stational Churches and the Spiritual Geography of the Roman Patrimony,” TLM 18:1 (Winter 2009), pp. 38-41. [back]

  4. Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1958), 133. [back]

  5. Joanna Bogle, A Book of Feasts and Seasons (Gracewing, 1992), 59. [back]

  6. Herbert Thurston, “St. Thomas Becket,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 14 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912), , retrieved October 3, 2011. [back]

  7. Thurston, ibid. [back]

  8. Thurston, ibid. [back]

  9. In templo Cantuariae/ Pro legibus justitiae/ Fit sacerdos et hostia, from the hymn, Pia Mater Plangat Ecclesia. [back]

  10. “Thomas Becket,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Becket, retrieved October 3, 2011. [back]

  11. From “The Translation of Saint Thomas of Canterbury,” in Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend. [back]

  12. Thomas totius Angliae/ Flos vernans, from the hymn, Pia Mater Plangat Ecclesia. [back]

  13. From “The Life of Saint Silvester,” in Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend. [back]

  14. Weiser, Religious Customs in the Family (Liturgical Press, 1956), 62. [back]

  15. Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, Feast Day Cookbook (Catholic Authors Press, 1951/2005), 170. [back]

  16. Weiser, Handbook, 139. [back]

  17. Enchiridion of Indulgences, 60. [back]

  18. For the recipes, see Evelyn Vitz, A Continual Feast (Ignatius Press, 1985), 158-59. [back]

  19. See Weiser, Handbook, 133-34. [back]

[Michael P. Foley is associate professor of patristics at Baylor University. He is author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything(Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and Wedding Rites: A Complete Guide to Traditional Vows, Music, Ceremonies, Blessings, and Interfaith Services(Eerdmans, 2008). Dr. Foley's article, "The Counts of Jesu Christo -- Part 2,” Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Fall 2011), pp. 44-48, is reproduced here by kind permission of Latin Mass, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Showing the Tree to the Acorn: Feasts About the Resurrection of the Body




The Ascension by John Singleton Copley

By Michael P. Foley

“Glory be to God for dappled things!” exults the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. And among those dappled things, shaded with their various spots and hues, we must count not just “skies of couple-colour” and “rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim,” but the traditional liturgical year, that great annual pageant of all things “counter, original, spare, and strange.”

And one of the strangest things found in the liturgical year and in Christian dogma (strange in that it is a surprise to common sense) is belief in the resurrection of the dead. In an age where victories over sin, ignorance, and doubt seem to be increasingly rare, it is easy for Catholics to forget that their ultimate hope is not simply in avoiding Hell and reaching Heaven but in enjoying God with their souls reunited to their bodies. Spiritual masters such as Saint Augustine have even gone so far as to suggest that until that reunion takes place, the blessed in Heaven experience a restlessness or “patient longing.”1 The Beatific Vision just won’t be the same without new bodies in a new Heaven and a new earth.

Our Glorified Bodies

Belief in bodily resurrection is no easy matter. The difficulty begins with answering a seemingly simple question, “what is the body?” Shakespeare plays upon this when Prince Hamlet describes how a king may go “through the guts of a beggar.” A king dies, his body is eaten by worms, a beggar goes fishing with one of the worms, and then he eats the fish that ate the worm.2 Whose body is whose?

And yet this ambiguity also belies a great potential. If we can’t pin down the nature of the body, then who can naysay what it is capable of becoming? Saint Paul chides doubters who ask, “How do the dead rise again?” by comparing the body to a seed that must die before it truly lives.3 It is a metaphor worth dwelling on. The human body, which is a magnificent creation, is a mere acorn in comparison to the oak tree it is destined to become. Acorns retain their substance when they grow into trees (they don’t become butterflies), yet the difference between an acorn and an oak could not be more profound; the former is virtually nothing in comparison to the latter. If our bodies, impressive as they are, are mere acorns now, imagine what they will be as trees on the Last Day.

* * * * * * *

As excellent as the Beatific Vision is, the human soul is naturally designed to rule a body, and thus there remains some unfinished business even
for a saint in Heaven.


* * * * * * *

To give an example of what may await us, consider the four properties of a glorified body as singled out in Catholic theology: agility, subtlety, impassibility, and clarity. Agility is the perfect responsiveness of the body to the soul, which will allow it to move at the speed of thought. Subtlety is the power of penetrating solid matter, while impassibility is the impossibility of suffering or dying. Lastly, clarity is the total absence of bodily deformity and a “resplendent radiance and beauty.”4

The astonishing excellence of a resurrected body was cleverly expressed by a young colonial printer named Benjamin Franklin, who at the age of 22 wrote his own epitaph:
The body of B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.5
God’s Path to Being All in All

The general resurrection of the body is also a most fitting consummation of Christ’s Paschal victory over death. The Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Our Lord open the gates of Heaven to our souls but do not immediately end our vulnerability to the effects of original sin. Those effects include a degradation of the body: every bodily deformity or disease, every violent injury or accident, every misuse or abuse, is a sad reminder that we still live east of Eden. And death remains what it always was, a literal humiliation for one and all, a return of the body to the ground (humus).

