One really doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to discover the liberal and modernist slant in many Catholic parishes throughout the United States, especially in parishes that have been built fairly recently. In the old days, one would walk into a Catholic Church and be amazed at the splendor of the beauty present there – the Tabernacle, the altar, the statues, the candles, and so forth. All around the holiness of the temple was indicated through the use of stained glass windows and an atmosphere of total silence. Every step a person took could be heard throughout the entire building. In short, it was a given that the Temple of God should be kept reverently silent and untainted, and that it should be the most beautiful edifice in the entire city – and, indeed, it was.
Let’s compare this unforgettable experience with late 20th century Catholic "churches" – hardly worthy of the name. We enter what is often merely a "multi-purpose building," and what we see is clearly the replica of a conference hall. What used to be the sanctuary has now, as the modernists would say, "evolved" into a sterile stage. If you thought you could kneel down in a pew to adore the Blessed Sacrament, you are immediately woken up to reality because you realize that, at best, you could get comfortable in a chair and look at all the great banners that are attached to the walls of the building, often only repeating typically Protestant slogans. Kneelers are long history, and if you look closely, there’s nothing you could actually kneel before. You won’t find a Tabernacle, at least not a recognizable one, and definitely not one in the center of the building. Instead, you’ll see a huge "Presider’s Chair" and a small pitiful table that now serves as the, well, what some older folks would rigidly call the "altar."
But the worst is yet to come. As your eyes stream with tears when they must behold the sacrilege that has been done to the most sacred space of Catholics, you notice something completely foreign and alien to the spirit of Catholic worship. Left and right to the center, where one would normally expect the statues of Mary and Joseph or the Patron Saint of the Church, there are now two white screens on which slides are shown during Mass – sorry, during the "celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy" – in order to "enhance the presence of Christ" [sic]. As if Christ weren’t already present enough in the Tabernacle! But wait – what Tabernacle anyway? In the center of the multi-purpose building we now see a Crucifix (if even that), but the Protestant version, of course: instead of a tortured Jesus hanging on the Cross, we now have a resurrected Jesus hovering in front of it somehow. You wonder what has happened to the Bride of Christ!
At this point, we remember the scarily exact warnings of the Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1947: "One would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings…" (Encyclical Mediator Dei, #62).
Yet this is exactly what we see today. And, lo and behold, the saintly pope prophesied yet another disastrous state of affairs. Commenting on the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, he said, "This persistence of Mary [at Fatima] about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith in her liturgy.... In our [future] churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them." This hits the nail on the head! How lamentable it is that Pope Paul VI didn’t seem to attach any importance to this message, however well-intentioned he may have been.
So, in summary, what do we have? A sterile conference building with chairs, a table, and two screens. Beautiful. Just what the Catholic ordered. In short, there’s nothing left that in any way expresses what Catholics actually – or at least supposedly – believe about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (please excuse this rigid terminology). What is the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" anyway? Well, most fundamentally, Catholics believe that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice. Yes, propitiatory – that’s a word most Catholics can’t even pronounce, not because it’s spelt so hard, but because they’ve never heard it before; of course not – where could they? In a sterile multi-purpose building, where they "celebrate the Eucharistic Meal together" with a "Presider" who "breaks bread" on a "table"? No, because there you hear only of a "meal of peace," the "bread of the Word" and a "cup of salvation" of which the "Eucharistic assembly" partakes. Besides, most people there receive the Eucharist standing, in their hands, and have never heard of a "state of grace" in the first place. All of this is, to an extent, supported and encouraged, sad to say, by the new Missal of 1970 itself, when compared with the Missal of St. Pius V.
Having taken a look at the architecture (or lack thereof) in modern(ist) Catholic churches – I mean, communities –, let us peek into what kind of hymns are played at the "celebration," and what kind of instruments are used.
