How to Save the World, God’s Way – A Reflection on a Liturgical Teaching of Pope Benedict

Palm-sunday-latin-mass" by Boston at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
“Palm-sunday-latin-mass” by Boston at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC by-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Whenever I write on liturgy, I get a lot of comments. Many people obviously care deeply about it.

Yet I also get comments that decry my “preoccupation” with liturgy, saying that it is of minor importance compared to the issues of poverty, abortion, etc. Some on the left will say, “Who cares if the Pope washes certain feet or doesn’t wear a fanon? Get out there and take care of the poor and show compassion. Frankly, your elaborate and expensive liturgies are an insult to the poor.” And perhaps some on the right will say, “Who cares if the Mass is in Latin or English? As long as you’ve got the true presence, why get all worked up about music, altars, and so forth?”

Count me in the camp of those to whom liturgy matters a great deal. A few years ago, there was a saying that summarized this view: “Save the liturgy, save the world.” To those who did not understand, the expression seemed excessive and fussy. But it actually summarizes well an ancient insight, one which Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger beautifully presented in his epic work The Spirit of the Liturgy.

Pope Benedict is currently overseeing the publication of his collected works. Interestingly, he directed that Volume XI (Theology of the Liturgy) be published first. And in the very opening of that volume is the essay from The Spirit of the Liturgy, in which he argues that the liturgy has a saving function for both man and culture.

I’d like to share some of his insights and admonitions here in bold, black italics, along with a few comments of my own in plain red text.

Pope Benedict (as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote,

Man becomes glory for God … when he lives by looking toward God. … Law and ethics do not hold together when they are not anchored in the liturgical center and inspired by it. … It is only when man’s relationship with God is right that all his other relationships … can be in good order. Worship, that is, the right kind of cult, of relationship with God is essential for the right kind of existence in the world. It is so precisely because it reaches beyond everyday life. Worship gives us a share in heaven’s mode of existence … and allows light to fall from that divine world to ours [Joseph Ratzinger, Collected Works: Theology of the Liturgy, pp. 7 & 8].

This describes well the fool’s errand of our modern culture, which thinks it can kick God to the curb and stand a chance of surviving. We are engaged in a strange little experiment to see whether we can we have a culture without a shared “cultus.”

Perhaps you noticed the word “cult” within “culture.” In English, cult has taken on a negative meaning, but its original and root meaning is the worship of God or the reverence due to God. Cultures cannot really explain or unite themselves. They must look to something higher and outside themselves in order to exist and hold together. Unless we all look there and substantially agree that God is the source of truth, law, and morality, we simply break down into the tyranny of relativism. It is tyranny because it is not reason or revealed truth that wins the day. Rather, the one who wins the day is the one with the most money or power.

Our little experiment is a failure. We cannot have a culture without a shared cultus.

To be sure, there was always a kind of religious pluralism in America. But in spite of that, there was also always a fundamental agreement on the basics, as articulated in the Judeo-Christian vision. And most Americans agreed that the God of the Bible was to be worshipped and obeyed. Now, that has been swept aside and we have undertaken a fool’s errand that seeks to demonstrate that we can have a culture without a basic and fundamentally shared cultus.

How’s that working out for us? At best, we’re in big trouble. At worst, we’ve become an “anti-culture,” which tears down but has nothing to offer, which smashes the icons of truth but offers nothing but to revel while the city, the culture, and the country burns.

This need not be absolutized to mean that only a theocracy will do. But certain basic agreements about God (that he is due worship and obedience)  and how to worship Him properly are essential for a culture to exist at all.

And thus Pope Benedict rightly reminds us that we cannot have good order without right worship. Yes, save the liturgy, save the world.

And so … Man himself cannot simply “make” worship. … Real liturgy implies that God responds and reveals how we can worship him. [Liturgy] cannot spring from imagination, our own creativity–then it would remain just a cry in the dark or mere self-affirmation. … The liturgy is not a matter of “what you please” [Ibid, p. 11].

Now this is just not the notion that most people have of liturgy today. Too many Catholics think that they have some sort of divine birthright to say what the Mass should be, or that the liturgy should simply bow to every modern notion, convenience, and trend. This is misguided.

