Every aspect of the Mass demands solemnity, sobriety, reverence. The priest in the Traditional Latin Mass did not come out to greet the people (quite a significant change in all liturgical tradition, both in the East and in the West). He came out to pray at the foot of the steps leading to the High Altar, preparing himself and the faithful gathered (if any) for the perfect prayer which is the Mass. He is in conversation with God. We unite our prayers with those of the priest. However, the focus of a priest in the Traditional Latin Mass is not the people. It is Christ, the King. Although there are responses of the people which are sung in a Solemn High Mass, the priest addresses us as a priest, not as an entertainer who has to add something of his personality or his own wordiness to "make" the Mass a more "complete" experience for us. The entirety of the Mass must convey solemnity, especially at that sublime moment when the priest utters the glorious words, Hoc est enim Corpus Meum. . . . Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis mei, novi et aerteni testamenti: mysterium fidei, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. The very solemn nature of the Roman Rite did this. No priest had to exaggerate the elevation in order to convey that which is lacking in the essence of the Mass (as some do in the Novus Ordo). No priest had to improvise words to emphasize that the words of consecration are indeed the most important part of the Mass (as some do quite idiosyncratically in the Novus Ordo). Every aspect of the Traditional Latin Mass conveyed reverence and solemnity.
Solemnity is also conveyed in the Traditional Latin Mass by the very positioning of the priest in conversation with God (or ad orientem, in the case of the actual, Eastward orientation of the High Altar of a particular church). As I have noted on other occasions, the first person to celebrate a "liturgy" facing the people was Martin Luther. Father Joseph Jungmann noted, "The claim that the altar of the early Church was always designed to celebrate facing the people, a claim made often and repeatedly, turns out to be nothing but a fairy tale." We do not need to look at the priest and he does not need to look at us. Both priest and people are called to focus their attention on God, not on each other. While a particular priest celebrating a particular Mass is important in that there would be no Mass celebrated at that time without his having been ordained to the sacerdotal priesthood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, his individual personality is unimportant, totally irrelevant. We need to focus on the work he is doing in persona Christi by virtue of the powers given him by God at the moment of his priestly ordination. The orientation of the priest toward the High Altar of Sacrifice is an important constituent element of the solemnity befitting the Adoration of the Father through the Son in Spirit and in Truth.
Permanence and Transcendence are two other constituent elements related to the end of Adoration found in the Mass. A rite is meant of its nature to be fixed, not ever changing. Pope Pius XII noted in Mediator Dei in 1947 that the human elements (or accidentals) of the Mass are subject to change. If such change should occur, he noted, it should occur organically, slowly over the course of time. Rapid change bewilders the faithful. Constant, unremitting change (and the variations that exist within parishes, among parishes, and among priests) lead people to conclude that doctrine itself must be subject to the sort of change and evolution evidenced in the liturgy. Everything is up for grabs, including the nature of God Himself. Nothing is fixed in the nature of things or by the Deposit of Faith our Lord entrusted to the Church through the Apostles. That this is one of the chief goals of the liturgical revolutionaries is plain for all to see, and is something that has been the fodder of much discussion over the past forty years.
A liturgical rite is meant to reflect permanence. God is unchanging. Our need for Him is unchanging. His truths are unchanging. As the liturgy is meant to provide us with a sense of same sort of security we find in our earthly dwellings, our homes, as a foretaste of the security we will know in our Heavenly dwelling if we persist until our dying breaths in states of sanctifying grace, it is obviously the case that it should reflect the permanence and transcendence of God and of the nature of His revelation. The Traditional Latin Mass conveys this sense of permanence by virtue of the fixed nature of the rites (the gestures, the stability of the liturgical calendar, the annual cycle of readings, the repetition of the readings of a Sunday Mass during the following week if no feast days or votive Masses are celebrated on a particular day). It also conveys the sense of permanence and transcendence by its use of Latin, a dead language.