The average Catholic parish has abandoned the organ in favor of bongos, drums, flutes, and, most of all, guitars. The post-conciliar instruction on music in the Sacred Liturgy, Musicam Sacram (1967), however, expressly says, "The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church" and that the use of other instruments is permitted only "provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use…[and] in keeping with the dignity of the temple" (#62). Can this be said of the instruments used in many parishes of today? At a recent Novus Ordo Confirmation which I attended, the Mass began with the peppy introductory song "Come, Holy Spirit, let the fire fall." I felt like at a rock concert. Are people forgetting that we don’t have to have loud extravagant music in order for the Holy Ghost to come down upon His people? Isn’t the Spirit rather gentle as a dove and deserves corresponding music? It is not an accident that when the sacrament of Holy Orders is administered, the soft hymn Veni, Sancti Spiritus is sung. Gentleness is what represents the Holy Spirit best.
So, what used to be the glorious chants and organ music of immemorial tradition, which conveyed a sense of heavenliness to the Holy Sacrifice and to the liturgy celebrated, especially at High Mass, has now been turned into peppy guitar folk music, often even accompanied by drums and other completely secular instruments, so that one wonders whether this is the Hard Rock Café or the Temple of the Lord. Oh, how beautiful is it to resemble evangelical Protestants, who deny the Real Presence as a dogma of their faith! We must remember that, as Jesus said, "My Father’s house is a house of prayer," and not a discotheque.
As if this weren’t enough yet, the crisis of liturgical music these days is a lot deeper. We have many songs and hymns that are used in Catholic parishes throughout the country that actually border on heresy. As I was looking through the latest issue of a very popular Catholic hymnal published by a well-known Catholic company, I examined the Communion songs. There were 46 hymns, but only a single one whose title even vaguely referred to the sacrificial nature of the Mass—the song See Us, Lord, About Your Altar—and that one was from 1934! What happened? Have we stopped believing in the sacrificial nature of the Mass? Is someone attempting to make us stop believing in it? How come hardly any Eucharistic hymns use traditional terms such as "altar," "sacrifice," "chalice," "host," "victim," or "spotless Lamb"? Why is all we hear these days talking about "bread," "wine," "cup," "meal," "banquet," "supper," and "table"? What’s going on? Even a recent convert to the faith who has just finished a decent introduction to real Catholicism notices that something’s wrong.
When I looked more closely at the "Eucharistic" songs found in the hymnal, I, sadly, detected some very interesting vocabulary in almost every single song; on an almost exclusive basis I found such terminology as "feast of justice, "bread and wine of Easter," "bread that was sown," "bread of love," "table of hope," "gift of finest wheat," "wine for all," "symbol of your love," "bread of peace," "wine of joy," and "banquet of eternal life."
Is this as good as it gets? Sigh.
Lex orandi, lex credendi - How we pray is how we believe!
It seems easier to have dinner with the president than to find a Catholic hymn that mentions "sacrifice" and "propitiation" and "atonement" in relation to the Mass. But why is that, if that is what we believe? How true is the Latin phrase lex orandi, lex credendi – what we believe is reflected in how we pray. No wonder, then, with such architecture and such music, does the majority of "Catholics" at Mass deny the Real Presence of Christ. We live in a culture that is already anti-religious and secular enough that at least Church songs should contain proper expressions of the faith. Is this too much to ask for? Especially in our modern, secular, and banal society, which denies anything that cannot be empirically verified, it is important for the hymns at Mass to offer solid Catholic teaching – in the face of all secularization, scientism, and denial of the metaphysical. The Church has never been of the world, after all, but merely in the world.