As excellent as the Beatific Vision is, the human soul is naturally designed to rule a body, and thus there remains some unfinished business even for a saint in Heaven. This body of ours, this temple of the Holy Spirit that is mocked and exploited by the world, the flesh, and the devil, is also in need of redemption. How splendid, then, that the Elect are not only promised eternal life in Heaven but a “reform” of “the body of our lowness” into a body like that of our risen Lord,6 a body that Saint Paul refers to as “glorified” and even “spiritual.”7 The body, which this side of the grave can be a handful to deal with, will become a luminous reflection of the soul’s divinely-given excellence once it is glorified. In Saint Augustine’s words, “what was once [the soul’s] burden will be its glory.”8 And how fitting that this glory is part of God’s ongoing transformation of creation until He becomes “all in all.”9

* * * * * * *

Our Lord assumed a human body in the Virgin’s womb, and the Feast of the Ascension celebrates the fact that that same body now sits at the right of the Father; therefore, our human bodies are included in the divine plan of salvation. For the first time in history, there is a human body in Heaven!

* * * * * * *

Easter Sunday

The extraordinary form of the Roman rite excels in the re-presentation of these eschatological realities, and it does so gradually. Easter, for instance, celebrates not only Christ’s victory over the grave but the first full-fledged instance of a glorified body. The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus’ body on that first Easter morning was not a resuscitated corpse like that of Lazarus, for although it was indeed the selfsame body that was born of the Virgin Mary, it had undergone a significant transformation. That is why His closest friends did and did not recognize Him,10 and it is why the risen Lord was able to pass through locked doors11 as well as appear and disappear.12 In other words, His body now possessed the properties of glorification. The implication for the rest of us is clear. As Saint Paul explains, our Savior will take “the body of our lowness” and make it like “the body of His glory.”13 Consequently, during the Easter Octave we pray that we may be transformed into a “new creature”14 and pass on to “heavenly glory.”15

Ascension

As a whole, however, the theme of our bodily glorification remains rather muted during the Easter season. This is true for the Feast of the Ascension as well, since the Church understandably focuses more on Christ’s completion of His earthly ministry and His promise to send the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Collect for the Ascension prays that we learn to “dwell in mind amidst heavenly things,” not in body. Still, there are hints about the future of God’s Elect. To paraphrase Saint Gregory Nazianzus, “What is not assumed is not saved.”16 Our Lord assumed a human body in the Virgin’s womb, and the Feast of the Ascension celebrates the fact that that same body now sits at the right of the Father; therefore, our human bodies are included in the divine plan of salvation. For the first time in history, there is a human body in Heaven!

In fact, by the end of the first Ascension Day, there may have been three bodies: Our Lord’s, Elijah’s—who was finally allowed into the Empyrean Heaven (see below)—and Enoch, the figure in the Old Testament who was mysteriously “taken” by God after his death but who could not have been allowed to experience the Beatific Vision prior to the resurrection of our Lord.17 What we do know is that our Lord did not enter into the true Holy of Holies empty-handed: besides His own glorified body and body, he brought the souls He had rescued from limbo on Good Friday, when “He descended into Hell.” The Breviary hymn for the Divine Office speaks of our ascended Lord at the head of a “triumph,” a Roman parade in which a victorious general showcased all of the slaves he had captured in battle.18 The hymn artfully inverts this image, showing Christ as the liberator of souls from limbo now parading them into Heaven after having completed his earthy campaign, as it were.

Corpus Christi

Shortly after Paschaltide, the Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi. Again the main focus is on the meaning of the feast at hand (in this case, the miracle of transubstantiation), but not without reference to our promised glorification. In the Divine Office for Corpus Christi, the Eucharist is called the “pledge of our future glory.”19 Jesus Himself says as much when He links Holy Communion to the Four Last Things: “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day.20 The Eucharist is not only essential to our earthly pilgrimage as spiritual food and medicine, it is preparing us, by what it is and what it does, for our final transformation into a glorified creature of God. For the Eucharist is not just the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, but His glorified Body and Blood.21 When we receive Holy Communion, we are therefore receiving a token of what we, God willing, will one day become.



