Whither the Liturgy

Writing over at NCR Online, Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ discusses the recent vacancy at the Congregation for Divine Worship and offers his thoughts on the issues that the new prefect (as yet unnamed) should set before the congregation.   After lamenting that Pope Francis does not appear to be a proponent of liturgical reform (though he notes approvingly that the Pope is no fan of the Extraordinary Form of the mass), he argues that

The greatest challenge facing the new prefect is to develop a new way of managing liturgical change in the church….The Vatican response was to stop all change, crack down on experimentation, and force reluctant bishops to provide the Tridentine Mass to anyone who wanted it long after the vernacular language had firmly taken hold….A more intelligent and pastoral approach to liturgical change would include three things: centers for liturgical research and development, market testing, and enculturation.

All of these ideas focus on the idea that liturgies should develop and evolve at a more local level:  that bishops’ conferences and indeed individual bishops should devote resources to studying the liturgy and proposing ways for it to evolve.   His ideas about market testing are off-putting in their formulation (I cringe to think of the mass as a “product”) but he is correct that liturgy should not simply be created and imposed from on high.  Liturgy needs to develop organically, and this means that new ideas and new formulations need to be shared with the laity to see how they respond.  I am not a scholar of liturgical development, but my sense from what I have read is that this is how liturgies developed prior to Trent:  bishops and religious orders had ideas and tried them.  If they met with a positive response they were kept (and sometimes spread, as Gregorian chant was exported from the Frankish Churches to Rome); other ideas withered away or were actively opposed and were dropped.  Something of this pattern can be seen in the post-Trent period with the development, spread and decline of various devotions.

Fr. Reese then goes on to lay out a smorgasbord of ideas for the new Prefect to explore using this model:  revisit the English translation of the Roman Missal (including the idea of reviving the original 1998 ICEL translation), revisit moving the sign of peace to elsewhere in the mass (something he has written on extensively), explore adding new Eucharistic prayers and prefaces, the latter of which would be tied closely to the readings in the lectionary for the mass.   I must confess that none of these really seem that pressing.  For better or worse we now have the new Roman Missal, and (despite my multiple concerns—see here, here, here and here) I do not think anything is to be gained from revisiting this question.  Continuing to discuss moving the sign of peace seems jejune.  I am intrigued by the idea of having prefaces that match the lectionary—I have always liked a lot of the prefaces for particular feasts—but again it is not clear that this is a central issue facing us.

Truthfully, I don’t think I would have bothered to blog about this short article, except that Fr. Reese’s penultimate paragraph and a perceptive comment in the commboxes really struck me.   Fr. Reese wrote

Despite my hope that the new prefect would take up such an agenda, we need to recognize that even if we had perfect liturgical texts and ceremonies in the Sacramentary, liturgy lives or dies at the local parish. What the people want is good music, good preaching, and a sense of belonging, which cannot be prepackaged in Rome. Parishes that are welcoming and have good music and good preaching see their pews filled. We cannot blame Rome for everything that is wrong in the liturgy.

This really resonated with me, especially his comment about “a sense of belonging.”   In the earlier part of my life, due to education and career, my wife and I moved a fair bit.  We were blessed twice by finding parishes where we quickly felt we belonged, and part of our struggle in Connecticut was that it took a long time gain this sense of really being part of the community, as opposed to a long term visitor.  Much of our sense of community came from the liturgy, whether it was from the spirit that arose in the close confines of mass said in the school cafeteria (because the Church building was destroyed by an earthquake) or from the sense of joining when our pastor at a parish in Indiana allowed us to have our second son baptized at mass—not his regular practice but one which made my whole family part of the parish.

As I have indicated in other posts (cf. my thoughts on vocations) I strongly believe that our faith needs to be lived out in all its dimensions at the local, parish level.  It would seem to me that if we are going to have a true, ongoing liturgical reform, we need to discuss what is needed to revive liturgies at the parish level.  Part of the problem with liturgies is a function of the vocations crisis—decreasing numbers of aging, over-worked priests is not going to create quality liturgy—and so must be addressed elsewhere.   And fixing the problem is not simply a matter of rooting out abusive practices from the odd corners in which they exist.  (I am hereby adding a corollary to Godwin’s Law:  in any discussion of Catholic liturgy, the first person to mention clown masses automatically loses the argument.)   Rather, we need to ask ourselves:  does our liturgy build up community:  both in and among those present, but also with the broader Church and as a springboard to bring the Gospel to the whole world (and not just to the narrow bits that are “just like us.”)

One perceptive comment in the commboxes to Fr. Reese’s article really struck me, because I think the writer put his finger directly these concerns:  Shaun G. Lynch wrote

We need to disconnect from pointless arguments about modern versus traditional form masses and address the bigger problem. It doesn’t matter which kind of mass we’re talking about. There are still more self-identified Catholics outside our churches than inside. The research that I’ve seen cited indicates that the single biggest problem is that too many feel no connection to the proceedings or to the other people in attendance. It’s the connection that matters, not the words per se.

When people who don’t attend mass say “I’m bored” it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be entertained. It indicates that they can’t identify anything meaningful in the experience. Blaming them for that attitude is entirely useless and counterproductive; there’s no fault to be assigned, simply a challenge to be undertaken.

Some tweaking of the liturgy would certainly be helpful, but that alone is only a way to treat a symptom, not the underlying problem.  I suspect that what we really need are ways to teach the faithful how to go to mass! i.e. how to prepare, what to listen for, what to do to deepen the experience, etc.

I found his analysis of “I’m bored” startling in its insight.  I have heard this expression before, and I have always cringed when it is simply dismissed as a demand to be entertained.   Or, as Cardinal Dolan so unhelpfully put it recently, “You may find the Mass boring, but, that’s more your problem than the fault of the Mass.”  But until I read Mr. Lynch’s this comment , I could never quite put my finger on what was really being said.

This, perhaps, is the fundamental problem facing us:  far too many people self-identify as Catholics, but attend mass infrequently or not at all.  Rather than attempt to apportion blame, maybe we need to ask why the mass holds no meaning for them, or at least has so little meaning that the “Easter/Christmas/Baptism” circuit suffices to maintain their link to the Catholic Church.  How can we bring the gospel to the whole world if we cannot bring our own (and they are ours, however imperfectly) into the pews on Sunday morning?

I don’t have any answers.  Mr. Lynch suggests better education, but this seems to be a chicken and egg kind of problem:  how do you educate the people who are not at mass in the first place?  I would suggest increased professionalism, particularly among laity involved in the liturgy as lectors, EMHCs and altar servers.   But even this seems to miss the mark.

