Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's a feature, not a bug

By the standards of nice, respectable, mainstream Americans Catholics I'm an odd duck at best. Catholics of a certain generation are apt to describe the Traditional Latin Mass as crying out for reform. But those things they said were most in need of reforming, I find them to be some of the TLM's most attractive features. This thought came to me at Mass this morning. I've said elsewhere that when it comes to the current hierarchy and the liturgy, mystery and silence are out, pedantry and constant activity is in. Some priests provide commentary on the Mass as they go along to make sure everyone knows exactly what's happening at all times. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

The opening procession has concluded and the priest is standing within the sanctuary, facing us. "Good morning everyone. I want to thank you for coming to Mass today. This is the Third Sunday of Advent which is why I'm wearing pink. Pink is supposed to represent our joyful anticipation for the birth of our Lord. And with that, let us begin now as we always do in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit... Now we express our contrition by saying 'I confess...' Now let us sit and listen to the readings which mention our need to be patient with our brothers and sisters... And now we profess our faith by saying 'I believe in God...' Now let us be seated for the offertory. As mentioned last week there will be a second collection for retired religious..."

In contrast, an FSSP priest friend of mine said that he often has no idea how many people are in the congregation until it's time for the sermon or until communion if it's a daily Mass with no sermon. That's one reason why I love the TLM so much: it doesn't even try to spoon feed us. It is what it is, an objective sacrifice to the Lord that doesn't depend on whoever happens to be there. You must conform yourself to it. You must put in effort to follow it or understand any of it.

The Novus Ordo can be celebrated this way to be sure. The problem here is largely one of priests assuming that their people are dunces. The current English translation of the Roman Missal used in the United States was the product of literally years and years of bitter internal struggle among the US bishops and between the US bishops and Rome. One of the chief arguments made by the opponents of the current translation was that Mr. and Mrs. America were too dumb to figure out the meaning of words like consubstantial or dewfall or gibbet. To be fair to the priest I wrote of earlier, he gave a good homily which touched on one of the big differences in the two translations: Christ dying for many vs. Christ dying for all. Many or all sounds like a petty thing to argue over, but trust me, there is an enormous Grand Canyon sized gap in the theology of the former versus the latter. It's no great trick to figure out which bishops stand on which side.

I'm no genius but I am smarter than the average bear. I wish bishops an priests could learn to trust us to follow the liturgy without the constant noise.

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