The Poem of the Soul - Memory of Heaven by Anne Francois Louis Janmot

And it is not just our bodies that are being glorified by the Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI writes eloquently of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass transforming the entire landscape of being:
The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of “nuclear fission,” to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).22
The Transfiguration (August 6)

The Pope’s reference to the transfiguration of the world brings us to our next feast. On the Second Sunday of Lent, the Transfiguration of our Lord is commemorated in order to arouse the faithfuls’ desire for the glory of Easter; and on August 6, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration to reflect more properly on the significance of this event. Part of that reflection involves meditating on the refulgence and majesty that our own glorified bodies will one day have.23 The Breviary hymn for the feast speaks of the event in terms similar to the praise of the Eucharist we have just seen, as a “sign of perennial glory.”24 Moreover, the little chapter used during the Divine Office is Philippians 3:20-21, the passage about reforming our body of lowness. Just as the historical Transfiguration prefigured the Resurrection of Our Lord, so too does the liturgical celebration of the Transfiguration prefigure the general resurrection of the body.

* * * * * * *

The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, is therefore a beautiful thing not only in its own right (for who was more worthy than she of such an honor?) but with respect to all of the Elect, as it brings to the fore the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.

* * * * * * *

How interesting that both of Jesus’ spiritual companions on Mount Tabor that day had bodies missing in action. Elijah was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot, while according to Jude 1:9, Saint Michael the Archangel and the devil fought over Moses’ body after he died. Some have interpreted Saint Jude’s cryptic statement to refer to the struggle between Michael and Satan through their earthly agents in Egypt, Moses being an emissary of God and the angels while Pharaoh and his magicians being minions of the devil. Others interpret the verse in reference to a fight over Moses’ remains, with Satan wanting the body buried in such a way that would seduce the Hebrews into idolatrizing it.25 But Saint Michael prevailed, and to this day the location of Moses’ grave is unknown.

A third interpretation is that both Moses and Elijah represent different states of the afterlife, Moses’ soul having come from limbo to witness the Transfiguration and Elijah’s body and soul (for they were never separated by death) coming from Heaven—albeit not the “Empyrean Heaven,” according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, for that is only accessible to man through Christ’s Paschal mystery.26 The Transfiguration on Mount Tabor thus discloses a fascinating spectrum of human existence: the living “acorn” bodies of Saints Peter, James, and John; the disembodied soul of Moses; the departed yet unglorified body of Elijah, and the transfigured body of Jesus as the foreshadowing of total glorification on the Last Day. In particular, our Lord’s Transfiguration foreshadows the gift of clarity, when “His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.”27

The Assumption (August 15)

If bodily resurrection is promised to every faithful Christian disciple, then it is eminently fitting that Christ’s first and most faithful disciple should receive this gift before anyone else save Christ Himself. The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, is therefore a beautiful thing not only in its own right (for who was more worthy than she of such an honor?) but with respect to all of the Elect, as it brings to the fore the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.



The Assumption of the Virgin by Nicolas Poussin

The Mass for the Feast of the Assumption makes this connection explicit. The Collect prays that we “may deserve to be partakers of her glory,” while the Postcommunion beseeches God that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, “we may be brought to the glory of the resurrection.” This teaching emanates outward from the Mass to various private devotions. A novena to the Blessed Virgin on the occasion of the Assumption prays: “Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from Heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son, and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of Heaven.”

* * * * * * *

By defining the Assumption only five years after the close of WWII, it was as if the Pope were saying: Yet again, the Nazis and all such racists and eugenicists are wrong. Mary’s body, Mary’s Semitic body, is in Heaven, loved by God.

* * * * * * *

Even the timing of the proclamation of the dogma on the Assumption seems attuned to highlight God’s regard for our bodily existence, now and in the future. I once heard an outstanding sermon from an FSSP priest who speculated that Pope Pius XII’s infallible definition of the doctrine in 1950 was in part (intentionally or not) a corrective to World War II, the bloodiest war in human history. Specifically, the Third Reich, which the Pope so valiantly resisted, harbored an unprecedented hatred of not simply the Jewish religion but Jewish “embodiment,” the DNA of Abraham and his descendents, which is why they tried to exterminate that DNA entirely in their death camps. By defining the Assumption only five years after the close of WWII, it was as if the Pope were saying: Yet again, the Nazis and all such racists and eugenicists are wrong. Mary’s body, Mary’s Semitic body, is in Heaven, loved by God.

Time After Pentecost

These festal reminders of the resurrection from the dead elide nicely with the Time after Pentecost, that portion of the liturgical year which commemorates the pilgrimage of the Church from its birthday to the end of days—in other words, the period in which we are currently living. Because the Time after Pentecost symbolizes the time of the Church on earth, it is also a profoundly eschatological season, a season that looks ahead to the “Eschaton,” the Last Day, just as Christians facing east when they pray or assist at Mass do so as a sign of their anticipation of the Second Coming, when Christ shall come in glory from the East.