So let me close this post with a question:  what can we do to help our brethren (and really, ourselves) find deeper meaning in the liturgy?

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  • Ronald King

    David, I like the “boring” insight. That word basically identifies a feeling of emptiness in the activity or the relationship. It seems the liturgy points to Christ in the abstract representation of bread and wine rather than in the reality of our relationships with one another as they are within the ritual of the Mass. The rituals can bring us to an ever evolving experience of Christ in oneself and the other or they can lead us away from that risk of vulnerability and keep us in the abstract of the intellect which tends to isolate us emotionally from self and other. Each of us is created for a passionate relationship with each other and boredom is a signal which indicates that passion is missing. That’s the short perspective.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Thanks Ron! Short, but I think getting at something really important.

  • FGB

    Another aspect to this, is I think we see liturgy as that which is limited to the walls of the church. On the one hand, I hate to mention the cliche forms of Mass, but weather a “clown Mass” or a Tridentine Mass, it seems to me that perhaps the purpose is to create an experience that is separate from the world. Perhaps we can take the image of what a parish is in the canonical sense: a territory of ministry and mission that has a parish church. In the parish, there are homes with families, home-bound, drug addicts, homeless persons, businesses, gyms, restaurants, etc. In the parish, people carry on commerce, people have barbecues, sin, play baseball, pray, read scripture, fight, experience loneliness and depression, but at the center of the parish stands the altar-table. The altar-table at which the Word goes forth. The altar-table at which we receive the Living Bread, thereby uniting all the persons and through them the activity of the parish to Jesus Christ, who belongs to the Father. Now certainly I support efforts to enhance the experience of the actual Mass, but I would come from the perspective of the altar-table that stands at the center of our lives. The Mass as font of catechesis, of prayer, of mission, and of our ongoing development as humans, socially and so forth. In short liturgy, Christ, as intimately involved in all my/our life, in the totality of who I/we am/are, in all my/our relationship, and all the community.

  • http://www.imaginethekingdom.com Bob Shine

    Allowing people to come as they are could go a long way in developing meaningful liturgical experiences, for how can we enter into community and more so a sense of the Sacred when we’re building false selves and managing pretenses?

    I think of so many obstacles impeding parishes from offering genuine welcome, ranging from the doctrinal issues re: women, LGBTQ folk (imagine openly bringing your same-sex partner to many parishes!), you-name-it-hot-topic issue to the social, whereby so many parishes are more like social clubs to see/be seen and in which one must maintain their image like anywhere else in town.

    There are universal problems and local problems mixed in, but I think an honest evaluation by parish leadership (and even more, a willingness to change) about what the greatest obstacles are for a given community could help at least move forward to more genuine welcome and revelation of authentic selves — which then in turn allow for meaningful liturgical experiences.

  • Mark VA

    Mr. Cruz-Uribe asks:

    “…what can we do to help our brethren (and really, ourselves) find deeper meaning in the liturgy?”

    The only answer I have is education, even if it is a chicken and egg kind of solution. It may not readily help those who have left the Church, but it may help those who did not.

    I believe that reading the Bible, the Church Fathers and Doctors, reliable materials on the history of the Church (and history in general), using as many primary source materials as possible, studying the encyclicals, etc. will help provide a deeper and better informed perspective on the Church. It should also act as a springboard for developing a more vibrant Faith in God, by stimulating the spirit, as well as the mind. It should also help clarify the many uncertainties regarding the liturgical form in question.

    I believe it will be up to the individual parishioners to supply this effort and materials, to organize themselves as they see fit (individual study, groups, seminars, classes ,etc), and also to ask the priest to help guide this effort.

    I also think that without this grounding, the (dated) ideas floated by the NCR Online article will just produce more churn, and will not likely point to a path out of this thicket.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Mark, even though I am a teacher by vocation, I am less sanguine about the power of education in this situation. A couple problems spring to mind: where is the impetus for this education going to come from? The anarchist in me truly appreciates the idea of it springing up from below, but I do not see it happening. When it comes to their faith, too many people take a passive approach. Second, there is the important epistemological question: how should people know these things? (For a fuller discussion, see my post from a while ago about the education of deacons.) As Ronald King points out, the wrong kind of intellectual approach could isolate people even more from the Spirit.

      • Mark VA

        Thank you, Mr. Cruz-Uribe, for your reply. I wrote from the experience of my own parish, where education is as important as faith and devotion.

        The many seminars, talks, discussions, study groups, individual studies, tutoring, available books, etc. we have, do produce a noticeable effect – the parish is vibrant on many levels. However, I do see your point when I consider the high level of education of many, if not most, of my co-parishioners, young and old alike. Nevertheless, I also see the same effect on a larger scale, for example, at St. John Cantius (św. Jan z Kęt ) in Chicago:

        http://www.cantius.org/go/classes/

        I would like to hear more about the wrong vs. the right intellectual approach to developing a deeper faith in God. If we allow that the right intellectual approach can bring us closer to God, then how shall we proceed, rather than lament?

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          “I would like to hear more about the wrong vs. the right intellectual approach to developing a deeper faith in God. If we allow that the right intellectual approach can bring us closer to God, then how shall we proceed, rather than lament?”

          A quick answer (I am at a conference and getting ready for bed): I would be worried about any intellectual approach that reduced faith the rational assent to a series of propositions. In other words, to stereotype: that one can become a better Catholic by reading the Catechism, or St. Thomas Aquinas, or some tracts published by some apologetics group, and accepting what is read on a simple intellectual level. This might make you more orthodox, in some shallow fashion, but it will not make you more faithful.

          Please read my post about deacons, and try to imagine answering the question: what should the folks in the pews know, and how should they know it?

  • http://gravatar.com/tausign Tausign

    What’s missing is the sense that liturgy is worship as a ‘public works project’. We are called to worship as a people or a community that is dedicated to God. If the people are ‘disintegrated’ then the liturgy is weak no matter what the prayer formula. The struggle over the liturgical elements are a sign that we lack solidarity and fraternity and are limited to a personal or non-existent prayer life. No group as large as the Catholic church can ever come to an agreement regarding the specific prayers, music and other elements…this will always descend into a ‘political-like’ confrontation. But a true community (most parishes are not) can accept any reasonably orthodox liturgical stance.

