April 12-14, 2002
volume 13, no. 70

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The Germs of GIRM

Part Forty-two: Solving the missing Mystical mystery

    The good news about my continuing analysis of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal is that I have completed about one-fourth of its paragraphs. The bad news is that Liturgian Authenticam (LA) awaits its own analysis. A brief review of its text indicates, as I have mentioned on several other occasions, the same sort of positivistic assertions found in GIRM itself concerning the "positive results" wrought by what is called the "liturgical renewal." The confusion resulting from the translation of the editio typica of the Novus Ordo into the vernacular of so many different languages necessitated this new document, which, however, admits that national episcopal conferences have up to five years to devise an "integral plan" " to be submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to conform translations to the standards demanded in LA. Even if the American bishops, for example, devise a plan within five years which is deemed acceptable by Rome, there is still another little problem, as I have been noting throughout the course of the last year in my analysis of GIRM: the Latin texts of the Novus Ordo themselves are defective in that they less fully communicate the truths of the Holy Father as do those found in the Traditional Latin Mass, something that GIRM itself admits in Paragraph 15.

    The celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, therefore, has been turned into a exercise in congregationalism and communitarianism, although gratuitous claims are made that the liturgy remains a "witness to an unbroken tradition." This devolution of liturgical decision-making, when coupled with the synthetic liturgy created by the Consilium appointed by Pope Paul VI, has resulted in the destruction of any recognizable "rite" associated with the celebration of Holy Mass in the Latin discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. A rite is something which is fixed and of universal application. Such is obviously not the case with the Novus Ordo, as will be demonstrated amply in this analysis of GIRM.

Paragraph 91 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "The Eucharistic celebration is an action of Christ and the Church, which is the 'Sacrament of unity,' that is, a holy people gathered together and ordered under the Bishop. For this reason, the Eucharistic celebration belongs to the whole Body of the Church. Such a celebration manifests this same Body and affects it. As to the individual members of the Body, the Eucharistic celebration touches them in different ways, according to their rank, office, and degree of participation in the Eucharist. In this way, the Christian people, 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own,' demonstrates its cohesion and its hierarchical ordering. Therefore, all, whether ordained ministers or the Christian faithful, by virtue of their function and office, should do all and only those parts that belong to them."
Comment and Analysis: While Sharon and I had our motor home parked outside of the house of a lovely family on Long Island for a few weeks after a campground in Nassau County, where we had been ensconced for over three and one-half months, closed on November 25, 2001, we had to dump our waste water in a sewage treatment facility in West Babylon, Long Island. It was an interesting experience. We had to wait our turn behind gigantic cesspool trucks, driven by men who were waiting their own turns to dump their loads in the sewer facility. Sharon informed me each of the three times we visited that facility before moving to rural New Jersey for a few weeks in late December prior to our drive out to California in early January for another round of lectures in the Golden State that there was quite an "aroma" in our motor home after we had dumped our waste water. As one who has no sense of smell, I took her word for it. Take my word for this: Paragraph 91 of GIRM really smells.

    Once again, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is referred to as the "Eucharistic celebration." GIRM goes back and forth in how it refers to the Mass, sometimes even going so far as to the use the word "Mass." Mostly, however, GIRM uses the phrase "Eucharistic celebration" to refer to the unbloody re-presentation of our Lord's one Sacrifice to the Father in Spirit and in Truth. Furthermore, the Mass is principally a propitiatory offering to the Father offered by the Son at the hands of an alter Christus. As noted in "Merely a Matter of Preference," the first end of the Mass is the adoration of the Blessed Trinity, as Pope Pius XII noted in Mediator Dei. In the sense that the Mass is a "sacrament of unity" it is so principally by virtue of the fact that it is meant to unite us to the Cross of Jesus Christ through and in the action of His one true Church. Yes, the Church herself is a "sacrament of unity," but a unity which signifies acceptance of the fact that the Divine Redeemer founded one Church upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. The "unity" referred to in GIRM is, as is the wont of most postconciliar documents, incomplete, ambiguous, and possibly misleading.

