The Germs of GIRM |
Part Forty-four: Alter Christus, not altar personalities!
The Traditional Latin Mass of its nature required such dignity and humility precisely by de-emphasizing the personality of the individual priest and by emphasizing his role as an alter Christus. A priest is supposed to celebrate Mass, not navigate his way through a variety of endless options designed to "enhance the experience of worship" for a particular community, nor to tailor the "liturgy" according to the dictates of a parish liturgical committee or the perceived needs of the ethnic or social composition of a particular parish.
Although my continuing analysis of the General Instruction to the Roman Missal is a little anti-climatic in light of the protracted apologia contained in last month's issue of Christ or Chaos with [ part one, and part two, and part three, and part four] "A Mere Matter of Preference?", it is nevertheless important to take a critical look at the document being exalted by many people as one of the "solutions" to the liturgical problems which have their root in the very nature of the Novus Ordo itself. Please God that we can sell enough copies of There Is No Cure for This Condition, Chartres Communications will be able to put this continuing series into book form once it is completed (the projected date for the completion of this series in Christ or Chaos is by January, 2003).
The harm produced by the Novus Ordo knows no limits. As a result of massive problems encountered while driving in our motor home (which lost its generator, liquid propane gas, fresh water tank, and other assorted necessities) from East Coast to California (where I am giving both my "Living in the Shadow of the Cross" and "To Be Catholic from the Womb to the Tomb" lecture programs in different venues on an intensive basis so as to be able to situate ourselves in the Midwest prior to the birth of our first child, which is expected on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2002), [See It's a Girl!] Sharon and I had to attend the first Sunday Novus Ordo Mass in our married life. Oh, we have attended plenty of horrible Novus Ordo Masses during the week throughout the country since our wedding on June 7, 2002 (but have been privileged to have gotten to 104 Traditional Latin Masses out of the 226 days of our married life as this is being written on January 19, 2002, in Santa Clara, California). However, what we experienced on December 30, 2001, at Saint Augustin's Church in Des Moines, Iowa, drove my dear, dear life, who has a pure love of God, to copious tears as she saw how both priest and people had no respect for the Real Presence of Our Lord nor any understanding of the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Indeed, the experience was so patently un-Catholic that even those who do not realize its inherent non-Catholicity use the proper terms to describe it. One man congratulated the celebrant, who, incidentally, improvised during Eucharistic Prayer IV by substituting the words "one" or "human" whenever he encountered the word "man," on a "great service today." Indeed, the Novus Ordo is in its ambiance a Protestant worship service. It does not convey in most instances the essence of a sacrifice, retaining its validity by virtue of the fact that a validly ordained priest using proper matter with a right intent utters the words of Consecration. The fact that a particular Mass might be valid does not mean, however, that it is pleasing to God or efficacious for the people. Indeed, it is mostly quite harmful, to such an extent that many people view it merely as a "service."
Much of this particular upcoming analysis of G.I.RM. deals with paragraphs which restate much of what is contained in earlier paragraphs. Thus, the commentary I offer with respect to such paragraphs will be quite similar to what I offered when analyzing earlier sections of G.I.R.M. Indeed, G.I.R.M. is redolent with redundancy. Alas, this is a particular tool used by those engaged in positivism: the gratuitous repetition of passages in an effort to dull the mind and the senses as a means of helping to create the illusion that reality actually coincides with positivistic statements.
Paragraph 93 of GIRM reads as follows:
"Within the Church the priest also possesses the power of Holy Orders to offer sacrifice in the person of Christ. He therefore stands at the head of the faithful people gathered together, presides over its prayer, proclaims the message of salvation, joins the people to himself in offering the sacrifice to God the Father through Christ in the Spirit, gives his brothers and sisters the bread of eternal life, and shares in it with them. At the Eucharist he should then, serve God and the people with dignity and humility; by his bearing and by the way he recites the words of the liturgy he should communicate to the faithful a sense of the living presence of Christ.
Comment and Analysis: As happens frequently in GIRM, there are elements of truth combined with terrible distortions of Catholic doctrine. This paragraph of GIRM, for example, does actually use the word sacrifice to refer to the action of the priest acting in persona Christi by offering the Son to the Father in Spirit and in Truth. All well and good. However, the kernel of doctrinal truth is undermined by the manner in which it is couched in the context of a "softer" and less traditional language used to describe the sacerdotal priesthood.
For example, the priest is not merely the presider who "stands at the head of the faithful." He is ordained to the sacerdotal, hierarchical priesthood of Jesus Christ, the Chief Priest and Victim of every Mass. He acts for the honor and glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the greater good of the salvation of souls in the Church Militant and the Church Suffering regardless as to whether any of the faithful are gathered there with him. He is not simply the head of a particular congregation, which some could infer by GIRM's language makes a "liturgy" more efficacious. A priest has power which is not contingent upon anything other than his doing what the Church specifies must be done in Mass according to the form prescribed and the matter used. And the celebration of Holy Mass (GIRM once more uses the term "Eucharist" to refer to the Mass; many Protestant denominations use that very term to refer to their Sunday "service") does not depend upon the priest choosing to "serve God and the people with dignity and humility."
The Traditional Latin Mass of its nature required such dignity and humility precisely by de-emphasizing the personality of the individual priest and by emphasizing his role as an alter Christus. A priest is supposed to celebrate Mass, not navigate his way through a variety of endless options designed to "enhance the experience of worship" for a particular community, nor to tailor the "liturgy" according to the dictates of a parish liturgical committee or the perceived needs of the ethnic or social composition of a particular parish. By stressing the need for the priest to conduct himself in a spirit of dignity and humility which is actually vitiated by the Novus Ordo, GIRM winds up making the celebration of a particular Mass the idiosyncratic plaything of who happens to be celebrating it in any particular venue. There is no need in the Traditional Latin Mass (or in the Eastern Divine Liturgies) to stress that which is inherent in the rite itself, a rite which of its nature is fixed and not contingent upon the whims of celebrants or liturgical committees. And it is the rite which communicates to the "faithful" the proper sense of the Mass, not the options chosen by the priest or the celebratory style he chooses to adopt.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives
April 26-28, 2002
volume 13, no. 80
CHRIST or chaos