Monday, August 29, 2016

Have We Lost the Essence of the Mass?

Have We Lost the Essence of the Mass?


I have lived in several places and traveled to many places over the past 13 years I have been a Catholic. As a result I have attended many Masses in many places in the US, and some abroad over the same time span. In my experience, those many Novus Ordo Masses that I have been to have not proven to be celebrated worthily as if they were primarily a Sacrifice. Only the traditional Latin Masses and the Eastern Liturgies have demonstrated to consistently resemble this fact in their reverence and execution. What is the reason for this? Have we lost the fact that the Mass is primarily a sacrifice?

I am not one of the deniers who believes the Novus Ordo is invalid, I am however firmly convinced that the Church did not make one of her best decisions by making the Novus Ordo liturgy the “Ordinary Form.” I believe the experiment was a colossal failure and the Church will once again at some point in time move back to the old Roman Rite. I don’t think this is a stretch to think that this could happen. In celebrating the Sacraments over the centuries, the Church has realized at several points in time when she has made not the best decisions in the way they were celebrated. For example, the Church eventually figured out that executing the Sacrament of penance in public was not a good idea, and changed it to be said in private.

The Liturgical practices have been unique in that with the exception of the Novus Ordo, they were established by the apostles and have grown and changed gradually and organically throughout time. The Novus Ordo, concocted ad hoc by a group of supposed “experts” is the only Liturgy of this ad hoc pedigree the Church has ever produced. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that it is the only liturgy that does not put forth a Sacrificial, penitential tone in its prayer form. It is also the only liturgy to celebrated ad populum, taking the focus off of the altar and the sacrifice and refocusing it on the community. Thus, over the years we have seen that in its execution, the clergy and laity in a general sense do put forth a sacrificial, penitential tone in their actions. They treat the Mass more like a community gathering than that of the Most Holy Sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
If we read theological works written on the Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council, we see that the Mass was always referred to as the “Holy Sacrifice.” For example, in the work, “The Unchangeable Church” written in 1909, the very first sentence in chapter XXXI on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass says, “Sacrifice is an external act of supreme religious worship given to God alone.” Then it continues, “The Mass! What is the Mass? The Mass in one word is the very same sacrifice as that of the cross.” If that is the case, then why is that no longer the theological focus of most of today’s theologians? The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most important action that anyone can participate in, this side of heaven. The Council of Trent reiterates, “that no other work can be performed by the faithful so holy and divine as this tremendous mystery. Wherein the life-giving Victim, by which we were reconciled to the Father, is daily immolated on the altar by priests.”

In the Novus Ordo, we have a wholesale change in the prayer form compared to the Tridentine Liturgy. The Novus Ordo seems to be more focused on the communal aspect of the Mass, which is a valid aspect, yet it has never been a primary theological focus by theologians throughout the centuries, and for good reason. It is because the Mass in its essence is a sacrifice. Theologians now miss this point because they have also lost the traditional theological tradition of the scholastics, which understood what it was to define a thing and its essence. Again, the Mass is in its essence a Sacrifice, not a communal gathering. You can actually celebrate a Mass with only the priest. But, even in recognizing the communal aspect, theologians today still miss an important point. They miss the fact that we are assembled primarily to give praise, thanksgiving and to obtain graces and blessings from God, not to celebrate one another or the community. They also miss the point that when the laity are present, they are also participating that same sacrifice with the priest in a unique way. All those present in some way make the great offering of sacrifice with him, “Pray, bretheren, that your sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God.” That is why the laity along with the priest leading them face the altar of sacrifice.

The Application of the Mass

When we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we give adoration to God, we thank Him for what He has given us and we petition him to give us the grace to remain faithful to Him so that we may do His will, and not our own. Also, there are three “fruits” in which the Mass produces. The first is a general fruit in which everyone participates, which is the celebration by the priest for the entire Church. Then there are special intentions in which the Mass is said for one or more people, to which special graces are passed. Finally there is a special fruit in which the priest himself participates. The Mass delivers special graces in each of these aspects. So the Sacrifice of the Mass bears special graces and fruits in each of these intentions. It must be pointed out that it is through the Sacrifice itself that this communal aspect is made possible so that the praise, thanksgiving, and the graces given are to be made pleasing to God. This is not to say that private prayer and devotion is not pleasing to God, but that as a Church in her liturgical celebration, only the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the legitimate means of obtaining these special graces where we give a sacrificial thanksgiving and receive these special blessings directly from God.