God spelled out what he expects rather clearly on Mt. Sinai. And while some of the norms given there were fulfilled in the New Testament (e.g., we don’t kill lambs since Jesus is the Lamb of God), most of the norms laid out on Sinai are still operative and were also seen by St. John in the vision of the heavenly liturgy.

Liturgy is revealed by God; it is not a human invention. Some adaptation to language and culture may be needed, but in terms of the fundamentals, we have no right to tell God how He is to be honored and worshipped.

The worship of God  is the point of the liturgy, before any human goals such as edification or instruction.  Hence words like “relevant,” “meaningful,” and “welcoming,” while not completely without merit, are subordinate to what God has revealed, no matter how we “feel” about it. 

Nowhere is this more dramatically evident than in the narrative of the golden calf. … The people cannot cope with the invisible, remote and mysterious God. They want to bring him down into their own world, into what they can see and understand. Worship is no longer going up to God, but drawing God down … He must be the kind of God that is needed. Man is using God. … Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being the worship of God, it becomes a circle, closed in on itself. The dance around the golden calf … is a kind of banal self-gratification … a warning about any kind of self-initiated, self-seeking worship. Ultimately it is concerned no longer with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources … pointless, just fooling around.

This is practically a laundry list of what is wrong and abundantly visible in most Catholic parishes today.

There is little evidence at all of God as mysterious. If anything, God has been “rendered harmless.” Even biblical references to God expecting to be taken seriously as Judge and Lord of All are usually ignored or watered down by homilists and in hymns that are top-heavy with anthropomorphic imagery.

Physically, many of our churches are now circular, or at least fan-shaped. The Eucharistic prayer is conducted facing the people and the image described by Pope Benedict as a “circle, closed in on itself” seems all too apparent. Surely, the Liturgy of the Word is properly directed to the people. But at the moment of supreme worship, all should turn outward and upward to God.

Banal self-gratification is also too much in evidence, with the frequent announcements congratulating the choir, the children, or a visiting dignitary, etc. This behavior seems expected today of the pastor, and for him to refuse to do so is taken as “insensitive.” Hence the premise seems to be that the liturgy is all about us, our needs, our accomplishments, and oh, by the way, God is invited, too.

The nice little world spoken of by the Pope Emeritus is also emblematic of the parish Church as a clubhouse rather than a lighthouse or God’s house.

Here, too, we ought to avoid blanket condemnations of all attempts to include the faithful in the liturgy or to  make accommodations to assist people in reverent worship. Speaking of the liturgy and the sacraments as mysteries does not mean that they must be arcane. Good liturgical and theological formation (not a dumbing-down) are essential to proper worship. God’s people are not an afterthought.

But our goal is to incite deeper and more reverent worship of God, to help (by proper liturgy) draw people up to God, not to drag God down to us (as if we could).

Yes, save the liturgy, save the world. Part of the reason we in the West are in this mess we are in, is that God is not being worshipped. At the widest level, he has been rejected outright by atheists and secularists. But even in the Church, we have adopted dubious premises and notions of the liturgy that all too often render it neither compelling nor beautiful.

It is doubtful at best, and realistically unlikely, that our culture will ever recover unless the Sacred Liturgy recovers. We have allowed modern culture to influence the liturgy profoundly at the very time when in fact we need the liturgy to influence the faithful and the culture profoundly!

There will be legitimate debates about some of the details (Latin or the vernacular or a combination, musical forms, etc.), but an essential place to begin is to return to the scriptural norms laid out so carefully in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Revelation. Church buildings and liturgical norms, until quite recently, used to conform quite well to these. (My own church, built in the 1930s, is modeled on both the norms of Sinai and Revelation.) Lately, we have strayed into practices and designs that bespeak anthropocentrism, secularism, and  excessive notions of comfort, accessibility, relevance (in the most ephemeral sense), and brevity. God is marginalized.

To be realistic, simply hoping to set the clock back to 1962 or earlier may not be workable. Pope Benedict himself did not see that as the way forward. Rather, he hoped  for a kind of cross-pollination, wherein legitimate aspects of the liturgical movement (begun around 1900) would hold. However, he also hoped that wider use of the Traditional Latin Mass would help to  address the excesses and unbalanced notions that swept in, creating a rupture with tradition and introducing the ailments of modern liturgy that sadly reflect modern culture more than serve as a medicine for it.

