Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Loneliness of Soul - Fr. Alban Goodier

I haven't posted any spiritual excerpts for a while... Here is a very beautiful chapter from a book called The School of Love by Fr. Alban Goodier, S.J. 

Every profession requires a special training; besides special powers and talents, besides special instruction, one may almost say it requires special virtues. The virtues most needful for a successful physician are not precisely those required for a successful lawyer; the one will have patience with the body of a man, the other will have patience with his ways. 

From both of these a soldier differs in almost every particular; perhaps he most of all needs patience with himself. The same is true of an apostle, of whatever kind he may be; he, too, must have his special qualifications. Priest or layman, religious or secular, man or woman, old or young, if God would make apostles of them, there is one school through which one and all must pass, one certificate they must all acquire; and when he is determined that they shall be apostles, he puts them through this school, whether they choose it or not.

And it is a school very different from that in which the world develops its ideal. When it has the making of a man in hand, above all when it would make him one who is to understand and have influence over others, its first and foremost object is to give him what it calls experience of men. He is sent out to see the world, to mix with his fellow-men, to learn the art of dealing with them, of enjoying their company, of bending their lives; and it almost foretells the extent of his future plane of action by the measure of the know ledge he has gained.

Not so are the ways of God. He has other means of giving an apostle power over other men; indeed, it is the very opposite. "The weak things of this world God hath chosen to confound the strong," said the greatest of apostles; and by "the weak things" he meant not only the weakest instruments, but the methods that men most ignored. 

And of all methods perhaps none is more ignored by man as a race, and by man as an individual, than the method of loneliness. To most men loneliness is a doom. It is imposed upon a criminal as the heaviest of punishments; carried to extremes we know it will drive him mad; nothing seems so to unman a man as the loneliness of a prison cell. Even for those who are not criminals, nothing so wrings pity from a human heart as the sight of another who is utterly alone. 

Loneliness to many is the very ghost of life, dogging their steps, haunting them at every turn, from which they are always trying to escape. It cannot be fought, it cannot be avoided, yet there is nothing many more dread for themselves, or see with more concern in others.

Yet it is this very thing which God has chosen to be the school of training for His own. He has shown it without possibility of mistake. Look down the line of the Old Testament, and you will find it written everywhere. At this distance of time and space it is not easy for us to distinguish the details; we see in history the broad effects of lives, we do not always read between the lines and detect the causes which those effects imply. But we have only to hold our gaze steady, to wait for the haze to lift, and this detail at least will grow upon us. Abraham - what was he but a model of loneliness? "In those days God said to Abraham: Leave thy country and thy father's house and come into a land which I shall show thee." Moses, the saviour of his people, must first be brought up in an alien's house, and must then be made perfect in a wilderness. David was a lonely man. No otherwise could he have known the depth of soul that cried out in his lament for the loss of Saul and Jonathan; no otherwise could he have learnt to endure and love on when friend and foe alike turned against him. 

And the prophets, the giants of the latter age, Amos and Osee, Isaias and Jeremias, Ezekiel and Daniel - what are they but gaunt lonely figures, standing out upon the distant sky-line, with the red light of a setting sun behind them? Last of all comes the Baptist, the man of all men lonely, bestriding the gulf that separates two worlds, who because of his momentous mission must needs be alone from his childhood.

If in the days of God's manifest guidance this is true, no less is it true in the days of hidden grace. Our Lord Himself was alone; in the wilderness of humanity He lived, so long a time, and men did not know Him. He was in the world, and the world knew Him not; He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. His fellow-Nazarenes claimed to know Him, and did not. His enemies knew Him and refused to own it. His friends - at one point in His life "many went back and walked no more with Him"; at another "all fled away"; at the very end He had to say: "How long a time have I been with you, and you have not known me!" He was born deserted, He lived alone, He died a lonely criminal's death; and if we want a proof that He felt it, we have it, first, in His frequent cries of pain, and second, in the eager way He grasped at and rewarded every mark of companionship offered Him.

As with the Master so it was with the disciple. St. Paul's aloneness begins with his conversion; when he rose from his bed and his blindness God took him "into a silent place apart," to the desert of Arabia, and there He "spoke to his soul." And since his time, what has been the tale of every saint's life but one of a lonely heart, separated and hedged around, "a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up," above all of such saints as were called to do a great life's work in the midst of men? 

We think of Cistercians and Carthusians, of Carmelites and Poor Clares, and fancy their lives are buried all alone in their cloisters; those who know have not very far to seek to find lonelier lives than theirs. Francis Xavier, to take but a single instance - how far more alone he stands, in the welter of human life in the midst of which he lived, than does St. Bruno himself on his lonely mountain-side!

So does God deal with His own, above all with those of His own whom He has chosen to use for others. And the reason is not hard to discover. There are three schools of suffering, each with its own special blessing to bestow - physical, mental, and that inner school which lies behind them both, loneliness of soul. Physical suffering makes for tenderness of heart and a patient judgment. Mental suffering gives a deepened sympathy, an active influence which when "lifted up draws all things to itself."

But loneliness of soul does more than this; it gives independence and strength. Even in the natural plane it secures liberty of spirit, it develops clearness of judgment, it enforces power of will. But this is by no means all. In the Old Testament Wisdom is heard to say: "Come with me into a silent place apart, and I will speak to thy soul;" and no one who has heard the calling of the Holy Spirit can misunderstand what this means - the deafness to His voice that may be caused by the din of men, and the clear ring that is given to His words when they come to us across the desert through the night. Loneliness of soul gives wisdom - that breadth of vision that belongs to him who sees all the valley from the hill-top. Loneliness of soul gives understanding - that further power of seeing beneath the surfaces of life. Loneliness of soul gives counsel to sustain another, and fortitude to "endure its own burthen; all the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost come through and are fostered by loneliness of soul.

These are some of the fruits of this special school of suffering. None the less, let it not be forgotten that a school of suffering it is. We are not speaking here of the loneliness which is a joy and a comfort, in which, as the popular phrase goes, one is "never less alone than when alone"; we are speaking of that sense of desertion, of alienation from one's kindred, of being somehow out of joint with all the world, of separation from God Himself, which human nature can scarcely endure; which even our Lord Himself considered to justify a cry for relief. 

Physical suffering He foresaw for His disciples, but He merely bade them rejoice at the prospect. Mental suffering He also promised them; this, again, they were to take as a sign that His blessing was upon them. But loneliness of soul He treats quite differently. Its agony He fully recognises; He is not afraid to let them see its effect upon Himself. In the Garden, on the Cross, His cries had almost scandalised posterity. And as for His whole life - an angel lost and brokenwinged in this poor world would be a pitiable, lonely thing; what then must have been the loneliness of the exiled Son of God?