The Four Debts

The great St. Thomas Aquinas gives us a proper look at the debts which we owe to God that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass infinitely pays. “The first is to praise and honor the infinite majesty of God, which is infinitely worthy of all praise and honor the creature can give Him. The second is to satisfy for the many sins committed against Him. The third is to thank Him for the many favors received from Him. The fourth is to supplicate Him as the giver of all good gifts.” We seem to forget the idea that original sin has created a rupture between us and God. Divine Justice demands that these debts, for lack of a better term, are satisfied. Christ’s sacrifice is the only infinite means of satisfying an infinite God. Thus we see how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass satisfies Divine Justice. This is important is we are to understand the gravity of the Mass in which we regularly participate.

The Passion and Death

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is also in reality an active celebration of the Passion and Death of Christ. There could be no sacrifice without a victim and a priest. Even the actions of the priest in the Tridentine Mass represent certain parts Christ’s passion and death. For example, the priest going to the altar represents Christ going to Mt Olivet. The priest saying the Confiteor represents Christ falling down and sweating blood. The priest offering the bread and wine represents Christ being scourged, and so on. I have rarely read anything post Vatican II that even refers to such things. Many will argue that some of these things developed over time in the Latin Mass and so the Novus Ordo will develop as well. This however is not the point. The point is, the traditional Rite had at its core the penitential and sacrificial nature built into its DNA from the beginning. The fact is, we don’t know exactly how the first Masses were said. We do know that what was passed down to us in the Roman Rite can be traced back to its origins in the apostles and that as it developed it was not diminished, but perfected over the years organically. This simply cannot happen with the Novus Ordo.

Our Redemption

Many will ask why other religious services including Protestant services cannot be pleasing to God. Many post Vatican II theologians wanted the Novus Ordo to be more appealing to Protestants. This scheme however did not result in any new converts, and in fact diminished the fact that the Mass was indeed very different from a Protestant service. The reason is that Christ Himself deemed to give us  His Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the valid true way of celebrating our redemption. This was made possible through His Sacrifice on Calvary. It is this same sacrifice that is made present in the Mass which is not and cannot be made present in any other form of worship. “In a word: the bloody sacrifice was the instrument of redemption, and the unbloody sacrifice puts us in possession of it; the one opened to us the treasury of merits of Christ our Lord, the other gives us the practical use of that never-failing treasury.” (The Unchangeable Church) It is important to realize this fact, and that any other form of liturgical worship in other heretical groups are not pleasing to God. So we must understand the uniqueness of this Holy Sacrifice and it should be instantly recognizable in its execution. Any attempt to make the Mass more like a Protestant service only damages the faith of Catholics and obscures its essence. 

A Treasure to Behold

When we are at Mass then, we should put ourselves at the foot of the cross. We should act like we are at the foot of the cross with Our Blessed Mother and the Saints.  We should treat it is as a treasure. The music should make it clear that it is a sacred treasure. Would we approach the cross on Calvary dressed like we are going out on the town for a night of leisure with casual piano music playing as if we were in a ballroom? Do we ever think of how we may be profaning the sacred altar where Our Lord is being offered for our sins? We should think well on the presence of Christ present in the priest who is offering the Mass, the victim of Christ Himself in the Mass, and the great majesty of who it is being sacrificed. If this reality is not enough to give us pause in how we act at Mass, then nothing will.

