April 20, 2001
volume 12, no. 110

The Germs of GIRM

Part Five: Tearing down Tradition

    I continue today with my comments on various features of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) which has mislead so many.

    Paragraph 9 of GIRM reads:

        "The 'tradition of the Fathers' does not require merely the preservation of what our immediate predecessors have passed on to us. There must be profound study and understanding of the Church's entire past and of all the ways in which its single faith has been expressed in the quite diverse human and social forms prevailing in Semitic, Greek, and Latin cultures. This broader view shows us how the Holy Spirit endows the people of God with a marvelous fidelity in preserving the deposit of faith unchanged, even though prayers and rites differ so greatly."
    Comment and Analysis:

    The tradition dismissed so readily by our contemporary liturgical revolutionaries does not belong to our "immediate predecessors." Most of the elements of the Traditional Latin Mass were in place by the fifth century. It is not culture-bound to a particular time or place. Indeed, its very nature conveys the eternal, the transcendent. The unbloody celebration of Our Lord's sacrifice of Himself to the Father in Spirit and in Truth on the wood of the Holy Cross which is the Mass is not meant to be connected to this passing world. It is meant to focus our minds and our hearts and our souls on Calvary - and our own eternal destiny. We are meant to meditate on the grandeur and the glory of the Triune God, Who is the Object of our adoration, our petitions, our thanksgiving, and our acts of reparation. The Traditional Latin Mass sought to uplift souls in the things of God, not to hold them bound to the things and the spirit of this passing world. Holy Mass is a reminder to us of the permanence of First and Last Things. It is a refuge from this world, not a glorification of it.

    Yes, there are many different rites within the Church. However, each of them conveys beauty, solemnity, reverence, and awe. A careful examination of the prayers in the Eastern rites, for example, will reveal nothing of the spirit of optimism about the human spirit found in the new Mass in the Roman rite and plenty about our need for God and to make reparation for our sins. Indeed, there is a great similarity in the spirit of the prayers found in the Eastern rites and those found in the Traditional Latin Mass.

    One final point on Paragraph 9: a tradition can be judged by its fruits. The fruits of the Traditional Latin Mass were belief in the sacrificial nature of the Mass and of the priesthood, belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, reverence on the part of the faithful during Mass, and a Catholic laity which strove to love God by practicing the faith openly and unabashedly in their families and the particular places where they lived and work. Can the same be said of the fruits of the Novus Ordo?

    Paragraph 10 of GIRM (under the heading Adaptation to Modern Conditions) reads:

        "As it bears witness to the Roman Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi) and guards the deposit of faith handed down by later councils, the new Roman Missal in turn marks a major step forward in liturgical tradition.

        "The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in reaffirming the dogmatic statements of the Council of Trent were speaking at a far different time in the world's history. They were able therefore to bring forward proposals and measures of a pastoral nature that could not have even been foreseen four centuries ago."

    Comment and Analysis:

    This reminds me of a Bob Hope movie made during World War II. Hope was playing a reporter who had just interviewed Adolf Hitler. Hitler told him in an exclusive interview that he had no intention of invading Russia. As soon as Hope gets on the plane to go back to the United States, he reads his own newspaper's headline that Hitler had invaded Russia. Hope's character said, "Gee, you just can't trust that Hitler, can you?" In a cutaway scene, a fellow across the aisle from him (who looked for all the world like Benito Mussolini) turned to him and said, "You-a tellin' me!" You-a tellin' me that the new Roman Missal marks a major step in liturgical tradition! However, it is not a step forward, unless one wants to consider the enshrinement of process theology and anthropocentrism in the Mass as steps forward. The new Mass makes a mockery of the Deposit of the Faith in that it admits of so many legitimate adaptations and permutations that many of the faithful are catechized to believe that every tenet of received teaching is now up for grabs. (Indeed, a priest on Long Island, Monsignor Thomas Gallagher, said during a Lenten weekday Mass in 1994: "All you have to do is to believe in a few articles of the Creed. Everything else is up for grabs.")

    And the assertion that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council were more enlightened than those who attended the Council of Trent is truly laughable. Not one thing about human nature changed between 1570 and 1962. What, pray tell, new insights about the human being have come to light since the Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden? ...a Fall which necessitated the very propitiatory act offered by Our Lord to the Father on the wood of the Holy Cross.

    There is a final point about Paragraph 10 which is worth making at this point: if the Council of Trent was defective in that it was a creature of a particular point in time, then what is to prevent some other functionary composing GIRM 212 after the Fourth Vatican Council to claim that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not adequately address the needs of their own day? If you skewer the past in order to accomplish your own revolutionary purposes now, others may very well wind up skewering your work at some point in the future.

Tomorrow: Part Six - Truncating Trent

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

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

April 20, 2001
volume 12, no. 110
CHRIST or chaos
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