The restoration has a long way to go
It seems that the TLM in Chico may have reached a temporary plateau. It is celebrated in a prominent place, and there has been quite a lot of publicity. Hundreds of local Catholics have now attended this Mass, but for some reason most have not returned. I think the reality is that most Catholics around here – many of them good and devout and not at all hostile to the TLM – are satisfied with the Novus Ordo, which may be all they have ever known, and simply have no desire to change. For many, this probably has more to do with cultural inertia and attachment to the familiar rather than an explicit commitment to the “reforms” of the new liturgy.
Nevertheless, there are many others who are committed to the Novus Ordo because they believe it signifies a repudiation of perceived defects in our Catholic heritage. Their influence should not be underestimated. Amy Welborn Dubruiel has a post today asking readers to comment on a beautiful photograph of the elevation at a traditional Solemn High Mass. There are an encouraging number of positive comments, as I have come to expect given the unusual quality of her readership. However, we should note what the detractors are saying, because they represent the kind of modernist thinking that remains entrenched in the Church and is not going away anytime soon. Here’s a synopsis:
“I am not totally revolted by the picture, but I do find myself bothered by two aspects
(please don’t flame me!)
1) The fact that it is all men. I am not a believer in women’s ordination in the Catholic Church, but the fact that women may not play any role at all in this ritual bothers me, and I don’t understand it.
2) I do honestly have a hard time connecting this to the early Christian experience. I’m not an antiquarian, but can’t quite figure out how this fits with the apostolic experience. In a way, the Eastern CAtholic and Orthodox liturgies don’t bother me in this way because they seem well, more Eastern. I know that doesn’t make sense, but the medieval formality makes me feel like things are closing in instead of opening up.”
“In this image, I see only the altar and the clergy (except for the altar servers). I don’t see the people. You rarely do when you see these images. I understand the role of the Priest, but this is the Mass of all the people, of whom he is a part …
Another thing is that, to me, it seems too complicated. There are too many little particulars that are focused on too heavily. I see how people could see this as more reverent, but still, I can’t help but think that simpler is better. When Jesus walked among us, He was pretty folksy – He was one of the folks, and His life was pretty simple.”
“I AM put off by all males in the sanctuary. I sometimes wonder why a ten year old boy has more of a ‘right place’ there than me – after thirty years of church ministry and a theology degree. Not that I act as a server. But I am a communion minister and lector.
I’ve gone to Extraordinary form masses twice in the last 40 years. My reaction was “Well, that was a fun trip back to being eight!” I have my old missal. My parents were conscientious about keeping me on the right page back then and helping me to learn the responses as I got older. So, I certainly didn’t grow up ignorant of the mass before 1965-70.
But, I feel alienated by being more passive at worship than one is in the Novus Ordo. No matter how beautiful the music. But I can get beautiful music ‘from the church’s treasury’ where I worship now.”
“Looking at the picture, I find myself unable to breathe – and it’s not the incense which I have always preferred. Words that come to mind are ‘stuffy,’ ‘elitist,’ ‘closed,’ ‘far-removed,’ ‘confining,’ ‘inaccessible,’ ‘holier-than-thou,’ ‘extreme,’ ‘antiquated,’ ‘inacessible’ [there it is again – the predominant adjective that supercedes the others].
I have been to a more than a few of these liturgies at the invitation of friends who love and yearn for this rite, and in every case, I left with a sense of ‘thank goodness that is no longer the universal rite of the Latin Church.’ Especially when the readings (1st, 2nd & Gospel) were in Latin and the Eucharistic prayers inaudible and mumbled, competing with a not-so-good schola attempting polyphony off key during an interminble Sanctus. The whole thing was rather gnostic – only a certain few possessed the language or sensibility to appreciate the beauty of the rite.”
“My immediate gut reaction? Lovely, reverent, focused, but… the Lord is out of reach – there are too many people standing in the way between me and Him.”
“Jesus shared Himself with all mankind forever in the simplicity of a meal. During His public life He often shared a meal in all kinds of settings. Augustine said it well when he pointed out to his listeners, “You become what you eat.” Too many of us even all these years after Vatican II are confused about the role of the presider and the words of institution. At Mass we no longer have an Alter Christus celebrating for us all to witness. All the assembled witnesses offer the Mass together. Read the words. The first person singular is not used.
Being human, we tend to resist the wonder, beauty and power of this simple universal sacrifice. We indulge in nostalgia,for a rite which flowed from a partial understanding of the Eucharistic sacrifice, first offered in the Synagogs and then in the home of the Believers in The Way ( our earliest name).
It is personally difficult for me to watch the shoddy tactics used by clergy to preserve absolute hierarchical control. Jesus did and said so much to avoid titles and worldly honor. We have a very long way to go to earn respect as His true followers. We can begin by getting rid of all the purple and gold. Have simple masses for believers who know what and why there is a ritual and presided over by one of the Believers. It will be coming soon to a church near you.”