Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Liturgy: is reverence and dignity enough?

No. That's the short answer.

Look at these Greek rite clergy. There is much more to their Liturgy than reverence and dignity alone. Much, much more. Now compare it with the asinine silliness of the clown-style liturgy, presided over by a Western bishop, pictured in my previous post.

Can there be any doubt which is better? There is no comparison! And yet in the West even bishops allow themselves so to traduce Christ the Lord and to mock Him in the Sacred Liturgy. What a fearful disgrace! And how our Greek and Russian brethren in the Faith are scandalised by such mockery of the Lord! And they are right. For it is, indeed, a scandal. And, moreover, tasteless, clueless, stupid, ignorant and puerile.

Catholics simply MUST stop defending this sort of utter nonsense. It is a direct insult to God.

So long as Catholics ignore the truth about liturgy things will not improve. We must use our God-given intelligence, reason and understanding on the issue. The "touchy, feely" approach to liturgy and religion has done immense harm. That, of course, is not to say that we should be insensitive - we should not - but I think we do have to take care, when faced with the sheer tawdry dishonesty of much modern liturgy not simply to "feel" that any challenge to the dishonesty is somehow unjust or uncharitable.

We perhaps ought occasionally to remember Christ chasing the money-changers out of the Temple with whip-cords - they who made sacred things sordid. This is not sinful anger or injustice or uncharity. On the contrary it is the righteous wrath of the Lord. Doubtless the money-changers thought him unfair, hard and unreasonable. But He was not. He was right and just. It was the money-changers who were unreasonable.

Now we have something just as bad with the perversion of the liturgy. Yes, the Novus Ordo can be celebrated with reverence, dignity and love but this is next to impossible in most parish masses because of:

(a) The ICEL mistranslation - a far cry from the original Latin; and

(b) The poor quality of the rest of the liturgy as it is ACTUALLY done in most Western parishes.

Moreover, there is more to liturgy than dignity and reverence.

I daresay that a Buddhist ceremony can be celebrated with dignity and reverence. But it is nowhere near enough for a Catholic, of course.

What we need is a Catholic liturgy celebrated, firstly, the way God wants it and secondly, with beauty, truth and tradition at the forefront. We need to celebrate the way God wants us to, not the way WE would like to, no matter how reverent and dignified our own way might be.

No - reverence and dignity, although essential, are NOT enough. We must also love truth, tradition, faithfulness and integrity.

A monk of the Benedictine Abbey of St Marie Madaleine, Le Barroux

There can be no excuse for the ICEL mistranslation. It has over 300 errors in it. It is a deliberate falsification of the Latin of the Novus Ordo Missae. Yet this is what most English-speaking Catholics get, week after week, at Sunday Mass. In truth, I think it can be said that it is NOT really the Novus Ordo at all - at least not as the Council Fathers envisaged it.

When one adds the later innovations of forward altars, lay readers, disregard of proper vestments, communion in the hand, replacement of chant with modern (and often vapid) hymns, girl altar servers, facile bidding prayers, removing the Tabernacle and replacing it with the priest's chair (whom are we worshipping?) - let alone bizarre and ridiculous mockeries like clown masses, liturgical dancing, "happy clappy" masses and children's masses - then we can see that the situation is seriously worsened.

But too many Catholics have simply become blinded - in some cases culpably - to the differences between true and false liturgy. Many think it is all about aesthetics i.e. beauty and dignity. They also think that all that is needed is "reverence" and "dignity". As I say, that is not enough. A pagan ceremony can be reverent and dignified.

Much of our modern liturgy is simply dishonest. And one cannot celebrate a dishonest liturgy and pretend that one is doing so with love.

The problem is that Catholics have got used to the inferior diet of poor liturgy that has engulfed the Western Church. We have become blinded by our own self-indulgence and now, like the Emperor's new clothes, we cannot see that the liturgical Emperor is really naked and wears no clothes at all.

But non-Catholics can see it. They alight upon a modern Catholic liturgy and are repelled by it.

Indeed, I have spoken to many lapsed Catholics who felt the same way.

It is my belief that millions of Catholics have lapsed as a direct result of the auto-destruction of the Roman liturgy.

We should not under-estimate the immense harm that has been done by such devastating auto-destruction. We have preferred the tawdry and worldly to the beauty of the Divine and Holy.

Adam and Eve culpably exiled themselves from Eden by preferring the worldly above Paradise

I recently attended a Requiem mass, for a prominent Catholic figure, in a beautiful church in Malta with a colleague who is a Buddhist nun. She was brought up a Catholic and remembered the beautiful masses of her childhood. This Maltese mass was a typical product of the post-conciliar liturgical establishment.

In place of a High Mass there was a dreary concelebration. The mass, as the modern mass so often is, was mostly talking, talking, talking. It was not liturgy. It was mere recitation. And there is a big difference.

There was a choir but, instead of singing some of the extraordinarily beautiful music from the Church's immense and rich patrimony, they sung 3 vernacular hymns in Maltese to the tunes of "I'll Sing a Song to Mary", Crimond and "Welcome, welcome, welcome Jesus".

These tunes might be appropriate for a procession of our Lady or some tableau of popular piety but they are out of place at a Solemn Requiem. The mass was in the vernacular and, although the Maltese translation is a lot better than the appalling ICEL translation into English, it is still far accurately reflects the original Latin.

After I expressed my disappointment, my Buddhist colleague said that she felt able to say that she, too, was disappointed. She had expected so much more at a Solemn Requiem of the Catholic Church. She began to tell me more about her experiences in the Church and it was clear that she had been a devout Catholic once upon a time but, following the liturgical changes, she had, like so many millions of other Catholics, become disillusioned with modern liturgy and, thereafter, with the Church itself.

In former times, the Roman liturgy made many, many converts. It need not surprise us that the reverse can take place if the liturgy goes sour: millions leave. And they have left. Indeed, the Church has suffered a monumental haemorrhage over the last 40 years - the worst ever in its history.

Is this renewal of the Church? No - assuredly not.

There is simply thus no room whatever for complacency or sloppy thinking regarding the liturgy.

It is, in fact, a very, very serious matter. It is not just a matter of reverence and dignity. It is not just a matter of aesthetics and beauty. It is not even simply a matter of Latin. It is much more. It is about faithfulness and integrity, tradition and truth.

If we are to find our way back we cannot settle for the mockery of liturgy that now takes place with the ICEL mistranslation in most parishes of the Western Church.

If we do then we are selling short ourselves, our neighbour and, above all, God.

Behold the Blessed Babe! Adore Him as He should be adored!


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