Graces Obtained

It is through this Holy Sacrifice that we obtain special graces. Every moment of our existence depends on God and God alone. Every “good” that we do is done with His grace. The Mass strengthens us and allows us to unite ourselves to Christ in a unique manner. We receive tremendous spiritual graces such as sorrow for sin, the ability to overcome temptation and the nurturing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It gives us the grace to become saints. We receive special blessings and we participate in the Church’s mission to evangelize lost souls. The Mass also brings with it material blessings such as the health of our bodies, avoiding war, famine and other pestilences. We receive more graces than we can imagine by reverently participating at each Mass. St Bernard of Clairvaux once wrote, “More is gained by a single Mass, than by distributing all of your goods to the poor, or going to pilgrimages to all of the most holy shrines in the world.”

The Dying, Death and those in Purgatory

Do we ever think to pray for those souls close to death or those suffering the pains of Purgatory while we are at Mass? If you have in your possession any of the traditional prayer books, they all have prayers that you can pray before during and after the Mass. If you notice, there are always prayers to obtain graces for those that will die that day, the dead, and for those souls in purgatory. The Mass merits graces for those souls as well. We petition God that we and others may have a holy and peaceful death. We also are able to obtain graces to shorten our time in Purgatory, or avoid it altogether. One priest I recently had a conversation with pointed out the vast difference in a funeral Mass between the Tridentine Rite and the Novus Ordo Rite. The Tridentine Rite focuses on obtaining graces for the soul of the departed so that graces can be obtained to shorten that person’s time in purgatory. So the funeral Mass is not primarily to celebrate the life of the departed as it seems to be at the Novus Ordo. We can do that at a wake. It is primarily aimed at obtaining special graces for the departed soul. In other words, we should see the focus again on the penitential and sacrificial rather than the communal.

The Most Holy Eucharist

There are two miracles that take place at every Mass. The first is that at consecration, the wine and bread become the Precious Body and Blood of Christ and that the accidents, or appearance of the bread and wine remain. This is known as Transubstantiation. We still see the appearances of bread and wine, which should not remain once their substance is changed, but Christ is now truly present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is who we truly receive at Mass in Holy Communion. So we now have yet another important gift in the treasure of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christ Himself, giving Himself to us in all of His being. The Eucharist itself should also be regarded as a Sacrifice as Trent clearly states. This is another important reason on why no other religious service through any denomination can be pleasing to God, Christ Himself instituted the Eucharist and Christ is present “truly and substantially” (Trent). St. Paul also states that partaking in other religious ceremonies is, “the table of devils.” (1 Cor 10) The Eucharist is also a means of Christ uniting Himself with us. He is the “life giving water” and our spiritual nourishment. It is a precursor to our eternal unity with Him when we pass from this life. In this life he makes us stronger as we unite to Him in our sufferings, trials and even triumphs. The Church calls the Holy Eucharist the source and summit of our Christian lives. We should treat it as such in all of our actions during the Mass.

Conveying The Reality

With this truth and reality of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass before us, how can it be that so many in the Church today act as if it is just a communal celebration? Was there a change in theology with the institution of the Novus Ordo? No change is found in any of the Vatican II documents on the liturgy, yet it is clear that the ambiguity of the documents allowed an entire theological attitude change for much of the faithful and the clergy. Anibale Bugnini the chief creator of the Novus Ordo wrote in his memoirs, “The path opened up by the Council will surely bring a radical change in the very appearance of traditional liturgical assemblies,..." This is exactly what happened. Appearances convey reality. The Mass no longer remained focused on the Holy Sacrifice, and the uniformity established in the liturgical norms of the past that were meant to convey the true reality were done away with. It was the intention of Bugnini to do away with this traditional thinking on the Mass by freeing it from past uniformity. By his own admission Bugnini tells us this clearly on page 42 of his memoirs, "This principle represents a momentous departure from past practice. For centuries the Church willed that all worship in the Roman Rite should everywhere show perfect uniformity. The two liturgical reforms which history has recorded - that of the eighth century and that promoted by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century- had precisely that aim... Social, religious, cultic and cultural considerations, and indeed the entire psychological climate, have changed radically in our day." This is why there are so many options in the Novus Ordo and why the rubrics are not as tight. It is more dependent on the priest and the particular community the Mass is being celebrated at than the reality of Christ being the Sacrifice. It is my hope that the proper sacrificial and penitential reality of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be restored and that in due time the Church will realize that the Tridentine Mass best exemplifies this reality. I hope in my day that the Church will restore it to the ordinary celebration in the Roman Rite. In my opinion, the experiment of the Novus Ordo liturgy has failed to uniformly convey adequately the reality of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  

