Attempt to resurrect pre-Vatican II Mass leaves church at crossroads

Attempt to resurrect pre-Vatican II Mass leaves church at crossroads

  • Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during a Tridentine-rite Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 15, 2011. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Ron Schmit  |  Dec. 8, 2012
It was curiosity and a sense of irony that moved me to open the Oct. 1 issue of our diocesan newspaper. On the cover was the headline “Moving Forward in Faith” next to a picture of our former bishop vested as would be a prelate from more than 50 years ago. This was a photo from a liturgy in the “extraordinary form” (pre-Vatican II 1962 Latin Mass), welcoming a group of very traditional Carmelite nuns to the diocese.

Lately, there seems to be an increasing interest in this “extraordinary form” in our diocesan paper and among some of our clergy. In the past my attitude has been “so what.” If people are into antiquarianism, let them. Some people like to spend weekends reenacting the Civil War. They dress in period costume. They stage mock battles of Union and Confederate soldiers. It’s a harmless hobby. I just figured that the people attached to this “extraordinary form” were the liturgical version of societies for anachronistic re-enactment.

However, I have come to change my opinion. Those attached to the extraordinary form are not like Civil War re-enactment societies. At least those people know they are play-acting about a time that can never return. The people attached to the extraordinary form are seriously trying to enact a particular worldview and understanding of church. And it is an understanding that we left behind at the Second Vatican Council. It is a worldview that is incompatible with the council.

Liturgy is not about taste or aesthetics. It is how the church defines itself. Those who rejected Vatican II and its liturgy were the first to understand the connection between liturgy and our self-understanding as church.

Pope Paul VI also understood this. The rejection of the Vatican II liturgy is a rejection of its ecclesiology and theology. In his newly published book True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium, Massimo Faggioli narrates Paul’s response when his philosopher friend Jean Guitton asked why not concede the 1962 missal to breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers. Paul responded:

Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.

Paul knew that permitting the old form would be not only divisive but would call the whole council into doubt, and that would be a sin against the Holy Spirit. Now we are experiencing the unfortunate fruit of the recent permission to celebrate the extraordinary form.

The definition of who we are as church comes alive in the liturgy. Vatican II described the church as a priestly people called on a mission. This priesthood is rooted in our baptism. Once Pope John Paul II was asked what was the most important day in his life. He replied, “The day I was baptized.”

Baptism is our sharing in Christ’s victory over death. We are incorporated into the paschal mystery of the risen Christ and now share in the life of God. What higher calling can there be than this? Marriage, religious or single life and ordained ministry are but specific ways in which one is called to live out his/her baptismal vocation. This is why St. Augustine would tell his people, “With you I am baptized; for you I am ordained.” The council tells us that baptism calls everyone to holiness.

The council’s vision of a priestly people on mission necessitated a liturgy that could prepare disciples ready to take up their responsibilities. The council looked to the church’s distant past to recover ritual elements that were instrumental in preparing the baptized to take active responsibility for Christ’s priestly, prophetic and royal mission.

In her article “Summorum Pontificum and the Unmaking of the Lay Church” (Worship, July 2012), scholar Georgia Masters Keightley identifies those elements recovered by the council from the ancient church. These express the active exercise of the priestly people of God: the prayer of the faithful, the offertory procession and the kiss of peace. These were visible signs that expressed the church’s priesthood. These signs incarnate for the priesthood of all believers the task to proclaim the Gospel and to make intercession for the world and all people.

Over time, these elements were lost or obscured. By the time we get to the Council of Trent (1545-63), new prayers and rites had replaced the ancient rites. Keightley writes:

These made no room for the laity’s intercessions for the world and its people. Gone was any visible sign of the sacrificial offering of self that takes form in those daily efforts to welcome the stranger, care for the poor, and steward the earth’s resources. Neither was there allowance for that sincere expression of the fellowship and communion the Church claims to celebrate and witness. With their disappearance, an important dimension of the liturgy also receded, i.e., the primitive Church’s appreciation of the Eucharist as a sacrificium laudis (sacrifice of praise).