The recent addition of the beautiful Anglican Use (see photo, upper-right) may also serve as a model: vernacular, linked to the new lectionary, but eastward-facing and beautifully traditional.

Let’s keep the discussion going. As well-known blogger and liturgist Fr. Z. says, “brick by brick … “

Here’s a video that shows what liturgy can do.

32 Replies to “How to Save the World, God’s Way – A Reflection on a Liturgical Teaching of Pope Benedict”

  1. Great article Msgr. Pope –

    Great liturgy does teach us how God wants us to worship him. We should not have a say on how worship should be. Let the Church determine it. Good liturgy protects us from ourselves.

    As you state, good liturgy draws us up to God, not God being pulled down to us. Pope Benedict is correct. Great liturgy will save the world. It will bring about true salvation of those who participate in it. Good liturgy is God’s Word being proclaimed in it and His Holy Spirit doing it’s work in the seven sacraments.

    Good liturgy makes us better Catholics. It equips us to go out and proclaim the Gospel to the lost. As Pope Francis says, it will lead us to tell others how they can have an encounter with Christ.

  2. Over the past few weeks you seem to have grown “deeper” in your reflections on the liturgy. Thank you for taking us there with you.

  3. Where I live in Buckeye Arizona, our church just finished our 2nd phase of our building construction. Our Priest is a stickler for good liturgy. Most folks in our Parish have the liturgy memorized and loudly proclaim it in the Mass.

    Many are on fire Catholics and listen to Catholic radio and watch EWTN. There seems to be a heart in our Parish to tell folks about our great Catholic theology.

    The two Catholic Churches nearest us have 13,000 and 24,000 members. Catholicism in Arizona seems to be doing extremely well. Most of the Protestant ecclesial Christian communities (as our priest calls them) around us have 30-50 folks attending. They seem to be tax shelters.

    I was an active Protestant for 23 years (mostly Reformed and Lutheran) and became a Catholic a couple of years ago after reading the whole Catholic Catechism and studying the Early Church Fathers. I started by listening to EWTN radio (as did my wife) and realizing that almost all that I heard about the Catholic Church was either misrepresented or false. When I attended my first Mass shortly thereafter, I was totally blown away at how much a Mass was pure Christianity at its highest level.

    I study everything Catholic. I love it. I tell everyone I see about it. The Catholic Church is beautiful. It is 2,000 years of recorded history. It is Christ in His fullest. Awesome!

  4. A friend loaned me a book by Joseph Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, and his central argument is religion is born out of leisure. Since we were made to worship God, it is the highest form of leisure … to rest in Him. Your thoughts and those of B16 on liturgy and art and beauty meld perfectly with those of JP. Thank you for this wonderful article.

  5. The Right Worship is the Key! God Bless Pope Benedict XVI:

    “Once more in meditation, prayer and song, we have recalled Jesus’s journey along the way of the cross: a journey seemingly hopeless, yet one that changed human life and history, and opened the way to “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. Rev 21:1). Especially today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross; in his cross she sees THE TREE OF LIFE, which blossoms in new hope.” – Benedict XVI

  6. At some point there has to be a clarification of what it means to be “Catholic”. You cite arguments and objections of “Catholics” but if a person cannot make the traditional “act of faith” * which includes “belief in” the Church and what she teaches, that person is not actually a Catholic.
    * O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.

  7. In general, I see your point about the need for liturgy to be focused on the worship of God. As I read your discussion about the Eucharistic Prayer being conducted facing the people, the story of the Last Supper was came to mind. Looking back at the synoptic Gospels the scene that they described is of Jesus and the Apostles reclined at the table. Traditionally Catholic art has depicted them gathered around the table. This first celebration of the Eucharist does not seem to reflect the temple sacrifice of the Old Testament with regard to a the participants being turned outward towards God. Instead it is an intimate shared meal.