The Poem of the Soul - Up the Mountain by Anne Francois Louis Janmot

The eschatological note of the Time after Pentecost becomes noticeable around the Eighteenth Sunday, at which point the readings and prayers grow increasingly apocalyptic in tone. Verses from the prophets become much more common and references to the final manifestation of Christ more insistent. This sense of anticipation grows each week until it crescendos with the last Sunday after Pentecost (the last Sunday of the liturgical year), when the Gospel recalls Christ’s ominous double prophecy concerning the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the terrifying end of the world.

* * * * * * *

The Lord’s Bride escorts us through a patchwork of feasts that teach us bit by bit about the immutable beauty that, God willing, will not only be ours but will render us, in the twinkling of an eye and at the sound of the trumpet, perfect icons of His brilliant glory.

* * * * * * *

But the eschatological theme is present earlier as well, and it includes a meditation on the future of our bodies. On the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, for example, the Gospel reading is of our Lord’s raising from the dead the only son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7:11-16), while the Postcommunion prays: “In soul and in body, O Lord, may we be ruled by the operation of this heavenly gift; that its effect, and not our own impulses, may ever prevail over us.” And the bodily theme is central on the Twenty Third Sunday, when the Epistle lesson returns to Philippians 3:21 and the Gospel reading proclaims the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, a prominent official of the Capharnaum synagogue (Mt. 9:18-26).

The Temporal and Sanctoral cycles of the Church calendar thus reinforce each other in marvelously conveying to us the meaning of the article in the Creed we pray every Sunday: “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

Conclusion

Hopkins ends his poem “Pied Beauty,” which began this essay, with the verses, “He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.” The Lord God, Hopkins tells us, is past change, and yet the way He brings us to His changeless beauty is through a revolving and dynamic symphony of patchy or “pied” beauty. In a similar way, the Lord’s Bride escorts us through a patchwork of feasts that teach us bit by bit about the immutable beauty that, God willing, will not only be ours but will render us, in the twinkling of an eye and at the sound of the trumpet, perfect icons of His brilliant glory.+

Notes

  1. City of God 13.20. [back]

  2. Hamlet IV.iii.27-31. [back]

  3. I Cor. 15:35ff. [back]

  4. John A. Hardon, S.J. Pocket Catholic Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1985), 79. [back]

  5. The epitaph was not used when Franklin died at the age of 84. [back]

  6. Phil. 3:21. [back]

  7. See Phil. 3:21; I Cor. 15:44. [back]

  8. Literal Meaning of Genesis 12.35.68 [back]

  9. I Cor. 15:28. [back]

  10. See Lk. 24:13-32; Jn. 20:1-16, 21:1-7. [back]

  11. See Jn. 20:19, 26. [back]

  12. See Lk. 24:36, 24:31. [back]

  13. Phil. 3:21. [back]

  14. Postcommunion for Easter Wednesday. [back]

  15. Secret for Easter Tuesday. [back]

  16. Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter (101) to Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius. [back]

  17. See Genesis 5:24. [back]

  18. See the hymn Jeus nostra redemptio: “Breaking through the gates of Hell/ Redeeming Those of yours held captive/ A Victor in a noble triumph/ You now reside at the Father’s right hand.” [back]

  19. Magnificat antiphon for II Vespers. [back]

  20. John 6:55. [back]

  21. In fact, this is one of the reasons that Holy Communion is not act of cannibalism, even though it involves consuming the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord. No cannibal has ever come close to receiving a living and glorified body. [back]

  22. Sacramentum Caritatis, 11; see also 71. [back]

  23. For more on this topic, see Michael P. Foley, “Divine Do-Overs: The Secret of Recapitulation in the Traditional Calendar,” The Latin Mass 19:2 (Spring 2010), pp. 46-49. [back]

  24. The hymn is Quicumque Christum quaeritis, and the verse is Signum perennis gloriae. [back]

  25. A divergent theory posits that Satan argued that Moses was unworthy of burial at all since he had murdered an Egyptian as a young man. [back]

  26. See Summa Theologiae III.45.3.ad 2. [back]

  27. Mt. 17:2; see Mk. 9:1; Lk. 9:29. [back]

[Michael P. Foley is associate professor of patristics at Baylor University. He is author of Wedding Rites: A Complete Guide to Traditional Vows, Music, Ceremonies, Blessings, and Interfaith Services(Eerdmans, 2008) and Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything(Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Foley's article, "Showing the Tree to the Acorn: Feasts About the Resurrection of the Body,” Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 38-42, is reproduced here by kind permission of Latin Mass, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Marini's Conciliarist Manifesto

[The views expressed in the following article are solely the responsibility of its author and are not necessarily shared by the editor of this site.]


Peter A. Kwasniewski

“Just before sunrise, the wind got up. It was a vile, stubborn wind ...”