    Parishes are either decaying or growing depending on their ‘public works’ in evangelization, ministry, justice and joyful sharing of gospel living in and among the parish as a whole. All of this is far more important than the hymn selection. Ultimately this must be extended into the culture and community, not to mention the world. The Universal Church proclaims that this is what God is calling us to do and we aren’t doing it (and thus we wither).

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “Parishes are either decaying or growing depending on their ‘public works’ in evangelization, ministry, justice and joyful sharing of gospel living in and among the parish as a whole”

      This sounds like a winning formula. But how to make it happen? Liturgy must play a role.

      • http://gravatar.com/tausign Tausign

        “This sounds like a winning formula. But how to make it happen? Liturgy must play a role.”

        Liturgy moves in two ways, does it not? We are gathered to be nourished and renewed in word and sacrament. In this sense God never fails and the liturgical action is fulfilled. For our part however, the liturgical action can become a pretense for what it should be. If there is ‘no community’ or ‘no reconciliation among the members’, or no ‘communal works of faith,’ then there can be no true praise and worship (liturgical action of the parish) regardless of the liturgical form. This of course presumes that there is some minuscule understanding of the ‘mystagogia’ involved.

        I guess I’m saying that searching for the ‘perfect liturgical expression’ or ‘policing liturgical flaws’ is a weak solution to unfilled pews. Yes, the liturgy does guide us, and in that sense it must contain truth. It should be adaptable as long as it remains orthodox (correct). But let’s not set the cart before the horse. If we don’t know each other’s names, and we don’t work together with a sense of Christian mission, then what sort of ‘parish community’ are we describing…and how can it expect to thrive?

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          All true, but one can also think of the liturgy as a stage on which we learn each others names, work together with a sense of Christian mission, etc. Aristotle says that we acquire the virtues by performing virtuous acts. One role of the liturgy (not the only one, I am NOT being reductionist) is creating a safe space in which we can be virtuous. There are lots of ways in which this can happen: you are right that there is no perfect liturgy. But I think every parish should ask itself: is what we do conducive to the broader and more important goals of christian charity and witness? The required changes might be small, or they might be large, and they can go in many directions.

    • http://communitarian-perspective.blogspot.com M.Z.

      Tausign saved me from making a long comment.

      For purposes of modern, American, suburban culture the mass merely needs to be consistent. Between TLM fever, charismatic fever, and new translation fever, it should be self evident that people don’t care near as much about the particulars of liturgy as ideologues would believe. If there is to be hope for the American Church project, there needs to be a proper delineation between personal prerogative and social prerogative. Too much emphasis has been put on the former. Perhaps this emphasis has been a necessary counterbalance to the Jansenist tendency of the mid-20th century – whatever the merits of that assertion – but at this point in time too many people think too highly of themselves and their opinions. In the end, there needs to be space for personal prerogative but it must exist in social purpose. All too often American society’s social purpose seems to be the affirmation of every personal choice, and that is hardly an exclusively secular phenomenon.

      • http://gravatar.com/tausign Tausign

        M.Z. I really like your discussion regarding the delineation between personal and social prerogatives…it brings up nicely this vital element of worshiping together as ‘a body’ and specifically,’the body of Christ’. However, in order to expand and clarify my own meaning of liturgy as ‘public works’, I want to add another element…the Divine prerogative.

        The Mass is the prayer of Jesus to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Divine prerogative is that the Son is the true worshiper and that ‘the body of Christ’ is united to this worshiping activity of the Son.

        In the contention over liturgical expressions of faith, some take this ‘Divine prerogative’ as a given, while others have no clue of its existence. The inability to correctly distinguish between personal and liturgical prayer is perhaps the main reason that the pews are so empty.

        What I don’t mean to imply is that a socially pleasing consensus of liturgy is what’s called for. No, but I do mean to imply that a worshiping community that accepts the ‘Divine prerogative’ should be able to discover new liturgical expressions that are orthodox and true in various cultural milieus. Finally, the ‘public works’ of true worship and the ‘public works’ of evangelization, ministry and justice (the fruits of true worship) go together.

  • Jordan

    When are liturgists, and especially progressive liturgists, going to understand that the Tridentine rite has never really ceased to be a separate cultural and ritual phenomenon not unlike that of the Eastern rites in union with Rome? I get the sense that many liturgists feel that any presence of the old liturgy is a failure on their behalf, regardless of the statistically small number of the old believers.

    As someone who once identified himself as exclusively Tridentine, I think that progressive liturgists just have to accept the devoutly Tridentine faithful as they are and move on to exclusive speculation on the Ordinary Form. Most of the EF faithful are estranged from the Ordinary Form. Any liturgical innovation in the OF will be lost on them, so why bother trying to form the EF faithful into a progressive OF mold?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, part of this is that the EF-OF debate has become, in my mind, a proxy for a bigger fight over modernity in general. Also, while it is not universally true, there are some EF proponents who want to carry the fight the other way and trash the OF at any opportunity. But perhaps, for the context of this discussion, we should focus on the OF.

    • http://emmasrandomthoughts.wordpress.com emmasrandomthoughts

      I agree that it would be impossible to eliminate all the traces of the EF from the OF would be ridiculous and counterproductive. It is silly to live in fear of the past, though it is not advisable to remain chained to the past.

  • Julia Smucker

    I agree with Fr. Reese on the general principle that liturgy should develop organically and build community, but I think he’s only getting half the picture. Any zero-sum game between the local and universal dimensions of worship (and more specifically of the Mass) is – you guessed it – a false dichotomy. I too cringed at the phrase “market testing”, as well as the stereotype he paints of the crackdown-happy Vatican. Granted, there are people and mechanisms there that sometimes feed that stereotype, particularly within the CDW and CDF, but his critique (verging toward a rant at that point) still sounds off-puttingly knee-jerk and caricatured to me. He nuances this by adding, “We cannot blame Rome for everything that is wrong in the liturgy”, but he still seems to be doing just that.

    I do have to agree that the fellow who diagnoses the symptom of boredom as rooted in the need for meaning rather than simply entertainment is pretty perceptive. And it is probably useless to try to apportion blame. There may well be people who are, to some extent, misguidedly seeking to be entertained, and it may well be that the meaning of the Mass is not coming through as it should, which may vary widely among parish communities. It probably is some of both. I’m not sure how to go about this, but I think the key is learning to tell the story better to ourselves and our own, which in itself will go a long way towards being able to tell it more convincingly to the rest of the world.

  • Jordan

    Alright, sorry David for the outburst. I must respect Fr. Reese’s position, even if I do not believe that his observations are what is actually happening on the ground.

