Monday, February 23, 2009

That was not my Mass

So says Elena Curti, deputy editrix of The Tablet, a journal which (like so many other things in the recent life of the Church) was once a bastion of Catholicism but is now a suppurating carbuncle of error, division and dissent.

As is by now well known across the blogosphere, the target of Ms. Curti’s invective was the traditional rite of Mass in general, and Fr. Tim Finigan in particular.

Happily for all good servants of the Lord, Ms. Curti’s hatchet job seems to have done more damage to herself and to the organ for which she writes than to Fr. Tim. Nevertheless that good priest has been maligned in a grossly offensive manner that at least one observer has considered actionable.

It is no secret that the editorial staff of The Tablet has a special animus against the old Mass. That they have such stems from ecclesiology—they have a different view of the Church and of religion, and probably a different view of God as well, to that which Catholics have always held. The old Mass is non grata in the wonderful, ‘renewed’ Church we currently inhabit because it so clearly expresses the old religion. The preference of the revolutionaries for the new Mass stems from the ambiguity of its ritual, since, given the plethora of options available to the celebrant or liturgy planner and the often sloppy manner of its celebration, the old religion is not as immediately and unambiguously expressed as in the older rite.

Melancholicus would never assert that a mere preference for the new rite constitutes an attachment to heresy, or renders one less Catholic than one’s neighbour. This rite has been normative in the western Church for nearly forty years, and it is no exaggeration to say that the majority of those who still attend Mass today do prefer it. They are accustomed to it, and where religious rites are concerned, long familiarity creates a deep attachment. Many ordinary Catholics have also unconsciously imbibed the propaganda of the liturgical revolution through no fault of their own.

So there is nothing in itself wrong with preferring the new Mass to the old, and Melancholicus would never oppose granting access to the Novus Ordo to those who desire it. Even if ideological radicals such as the likes of Elena Curti wish to attend the new rite every Sunday, so be it, it is not his place to interfere.

But what of those who desire access to the old rite? Should they not also be treated with equanimity?

While a mere preference for the new rite as the Mass to which one is accustomed is blameless, Melancholicus has always thought there is something peculiar about those whose attachment to the new rite is in part a reaction against the old.

They are suspect who wish to suppress the old Mass, or to see it suppressed. Such an attitude manifestly savours of heresy.

They are likewise suspect who, though aware of the old Mass, care nothing in particular for it and would cry no tears if it did in fact vanish, as though it were not a great treasure of the Church that ought to be cultivated and fostered with great care to be handed on to future generations. Such an attitude, while it does not necessarily indicate espousal of heretical opinions, is at the very least a ripe example of cultural and artistic philistinism.

Yesterday Melancholicus so wanted to attend the Mass of Quinquagesima Sunday instead of that for the seventh Sunday of “Ordinary Time”, but it just wasn’t available in his locality.

But he did not exclaim, with the arrogance of Elena Curti, that “that was not my Mass”. While improvements could certainly be made to the state of the liturgy as it is celebrated in these parts, the sacrifice of Calvary is still in there somewhere.

The Mass is the Mass; it is not the plaything of any priest, or layperson, or group of laypersons. It is an Actio Christi, an action of Christ, for He is both the Priest who offers, and the Victim who is offered, that the sins of many might be remitted. This is as true of even the wackiest Novus Ordo as it is of the most solemn and reverent celebration of the Latin Church’s ancient liturgy. The Mass is not a party, nor is it a simple meal, it is an august and solemn sacrifice, even the sacrifice of Calvary itself.

Each one of us knows how liturgical terrorists have obscured the sacrifice by changing the words of the rite and with the signs and gestures and other externals whereof it is composed, in an attempt to make it appear more a celebration of the community, or whatever, rather than an action of Christ. This is nothing less than a blasphemy, since it attempts to obscure a great truth that God himself has revealed to us, and attempts to refuse the greatest gift of all that He has given us. As St. Vincent de Paul said (quoted in the video below), “ceremonies may be shadows, but they are shadows of great truths, and it is essential that they should be carried out with the greatest possible attention”. And that, of course, is why the old liturgy and those who celebrate it are pursued with such bitter and fanatical zeal by our friends over at The Tablet, and elsewhere. The old Mass is unmistakably a solemn sacrifice, Calvary made present on our very altars in an unbloody manner — and that is why they hate it.

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