—Tove Jansson, Moominpappa at Sea1


As a historian phenomenon, “conciliarism” refers to the erroneous view that a general council of the Church is superior to the Pope in matters of faith and morals — that a Pope can be trumped, so to speak, by all the bishops assembled. This heresy was dealt a series of blows throughout the second millenium of Christianity, culminating in the double coup de grace of a pair of dogmatic constitutions on the Church: Vatican I’s Pastor Aeternus and Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium. As those who have studied the latter document know, section 25 of Lumen Gentium contains the clearest, most extensive teaching ever given concerning the unique, supreme, direct authority of the Pope over the entire Church and all her members, including the bishops who must remain in union with him in order to remain truly Catholic.2

In the past forty years, however, a new form of conciliarism has arisen, one harder to define with precision and far more influential: the view that Vatican II, all by itself, was a Council that redefined the Church and her theology from top to bottom. For historians of the influential “Bologna school,” the Council gave birth to a new Church, ushered in a new age, cleared away ages of debris and decadence, proclaimed at last an ecumenical Gospel that sought out the world and passionately embraced it. While the falsity of such a bald statement may cause a wry smile, it is a sad fact that this peculiar brand of conciliarism has been the main force at work in the wreckage of the sacred liturgy for the past forty years. So much so, indeed, that a new “Great Schism” appeared in the twentieth century: a schism between a self-styled modern Church and the Church of Tradition. This virtual schism, like the doctrinal rupture and rampant liturgical abuses that are the hallmarks of its proponents, is far worse than any internal crisis the Church has ever faced before, outstripping in combined ignorance, error, and contempt even the horrors of the Protestant revolt.

* * * * * * * *
It is a sad fact that this peculiar brand of conciliarism has been the main force at work in the wreckage of the sacred liturgy for the past forty years. So much so, indeed, that a new “Great Schism” appeared in the twentieth century


* * * * * * *

As students of Chuch history know, the Holy Spirit does not long allow the Church to be storm-tossed and in danger of shipwreck. All the hard-won gains of the aging old guard—religious liberalism, laicism, secularism, feminism, soft modernism, horizontalism, relativism, and so forth, a whole litany of -isms that have replaced the Litany of Saints as the standard and measure of Catholic life today—are now being called into question by a new generation of believers and, ironically perhaps, by the elderly Pope who was a major force at the very Council whose spirit is claimed to be embodied in the new order of Mass and the new style of worship it promotes. Those who follow the Catholic media can see it daily: the graying liberals sound outraged, panicked, desperate. The more intelligent among them must surely know that the sun is beginning to go down on their long-reigning agenda.

Standing tall and unrepentant in the ranks of the rupturists is the retired papal M.C. for John Paul II, Archbishop Piero Marini, who was unceremoniously replaced at Pope Benedict XVI’s behest by the infinitely more competent and traditional Monsignor Guido Marini (no relation), a model M.C. if ever there was one. For the remainder of this article, “Marini” will always refer to the bishop plagued with a futuristic agenda and no future.
Back in 2007, Marini published a book that made quite a splash. A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal contains little to surprise those who are already familiar with the standard (“Bologna”) history of the Council and the divinely inspired reforms attributed to it. Anyone who has dared to dip into Bugnini’s disturbing memoirs will find Marini’s book not terribly original. It comes across rather as the last gasp of a dying cause, a kind of “rage against the dying of the light” from an energetic retiree. At a press conference in England, Marini portrayed in livid terms an ongoing battle between “conservation and progress,” and “the center and the periphery.” He wanted his book to sound “an invitation to look to the future, to take up with enthusiasm the path traced by the council.” How’s that for tendentious? We—the Church of the ages—are the periphery? I believe it was Chesterton who said that Tradition is the democracy of the dead. It is the soft modernist faction of the Council that are the periphery, with their loud minority opinion.

Benedict XVI has been the only pope since Blessed John XXIII who seems to have understood with crystalline clarity that Vatican II can have been a legitimate council only if it was intended to be, and is continually received as being, in continuity with the entire Tradition that preceded it. “The path traced by the Council” is, de facto and de iure, the path traced by Tradition—or it is irrelevant, not to say worse. The speech Pope Benedict delivered to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2006 was a beautifully clear indicator of the mind of Holy Mother Church: the Council is to be received within a hermeneutic of continuity, not a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity.
Journalist John Allen summarizes Marini’s identification of historical factors that paved the way for the Consilium’s triumph. First, “the presence of the council fathers in Rome during the first two years of implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s constitution on liturgy. The bishops themselves, [Marini] said, were ‘the first guarantors of reform.’” How easily the victors rewrite history! Many who were present at and involved in the Council have testified that the bishops had no idea they were about to witness the wholesale dismantling and reconstruction of the Roman Rite. Archimandrite Boniface Luykx (1915–2004) frequently noted that not a single bishop at the Council believed that Latin would be abolished, in practice, from the celebration of the Mass, that the priest would face the people, or that the prayers would be notably altered. In a moment of honesty, could Marini admit that Sacrosanctum Concilium did NOT ASK FOR most of the changes that were implemented?