    Enculturation (inculturation?) is a very difficult question. The OF parish I attend most of the time has a very high church liturgy. Even Low Mass is considerably more formal than at most parishes, with no EMHC’s as a significant example. There are even little touches like a fully prepared and veiled chalice. The choir High Mass is choregraphically Tridentine: ad orientem, fiddlebacks, and a full polyphonic choir. The congregation for the choir Mass is ethnically diverse. If the congregation of the choir Mass finds spiritual edification in 15th to 19th century Mass settings and motets, then they should be permitted to worship in this way regardless of their backgrounds.

    I suspect that some liturgists (I am not indicting Fr. Reese) would be somewhat perturbed that a multi-ethnic congregation would find an exclusively European choral Mass edifying, even if only some of the parishioners are from a European ethnic background. However, who’s to say that any person should be pigeonholed into a certain form of worship? Liturgical autonomy must be absolutely respected. No Catholic is any less a Catholic if he or she prefers any type of liturgical style or liturgical form.

    I fear, though that some liturgists won’t be satisfied with this state of affairs. Should an American attend a Mass with features from their ancestral place of origin rather than features from another culture, even if they find the latter edifying? I don’t know if this is the intent of inculturation, but I fear that the subtle racism of “certain people should go to certain Masses because of their background” could be the end result of inculturation experiments.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      No problem Jordan: I took no offense. I just didn’t want to get off on a tangent.

      Your points about inculturation are good ones, but I think we need to distinguish between organic inculturation, in which a community that shares certain cultural norms wants their liturgy to reflect this, and the sort of top-down inculturation which often reflects a sort form of liberal racism. In the good kind I think of a Philipinno deacon in Oakland, who suggested that our parish try to involve our burgeoning Philipinno community by including a request to bring food as part of any invitation we extended to them to participate in an event. He explained to us the the cultural significance of this gesture (which we would never have known). It worked like a charm and our parish changed and grew because our norms reflected theirs. On a more liturgical level, I would compare the African tradition of dance at their masses with the often feeble attempts to introduce dance into the liturgy in the states. The former reflects true and proper inculturation. Another example that comes to mind are the parishes around me who are getting communities of Mexican immigrants, who are re-arranging things in their old Irish/Italian/Polish pantheons of saints to make room for la Virgen de Guadalupe.

  • Mark

    I guess it all depends on exactly what you hope the liturgy is going to do.

    Liturgy in general, it seems to me, ultimately has the purpose of provoking a certain emotional state, or rather state of consciousness.

    The question is which you want. Maudlin sentimentality? Jumpin’ jivin’ charismatic whoopin’ and hollerin’? A sort of mystical trance?

    I don’t think the Ordinary Form, as it stands, really accomplishes any of these all that well, though I suppose one can adapt it to any. Mainly one feels patronized, like we’re all adults being made to watch children put on their school music show. Is our attitude supposed to be “aww, how cute they tried” even though the children in question are extremely insecure and petty men and women in their 50s and 60s?

    The real issue with liturgy today is that people in general have no notion of transcendence. Or, maybe, they’ve been overwhelmed by such experiences of secular transcendence (rock concerts, mass sporting events, candlelight vigils for sensationalized events, flash mobs, the profound power above all of cinema) that getting together to sing kindegarteny songs and told hoaky anecdotes by a (more or less) closeted gay guy in a polyester poncho…just doesn’t really seem transporting or beyond-the-profane or mundane anymore.

    So what to do?

    I don’t think there’s anything that can be done by changing the liturgy. The liturgy needs to be kept otherworldly and profound and sublime for those who still know how to experience transcendent states of consciousness from the medieval forms…and then the work has to be figuring out how to form the rest in such a way that they too can learn how to appreciate this, learn how to be struck by that little whisper that makes one ache with beauty.

    I know so many people who scoff at religious ritual, period. These are the fully secularized subjects. Changing what the ritual is…isn’t going to make it any more appealing to them. They have to be taught to understand what they’ve lost, what our medieval ancestors knew in terms of accessing grace from these communal experiences of transcendence and mystification. There is a script of reverence that some of us know; hushed voices, careful walking, bowing, genuflecting, kissing…that other people have totally lost. Until people know what it means to worship and adore something again…the form that worship or adoration takes won’t matter (and indeed, it’s sadly arguable the Novus Ordo was specifically designed to water-down the ritualistic repetition and mysterious gestures that are the heart of adoration and reverence; the idea seemed to be make everything egalitarian and approachable and intelligible! When the whole point of the transcendent is to be unnapproachable and unintelligible!)

    Modern political attitudes simply don’t admit of worship, of empty gestures directed towards some invisible being or inadequate vessel. I shudder to think what Charles’s coronation will be like. We are fast losing this state of “open” awe-full consciousness (and it’s exactly what capitalism and the Total State want, by the way…)

    • Roger

      Mark,
      You must belong to our parish. You describe our parish to a tee. Oh wait a sec, I now realize that is the same in most of “Catholic” parishes today.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, I guess your low opinion of the OF is abundantly clear. For the rest of us, however, we will just have to persevere.

      • Mark

        I’ll say this:

        The impious and the unbelievers may not particularly “like” the Traditional Mass either. In fact, many might find it mind-numbingly boring. BUT, I think the “tone” of it or “atmosphere” engenders a “respect” if people witness it that the OF simply doesn’t, in the same manner that there are people who are bored out of their minds at the orchestra or opera…but still understand that “There is something serious going on here with a lot of history behind it, a lot of depth that could be delved into even if I don’t particularly care to do so.”

        Take these people to the Novus Ordo, on the other hand, and you won’t even get that sort of respect. They’ll roll their eyes. They’ll snicker. They’ll groan. You can just ask a teenager! Both my young brother and sister (23 and 17) have left the faith, but they’ll both tell you that going to Mass (in the OF) is like being made to watch the kids show “Barney.” It’s not just “boring”…they find it corny, hoaky, pathetic, and just so…uncool.

        They’ve had to attend an EF Mass with me a few times (I had choir) and though they were still entirely bored stiff…the sense was not “this is lame” because there wasn’t that atmosphere of “Come on kids, let’s rap about God.” They may have thought it was arcane and ossified and stilted and stiff, a superstition from a bygone age that “real modern people” aren’t “supposed to” believe in anymore…but they nevertheless knew that had a formality that wasn’t merely affected, and a ritualism that was fascinating at least as an anthropological mystery, even if not a theological one.

