Saturday, December 16, 2017

Great Performances


They who truly adore God must adore Him in spirit and in truth.

I watched a bit of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert on PBS last evening.  I think it was from last year and it was very grand, as usual.  They had a live nativity which was styled and costumed very much like a Neapolitan creche.  I thought the presentation was rather Catholic.  If the presentation could have included a priest and deacons dressed in elaborate vestments, along with a couple dozen altar boys, partially obscured amid clouds of incense, it would probably attract crowds of traditional Mass Catholics.

The idea came to mind after I saw a couple of Facebook notices that the FSSP church in North Minneapolis is hosting Cardinal Burke tomorrow for a Pontifical Mass.  Today the had a Rorate Mass - candlelit.  I do not recall attending either as a young boy, but I knew the school sisters were happy to attend.  Friends on Facebook noted they would be attending both events this weekend.  The Masses are beautiful indeed, yet the notices do impress me as promotional ads for a special performance - staring Cardinal Burke, and that sort of thing.  Before you get mad that I said that, please know that I understand that it is not like that - but it may seem like that to outsiders.

See that your bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in you.

It's a curious situation the Latin rite finds itself in.  One Mass in two forms, as well as two calendars for the two forms.  A week or so ago I praised the beauty of a Mass celebrated at a Baroque altar and a friend suggested I go to All Saints, the FSSP parish, mistaking my admiration for the beautiful setting, as well as my regret that many churches got rid of so much ornament, as a sort of unhappiness with the Ordinary Form of Mass.  I'm not at all unhappy with the Ordinary Form.

Many traditionalists complain the Ordinary Form is all about the people and the personality of the priest-celebrant.  That's not my experience.  That said, advertising this Cardinal or that Bishop appearing for a Pontifical Mass at the Throne with several priests and deacons and dozen of altar boys in attendance, amid clouds of incense, seems like promoting an episode of Great Performances.  It is said the Ordinary Form is narcissistic with all the attention upon the celebrant and not worship, all about 'us' and not God.  I think not.

I love this.

The interplay of light and darkness speak to the meaning of Advent and the coming of the Light of the world.

I also believe it is an error to think that one form of Mass is holier than than the other, or more efficacious than the other.  This seems to be the defense on some level, and that simply is not true.  (I'm also thinking it is very wrong to play the EF against the OF, and/or to discuss its use in terms of regime change and who is for it or against it, as well as to enlist new followers or promoters as one would for a theatrical production, and that sort of thing.)  The Rorate Mass is a beautiful celebration in honor of Our Lady, and the theological/mystical symbolism is very rich, so I am not at all dismissing it.  But what exactly is a Rorate Mass?

The Rorate Caeli Mass is a traditional Advent devotion wherein the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Advent is offered just before dawn. In many instances families and individuals travel an hour or more, rising and arriving very early for this stunningly beautiful Mass. The interplay of light and darkness speak to the meaning of Advent and the coming of the Light of the world. - Finish reading at FSSP

I think some people are drawn to deeper devotion in and through the traditional liturgical rites.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  It is their personal experience but it cannot be stated that therefore the extraordinary Form is holier or more pleasing to God when in fact the Church celebrates the Ordinary Form as the central form of the liturgy.  (I'm not a liturgist so I'm not sure I expressed that well.)   Playing the two forms against one another, or saying one is more efficacious than the other is an error.  It seems to me that attitude is also a form of snobbery which is often observable in other areas of the lives of such people.  (It's sometimes fairly obvious on social media.)

Something to think about from St. John of the Cross...

The reason, then, why some spiritual persons never enter perfectly into the true joys of the spirit is that they never succeed in raising their desire for rejoicing above these things that are outward and visible. Let such take note that, although the visible oratory and temple is a decent place set apart for prayer, and an image is a motive to prayer, the sweetness and delight of the soul must not be set upon the motive or the visible temple, lest the soul should forget to pray in the living temple, which is the interior recollection of the soul. The Apostle, to remind us of this, said: 'See that your bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in you.'  And this thought is suggested by the words of Christ which we have quoted, namely that they who truly adore God must adore Him in spirit and in truth.  For God takes little heed of your oratories and your places set apart for prayer if your desire and pleasure are bound to them, and thus you have little interior detachment, which is spiritual poverty and renunciation of all things that you may possess.
In order, then, to purge the will from vain desire and rejoicing in this matter, and to lead it to God in your prayer, you must see only to this, that your conscience is pure, and your will perfect with God, and your spirit truly set upon Him.

Of certain evils into which those persons fall who give themselves to pleasure in sensible objects and who frequent places of devotion in the way that has been described.
Many evils, both interior and exterior, come to the spiritual person when he desires to follow after sweetness of sense in these matters aforementioned.  For, as regards the spirit, he will never attain to interior spiritual recollection, which consists in neglecting all such things, and in causing the soul to forget all this sensible sweetness, and to enter into true recollection, and to acquire the virtues by dint of effort. As regards exterior things, he will become unable to dispose himself for prayer in all places, but will be confined to places that are to his taste; and thus he will often fail in prayer, because, as the saying goes, he can understand no other book than his own village. - S. John, Ascent

There is an often repeated 
complaint that the 'Presider's Chair'
in the 'Novus Ordo' either 
took the place of the tabernacle
or blocked the view
of the tabernacle,
and made the narcissistic celebrant 
the focus.

 *The word 'gaudy' is derived from 'gaudium'.  Isn't that interesting?