Another typical example of the systematic denial of beliefs peculiarly Catholic in liturgical music is the song Look Beyond. It encourages us to "look beyond the bread you eat; see your Savior and your Lord." This seems orthodox at first, but even Protestants "look beyond" the bread and the wine they eat to remember Jesus – without in any way believing in the Real Presence. We do not eat bread at Mass, nor do we drink wine; hence it is difficult to see how one should look beyond the "bread" we supposedly eat or the "wine" we supposedly drink. If the song were really Catholic, it would say, "Look beyond the bread you see" because what we do see are the accidents of bread, as opposed to what we do eat, namely the substance, which used to be bread, but which has now been transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. By ignoring this extremely crucial distinction, the song has shrewdly succeeded in injecting the poison of modernism.
Talking about transubstantiation – it’s another such word that people in the pews can’t pronounce or spell because they don’t hear it anymore. In the Mass of St. Pius V, it was required that the priest speak about transubstantiation at least once a year – on the First Sunday of Lent. Nowadays, it is at times questionable whether the "presider" himself even knows what it is.
These critical states of common liturgy in US parishes which I am presenting are in no way new, however. Back in 1978 already, Fr. Kenneth Baker, editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, wrote in response to a reader about the example of a hymn "that urges us to 'eat bread together on our knees' and 'to drink wine together on our knees'" (HPR, October 1978, p. 6). Father observes: "There is no indication here of belief in the Real Presence, and there is also something vaguely pagan in another verse [the very chorus of that song] that has us falling on our knees with our face to the rising sun" (ibid.). Fr. Baker is referring to the song Let Us Break Bread Together [sic], whose title alone already indicates some heavily modernist tendencies. It is not we who break bread, but the priest who offers the most holy and unspotted Sacrifice. How about that for a hymn?! Oh, no, that could offend some Protestants, and since we’ve become a religion that models the most important expression of its faith by the standards of heretics, we cannot use that, of course.
Where does all of this leave us? In short, the "new liturgists" have engaged in unspeakable sacrilege and made the Mass a mess. What used to be the most holy time for all Catholics has in many parishes been transformed into a social gathering at which people celebrate themselves. The altar has become a table, the sanctuary has become a stage, the chalice has become a cup, and even the priest himself has become merely a "presider." The actual edifice is not really a Church but more of a multi-purpose building.
All those subtle long-term changes indicate an implicit rejection and denial of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice. Pope Pius XII realized that these changes were being suggested by people whose pretext it was to revert back to the liturgy as it had been celebrated in the earliest days of Christianity. But this is a false archaism. Obviously, the standard for the Church’s liturgical practices cannot be found in its earliest stages or during times of persecution, but rather in its golden age. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, "It is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device" (Mediator Dei #62). Yet, the warnings of Pius XII have gone unheeded, and we now see the results.
These shocking observations in modern churches are not limited to architecture and liturgical setup alone, however. Let’s look at how people dress for Mass. We see teenagers with Michael Jordan shirts and old shaggy blue jeans, women with tops that are so tight and see-through that it would be less revealing were they to wear nothing at all, and girls showing off shorts so short that, in extreme cases, their underwear can be seen. This is often topped by the fact that more and more people are found chewing gum during Mass. Give it another 10 or 20 years, and you’ll find "No Smoking" signs posted in church.
Pastors, the shepherds who are to take care of their flock, often excuse these abuses as being contemporary and so they must tolerate them, "otherwise hardly anyone will come to Mass." In other words, what they mean is that if the Catholic faithful won’t conform to the Church, the Church needs to conform to them. Yet this is not what teaching is all about, and it is still the primary mission of the Church to teach and preach the Gospel. The Mass is the Heavenly liturgy on earth – it is a feast for our King, who deigns to come down to us again in sacrifice and sacrament. We must be dressed properly for having been made worthy to assist at such a gracious act.
It is obvious that the faith of the ordinary Catholic is subtly and tactically being endangered and undermined, not only by heretical and liberal "theologians" but also, and probably much more so, by architecture, liturgical setup, and music at Mass. Even the uneducated Catholic – and probably especially the uneducated Catholic – can "read the signs" in these exterior abuses. They say and teach more than a mouthful, and teach unorthodoxy at that. Lex orandi, lex credendi – how true. And how dangerous.
