A Call for the Re-Discovery of Traditional Liturgical Piety
Mass is not a lesson or a class, or a primary form for the exchange of information. The primary point (of Mass) is not to understand it for the information conveyed. The primary point is to be present with your heart and soul just as Our Lady, St. Mary and St. John were present at the foot of the cross.
-Fr. Calvin Goodwin, FSSP
-Antonio Cardinal Canizarez Llovera,
Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship
The “participatio actuosa” is free, conscious and fruitful, but it does not mean to always participate and intervene, and even silence (which is a sign of adoration and respect) is 'active' participation. The source of participation is prayer which is the conversation between us and even more with God, it means to act cum Ecclesia: participation, then does not mean movement; silence is not empty. Connected to participation is devotion, which cannot and must never be banal, superficial, mundane, something which obliges. No, indeed, it is free from those defects.
-Antonio Cardinal Canizarez Llovera,
Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship
Introduction: Is This Important?
According to the 1962 hand missal, The Holy Mass: Short Instructions:
Of all the practices recommended by our holy religion: Morning and Evening Prayers, Prayers before and after Meals, Visit to the Most Holy Sacrament, Rosary, Way of the Cross, etc.--the august Sacrifice of the Mass is infinitely greater. It is the most precious, the most holy of practices, as well as the most conducive to man's salvation.
Mass is the re-presentation, in an unbloody manner, of the sacrifice of Calvary in which Jesus offered his life to atone for the sins of all humanity. It is the pinnacle of man's encounter with God on this earth.
Thus, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is first and foremost the most precious practice of our holy religion, and the most conducive to salvation for all men. The Catholic Church has always placed the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the center of Catholic life. The reason for this is the nature of the Sacrament that is confected at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. However, it is more than simply a static presence of Our Blessed Lord. The Eucharist is the Living Bread that came down from heaven.
Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. (Jn 6. 54-55.)
For this reason the Eucharist is the end and consummation of all the sacraments (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST, III, Q63, Art 6). In Baptism is contained a necessary and implicit desire to receive the Eucharist, and all the other sacraments are ordered toward the Eucharist. It is, indeed, the consummation of our holy religion on this earth. This is the reason why the Mass is the most precious practice of our religion. It circumscribes the highest manifestation of the Divine on earth, and as a consequence it reveals all that is the highest in man.
The Catholic Mass in consequence of its place as the consummation of religion can not be an isolated exercise in the spiritual life, but must be the center and focal point of the whole spiritual life of man while he endeavors upon this earthly sojourn. As the other six sacraments are ordered by and toward the Eucharist, so must be the devotional practices of the spiritual life, and, indeed, the whole of human life.
This important facet of our liturgical worship was hinted at by Pope Benedict XVI when he wrote in his book, Spirit of the Liturgy:
It becomes clear that "cult", seen in its true breadth and depth, goes beyond the action of the liturgy. Ultimately, it embraces the ordering of the whole of human life in Irenaeus' sense. Man becomes glory for God, puts God, so to speak, into the light (and that is what worship is), when he lives by looking toward God. (20)
The Mass, by virtue of the Eucharist, directs the life of man toward God. In it, God provides the means by which man can direct his life toward God. The Catholic Mass is not fabricated by man. The Mass was Divinely instituted at the Last Supper by Jesus Christ, and it has been perfected by God through its organic development throughout the years by the aegis of Holy Mother Church. The Mass is something that is received from God.
However, not all generations have been attentive to the Mass, or have safeguarded a fitting manner of offering it. At present, the manner of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is suffering. In fact, many bishops have allowed the Mass to be offered in such a way that it rivals the repulsive rites of the Borborites. Most traditional Catholics rightly point the finger of blame at the ideologies that produced the novus ordo Mass and other innovations of the post-Vatican II Church. While these innovations are clear examples of a break with Tradition, especially the received ritual of the Mass, they did not suddenly spring out of nowhere. Their origins lay in evolution of the 20th Century Liturgical Movement, which subtly spun, strand by strand, a formidable web of errors that eventually entangled the children of Holy Mother Church.
Spinning the Web of Liturgical Clericalism: The 20th Century Liturgical Movement
The history of the Liturgical Movement of the 20th Century is a very complex subject. Many consider its roots to lie in the writings of Dom Gueranger or the motu propio of Pope St. Pius X, Tra le solectudini (on the restoration of ecclesiastical music). The later includes the now famous quote, "it being our ardent desire to see... the active participation [of all the faithful] in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church." Others trace its roots even further back, to St. Giuseppe Tommasi and Ludovico Antonio Muratori of the late 17th century, or the work of the 19th century scholar, Antonio Rosmini. Practically speaking, however, the beginning of the 20th Century Liturgical Movement was the work of Dom Lambert Beauduin, O.S.B.
