Thursday, 15 April 2010
My inability to express in words the most sacred nature of the Mass will be plain for all to see. No man, however learned he be (not even the angels) can comprehend the divine act that is the Mass, however we all must attempt within the confines of our limited intellect to understand some of the reality.
I believe that our approach to the Mass will underpin all other aspects of our Christian lives and will influence them for good or ill. The Second Vatican Council stated that the Mass is the ‘source and summit of Christian life’ (Lumen Gentium), therefore we are confronted with the pressing question, whether it truly is for us. Is the Liturgy something we must simply attend once a week in order to toe the line? Or is it fundamental to our lives as Catholic Christians?
Our relation to God must underlie everything we do, so how are we able to do this when during the one day of the week where this fact is highlighted, we make a pathetic attempt at ‘worship’?
Over the past number of years, the sacrificial aspect of the liturgy has been so devalued and ignored that the average layman's belief is no more Catholic than a Lutheran's. In fact, do we still truly believe that our Lord, is substantially present, body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine? Our attitude in approaching the priest for reception betrays our lack of faith in one of the most central aspects of the Catholic Faith. Many times in the Novus Ordo, it seems simply that the Liturgy is something that stifles the community’s ‘creativity’, which gets in the way of the people’s self-expression. In the Old Rite, we have a most valuable patrimony, which has been handed on from generation to generation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, where fidelity to the Catholic Faith is patent. It is act of great impiety to reject the devotions and faith of the previous generations for the sake of appearing relevant in our modern age. What has the aim of the radical reforms? To make us open to the world? We certainly opened to the world, and far too many of our faithful fled. Lower Mass attendance, heresy and dissent is accepted, and fewer vocations to the priesthood and religious life name only a few of the effects of this disorientation.
There is no ambiguity concerning the sacrificial nature of the Mass, where Christ becomes present through the double consecration and is offered by the priest who stands in His person. If there is no sacrifice, why do we have a priest? The Letter to the Hebrew’s states, ‘for every high priest (that is Christ) is constituted for the offering both of gifts and sacrifices; whence it is needful that this one also should have something which He may offer’ (8:3). If there be no sacrifice, what is the need for a priest? The man therefore becomes simply a presider or even worse, a social worker in robes. And if the ‘job’ has been reduced to that level, why should he not be allowed to marry? Plus, why can not a woman do that job? Just by one simple omission, one has lost completely the essence of the priesthood. What irreparable damage! Why should the man sacrifice for Christ, a marriage and children when he is no different to the rest of us? The priest must be assimilated even more than the laity to the offering he makes daily. We are all, by virtue of our baptism, priests as Saint Peter says (1 Peter 2:9), yet the ministerial priesthood differs not only in degree but in essence (CCC 1592). Those ordained validly have received a great grace, a sacred power and privilege to offer the one perfect offering of our Lord in an unbloody manner; we, on the other hand, offer a sacrifice on the altar of our hearts and unite it with the Eucharist propitiation. Not even the angels can offer in Christ’s person the sacrifice that reconciles us with the Eternal Father. And we wish to reduce the Mass to a mere communal celebration!
‘Introibo ad altare Dei’ begins the Mass, showing the clear and explicit intent of the priest to offer a sacrifice. Maybe Archbishop Bugnini would have preferred ‘I shall go until the table of the Lord and have a nice time’ (I don’t know, I’m just conjecturing...). ‘Suspice, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, hanc immulaculatam hostiam...(Accept, Holy Father, Almighty and Eternal God, this spotless host...). Could it be any clearer?
The liturgy is in some sense similar to television. In recent years, there have been many debates whether television merely reflects contempory culture or has an active, formative influence over the population, especially the up-bringing of the young. In Catholicism there is a statement that shows the relationship between our worship and our lives, that is, 'lex orandi, lex credendi'. Since the 'reforms' after the close of the Second Vatican Council under Pope Paul VI, a great deal of confusion has entered into the Church, resulting in wild hopes of an alteration to the Catholic Faith, such an agenda is held by advocates of abortion, female ordination, homosexuality etc. If something as sacred and inviolable as the Roman Canon, can be changed, why can not the rest go with it?
Let us re-evaluate our approach to the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the same sacrifice offered by Saint Peter, by Saint Augustine of Hippo, by Saint Pius V and by Saint Pio of Petrelcina. It truly transcends time as the veil separating us from heaven is drawn back and we join in the chorus of praise of the angels, singing continuously ‘Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus...’
A mere meal....think again.