        In other words, to use some yiddish: people know kitsch and schtick when they see it, and a Mass that admits of singing “On Eagle’s Wings” and Boomer ladies in pant-suits raising their hands up with too-much-folksy-gusto to get us to join in a sing-song psalm refrain that might as well be set to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…is just going to be the sort of thing that teenagers roll their eyes at.

        • Mark

          To sum it up: the liturgy is only going start being fixed when the people involved gain some self awareness and realize that they’re uncool, and then grapple with that fact.

          “Cool” may not be the goal exactly, after all, certainly not on mass pop-cultural terms. Indeed, a sort of long-historical-view indifference to coolness might be ideal. But delusionally trying to be or not realizing how square or lame the whole atmosphere is perceived as by hipper people…is certainly problematic.

          In fact, it’s cringe-worthy. Indeed, isn’t that the archetype of cringiness or awkwardness: the middle aged mom or dad or teacher who thinks he’s “with it” when he isn’t anymore? This is what attending a Novus Ordo so often feels like to the younger generations. There’s a sense of a problem with sincerity (too little OR too much*) or authenticity.

          You can get defensive and circle the wagons all you want, but if you want to address the Church’s hemorrhaging and PR problems, you are going to have to address the perceptions rather than merely denying or invalidating them. “Addressing the perceptions” doesn’t necessarily mean admitting “Yes, you’re right, we’ve been all wrong, we will conform to mainstream culture totally to the point that there’s nothing distinctive about us.” But it does mean engaging those perceptions, internalizing those perceptions AS perceptions at least, and acting with that sort of awareness of how other people see what you do (and thus be able to weigh the pros against the cons of that, adjust accordingly, respond when necessary, etc).

          One of the Church’s big problems is that people see it as uncool. Even bigger problem: the more it TRIES to be cool, the less cool it seems (this is true for anyone).

          I think I might right a book about the Novus Ordo called “Mass in the Time of Macrame”…now, you might say, “Hey! I like macrame! I think it’s really cool!” But while that’s great for you (I’m all for letting your freak flag fly)…that doesn’t make macrame cool as a sociological phenomenon. It’s still a symbol of cheesy and lame. So is Fr Gladhands putting up felt banners and Sister Frumpysweater reading from the NAB in saccharine tones as if a preschool teacher at storytime.

          *A sense of too much sincerity actually may be part of the problem. Today, anyone “too sincere” is suspect. Ironic detachment is cool. Indeed, part of the reason that the Old Mass is hip again is probably, exactly, because one can attend with a bit of irony. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not, but it’s a place to start, at least, in terms of engaging a nihilistic/cynical/sarcastic/ironic culture on its own terms. Because a big dose of “Mr Rogers Liturgy” is noxious to modern people (as much of a saint and picture of Christian love as Fred Rogers may indeed have been for children; but I think that’s probably part of it: for children. The solution to modern secular decadence for adults CANNOT be infantilization, which is what the Church has tried for the past 50 years…)

          • Agellius

            Mark:

            Hear! Hear!

        • Melody

          I’m seeing a lot of projection and straw men here. I grew up with the EF back before it was the EF, and have spent the last 50-plus years with the NO. Didn’t find any of it lame, because the EF and the NO and the Last Supper are the same Mass in every way that counts. Our parish had a few felt banners back in the 70’s, so what. Things like that change, the essence of what Mass is doesn’t. (I am a Boomer lady, wouldn’t be caught dead in a pantsuit!) Apparently my kids weren’t too turned off by the whole thing, because they are taking their kids to Mass and nobody seems too worried about the liturgy.

        • Mark

          Well, unless they are being homeschooled, I seriously doubt your grandchildren think the Mass as it stands is cool.

          Like I said, get defensive and circle the wagons all you want. But I’d really challenge you to sit down and ask your grandchildren if they think Mass is cool. If they’re over the age of 10 (or even 7). By all means have focus groups. But the focus groups can’t be all the people who are already invested in our ceramic-chalice liturgy of the Brady Bunch era. You’ve got to actually ask kids.

          I’ll bet they tell you it’s not cool as it stands. If they’re being honest. Or maybe they don’t want to tell you in the same manner children don’t like telling older relatives that they hate getting socks and sweaters for Christmas (they don’t want to seem bad or ungrateful, after all; but sweaters for Christmas are totally lame).

          But I’ve just seen the kids and teens walking back to the car after Mass at various parishes, when their parents aren’t looking. They’re exaggeratedly singing “One bread, one body, the Lord of all” as “One bed, three bodies, menage a trois,” and mocking the priest’s simpering tone.

          That is, if they even pay attention during the whole thing and aren’t sitting on their phones texting.

          The New Mass has the same “feel” as Christian Rock. And to quote a line from King of the Hill, “You’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making Rock worse.”

          Mass isn’t meant to be a Girl Scout camp-out or a corporate team-building activity…

  • Ronald King

    David, I have another short answer to your question. I believe we must be vulnerable outside the confessional through the development of what used to be called in the ’60’s encounter groups. These groups focused on breaking down the false self which we present to one another in our intra and interpersonal relationships. We must first meet each other as human beings who are afraid of one another because of that shame which exists just below the surface and is always a source of our conflicts. Just as Christ allowed Himself to be publicly stripped of any defense so must we do the same within our community. There is more to it of course.

  • Agellius

    I don’t think it’s the purpose of the Mass to make people feel welcome. Welcoming people is a different parish function, and has to do with how much of a community atmosphere prevails in the parish, which in turn depends on the people of the parish sharing a common felt identity. It didn’t used to be hard to create this identity. Before V2, when the TLM was predominant, Catholic identity was stronger than it is now. Many people’s lives were centered around the parish.

    If liturgical freedom and development were going to foster community and a sense of belonging, it should have done so by now. It’s had more than enough time to prove its worth in this regard.

    I’m not saying the answer is necessarily a return to the TLM. Correlation is not causation: The fact that we had stronger parish communities when the TLM was predominant, doesn’t prove that the TLM caused strong communities. But it also proves that the TLM doesn’t prevent strong communities, and that the new Mass doesn’t cause them either.

    Still, I will say that in my experience, parishes that have the TLM tend to have a strong sense of community. What causes this?

    I think a big part of it is a strong sense of opposition to the world. The Gospel tends to be preached with all its hard edges. We don’t buy into worldly standards, and we share a love and devotion to something sacred that is completely other from the world. Someone who is immersed in worldly diversions and pursuits, upon walking into our Mass will have a sense that he has entered another realm. The weight and seriousness of it will be a shock to him, since there is no longer anything like it in our society.

