April 19, 2001
volume 12, no. 109

The Germs of GIRM

Part Four: Quo vadis Quo Primum?

    Continuing with my critique of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, today I want to focus on the Protestant spin put on "the older Missal."

    Paragraph 7 of GIRM reads (in part):

        "The older Missal belongs to the difficult period of attacks against Catholic teaching on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the ministerial priesthood, and the real and permanent presence of Christ under the Eucharistic elements. Saint Pius V was especially concerned with preserving the relatively recent developments in the Church's tradition, then unjustly being assailed, and introduced only very slight changes into the sacred rights."
    Comment and analysis:

    This is an effort to denigrate the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V as a culture-bound product of a very highly charged polemical atmosphere. The doctrines of the Church were under attack by Protestants. Thus, poor Saint Pius V could not entertain the idea of reaching back to "antiquity" to "restore" the liturgy as to do so would: (a) mimic the Protestant efforts to "simplify" liturgical rites; and (b) he really did not have the sort of questionable sources cited by contemporary liturgists claiming to represent the true spirit of the liturgy of antiquity, when it is alleged that the rites were simpler and not laden down with triumphalism.

    Paragraph 7 is an intellectually dishonest attempt to state that there was a need for radical liturgical reform in the sixteenth century which was stifled by the fact that such reform had been coopted by the Protestants.

    However, the very reasons cited in this paragraph to explain Pope Saint Pius V's holding fast to the 1500 year liturgical tradition of the Church in the Roman Rite are precisely the reasons which explain the harm done to the faith by the new Mass. The spirit of Protestantism has triumphed in the new Mass.

    The doctrines of the sacrificial nature of the Mass and of Our Lord's Real Presence in the Eucharist have come under continuous attack from Catholic pulpits during Mass, something that would have been unthinkable in the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. Martin Luther and John Calvin views on the liturgy have prevailed within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, thus demonstrating the wisdom of Pope Saint Pius V to resist anything which could be construed as conceding anything of value in Protestant theology or worship.

    Paragraph 8 of GIRM reads:

        "Today, on the other hand, countless studies of scholars have enriched the 'tradition of the Father' that the revisers of the Missal under Saint Pius V followed. After the Sacramentary known as the Gregorian was first published in 1571, many critical editions of other ancient Roman and Ambrosian sacramentaries appeared. Ancient Spanish and Gallican liturgical books also become available, bringing to light many prayers of profound spirituality that had hitherto been unknown.

        "Traditions dating back to the first centuries before the formation of the Eastern and Western rites are also better known today because so many liturgical documents have been discovered.

        "The continuing progress in patristic studies has also illumined Eucharistic theology through the teaching of such illustrious saints of Christian antiquity as Irenaeus, Ambrose, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Chrysostum."

    Comment and Analysis:

    Pope Pius XII handled all of this quite well in Mediator Dei, issued in 1947. He warned specifically against the spirit of "antiquarianism" which he knew had infected liturgical scholarship around the world. Simply put, antiquarianism is the reduction of all things liturgical to what are alleged to be the true roots and sources of a simple celebration of the sacred mysteries. While Pope Pius XII noted that it is a worthy and laudable things to study such simpler liturgies, he explained at length that it would be a mistake to discard the nearly 1500 years of liturgical tradition which developed in the fourth and fifth centuries.

    Furthermore, it should be pointed out that some of the simpler forms of the liturgy in existence prior to the fourth and fifth centuries were necessitated by the fact that the Church was living her life underground during the various episodes of persecution at the hands of Roman emperors. Simpler rites were a matter of necessity in some instances because of the places where Mass was celebrated (private homes, the catacombs) and the necessity to conclude the rites in order to remain undetected by the Roman authorities.

    Even admitting all of that, however, one can find zero scholarly evidence for the offering of Mass facing the people in those simpler days. And many of the sources cited by our contemporary liturgical revolutionaries which are alleged to prove that the new Mass is actually a "restoration" of a past tradition of the Church are so dubious as to invite the speculation that revisionist history of the early era of the Church has taken place so as to justify the Protestantization of the Mass in our own day.

Tomorrow: Part Five - Tearing down Tradition

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

April 19, 2001
volume 12, no. 109
CHRIST or chaos
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