* * * * * * *
Not a single bishop at the Council believed that Latin would be abolished, in practice, from the celebration of the Mass, that the priest would face the people, or that the prayers would be notably altered.

* * * * * * *

The second factor in the Consilium’s success, according to Marini: “The personal support of Pope Paul VI.” Alas, this is no relevation; it is but one more reason to hold this beleaguered pontiff of modernist sympathies in suspicion. People often rush to Paul VI’s defense by pointing out his heroically countercultural defense of chastity and the natural law in Humanae Vitae. We might be in danger of damning with faint praise. Humanae Vitae may seem bizarrely backwards or startlingly revolutionary to a world of hedonist nitwits, but any Catholic with an instinctive attachment to healthy sexuality, a modicum of religious education, and a morally sound outlook on family life would not for a moment be tempted by something as disgustingly unnatural as artificial contraception, nor would he or she register any surprise about what the Church had always taught and will always teach.

Let us move on to Marini’s third factor: “The rapid emergence of a network of ‘competent scholars,’ led by Lercaro and Bugnini.” Do I sense what the logicians call a petitio principii—a begging of the question? Competent by whose definition? Many of the fashionable scholarly theories of the mid-century have long since been discredited, even ridiculed, by liturgists and scholars whose first job is not grinding axes but understanding the history of Western liturgy. The business about how the Pope historically celebrated versus populum in St. Peter’s basilica was one of the main myths that drove the novelty of the priest’s turning his back to Christ, the symbolic East. We now know, thanks to better studies, that the Pope and the people faced eastwards at the most solemn part of the Mass, so important was their unanimous orientation felt to be.3

As the old guard present at Vatican II passes away year by year, Marini pleads that “it is important for the church to retain and renew the spirit that gave rise to the liturgical movement, and that inspired the council fathers to approve the constitution on the liturgy as the first fruit of that great grace of the 20th century which was the Second Vatican Council.” Hmm. The “spirit” behind the liturgical movement—is that anything like the particolored “spirit of Vatican II”? What about the origins of the liturgical movement among people who deeply and dearly loved the Church’s traditional liturgy and would have been disgusted by the superficial (if not sacrilegious) hootenanny that often replaced it? I can’t help thinking of a funny quotation by British Dominican Herbert McCabe, no traditionalist he, who nonetheless points out with brutal honesty:
There are satisfying experiences that are immediately satisfying, like drinking good Irish whiskey, but there are other satisfactions that occur only over long periods of time, like having a decently-furnished room. . . . If you are deprived of a decent liturgy for a fairly long period of time you discover an important gap in your emotional life. I might as well say at this point that I think there is a mistaken tendency, more especially in the United States but to some extent here [in England], to design the liturgy for too immediate a satisfaction. I have been with the “underground” groups in the American Church who do not really feel they have celebrated a Eucharist unless they get some kind of immediate experience of personal warmth and enhanced sensitivity. I think the liturgies designed by these people are very frequently in bad taste. I agree with those critics who find the Missa Normativa a little dull, except that I do not think it is altogether a criticism. A room furnished in good taste is a little dull compared to one covered in psychedelic posters saying “Love is Love” and “Mary, the ripest tomato of them all.”4
At the same press conference, Marini pontificated: “The goal of the liturgy is none other than the goal of the church, and the future of the liturgy is the future of Christianity and Christian life.” Even the devil quotes Scripture, and Balaam’s ass had intelligent counsel to offer. The future of the liturgy, in reality, is nothing other than, and nothing less than, the Mass of the Ages, the traditional Roman Rite that had organically developed for almost 2000 years until its violent deformation at the hands of Bugnini & Company.


The end of Mass at Rocafort by Jose Benlliure Ortiz

Our Lord gave the Mass to the Church for all her people, especially for the simple and the childlike. It is precisely such lowly laity who are not sophisticated enough to judge on the basis of theories and hypotheses, but who judge by what they see and hear—“O taste and see how gracious the Lord is...”