    Of course this feeling of being opposed to the world in many ways is not limited to our experience of the Mass. Most of us carry this sense into our everyday lives, this idea that we don’t share the same interests and concerns, and certainly not the same values, as most of the people we encounter at work or in the mall, let alone the mass media messages with which we are bombarded. So that when we come together on Sunday there is a sense that we’re now among “our people”, our brothers and sisters whom we implicitly believe to be likeminded with ourselves on the most important matters.

    I submit that the lack of community in a typical parish stems from the lack of any feeling that we are distinguished from the surrounding world in any essential way. There is often a feeling that “these people are no different from the ones I encounter at work or in the mall”. Why feel especially “connected” with them in a way I don’t feel connected with my co-workers?

    The obvious answer is that we’re all connected by our baptism and by the Eucharist which we share. But these are abstract notions. Obviously baptism and the Eucharist are very real, but their effects don’t always show themselves in concrete ways which affect our feelings and relationships towards others, when outwardly they don’t talk and act and believe differently from anyone else.

    The sense of community should be an outgrowth of baptism and the Eucharist, but it should also manifest itself outwardly, in standards of speech and behavior, and even aesthetics, that are markedly different from the world at large. You can only get that sense by being willing to discriminate against and exclude certain kinds of behavior, and encourage others, rather than tolerate all indiscriminately.

    If you don’t like the “vibe” you get at a TLM parish, that’s fine. But there’s got to be some way in which a parish offends the world and its sensibilities. When a worldly-minded person walks into a Mass, he should be jolted in one way or another; either by the preaching, or by the music, or by the dress and demeanor of the congregants. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Jn. 15:18.

    Yet most parishes strive to ensure that the world is NOT offended by the Gospel as preached in their churches. I submit that this lack of distinctiveness is what most often leads to lack of community.

    • Melody

      I actually agree with Agellius’ opening statement, “I don’t think it’s the purpose of the Mass to make people feel welcome. Welcoming people is a different parish function…”, and I also agree that it doesn’t necessarily matter if it is TLM or Post-VII liturgy as far as people having a sense of belonging. Where I part company is the idea that we build community by separating ourselves into “our peeps” and “those others”. Yes, that is one way to foster a sense of belonging. But is that really where we want to go as Christians? For one thing, the division between believers and worldly people not always a bright white line. Sometimes we are a little bit of both, they aren’t separate species. John 15:18 notwithstanding, Jesus himself sometimes hung out with people who might be considered worldy, and others who would be considered outright losers. I don’t think it should be a goal to make a worldly person who walks into Mass feel that he or she doesn’t belong there; more to show them that there is a better way to live.

      • Agellius

        Melody:

        You write, “I don’t think it should be a goal to make a worldly person who walks into Mass feel that he or she doesn’t belong there; more to show them that there is a better way to live.”

        How can it “a better way to live” if it’s not a different way of living? One thing can’t be better than another if they’re both the same.

        I don’t say the goal is to make a worldly person feel that he doesn’t belong. There is no conflict between living differently from the world, and welcoming anyone who would like to see what we have to offer and perhaps join us.

        Just by way of illustration, I am not a member of SSPX, but I have attended SSPX services on a couple of occasions. Both times I was struck by the distinctiveness of the culture from what I was used to, yet I never felt like I wasn’t welcome to become a part of that culture if I wanted to. Quite the contrary, I was encouraged to return. I have had the same experience upon attending services at a Protestant church.

        My idea is for Catholic culture to be both markedly distinctive, and at the same time welcoming. But maintaining the distinctiveness will require rejecting many worldly standards and behaviors and adopting distinctively Catholic ones in their place, and expecting new members to do the same. The less we do this, the less distinctive we are, and the less we feel a particular bond with one another, compared with the bonds between us and our co-workers, classmates, media personalities, etc.

        • Mark

          Right, why is anyone going to join the Catholic Church when it’s liturgy and culture is now indistinguishable from post-Christian liberal protestantism. If I can get the same liturgy at a Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, or Presbyterian church (as Robin Williams said: “Same rituals, half the guilt”)…why would anyone choose the institutional dysfunction of Catholicism? If we aren’t offering something distinct and transporting…what are we offering? We’re offering nice civic bourgeois American Suburban religion with a liturgy designed by the Hallmark channel.

        • Mark

          This is the real issue. It’s not that we’re not offering what people want. It’s that we’re offering exactly what is “mainstream”…it’s just that we do it in a chintzier and cheaper way. Why would anyone buy our product when they can get the same experience from movies, cable TV, instagram, football, and their yoga class?

          I have no doubt the Novus Ordo liturgy caters to populist tastes. But is that the goal? Everything nowadays caters to the tastes of masses. We just do it without anything particularly unique (at least subjectively). Should it surprise us that people don’t find anything particularly special about it?

          But then, this is why I’m terrified Elton John is going to be singing Benny at the Jets at the next coronation, and I’m going to have to finally gouge my eyes out…

        • Ronald King

          What different behaviors and ways of doing things do you recommend?

          • Agellius

            Ronald:

            You write, “What different behaviors and ways of doing things do you recommend?”

            They can be all kinds of things. They should not be arbitrary things like, I don’t know, everyone wearing a feather in his hat. But things which have roots in Catholic teaching and tradition.

            For starters, I would probably look back to what Catholics were doing before V2 which made them distinctive from the surrounding culture and from other Christian religions. For example, having the tabernacle front and center behind the altar; genuflecting before sitting down and whenever passing in front of the tabernacle; being quiet and prayerful, rather than sociable, when we enter church; women wearing veils; utilizing Gregorian chant and excluding guitars and drum sets; saying Mass ad orientem. Whatever else you may think of these practices, there’s no doubt that they made the whole environment of Catholic worship distinctive. This environment was something that Catholics knew they had in common with each other and no one else.

            In other words, let’s have our own aesthetic and not borrow those of the world and of other churches.

            Not sure if I’ve posted this before, and if so I’m sorry to repeat myself, but this is an excerpt from an article written by a non-Catholic, having nothing to do with worship per se, but giving his impressions of the first Catholic mass he had attended in quite a long time (or maybe his first ever):

            “If you’ve never been to a Catholic ceremony, you probably wrongly assume (as I used to), that there’s scary hushed chanting in Latin, ominous hooded figures, incense and peppermints and statues of Jesus crying real blood.