Then, having "given us an example," having justified, as it were, our complainings by His own, He proceeds to soothe the bitterness for those who must needs undergo it. "My little children," He calls them, on the eve of the great Day of Loneliness. "Let not your heart be troubled," He says, "nor let it be afraid....It is expedient for you that I go, for if I go not the Spirit will not come to you;" and He bribes them to go through with it because of all that is to follow. Last of all, He assures them that it will not be all desertion: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. Now indeed you have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you." Then, as if to support Himself by the same argument by which He supports them, He concludes: "Behold the hour cometh, and it is now come, that you shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me."

Nowhere has Christ our Lord come nearer to us than in His loneliness and ours. Now here has He shown Himself more human. Nowhere has He more condoned the cry of pain, the appeal for some relief; nowhere has He done more, by example and by promise, to nerve us to endurance. And the truth of His promise who that has tried does not know? St. Paul speaks for such as these, and they echo his words which have for them a meaning all their own: "I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Propers for Low Sunday

INTROIT I Peter 2:2
Crave, as newborn babes, alleluia! pure spiritual milk, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 80:2. Sing joyfully to God, our helper; sing aloud to God of Jacob.
V. Glory be . . .

O Almighty God, let our conduct and our lives always be guided by the Easter feast we have just celebrated. Through Our Lord . . .

EPISTLE I John 5:4-10.
Beloved: For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory which overcameth the world: Our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth that Christ is the truth. And there are Three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth in the Son of God hath the testimony of God in himself.

Alleluia, alleluia!
V. Matt. 28:7. "On the day of My resurrection," said the Lord, "I will go before you into Galilee." Alleluia!
V. John 20:26. After eight days, the doors being closed, Jesus stood in the midst of His disciples, and said, "Peace be to you." Alleluia!

GOSPEL John 20:19-31.
At that time, when it was late the same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them: "Peace be to you." And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: "Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
And after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said: "Peace be to you." Then he said to Thomas: "Put in thy finger hither and see my hands. And bring hither the hand and put it into my side. And be not faithless, but believing." Thomas answered and said to him: "My Lord and my God."
Jesus saith to him: "Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed."
Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.
But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

An Angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and said to the women, "He whom you seek has risen, as He said." Alleluia!

Accept the gifts of Your joyous Church, O Lord. You have given her such cause for joy; grant that she may attain that unending happiness. Through Our Lord . . .

Put in your hand, and feel the place of the nails, alleluia! and be not unbelieving, but believing, alleluia, alleluia!

O Lord our God, may we be healed now and forever by these sacred rites which You instituted to protect us in our new life of grace. Through Our Lord . . .

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Lent is Over

Lent is over. Christ is risen (Alleluia!). What do we do now? Easter is certainly a time for joy and feasting and merrymaking. We are no longer necessarily bound to the sadness and austerity of Lent. For Christ has risen, He is victor! We now celebrate that the mystery of our redemption has been accomplished, that Christ by His death and resurrection has merited for us the graces to escape from the bonds of sin and enter into the glory of Heaven; and this is obviously a cause for real joy. 

But the liturgical seasons are more than mere commemorations or aids in the remembrance of the mysteries of our faith. Lent, as with all the liturgy, must bear real fruit in our actual spiritual lives. I have stressed a bit lately, in my traditionalist discussions, that the liturgy is more than just a teaching aid: it is a source of real spiritual nourishment for the soul. This nourishment meets the needs of the soul in various ways. The various liturgical mysteries pertain to different aspects of every man's spiritual life. The mystery of Lent, although it is practiced with more severity and focus only at a certain period of the year, has nonetheless a constant significance and application to the spiritual life of man. Lent is a reminder of man's sinfulness, and his consequent need for penance, mortification, and ultimately a completely abandonment of self to God. This abandonment to God is not meant to practiced only for forty days out of each year. It is something that must be practiced at every single moment of every single day in the life of every single man, if he is to attain the perfection of holiness. 

So while the season of Lent is now over, and we have entered into a time of rejoicing, nonetheless the most essential mysteries of Lent are no less relevant. While we rejoice now in commemoration of these mysteries, we must still ever remember that, in the bigger picture, we are still sinners who rely completely on the saving grace of God. The mysteries of Lent, and so much more that we are taught by the liturgy, are not just something to be commemorated in the way that past events are remembered or fantastical speculative theories are learned. They have a real and concrete significance for our lives in the here and now, at every moment. With every word we utter, action we perform, thought we conceive, we are engaging with these mysteries at the concrete level. Are we doing so as well as the liturgy teaches us that we ought to do?

Propers for Easter Sunday

INTROIT (Ps. 138:18, 5-6)
I arose, and am still with you, alleluia! You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia! your knowledge has proven wonderful, alleluia, alleluia!
Ps. 138:1-2. O Lord, You have proved me and You know me; You know when I sit and when I stand.
V. Glory be . . .

On this day, O God, You overcame death through Your only-begotten Son, and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. Help us continually to carry out by our actins the desires that You put into our hearts. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .

EPISTLE (I Cor. 5:7-8)
Brethren: Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed. Therefore, let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness: but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

GRADUAL (Ps. 117:24, 1)
This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.
V. Praise the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.

Alleluia, alleluia! V. (I Cor. 5:7)
For Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed.

May you praise the Paschal Victim,
immolated for Christians.
The Lamb redeemed the sheep:
Christ, the innocent one,
has reconciled sinners to the Father.

A wonderful duel to behold,
as death and life struggle:
The Prince of life dead,
now reigns alive.
Tell us, Mary Magdalen,
what did you see in the way?

"I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ,
and I saw the glory of the Resurrected one:
The Angelic witnesses,
the winding cloth, and His garments.
The risen Christ is my hope:
He will go before His own into Galilee."
We know Christ to have risen
truly from the dead:
And thou, victorious King,
have mercy on us.
Amen. Alleluia.

GOSPEL (Mark 16:1-7)
At that time, Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen. And they said one to another: "Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" And looking, they saw the stone rolled back. For it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed with a white robe: and they were astonished. Who saith to them: "Be not affrighted. you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen: he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. There you shall see him, as he told you."

The earth was fearful and silent when God arose in judgment, alleluia!

Accept, O Lord, the prayers and sacrifice of Your people. May the beginning of this Easter celebration, through Your help, heal us for all eternity. Through Our Lord . . .

Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed, alleluia! Therefore let us keep festival with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

O Lord, fill us with the spirit of Your love, so that by receiving this Easter Sacrament our hearts may be united in You. Through Our Lord . . .

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Dom Gueranger - The Mystery of Passiontide and Holy Week

From The Liturgical Year.

The holy liturgy is rich in mystery during these days of the Church’s celebrating the anniversaries of so many wonderful events; but as the principal part of these mysteries is embodied in the rites and ceremonies of the respective days, we shall give our explanations according as the occasion presents itself. Our object in the present chapter, is to say a few words respecting the general character of the mysteries of these two weeks.

