We've come a long way, baby; the wrong way!
We're at the midway point in Advent and the Church is so wise in her placement of the feasts in the liturgical calendar. We have just celebrated one of the most glorious of Marian solemnities with the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of special interest to Americans for our country, contrary to what modernists and pagan amoralists believe, is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, evident by the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C...probably the only peaceful place inside the beltway. Sunday is normally another feast of Our Lady - Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated with great pomp and circumstance in Mexico and Hispanic communities throughout the United States. More and more non-Spanish faithful are celebrating the traditions of this feast and well they should for she is the patroness of the Americas - South, Central and North America as well as being the official patroness of the unborn. As the schedule calls for this year, it is overshadowed by the liturgical celebration of Gaudete Sunday in which rose-colored vestments replace the normal violet or purple ones during this four-week preparation for the Nativity of the Son of God. The Latin name for this day has been dropped over the past thirty years probably because it is Latin but it derives its name from the the first word of the Introit which was always Philippians 4: 4-6, which in Latin was "Gaudete in Domino semper" meaning "Rejoice in the Lord always." Since Latin is practically non-existent in the liturgy today and since the three year recycled liturgy was introduced after Vatican II, the whole concept of Gaudete Sunday has been lost on so many. Philippians 4 is in Cycle C which was last year so we'll have to wait until 2001 for it to recycle. In the meantime, if you'll pardon us, we're still going to call it Gaudete Sunday since it conveys the spirit so much better than the "Third Sunday of Advent" which seems so ordinary. Oops, we've completed Ordinary Time haven't we?
Maybe that term in itself best depicts the modern liturgy - ordinary. In the past the seasons were identified as seasons with character and meaning. These three seasons of the year, broken down into four segments each, fed us and helped prepare us. First we had, the Season of the Nativity which incorporated Advent, Chrismastide, Circumcision and Epiphany. The Feast of Circumcision has been dropped, but in its place we can't complain for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God replaced it. The rest remains the same except after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Ordinary Time creeps in again. How many remember Septuagesima, Sexigesima and Quinquagesima Sunday? That's what they were called after the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany. Now we're stuck with just plain Ordinary Time until Ash Wednesday which signals the second season, the Season of Easter composed of Lent, Holy Week, Easter and the Ascension. Thank God, the Church for the most part still retains the same liturgical identity for this season except Laetare Sunday is also lost on the shelf as the ordinary term the "Fourth Sunday of Lent" takes its place; as does the "Fifth Sunday of Lent" which used to be "Passion Sunday" followed by "Palm Sunday." Now Palm and Passion Sunday are the same. Why? Good question that we have yet to find an answer to. Seems like it's easier to be ordinary. Thankfully Holy Week and the Easter Triduum still retain much of their character but the haunting chant "Lumen Christi" ringing forth in the dark at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday still brought more goosebumps to this editor than the half-lit churches today where everything has to be in English with melodies that indicate more or less the fact the composers tried but couldn't. Why, oh why, have the liturgists ruined our beautiful liturgical traditions so?!? What have they got against Gregorian Chant? Surely, if the whole congregation is going to sing, it is easier and more edifying singing chant than these modern ditties that pass as religious but carry no rhyme nor reason, let alone melody.
An example of this was Wednesday. At one Mass, the EWTN Mass the choir (not the entire congregation) chanted the Psalm; in our local parish they sung it - off key. But then, don't blame the cantor, he or she didn't write it and how the composers come up with the range of notes makes no sense religiously. But the old liturgical seasons did. After the Ascension we had the Season of Pentecost broken down in four parts: Pentecost, the Blessed Trinity, Corpus Christi and After Pentecost which were called Sundays after Pentecost rather than Ordinary Time. Vestments were still green, but it didn't seem so ordinary. While were on this harangue of the liturgy, which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has gone on record as lobbying to return to the one cycle per year and eliminating more Ordinary days in favor of resurrecting various saints' feast days that had been eliminated after Vatican II. Considering the plethora of new saints His Holiness John Paul II has added during his 21 year pontificate, it's the only answer. Each and every day of the liturgical year the Church celebrates a feast or a saint, but after the Second Vatican Council many saints were shelved. It's better for the faithful that we return to the days of yesteryear in order to emulate the virtues of that saint for the day. Some are given full days like Saint Ambrose this past week and Saint Lucy and Saint John of the Cross next week. Others share with ordinary time such as Pope Saint Damasus I Saturday. Next week, from Wednesday through Christmas Eve the liturgical calendar is devoted entirely to Advent time. While this is great, why can't we commemorate the Feasts of Saint Valerian, Bishop and Confessor on Wednesday, December 15th, Saint Alice, Empress on Thursday, and Saint Olympias, Empress on Friday? Those are the saints formerly honored in the Roman calendar. Wouldn't it be great to return to that time when a different saint was honored in the liturgy each day?
In this automated computer age we strive more and more to become mundane, ordinary in everything we do and this includes our Church life. So many dismiss the traditions of the Church as outmoded. Bishops not in favor of permitting the beautiful, inspiring and traditional Tridentine Mass often remark why promote something that is dying and as soon as the older generation dies off, it will be dead. We've got a surprise for them. It will never die. Take a look at the demographics and statistics of those flocking to the available Tridentine Masses throughout this country and you'll see a growing majority are young families who thirst for their Catholic roots and long to return to an identity that truly says "Roman Catholic." The Holy Father has heard them and his encyclical Ecclesia Dei reflects this, yet so many bishops continue to ignore it, hiding their heads in the sand just hoping it will go away while encouraging more ecumenism and ungodly songs that have little resemblance to Catholic tradition. Through all the noise it's hard to decipher a keen ear for God's Will. Could it be they're trying to be too ecumenical? Could it be that today's Catholic, if he or she went to a Lutheran or Presbyterian service would feel right at home? If so, we've come a long way, baby; the wrong way!