Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Pope Benedict’s Liturgical Agenda

September 18th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Anyone who has been watching the Papal Visit to the United Kingdom with some regularity will have noted that Pope Benedict is doing two things, and doing them remarkably well. Primarily, he is confronting (with charity) the relativistic spirit which has seized the UK, and Europe as a whole. Secondly, he has been demonstrating proper liturgical style. This visit has been said to be on equal footing with John Paul II’s visit to Poland – while the late pontiff focused on the sins of communism, Pope Benedict is focusing on the travesties of relativism. Two more heinous political mentalities have never reared their ugly heads, with the exception of militant fascism.

But the main thing I’d like to focus on here is the “liturgical agenda” of Pope Benedict. Some of my friends have been musing that it would have been the most amazing thing in the last 500 years of the Papacy if Benedict had said a Tridentine Mass in Westminster Abbey. I can’t disagree with that, but we need to be realistic. As beautiful and as historically significant as that would be, it would possibly alienate some of those people whom our Pope is seeking to embrace, who may be luke-warm to the Church, and who would be put-off by something so liturgically-complicated and thought-provoking. However, the following things were done at today’s Mass, and were done with absolute majesty:

  • The Gregorian propers (Introit, Gradual, Communion) were chanted in their entirety.
  • The Credo was chanted in Latin.
  • The preface dialogue (The Lord be with you/Lift up your hearts/etc.) was chanted in Latin.
  • The Canon of the Mass was recited in Latin, in order “to emphasize the universality of the faith and the continuity of the Church.”
  • The ordinaries of the Mass were polyphonic, taken from Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, one of my personal favorites.
  • The role of the laity was definite, but not overpowering and not presented in a heavy-handed manner.
  • The Pope distributed Communion to communicants who were kneeling and received on the tongue.

This is what the Second Vatican Council intended. There is no debate on the matter. (Well, there is debate, but there shouldn’t be. However, that’s beside the point.) Pope Benedict’s liturgies aren’t casually planned or carelessly coordinated. Every word is considered, every movement thought-out and executed with grace and dignity. Compare the following two clips. One is the chanting of the Alleluia and the reading of the Gospel at the Pope’s Mass at Westminster Abbey on the 18th. The other is Bishop Clark’s most recent Diaconate Ordination Mass. Which conveys a sense of the sacred? Why?

It’s worth pointing out that the Diocese of Rochester’s ideological crusade to “celebrate diversity,” even when there is none to be had, would be wholly unnecessary if the administration simply adhered to the letter and spirit of the Vatican II documents on the Sacred Liturgy. When everyone is chanting the Credo in Latin, or responding with “sursum corda,” or receiving Communion kneeling and in a humble manner, there is no scrambling to include every minority present, or to make sure no one’s offended. Like it or not, the congregation is united in prayer – that’s lower “c” catholicism, universality. Whether Mass is offered in Rochester, Rome, or London, it’s the same Sacrifice, the same Divine manifestation under the guises of bread and wine. When we bow to local cultural pressures in ways that aren’t healthy for the spirit of the liturgy, the faithful fade away. They aren’t being nourished because there’s no lasting substance in the Mass – there’s nothing linking them to the other billion Catholics the world over.

Personally, I consider this to be one of the major highlights of Benedict’s pontificate thus far. He has descended into the “belly of the beast” of relativism, addressed the House of Commons in the same chamber in which Thomas More, John Fisher, Edmund Campion and others were sentenced to death, reached out to the victims of sex abuse, demonstrated liturgical propriety, embraced the young people, and fired a broadside into the hull of liberal Europe. This Pope is no push-over, no “filler-pope” between John Paul II and another pontiff. He is wholly unique, and bringing to fruition many of the things which John Paul II started. When confronted with anti-Catholic bigotry in the UK, the Pope called to mind the same bigotry which sent hundreds of Catholics to violent deaths simply for defending the Church of their ancestors.

There is no better way to conclude this post with these words uttered by St. Edmund Campion when the sentence of death was passed upon him.

“In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors – all the ancient priests, bishops, and kings –

all that was once the glory of England, the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.”

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2 Responses to “Pope Benedict’s Liturgical Agenda”

  1. Nerina says:

    Warning: Watch the video from Rochester first, and then use the clip from the Mass in Westminster as a liturgical sorbet. Who ever thought that “Halle, Halle, Halle” was appropriate for the Mass? Who????

  2. Gretchen says:

    Liturgical sorbet – I love it! Wash that icky taste right out!

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