We have nothing to add to the explanation, already given in our Lent, on the mystery of forty. The holy season of expiation continues its course until the fast of sinful man has imitated, in its duration, that observed by the Man-God in the desert. The army of Christ’s faithful children is still fighting against the invisible enemies of man’s salvation; they are still vested in their spiritual armour, and, aided by the angels of light, they are struggling hand to hand with the spirits of darkness, by compunction of heart and by mortification of the flesh.

As we have already observed, there are three objects which principally engage the thoughts of the Church during Lent. The Passion of our Redeemer, which we have felt to be coming nearer to us each week; the preparation of the catechumens for Baptism, which is to be administered to them on Easter eve; the reconciliation of the public penitents, who are to be readmitted into the Church on the Thursday, the day of the Last Supper. Each of these three object engages more and more the attention of the Church, the nearer she approaches the time of their celebration.

The miracle performed by our Saviour almost at the very gates of Jerusalem, by which He restored Lazarus to life, has roused the fury of His enemies to the highest pitch of phrensy. The people’s enthusiasm has been excited by seeing him, who had been four days in the grave, walking in the streets of their city. They ask each other if the Messias, when He comes, can work greater wonders than these done by Jesus, and whether they ought not at once to receive this Jesus as the Messias, and sing their Hosanna to Him, for He is the Son of David. They cannot contain their feelings: Jesus enters Jerusalem, and they welcome Him as their King. The high priests and princes of the people are alarmed at this demonstration of feeling; they have no time to lose; they are resolved to destroy Jesus. We are going to assist at their impious conspiracy: the Blood of the just Man is to be sold, and the price put on it is thirty silver pieces. The divine Victim, betrayed by one of His disciples, is to be judged, condemned, and crucified. Every circumstance of this awful tragedy is to be put before us by the liturgy, not merely in words, but with all the expressiveness of a sublime ceremonial.

The catechumens have but a few more days to wait for the fount that is to give them life. Each day their instruction becomes fuller; the figures of the old Law are being explained to them; and very little now remains for them to learn with regard to the mysteries of salvation. The Symbol of faith is soon to be delivered to them. Initiated into the glories and the humiliations of the Redeemer, they will await with the faithful the moment of His glorious Resurrection; and we shall accompany them with our prayers and hymns at that solemn hour, when, leaving the defilements of sin in the life-giving waters of the font, they shall come forth pure and radiant with innocence, be enriched with the gifts of the holy Spirit, and be fed with the divine flesh of the Lamb that liveth for ever.

The reconciliation of the penitents, too, is close at hand. Clothed in sackcloth and ashes, they are continuing their work of expiation. The Church has still several passages from the sacred Scriptures to read to them, which, like those we have already heard during the last few weeks, will breathe consolation and refreshment to their souls. The near approach of the day when the Lamb is to be slain increases their hope, for they know that the Blood of this Lamb is of infinite worth, and can take away the sins of the whole world. Before the day of Jesus’ Resurrection, they will have recovered their lost innocence; their pardon will come in time to enable them, like the penitent prodigal, to join in the great Banquet of that Thursday, when Jesus will say to His guests: ‘With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer.’ [St. Luke xxii. 15.]

Such are the sublime subjects which are about to be brought before us: but, at the same time, we shall see our holy mother the Church mourning, like a disconsolate widow, and sad beyond all human grief. Hitherto she has been weeping over the sins of her children; now she bewails the death of her divine Spouse. The joyous Alleluia has long since been hushed in her canticles; she is now going to suppress another expression, which seems too glad for a time like the present. Partially, at first [Unless it be the feast of a saint, as frequently happens during the first of these two weeks. The same exception is to be made in what follows.], but entirely during the last three days, she is about to deny herself the use of that formula, which is so dear to her: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. There is an accent of jubilation in these words, which would ill suit her grief and the mournfulness of the rest of her chants.

Her lessons, for the night Office, are taken from Jeremias, the prophet of lamentation above all others. The colour of her vestments is the one she had on when she assembled us at the commencement of Lent to sprinkle us with ashes; but when the dreaded day of Good Friday comes, purple would not sufficiently express the depth of her grief; she will clothe herself in black, as men do when mourning the death of a fellow-mortal; for Jesus, her Spouse, is to be put to death on that day: the sins of mankind and the rigours of the divine justice are then to weigh him down, and in all the realities of a last agony, He is to yield up His Soul to His Father.

The presentiment of that awful hour leads the afflicted mother to veil the image of her Jesus: the cross is hidden from the eyes of the faithful. The statues of the saints, too, are covered; for it is but just that, if the glory of the Master be eclipsed, the servant should not appear. The interpreters of the liturgy tell us that this ceremony of veiling the crucifix during Passiontide, expresses the humiliation to which our Saviour subjected Himself, of hiding Himself when the Jews threatened to stone Him, as is related in the Gospel of Passion Sunday. The Church begins this solemn rite with the Vespers of the Saturday before Passion Sunday. Thus it is that, in those years when the feast of our Lady’s Annunciation falls in Passion-week, the statue of Mary, the Mother of God, remains veiled, even on that very day when the Archangel greets her as being full of grace, and blessed among women.

Propers for Palm Sunday

INTROIT (Ps. 21:20, 22)
O Lord, be not far from me with Your aid; hasten to assist me. Save me from the lion's mouth, and preserve my wretched life from the horns of the unicorns.
Ps. 21:2. O God, my God, look upon me. Why have You forsaken me? far from help are the needs of my sins. O Lord, be not far from me . . .

Almighty and Eternal God, it was Your will that our Saviour should become man and suffer upon the cross as a model on humility for all mankind. Grant that we may follow the example of His patience and share in His resurrection. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord . . .

EPISTLE (Philipp. 2:5-11)
Brethren, For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause, God also hath exalted him and hath given him a name which is above all names: (here genuflect) That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

GRADUAL (Ps. 72:24, 1-3)
You have held me by my right hand and guided me with Your counsel, and in the end You will receive me in glory.
How good is God to Israel, to those whose heart is upright. But I had almost stumbled, my footing was almost gone, because I was envious of sinners, seeing their prosperity.

TRACT (Ps. 21:209; 18, 19, 22, 24, 32)
O God, my God, look upon me! Why have You forsaken me? V. Far from help are the needs of my sins. V. O my God, I cry out by day, and You do not answer; I cry by night, and You do not heed my ignorance. V. Yet You are enthroned in the holy place, the glory of Israel. V. In You our fathers trusted; they had faith and You delivered them. V. They cried to You, and they were saved; they trusted in You and they were not put to shame. V. But I am a worm, and not a man; the scorn of men, the outcast of the people. V. All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with their lips and wag their heads. V. "He hoped in the Lord; let the Lord deliver him, let him rescue him, if he loves him." V. They have looked and stared at me; they have divided my garments among them and for my vesture they have cast lots. V. Save me from the lion's mouth, and preserve my wretched life from the horns of the unicorns. V. You who fear the Lord praise him; all you descendants of Jacob glorify him. V. The coming generation shall be told of the Lord, and the heavens shall declare his righteousness. V. To a people yet unborn, creatures too of the Lord.

