Traditional Mass: Where Combat for Civilization Begins

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If individuals with a Catholic soul and a society with a Catholic soul are to be born it will occur through hearts pulsating with the supernatural life;  by minds whose thought is enlightened by faith and its truths; in men whose fortitude is  invigorated by hope, and whose love is fiery and pure and universal through charity.

Such a radical transformation of heart and mind, capable of renewing man year after year after year, can occur in one and only in one place: the liturgy (sacraments, sacraments and the public prayer of the Church).

“If, every year, the Church renews her youth as that of the eagle [Psalm 102. 5], she does so because, by means of the cycle of the liturgy, she is visited by her divine Spouse, who supplies all her wants. Each year she again sees Him an Infant in the manger, fasting in the desert, offering Himself on the cross, rising from the grave, founding His Church, instituting the Sacraments, ascending to the right hand of His Father, and sending the Holy Ghost upon men. The graces of all these divine mysteries are renewed in her; so that, being made fruitful in every good thing, the mystic garden yields to the Spouse, in every season, under the influence of the Spirit He breathes into her, the sweet perfume of aromatic spices [Cant. iv. 16].

“Each year the Spirit of God re takes possession of His well-beloved and gives her light and love; each year she derives an increase of life from the maternal influence which the blessed Virgin exercises over her, on the feasts of her joys, her sorrows, and her glories; and lastly, the brilliant constellation formed by the successive appearance of the nine choirs of the angels, and of the saints in their varied orders of apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, sheds on her, each year, powerful help and abundant consolation.

“Now, what the liturgical year does for the Church at large, it does also for the soul of each one of the faithful that is careful to receive the gift of God. This succession of mystic seasons imparts to the Christian the elements of that supernatural life, without which every other life is but a sort of death, more or less disguised.” (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year)

Since this supernatural life radically changes all that is connected to it, whether man or things, it becomes the channel for radically changing society. From a society under the power of darkness (quote Romans) it can become a sacred society through the placing of the supernatural truths and actions at the soul of all the institutions that regulate social life. Thus everything in such a society – as occurred in the short-lived society of medieval Christendom – assumed, in varying degrees, a sacred character, whereby not only individuals but institutions and customs adored God by functioning as they should function, i. e. as instruments for the sanctification of man.

Traditional Latin Mass: Gateway of Nature To The Supernatural

What is in the nature of this structure of words, symbols and ceremonies that makes up the Traditional Latin Mass that held ‒ and still holds ‒ the minds and hearts of creative minorities from Palestrina to Bach and Handel, from Michelangelo to Pugin, from Raphael to Dali?

The answer must be sought in the application by Catholicism to the structure of the Mass of a fundamental intuition that she has always  lived by ‒ that the supernatural flourishes where nature is allowed to unfold her powers.

Thus, through this symbiotic bonding between the natural and the supernatural in the Ancient Rite and its surroundings the Gospel whispered, shouted, sung, convinced, and inflamed through symbol- laiden ceremonial, chiselled words, haunting hymns, tender sculptures, intricate woodwork, ornate ironwork and soaring spires. Through it the Gospel, illuminated by the Spirit-inspired Tradition ‒ the wisdom of the Fathers of the Church, the prayers crafted by saintly priests, the ceremonial authorized by great pontiffs ‒ conquered the West. In this way the “Mass of the Ages” ensouled Europe with the word of God “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”. (Hebrews 4:12)

But the winning dimension of this harmonious unity of the natural and supernatural within the Ancient Rite was its transparent communication of the truths of Catholicism. The “Mass of the Ages”  was the prime agent in inspiring, framing, and sustaining the new Catholic culture because the authors of its ritual, priests “so identified with the Church that we but seldom know their names”, were men of intense prayer who faithfully and vividly patterned its language, symbols, and postures on the Catholic Faith in all its integrity, with all its intellectual complexity, tremendous mystery, fearsome depth, defiant challenge to the world, tender solace, and power of regeneration. It was as clear and unchanging in its identity as the Catholic Faith itself and thus had the power to touch and transform the thoughts, loves and aspirations of millions, who became, in great or small ways, creators and upholders of a Christian society. It powerfully communicated the  Gospel, thundering truth, murmuring mystery, and breathing the sacred in a way that resonated in the hearts of ordinary men and women, awakening them to the depths of their sinfulness, the grandeur of the God-Man’s crucified love, and their freedom-conditioned destiny of eternal happiness.

Thus the Ancient Rite, firstly through its insistence on communicating the integrity of Catholic truth in the proportion and harmony laid out by the Tradition going back to the apostles, and secondly by powerfully addressing man through a ritual addressing his sense of the sacred in a forcefully attractive manner, communicated the

The traditional liturgy because it integrally, faithfully, transparently communicates the mystical reality and the eternal truths in their Spirit-assisted unfolding to human understanding through generations of saints is where the Church achieves the purpose for her existence: the honor of God and the transformation of men into sons of God.

The whole life of the Church expresses and unfolds itself in its liturgy; all the relations of creatures with God here find their principle and their consummation; by the very acts that in the individual as in the whole mass realize union with God, the liturgy pays God “all honour and glory.” In it the Holy Spirit has achieved the concentration, eternalization, and diffusion throughout the whole Body of Christ of the unchangeable fulness of the act of redemption, all the spiritual riches of the Church in the past, in the present, and in eternity. (Dom Paul Delatte, Commentary on the Rule

The Ancient Rite, educator par excellence of Catholicism, seeks to liberate man’s mind from the secondary for the primary; within her walls, she wants him to be left free to enter into contemplation of the “unum necessarium” [the one thing necessary]. To achieve this, she demands a great deal, calling on the participant to use his intelligence, sensitivity, determination, and even his body to enter inside the truths veiled by her sacred language, mystery-filled symbols, and ancient ceremonials.

Conclusion

The traditional liturgy by transparently, pedagogically, integrally, aesthetically empowering this transformation of the individual consequently also empowers the transformation of society.

The entire culture of Catholicism and a Catholic society in its pedagogical, ascetical-mystical, social, political, literary, artistic, architectural, sculptural manifestations radiates from the traditional Latin liturgy.

Consequently, In the present tumultuous crisis of the Church, defined by one bishop as its “fourth great crisis” (Bishop Athanasius Schneider, May 30, 2014), the Society of Ignatians is convinced that the immemorial ancient Latin liturgy – with its asceticism that is integral to it – is essential to the future of a vigorous Catholicism.