The liturgy that came out of the Middle Ages and Trent placed a different emphasis on the eucharistic liturgy. Focus was not on preparing all the baptized for mission but on the power of the ordained to transform bread and wine. The idea of the “unbloody reenactment of the sacrifice of the cross” pushed “thanksgiving for creation and consecrating the world” to the margins of eucharistic theology. The power of the clergy to make Christ present in Eucharist eclipsed the Eucharist’s power to transform the baptized — equipped to make Christ a real presence in the world through their everyday lives. Keightley again:

This not only introduced a deep divide between creation and redemption; it gave rise to a lay spirituality focused narrowly on the individual’s future salvation to the neglect of one’s priestly ecclesial duties for the here and now renewal of creation.

The 1570 missal (the basis of the 1962 missal) was, and continues to be, a liturgy in which the baptized — once subjects of the liturgy and co-celebrants of the eucharistic sacrifice — were and are reduced to mere spectators. They are there to watch the priest say “his” Mass. The emphasis is hierarchical and legalistic (who has the power and how are they lawfully exercising that power). Rather than the risen Christ working through the whole people of God (lay and ordained), we have a powerful clergy ministering to a passive people. Instead of church as sacrament, we have church as a juridical hierarchy.

The attempt to resurrect and popularize the 1962 pre-Vatican II Mass has serious ramifications. Will we be a church that looks narrowly inward — where God is found only in piety and private devotion, or will we be a church as Vatican II defined it — a Spirit-filled people on fire with an urgent sense of mission? We are at a crossroads. The extraordinary form is incapable of activating us as the priestly people of God — the vision of Vatican II. Which path will we follow?

Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross were great reformers of the Catholic Counter Reformation. As those at Vatican II, they tried to reform their community by returning to the sources and restoring religious practice (discalced) that had become obscured over time. They also had to struggle with those who fought the reforms they were initiating. We need their intercession to persevere in the aggiornamento (updating) that Pope John XXIII inaugurated by calling the council together.

The feisty, joyful perseverance of St. Teresa of Avila is reflected in one of my favorite quotes of hers: “From sour-faced saints and silly devotions, good Lord, preserve us!”

Amen.

[Fr. Ron Schmit is pastor of St. Anne Church in Byron, Calif.]

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17 comments on “Attempt to resurrect pre-Vatican II Mass leaves church at crossroads

  1. I wonder who’s paying to keep NCR afloat?

    They put out such uninteresting, uninspiring, low-thinking crap that they can’t possibly be selling enough subscriptions (even to cheapskate lefty pseudo-caths) to pay the bills.

  2. “… knew that permitting the old form would be not only divisive but would call the whole council into doubt, and that would be a sin against the Holy Spirit. Now we are experiencing the unfortunate fruit of the recent permission to celebrate the extraordinary form…”

    It is always good to see the enemy uncloaked. The quote above demonstrates a warped understanding of what constitutes a ‘sin against the Holy Ghost’.

    So far the trads and heretics are in agreement V2 represents a rupture in some key areas.

    The novus ordo embodies this rupture.

    I wonder how long before a Pope will agree instead of bowing to human respect.

  3. whoaa….very cleverly written…but one important point left out…how does this reasoning link the continuity that is supposed to exist….should we just conclude that the “Church” was wrong for over 1/2 of its existence. Lies …lies…damnable lies! Oh another point…I am sick of hearing that the “council (Vatican II)” unveiled a hidden truth that we are called now to holiness…pardon me…I thought we’ve always been called to holiness…isn’t that what the Holy Word says throughout Scripture and the Church has always taught….Give me a break!

  4. “Once Pope John Paul II was asked what was the most important day in his life. He replied, “The day I was baptized.” Aha! There we have it, folks…the day he was baptized and not theday he was ordained a priest of God and could celebrate the sacred mysteries. What a bunch or moronic rambling!

    • Hold on there, phaley. Baptism is the most essential of the Sacraments as no one can enter Heaven without the remission of Original Sin (note that this does not exclude the possibility of Baptism of Desire in certain cases). So the Day of your baptism is, basically, the most important day of one’s life. It is the day one receives Sanctifying Grace and becomes a member of Christ’s Mystical Body. The Sacrament of Ordination might be considered to be more sublime (if it is not irreverent to apply a human grading system to the Sacraments) due to the increase of grace which it causes and the awesome power which it confers, linked to the fewer numbers of those on whom it is conferred.