At that time, Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani. And he said to his disciples: "Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then he saith to them: "My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch with me." And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying and saying: "My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt."
And he cometh to his disciples and findeth them asleep. And he saith to Peter: "What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: "My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done." And he cometh again and findeth them sleeping: for their eyes were heavy. And leaving them, he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word. Then he cometh to his disciples and said to them: "Sleep ye now and take your rest. Behold the hour is at hand: and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise: let us go. Behold he is at hand that will betray me."
As he yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the ancients of the people. And he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying: "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he. Hold him fast." And forthwith coming to Jesus, he said: "Hail, Rabbi." And he kissed him. And Jesus said to him: "Friend, whereto art thou come?" Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and held him. And behold one of them that were with Jesus, stretching forth his hand, drew out his sword: and striking the servant of the high priest, cut off his ear. Then Jesus saith to him: "Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?"
In that same hour, Jesus said to the multitudes: "You are come out, as it were to a robber, with swords and clubs to apprehend me. I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple: and you laid not hands on me." Now all this was done that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then the disciples, all leaving him, fled. But they holding Jesus led him to Caiphas the high priest, where the scribes and the ancients were assembled.
And Peter followed him afar off, even to the court of the high priest, And going in, he sat with the servants, that he might see the end. And the chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death. And they found not, whereas many false witnesses had come in. And last of all there came two false witnesses: And they said: "This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and after three days to rebuild it." And the high priest rising up, said to him: "Answerest thou nothing to the things which these witness against thee?" But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest said to him: "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us if thou be the Christ the Son of God." Jesus saith to him: "Thou hast said it. Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming in the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest rent his garments, saying: "He hath blasphemed: What further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy. What think you?" But they answering, said: "He is guilty of death.
Then did they spit in his face and buffeted him. And others struck his face with the palms of their hands, Saying: "Prophesy unto us, O Christ. Who is he that struck thee?" But Peter sat without in the court. And there came to him a servant maid, saying: "Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied before them all, saying: "I know not what thou sayest." And as he went out of the gate, another maid saw him; and she saith to them that were there: "This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied with an oath: "I know not the man." And after a little while, they came that stood by and said to Peter: "Surely thou also art one of them. For even thy speech doth discover thee." Then he began to curse and to swear that he knew not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which he had said: Before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice. And going forth, he wept bitterly.
And when morning was come, all the chief priests and ancients of the people took counsel against Jesus, that they might put him to death. And they brought him bound and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, Saying: "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." But they said: "What is that to us? Look thou to it." And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed and went and hanged himself with an halter.
But the chief priests having taken the pieces of silver, said: "It is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood." And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter's field, to be a burying place for strangers. For this cause that field was called Haceldama, that is, the field of blood, even to this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was prized, whom they prized of the children of Israel. And they gave them unto the potter's field, as the Lord appointed to me.
And Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, saying: "Art thou the king of the Jews?" Jesus saith to him: "Thou sayest it." And when he was accused by the chief priests and ancients, he answered nothing. Then Pilate saith to him: "Dost not thou hear how great testimonies they allege against thee?" And he answered him to never a word, so that the governor wondered exceedingly.
Now upon the solemn day the governor was accustomed to release to the people one prisoner, whom they would. And he had then a notorious prisoner that was called Barabbas. They therefore being gathered together, Pilate said: "Whom will you that I release to You: Barabbas, or Jesus that is called Christ?" For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. And as he was sitting in the place of judgment, his wife sent to him, saying: "Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him." But the chief priests and ancients persuaded the people that they should ask Barabbas and make Jesus away.
And the governor answering, said to them: "Whether will you of the two to be released unto you?" But they said: "Barabbas." Pilate saith to them: "What shall I do then with Jesus that is called Christ?" They say all: "Let him be crucified." The governor said to them: "Why, what evil hath he done?" But they cried out the more, saying: "Let him be crucified."
And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: "I am innocent of the blood of this just man. Look you to it." And the whole people answering, said: "His blood be upon us and upon our children."
Then he released to them Barabbas: and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor, taking Jesus into the hall, gathered together unto him the whole band. And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: "Hail, King of the Jews." And spitting upon him, they took the reed and struck his head. And after they had mocked him, they took off the cloak from him and put on him his own garments and led him away to crucify him.
And going out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon: him they forced to take up his cross.
And they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary. And they gave him wine to drink mingled with gall. And when he had tasted, he would not drink. And after they had crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: They divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. And they sat and watched him. And they put over his head his cause written: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Then were crucified with him two thieves: one on the right hand and one on the left. And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, And saying: "Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross." In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking said: "He saved others: himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross: and we will believe him. He trusted in God: let him now deliver him if he will have him. For he said: I am the Son of God." And the selfsame thing the thieves also that were crucified with him reproached him with.
Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: "Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?" That is, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And some that stood there and heard said: "This man calleth Elias." And immediately one of them running took a sponge and filled it with vinegar and put it on a reed and gave him to drink. And the others said: "Let be. Let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him." And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom: and the earth quaked and the rocks were rent. And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city and appeared to many.
Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: "Indeed this was the Son of God."

My heart hath expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none. And they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Grant that the gifts we offer to Your majesty, O Almighty God, may obtain for us the grace of sincere devotion and the reward of a blessed eternity. Through Our Lord . . .

Father, if this chalice cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done.

O Lord, may this sacred rite wash away our sins and fulfill our reasonable desires. Through our Lord . . .

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Liturgy and Legislation

Pope St. Pius V

Before the 16th century, there was little notion of ecclesiastical legislation or codification in the realm of liturgy. The liturgy developed almost independently of legislation, by a natural, organic, and almost unconscious process. Certainly, the Popes contributed to its development, but so did many other Christians. It was the piety of the universal Church down through the ages, and not any legislative motive at a given moment, which moved the Christians of old to contribute to the formation of the liturgy. As a human artifact, the liturgy was not the work of lawgivers, but of saints: it was the pious faithful, both clerics and laity, who built up the liturgy – not simply according to their own individual notions, but in the spirit of the traditions of prayer which they had received at the hands of divine Providence. It was this Providence, and not the will of men, which was looked upon as the single source of the means of holiness. 