    I am not enough of a liturgical historian to know when Christians began to celebrate the Mass with the priest and people facing in one direction. No doubt it was early on, yet it also occurred to me that the early Christians had a profound effect on their surrounding culture, even before the details of the Mass was formalized. True worship of God has happened in the celebration of Eucharist since the beginning, and it continues to this day. I found the following in the GIRM:

    “78. Now the center and high point of the entire celebration begins, namely, the Eucharistic Prayer itself, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The Priest calls upon the people to lift up their hearts towards the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving; he associates the people with himself in the Prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the meaning of this Prayer is that the whole congregation of the faithful joins with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice. The Eucharistic Prayer requires that everybody listens to it with reverence and in silence.”

    This passage reflects my experience at of worship at Mass. Things aren’t as bad a you might think. Thanks for writing your column. I always enjoy reading it.

  8. I don’t even know if the 1965 Liturgy is permitted to be prayed, and I’m certainly not expecting anyone to tell me, even if I were to bother to ask. Anyway, I’d go to that one if it were offered. I regret having made fun of fan-shaped churches in at least one of my previous comments. People who attend churches like that can’t do anything about it. They may think that those churches are just fine, anyway.

  9. As the depth of our spiritual thirst deepens, there might be an extreme moment where the obvious truth about the liturgy might become clear to many of us. The Spirit works in mysterious ways…. Thank you Monsignor for your courageous teachings that we need so much. You always look for the right balance. As time goes by, Pope Benedict’s works are coming out as beautiful gems that are being gradually uncoverred. God help us all.

  10. As there was a “Vatican II of the Pope and Bishops” and a ‘vatican 2 of the media and special theological commentators’, I would say that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite has a similar story. Reading the General Introduction to the Roman Missal can be quite an inspiring and deepening experience of Liturgy in general and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass specifically. Almost all the criticisms that are commonly voiced on St Blog are about aberrations [in some case sacrileges], the language of the Liturgy [Latin/vernacular] and what come down to ‘preferences’ [can you imagine suddenly Byzantines going into hysterics because the Roman Liturgy is not like theirs?]

    Your post Msgr is serious and reflective and I appreciate that and this is why I am seriously responding to it. It was very sad over the past decades that those who preferred the Tridentine Mass [although people kept saying “Latin”; the Ordinary Form can be celebrated in Latin (with responses etc)] were not allowed to participate in that revered Liturgy. However, one gets the sense, now that more of an equilibrium has been restored by Pope Benedict, that a ‘reaction’ is setting in. To hear some speak/write you would think that they want to suppress the Ordinary Form-repeating exactly the wrong that was done decades ago with the added problem that a much larger portion of the Roman Rite participates in the Ordinary Form rather than the Extraordinary Form.

    One may not ‘like’ the Ordinary Form [again I am speaking of the actual Rite-and I am old enough to remember as an altar boy for the Tridentine Mass how irreverent the priest could be with his Latin etc. People just didnt know it was happening] People may appreciate and love the Tridentine Liturgy with all of its theological traditions but many, and I certainly am one, now appreciate and love the Ordinary Form with all of its theological traditions. That statement might shock some reading it, but the Ordinary Form has deep Catholic and Roman roots; it is just distinct from the Extraordinary Form. Fundamentally both are rooted in Saint Pope Gregory the Great’s reform of the Roman Rite in the late 6th century [500’s]

    It is important to note that Pope Benedict, with his deep theology of the Liturgy touched upon ‘three’ out of the ‘four’ forms of the Latin Rite. He specifically named the Mass of Paul VI, “the Ordinary Form” [note well-not the ‘novus ordo’]. He then ‘liberated’ the Mass of Pius V (Tridentine Mass) and specifically named it “the Extraordinary Form”. Note I used the two popes names-why? Because, the bishop is the chief liturgist of his diocese and certainly ‘the Bishop of Rome’ is the chief liturgist of the Roman Rite [in other words it is as a result of his being bishop of Rome that he has the ability to change or regulate anything concerning ‘the Roman Rite’
    However, Pope Benedict in a grand ecumenical vision but perhaps even a more profound liturgical vision, enabled whole groupings of the Anglican Communion to enter in en-mass and bringing within their “anglican usage Liturgy-which is fundamentally the Medieval Sarum (named after Salisbury, England) Rite-itself a form of the Roman Latin Rite. It has been ‘purified’ of any zwinglian-calvinist wording (Cranmer’s linguistics) but now restored within the Western Church, the Latin Rite. The only form of the Latin Rite that Pope Benedict did not ‘touch was the ancient Ambrosian Liturgy of Milan