As Dr. Adrian Fortesque pointed out in his works, Latin is by no means a necessity for the celebration of the Mass. The various Eastern rites are offered in different idioms. And Latin itself was once the language of the people. (Indeed, one of the ways to rebut the charge made so sloganisticaly by Protestants that Catholics desired to "hide" the Bible from the people prior to the Protestant Revolt is to point out that when Saint Jerome translated the Bible from the Hebrew and the Greek into the Latin Vulgate, he did so to make it accessible to the people. Latin was the language of the people at that time.) The fall of the Roman Empire in the West, however, led to Latin's falling into disuse as the vernacular of the people. This was an "accident" of history, admitting, obviously, that all things happen in the Providence of God. This "accident," however, wound up serving to convey the sense of permanence and transcendence which is so essential to the Adoration of the Blessed Trinity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
As Latin is now a dead language, it is no longer subject to the sort of ideological manipulation and deconstructionism found in a living language. A dead language is what it is. Its words have a permanent meaning. This "accident" of history, therefore, has helped to convey the sense that God is permanent, His truths are permanent, our need for Him is permanent, and our worship of Him must reflect this permanence. Furthermore, Latin conveys the universality of the Faith. A dead language is beyond the ability of anyone, including a priest, to manipulate. Thus, the Mass of the Roman Rite is the same everywhere. It is the same in New York as it is Spain. It is the same in the United Kingdom as it is in Japan. It is the same in Nigeria as it is in Argentina. It is the same in its essence in 2001 as it was 1571. This furthers the sense of permanence as a constituent element of the end of Adoration.
Latin also conveys the sense of the Mysterium Tremendum. Although it is possible to pray the Mass with a priest by the use of a good Missal (such as the Father Lasance Missal), even those who are fluent in ecclesiastical and scholastic Latin understand that Latin conveys of its nature a sense of mystery. The Mass after all contains within it the mysteries of salvation. We know intellectually what the Mass is and what takes place therein. However, not even the greatest theologian in the history of the Church understands fully how these mysteries take place. We accept them as having been given us by our Lord through Holy Mother Church. We want to plumb their depths by means of assiduous prayer and study. No human being, however, can possibly claim to understand the mystery of God's love for His sinful creatures, no less His desire to reconcile us to Himself through the shedding of His own Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. Latin conveys the sense of the tremendous mystery which is the Mass. Again, it is not an incomprehensible language, as some defenders of the new order of things contend so arrogantly. Even illiterate peasants in the Middle Ages understood the Mass as a result of their being immersed into it week after week after week. Indeed, they had a better understood of the nature of the Mass (and of its ends) than do the lion's share of Catholics today, immersed as they have been in almost forty years of vernacular and banality. Nevertheless, Latin conveys the beauty and the glory and the honor and the permanence and the transcendence and the mystery associated with God and His Revelation.
To be sure, Latin is not an absolute guarantor of such qualities. The constituent prayers of the Mass must express the fullness of the Holy Faith, something which is not done in the Latin editio typica of the Novus Ordo. A simple comparison of the prayers found in the Missale Romanum promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V and the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI demonstrates that the expression of the faith has been changed quite radically (as I noted when analyzing Paragraph 15 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in Change for change sake). This is especially the case with feasts of the Blessed Mother, as I noted in last months' analysis of GIRM. That those responsible the current synthetic liturgy felt free to tamper with the expression of the faith indicates that it is not simply Latin in se which is the guarantor of the permanence associated with the Adoration of God in the Mass. It is the use of Latin and the prayers which most fully express within themselves the Deposit of Faith which convey such permanence and universality. And, naturally, as Latin is the Mass of the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Pius V, it does not need to be translated into a living language for its celebration by the priest, who thereby is simply an agent to whom has been entrusted our glorious liturgical tradition, to be celebrated in all of its beauty and splendor.
The second end of the Mass we need to examine is that of reparation. The Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice offered by a sacerdos, that is, one who is able to offer a sacrifice. By its perpetuation in an unbloody manner of the Sacrifice offered by the Son to the Father in Spirit and in Truth, each celebration of the Mass adds honor and glory to God and grace to the world. Satisfaction is thereby given to God for the sins of men. The fruits of this satisfaction may be applied to a specific soul presumed to be in the Church Suffering in Purgatory (which is one of the principal reasons for having Masses said for the dead). Additionally, however, the faithful are to remind themselves that they have an opportunity in each Mass to make reparation for their own forgiven mortal sins, their unforgiven venial sins and their general attachment to sin. Almost all of the prayers contained within the Traditional Latin Mass reflect man's duty to do penance for his sins and to be aware of a God Who, though merciful, is also just. The prayers at the foot of the altar, the Confiteor, and the Kyrie do this in a very specific way at the beginning of Mass. Many of the Collects and Offertories and Secrets and Communions and Postcommunions also do this.