Then, in the years just preceding the Council of Trent, a kind of liturgical anarchy began to arise within the Church, along with the revolution of the Protestants. More drastic measures were needed, above and beyond the normal, natural progression of tradition which had taken place before. The Council called for a reform of the Missal and the Breviary, which was carried out by Pope St. Pius V. The two bulls Quo Primum and Quod a Nobis, addressing the Missal and the Breviary respectively, were the resultant legislation promulgating the uniform use of the Tridentine books. The reform which had taken place sought to restore the liturgical books according to the sound tradition of the fathers, and a comparison of the Tridentine liturgical books with their predecessors reveals a very substantial continuity. This is not to say that this reform was perfect – probably it was not – but it succeeded in preserving the essential tradition of the Roman rite.

This was the first time in history that such an explicit and high ranking use of ecclesiastical authority had ever been applied in the realm of the liturgy. And yet the content of the liturgy remained essentially the same as it had ever been. This was, on the whole, a prudent exercise of Papal authority, on the part of Pius V. He rightly saw his authority as subject to the tradition of his ancestors. In regards to the content of the reform, it amounted to a further organic contribution to the liturgy, but with the additional note of formal legislative force. This more explicit codification was a practical means of purging the Church of the rampant liturgical abuse which existed in that period, and so preserving the tradition which had been threatened.

But unfortunately, a probably unintended side-effect of this legislation was that the liturgy came to be seen as no longer an object of tradition and organic development, but of legislation. By the time of the 20th century, it became the popular notion that the Pope was in fact the sole arbiter of the liturgy; tradition had little to do with it. While, on the one hand, the errors of liberalism arose and a habitual disdain for authority began to set in, on the other hand, faithful conservative Catholics became enamored with an equally strange ultramontanism, according to which the Pope might as well be infallible in his every word and decision. This latter was a reaction against liberalism. Ironically, both of these extremes – the liberal anti-authoritarianism and the radical ultramontanism – converged with each other in subjecting religion to the whims of an individual. In the case of liberalism, religion was made subject to any and every individual person – hence the errors of religious indifferentism and so forth. But ultramontanism practically subjected religion to the person of the Pope. The Pope became the object of a kind of cult. This being so, the ultramontanists took the prudential decision of Pope Pius V in the Tridentine liturgical reform and transformed it into the absolute principle that the Pope is the arbiter of liturgy. While I admit the possibility that Pius V might have given too exaggerated an impression of the role of his authority in the liturgy, I do think it can be gathered from his legislation that he viewed himself not as the arbiter of the liturgy, but as its guardian. Even if the centralization which occurred with his legislation was extreme, it nonetheless respected the role of the Papacy as the protector and not the maker of the liturgy. But the ultramontanists reinterpreted it to mean precisely this latter. Thus the path was cleared for a radical liturgical upheaval.

Pope St. Pius X
Pope Pius X made the first move. While most laudably the hammer of the modernists – in which respect I think Pius X’s teaching is of the utmost importance for today’s Church – Papa Sarto was also something of an ultramontanist. Little did he seem to realize that his own ultramontanism was a species of the very modernism which he rightly condemned: for it subjected a most important element of the Catholic religion to the whims of an individual. The reform of the breviary in 1911 was dramatic, ridding the Office of an ancient tradition in the arrangement of the Psalter, which had deep roots in the venerable spirituality of the Roman Church. It has been said that in some parts, this tradition was equal in venerability to that of the Roman Canon in the mass. The tradition of the breviary was thus damaged – though not quite destroyed – and something new put in place. Certainly we should not doubt the good intentions of Pius X, who was otherwise a holy and orthodox Pontiff. But history alone shows that he departed from the tradition of his ancestors, in his exaggerated use of his own authority.

Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII was the next Pope to introduce drastic reforms into the liturgy. While Pius XII followed in the footsteps of Pius X in some of his theological opinions, having condemned the offspring of modernism which took the form of the "New Theology," in other respects he does seem to have been something of a progressive, and this shows through in his liturgical decisions. In his encyclical Mediator Dei (which definitely has its good points) he emphasized the role of the Papacy in the liturgy with only vague and week reliance on the concept of tradition. The 1955 reform of the rites of Holy Week damaged an ancient and venerable tradition in the Roman rite. Strangely enough, the principles according to which Pius XII’s liturgical commission operated were strikingly similar to those which would later influence the reform of Pope Paul VI. This is not surprising, considering that many of the same persons on the commission of Pius XII were also prominent members of the Consilium which constructed Paul VI’s liturgy.

Pope Paul VI
Paul VI’s reform surpassed those of his predecessors, in both the Missal and the Breviary. A huge tradition of about 1500 years was practically destroyed. All of the most essential and ancient elements which previously defined the Roman missal were heavily affected, having been eliminated, suppressed, or radically altered. The culminating effect was such a radical change that it is quite ridiculous to identify the content of the Novus Ordo with that of the liturgy which preceded it. The Liturgia Horarum of Paul VI was no less a drastic alteration (Laszlo Dobszay thinks it was an even greater change than that of the missal). While Pius X’s reform of the breviary merely damaged the tradition, preserving some its more basic principles, that tradition can hardly be said to exist at all in the new Liturgy of the Hours.

Again, we should not doubt the good intentions of these Popes. But the fact is that all of these reforms were in large part the result of an over-exaggerated importance which was attributed to the role of Papal authority in the development of the liturgy. The Church’s officially defined doctrine on the Papacy nowhere implies such an absolute and arbitrary power to the Pope in liturgical matters, nor does history before the 20th century offer any real instances of such extremism. The post-Tridentine reform of Pope Pius V was falsely interpreted to have introduced a new working principle into the Church, whereas in reality it was practical measure intended to unite the liturgical practices of the Roman Church so as to suppress rampant liturgical abuse and preserve the tradition. The legislative decrees of Pius V were rightly exercised for the service of tradition. And so tradition, as was always the case, was the rule or standard of liturgical development. What reason could there have been for this to change so suddenly by the time of the 20th century?

It is no use to object that Vatican I in Pastor Aeternus gave the Pope the authority not merely of a guide or supervisor but of a supreme enforcer and a ruler. While this is certainly true, these terms are used in Pastor Aeternus with respect to us the faithful, and not with respect to the content of that which is enforced. It is analogous to the Pope’s authority in matters of dogma, which is certainly his very highest authority: the Pope does not invent or arbitrate dogma; rather, it exists prior to his authority. His role is merely to receive dogma and authoritatively command the assent of all Christians to it, thereby guarding and overseeing its preservation. Indeed, in this respect he is not merely a guide for Christians, but an enforcer with the highest authority, who must be obeyed; and yet he has no power to be anything but passive with respect to dogma itself. Similarly, it is not impossible that he should also have a supreme authority in matters pertaining to liturgical discipline, and yet have the duty first to receive, and not to arbitrate, the liturgy.