      Still, the most important DAY of one’s life, second only to the day of his death, must be the day of his baptism.

  5. The New Mass was the chief instrument of the Revolution and it’s crowning achievement. Those who say that there is continuity between it and the Mass of All Time are merely deluding themselves. People like the author of this foolish article are scared, because they can see Tradition ever-so-slowly rising from the ashes of the apocalypse of Vatican II. Only the old and foolish believe in the Vatican II rupture. They are dying and becoming fewer by the day. The young abandon the make-believe “church” invented by the Council and either slide into apostasy or return to the Faith and the Mass that their parents abandoned. And so, those who embraced the council and cast off the faith of their forefathers are afraid. And they should be.

    It will be a long, hard road, and the battle is far from won. But the Truth will rise again and prevail, as it always has.

  6. “The people attached to the extraordinary form are seriously trying to enact a particular worldview and understanding of church. And it is an understanding that we left behind at the Second Vatican Council. It is a worldview that is incompatible with the council.”

    He’s evil, but you’ve got to give him credit. It’s perhaps the most honest expression of “us vs. them” that I’ve seen in the degenerate press.

  7. Pope Paul VI said, “Never. This Mass … becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.”

    I am so pleased to see the above statement of Paul VI made public. It not only destroys Pope Benedict’s insistence on the “hermeneutic of continuity” both in the Mass and in the Councils; it also destroys his insistence that the TLM was never abrogated by his post-conciliar predecessor.

    • I’ve no doubt that Paul VI desired that the TLM be abrogated. The quoted statement seems to confirm that he intended to do so, although I would be interested in seeing the entire quote.

      Whether he actually did is another question. Personally, I am happy with Pope Benedict’s “ruling” that the Mass was never truly abrogated.

      • It never could be abrogated legally since Pope Saint Pius V declared definitively in Quo Primum: “. . . let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula than that of this Missal published by Us. This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever, throughout all the provinces of the Christian world . . .” and again: “. . . We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. . . .” (These are partial quotes. For the full document see: www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm )

  8. Pope] Paul [VI]’s response when his philosopher friend Jean Guitton asked why not concede the 1962 missal to breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers. Paul responded: “Never…”

    So, Jean Guitton says he said that? Well, it must be true then.

  9. The above explains a lot – for one thing why whenever I attend the ‘calvinist mass’ – i become acutely aware that i’m invincibly predestined for hell.

    All Saints preserve this sour-faced sinner – no hold on, that’s right, i’m just ugly – and all my ‘silly devotions’.

  10. Who really wrote this article? Cranmer? Bucer? Luther?

    A finer exposition of protestant theology of the Mass can’t be found.

  11. ‘…a liturgy in which the baptized … were and are reduced to mere spectators. They are there to watch the priest say “his” Mass.’

    Problem is, no one prays in the new mass, they just ‘perform’.

    But to the author’s ridiculous point, if the new mass was intended to create armies of missionary laymen to evangelize the world, what an utter and miserable failure it has been in the last 50 years to convince anyone to become Catholic. It has been so much to the contrary that it is impossible to see how anyone can publish such tripe with a strait face.

  12. Somewhere, Andropov smirks!

  13. Dietrich von Hildebrand has a different view:

    The basic error of most of the innovations is to imagine that the new liturgy brings the holy sacrifice of the Mass nearer to the faithful, that shorn of its old rituals the Mass now enters into the substance of our lives. For the question is whether we better meet Christ in the Mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our own pedestrian, workaday world. The innovators would replace holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity. The new liturgy actually threatens to frustrate the confrontation with Christ, for it discourages reverence in the face of mystery, precludes awe, and all but extinguishes a sense of sacredness. What really matters, surely, is not whether the faithful feel at home at Mass, but whether they are drawn out of their ordinary lives into the world of Christ-whether their attitude is the response of ultimate reverence: whether they are imbued with the reality of Christ.

    www.sanctamissa.org/en/spirituality/the-case-for-the-latin-mass.pdf

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