The past thirty-six years have been unprecedented in the history of the Church. As the late Monsignor Klaus Gamber demonstrated very tellingly in The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, there has never been a time when the liturgy of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church had undergone the sort of dramatic changes which characterized the Novus Ordo promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969, and what began to lead up to it in the Ordo Missae of 1965. Efforts to claim that the Novus Ordo is a continuation of the Church's living liturgical tradition are disingenuous at best-and spin doctoring at worst. Indeed, the Introduction to the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal of 1997 makes assertions concerning a continuity between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo which are gratuitous and unfounded.
Instability is not good for any living organism, much less for a human being, the zenith of God's creative work. Human beings were created by God to know, to love, and to serve Him in this life so as to be happy with Him for all eternity in Heaven. Adam's Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden made necessary our re-creation on the wood of the Holy Cross by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man. Our Lord created His Church-conceived out of the Blood and water which flowed from His Wounded Side and brought to birth by the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles and Our Lady on Pentecost Sunday - to be our mater and our magistra, our mother and our teacher. And children crave stability from their mothers and their teachers. The Church is meant to provide us with stability in all things pertaining to our salvation, especially as regards the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Pope Pius XI noted the importance of the Mass as the means by which most people learn the truths of faith. Writing in Quas Primas in 1925, he indicated that the average person does not read encyclical letters or learned tracts about the faith. "For people are instructed in the truths of the faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any pronouncement, however weighty, of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year - in fact, for ever. The Church's teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man's nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God's teaching that he may make it a part of himself with profit for his spiritual life."
Well, the last thirty-six years have provided anything but a liturgical ambiance wherein the faith has been taught in all its unchanging beauty.
As the late Monsignor Gamber documented, there is a discontinuity between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo. This discontinuity is striking. Gamber noted: "We are now involved in a liturgy in which God is no longer the center of our attention. Today, the eyes of the faithful are no longer focused on God's Son having become Man hanging before us on the cross, or on the pictures of His saints, but on the human community assembled for a commemorative meal. The assembly of people is sitting there, face to face with the 'presider,' expecting from him, in accordance with the 'modern' spirit of the Church, not so much a transfer of God's grace, but primarily some good ideas and advice on how to deal with daily life and its challenges.
"There are few people left who speak of the Holy Mass as the Sacrifice of the New Covenant which we offer to God the Father through Jesus Christ, or of the sacramental union with Christ that we experience when we receive Holy Communion. Today, we are dealing with the 'Eucharistic feast,' and with the 'holy bread' to be shared among us as a sign of our brotherhood with Jesus.
"The real destruction of the traditional Mass, of the traditional Roman rite with a history of more than a thousand years, is the wholesale destruction of the faith on which it was based, a faith that had been the source of our piety and of courage to bear witness to Christ and His Church" (Gamber, p. 102).
The discontinuity between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo has produced a state of instability and uncertainty in the lives of ordinary Catholics. Many Catholics today believe that the received teaching of the God-Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is as changeable as the ever-changing liturgies they encounter in their local parishes. Indeed, the practical life of the Church approaches that of congregationalism, with every parish "doing liturgy" a little differently. And part of this congregationalism involves the reaching of compromises among various constituency groups within a parish. The universal Church has become so parochial in the offering of the unbloody representation of the Son's Sacrifice to the Father in Spirit and in Truth that the average Catholic has become convinced that there are few fixed dogmas of the faith, including the sacrificial nature of the Mass and belief in our Lord's Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, give us the wisdom to see the world clearly through the eyes of the true Faith.
Tomorrow: Part Two - A Short Precis on the Roots of Liturgical Disorder and Social Chaos.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives