Thursday, July 27, 2006

Redundancy Is Primary

I thought it well to post the following here, though my gambit says many of you will also see it elsewhere: it is a loosely-wrapped ramble about certain trends that I personally find quite problematic. Enjoy. Or don't.

As much as I like the Trid Mass in itself, I must admit to being dismayed by the number and comport of some of the attendants it attracts. They've always impressed upon me a certain "Holier-than-thou" attitude that is doubtless a reactionary response to the overwhelming disbelief of basic tenets of faith and disregard for tradition on behalf of the modern Novus Ordo crowd.

The attitude includes but is not limited to a rabid, anal-retentive stickling for exactingly perfect execution of the rite, coupled with bitter complaining when this expectation is not met. It's an overly showy display of knowledge about the Latin Rite, and a sort of conviction that the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Tridentine Mass is somehow of infinitely more infinite value than the sacrifice of the same Body and Blood of the same Christ in a Novus Ordo Mass. To put a fine point on it, it's liturgical snobbery, far more obnoxious to me than shaking the hand of my pew-mate who's been blowing his nose all during Mass.

As I said, such attitudes are no doubt rooted in reaction to abuses implemented by rogues after Vatican II, but it is not a problem with Vatican II or with the Novus Ordo in itself. While some may admit this, many of them do so grudgingly, and act like they don't believe it anyway. There is nothing intrinsically irreverent about the Novus Ordo. There is a happy medium. Don't be one of the fringe elements sitting on the gunwale of the Bark of Peter trying to counteract the irreverent and equally radical leftist contingent in the Church. Because when the Bark hits rough waters, the only ones who aren't going to be thrown off are the ones happily and safely situated in the middle, looking over the full wake of 2,000 years of composite history and tradition.

I console myself with the fact that the Trid Nazis would probably wet themselves if faced with a Greek Mass from the second century, and the raucous applause at the incorporation of a new member into the Mystical Body of Christ. It is applause rooted in a true joy and understanding of the mission of the Church that many folks seem to stifle. Or, can you imagine the first Masses said by Cyril and Methodius in the Germanic lands in the native tongue? The entire Church except the Pope seemed to hate their guts for even suggesting such a heresy. Imagine the look on the faces of the priests while perusing the rogue's gallery of scruffy characters at their Masses, rolling their eyes with a slight smile, saying to themselves, "We've got a long way to go."

It's a kind of attitude similar to the one that holds that there was no such thing as good music before the 13th Century, nor will there be good music after the 18th. Much like the history of vestments. They did not suddenly appear in all their Tridentine glory in the 12th Century. Chasubles? Where did they come from? They were just a raincoat in the early days. Only later did they lose their functionality and become emblazoned with gold wire. I guarantee St. Paul did not show up in Rome saying, "Check out this sweet fiddleback I've got." The maniple? A handkerchief for the priest to use on his runny nose during Mass. The cincture? Just a rope belt! All the symbolism was applied to these things after the fact. The Sabbath is for Man, not Man for the Sabbath. These vestments are not in themselves imbued with any intrinsic impressiveness. Yes, the garments should match the solemnity of the occasion, but we should not harbor any illusions about the history of the Tridentine Mass, as though there were no Mass before the 12th Century, nor after the 20th.

Let's not forget our rustic roots as Catholics, nor become so snobbish about our pet rite that we speak or act in a way that excludes other Catholics who have every bit of the same claim to Our Father's inheritance. It has always disturbed me exceedingly to hear the arrogance behind complaints about how the congregation sings at a Mass. The congregation is the greater number of souls at a Mass, and the choir, if it does its job, is to humbly offer its service, whether well or poorly executed, of a background in which the worshiper may more easily raise his heart and mind to God. The choir member should strive to do his best, but it is not his or her show. It is about God.

~ Geoff


Fidelio said...

Thou art wise, my friend. Thanks for this great little piece.

healthily sanguine said...

Wow! You really put your finger on a lot of things that I've kind of vaguely picked up on but never defined. Good insight.

Fezzick said...

Good stuff, Geoff. I admire your wit as well as your wisdom.

Anonymous said...

There is a measure of truth in what you say. A great number of traditionalists seem poisoned by bitterness arrogance, and a spirit of rebellion.

Nonetheless, I have a few objections to your post:

There is a precedent for "liturgical snobbery" in the history of the Church - Popes, councils, and saints are often particular about the Mass. While the Pope certainly has supreme authority in liturgical matters, he is not guaranteed perfect prudence in exercising it. One can acknowledge, reverence, and obey the Church in these matters, and yet, objectively hold that the Tridentine Mass is more fitting worship.

This may be obvious from my above remarks, but I think it is reasonable to criticize some parts of the NO Mass itself, and not merely the abuses in its implementation.

Geoff said...

Dear Anonymous,

There is a measure of truth in what Hindus and Muslims say, as well.

There is indeed a precedent for liturgical snobbery. There is also a difference between being "particular" and being a vehement churl who lambastes the New Order of the Mass. The saints belonged to the former species. My post addresses the second.

I fully agree with your second note pertaining to reverence toward the Church, while maintaining that certain aspects of the Tridentine Rite are more fitting worship.

And in league with your third statement,I believe it reasonable to criticize some parts of the Tridentine Mass itself.

Accord is a beautiful thing. The foundation of community.

~ Geoff

bakerstreetrider said...

Excellent post, Geoff. There is a unique and deadly form of snobbery/uncharity present in the traditionalist movement, and the ironic thing is that (at least in my opinion) this snobbery is the greatest hindrance to its success. Traditionalists blame "liberal" or "concilar" Rome for their problems, but they would be better off blaming themselves.

Often this attitude comes from an inaccurate picture of history.

For excellent, insightful, and constuctive criticism concerning our present liturgical issues, I highly recommend "Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger." Dr. Poterack assigned it for liturgy class, and it's a great read.