Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dies Gaudii, Dies Lacrimarum, Dies Gratiae Hominibus Bonae Voluntatis

Summorum Pontificum
I enjoy reading the comments that my opinion has elicited. They are polite, kind and well put. They also deserve a response, or at least a reaction from the author of the blog.
Many, and I mean, many, say that it is not the Latin that they seek, but the spirit of sacredness and holiness that they get from the ritual. They are elevated by the quiet, the silence, the ability to pray and to prepare for communion. The atmosphere is so much more mystical.
I don't deny that. No one does. To be perfectly honest, I do have a corner in my heart that says that there is room for that in the church. Jesus Himself said, “There are many mansions in my Father’s house.” I also know that it is not what the Fathers of Vatican Council II intended. They intended that the Mass should be a participatory celebration of the mystery of salvation, not a personal, mystical preparation to the reception of communion. They intended the entire Mass to be Eucharist, priest and laity celebrating together. More community singing, more bible stories, mandatory homily, etc. That's why they put the priest as close to the crowd as they could, face to face, joy to joy. That is why we have what we have in this day and age.
Starting on September 14, 2007, those who want the peace and quiet of preparing themselves for communion while the priest turns his back to them, consecrates the bread and wine and prays in whispers in a foreign language will have more opportunities to do so. It is Benedict XVI's opinion that this is good for the church.


I have had an interesting experience over the last week. I am a very staunch Roman Catholic who has reservations about the Pope’s opinion concerning the relaxing of the rules for the celebration of the Mass in Latin, according to the ritual which was installed by Pope John XXIII in 1962. I found a deep, right-wing Internet site where I asserted myself and said that I did not agree with the Pope’s opinion as stated in the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. More than being a staunch Roman Catholic, I am a fluent reader of Latin. I wrote my opinions over my real name and my real academic credentials. It was a rather interesting give and take which lasted a while, but then ended abruptly for the sake of maintaining civility.
Since then, I have read some comments on my blog, one post which is entitled QUIBUSCUMQUE MISA LATINA PRAEDILIGENT OFFERTUR which you can find if you click here

One of the faithful who made a comment asked me to write a more complete article about my opinion about the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) so that my opinion would be more clearly exposed, and hopefully, understood. I am therefore going to plunge right into the project so that I can get it done before the reader loses patience.

I. Foundational theology of the Mass, Pre-Vatican II

Before Vatican II the foundational theology of the Mass was situated on the Old Testament concept of the Sacrifice. Just as the sacrifice was the supreme act of worship, reconciliation, intercession and petition, so was the Mass, the supreme act of relationship with God, the non-sanguinary sacrifice of the Lamb of God, offered to God by the Lamb Himself (Jesus on the Cross) for the salvation of Mankind. This act of worship is presented to us from the first pages of Genesis all the way through the Gospels.
Every seminarian who was ordained before 1970 was “formed” in this theology. I know, I was one of them.
This theology was the basis of our prayer style. The priest conducted the rite that made the sacrifice happen. Our priest was the replication of the Levite or the Aaronite and Jesus Himself was the true Priest who was at the same time the Sacrificial Lamb.
Every Mass then, was a sacrifice, a holocaust that was a memory of the holocaust that Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job and others offered. The problem was that not a single pew warmer knew anything about this theology. Every Mass was a sacrifice that reminded us of the demands of the covenant that God had made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus and not a single simple soul in the pew knew the background of what was going on.

II Foundational Theology of the Mass, per Vatican II

The Fathers of Vatican Council II took clues from Pope Pius XII who was a strong advocate and initiator of liturgical reform. He even created a liturgical commission of imminent scholars who had been at work for some 25 years before the council. Their efforts were so glorious and compelling that the Constitution on the Liturgy was the first to be discussed and accepted by the Fathers. It was never the object of political wrangling by the autocrats of the Roman Curia. It is a Constitution that was ripe when it arrived in Rome.
"The Liturgy is defined as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of humans is manifested by signs perceptible to the senses and is offered in a way which is proper to each of these signs. (Liturgy, Section 1, #7) Pastors must then realize that when the liturgy is celebrated more is required than the observance of the laws governing valid and licit celebrations. The presence of Christ is being celebrated, presence in the person of the priest, present in the Eucharistic species, presence in His word and presence when the church sings and prays. Christ associates the church with Himself in the truly great work of giving praise to God and making people holy." (Same section, same number)
Every Mass is sharing in the heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the heavenly city of Jerusalem toward which we all journey as pilgrims, encouraging one another on the way, singing to God’s glory, venerating the saints and hoping to join them one day in the Divine presence of God.
The theology of the Mass as described and exposed by the Fathers in Vatican II is a dynamic, participatory worship of the church exercising the fullness of baptism.

III Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people" (1 Peter, 2:9) is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” (Liturgy, Section II, #14)
This statement in the Constitution states the theological reason for the active exercise of the fullness of our baptismal grace. It is the celebration of our dying, rising and resurrecting with Christ through baptism. The Fathers are telling the church that Mass is a celebration of our very existence in the presence of God. Mass is the celebration of the new covenant, reminding us that we have survived the Deluge, the slavery of Egypt, the exile to Persia, the oppression of the Greeks and the Romans and we are being guided to our Salvation in the sacramental presence of God Himself thanks to the passion, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This worship demands a liturgy which is celebrated in a language which can open as much as possible the understanding of the participants into its divine mysteries.

IV General Norms

“…both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify. Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.” (Liturgy, Section III, # 21)
It is interesting to note that the Constitution makes it a point to note that the liturgy will be conducted in Latin. Then, in the very next sentence it says that in order to help the people to better participate, certain important parts of the liturgy should be in the vernacular. It is important to note that the Constitution leaves the degree to which the vernacular will be introduced into the liturgy is left up to the local ecclesiastical authorities. That freedom has now been trimmed back substantially.

V Sacred Scripture

I cannot emphasize this enough. From the papacy of Pius XII through the present day, the Bible has taken on greater and greater importance in our lives as Catholics. Pius XII in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu enjoined the church to turn to the Scripture as its basic source of learning about God. This drive toward the use of Scripture as the source of our knowledge of God drove the Fathers of the Council to make it a greater part of the Mass than it had ever been. The council Fathers wanted us to understand just how radically important the Bible is to our faith. When the reform of the liturgy was complete, a daily Mass goer would have heard stories from about every book in the Bible and have heard about 75 or 80% of the entire Catholic Canon.
That’s not all. The proclamations, the prayers, the psalms, the blessings and exhortations in the Missal were taken almost exclusively from the Bible. Sacred Scripture is of paramount importance to our faith and the expression thereof through our religious acts, i.e. the liturgy. The Mass of today is constructed so that just about everything that is said either by the congregation or by the priest is connected to Sacred Scripture. The Mass is constructed in such a manner that everything that is prayed is aimed at strengthening the faith of the faithful thereby making their relationship with God more meaningful and more secure.

The Mass of today is constructed in the form of a celebration that leads to creating an internal happiness that is meant to strengthen the faithful for the mission. The Mass of today is a Banquet meant to strengthen the participants for the journey. The Mass of today is structured to help the faithful come to know one another in their own community so that they will have fewer reservations about carrying its blessings with them throughout the rest of the week. The Mass of today is an inter-active liturgy of the communion of the saints. That’s why so many of us talk in church these days. That’s also why so many of us have “prayer corners” in our houses with open Bibles and candles so that we can pray as a family in our church of the home. That’s also why so many of us have a Bible near our bed or in another quiet corner so that we can obey the evangelical counsel to pray in the privacy of our own room. That’s also why there are so many Bible studies in Catholic communities these days. There is so much Scripture in the Mass that we thirst for more contact with the Word at another level.

VI Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to point out that there are some things of the Mass that will not and cannot change. There are some things that can change, and they will. I have pointed out that the foundational theological point of view of the Mass has changed, but that both of these points of view do not change the essential underlying theology of the Mass. The Fathers of the Council wanted to achieve two major goals: They wanted to construct a more communal liturgical exercise of the priesthood given to us all in our Baptism. Secondly they wanted to construct a more scripturally based liturgical celebration in an effort to make Catholics more sensitive to the revealing power of the Sacred Word. In so doing they kept in mind that there is an intimate connection between worship and belief, so much so that theologians, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) prominent among them, have repeatedly declared that the lex orandi (the way one prays to God) influences and indeed actually becomes the lex credendi (the way one believes). I am convinced that the best way to achieve what the Fathers of the Council envisioned is through solidly celebrated liturgy in the vernacular.

Those of you who agree with me will know that I will die happy and you won’t have to cry at my funeral. Those of you who disagree with me won’t have the slightest inclination to cry at my funeral. Istum quaeso vobis quia,
Deus, Qui Mariam absolvit,
Et latronem exaudit,
Mihi quoque spem dedit.
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