Traditional Latin Mass: Where Conversion of Post-Christian Society Begins

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“I want to argue that the usus antiquior is an antidote to the ruthless attacks on memory and tradition and high culture, typical of the culture of modernity, and that it satisfies the desire of the post-modern generations to be embedded within a coherent, non-fragmented tradition that is open to the transcendent.” (Dr. Tracey Rowland, address “The Usus Antiquior and the New Evangelisation” at Sacra Liturgia conference, 2013)

The Problem to be Resolved: The Memoricide Of The Sacred and the Sacral, of God, of Jesus Christ as Lord, and of the Supernatural

Western Civilization, that began as the Catholic civilization of medieval Christendom, has been destroyed.

Its successor, the post-modern globalizing world order, built upon the principles of the cultural revolutions of 1517, 1789, 1917 and 1968, survives only as a parasite upon the remnants of the Catholic heritage (which had assimilated the best of Greco-Roman culture) still present in the West.

This thought terrorism of the new anti-Christian world order has systematically destroyed Western man’s identity by eradicating his memory of the grandeur of the civilization built by Catholicism.

This eradication of memory has been a true “memoricide”, a term coined by the French historian Reynald Secher, in order to refer to the deadly silence by the politically correct intellectual establishment of the genocide of the Catholics of the Vendee by the French revolutionaries in the years 1793-1794.

This destruction of memory has been achieved by the suppression of traditions, even the very sense of tradition, as well as by weakening or warping the fundamental institutions of society that protect man and build a healthy society (the family, neighbourhood, local customs, sense of nationhood).

Catholics have not been immune from this uprooting because of their eradication in the 1960s from the traditional Latin Mass and liturgy, embodiment of two millennia of Catholic heritage, which, through its transparent presentation of Catholicism’s truths was the guarantor of a clear Catholic identity and of the sense of the sacred. As the philosopher Tracey Rowland stated:

“The project of the 1960s generation was one of transposing a high sacral language into the vernacular of a low mundane culture, with the result that something sacred became more mundane, and when the sacred becomes mundane, it becomes boring.”

“In wrapping the faith in the forms of the contemporary culture and generally correlating the liturgy to the norms of the mass culture, the 1960s generation of pastoral strategists unwittingly fostered a crisis in liturgical theory and practice.”

“[The 1960s generation] dismantled a high Catholic culture by removing its cornerstone and they left subsequent generations of Catholics in a state of cultural poverty, confusion and boredom.”

“[Benedict XVI] compared the pastoral strategy of bringing God down to the level of the people with the Hebrew’s worship of the golden calf and he described this practice as nothing less than a form of apostasy.”

Why the Traditional Mass can Resolve Post-Modern Man’s Search for Identity

In this anarchic post-modern age, notwithstanding the atrophying of man’s ability to focus on the deepest levels of reality by the hyper stimulation of the senses by mass media, thoughtful men and women are still to be found who are actively searching for the ultimate truth, the truth about salvation.

However, they instinctively recognize that the ultimate truth about God and the eternal realities will somehow express itself in stark contrast to the dominant Western mentality that has revealed itself as incapable of satisfying the requirements both for the individual and the society.

Catholicism is still, notwithstanding the treachery of many of its leaders, “the light of the world”, “a city set on a hill [that] cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14) for her doctrines on the eternally true, good, and beautiful remain unchanged. She is perfectly coherent and both her apostate members by their guilt and her enemies by their rage implicitly witness to this.

For instance, the English novelist, Anthony Burgess, a former Catholic, shortly before dying, wrote: “My apostasy had never been perfect. I am still capable of moaning and breast-beating at my defection from, as I recognize it, the only system that makes spiritual and intellectual sense.”

But Catholicism can only be fully known through her liturgy! She can only be seen, touched, felt in senses, mind and heart through the enactment of Mass and sacraments because in these she is embodied! And only in a liturgy in which she is authentically embodied, in all her truth, in all her tradition, in all the genius and creativity that have been poured into her over millennia.

That is why, in the midst of the anarchic culture of post-modern society ‒ anarchic because it has destroyed a lifestyle organized by the principles found in the nature of reality ‒  the traditional Latin liturgy as the embodiment of two thousand years of Catholic Tradition ‒ and of a further two thousand years of Jewish tradition ‒ is positioned to play a tremendously important role in restoring to the convert to the Catholic Faith his God-willed identity.

The novelist, Sigrid Undset, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature, gives us a glimpse into what the barbarians of Europe experienced in the Ancient Rite by describing the reaction to it of a modern “barbarian”, a well-educated and refined but normal, secularized Norwegian student:

“He had never before been inside the Catholic church….He tried to grasp the meaning of some of the things the priest was doing before the altar. But the man turned his back to the people the whole time, and they could not possibly hear a word of what he was whispering while he moved about up there, doing things. And by degrees, as Paul discovered that the service must be in full swing, and the deep silence prevailed in the empty, sun-lit church, and the few people in the seats continued to kneel as though lost in self-contemplation, he felt a kind of thrill. Why yes, this was beautiful in its way; he suddenly thought he understood what people meant when they spoke of the invisible God ‒ he could imagine that priest and congregation were gathered together here to worship something invisible. This form of service could not possibly have any other meaning, for there was nothing here of the priest turning to the congregation and concerning himself with them; it was rather as though this man took the lead in conducting some worship or other. And for the first time in his life he thought he could perceive some sense in divine service ‒ in this silent adoration he could imagine that a Being was present to receive their souls. Of course, it must have been a similar form of Christianity that had possessed the force for so colossal an expansion ‒ but then that was before it became the preaching religion that had reached this country.”[1]

If our contemporaries can experience the Ancient Mass, they will have taken a crucially important step to understanding Catholicism as the answer to their crisis of identity under the Dictatorship of Relativism.

In conclusion, the traditional Latin Mass will be the great instrument of Divine Providence for the formation of new creative Catholic minorities in the future just as it has been in the past, most notably in the first millennium when it was the principal agent in the construction of the civilization that arose in medieval Christendom.

[1] Sigrid Undset, The Wild Orchid (London: Cassell and Co., 1931), pp. 73-74.