Warm 'fuzzies' quickly cool off the Faith!
I try to be optimistic. As much as I don’t like the Novus Ordo rite of the Mass, I still sometimes attempt to see the good and the love of God in the priests who celebrate it with sincerity and faith.
With this attitude, I came across an essay in an issue of Celebration magazine, which bears the suspect subtitle of “Ecumenical Worship Resource.” (Incidentally, this article had been handed to me by a priest at the seminary when I was still considering a Novus Ordo vocation.) Frowning a little bit, I decided to read on. The article was entitled “Beyond Ritual to Jesus” by Rev. Fr. Ron Luka, CMF. It was this piece of writing that once again nearly extinguished my positive attitude, because it came from an educated Franciscan priest who works for parish renewal, and yet the suggestions he made for a liturgy that 'allows us to experience Jesus more' were nothing short of pathetic. Indeed, I think a priest who holds the opinions of Fr. Luka concerning a possible “improvement of the liturgy” has simply not understood what the Mass is in essence and what it is all about.
Fr. Luka’s ideas for a “better liturgy” came, as he says, directly from his inspiration by John Michael Talbot. Fr. Luka was so moved by Talbot and "the presence of Jesus in Talbot" that he wanted to incorporate these fuzzy feelings he had gotten at the concert into the Mass somewhat. His conclusions are now recapitulated in “Beyond Ritual to Jesus” and are, as you can probably imagine, disastrous, to be frank.
Let me first make a note about Fr. Luka’s interesting modernist terminology. He does not call priests by their legitimate title—“priest” or “presbyter”—, but rather refers to them as “presiders.” This difference gives people the impression that the Mass is simply a “social communion fellowship” that a particular person “presides over,” where it obviously plays no significant role who in fact that “presider” is, as we can see by the dangerously increasing participation of laywomen in the sanctuary and around the altar. Put bluntly, the public is starting to believe that the difference between ordained ministerial priest and layman is simply one of authority, one of legitimate exercise. While this is indeed one of the differences, the most significant one is that the priest has, by virtue of his ordination, certain powers that a layman does not have—the power to confer five of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick (Holy Orders can only be administered by a Bishop, and Holy Matrimony can only be conferred by the couple who wishes to get married).
This, namely the confusion about the difference between priest and layman, is one of the heretical consequences, intended or not, that we have to deal with if we start calling priests “presiders.” Once again, the old axiom lex orandi, lex credendi (‘the way we pray reflects what we believe’) holds true. For these reasons Fr. Luka does a terrible injustice to the office of presbyter, and inflicts damage to the doctrine of the Mass and the Real Presence, by his use of the term “presider.” Quite noteworthily, he mentions the title of “presider” as merely one among “greeters, ushers . . ., and other liturgical ministers” (Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 488). We can easily see what consequences such an approach has.
The last 35 years in Eucharistic and sacramental theology have given people the impression that the Mass is merely a meal, not a sacrifice of propitiation, and that there is no such thing as the Real Presence as defined by the holy Council of Trent, or at least it’s not that important. We have been taught, by the way the liturgy has been celebrated, especially in the U.S., that the most important thing in the Mass is the people and the sharing of a common meal together, and that somehow we give worship to God by doing that. "We gather to celebrate God's love" is the new teaching, rather than gathering in order to give God His due: adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition.
The reason for such confused and under-educated Catholics is people like Fr. Luka: while they may mean well, the outcome of their suggestions for renewal is horrendous, and it can precipitate the ruin of many souls—whether intended or not is irrelevant.
