Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Seeing Red

This is going to be an angry post.  If you’re already suffering from a tragical Tuesday, go read something uplifting instead.  Trust me, you’ll feel much better than if you keep scrolling down.  If you’re not Catholic, you’ll just be perplexed; if you’re Catholic and agree with me, you’ll be mad like I am; if you’re Catholic and disagree with me, you won’t like my characterization of your side’s arguments; if you’re Catholic and don’t have an opinion on the issue, you be miffed that I’m writing about a peripheral problem like this when Secretary Sebelius has been invited to speak at Georgetown.  (I think that’s everyone.  If I’ve left your group off the list, my sincerest apologies.)

I have been known to be irritated by the Enemy.  (No, not that Enemy, you fools—these enemies.  This is not a Wumpick missive.  Sheesh.)  But there comes a time in life when the mature Catholic learns to accept hostility and persecution (she says, sipping her coffee in a comfortable swivel chair in a perfectly acclimated room with gorgeous and simultaneously inexpensive prints of Renaissance masters—blest be the files that PIPA and SOPA would have prevented her from downloading!—hanging upon the walls).  Yes, there comes a time when the mature Catholic accepts the fact that the world will hate her, and when opposing the violence of the world becomes less a matter of taking personal offense and more a question of standing on principle.  But when it comes to internecine squabbles, I confess to remaining something of a Peter Pan.  There is something exquisitely aggravating about reading those who are on one’s side exactly 99% of the time.

  "No, no no! the Isagogue was written by Porphyry.  Plotinus wrote the Enneads.  
Yes, I'm sure.  Just ask St. Jerome ..."

I’m thinking here of bloggers like Fr. Z.  Fr. Z is fond of the Tridentine, aka the Traditional Latin Mass; and it is an affection which he shares with many of my own friends and other people whom I respect and admire.  I must admit, however, that Fr. Z and my friends are eminently reasonable in expressing their preferences for the TLM; and my aggravation at them is consequently limited.  But every now and then someone less reasonable than they will write something like this.

As I say, affection for and support of the TLM is a beautiful thing, even though it is an emotion which I do not share.  What I cannot accept, and what I find obnoxious in the extreme, is the loathing displayed—occasionally, occasionally; and only by some—for the Novus Ordo, and the prophetic hints (veiled, as all proper prophecies ought to be) that we will all be going back to the TLM sooner or later.

Permit me to offer a prophecy of my own, in plain, unveiled English: Au contraire.  (Pardon my French.  As I said above, this is a subject upon which my emotions escape me.)  The Novus Ordo is here to stay.  I will admit that the Novus Ordo as it is generally said is going to go sooner or later (sooner, if this Catholic’s prayers are heard); but it will go the way a caterpillar goes: to reemerge as a thing of beauty and a joy … alright, well, its lifespan will be a little longer than a butterfly’s.  (OK, hippy simile, I admit it.  But I don’t really like butterflies.  Not on me, and not on chasubles either.)

"Yes, my dear Edward—it really does make a very convenient container for chrysalises."

As I was … saying, the reformed Novus Ordo will be a thing of beauty and a joy forever, or at least until Judgment Day.  Till the end of time.  That is my prophecy.

“And you’re really OK with that?  Are you joking?  You’ve got to be joking.  Haven’t you seen …”  Um … hum.  And where in the rubrics of the new Roman Missal do we get permission for clowns?  Nowhere.  Likewise, nowhere are we permitted female extraordinary ministers and lectors, altar girls, liturgical dancing, Communion in the hand, "hymns" by Michael Joncas, and children’s Masses.  They’re not there.  These are abuses of the NO Mass, just as they would be abuses of the TLM if, God forbid (and I mean that literally) anyone tried to introduce them there.  Abusus non tollit uses.

“But no-one would ever try to say a TLM Clown Mass.  It couldn’t be done!  The inherent gravity of the liturgy is such that no one would dare.”  Don’t kid yourselves, kids.  The NO Mass was abused in the ’60’s and has been since then simply because it is by far the most common liturgy among the Catholics of the West.  Trust me, the era that gave us flower power trousers would not have spared the TLM if the TLM had been in its way.

You know I could have picked much worse.
But I like to keep the blog looking somewhat human, even if it means a weaker argument.

 “Well, OK then.  So there might have been a few priests who acted up with the TLM.  But the very fact that the Mass changed encouraged them to act up more.”  Not disputed.  Changing the Mass then was bad timing, bad strategy.  They should have changed it—oh, back around 1880.

“What!!!  You must be joking.  Only the modern era could have produced the NO, because, as surely you realize, the TLM is a celebration of God, a vertical liturgy, whereas the NO is a celebration of the people, a horizontal liturgy, as the fact that the priest faces the people suggests.”  News flash, my friends.  Hold onto your hats, because this may hurt a bit.  Remember that list of things people do with the NO that they're not supposed to do?  Well, one of them is facing the people.  Nowhere in the rubrics of the Roman Missal is the priest instructed to face the people.  Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard, the NO can be said in Latin too.

Can be said in Latin.  Fine.  But the fact of the matter is this pure sort of NO Mass that you’re describing has never existed.  The NO just isn’t done that way—in Latin, with people kneeling to receive Communion, with honestly orthodox music, with …”  In the immortal words of Elizabeth Lane ...

“Oh!  That’s what you think …”

Never been done that way?  I grew up on the NO done that way.  I went to college for four years at a place where the NO is done that way.  I admit it isn’t done that way often—but see point two above.

“I get it.  You really like the NO.  But the liturgy does not exist for your personal pleasure, or to meet your personal taste.”  Tu quoque. I have never read a promotion of the TLM in which the promoter beat his breast and admitted he didn’t like the Mass’s style, but he felt obligated to acknowledge its superiority anyway.

“Fair enough.  I do prefer the TLM’s style—because it helps me pray better.  What’s wrong with you, don’t you want to pray?”  Well actually, yes I do.  Which is why—personal preference time!—I prefer the NO: because, in the NO, as long as the priest lets us hear only the black and see only the red (to paraphrase Fr. Z), I pray better than I pray at a TLM.

“There must be something wrong with you.  You mustn’t have been to very many TLM Masses.  You musn’t have tried it long enough.”  Is a year long enough?  Because I went to the TLM for a whole year at school.  (Alright, two semesters.  Nine months.  Yes.  My college offers one TLM and three LNOs every weekday.  It is an amazing place.)  I used a missal.  I meditated.  I even wore a chapel veil, if that makes a difference.  But at the end of the year I was back at the LNO, even though it didn’t fit my schedule as well.  I simply prayed better there.

“Yeah, well then there’s really something wrong with you.”  Very probably. “So what exactly is your beef with the TLM?”  Ah!  Now we come to the real question.

To Be Continued.

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Alleluia (because it's Easter).

    I especially like the point that abuses would likely have arisen in the Trid had that been the Mass of the late 60s and following.