    Two things you raised that I believe need to be ‘looked at’. I will use the terms ‘ad orientum’ and ‘ad populum’. I believe the direction that the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy needs to be looked at once again. Was it a well-intentioned but misapplied directive etc. If ‘ad populum’ does remain it needs to be shown how it too is rooted in Catholic Latin Rite tradition. The design etc of churches however along with the next to completely iconoclastic modernist interpretation needs to go. Sacred Space is sacred space. I myself do not ‘prefer’ the Baroque or Rococco, I actually prefer the simpler Romaneque and Gothic yet churches that look like gyms or as I have seen one cathedral ‘a giant Maytag washing machine’ need to go. My only hope is that the concrete does not last too long. As for churches without a prominent place for the Tabernacle – prominent and not ‘just an side’) or sacred images [statues or icons] need to be ‘renewed and reformed’. Our Eucharistic Lord is Lord and center of the Eucharistic assembly. We are and need to be reminded that we are surrounded by a ‘cloud of witnesses’ as Hebrews tells us. Now again I am not one for ‘hundreds of statues etc’ or an ‘iconostasis’ but the iconoclasm that the Church has witnessed in the past few decades has been not simply horrific but theologically a rejection of the Second Nicean Council

    My serious thoughts and reflections in response to a serious reflection on the Liturgy

  11. Do this in memory of me!

    We do not repeat what Jesus did; we cannot repeat an act that never ends.

    Jesus did all once for all!

  12. How I would like to be a part of such a procession! Have been to Lourdes and Fatima and the spiritual energy is incredible.

    Yes, the liturgy is paramount. Since VII and the Novus Ordo, our liturgy is not so much Christocentric as it once was. It is more anthropocentric with the ‘closed circle’, the terrible words of so many songs where the congregation praises itself….we are not the bread, etc. Even the ‘sign of peace’ that breaks the continuity of worship to glad hand and hug and cross the aisle and all that is a distraction and man centered.

    When I attended my first TLM a few years ago, I wept. My heart cried out to the Lord with the question, “Why, why was this taken from us?”

    The past decades have been devastating yet some in high places seem determined to continue on with the failed experiments.

    My children are still Catholic because I took them out of Catholic school and taught religion at home and homeschooled for a time. I had to have them confirmed in a neighboring diocese. No longer is the faith spoonfed to us! We must search it out and claim it for our own.

    The spread of the TLM is the true spark of renewal. God first. Then man. We will be concerned with the poor, with life issues, and all the rest …for the love of God and souls.

  13. Msgr. said, “This describes well the fool’s errand of our modern culture, which thinks it can kick God to the curb and stand a chance of surviving. We are engaged in a strange little experiment to see whether we can we have a culture without a shared “cultus.”

    I have often thought that our modern culture believes it can eradicate God in society and everything will be just as it was (people doing good for each other, prosperity and abundance showered on us: love) but without that pesky morality Judeo-Christian belief in God imposes. In fact, I have heard as much from some celebrities (Oprah Winfrey comes to mind) and echoed in com boxes, that once all these bigots (read: Christians) finally die off, well, then society will be free of “haters”, and peace and happiness will break out everywhere.

    I often think, oh, boy, just the opposite will happen. Wait ’til you see the social collapse and viciousness that will break out when Christians become a tiny minority.

    With regards to liturgy, I have found good liturgy depends on whether the priest actually believes in God or not. I know that sounds silly. We assume all priests believe in God. But you can tell the ones who do from the ones who don’t just by how they celebrate Mass. At least I think I can. And if you talk to them outside of Mass, you can confirm it by how they answer questions. Ask them if they believe in the Real Presence. If they waffle and stammer and qualify their answer, well, you’ll know the answer is no, they don’t.

  14. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    May I have permission to re-post on my blog? [You might remember me from previous requests.]

    Thank you and God bless you.

