Friday, July 25, 2014

Cultus Christianus Ad Deum Est!

Having spent a week saying the traditional Latin Mass at a family reunion, and sensing the uneasiness of the Protestant in-laws at that form of worship, I now see better the essential uniqueness of Catholic worship, viz. the bold and explicit, unambiguous and exclusive worship of God! which is best brought out in the ancient and universal language of the Church, with the priest facing the altar (not everyone facing each other in a circle holding hands!).

Catholic worship is distinctively God-centered (e.g. the obligation to stick to the liturgical texts/language) as opposed to the distinctively Protestant form of worship, which is anthropocentric (e.g. the burden on the worshiper to spontaneously invent worship/language). Hence the awkwardness of saying a Rosary or a Mass with Protestants (especially ad orientem in Latin). They cringe! They don't get it! They fail to understand that our prayer comes from God (e.g. the "Pater" and most of the "Ave") and that it is directed to Him (and is not first of all catechetical but cutlic, as is our priesthood and our Mass!). Catholics alone have a cultic priesthood (offering sacrifice [Christ, Himself our sacred Victim] to God, in reparation for the sins of the world) and, therefore, a cultic liturgical form. Here I am reminded of what the Baltimore Catechism lists as the four purposes for which the Mass is offered.

361. What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?

The purposes for which the Mass is offered are:
first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord;
second, to thank God for His many favors;
third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men;
fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.

Hence the ad orientem "orientation" of Catholic altars, and the cultic Latin language. The action of right worship as instituted by God Himself in Christ is the overwhelming concern here. To do what the Church does (and hence what God Himself does through Her) is the primary action of the Church in the world. It is not primarily about what we do. It is the work of God: opus Dei est!

Romans 8 is very apropos here, for instance: 26 Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings, 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth: because he asketh for the saints according to God. (The Holy Spirit is the primary Guardian of the Church's Liturgical prayer, through the Papal authority, and, furthermore, Christ Himself [in the ministry of the ordained priest] is the chief Agent of our Divine worship).

N.B. A Catholic priest does not have to accept the new form of the Mass in his allegiance to our ancient Catholic rituals. It is an abuse of authority to try to force him to do so, as illustrated in so many cases, e.g. Father Roger-Thomas Calmel.

But consider what Pope Benedict XVI said: "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness."

The above reflections of Father Calmel question this last point. While not rejecting the validity of the new rituals one is free to refuse to make use of them.
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