            “But sadly, no. There’s merely unenthusiastic and unintelligible mumbling, scary sweater-clad figures, acoustic guitars and churchgoers crying real tears of boredom. Catholicism is now like an exaggerated stereotype of the blandest version of Protestantism.”

            [http://www.amoeba.com/blog/2007/11/eric-s-blog/montebello-montesmello-if-you-re-nasty-.html]

            If this is the impression we’re giving to outsiders, it can’t be good.

            Of course I don’t mean that we should only be distinctive in terms of externals. Our teaching and the way we live our lives also should be distinctive. Our preaching at Mass should be offensive to secular culture, and hopefully the actual beliefs of Catholics would also set them apart from the world, in many ways. But this post is about the liturgy.

        • Kurt

          In other words, let’s have our own aesthetic and not borrow those of the world and of other churches.

          Of the entire liturgical renewal prior and following the Council, the only examples of borrowing from another church was in the Eastern Churches that gave up their latinizations and “borrowed” from Orthodoxy.

          Nothing in the Latin church was not based on the Western Catholic patrimony. Having said that, just as it is good and a virtue for the Eastern Church to celebrate its common patrimony, western Christians should also rightfully affirm our common patrimony when it is not a matter of doctrinal need. The common text of the Creed, the Our Father, and a common Lectionary are a good thing.

        • Jordan

          Agellius [September 15, 2014 11:40 am]: “Catholicism is now like an exaggerated stereotype of the blandest version of Protestantism.

          I am a staunch traditionalist, but also a thinking traditionalist. I recognize that the ancient Roman apostolic anaphora (Roman Canon), among other venerable aspects of the Mass, were going to be discarded or destroyed as soon as the vacuum of the Church was shattered and exposed to postmodernism. The medieval liturgy which we love has no place for women, no room for lay expression, no space for the egalitarianisms required of now. The great fallacy of traditionalism is that because the new Mass displays the aforementioned characteristics, then it is a traitor to the mores of the world. I do hope you do not believe this wholeheartedly, given the great faith of regular bloggers here at Vox Nova who exclusively attend the Ordinary Form.
          Instead, a thinking traditionalist (as opposed to an outright fundamentalist) must live with the tension that as soon as asperges me starts up the EF stands in sharp contrast to today’s social values.

        • Mark

          That may be part of it though, Jordan.

          The old liturgy is a hierarchical experience, which is necessary for experiencing God-consciousness.

          Divine power is sort of like electricity or gravitational energy: there needs to be a difference in potential between the place it’s flowing from and the place it’s flowing to (and the steeper the gradient, the more energy unleashed at ANY point on the slope, whether you’re at the top or the bottom).

          Level everything ala democracy and egalitarianism and there is no more motion or flow, and so God goes silent.

          People need a liturgy which is an experience of hierarchy symbolized, even if they are at the bottom of that flow-gradient.

          There is no awe if everything is equal.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I disagree with Agellius opening statement, if only because I have been at liturgies where the liturgy itself made me feel unwelcome. I cannot put my finger on what, exactly, was going on, but the whole vibe, from the moment I walked in until I left, was one of “what our YOU doing at OUR liturgy?” Superficially, it was a pretty standard OF mass, but the way things were done, and not done, by both the priest and congregation, made me want to run screaming in the other direction. The sacrament was there, and I could take solace in the presence of the Lord, but a significant dimension of the liturgy was missing.

      • Mark

        Maybe you’re looking for the wrong things out of liturgy, David.

        I don’t think I’ve EVER once in my life considered my liturgical experiences (from the horrendously tacky to the mundane to the exalting) in terms of whether I “felt welcome” or not. That’s just not a metric I use to evaluate the whole thing. What would “welcome” mean in a situation where there is minimal interaction and everyone is supposed to just blend into the crowd? I mean, I could understand if everyone inched away from you and left you alone in a pew at the center of an empty circle. But I have no idea how the manner in which the liturgy itself was conducted could make me feel “welcome” or not.

        It just seems an unhelpful way to think and feel about it. I know that “my kind” (nerdy, high-culture, gay) probably doesn’t fit in at, say, a sporting or athletic event. But I’ve never let that stop me, on occasion, from going, because it simply makes no sense for me to evaluate whether I feel “welcome” at a football or baseball game. I’m not going there for that! To me that’s like asking, at the grocery store, “Did this trip to the grocery store make me feel inspired?” Well, I’m not going to the grocery store for inspiration! That’s not the experience it’s supposed to focus on cultivating. Groceries are utterly indifferent to inspiration, they’re focused on convenience.

        Feeling “vibes” of whether you “fit in” or not…is, to me, entirely irrelevant to the liturgical experience, and I’m curious (baffled really) as to what makes other people experience that differently, and what this difference might reveal about “the problem of the liturgy” and the question of solutions.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          I judge a mass by many different and contextual things. But, following St. Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians, I am always trying to recognize the Body of Christ. Given the multivalent nature of Paul’s text, I must strive to not only see Christ present under signs of bread and wine, but I need to see the Body present in the community I am celebrating the Eucharist with. Because of my travels I have done this in dozens of churches in many countries. I wish I could articulate better what I sense or do not sense when I look to see if I am welcomed in the liturgy, but it matters greatly to me if the liturgy does indeed acknowledge the Body of Christ in those who come together to celebrate. I am not looking for liturgical hugs and forced bonhomie—I have run into this and not felt particularly welcome. On the other hand, having a man I have never met turn and literally kiss me during the exchange of peace was a startling sign of that Body being recognized in that liturgy. (It was a hot June day in Naples, and he needed a shower and a shave. But the whole experience was quite moving.)

        • http://deleted Mark

          Ah see, in this sense, for me, the more impersonal the better. To me, the self-transcendence of the liturgical experience is expressed much better when I can think “no one cares about me, if I weren’t here, this would still go on like clockwork.” Dissolving in the collective, stripped of contingency.

          Of course, the paradox is that the liturgy (ESPECIALLY the old liturgy actually)…is filled with contingency, a hodge podge of every accretion from this or that era in Rome (or other localities imported by Rome).

          And yet, as the saying goes, “Time is the icon of eternity” in the sense that even constant change can symbolize “constant.”

          In it’s utterly local “universality” and utterly historical “timelessness”…the old liturgy evokes eternity.

          When I go to the new I feel sort of the reverse. It’s committee-made one-size-fits all adaptable-options design means that rather than a local universality…it has a universal locality, and rather than a historical timelessness…it has this ahistorical time-boundedness. (Like the Communists or French Revolutionaries trying to start from “Year Zero” which, just decades later…already felt like such a DATED concept).