Fr. Luka does not like the phraseology ‘saying/hearing Mass’ either. For him, it’s ‘celebrating the Eucharist.’ There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but the term seems to imply that the people have as much to do in the Mass as the priest. Statistics show that it is precisely ever since the shift from "assisting at Mass" to “celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy together” has occurred that Mass attendance has ceased dramatically, that vocations have vanished to an astonishing 5,000 seminarians in the entire U.S., and that belief in the Real Presence has dropped abnormally (Cf. Ralph M. McInerny, What Went Wrong With Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained [Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1998], 10-13; though this is not a book that I can really recommend).
If we keep going with this approach to sacramental theology, in the near future there will probably be nothing left to distinguish us from Protestants. We must keep in mind that the Mass is not something we do (emphasis on both words) that makes us feel comfortable and cozy and gives us all sorts of other fuzzy feelings; rather, it is the sacrifice promised by the prophet Malachi (1:11) that is offered to God in expiation for our sins,
and in adoration and thanksgiving to Him. So it is first of all an act of worship to God, which God is offered by the priest, who may or may not be assisted by the faithful hearing Mass. That is the historic faith!
Perhaps we should once again focus on God in the Mass, not on us, our feelings, our experience, or similar things. Mass is not a social gathering! Mass is transcendental. It should be other-worldly. How about that for an innovation?
Throughout the article, Fr. Luka fails to make a clear distinction between the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the presence of Jesus in “John Michael [Talbot] and each person present at the concert” [sic](Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 487), because of the way Fr. tries to incorporate the emotional fuzziness he must have gotten when he went to the Talbot concert, and because he does not seem to realize that Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist is essentially different from and more important than any other kind of his presence. The result is that Fr. Luka, whether intentionally or not, comes across as if a John Michael Talbot, as much as we may admire him, is just as good as the Eucharist. Uncatechized people can easily be misled here, and this is everything but what a priest should like to achieve.
But, interestingly enough, Fr. Luka has made sure that he all of his readers are pacified by saying that he wants to “appease” Mother Angelica by clearly stating he does believe in the Real Presence (even though this is not reflected in the rest of his article). In fact, he refers to Mother and to the Adoremus society as “cantankerous” (Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 487). Did you know that if you stick to what the Church has believed and taught for 1,900 years, you are called cantankerous these days? We're truly in bad shape.
There are a few more novel items Fr. Luka wishes to introduce to the celebration of the Mass, however. One of the most astonishing innovations he proposes is that during the introductory rite of the Mass, people should be invited to introduce themselves to each other in order to “meet Jesus in the people around them” (Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 488). I must say that shaking hands with somebody sitting next to me has never enhanced my spiritual life, nor has it enhanced my devotion to Jesus. Besides, I have never made any new friendships with someone sitting next to me by introducing myself to him before Mass; it degrades this sacred place where Christ is made present physically to a community hall where we simply “gather” as in Protestant Bible rallies. We have time to meet Jesus “in one another” during the other 167 hours of the week—let’s take a single hour to meet him in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the altar for once! Similarly, and quite prophetically, Pope Leo XIII remarked in an encyclical that "The world has heard enough of the so-called 'rights of man.' Let it hear something of the rights of God" (Tametsi #13, November 1, 1900).
It’s getting worse, however. Fr. Luka next proposes people talk before Mass for the same reason—to find Jesus in the people sitting next to one (Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 488). Maybe it’s about time that parents smack their children again when they talk in the pews while others are trying to pray. Now we have this sacrilegious gesture of indifference towards the Blessed Sacrament and and those who try to pray and prepare their hearts for the most glorious act on earth—the Mass—as a suggested innovation so we can "experience Jesus better." This is ridiculous. Fr. Luka can say what he want, but he does not believe in the Real Presence as defined by the Council of Trent and as believed by the Church for 2,000 years. This is evidenced by his "suggestions." One can pay lip service to the dogma of Transubstantiation, but one's actions will betray one in the end. But just imagine what would happen if we accepted Fr. Luka's "suggestion" that people talk before Mass. We all know, of course, what people would talk about: certainly only about the love they have experienced during the last six or seven days, the presence of God they felt when they fed the homeless, and the desire for repentance of their sins and renewal of life in Christ that they are about to receive in the sacrament of sacraments—the Eucharist. Right? Wrong. No, let’s get real. I can imagine much more easily that people will be talking about last night’s football game, about the problems they’ve encountered while trying to set up their new computer, and about the beer party coming up next weekend. In extreme circumstances they might even catch up with the latest gossip.
