13 February 2010

"Outsiders Looking In"

Often I hear the description by those who are unfamiliar with the traditional Catholic liturgy (as opposed to the common New Order Mass practiced by a majority of practicing Catholics) that those who celebrate the "Latin Mass" are "outsiders looking in". 

I would agree in large part with that statement.  Only, this is a positive thing.  The fact that it is not considered so is a reason which compels me to publish this post.

The Mass traditionally was intended to emphasize what we as Catholics believe, particularly in regards to the great mystery of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is our Lord himself coming down in the form of the Holy Eucharist. The New Order Mass was intended to take the focus off this mystery as being a mystery, by putting the emphasis on the people's experience and changing much of the rubrics to make more of our "Protestant brethern" feel "at home". This was not the intentions of the Mass ever before Vatican II.
There is a heresy that is common today that demands of Catholic bishops and priests to be very careful with the liturgy, and it seems to be more noted on EWTN* (*what I'm trying to say is that the Novus Ordo Masses on EWTN seem to be very careful to not do the common liturgical errors that promote this error). This heresy is known as immanentism. Its basic idea is that the greatest good in this life is what we as humans can do for one another. The focus then is on experiences of spirituality and ends up promoting relativism among other things. In reality, the greatest good in this life is always God. This is what the emphasis of the Roman Catholic liturgy historically, but this concept has been largely (not entirely, but largely) eclipsed by various heretical movements since Vatican II. The trouble is that these heresies are very insidiuous in the context of the modern world; since they blend right in to the "norm", most people --- even most Catholics--- never notice them. They take it for granted that they know what they need to know about the faith and about true Catholic spirituality that is taught by the Church Doctors.
Take the structure of a Catholic church: it is made up of the vestibule, the nave, and the sanctuary where the altar resides. Most Catholics do not know that these parts have names, let alone liturgical significance that points to spiritual realities. The vestibule is where the Confessionals would be near or even fully contained. The vestible represents liturgical 'hell', while the nave represents 'purgatory', and the sanctuary is liturgical 'heaven', containing our Lord's real Presence. The structure is intended to evoke within the community the aire of mystery of our Lord's Presence and remind us of the fact that we must venerate by giving our full attention. Holy Communion isn't something that we just 'do' by receiving, it is something that we must venerate by making our Lord's True Presence the center of our lives, and most especially while in His Presence. That has always been the thinking of the saints and of the traditional Roman liturgy, except when there was a "crisis" within the culture. The crisis, however, wasn't because there was something lacking in the liturgy, but because their were prelates that had different theological views that were more in sympathy with Protestantism. They saw that the fact Protestantism was growing at a faster rate than Catholicism suddenly --- that this was a sign of some type of defect in Catholic theology and liturgy (Lex orandi. Lex credendi.). Unfortunately, these prelates were incorrect; the sign of contradiction was was always intentional (just as our Lord said of himself as compared to the expectations the jews had of the coming messiah, and a contradiction to the spirit of the world in general). The fact that there were increasing numbers of people turning to Protestantism had to do with societal philosophical errors spreading from cultural revolutions propagated primarily by the effects of communism and before that, the philosophical errors of the Rennaisance. For example, the "sexual revolution" was a concept that led people in droves away from the Sacraments, the Commandments, and likewise, the Church.
The popes have consistently written about this and share these same perspective as I am expressing here. Even the saints in modern times refused the new Mass even in its early stages, but they also understood what the changes were and why they were made, and what was lost by them. I think I 'got it' only because I came from a diocese in upstate New York that is widely considered by most US bishops and missionaries as the worse diocese in the country (ladened with heresies). When I saw a Latin Mass for the first time, it was an answer to many tearful prayers of petition.
So, how does the traditional liturgy express more fully what Catholics believe (by doctrine)? There are some wonderful audios of sermons online that I can add here, but before I do, I want to mention a few points that I don't remember having been made in the sermons.
First off, the old rite is based on the Breviary, which is the Divine Office. As you may know, there are not only two liturgical rites, but each has its own hours prayers of the Church that priests and religious are bound to pray and on time throughout each day by pain of mortal sin. The Novus Ordo uses the Liturgy of the Hours with a 3 year cycle: a, b and c. The Breviary is based on a 1 year cycle. This is great because it causes the liturgical cycle to become more inbred into the life of the Catholic, as you eventually begin to more quickly recount Biblical text as having liturgical significance, thus causing one to more immediately apply it to one's life. OK, well, that's the long-term benefit.
Another favorite thing of the traditional liturgy is the fact that it focuses on the interior life. Since the highest good is God Himself, our relationship to Him is dependent first not on what we do, but rather, firstly our disposition. The primary means to developing greater a deeper relationship with God is prayer. And there are some prayers that are more efficacious to this end than others. Mental prayer, for example, is higher than discursive prayer. We come together as a community, yes, but our own salvation is not depended upon our what our neighbor does, but what we do individually. And no where is this more relevant than when we are before Christ at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

During the sermon a priest once said that most pious Catholic men today would rather devout 6 months of hard labor than one hour of devout, mental prayer. They say, "God and I have an understanding", as if somehow God gave them dispensation from the normal means to holiness, which is prayer, intimate prayer.  Community prayer is not efficacious unless there is an intimate prayer within the individual to God, which does not place God at the same level as the individual himself, but places God as the Creator.  It is about recognizing the spiritual realities and regarding the sacred as sacred.  The focus on entertainment during the Mass and appealing to the culture is a standard that does not produce the effect of honoring the sacred. Rather, when you have drums, guitar, and other common instruments, people lose a sense of the mystery, of the sacred. What is "sacred" afterall? Does it not mean set apart for holy purpose? If it is meant to be set apart from the world, then shouldn't we regard it as such with how we worship?
And also, from the former head of Moral Law Theological Studies at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P.'s articles on the "latin" Mass:

taken from www.sensustraditionis.org --

The Spirituality of the Ancient Rite of Mass
"A conference given to Keep the Faith on certain aspects of the ancient liturgy. This conference was also published as an article in two parts in The Latin Mass Summer and Fall editions of 2001. It is online under the title of The Spirituality of the Ancient Rite of Mass: Part I and Part II."
Modern Philosophy and the Liturgical Development
"This article addresses the issue of how modern philosophical thought has influenced the the modern liturgical spiritual. It was published in Christian Order in August of 2000."

Operative Points of View
"This article addresses the historical intellectual causes of the psychology of neo-conservatives. It was originally published in Christian Order in March of 2001. A shorter version of this article appeared in the Spring 2001 edition of The Latin Mass Magazine under the title Conservative vs. Traditional Catholicism: Distinctions with Philosophical Differences."

Please see more articles and multimedia on Sensus Traditionis

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