From the beginning, Beauduin sought to reform the liturgy of the Church in light of his "pastoral" experiences, and in light of fostering a "liturgical piety". His notion of liturgical piety, however innocent in appearance at first, was, nonetheless, entirely wrong. Beauduin is given a favorable review by many modern liturgists, such as Alcuin Reid, who sees nothing, at least in Beauduin's early work, to cause alarm. However, Reid like all other liturgists, especially clerical liturgists, don't see cause for alarm because they are blinded by their clerical and scholarly perspective that sheds light only on the words and rubrics and their historical development. What Reid sees in Beauduin's early work is an entirely acceptable respect for the "organic development" of the liturgy. Indeed, Beauduin attempted to achieve what Pope St. Pius X called for, that is an active participation. Reid writes in The Organic Development of the Liturgy:
Thus, the Liturgical Movement was founded, not in order to create oases of medieval liturgical splendour [more's the pity, eh?] or archaeological delight, but to nourish everyday Christian life by participation in the Liturgy celebrated in local churches and chapels. In its origins it sought to awaken people's consciousness, including, and primarily, that of the clergy, to the Church's traditional spiritual treasury that was widely ignored. (p. 81, emphasis added.)
This seems perfectly acceptable, doesn't it? Even noble! However, it's wrong headed because it is steeped in a kind of subtle clericalism. Priests such Beauduin, Botte, and many a modern priest, looked out from where they stood during Mass and witnessed a congregation fingering their beads, reading from a devotional manual, or kneeling with their eyes shut tight, and those priests assumed that the laity hadn't a proper "liturgical piety". Thus, they concluded that in order for there to be "active participation", the same congregation must have translations in their hands and must follow every word and action of the priest. They must keep their rosaries at home, and instead loudly intone the words of the altar server. Thus the evolution of that hideous thing called a dialogue Mass wherein a congregation dreadfully slaughters the Latin language. The more the people slavishly follow the words and actions of the priest, the more they are like the priest, and thus the better their "liturgical piety." Have you ever noticed, dear reader, that when congregations started to bury their eyes in hand missals instead of allowing them flow over the church's furnishings during the course of the sacred Mysteries, church architecture and art started its downward spiral, by degrees, into what we have today: cold, sterile boxes that lack even the charm of a Wal-mart?
It is interesting to read through the work of the principle movers of the 20th century liturgical movement--not just Beauduin, but also Romano Guardini, Dom Theodore Wesseling, Dom Virgil Michel--and discover that so little of them mention on extremely rare occasion the fourfold intention of assisting at the Mass (adoration, praise and thanksgiving, reparation and impetration). Roger Schoenbechler's principles of liturgical reform that appeared in the journal, Orate Fratres (see Reid, 101), never mentions them, either. Nor do any of them mention that at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the faithful are present at the mystical re-presentation of Our Blessed Lord's one Sacrifice on Calvary Hill. It's not that these things were unknown to the movers of the liturgical movement; its that they were below them.
For the liturgists of the 20th century liturgical movement, the "spiritual treasures" of the Church's liturgy, which Alcuin Reid mentioned, did not really include the fact that the principle actor of the Church's public worship is Jesus Christ, nor that the Mass is the re-presentation of Christ's one Sacrifice on Calvary Hill. For the liturgists of the 20th century liturgical movement, and many modern priests today (who often pose as liturgically traditional or conservative), the spiritual treasures of the Church's liturgies are nothing more than the "organic development" of poetic words and rubrics.
And the poor, poor laity--those poor people uniting themselves to the Sacrifice of the Mass by praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, or reading a devotional manual that helped them to meditate on how the various parts of the Mass represented the episodes in Our Blessed Lord's Passion--those poor slobs hadn't any "liturgical piety" at all! The priests of the movement would give it to them, no matter the cost. Such was the felicitous "pastoral" liberality of Annibale Bugnini, and so we ended up with the novus ordo Mass. It was not an organic development of the liturgy, so Reid laments, but it was an organic development, nonetheless. It organically developed out of the sterile notion of "liturgical piety" that scholarly priests conceived in the early years of the 20th century.