          They’re both paradoxes, but one is the shadow of the other. The NO feels like “the eternal as an image of time” rather than “time as the image of the eternal.”

          I find it much harder to dissolve in the new.

  • Mark VA

    Agellius and Mark:

    I agree with your points – regarding the liturgical form in question, it seems that the experience of transcendence is what’s often missing. This in turn may allow the mundane and the banal elements to seep in. In this vein, I would also add this – too many of us have mostly lost, or never understood well, the distinctions among the concepts of state, culture, and civilization.

    Since the Church is oriented toward creating the latter, while allowing for use of some parts from the former two (preach the Good News to the world), a firm, clear, no-nonsense distinction among these three levels of being a community has to be rediscovered. This understanding should also help recover the universal, in addition to the transcendent, aspects of the Mass.

    In other words, we should grow out of liturgical adolescence, and its endless and often poorly thought out experimentation. Perhaps our fathers in Faith were not total idiots, after all?

  • http://johnspizziri.wordpress.com john spizziri

    good music, good preaching, a sense of belonging… why not join the Assemblies of God?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Well, why can’t we have those in a Church which preserves the sacraments and orthodox teaching? They should not be mutually exclusive.

      • http://johnspizziri.wordpress.com john spizziri

        that has nothing to do with changing the liturgy– that has to do with individuals within the structure; priests are not ordained based upon whether or not they can pack the pews, they are chosen by the church based upon many other more important reasons; adherence to orthodoxy among them. if the Body and Blood of Our Lord is not going to make people attend Mass, what kind of people do you want? those who want a band, or A coffee bar, or a guy who sponsors a cult of personality, as evangelicals do? I went through Vatican II- I don’t want any more of the “reforming” nonsense that we went through- in the past.

  • Julia Smucker

    Rod Dreher has an interesting piece over at The American Conservative that mentions Fr. Reese’s article, quoting him at greater length to where he keeps rehashing this “market testing” idea and draws a direct analogy between the Church and a business, which really leaves me cold.

    I get the sense that Dreher leans more toward favoring the universal and, in that bent, may not be giving local contexts quite enough credit, but he does have a good point about the danger of the individual community becoming self-referential or even self-worshiping.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/art-religion-architecture/?mc_cid=2355b06b3c&mc_eid=047a560953

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    There is always going to be a tension between the local and the universal, and negotiating this tension, whether at the level of the local parish, the diocese, or even the national Church, is important and occasionally difficult. And it is worth noting that Pope Francis has called on the Church to stop looking at itself and to turn outwards to the world. I think this criticism is germane to all of us.

    I think this is tied to the question I asked in the original post and the final comment I quoted about a desire for the liturgy to be meaningful. It is very easy for a liturgy to be “meaningful” because it is about ME, and in one sense I don’t think that is automatically bad. If I cannot peer into the heart of the liturgy and see and hear our Savior calling “Come, follow me” in a personal way, then there will be no real meaning, just entertainment. Now if I find it entertaining enough, I may keep coming back, but a real tie will only come from something more. I think a good liturgy we be about me as I should be and not necessarily as I am, but it will also convince me that there is a path between the two: I can move towards my truer self, and it is the liturgy—in all of its multivalent facets—that brings me out of myself and moves me towards the real me. And this real me lives in and for God, so this moves me out any self-referential trap.

    Or, to quote Nickelback, the sign of a successful liturgy is that it leaves a person thinking, “This is how you remind me of what I really am.”

    • Jordan

      Certainly David I don’t need to tell you that the only person who knows “what I really am” is I AM incarnate, the second person of the Trinity. So, all humans are distorted by sin, whether original sin or sins committed after baptism. I think that liturgy answers another question, “has this worship made me more aware of my estrangement from God?” I would say that a Mass that makes me “feel happy”, a highly subjective metric, might not necessarily encounter the first existential question. I fear that often the two points are blurred, and that some priests will avoid existential preaching out of the perils of introspection.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        I don’t think you mean it like this, but your way of formulating this as “has this worship made me more aware of my estrangement from God?” seems a little too Jansenist for my tastes. If the liturgy reminds of us of our estrangement from God, it should only do it in the context of reminding us that God, nevertheless, wants us back. In other words, I might emerge from mass convicted of my own sinfulness and unworthiness, but in the Eucharist I am powerfully reminded that God loves me, and yes, that can and should make me happy.

      • Jordan

        David, your interpretation is the orthodox interpretation. It’s unfortunate that I have researched Jansenism quite a bit, and have absorbed Jansenius’ theology to a degree. I understand that Jansenism is a heresy, but somehow it has a powerful effect on me. In fact, Jansenius’ magnum opus Augustinus has never been translated into English. I have long wanted to translate his work, but I also know that by doing so I will destroy any orthodox faith in me. His work is definitely the low-lying, over-ripened apple ready to be plucked.

        Because of the influence of heretical theology, I don’t receive the Eucharist very much. This is probably why I mostly view Mass as penitential, and not with an eye towards the joy of the Cross and the infinite happiness of grace. It is an easier cop-out to not partake of Holy Communion and pretend that God is all-sovereign, distant from his children.

        • Mark

          Not sure the contrast here is as huge as you make it.

          Let’s remember that God’s beloved Son “became sin” and was crucified. THIS is what God does to/for those whom He loves.

          This is the mystery of the descent into hell, no? That the more God-estranged we are, the more God-like we actually are, because God in some sense IS self-alienation (I think Rowan Williams had a good quote on this).

          If God loves us, it isn’t in any straightforward way. The more He loves us, the more He is crucifying and (to use the Son’s own words) “foresaking” us.

          Our only comfort can be the lack of it.

        • dominic1955

          See, and I went the other way. I had taken a bit of a liking to some aspects of Jansenism, but I have pretty much whipped my scruples and now I just hold on to it in a sort of slapstick campy way.

          That said, I’d buy the Augustinus in English in a heartbeat! I’d plow through it while listening to my recordings of Neo-Gallican chant… 😉

  • Agellius

    Jordan:

    You write, “The great fallacy of traditionalism is that because the new Mass displays the aforementioned characteristics, then it is a traitor to the mores of the world.”

    I would not use the phrase “traitor to the mores of the world”. But I would say that in general practice, it has gone too far in the direction of accommodating and imitating the world, basically for the reasons that Mark spells out at length.

    I’m happy to live with the tension between the EF and the world. In fact I think such tension is a good thing.