Primary Source

The Unchangeable Church Vol II 1909 John Duffy

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Apathy, Chastisements and the Selling of our Souls

I've heard it said that the idea of selling one's soul is a myth. It is something that comes from tale and lore of past times that have long been surpassed by the advancement of modern man. In this day and age some deny they have a soul. Yet, who can deny that there is an animating life to the body which contains a unique personality attached to unique actions identifiable to each person, and when that animating force leaves, despite the body remaining, there is a loss of that unique personality? It is not my intention to prove the existence of the soul in this post. It is my intention to show that those who believe they have a soul can actually sell it, and that many people are doing this every day without even realizing it.

One of the most self destructing behaviors of modern man is his lukewarmness towards God. The majority of people in this country, and even across the globe still believe that a God or Creator exists.  Most still believe they have a soul that will continue on after it separates from the body. Most believe that that depending on how they live they will inherit some type of eternal bliss or some form of punishment. Those identifying themselves as being Christian however seem to assume that heaven is a given for them, and that only the Hitlers, Stalins and other unsavory characters are destined for eternal damnation. The idea of sin for them has been lost. This idea combined with the heresy that promotes a false sense of eternal security, has caused the loss of countless souls. Most Christians today seem to forget the words of Christ Himself, "Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7:13-15)

One of the worst chastisements from God is not material chastisements as many talk about today. This seems to be the focus of many Christians. As we see our country and Western civilization turn from its Christian moral foundation, many who are trying to remain faithful to Christ look to prophesy and tend to focus on material chastisements that are to come in the future. I am not denying the reality of material chastisements, but what seems to be lost is the sense of the spiritual chastisement that the material rests upon. In other words, God sometimes uses material means to awaken the souls of men who are mired in the cesspool of sin. He allows the consequences of sin to awaken the sinful slumber of man. However, the worst punishment is when God allows men to remain blinded by their sin to ruination of their eternal souls.

As we progress towards a world that denies the reality of absolute moral truths, we are seeing what a great spiritual chastisement looks like. Across the world much of humanity acts as if God does not exist, yet most will pay lip service to Him. Worse, many act as if they are their own gods, denying the existence of evil and sin. A portion of our population believes it has now "progressed to the point of calling good evil, and evil good. "Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe to you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own conceits." (Isaiah 5:20-21) As a result we are seeing the loss of souls at an exponential rate, including many who call themselves Christian. If we recall the vision of hell the children of Fatima were shown by Our Lady, they said that the they saw souls falling into hell at such as volume that it almost resembled a snowstorm.

Why are all of these people falling into hell after their earthly lives have ended? Was it because they were like Hitler or Stalin? Was it because they murdered or were armed bandits of some sort? Were they the lowest of the bunch? Are there so many of these types of villanous people that hell could be flooded with them on a daily basis? I don't think so. A large portion of them are those who are apathetic to God. They are the average man or women living material focused lives. They are those who continue to live in sin without seeking the life giving grace and love of God. They are those living in adultery, those living in impurity, those who steal just a little bit, those whose greed leads to usury and defrauding workers of their wages, those who have told that little white lie, those whose pride causes the loss of charity for one another, those who abuse themselves in drink, those who speak ill of their neighbors, those who are complicit with evil and the list goes on. In other words, these people falling into hell are the average Joe Schmoes who have committed average sins for which they have not repented.