  15. Dear Msgr Pope,
    I completely agree with Save the Liturgy , Save the World. A few times since my conversion I have been able to experience exquisitely beautiful and transcendent liturgies but unfortunately I live in a diocese full of banal liturgy in fan shaped churches. It is difficult to go a week without being expected to sing a tune where the people speak as if they are Jesus and applause is a part of most every Sunday Mass. I own a copy of The Spirit of the Liturgy but under these circumstances I find it too painful to read, it’s too hard to be reminded of what could be.

  16. Ok I finally get what you are saying about the mass as prescribed by God in the Bible, thank you! I guesss my ignorance comes from not understanding we were using the OT (and Revelations) as the standard. This helps me greatly. I guess I can also see where the new form came from too, as the priest is taking on the role of Jesus in transsubstantiation. Jesus sat at table with His disciples, facing them as you would in that situation. Perhaps the goal was to emulate that?

    I do agree there are throw ins at mass that are out of order, like announcements, especially when you can read the same information in the bulletin, and the guest speakers…oy veh!

    Here is a question I have had for years. Why is the title of Cardinal placed in the middle of the name “Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger”, but the title of Bishop remains in front “Bishop Thomas Welsh”. Can you write on pastoral titles and their significance one day?

  17. Well Said Msgr. Pope. Unfortunately, the restoration of Holy Mass will be an uphill battle. Pandora’s box of Parish councils has been unleashed and a “protestant” ideology has set in in many Parishes that the Laity now controls the Mass. Fr. has to deal with all the parishioners and that can be a difficult fight. I point to Fr. Illo in San Francisco as example. Perhaps if Parish Priests were to start Catechizing the Faithful during homilies as you have done so well here, it would start to reawaken the Faithful. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    1. And for de-protestantization, brick by brick, how about more of us making a point of referring to, e.g. Saint Paul, as opposed to just plain Paul, Saint Mark, as opposed to just Mark?

      Do give the OF further reflection. I used to reason like you do, but there are prayers in the OF which are not in the NO which melt the soul and express its most delicate desires and sentiments.

  18. Because of this post, I ordered four of Pope Benedict’s books, including the one you mentioned. Thank you Msgr. Pope.

  19. I couldn’t agree more with the importance of good Liturgy as this was what brought me back to the Church.

    I was raised in the Church but left for Evangelical Protestantism for a few years. I noticed how when I left a service I never felt like I had worshiped God in any meaningful way. With the addition of a few more songs and a collection I saw no difference between Sunday worship and Wednesday night Bible study. Eventually I started going to Mass even when I had no intention of being Catholic again. When my confused son asked me why Mass I said the Church may teach things I thought contradicted Scripture but she knows how to worship!

    Eventually I was given the grace to realize the Church doesn’t contradict Scripture but only my misinterpretation of it and came back. I firmly believe good Liturgy kept the door of my heart open to coming back and that is why abuses I witness now in a different Parish make me so angry. I doubt my Parish now would inspire anybody to stay or to come back if they left.
    You can get better more entertaining lightweight fluff down the street at Brother Bubba’s hallelujah house if that’s all you want.

  20. Dear and Reverend Monsignor,

    Thank you for your thoughtful essay and for bringing us to ponder once again the liturgical insights if one of the greatest theologians of our times.

    I would like to propose a small challenge to one statement that you made, to wit: “Surely, the Liturgy of the Word is properly directed to the people.” I do not think that this is a given. I do not deny that the reading of public relation should edify the faithful. However, we should also consider that their public reading at the sacred Liturgy is also an act of worship. And, it is a constant reminder of our mission in the world, which is made plainly evident but the direction in which the Deacon faces in the solemn high Mass when he sing the Gospel, facing toward the pagan North. This would also tend to favor the opinion that the readings ought to be done by a cleric, since he participates by office in the ministerial priesthood of Christ.

    Food for thought.

  21. Thank you, Monsignor, and thank you, Botolph, for defending the Ordinary Form. I appreciate the increased access to the Tridentine, but I have no interest in attending it. When the OF is done well, it too is beautiful and prayerful. I am very tired of the trope that TLM people are the “real” Catholics; can we be a bit kinder about that?
    I especially appreciate your comments, Monsignor, about the me-centeredness that can break out. I grow very tired of priests who thank the servers, the lectors, the extraordinary ministers, the choir, the environment people EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY. And sometimes on weekdays too. Sigh. Worse is when the priest thanks the congregation for showing up, which is so theologically weird I can’t imagine where that is coming from. I always think of Miss Manners’ comment: If God wishes, he may applaud in church, but no one else ought to do so. But I do know many prayerful and beautifully celebrated OF Masses also, and the OF is the Mass of my own heart, as it is that of many others.