    The Mass of tradition reflects this true sense of Christian unity found in the Mystical Body of Christ in every aspect of its rites and prayers, thereby effecting naturally a unity among those gathered which is natural and unforced. As a rite which had grown organically over the first few centuries of the Church, the Traditional Latin Mass contained within it all of the elements indicating the distinctions between the priesthood of the ordained minister and the common priesthood of the faithful (especially, as time wore on, the altar rail, which divides the sanctuary from the nave of the Church, symbolic of the separation which exists between this vale of tears and Heaven, as well as the fact that the faithful are not to enter the Holy of Holies). There was no necessity, therefore, of reminding the people and the priests of their "roles" as this was communicated by the very essence of the rite (as it is in the Eastern liturgies).

    Consider the description of the Mass offered by Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei in 1947:

    "Thus the society founded by the Divine Redeemer has only one aim, whether in her doctrine and government, whether in the Sacrifice and Sacraments He instituted, whether in the ministry which He entrusted to her, or in the prayers she offers and the blood she sheds: to grow and become more closely knit as one body. And this happens when Christ is, after a manner, built into the souls of men and grows in them, and when souls also are built into Christ and grow in Him; so that on this earth of our exile a great temple is daily in course of building, in which the divine majesty receives due and acceptable worship."

    Here is a discussion of the unifying nature of the Mass which has reference to the ultimate end of the Mass: the "acceptable worship" offered the Blessed Trinity, not a partial invocation of unity which implies by omission that the horizontal elements of unity within the Church Militant as they are expressed in the context of a particular celebration are as important (if not more important) than our worship of God. This is important to remember as Paragraph 95 of GIRM eschews any tendency among the faithful to an "individualism" and "division" which detracts from this sense of communtarian unity. Translation: those who do not offer the "Sign of Peace" or who kneel when are told to stand during Mass (or who, Heaven forfend, actually attempt to kneel for Communion) are engaged in narcissism and divisiveness destructive of the unity meant to be expressed in the Mass. As Pope Pius XII noted, however, the unity that is supposed to be effected by the Mass is that which reflects the faithful being of one mind and heart with action of the Church to give honor and glory to the Blessed Trinity and to add grace to the world.

    Pope Pius XII went on to provide a much fuller expression of Catholic doctrine than found in GIRM:

    "The sacred liturgy, then, is the public worship which our Redeemer, the Head of the Church, offers to the heavenly Father and which the community of Christ's faithful pays to its Founder, and through Him to the eternal Father; briefly, is the whole public worship paid by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, Head and members."
This description, which bears some similarity to parts of GIRM, is much fuller in its Catholicity than GIRM (as is the contrast between almost all conciliar and postconcilar documents with those which preceded the pontificate of Blessed John XXIII in 1958). Pope Pius XII, who issued the encyclical letter Mystici Corporis Christi in 1943, uses the proper phrase to refer to the unity of the Church by calling her the Mystical Body of Christ, a phrase which is omitted in GIRM.

    Pope Pius XII also noted the fact that the "role" played by the faithful in the Mass principally internal, not external. External elements of the faithful's participation are meant to be manifestations of their internal dispositions. As he wrote,

    "It must be well understood, then, that God cannot be worthily honored unless the mind and will are intent upon spiritual perfection; and that for the achievement of holiness the worship which the Church, united with her divine Head, offers to God is the most efficacious possible means."
The mind and will must be intent upon spiritual perfection, again, a phrase which is nowhere found in GIRM. There is an emphasis in GIRM on a sense of unity and brotherhood which does not have its foundation in an effort to pursue spiritual perfection.

    Finally, Pope Pius XII elaborated early on in Mediator Dei that the faithful's interior participation at Holy Mass must require them to "be in the right dispositions" for the fruits of the Mass to have their fullest efficacy in their lives.

    "For it must be borne in mind that the members of this Body are living members, endowed with intellect and will; therefore they must deliberately set their lips to this source of grace, absorb and assimilate this food of life, and uproot from themselves anything that may obstruct its efficacy. So the work of our Redemption, though in itself something independent of our will, really calls for an interior effort from our souls if we are to attain eternal salvation."
The omission of such expressions of Catholic doctrine are typical of the ambiguity even curial officials in Rome admit exist in postconciliar Vatican documents, thereby providing much ammunition for those intent on using that ambiguity to serve their own revolutionary purposes.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

NEXT FRIDAY: Part Forty-three - Designation Can Lead to Disintegration

For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see his Archived articles at

April 12-14, 2002
volume 13, no. 70
CHRIST or chaos
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