Papal authority is not a law unto itself. In principle, it cannot be. It exists not for its own sake, but for the sake of the tradition of faith – whether as exemplified in dogmatic propositions or in liturgical prayer. Papal authority in itself is not higher or superior to either of these things. Its purpose is first to preserve them and secondly to enhance them, but never to invent them. I quote the words of Cardinal Ratzinger:
The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law; rather, he is the guardian of the authentic Tradition and, thereby, the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and he is thereby able to oppose those people who, for their part, want to do whatever comes into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The "rite", that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living Tradition in which the sphere using that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit that is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis, the handing-on of Tradition (Preface to Alcuin Reid's The Organic Development of the Liturgy).

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Marcel Lefebvre,
Founder of the SSPX
I have rarely - just in a couple posts - written about the Society of St. Pius X on this blog. Mostly this is because, for all my sympathies with that Society, discussions in that vein often tend to be driven more by politics and emotion than theology, and I have never been particularly interested in politics, ecclesiastical or otherwise. This has become ever more true in recent months. While I have often come to the defense of the SSPX in debates and discussions with other people, and will probably continue to do so, my true interests lie in studying and defending the actual liturgical, theological, and spiritual tradition of the Church itself.

That having been said, I thought I'd give a general summary of my stance regarding the SSPX, just for the record.

(Note: by "SSPX" I mean the order of priests, and not the laity who attend their masses. No layman is strictly speaking a member of the SSPX: they are simply Catholics. What follows applies to the Society itself, which is a fraternity of priests and brothers. Often the laity who attach themselves to the Society hold opinions which are not representative of the Society's actual positions.)

First, the SSPX is not schismatic. Nor do I think their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, was a schismatic. Rather, they are disobedient. There is a quite significant difference between disobedience and schism, as understood by the Catholic theological and canonical tradition. The current Code defines schism as "the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (751). This definition is copied almost word for word from that given by St. Thomas Aquinas: “Schismatics are those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy” (II.II. Q.39, A.1). For St. Thomas, schism is essentially that sin which is opposed to Catholic unity, and he quotes St. Augustine saying that a “schismatic is one who…takes pleasure in the mere disunion of the community.” Unity, says St. Thomas, consists in mutual communion with the Catholic faithful and subordination to Papal authority. The word “schism” in fact originally means a “rip” or “tear,” indicating a kind of separation or break of unity. Hence, Thomas writes that “schismatics properly so called are those who willfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church.” Now St. Thomas does not extend his concept of refusal of submission to include mere disobedience; for otherwise, as one of the objections claims, every sin would be an act of schism, since every sin is an act of disobedience against the Church. Thus, for St. Thomas, since schism is essentially opposed to Catholic unity, it must consist only in a sin in which one willfully and intentionally wishes to separate oneself from that unity. But not every act of disobedience is of such a nature; therefore, disobedience alone is not enough to constitute schism. Schism consists rather in a rebellious disobedience. "Rebellious," as used by St. Thomas, must not be understood in the loose sense in which it is commonly used. Often, the tendency is to call any act of disobedience an act of rebellion, which is clearly not how St. Thomas understands it, since he distinguishes the two. Rebellion, most properly understood, consists in the rejection of a higher authority as such, a "blanket" refusal to be subject to its jurisdiction, and a substitution of some other authority in its place, usually one's own. This is where the line is crossed. This is the sin which severs Christian unity.

The SSPX do not fit this definition, for they have always admitted the authority of the post-conciliar popes, while still maintaining some strong disagreements with certain recent papal statements and directives which appear contrary to tradition. They dissent, and they disobey, and they are sometimes intemperate in their rhetoric, but they do not deny that the recent popes have jurisdiction over them, and they have not set themselves up as an "alternate Church" with an "alternate pope." That would indeed be schismatic. (Think King Henry VIII, who was a schismatic before he was a heretic.) They are still within the fold, cooperating with everything they can in good conscience (registration of new priests, laicization of fallen priests, communication in the transfer of priests, enforcing internal discipline as requested by Rome, etc.), praying for the Pope and the local ordinary, requesting permission to use diocesan churches and facilities, and desiring open canonical recognition.

So is their disobedience justified? This is a hard question. I am inclined to concede the possibility that they lack prudence in their disobedience, but I think they are probably free of culpability in the long run. Somebody needs to take a vocal stand, in witness to tradition, and in combatting the errors against tradition which have been spread in these times even by members of the hierarchy. Saints in the past have always stood up against error. It cannot be a Catholic principle that this is only legitimate until those errors are finally approved by the authorities in the Church, particularly the Pope. Even the Pope does not get to decide what is true or false. His authority is at the service of truth. The primary rule for determining the truth throughout the history of the Church has not been authority by itself, but authority in the service of tradition. The Church and her magisterium do not consist merely in the authority of whoever happens to be in charge at any given moment. The magisterium must be seen as a continuous entity, and so its most authentic authority must be found in its inner continuity. This principle was expressed with great clarity by the father of the Church, St. Vincent of Lerins, who wrote that when one part of the Church deviates from tradition, then it is to tradition which Christians must adhere. Tradition is a criterion for knowing what is true doctrine in the Church. The SSPX act according to this principle. They operate on the basis of the continuous magisterium, which is exemplified in tradition. When a part of the magisterium falls outside of this continuity, the reasonable thing to do, and they do it, is to adhere to the continuity of tradition. Their "disobedience" then turns out to be obedience in the long run. It is an obedience to the authority of the Church as it most properly exists, that is throughout the entire continuous history of the Church, and not solely in the here and now.

That said, I will admit the possibility that the SSPX have often appeared to be too accustomed to the abnormal situation in the Church which sometimes calls for a combative attitude. While there is a need for combat and the taking up of arms in defense of tradition, combat with the ecclesiastical hierarchy should not become a habitual attitude. Thankfully they have been shaping up in this regard too (they recently published a quite good article on this very subject). I do suspect that whatever bad habits they may have picked up are not intentional, for they do recognize in principle that this is an abnormal situation.

On the issue of the episcopal consecrations of 1988, again I think that Lefebvre is free from culpability. The Archbishop was a sick and dying man at that time, and Rome repeatedly ignored his constant pleas to have a bishop for his society. He became desperate. He wanted anything but to disobey the law of the Church, which he knew well, but he saw no other means of continuing the work which he rightly viewed as necessary for the preservation of Catholic tradition. There was a real state of necessity in the Church. It was anything but a schismatic action, as it normally would have been. Lefebvre forbade his bishops from exercising jurisdiction; their only purpose was for the sacraments. There was no intention to set up an "alternate Church." There was no rebellion - even if there was disobedience. All these facts give me reason to suspect that, at the very least, the Archbishop was inculpable for this action, if not positively justified. 