The Web of Liturgical Clericalism Today
Thus came about the clericalism at the heart of all our liturgical difficulties today. This clericalism was firmly embedded in the thinking of those who fabricated the novus ordo Mass, but it is also commonly found among neo-conservative, and even some traditionalists.
The Church has struggled with a post-Vatican II clericalism that has been fostered throughout the course of the 20th century by a liturgical movement that concerned itself only with making the laity act like priests. This clericalism posits the sad falsehood that only the ordained can foster an authentically Catholic spirituality and piety, and the laity share in this only to the extent that they can resemble the priest, by saying his prayers and tramping about in the sanctuary as lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc., etc., etc...
Even traditional Catholics have been influenced by this deviant ideology, as is apparent from some otherwise laudable conservative Internet priests. One of these otherwise laudable Internet priests has given the impression that only priests benefit primarily from Summorum Pontificum, the landmark motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI that declares the Traditional Latin Mass never abrogated, and, therefore, by association, only the priest primarily benefits from the Traditional Latin Mass. What rubbish is that?
The very history of the Church bears this attitude false.
Look to the example of Saints Thomas Moore, King Louis IX, Maria Goretti, and, of course, Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, our very special examples of saintly parenthood. The Mass for these saints was not an exercise in slavishly following the actions or words of the priest, nor was it a spectacle that they passively witnessed, all along wishing to be something they were not. Nor for them was the Mass a matter of priestly etiquette, for their religion was more than the learned opinions of the ordained. The piety and spirituality of these lay saints was, simply, a life centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and directed, in consequence thereof, in toto toward God.
Likewise, the beauty that Holy Mother Church has been adorned throughout her history was provided by laymen artisans, architects, and musicians, financially supported by laymen of means, and born upon backs of layman laborers, and all done for the love the Traditional Latin Mass. Aside from a few rare exceptions, the masterpieces that adorn our great cathedrals and churches, aside from a few rare exceptions designed and built by laymen, were sculpted and painted, not by priests, but by laymen, while over the centuries they were washed in melodies crafted by, for the most part, laymen. It was the sweat and tears, not to mention the financial backing, of the laymen that adorned and filled out our churches, basilicas and cathedrals. These works were not done begrudgingly, or in compliance with the dictates of the priests. How could anyone think this who has gazed up a the arched ceiling of Notre Dame de Paris, or the brilliant hues of Guido Reni's Trinity above the main altar at Rome's Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, or listened in rapture to Byrd's Circumspice Jerusalem? Are these not works of love? Are these not the works of those whose lives and endeavors were profoundly influenced by the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? How bereft the Church would be if there were only ordained priests and no one else.
Lest I be accused of anti-clericalism, let it be known that I fully agree with Saint John Vianney who wrote:
Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest -- always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.I would gladly kiss the hands of the most sinful priest, for by his hand Our Blessed Lord visits us, and by his word are my sins forgiven, and by his ministry my soul is prepared for the final journey of this life. What dignity has the fingers of the priest that are set upon the very Flesh of Our Blessed Lord! Certainly, I have known wonderful priests, caring priests, men who feared God. When we see a priest, any priest, our thoughts must certainly go to Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. But, certainly, that is, indeed, where one's thoughts must go, for the entire existence of the priest and the nature of his ordination resides in the ministry of Jesus Christ's one Priesthood. We are all given our proper place and office, and the office of the priest, by its very nature, is higher in dignity than that of the laymen, for he performs the greatest of all acts: the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Nor do I wish to belittle the cultural and artistic gifts that have been left by those of the cloth. However, at the same time, this dignity of the priest can not cancel out the profound dignity of, nor the vast treasury of artistic and cultural gifts left by, all the others who benefit from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If this were so, then there would be no dignity of the priest, either, for it is for and on behalf of the rest of the Church that the priest offers the Mass.
The Antidote to Liturgical Clericalism: The Dignity of the Laity's Participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Rather than anti-clericalism, what I propose is an antidote to the clericalism that arose in the 20th century, which was a unique product of the liturgical movement. The key to this antidote is re-discovering the unique means by which the laity participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and by highlighting the dignity of this participation.
At the height of the 20th century liturgical movement the Church ended up with the novus ordo Mass, wherein the faithful are constantly busy with various responses, recited carelessly from rote, singing folk music so loudly that they drown each other out, and are embarrassed by a priest who attempts to entertain with his personality. Completely absent, however, are those "private" devotions so lamented by the intelligentsia of the liturgical movement. Now there is no more fingering of beads, no more devotional manuals, no more pesky meditations on the Passion of Christ that distracted the laity from the most important thing of all, the creativity of the liturgists.
