Last week I referred to the article “Beyond Ritual to Jesus” by Rev. Fr. Ron Luka, CMF and how cleverly he has twisted the meaning of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, thus leaving uninformed Catholics with a sense of the Holy Eucharist being merely a symbol, rather than the True Presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Quite certainly, if we followed Fr. Luka’s hippie-style “Let’s meet Jesus in each other”-approach through to its logical conclusion, we should serve donuts and coffee at Mass in order for there to be a better atmosphere to “meet Jesus in those around us.” But Fr. Luka certainly does not want to take you there—at least not yet. Maybe we might find a justification for that in a Third Vatican Council one day.
Not only is extended, loud, conversation-like talking before Mass, recommended by Fr. Luka, a grave sacrilege, it also disturbs those few pious souls that are left that try to pray before Mass. But—alas!—Fr. Luka has found a solution for this: the tabernacle should be removed from the sanctuary and be put in a side chapel, where those who wish to pray before Mass can gather—which the Sacramentary calls for anyway (Ron Luka, “Beyond Ritual to Jesus,” Celebration, November 1998, 488). In other words, those few faithful who are left who attend Mass for the right reasons and believe what the Church has always believed, are moved out of the way, together with the Most Sacred Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Himself, into a side chapel! This is pathetic!
In fact, it seems that what Fr. Luka is really trying to do is move the True Presence of Jesus out of the picture by a pretended attempt to bring Him in. (Here we recall Pope Pius XII’s vision that in the future the Church’s faithful would in vain look for the ‘red lamp’ because Jesus will have been moved out of the sanctuary.) Fr. Luka removes the Real Presence of God Himself away in order to “meet Jesus in the people.” Which presence is more important? The conclusions here are obvious. But anyway, let us take Fr.’s suggestion to its logical conclusion: we come up with the ear-tickling idea that we should all talk during Mass as well. What reasons could we broach here? Hmm, let’s see. Maybe the reason that we can better appreciate what’s going on—that could suffice. Another one would be that one usually talks during a “meal” and a communion fellowship celebration anyway, and this makes the sacramental experience more human. Sound ridiculous? I agree. But this is where we end up if we take Fr. Luka’s suggestions and follow them, and I do not consider it too far off to say that this is exactly what we will hear in the next few years from “liturgical experts.” Besides, I don't think it's any more ridiculous than the "suggestions" we've already have to take from Fr. Luka in last week's installment.
As for preset prayers and introductions, Fr. Luka instead suggests that these should be done away with and replaced by more spontaneous prayers. For him, “flexibility and spontaneity can be a valuable opportunity with a few well-chosen words to help people experience God present in the assembly, the word, and the great prayer of thanksgiving [sic—here he reduces the dogmatic notion of the Mass as a sacrifice to a mere “prayer of thanksgiving”; the Council of Trent anathematizes him for that].” Yes, yes, all the Modernist babble about Jesus’ presence—in the assembly, the word, the prayers.... But hey—what are we missing here? The most real presence of Jesus above all: the Real and Substantial Presence in what appears to be bread and wine! What about that?
This is a presence more real than Plato’s Forms! Why is it so much emphasized that Jesus is present in the assembly, the Scriptures, in prayer, and yet the most real presence of them all is not even mentioned? Doesn’t it seem like somebody is trying to subvert the historic faith here? This is Modernism at its best, under the banner of false charity and piety! God help us, should we ever remain silent as such propositions are being set forth. Here Fr. Luka demonstrates that he has absolutely no clue about the spirituality of the Mass. The Church, through the wisdom of her Tradition, has fashioned over the centuries a rite of Mass (the Tridentine rite, of course) for us that expresses and encourages and implies a truly Catholic spirituality, filled with and fostering the virtues such as meekness, patience, reverence, humility, fortitude, etc. Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P., demonstrates this very beautifully in his excellent article "The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy" in two installments in The Latin Mass, issues Summer and Fall 2001.
Let's move on, though, to what Fr. Luka recommends as far as posture during Mass is concerned. You probably guessed it. He supports standing during the Canon (I mean, "Eucharistic Prayer"). People have knelt during the consecration for, roughly estimated, at least a thousand years. Why does that have to change? What more reverent gesture can there be than to go on one’s knees? Think about it. We stand during all sorts of “profane” things: giving lectures, waiting in line, shaking hands, and many more. But when do we kneel? Hardly ever. That, then, is a very particular experience, one that is left for the adoration of the Most High God. Being on one’s knees is a very humble gesture, much humbler than standing, and certainly deserved for the entrance of Our Lord on the altar at the Consecration—unless, of course, one does not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to begin with. Really, the way we pray and worship reflects what we believe—lex orandi, lex credendi. Is it any surprise that most “Catholics” do not believe in the Real Presence?
It is Fr. Luka’s—at least alleged—goal to make Jesus more experientially present in the celebration of Mass (Ooops, sorry for this rigid medieval term; I meant “breaking of the bread,” of course). It is a mystery to me how one could make someone more present in whatever sense when this person is already physically there. (Is Fr. Luka denying the Real Presence here?) The ultimate outcome is bound to be a denial of the Real Presence. “Jesus is everywhere,” we are going to hear. If we focus on the Real Presence of Jesus on the altar of sacrifice, however, the Mass starts to make sense: we realize what happens, how it happens, and why it happens, and why we’re doing it again. I am very happy to de-emphasize myself in order to focus on Jesus present at Mass. If we become lax in distinguishing Jesus’ sacramental presence from His presence elsewhere and in another way, we will lose faith in the sacraments. They will end up becoming mere signs or ritualistic expressions for us (or—exactly—“ordinances”) of a figurative presence of Jesus. That is heresy.
In short, we cannot afford to confuse people by a more fuzzy liturgy. People must see a stark contrast when comparing the most glorious and sin-atoning sacrifice of the Mass with the cozy fundamentalist Bible rally, which is merely of human origin. Our goal at Mass is not to feel good—it is primarily to offer worship to the Most High as He intended it for us.
What has become of the entire theology of the Mass? The reason for the Mass and its fruits is not at all brought to people’s attention. What happened to atonement? Sacrifice? Altar? If all we have left is table, meal, cup, fellowship, and bread, we are Protestants. We ought to start getting worried about what is happening to the central act of Catholic worship. If we continue to walk in the liturgical steps which we’ve been taking for the last 35 years, the consequence will be the systematic destruction of the Catholic faith. Of course, , that is precisely the goal of the modernists. The great Dietrich von Hildebrand once remarked that "If one of the devils in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters had been entrusted with the ruin of the liturgy, he could not have done it better"
Now, it is true that since the Church is indefectible, the forces of the devil will not be able to destroy the faith--but we cannot rest in a false optimism here, because merely because we know the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church doesn't mean they can't come awfully close! Oddly, Pope Pius XII was the one who, moved by the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima, alerted the Church of theological suicide by a change in her liturgy. And here, as hard as it may be, we must face the fact that good intentions, which Fr. Luka may very well have, are just not enough (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
May our Lord deign to restore health and sanity to His Church, quickly.
Sancte Pio X, ora pro nobis.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Mario Derksen, see Archives