A common objection to the Society’s and Lefebvre’s dissent is that the First Vatican Council defined the authority of the pope to extend not only to faith and morals but also to discipline and Church governance. This is true, but it is also true that Vatican I defined the infallibility of the pope to extend only to faith and morals, and not to discipline and governance per se (the scholastic idea of disciplinary infallibility applies only insofar as discipline contains doctrinal content). Precisely because the pope is not infallible in discipline and Church governance, he can make mistakes in such matters. Therefore it can never be a principle that every single command of the pope in such matters merits obedience unconditionally; his mistakes cannot always merit such absolute submission. The teaching of Vatican I is simply that the pope has authority in such matters, and therefore that obedience is owed to that authority, generally speaking. In a way this corresponds to the distinction between schism and disobedience: schism is a species of disobedience, being the sin against the general duty of obedience which Catholics owe the pope; and it is this duty which is taught by Vatican I. But there is also that disobedience which is only a violation of particular laws or commands. Such particular laws can indeed sometimes be wrong; and therefore disobedience to them can sometimes be justified. The assertion of this is in no way contrary to the teaching of Vatican I.

Regarding the subject of the Second Vatican Council, the above mentioned principles again apply: where there is something out of harmony with the greater continuous tradition of the Church, then it cannot be said to bind in conscience. The SSPX believe that, due to the influence of Modernism, there is a rupture in the conciliar documents with the longstanding tradition of the Church, particularly in subjects such as ecumenism and religious liberty. In my opinion, this is very possible. Even if the SSPX might be mistaken to see an explicit rupture in the texts of these documents - which I am not sure they are - nonetheless I think it is absolutely true that the "spirit" of those documents is something new, something different than what came before. Just an example of this would be the claim, in the document Dignitatis Humanae on religious liberty, that man has both the natural and civil right to religious liberty; whereas previously the notion of a right to religious liberty has been condemned in principle, while admitting exceptions in practice for a liberty of sorts in religious matters. But never was it traditionally taught that man has the right to religious liberty - if by this it is meant that he has the right to worship according to whatever religion he chooses. Granted, the conciliar document insists on man's duty to seek the truth, but this concept is overpowered by the "spirit" of the document which insists also that man has a right to religious liberty. How are these concepts to be reconciled? The SSPX sees no possible reconciliation, and I suspect that they are right.

The same is the case with the conciliar doctrine on ecumenism, and the relation of the Church to other religions, denominations, and non-Catholic churches. There is a movement towards the denial of the doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, or at least towards a weakening of that doctrine. Again, while the SSPX might not necessarily be correct in seeing an explicit contradiction with tradition, nonetheless I think it is clear that the "spirit" of Vatican II certainly moves in that direction. It is also clear that the Popes after Vatican II have moved strongly in that direction - I am thinking specifically of Pope John Paul II's Assisi meetings, by which the SSPX were rightly scandalized. Because of all these issues, I believe that Rome's requirement for reconciliation that the SSPX be silent on the subject of Vatican II is quite unfair. There is a problem, and there is ambiguity, if not error, and it needs to be discussed. This discussion should even be public, because it has caused so much public confusion. Sure, it should also be charitable and polite and all that, and perhaps the SSPX have not always been successful in that regard (they have been shaping up lately, though); but the need for this discussion cannot be ignored, and frankly I see it to be a greater evil to turn a deaf ear to the matter than for it to be discussed with some polemics. Some of the saints far surpassed the SSPX in their aggressive tone against those in error (St. Thomas More contra Luther - look it up. Not that the modern Popes and Vatican II are quite as bad as Luther...). Anyhow, I do not want to go into detail on all of these topics (religious liberty, ecumenism, etc.), as they have been hashed out more than enough elsewhere. Some of the relevant past papal teaching can be found in the archives of this blog.

Moving on now, the general principles of tradition and authority apply also to the subject of the liturgy. The SSPX recognizes these principles in regards to liturgy too, and rightly so; although, in fact, I think they do not necessarily apply the principle as well as they should. In general, the SSPX's views on the liturgy are something of a mixed bag, as I see it. They often put forth the argument that the new mass is destructive of Catholic teaching on the Mass. They get around the problem of the Church's immutability and disciplinary infallibility by arguing that the new mass was not promulgated by Paul VI according to the correct legal norms which are required for it to be protected by disciplinary infallibility. This position is, I think, quite consistent, and not necessarily un-Catholic: for they recognize in principle that the Church cannot produce a liturgy which is intrinsically harmful to the faith. They just think that it was not, strictly speaking, the Church who produced the Novus Ordo, since it was not promulgated correctly. I am inclined to disagree with them on this matter. I have a difficult time denying, as they do, that Paul VI did not intend by that legislative act to officially and authoritatively approve the new rite of mass. So I think that, in one sense, the Church did indeed produce the new liturgy, and I think the new mass is not intrinsically harmful to faith. It can be celebrated well and be quite beneficial. But I also think that this does not free it of all objective imperfection. It is easy to tell that, while it contains nothing directly harmful to faith, many theological concepts have been manipulated so as to speak to the false ideologies of the modern world in an appealing way. It is analogous to how the teachings of scripture, containing nothing false or harmful to the faith, are often manipulated by the Protestants to support their own false notions. Something like that has happened in the Novus Ordo. And just as the fact that Protestants have manipulated scriptural teaching to their own ends does not in any way undermine the fact that scripture is divinely inspired and inerrant, so also does the fact that the new liturgy manipulates the truths of Catholic doctrine to support false ends not undermine the infallibility of Catholic doctrine in that liturgy. Anyhow, this is my opinion. The SSPX are not always quite as careful to make these necessary distinctions, but I think the substance of their argument can be restated as I have just stated it.

In their critiques of the new liturgy, they tend to focus on the theological differences between the traditional and new masses, especially as regards the dogmas of the Real Presence and the Propitiatory Sacrifice, and so they focus on the doctrinal propositions especially in parts of the mass like the Offertory and the Canon. I think their discussions in this regard are not without merit, since, as I have just said, there has indeed been a manipulation of doctrinal concepts in the new liturgy. For example, the old Tridentine Offertory prayers which clearly expressed the propitiatory purpose of the divine immolation were suppressed in the new missal. However, the reform affected much more than just the doctrines of the Real Presence and the Propitiatory Sacrifice. The theology of the liturgy revolves around these two central truths, but it is also much, much more than that. For example, the traditional collects contain a vast wealth of spiritual teaching that has been largely ditched in the new liturgy, and replaced with concepts more appealing to modern ears. Something similar can be said of the lectionary. In fact, I am entertaining the possibility that the damage done in these respects is somewhat greater than the loss in regard to the aforementioned two doctrines (after all, these two concepts are clearly present in some of the new Eucharistic prayers, and historically speaking the Offertory prayers are newer and less essential elements of the Roman rite - not that the new ones are all that great). It surprises me somewhat that the SSPX do not speak much of these other doctrinal elements of the liturgy, such as are contained in the collects, since these are also very essential to the Roman liturgical tradition.