Fr. Chad Ripperger wrote in an article, The Spirituality of the Ancient Mass:
The last aspect is ascendence in prayer. We have already mentioned the silence that is necessary to ascend the heights of prayer. While it is not required for vocal prayer, it is required for mental prayer and the other seven levels of prayer. St. Augustine said that no person can save his soul if he does not pray. Now it is a fact that mental prayer and prayer in general have collapsed among the laity (and the clergy, for that matter) in the past thirty years. It is my own impression that this development actually has to do with the ritual of the Mass. Now in the new rite, everything centers around vocal prayer, and the communal aspects of the prayer are heavily emphasized. This has led people to believe that only those forms of prayer that are vocal and communal have any real value.
The absence of meditative prayer at Mass is the result of the sterility of the movement's "liturgical piety" for the laity. The fruit of the liturgical movement was rotten, not because the movement was hijacked at some point in its history, but because the movement was flawed from the very outset. It had at its heart a clericalism that was used to interpret "active participation" in a way that the liturgists wanted, not what it really was intended by the original author, St. Pius X. The liturgists of the movement provided their own, clerical, meaning for the term. However, active participation isn't an external game of keeping up with the priest at the altar, and the spiritual treasures of the Mass aren't limited to words or rubrics. There is a vast treasure that has, indeed, been lost because the 20th century liturgical movement forgot a simple sentence from the Catechism: "The best manner of hearing Mass is to offer it to God with the priest for the same purpose for which it is said, to meditate on Christ's sufferings and death, and to go to Holy Communion."
Attempting to unpack the meaning of that single sentence is the purpose of this blog. This is an attempt to show another kind of liturgical piety that is the property, not of the priest at the altar, but for all those who are brought to the one Sacrifice of Christ in a mystical manner at the Holy Mass. Ars Orandi, the art of prayer, is the work and the joy of the faithful who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the part that they play, namely opening themselves up to the primary actor, Jesus Christ, who will affect in them, in measure of His good pleasure, unity with God. Those prayers and meditations and contemplation that opens the human heart to this work of God is nothing to belittle. It must once again take center stage in our understanding of Catholic liturgy if we are to again achieve authentic Catholic liturgy in the ruins left by the 20th century liturgical movement.
The primary aspect of the laity's participation at Mass is to be present with all their hearts with Our Lady, St. Mary Magdalen and St. John, the beloved disciple, at the foot of the cross. This presence requires that man allow God's grace to lead him there, to meditate upon the Passion of Christ, the same that is re-presented on the altar, the goal being God's gracious gift of contemplation. Within the Church various methods have been discovered that help those present at Mass become present at Calvary. These are called methods of hearing Mass.
The many methods of hearing the Mass are immeasurable helps to the laity, religious, and even priests. They facilitate a worthy means of assisting at Mass. They are a means to meditation and contemplation upon the principle actor of the Mass, Jesus Christ. By these methods of hearing the Mass the faithful are given access to a universe that has all but been lost to average Catholics in the last century. By these methods the Mass becomes more than a closed circle of people acting out the lines and blocking of a rigid, unchanging game. By these methods the faithful are brought to Calvary, to the foot of the Cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalen, and Saint John. They witness the raising of the Cross at the elevation of the Host, Our Blessed Lord's last words, His death at the breaking of the Host, and the shaking of the world at the moment of that history shattering event in the silence before the second Confiteor. They weep with the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Saviour is taken down and placed in her trembling arms. The faithful follow in mournful procession as Our Lord is laid in the tomb, and at the Communion, they rest their heads against the stone of that tomb in sadness for their sins that necessitated His suffering, but in hopeful expectation for the Resurrection that comes at the "Dominus vobiscum". Each part of the Mass carries with it a meditation according to the various methods.
This traditional liturgical piety is that piety that gave us the flourishing beauty of the Catholic Church. The fruits of these meditations can be seen in the brilliant colors and flowering art of the great Baroque churches, but also in the sober and graceful lines of the Gothic, the simplicity of the ancient monasteries, the quiet of Solemnes Chant, and the majestic grandeur of Mozart's Masses. These are the achievements of a liturgical piety that looks toward God.
It is my hope that this blog can help the faithful, especially the lay faithful who are in the trenches, to experience the art and beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass and its commensurate spirituality.
Click here for an example of a fruitful method of hearing the Mass.