  22. I have not been to a Tridentine Mass in several years, but that is the Mass I learned to serve at as an alter boy. As I recall, the psychology of the old Mass, and that of the Mass of St John Chrysostom are radically hierarchical. My impression is that for the most part, most Masses today are by comparison pedestrian and horizontal. When you take the old Masses and blend them with their traditional chants, artwork and architecture you have covered all of the psychological bases when it comes to impressing the human spirit with the idea that God is mysterious, powerful, and merciful. It also impresses us with the view that we humans are base, confused, weak, sinful, but through all of that we are still redeemed.

    This psychological shift in emphasis to the newer forms of prayer/Mass produces a change in core beliefs. When prayer becomes horizontal, the felt need of redemption is diminished because the sense of man’s limitations and sinfulness is diminished. If you do not think you sin against God, or that the only true sin is against one’s neighbor, then there is really no need for the Mass, or any of the other sacraments. At a minimum, the idea is that the Mass is no longer a sacrifice (no sin, no need for sacrifice)-rather, the Mass is a pleasant gathering.

    I think B16 understood the psychology of the Mass and its surrounding art/music better than any Pope since Vatican 2.

  23. Why is it, that if you to not have the same views of Father Pope, your views do not get heard or erased because they do not praise the reflections of Pope? This is unfair, unchristian, and smacks of Gestapo like tactics by whoever makes these rulings. People have a right to their own opinions, but apparently do not hold that view.

    1. Well, I’ve seen Monsignor delete some posts, but I’ve also seen him leave others up that do disagree with or take exception to what he’s written. Ultimately, that’s his call to make. It is his blog, after all, and that’s the way the internet works. I’ve seen one blogger who likened it to coming into his living room and saying things: You can say what you like, but if you cross a line, there’s no guarantee you’ll get to stay around very long. It’s nice when bloggers allow commenting (and remember not all bloggers even allow any commenting), but there’s nothing that says they have to allow all comments. Moderation is pretty standard occurrence. If someone wants full freedom to write whatever he/she wants in response to a blog post, best bet is always to start one’s own blog and then link to and quote from the post one wishes to critique or disagree with.

      1. Thanks for this Marie. Your instincts here are right. This blog has a purpose to encourage discussion about matters of the Catholic faith. As such comments that stray too much from that and are Moderated. The word moderate has “mode” at the heart of it and mode refers to keeping things away from the extremes.

        As for Robert’s comments. They usually get deleted since they amount to personal attacks and often have nothing at all to do with the topic being discussed. Robert seems to have a lot of personal dislike for me, some one he has never even met. And he opines about my motives for writing, something about which he cannot really know (he thinks I only write because I have a big ego and want to be praised). He also accuses me of spending too much time writing and thereby declares I am neglecting my parish duties etc. Again, something he has no knowledge of (I don’t get complaints from my parishioners on this). But even if all this were true and I am just some big loudmouth with an equally big ego, NONE of this has anything to do about the topics I write of. The topic is the point, not the author. Stick to the topic. If a person disagrees with something, say what and why. That the author is an idiot, or prideful etc, has nothing to do with it. You’ll notice that Robert’s reply has nothing to do with the Liturgical topic at all.

        Anyway thanks for realizing the issues at stake and responding to it.

  24. I think that God, realizing that people could not relate to the invisible, remote and mysterious God, sent His Son into the world so that we could relate to Jesus Who is approachable and through Him the Father Who is not. He left us Himself in the Eucharist so that we could always have Him here with us in the Blessed Sacrament. So we no longer need to act as though God were somewhere unapproachable when He has made Himself present to us here. This is not something we did but rather something God has done for us because He knows our human weakness. And as long as we continue to come together to worship Him and then go out into the world to bring His presence in us to others, we are not part of a closed circle but rather part of His Body the Church.

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