* * * * * * *

Anyone with good sense can see that the sudden virtual suppression of huge parts of Catholic liturgical tradition can only have had a profoundly unsettling, disorienting, and destabilizing effect on the Church as a whole. The apparent “success” of the reform has been belied by the bitter problems of doctrine and morals that have plagued the Church in the past four decades, centering on a loss of priestly identity, a drastic decline in priestly vocations, and an almost universal ignorance of the Faith and of the Sacred. The glamorous meetings of ICELated conspirators conveniently fail to mention the countless Catholics who felt betrayed, alienated, and even scandalized by the drastic changes that occurred as if overnight. I was talking to a neighbor one day—someone I’d gotten to know from seeing him so often around town—and when he found out that I taught for the Catholic College, he volunteered that he was a fallen-away Catholic who stopped going to Mass back in the seventies. “I went one Sunday and it was Hallelujah this and Hallelujah that, and I said to myself: What the hell is all this? It sure isn’t Mass!” Years ago, another friend told me a similar story. He said when the drums and guitars invaded the sanctuary, practically overnight, and routed the quiet low Mass he had grown up with, he felt dismayed, betrayed, assaulted, actually sick to his stomach. He stopped going to Mass for years, and nearly lost his faith entirely. Fortunately, he was one of those who, thanks be to God, returned to the Church after the indult Masses began.

Our Lord gave the Mass to the Church for all her people, especially for the simple and the childlike. It is precisely such lowly laity who are not sophisticated enough to judge on the basis of theories and hypotheses, but who judge by what they see and hear—“O taste and see how gracious the Lord is...” And judging by what they saw and heard, many came to the conclusion that the Church had either gone bonkers or had “come of age” and surrendered to secularism. In either case, it was time to stop going to Church. Rather than rejoicing in a botched reform conducted with all the finesse of bulldozers, one ought to feel righteous indignation about the high and mighty doings of the liturgical elite in the heady days of the late sixties and beyond, as they indulged in their liturgical fantasies while carelessly trampling on the hearts and minds of innumerable ordinary Catholics who loved the beauty and dignity of the Church’s worship as they knew it.

* * * * * * *
Anyone with good sense can see that the sudden virtual suppression of huge parts of Catholic liturgical tradition can only have had a profoundly unsettling, disorienting, and destabilizing effect on the Church as a whole.

* * * * * * *

Marini’s talk in London was full of that peculiar messianism characteristic of Vatican II nostalgics. Here is how it ended: “The Holy Spirit that inspired the liturgical movement and the council fathers still encircles us like a sacred cloud, and guides us like a column of fire,” offering “beauty ever new” as well as “joy and hope.” That’s what they call rhetoric, folks, but not in the most flattering sense of the word. If it was indeed the Holy Spirit and not the Zeitgeist or something more infernal yet, then the entire way we receive and rejoice in the Council and in the liturgical movement will of necessity exemplify the hermeneutic of continuity: the Council is to be interpreted in line with and in light of the great Tradition of Catholic theology and worship. It will not, pace Marini, cleave to the “hermeneutic of rupture,” whereby the Council would signify a decisive change of course that requires systematically deconstructing what came before and terrorizing those who adhere to it.

Let us remind ourselves again and again that Sacrosanctum Concilium expressly says that “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (§23). To those who are familiar with the wonderfully durable and ineffably beautiful preconciliar sacramental rites, it would seem obvious that few, if any, changes could have been defensible according to this strict criterion of “genuine good.” It would be like looking into a chest filled with treasures fashioned of precious metals and jewels, and saying: “Let’s get rid of anything in here that’s worthless.” Good luck finding the iron and bronze brooches. But the Consilium came along and—to the horror of orthodox Catholics, the delight of far-seeing modernists, and the surprise of just about everyone—discovered that the rites of the Roman Church were thoroughly defective and in need of a massive overhaul. An overhaul, in fact, that would culminate, decades later, in a pathetic banalization of the very rite of exorcism, as if we could pull the wool over Old Scratch’s intellectual eyes. According to many exorcists, the new rite does not even work very well; it is certainly much less effective than the old. A personal friend of mine, an exorcist for a major diocese, told me that water blessed by the old solemn formula is considerably more effective against demons than water blessed with newer formulas. In a way, if one may compare great things to small, Church leaders made the same mistake as Coca-Cola did, but lacked the marketing brains to realize it and bring back the original recipe. It seems that hierarchical office does not bring with it a charism of factual analysis.

The Consilium found that the Tradition was defective and the People of God were crying out for a new Mass, a new Liturgy of Hours, new blessings, new everything. This sounds like special pleading. Who are we to trust: the Tradition of the Church, which embodies the faith, hope, and love of countless believers and pastors over many centuries, or the Experts whose theories embody (at best) the ephemeral wisdom of academia, here today and gone tomorrow? Why do the Experts think that they know better than the common man—or, for that matter, than the Common Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, who is always on the common man’s side? The whole tenor of the Consilium ascendancy, as of Marini’s book, smacks of the spirit of Protestantism: we, a select few enlightened by the Spirit of God, will choose what is the best way forward in Catholic worship.