Consider, for example, the following, said by a priest as he ascends the steps to the High Altar following the prayers at the foot of the altar: Aufer a nobis, quaesimus Domine, iniquitates nostras: ut ad Sancta Sanctorum, puris mereamur mentibus introire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
"Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech Thee, O Lord; that, being made pure in heart we may be worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
Consider also, the Collect for Septuagesima Sunday, which occurred this year on January 27, 2002: Preces populi tui, quaesumus Domine, clementer exaudi: ut, qui juste pro pecatis nostris affligimur, pro tui nominis gloria misericorditer liberemur. Per Dominium. "Do Thou, we beseech Thee, O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Thy people, that we, who are justly afflicted for our sins, may be mercifully delivered for the glory of Thy name. Through our Lord." Also, Quinquagesima Sunday, which fell on February 10, 2002: Preces nostras, quaesumus, Domine clementer exaudi: atque a peccatorum vinculis absolutos, ab omni nos adversitate custodi. Per Dominum. "Of thy clemency harken unto our prayers, O Lord, loose us from the bonds of sin, and keep us from all adversity. Through our Lord."
Consider also the prayers at the blessing of the ashes on Ash Wednesday: Oremus, Deus, qui non mortem, sed penitentiam desideas peccatorum: fragilitatem conditionis humanae benignissima respice; et hos cineres, quos causa proferendae humilitatis, atque promerandae veniae, capitibus nostris imponi decernimus, benedicere pro tua pietate, dignare: ut, qui cinerem esse, et ob pravitatis nostrae demeritum in pulverem reversuroscognoscimus; peccatorum omnium veniam, et praenia paenitentibus repromissa, misericorditer consequi meramur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen." O God, Who desirest not the death of sinners, but their repentance, most graciously regard the frailty of human nature; and, of Thy loving-kindness, deign to bless these ashes, which we intend to put upon our heads to express our lowliness and win Thy pardon, that we, who know that we are but ashes and for the guilt of our fall shall return to dust, may be worthy to obtain, through Thy mercy, the forgiveness of all our sins and the rewards promised to the penitent. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
Finally, consider one of the Collects to be said in Votive Masses in honor of the Seven Dolors of our Lady: Cordibus nostris, quaesumus, Domine, gratiam tuam beningus infude: ut peccata nostra catsitgatione voluntaria cohibentes, temporaliter, potius maceremur, quam supplicis deputemur aeternis. Per Dominum. "Of Thy goodness pour Thy grace into our hearts, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that, bridling our sinful appetites with voluntary discipline, we may suffer temporal mortifications rather than be condemned to eternal punishments. Through our Lord." There are no such expressions in the Novus Ordo whatsoever. It is an expression of a different faith, of, as Dr. John Rao noted in the recent issue of Latin Mass Magazine, the belief that the force of the energy unleashed by "the general will" can effect a new spirit in man and thus in the Church.
These are clear expressions of the Reparation as one of the four ends of the Mass. And it is this spirit of reparation which is supposed to uppermost in our minds and our hearts as we hear Mass, mindful of our own need to make reparation for our own sins by cooperating with the graces we receive in Holy Communion, as well as the actual graces which flow out in the world as a result of the offering of each Holy Mass. As penitents who are aware of the debt we owe but cannot pay back on our own, we are supposed to be reminded by the very spirit of the Mass that we are to called to be co-redeemers of our Lord by our patient and loving embrace of whatever crosses (physical, emotional, spiritual) we are asked to bear to make satisfaction for our own sins, to say nothing of offering the merits we earn for the Poor Souls in Purgatory and for the conversion to repentance and the true Faith of all erring, unrepentant sinners. Indeed, black was required as a liturgical color in Masses offered for the dead to remind us that physical death is a punishment for Original Sin. We are to grieve over what sin has done to the order of God's creation while at the same time we give thanks to Him for His ineffable mercy. The Mass, therefore, is supposed to remind us of the great mercy extended to us by God in permitting us to endure redemptive suffering for our own sake and for the sake of the salvation of the whole world.
