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Friday, November 24, 2006

What constitutes traditional Catholicism?

Altar of St. Columba Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lafeyette, Colorado. A Western Rite parish.

I hope that ye few, but hopefully faithful, readers of this humble blog will take a moment to view the film of the Traditional Roman Catholic Latin Mass featured in the last post. It is a good liturgical specimen of a bygone era. It displays some things sorely lacking in modern church liturgies (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox). These things are:

1. Reverence. Above all for God, then for the Altar and the Sacrament, and also for the priest and the work that he does, as well as reverence for the mass itself.

2. Divine splendor. This is seen in the vestments of the priest which are festal and shine even in a black and white film. Such is also shone in the ecclesiastical chant (read Gregorian in this case) and in the skillfulness and attention of the choir and the clergy in chanting and carrying out their duties, including processing, censing, etc. Also, this is reflected in the dress of the congregation and in their attentive and prayerful demeanor.

3. Piety. Love for God. Love for neighbor. Keeping the commandments of Christ. Liturgically, piety is shown in prayer and devotion, and in the orderliness and grace of the clerical and congregational actions and chanting.

These are three of the most important things which modern liturgical celebrations lack. And I don't think I would be wrong in saying that such reverence, divine splendor, and piety were perpetuated at church, in seminary, and at home through a culture concerned with these things. Now this culture has been destroyed. And, as the Psalmist says, "if the foundations are destroyed, what shall the righteous do?" It is a sad phenomenon that an understanding once held by all church-goers in common is now only held by a few individuals. And, as we also see with other issues, when a common understanding is lost or discarded, it is next to impossible to regain.

I once recently visited a Web site of a traditionalist Roman Catholic (possibly SSPX) Benedictine monastery. I saw pictures of their church inside and was a bit shocked by how un-Benedictine it was. It was down-right gaudy--replete with hideous angelic statuary and an excess of candles. I'm not sure what that community used for music, whether it was straight Gregorian chant or a mix with more operatic settings such as those in the mass film below. Anyway, I was left to question what this group thought most worth preserving in their tradition. Perhaps they had reverence, piety, and divine splendor in their worship, but do they know that all these things can be affected, to the point that they become fake? And after that, what are they left with but their gaudy decorations and Zippadee doo-da liturgical settings? Wouldn't it be better to have architecture, decoration, and musical forms which reflect piety, reverence, and divine splendor more than just what happens to be fashionable or look and sound "nice"?

Liturgical abuses of our modern era should be a warning to us all. We need to take more seriously what we put into our liturgical celebrations not only for what we hope to get out of them, but so that good liturgical celebrations--done in reverence, piety and divine splendor--may be there for our children and all those who will seek God in the future. If we do not take heed and do our part, no matter what our station, liturgy as it should be, as worship of God, will vanish from the earth, and we will be left with what passes for liturgy in many circles--an action for the worship of man. This is the prevailing trend. Let no one think that he or his church is safe. The enemy has already declared war and the first victims have been slain.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Eric!

I really enjoyed watching the Trad. Latin Mass video. Compared with that, I see why Fr. A. Schmemann called the Roman church "Liturgically Bankrupt". Even though the Mass was somewhat different from the Orthodox Liturgy I am used to, still I saw all the same "mystical symbolism" as the Eastern right. It was very beautiful and reverent. I thought about my Grand Mother, and that is the kind of church she grew up in.

Glory to God. I hope you are well. I read your blog all the time. Pray for me a sinner.

Patrick-Anthony (Lawrence Kansas)

7:13 PM  
Blogger Fr Matthew said...

Eric--Thanks for including a photo of our Altar in your excellent post on "traditional Catholicism."

One slight correction--St. Columba's is located in Lafayette, Colorado. While still within the "sphere of influence" of the greater Denver metro area, it is still a distinct community with its own unique missionary challenges--much like Lawrence, Kansas is distinct from Kansas City.

12:16 AM  
Blogger Eric John said...

Hi Patrick--
Thanks for reading. I do pray for you and everyone at St. Sophia's.

About "liturgically bankrupt," do you mean with the "new Mass?"

Fr. Matthew--
Bless me!
Thank you for reading as well. The incorrect info will be changed forthwith. I must admit I'm woefully ignorant of Colorado geography, not having had the pleasure of visiting such a Western Rite mecca--yet. ("Western Rite mecca"--THERE's an odd expression!)

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes thats what i mean, the new mass is "bankrupt" compared to the Trad. Latin Mass.

God bless.


7:59 AM  
Blogger aaron said...

oh so tempting it is to 'transfer' to an eastern rite these days...

10:24 PM  

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