Pope St. Pius X
Thus far I have spoken only of the doctrinal connection of the liturgy. While that is certainly important, I have lately been learning that there is far more to the liturgy than doctrinal propositions. The liturgy is something that is naturally embedded in tradition, which gives meaning and force to the liturgy beyond its doctrinal content. This tradition would make it wrong to invent liturgies on the spot even if they were perfectly orthodox in doctrinal content. It seems to me that the SSPX tend to have a narrower understanding of the liturgy than is actually called for by this tradition, and in many ways I think they are not grounded deeply enough in the actual history of the Roman rite. This has led them to a quite strict adherence to the liturgy of 1962. Recent scholarship has revealed the liturgy of 1962 to be not quite the pristine traditional liturgy that it is often assumed to be, particularly in regards to the 1955 rites of Holy Week, created under Pope Pius XII by a committee consisting of many of the same men who later composed the Novus Ordo. Also, the breviary had been quite heavily reformed back in 1911, by the very Pope whose name the Society bears. That reform was not especially favorable to tradition either. (Don't get me wrong: St. Pius X was very great and traditional in other respects, e.g. his condemnation of Modernism.) Of these facts of liturgical history, the SSPX seems to be somewhat unaware, or else they are simply not bothered by them. But the fact is that in regards to the liturgy, they are not as traditional as they should be. This reflects in their critiques of the Novus Ordo as well. While they make many valid points, in their ignorance of liturgical history they have failed to touch adequately on many of the most damaging and far-reaching aspects of the reform, such as the revision of the orations, the practical loss of the propers, the new lectionary, the practical loss of the Canon, and the new "Liturgy of the Hours." These changes constituted by the far the greatest damage to the liturgical tradition. Instead, the SSPX tends to focus almost exclusively on the less important elements, such as the Offertory prayers and the prayers at the foot of the altar. They could much strengthen their case if they looked to those elements which once defined the very heart and essence of the Roman rite. Some of these elements they would do well to restore to their own celebrations of the liturgy - like the singing of the Mass propers and the chanting of the pre-Pius X Office. (I do realize that some of these suggestions might cast an unappreciated shadow on the name of their patron, St. Pius X, as well as Pius XII, both of whom, again, I too hold in great esteem for reasons other than the liturgy… but still.)

I think the main problem with the SSPX as regards the liturgy is that they do not have a well-defined concept of liturgical tradition. I have learned lately that the liturgical tradition of the Church is in many ways more important even than the doctrinal tradition. Such a notion is somewhat foreign, at least in practice, to the scholastic way of thinking to which the SSPX are so attached. Scholasticism is a very doctrinally centered system of thought, and liturgical practice can be somewhat overlooked. The scholastics tended to view the liturgy primarily as another source for the teaching of doctrine, and so the importance a properly liturgical tradition was somewhat lost. I don't think this is necessary. I myself am very attached to the scholastic method, but I think that, if we are to be fully traditional as Catholics, we need to look at the whole picture of the Church, in which the liturgy as such features no less importantly than doctrine. The scholastic emphasis on doctrine can be reconciled with the primacy of the liturgy in the life of the Church. The SSPX have fallen into the same old scholastic habit of viewing the liturgy first as a source of teaching - which it certainly is, but it is also much more than that. The liturgical mode of communicating the faith goes beyond just the texts and phrasing and the explicit expression of doctrinal propositions. The liturgy is less like a textbook than it is like a piece of artwork, or a piece of music, or even a dramatic play. There is much more involved in a drama than just the script. The failure to recognize this truth results in a very limited understanding of the purpose and proper perfection of the liturgy. This has further resulted in a rather weak critical stance on the Novus Ordo, first of all, and in some liturgical unorthodoxies within the ranks of the SSPX itself as well.

Also, there seems to be a prejudice within the Society against the concepts of liturgical development and diversity. This is an impression I have received from reading some of Archbishop Lefebvre's thoughts on Quo Primum and Bishop Tissier de Malleris' article on The True Notion of Tradition (available on my sidebar), and some other sources. First of all, the rootedness of the liturgy in tradition has never prevented it from being able to develop in an organic fashion throughout the ages. That is how the Tridentine liturgy came to be. Granted, its development came to something of a halt after it had been codified by Pope Pius V, but it is not this relative staticism which followed that defines the liturgy as traditional. The tradition of the Roman liturgy is seen in the remarkable continuity which it exhibits all throughout its long development; but the point is that there was such a development, and there is no reason why it should in principle have ceased just because of Pius V's legislation in Quo Primum. Yes, Pius V forbade changes to the missal, but was this to put a break on organic development or simply to provide the needed stability in that time of rampant liturgical abuse and anarchy? Neither did the tradition of the liturgy prevent it from exhibiting some healthy diversity. In the middle ages, the various Cathedrals and religious orders would often have each their own variant on the same Roman liturgy which was received in tradition. These variations added beauty and stylistic significance to the liturgy, without damaging the tradition. This is to be sharply distinguished from the "do-it-yourself" style variety that exists in the Church today. There is a way to do liturgical diversity without damaging the substance of the liturgical tradition. All throughout the liturgical variants, the same Roman tradition was preserved in its stability in all the major elements. The analogy to a dramatic play might help: the script contains the words for the actors and perhaps some stage directions and so forth, but these might be embellished differently by different actors and directors and in different styles, each very beautiful in its own way. Likewise the liturgy. Pope Pius V actually permitted many of the medieval liturgical variants to survive (on the condition that they were 200 years or older). Sadly, only a few of them did - mainly those connected to religious orders. But the fact that the Tridentine reform did not forbid these liturgies indicates that a genuine adherence the Tridentine reform, such as the SSPX claims to have, does not require a rejection of a certain amount of liturgical diversity within tradition.

All this having been said, I think that if we are honest we must admit that we owe the preservation of liturgical tradition in today’s Church largely to Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX, even if they did not go the full way. The 1962 missal is definitely a much more traditional missal, in my opinion, than the missals that followed it, even if it has its defects. Moreover, if it were not for Archbishop Lefebvre, the traditional mass would probably have almost disappeared from the face of the earth a long time ago. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI recognized the attachment of many Catholics to their traditional forms of worship, and gave us Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum – which, granted, are not perfect, but nonetheless they have established some degree of tolerance for tradition in today’s Church. And this would very likely not have come about were it not for the voice of the SSPX. 

So there's my two-cents. There is obviously still a great deal more that could be said on all of these questions, and more, as lengthy as this post is. I think I have probably left out some important issues in the above summary... But that's the gist of it anyhow.