Our glorious Popes must be turning in the grave. Even Martin Luther would cringe at the sight of what is being done to the Catholic Mass. Knowingly or not, Fr. Luka is another one of the devil's tools in the latter's fight for the destruction of the Church.
Are we heading toward what Pius XII called 'theological suicide?'
Returning to Fr. Luka's “Beyond Ritual to Jesus” and how cleverly he has twisted the meaning of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, one can see how it leaves uninformed Catholics with a sense of the Holy Eucharist being merely a symbol, rather than the True Presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Quite certainly, if we followed Fr. Luka’s hippie-style “Let’s meet Jesus in each other”-approach through to its logical conclusion, we should serve donuts and coffee at Mass in order for there to be a better atmosphere to “meet Jesus in those around us.” But Fr. Luka certainly does not want to take you there—at least not yet. Maybe we might find a justification for that in a Third Vatican Council one day.
Not only is extended, loud, conversation-like talking before Mass, recommended by Fr. Luka, a grave sacrilege, it also disturbs those few pious souls that are left that try to pray before Mass. But—alas!—Fr. Luka has found a solution for this: the tabernacle should be removed from the sanctuary and be put in a side chapel, where those who wish to pray before Mass can gather—which the Sacramentary calls for anyway (Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 488). In other words, those few faithful who are left who attend Mass for the right reasons and believe what the Church has always believed, are moved out of the way, together with the Most Sacred Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Himself, into a side chapel! This is pathetic!
In fact, it seems that what Fr. Luka is really trying to do is move the True Presence of Jesus out of the picture by a pretended attempt to bring Him in. (Here we recall Pope Pius XII’s vision that in the future the Church’s faithful would in vain look for the ‘red lamp’ because Jesus will have been moved out of the sanctuary.) Fr. Luka removes the Real Presence of God Himself away in order to “meet Jesus in the people.” Which presence is more important? The conclusions here are obvious. But anyway, let us take Fr.’s suggestion to its logical conclusion: we come up with the ear-tickling idea that we should all talk during Mass as well. What reasons could we broach here? Hmm, let’s see. Maybe the reason that we can better appreciate what’s going on—that could suffice. Another one would be that one usually talks during a “meal” and a communion fellowship celebration anyway, and this makes the sacramental experience more human. Sound ridiculous? I agree. But this is where we end up if we take Fr. Luka’s suggestions and follow them, and I do not consider it too far off to say that this is exactly what we will hear in the next few years from “liturgical experts.” Besides, I don't think it's any more ridiculous than the "suggestions" we've already have to take from Fr. Luka in last week's installment.
As for preset prayers and introductions, Fr. Luka instead suggests that these should be done away with and replaced by more spontaneous prayers. For him, “flexibility and spontaneity can be a valuable opportunity with a few well-chosen words to help people experience God present in the assembly, the word, and the great prayer of thanksgiving [sic—here he reduces the dogmatic notion of the Mass as a sacrifice to a mere “prayer of thanksgiving”; the Council of Trent anathematizes him for that].” Yes, yes, all the Modernist babble about Jesus’ presence—in the assembly, the word, the prayers.... But hey—what are we missing here? The most real presence of Jesus above all: the Real and Substantial Presence in what appears to be bread and wine! What about that?
