For the Society of Ignatians “the Liturgy is the first priority: everything else comes after” (Benedict XVI) because “the Church stands and falls with the Liturgy” (Benedict XVI)
The sacred liturgy (the enactment of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments, Sacramentals, and the Divinum Officium) is the gateway through which the Church honors the Blessed Trinity and empowers the salvation of mens’ souls.
“When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man’s words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells. For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
In the traditional Latin Mass and liturgy, Catholics find this embodiment of Catholicism in all the splendor made possible by two thousand years of divinely assisted craftsmanship wrought by men of God.
The Traditional Latin Liturgy: the Embodiment of Catholicism
It is the first priority because the traditional liturgy is the place par excellence where there appears before the eyes, imagination, memory, and hearts of Catholics two thousand years of Catholic Truth.
Here in pristine purity and transparency, untainted by error, devoid of ambiguity is the application of the Catholic axiom: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. Yes, indeed, how we pray reflects what we hold to be true, and this determines how we live.
Hence the sacred liturgy must be the mirror in which we can see the utterly pure reflection of the divine truths of the Catholic Faith, educating us how to place ourselves in God’s presence, urging us with its dramatic ethos, inspiring us to live for the Honor of God and the salvation of souls.
The Liturgy (the Mass, sacraments, sacramentals, the divinum officium) is the place par excellence, alongside the dogmatic definitions of papacy and councils, where the Truths of Catholicism are preserved.
The spirit of the traditional liturgy is the spirit of the Church because it is the expression of the truths of Catholicism in their integrity throughout the ages, inspired and preserved by the assistance of the Holy Spirit acting through generations of Catholics who venerated His action in Tradition.
Practically, it is where Catholics learn these truths since it is for the vast majority usually the only place where they make contact with them. Since knowledge is the foundation of sense of identity, the liturgy is where the lifelong renewal of this knowledge and growth in this knowledge occurs.
The Liturgy is where the Catholic acquires a Radically Catholic Identity
However, to be a Christian, a Catholic, is not merely a matter of knowledge; it is not merely a psychological state, but an identity that affects the very roots of a man’s intelligence, will power, sentiments, affections, and ultimately even his body. It is an identity that involves radical change and transformation.
The liturgy is the very soul of Catholicism because it is not merely merely a set of ceremonies whose purpose is psychological. It is not a phenomenon whereby we merely learn, express, feel “religiously” for the benefit of our understanding, our sentiments, our aesthetic faculties. No! All such ideas, sentiments are merely the tip of the iceberg, the mere surface ripples of a dual movement occurring deep down in the very depths of the soul – a movement that is cataclysmic, deep uprooting and destruction, enlightenment, renewal and invigoration, unto the very transformation of the soul of man.
It is in the Liturgy (the Mass, sacraments, sacramentals, the divinum officium) where man becomes Catholic in his being. The liturgy is the place where he is transformed from the “old man” radically rooted in “the world” that is at enmity with Christ (Romans 1: 18-32) into the “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), the Christian, the Catholic who is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. Unto eternally undying salvation.
For the Mass and the other moments of the liturgy exist in God’s providential plan to change us, to save us from the slavery of Satan and the demonic forces present in the universe and in the depths of our own soul by inserting the new supernatural life we call “sanctifying grace”.
It is this that unites us to Christ Savior, divinizing us into sons of God with a capacity for a radically new way of looking upon reality, of acting, and – stupendous mystery – even empowering our body to overcome death and to live eternally!
The Liturgy’s dual purpose is the adoration of God in the way God has revealed that He wants to be adored and the salvation of man unto the glory of God.
This is due to the fact that salvation from eternal damnation is only possible through the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the center of history, the reality on which each man’s eternal destiny depends. But the salvific passion and death and resurrection of the God-Man occurred as historic events 2,000 years ago.
Consequently, it is necessary to connect with them, it is vital to become, in a mysterious but ever so real way, a “contemporary” of Christ Savior in order to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior of your life and be transformed by Him. This, by God’s providential plan, is possible through the sacred liturgy.
Through its mystically powered words, symbols, and ceremonies. Above all through its sacraments ( signs that effectively, really, communicate the realities they contain).
Most especially of all through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is through this reenactment of the self-immolation of the God-Man that the soul of the individual is transformed radically.
Thus, it is through the liturgy (the enactment of the sacraments, the sacramentals, the prayers and their accompanying ceremonies) that the Catholic acquires his Catholic identity, not only psychologically (because he learns what Catholicism is all about) but above all because his mind and heart are radically changed through it.