As the unbloody perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Mass teaches us that there is no other path to an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise than the Cross. That is why, you see, the replacement of the Crucifix in churches with representations of the "Resurrected Jesus" or of barren crosses coincide with an expression of the faith which no longer stresses a spirit of interior penance or of a need for external acts of penance. Souls which grow to love God with a fever pitch voluntarily take unto themselves whatever sufferings and humiliations which come their way without complaint, understanding that their sins deserve far worse than they are asked to bear in this vale of tears. None of us suffers as his sins deserve. Our Lord is infinitely merciful. He only permits us to bear what we have the capacity to bear by means of the graces He won for us on Calvary, and which are extended to us in each and every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One who loves God understands his need at all times to make reparation. Those who are totally consecrated to our Lady give her, who is our Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, all of their sufferings and merits to be used as she sees fit for the honor and glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the salvation of souls. What a tremendous trust in our Blessed Mother and a surrender of our attachment to our merits to give to the one who stood at the foot of the Cross as her Immaculate Heart was pierced with a sword of sorrow all of our merits gained by our acts of penance and mortification. Such a spirit can develop only when the Mass emphasizes our need for reparation, which is why its solemn and reverent celebration is so essential to the right ordering of individual souls.
The Confiteor found in the Traditional Latin Mass expresses the desire on the part of both the priest and the faithful to express sorrow and contrition for sins. Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beatae Mariae semper virgini, beato Michaeli archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistate, anctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus Sanctis et vobis fratres, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper virgenem, beatum Michaelem archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Pualm, omnes Sanctos, et vos fratres, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum. "I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever virgin, to blessed Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you, brethren, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed; through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary ever virgin, blessed Michael the archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, and you, brethren, to pray to the Lord our God for me." It is no accident that the Confiteor found in the editio typica of the Novus Ordo has been much simplified. Although it does contain the triple mea culpa, there are no references to Saint Michael the Archangel or to Saint John the Baptist or to Saints Peter and Paul. There are reasons for this, and they relate to de-emphasizing the end of Reparation in the Mass.
The Confiteor found in the Traditional Latin Mass has the priest and the server (praying for the people) confession sorrow for sins to almighty God and to the Blessed Mother, Saint Michael, Saint John the Baptist and to Saints Peter and Paul. Why? Well, the Blessed Mother was conceived immaculately without any stain of sin on her soul. Sin is what caused her to undergo her Seven Dolors. It grieves her now, which is why she has visited us sinful, ungrateful men on so many occasions in the past 470 years. Saint Michael is the one who won the victory over Lucifer when he rebelled against God in Heaven. Saint John the Baptist was freed from Original Sin at the Visitation when he leapt for joy in his mother's womb as he heard the voice of the Mother of the One Whose precursor he was meant to be pierce his ears. He lived a live of austere penance and mortification, calling sinners to a symbolic baptism of repentance to prepare the way for his Lord and Savior. Saints Peter and Paul were sinners. Saint Peter denied our Lord three times. Saint Paul persecuted the infant Church, presiding over the stoning of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. However, their fidelity to the spread of the Gospel brought them to Rome, the seat of the most powerful empire in the history of the world. They were willing to shed their blood for our Lord, thereby planting the seeds for the growth of the Church which itself would be headquartered from thereon out in Rome. They were purified by their martyrdom, giving us an example of how we must be willing to die to all things, especially to the influence of sin in our lives, in order to be prepared to die a martyr's death in behalf of the Faith. We need their intercession to help us avoid sin and to embrace a spirit of mortification and penance in our daily lives. Thus, you see, there is no place for such expressions in a synthetic liturgy created by men who no longer believed that there was a need for penance and mortification, no less the invocation of those who lived sinless lives-or were purified of sin by means of their willingness to die for the Faith.
Alas, the most telling expression of the end of Reparation found in the Mass is in the words of the Consecration of the Chalice: Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis mei, novi et aeterni testamenti: mysterium fidei, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum. "For this is the Chalice of My Blood, of the new and everlasting testament, which for you and for many shall be shed unto the remission of sins." ". . . . Which for you and for many shall be shed unto the remission of sins." Although we cannot offer of ourselves the propitiatory sacrifice offered once by our Lord to the Father on the wood of the Cross-and although we in the laity cannot do so by uttering the words of Consecration, we can and must nevertheless be inspired by the Mass and fortified by the graces received therein to make a sacrifice of our lives in reparation for our sins and those of the whole world. There is no other path to Heaven than by doing so, which is why it is so essential for the Mass to communicate its end of Reparation clearly and unequivocally.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
Next Week: Part Three.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives