Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't you like the Mass of Vatican II?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

Boy, am I glad you are not my pastor. You sound like a joyless puritan with all this stuff about Mass not being Catholic enough. What’s wrong with “the consolation and instruction of the people,” even if Luther said it? The Second Vatican Council gave us the new liturgy. Or wasn’t the Council Catholic enough for you?


Kent Zingwell

Dear Kent,

I did hear something about a council that was held perhaps forty-five or fifty years ago (1962-1965). In fact, I have actually read some of the documents that the Council produced. Allow me to quote one in particular, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM” published on Dec. 4, 1963;

Article 116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

Well then, let’s look Article 30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

Here’s some more interesting reading from the Council.: Article 120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful. And here’s some more interesting stuff: Article 36. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

I know that by quoting all these arcane passages I seem like some pathetic old coot who’s trying to jam the tooth paste back into the tube, but I think you miss my meaning. I may be a pathetic old coot, but not one who is opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Second Vatican Council. The liturgy as we have it now has nothing to do with the Second Vatican council. In fact, the liturgy that most people assume is the “Mass of Vatican Two” is in direct defiance of that great and inspired Council. Inspired by a rebellious clergy, the better part of a billion people have ended up thumbing their noses at the work of the Council. That is my sorrow. The promise of my youth has been betrayed. Much of the Council has never been implemented. Instead, we Latin rite Catholics now have an essentially Protestant framework for the Eucharist. Four hymns written by third rate musicians have replaced psalms written by the Spirit of God.

Why did we do this? I remember it well. The council urged greater participation on the part of the congregation (Article 54 steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. ) The adolescents who ran seminary choirs and folk groups, most of whom were flunking Latin class anyway, were not about to obey this mandate. They also ignored another part of the document Article 50. The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.Mass. It just felt better. In other words, the chanted Mass parts are an organic whole, united spiritually and musically. The Mass is not an “order of service” with a list of loosely related hymns. But, four hymns with catchy tunes were easier to learn than chant and the sixties were all about “easy.” So, four man-made hymns replaced God- breathed Psalms and hymns made sacred by the test of time. We stopped singing the Mass and started singing at

I can just hear you say, “There you go again. What have you got against feeling good? Haven’t you read article 48? (The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator [38], they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.)

When we read those words, “the faithful should take part...with...full collaboration.” Many priests thought “lay concelebrants.” This is certainly not what the Council Fathers had in mind. It was a false interpretation made by anti-clerical clergy. The above text reinforces the sacrificial understanding that makes the Catholic Mass Catholic. Read the fine print. “Not ONLY through the hands of the priest, BUT ALSO, with him they should learn to offer themselves .” The priest is not replaced. The faithful should remember that they join themselves to Christ on the cross as does the priest when he celebrates Mass. Mass is not a spectator event, nor an entertainment. It is the sacrifice in which “I make up in my own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ,” as St. Paul puts it.

The heart of Catholic worship is the real presence. When we hear the phrase “real presence” we are tempted to think that it means simply that the whole Christ is really present in the form of bread and wine. It certainly means this, but, believe it or not, it means still more.

When I was a much younger man, I was at a very difficult parish. I went through seminary after the beginning of the council and was a very thoroughly “Vatican Two Catholic” by which I mean, not the council, but the council ignored. I remembered the “old” Mass from my childhood and its beautiful music, and when I heard that there was a Latin in parish not far from me, I thought it might be interesting to attend. On a hot summer day that had been unusually trying, and being in the need of a spiritual “uplift” I decided to drive down to the parish where the old Mass was offered for their 12:30 High (sung) Mass. I was quite disappointed. There was no choir, no beautiful old hymns. There was an old priest facing a wall mumbling in a language I could barely hear, much less understand. I said to the Lord, “I’m not having much of an experience here.” That small voice inside answered, “Oh, you came for an experience. I thought you came to worship Me.”Touché! Convicted of my own sinful narcissism that I had mistaken for “spirituality,” I knelt and worshiped. And then, I had an experience! I realized that God, the Son of God was REALLY present, in His body, blood, soul and divinity. That tired old priest was not responsible for my feelings. I wasn’t required to feel anything. Whether I felt it or not, it was real and I knelt and bowed my head, worshiping the God who made me, the Savior who loved me. I understood worship as I had never understood it before. It was not about my consolation and instruction. It was about my Lord. It was the Real Presence that accompanied Max Kolbe and Edith Stein to the gray death camps. It was the Real Presence that sustained Mother Teresa and Therese of Liseux when they felt nothing yet remained faithful. It was the Real Presence, not just the felt presence that sustained John on the lonely island of Patmos, and strengthened Peter and Paul as they faced the Roman executioners. In this sad time of virtual reality and arm chair lives, it is still the Real Presence that makes a person Catholic.


Reverend Know-it-all

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Father. I love your blog. I can't wait for the new mass coming. I pray that it will make things better.