As society turns apathetic to God, God has let us have our way. Thus, the vision of the children at Fatima of people falling into hell was a vision of a spiritual chastisement. God leaves man in his apathetic ways to the ruination of his soul. "Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonour their own bodies among themselves.  Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator..." (Romans 1:24-25)Yet, what are to think of material chastisements? I think that the material chastisements are less of a punishment for they can be tools used by God to get the attention of those who are apathetic to Him. Some may say that this presents a cruel God that was invented by the Jews as is presented in the Old Testament. What many fail to see is that man's sins are the primary cause of many material chastisements. Wars, murder, the spread of many diseases, physical and emotional trauma, depression etc. are caused by man's own immoral choices. They are caused by man himself living outside the grace of God. It is my belief that when these consequences of sin are lessened by God that this is a more severe punishment. When God allows the consequences of sin to remain, man can often find his way back to God. It is a way that God leaves His fingerprints, or a bread trail so that man can find his way back to Him. When God removes the bread trail, then the real disaster begins. This is where we find ourselves today. Many of us live in the soft circumstances of sin.

Today man lives apathetic to God with all the luxuries of life, at least here in the US and most of Western civilization. Most of us are fat and happy and have a good meal on our plates each evening and a warm bed to sleep in. Just look at the average American who is overweight and overeats and enjoys the fruits of life. Many of these people however are living in a state of unrepentant sin and suffer no real consequences for them. Many take anti-depressants to deaden their conscience, or lose themselves in a bottle of wine or in empty chatter. In essence, the end result is in man selling his soul to the devil. A person who lives in a state of sin without the grace of God will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. That means that not only will the Hitlers and Stalins of the world suffer the loss of their souls to eternal ruin, but those who live average lives apathetic to God. Those who say they believe in God but never give Him the worship that is due to Him, and who do not seek His loving grace as He has revealed it to them, will join the ranks of the Hitlers and Stalins. Are we to run to the Church out of fear for losing our souls?

A fear of God is a good thing if it is properly understood. The fear of God goes hand in hand with the love of God. God the Father loves us so much that he Sacrificed His only begotten Son. He is not a cruel God, but one that loves and deserves our love, for He loved us first. We should then set our eyes upon the cross if we are to set our souls free from the hands of sin and the evil one. Gaze and meditate upon a crucifix. We are held in chains by sin until we gaze our eyes upon the loving Savior Jesus Christ. For those who seek Him, we find ourselves in a time of great mercy, while those who do not will perish in their sins as a frog dies in a slowly boiled pot. Christ calls us from the cross to His one and only Church, the Catholic Church. He calls us to be baptized, and to receive the Holy Spirit by giving ourselves to Him wholly. We not only give Him the honor and worship that is due to Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but He sustains us by His love in the Most Holy Sacrament of His Body Blood, Soul and Divinity. He also calls us when we fall into sin to the Sacrament of Confession so we can reconcile ourselves to the Holy Trinity by repenting of our sin. We can either sell our souls to the devil or we can let Christ free our souls by His most pure Sacrifice on the cross. Indeed we "preach Christ crucified." (1 Cor 1:23)

Yes the material chastisements must come. When they do come this will be a sign of great things to follow. Many will turn to God when they see the horror of sin manifested in material ways. As long as we lay in the slumber of sin, things will become progressively worse. This is the year of mercy and indeed God offers us great graces for those who seek them. For those of us who are practicing the faith, let us not think we are above anyone, lest we too shall die in our pride. We have not sacrificed enough for others as Our Lady has asked of us. We have not prayed enough and we had not loved our brothers and sisters enough. Do we have true charity in our souls? "If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor 13:1-3) So let us also who practice the Catholic faith live in the love of God so that others may come to love Him, lest we also end up selling our souls.

Let St. Catherine of Sienna's words penetrate our hearts, "...dearest brother! Sleep no longer in the death or mortal sin. I tell you, the ax is already laid to the root of the tree. Pick up the shovel of holy fear of God and let the and of love guide it. Come! Shovel our of the filth of your soul and body!... Run back to your creator. Open your souls eye and see how great is the fire of His charity, that He has put up with you and hasn't commanded the earth to open and swallow you, or the wild beasts to devour you! On the contrary, the earth has shared its fruits with you, the sun its warmth and light, and the sky its movement, so that you might live, giving you a bit of time that you might be able to change your ways. And this he has done for love alone." (Letter T21/G306)