In any case, one thing is certain: we will see a lot of this kind of nostalgic resistance from the aging conciliarists; it will be a hallmark of at least the next ten years, and it will become more and more acerbic, accompanied by an increase in clandestine acts of desperation. They accuse the traditionalists of wallowing in nostalgia, but as brilliant a light as Fr. Richard McBrien finds himself caught short trying to explain how young Catholics who never grew up with the Latin Mass are flocking to it, loving it, and passing it on to their children. A “nostalgia” for what one could never have remembered is positively indecent and categorically illogical! (I was born in 1971, after Pope Paul VI had safely earned his place in the ranks of the worst popes of history, so I can add fuel to McBrien’s ire.) In an interview for the National Catholic Reporter, Marini memorably compared the traditional nostalgics with the carnal Jews who, having been liberated from the bondage of Pharaoh and his evil empire, longed for the fleshpots of Egypt:
First of all, it’s important that I spoke about a path [of liturgical reform], one that I believe is irreversible. I often think about the journey of the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament. It was a difficult journey, and sometimes the people became nostalgic for the past, for the onions and the melons of Egypt and so on. In other words, sometimes they wanted to go back. But the historical journey of the church is one which, by necessity, has to move forward.
Marini is not quite finished, however, with his penetrating analysis. He is puzzled that so many young people are drawn to the older liturgical forms—how can this be? He shares his reasoning process with us:
I see a certain nostalgia for the past. What concerns me in particular is that this nostalgia seems especially strong among some young priests. How is it possible to be nostalgic for an era they didn’t experience? . . . I’m always surprised to see young people who feel this nostalgia for something they never lived with. “Nostalgia for what?,” I find myself asking.
In reality, now that we are finally beginning to see genuine liturgical renewal thanks to Summorum Pontificum and the “reform of the reform” movement, the nostalgia is all on the side of the wrinkled cheerleaders with their placards of “Man has come of age; so should the Mass.” They are gazing wistfully back to the sixties while younger and wiser Catholics are thanking God that we’ve made tracks away from that benighted time of false hopes and Teilhardian illusions. Or better, the younger Catholics who take their faith seriously are doing just that: taking it seriously. Taking it as given, not as manufactured; as timeless, not as up-to-date. The Mass is not an experiment, a proving ground for academic theories, a do-it-yourself when ordained ministers run dry. It is the one and only Sacrifice of Calvary made present in our midst, in a hallowed form we receive from our forebears, bearing not only its own sanctifying reality, but also the sanctified history of the communion of saints. The reaction of any sane believer is to fall to his knees in adoration, along with generations of his fathers and—may God in His mercy grant it—generations of his children to come.

* * * * * * *
The Mass is not an experiment, a proving ground for academic theories, a do-it-yourself when ordained ministers run dry. It is the one and only Sacrifice of Calvary made present in our midst, in a hallowed form we receive from our forebears, bearing not only its own sanctifying reality, but also the sanctified history of the communion of saints.

* * * * * * *

In my years of teaching undergraduate and graduate theology, I have seen how young people who are serious about their faith flock to the traditional Mass, with little prompting or explanation required, and how they continue to attend it throughout their adult lives, eventually introducing their children to it. I have seen the spectacle of college students who, because they grew up in a parish or chapel run by the Fraternity of St. Peter, have never attended a Novus Ordo Mass, and who therefore need it to be explained to them. I was one of those young people who flocked to the (once-forbidden) “old Mass,” and as the years pass, my love for it only grows deeper and stronger. It has nothing to do with nostalgia. Nostalgia would be impossible for people who existed only in God’s mind, not on earth, when Paul VI made his fateful decision to promulgate the Novus Ordo Missae. It has to do with something much more fundamental than nostalgia: the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. Every soul is created by God to resonate with these transcendentals. We yearn for their presence in a modern world hell-bent on falsity, evil, and ugliness. And the traditional Mass, the crown of all the sacred rites and ceremonies of our Faith, powerfully contains and expresses them. What a gift! And what a privilege is ours to see this gift once more given and received!+

Notes

  1. Trans. Kingsley Hart (n.p.: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993), 88. [back]

  2. The same section 25 redresses an imbalance from Vatican I: while Pastor Aeternus seemed to focus on infallible ex cathedra pronouncements, i.e., what could be called the extraordinary Magisterium, Lumen Gentium broadened its consideration to include, and to emphasize, the authoritative nature of the Pope’s ordinary Magisterium—a lesson the vast majority of Catholics, both liberal and conservative, have still not accepted. [back]

  3. For more on this, see Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, and Lang, Turning Towards the Lord. [back]

  4. Herbert McCabe, God Matters (New York/London: Continuum, 2005), 215-6. [back]

[Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming. The present article, "Marini's conciliarist Manifesto," was originally published in The Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 6-10, and is reprinted here by kind permission of Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060, and the author.]