Monday, December 25, 2006

The Mass of John XXIII?

Fox News in St.Louis reports an upsurge in the traditional mass in Latin among younger Catholics. The New Liturgical Movement reports this and provides a link to the actual broadcast.

The broadcast seems to be talking about the pre-1969 Latin liturgy not the current mass (sometimes referred to as the Novus Ordo mass) celebrated in Latin. It is not always 100% clear. The broadcast is pretty good however. Anytime I have been quoted in the media and they got half of it right, I have considered it a victory. The perfunctory "balance" by Fr. Richard McBrien is predictable. Like so many aging "progressives," he is increasingly irrelevant.

That said, there is a real difficulty in nomenclature.

The current mass is based on the missal that was issued in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. It was claimed to be necessary to implement the reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council. It is variously called the Mass of Paul VI, the Novus Ordo mass, or the mass of the Missal of 1969. Fr. Martin Fox (Bonfire of the Vanities) even suggests at one point calling it the Pauline Mass. (Read Fr. Fox's very useful discussion of the issue.)

Referring to the "Latin mass" is ambiguous. The current mass can be celebrated in Latin, in fact that is the clear intent of Vatican II. Certainly the current mass in Latin with both the people and the priest facing God together would be a vast improvement over what many people suffer through in too many parishes today.

Many people want the restoration of the so called "Tridentine mass," typically by reverting to the Missal of 1962. This mass is sometimes called the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), the Pian mass (after Pius V who issued the Missal implementing the reforms of the Council of Trent) or the Tridentine mass. The 1962 Missal was the latest (prior to Vatican II) revision of the mass in the form it took under Pius V's reforms. But do not be deceived. There was not some new rite developed after the Council of Trent. Calling it "Tridentine" is misleading. Pius V modestly and respectfully pared back to basics a 1,000+ year old rite. There was no break with the past. It developed organically from the practices of the Church in Rome in Peter and Paul's time and from the Jewish ritual that preceded it.

After the second Vatican council, a new missal was issued in 1965. One could argue that this Missal issued in 1965 (right after the Council) already met the requirements of the Council. If you hold to this position, you would argue that the very dramatic changes made in 1969, were not necessary.

Traditionalists who argue for going back to "The old Latin mass" typically call for restoring the Missal of 1962. This Missal was promulgated by Pope John XXIII. This was the mass as it was celebrated during Vatican II.

Rather than calling this the "Tridentine Mass," maybe we should refer to it as the Mass of John XXIII!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why Is Benedict Popular?

Image from the Diocese of Penbroke (Ontario.)

My good friend Matt pointed out that our new pope does not smile as much as John Paul the Great. While my default image of Benedict has him smiling, much of the time his pictures show him quite intent, typically listening.

Yet we have on a good source, Sandro Magister, that he is even more popular that John Paul. (See Magister's post by clicking on the tittle link.)

How is that possible?

Pope Benedict XVI must be a press secretary's nightmare. Key talks he insists on writing himself and delivering unvetted. He normally speaks without notes quoting scripture and the church fathers from memory. If some American bishops use the word "pastoral" as a synonym for "a good manager and fund raiser," Benedict exemplifies a pastoral bishop in a way the early fathers would have recognized. He focuses on the person in front of him, he listens, and teaches in questions and answers. And his teaching is always rooted in Jesus and the scriptures.

He leads with his prose.

As Magister points out, he is the first theologian to become pope. Benedict told his fellow theologians, "the fundamental virtue for the theologian ... [is] the discipline of obedience to the truth." Explaining the words of his predecessor (1Pt 1:22) to his fellow theologians, he taught, "In other words, speaking in the hope of being applauded, governed by what people want to hear out of obedience to the dictatorship of current opinion, is considered to be a sort of prostitution: of words and of the soul. The ‘purity’ to which the Apostle Peter is referring means not submitting to these standards, not seeking applause, but rather, seeking obedience to the truth."

Oddly enough in this world where Pontius Pilate seems to rule ("Truth? What is that?") and where a Gresham's Law of words seems to prevail, the clarity of truth has appeal. "[F]or it is not we who speak in today's river of words, but it is the truth which speaks in us."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why Did Jesus Need a "Host" That First Christmas?

The "heavenly host" as presented on Bible Universe. If you are fond of this image of the First Christmas, you may not want to read on.

Why Did Jesus Need a "Host" That First Christmas?

We know from Luke's gospel, as well as from many a Christmas carol, that Jesus was greeted by a "heavenly host." It was a member of that armed force who told the shepherds that He had been born.

"Host" is a most peculiar word. It and its cognates in our language and its brother and sister languages can have quite opposite meanings. Think of "hostile," hospitality," "She was a good and gracious host," "a hostile host confronted the king." In that last sentence, "host" means "army." It is precisely that meaning that is meant in English translations of Luke 2:13.

While the word "peace" most frequently comes to mind on the commemoration of the Prince of Peace's nativity, it was a most warlike bunch that announced his birth. Indeed I tempted to think that Luke 2:14 is a challenge and response: "Glory to God in the Highest!" "And peace to men of good will!" In other words, the first set of angel guards demanded a password from the next.

If these celestial warriors were singing, it was to keep in step as any army until modern times did. (Luke does not say they sang by the way.)

Why did Jesus need an armed guard? There were more than baaing sheep and curious shepherds abroad. The Prince of this World and his allies in it play for keeps. Ask the Holy Innocents.

Do not be misled by pictures of the pretty angels in flowing gauze on Christmas cards. These angels were armed to the hilt!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Did You Know Robison Caruso was Bowdlerized?

Did you know Robison Caruso was bowdlerized? No? Read Zaleski's "The Strange Shipwreck of Robinson Crusoe" published some years back in First Things by clicking on the link in the tittle of this post. We must protect our childr!n from obscene things like God, religion, and moral improvement.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Barth, the Protestant Rejection of Natural Law and English Gardens

J. Daryl Charles writes on Protestantism and Natural Law in the December First Things. I gained an interesting insight. With the Enlightenment came a wholly different view of nature. Nature is no longer an unruly, dangerous thing that is beautiful because it reflects the creative power of its Creator. Rather it is like an English garden: tidy and orderly, the work of man.

Whereas Issac Newton believed he could find orderly laws in the chaos of nature because he believe they reflected the work of nature's God, modern man believes nature is submissive because it obeys his own laws. Nature is made in Man's own image!

Modern man has a hard time believing that Aslan is not a tame animal. Indeed modern man does not believe anything disorderly or non-man made can happen in his English garden. Consequently, he, like Jesus' neighbors in Nazareth (Mt 13,53-8; Mk 6,1-6), does not believe in miracles. As a result, miracles happen mostly in places like Africa and Kansas.