Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Liturgy

The liturgy is an encounter of the whole Christ, that is, with Christ and his body, the Church.-Pope Benedict XVI (General Audience, St Peter's Square, 3 October 2012)
This is why Father Z consistently says two things: "Say the Black and do the Red," and "Save the Liturgy, Save the World."

The Liturgy is not ours to tinker with. The gift of the Holy Eucharist was given to us by Christ Himself, and the Liturgy developed, as transmitted through the Apostles, on his instructions given during the Last Supper: Do this in memory of me. Further, to do so is disobeying Our Lord.

The Mass is a re-presentation of the most perfect act of charity ever, the Sacrifice on the Cross. Why mess with perfection? (Time for a pun: If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it! Hey, wait, that's even more liturgically-applicable than I thought! Let things organically develop, instead of forcing a massive overhaul! Also, the Baroque era occurred immediately following the Council of Trent.) The first mistake with showmanship liturgy is that it is placing oneself over Jesus Christ. The second mistake that follows, since sins of irreverence lead to sins against your neighbor, is that the prayer in union with the whole Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant is denied, and in many cases in the last 45 years an invalid Eucharist was given. (Granted, not the first time in history. But I cannot think how this problem could be endemic like it has been in some parishes since the reforms.) To deny someone sacramental grace is basically sticking your middle finger at God.

V. We adore you O Christ and we praise you.
R. Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

As I said above, the Mass is the Sacrifice on the Cross, which as the prayer from the Stations of the Cross says, redeemed the world. Sanctifying grace cleanses our souls of sin, and is multiplied in our souls to bring us closer to God. I also think Father Z's expression can be taken to mean that if we authentically renew the liturgy in each generation, our greatest societal injustices would be perhaps more tolerable. Is it any wonder Roe vs. Wade was handed down after the post-Conciliar reforms, following a struggle to renew the liturgy that perhaps went back to the day Quo Primum was issued? The recovery of chant was crucial-it apparently derives from the position of knee ligaments, but derives from 'crux,' or cross...think about that one- and so was St. Pius X's call for actual participation in the liturgy. But with all the layering of prayers, and the poorly said Masses (think 15-minute Low Mass or distribution of Communion immediately after the singing of the Gospel) in the industrial West, there was a tall order to overcome. And is it any coincidence that it all came to bubble in the 20th century, the century given to Satan according to Pope Leo XIII's visions in order to attempt to destroy the world?

Forgive me if that last paragraph was unclear. I believe that World War One and World War Two, along with the Cold War, the Holocaust etc. in the last century, were exponentially more horrifying and destructive because of our failure to renew the liturgy. The reforms I mentioned above- the work of Dom Prosper Guéranger and Pius X- occurred at the right time, but the turmoil was already so bad that in my simple assessment, Vatican 2 came over a century too late.

I also don't expect this life on earth to be perfect, so I maintain no illusion that if we restore the Mass to its full glory and splendor that abortion will suddenly go away, and that the Church will be able to prosper and flourish. To do so would be to erase man's sinfulness. Another problem will inevitably spring up. But, I think that there is a great outburst of peace, joy, and love through the Eucharist that makes this life so much more tolerable. When Holy Mother Church was at the center of life and Eucharistic Adoration was being developed, the societal chaos of something like the Cathar heresy seems pretty mild compared to today's Modernism. Remember that the Church on earth is the Church Militant. Now, she primarily engages with Satan in a battle for souls, and secondarily with society, since the culture needs to be one that fosters virtue and not vice. The liturgy is our greatest tool-dare I say weapon- in being able to restore all things in Christ.

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