  1. The Mass in all forms is beautiful. I do not have a problem with allowing the celebration of various rites. I do have a problem with frivolous disrespectful displays. Maybe the Bishops were too heavy handed in implementing V2 changes. The Latin Mass, especially the High and special ones strike me as very Monarchical with great pomp and circumstance. Nothing wrong with that but certainly at odds with our American idea of democracy. It also strikes me as a rather expensive rite to maintain with gold thread vestments etc. I am all for a balance. Keep the old traditions but most important keep the reverence.

  2. All valid rites of the Mass are beautiful and have a place in liturgy. I think the hierarchy was too heavy handed in implementing V2 when implementing revisions. The Latin Mass, especially the High services, are very expensive with gold threaded vestments and all the accoutrements. It has a monarchical structure and presentation that in no small part caused our Protestant countrymen to distrust the RC Church and her members as somehow anti-American. I think there is room for many traditions so long as respectful. The core of any of them is the consecration. The Eucharist is valid and bestows grace on the faithful regardless of form so long as valid.

    1. We think alike. Mass tonight was lovely - Ordinary Form - 2 priests - holy ones - reverent and so on, and the Eucharist, my joy.

  3. I understand the possibility of two forms of Mass in the same Rite (though personally I am not in favor of it) . After all, the Byzantines have had the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as their usual form and as explained to me by a Russian Catholic friend , the Liturgy of St. basil as a more Elaborate form for special (I believe more solemn) celebrations. But I am still shaking my head and just don’t understand what I call “liturgical schizophrenia“ of having woo calendars for the one same Roman Rite. I wish we would just pick one and stick with it for everyone.

  4. TWO (not woo) calendars

    1. Gotcha. With me my daily lectio/prayer is founded upon the daily readings and Gospel, as well as the votive prayer and prayers after Communion and so on. Sometimes simply the antiphon before the canticle or even the responsorial.

  5. Hi Terry. I hope your Advent is efficacious and holy!

    1. Thanks Larry! I wish the same for you my friend.

  6. "I think some people are drawn to deeper devotion in and through the traditional liturgical rites"

    My experience is that those who attend Latin Mass really do not have a deeper devotion - they leave Mass just as quick as those at the OF.

    As for the Laity practicing Mediation at the Latin Mass - again its not there.

    Packing a piece to Latin Mass is not devotion - just the opposite. And be warned - there are several Lay who carry guns to FSSP Masses - its encouraged - as you know.

    I will accuse any Latin Mass attending pistol packing layman of having no deep devotion.

    Their devotion is on the surface and not lasting. If these Latin Mass attendees lost their access to Latin Mass - they would fold - because the lot of them will never go back to the OF.

    So I would NEVER say that attendance at the Latin Mass instills a greater Piety

    All my devotions I learned took place at the OF - granted I had help from a bunch of dead Jesuits.

    And by experience I can be distracted at the Latin Mass as I can at the OF

    1. Thanks - I think we also agree on this.

    2. I was a child and young teenager when the traditional Latin Mass was the norn. I learned to to serve the Mass in that form. It was reverent, meaningful and, I think, beautiful. However, the common lexicon in that day was that you "heard" Mass. you did not participate but were passive. The priest was the sole celebrant. All Masses were packed with standing room only at some Masses. It was a different time with strong families, active parishes and schools brimming with children. It was a good time and environment for me personally. As for deep religious and spiritual events I do not remember those. Maybe they were there and I was too young to appreciate but most people were busy noticing who was there and what they were wearing. Ladies hats were a big status symbol. The Mass offered today I think is much more genuine to the Last Supper. The congregation participates and is involved in a way they could not in the old form. I often wonder what our RC Church would look like if it never had changed the Mass. I suspect the community aspect would be gone, the schools closed and the nuns declining in age and numbers. The golden age of American Catholicism would have changed anyway. Still, I remember it fondly. This is why it does not bother me to have both forms available. When I have attend the Latin Mass of late I still get the feeling I am observing rather then participating.

  7. Growing up all Sunday Masses were standing room only. People said they were "hearing" Mass. You might follow in your St Joseph's Missal but that was about it. The Priest did all the work while we watched. I often wondered what would have happened if the Mass had never changed. Society changed and took away large families, nuns, many priests and parish life as we knew it. I remember sitting in Sunday Mass was often a time to see your neighbors in public. Women often wore their best and biggest hat. Men put their hats in the clip in the pew. Kids fidgeted. Not sure what spiritual depth was present. Everyone was distracted. It was quite a show though and very beautiful. Participation or reflection not so much. All that was expected was to attend. The rest was left to the priest.

    1. I think it's dangerous territory to try and determine another's interior disposition during prayer. Or their motivations. Not saying you are necessarily doing that - just saying. Better a person turn up begrudgingly every week than not at all!

    2. Yes, I agree with your observation. My main point is little was expected of the laity in the old days beyond being present. It was passive pArticipation. The priest did all the heavy lifting.

  8. Joel - good point. I do have friends who are very holy and prayerful who attend the Extraordinary Form, one family I know are probably all in ecstasy as soon as they enter a church with the Blessed Sacrament. They are awesome. So I am wrong to suggest otherwise regarding the interior dispositions of others. Thanks for the correction.

  9. Of great performances ... I do hope you see this post of mine as I wish for you and your blog readers a very holy and happy and Merry Christmas, dear Terry. May the precious Babe fill your hearts with everlasting joy! Feliz Navidad!


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.