This is a presence more real than Plato’s Forms! Why is it so much emphasized that Jesus is present in the assembly, the Scriptures, in prayer, and yet the most real presence of them all is not even mentioned? Doesn’t it seem like somebody is trying to subvert the historic faith here? This is Modernism at its best, under the banner of false charity and piety! God help us, should we ever remain silent as such propositions are being set forth. Here Fr. Luka demonstrates that he has absolutely no clue about the spirituality of the Mass. The Church, through the wisdom of her Tradition, has fashioned over the centuries a rite of Mass (the Tridentine rite, of course) for us that expresses and encourages and implies a truly Catholic spirituality, filled with and fostering the virtues such as meekness, patience, reverence, humility, fortitude, etc. Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P., demonstrates this very beautifully in his excellent article "The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy" in two installments in The Latin Mass, issues Summer and Fall 2001.
Let's move on, though, to what Fr. Luka recommends as far as posture during Mass is concerned. You probably guessed it. He supports standing during the Canon (I mean, "Eucharistic Prayer"). People have knelt during the consecration for, roughly estimated, at least a thousand years. Why does that have to change? What more reverent gesture can there be than to go on one’s knees? Think about it. We stand during all sorts of “profane” things: giving lectures, waiting in line, shaking hands, and many more. But when do we kneel? Hardly ever. That, then, is a very particular experience, one that is left for the adoration of the Most High God. Being on one’s knees is a very humble gesture, much humbler than standing, and certainly deserved for the entrance of Our Lord on the altar at the Consecration—unless, of course, one does not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to begin with. Really, the way we pray and worship reflects what we believe—lex orandi, lex credendi. Is it any surprise that most “Catholics” do not believe in the Real Presence?
It is Fr. Luka’s—at least alleged—goal to make Jesus more experientially present in the celebration of Mass (Ooops, sorry for this rigid medieval term; I meant “breaking of the bread,” of course). It is a mystery to me how one could make someone more present in whatever sense when this person is already physically there. (Is Fr. Luka denying the Real Presence here?) The ultimate outcome is bound to be a denial of the Real Presence. “Jesus is everywhere,” we are going to hear. If we focus on the Real Presence of Jesus on the altar of sacrifice, however, the Mass starts to make sense: we realize what happens, how it happens, and why it happens, and why we’re doing it again. I am very happy to de-emphasize myself in order to focus on Jesus present at Mass. If we become lax in distinguishing Jesus’ sacramental presence from His presence elsewhere and in another way, we will lose faith in the sacraments. They will end up becoming mere signs or ritualistic expressions for us (or—exactly—“ordinances”) of a figurative presence of Jesus. That is heresy.
In short, we cannot afford to confuse people by a more fuzzy liturgy. People must see a stark contrast when comparing the most glorious and sin-atoning sacrifice of the Mass with the cozy fundamentalist Bible rally, which is merely of human origin. Our goal at Mass is not to feel good—it is primarily to offer worship to the Most High as He intended it for us.
What has become of the entire theology of the Mass? The reason for the Mass and its fruits is not at all brought to people’s attention. What happened to atonement? Sacrifice? Altar? If all we have left is table, meal, cup, fellowship, and bread, we are Protestants. We ought to start getting worried about what is happening to the central act of Catholic worship. If we continue to walk in the liturgical steps which we’ve been taking for the last 35 years, the consequence will be the systematic destruction of the Catholic faith. Of course, , that is precisely the goal of the modernists. The great Dietrich von Hildebrand once remarked that "If one of the devils in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters had been entrusted with the ruin of the liturgy, he could not have done it better"
Now, it is true that since the Church is indefectible, the forces of the devil will not be able to destroy the faith--but we cannot rest in a false optimism here, because merely because we know the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church doesn't mean they can't come awfully close! Oddly, Pope Pius XII was the one who, moved by the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima, alerted the Church of theological suicide by a change in her liturgy. And here, as hard as it may be, we must face the fact that good intentions, which Fr. Luka may very well have, are just not enough (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
May our Lord deign to restore health and sanity to His Church, quickly.
Sancte Pio X, ora pro nobis.