A collection of personal reflections. Copyright © 2005-2011 K. Gurries

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Riches of the Traditional Latin Mass

“It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops Presenting the Motu Proprio”Summorum Pontificum”

The Restoration of the Use of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)
In his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI fully restores the usus antiquior or ancient use of the Roman Rite for the benefit of the entire Church -- by virtue of its sublime “riches” as well as to honor its “ancient and venerable use”. The 1970 Missal of Pope Paul VI or "ordinary form" and the 1962 Missal of Pope John XXIII or "extraordinary form" are to be held as “two usages of the one Roman rite.”

When each of these forms is given its “proper place”, the Holy Father indicates that they can be "mutually enriching". For its part, the TLM can be enriched with the addition of new saints and prefaces. On the other hand, experiencing the “riches” of the usus antiquior can positively impact the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI by adding to “the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.” Cardinal Dario Castrillión Hoyos explains the intention of Pope Benedict XVI as follows: “...the Holy Father wants the ancient use of the Mass to become a normal occurrence in the liturgical life of the Church so that all of Christ’s faithful – young and old – can become familiar with the older rites and draw from their tangible beauty and transcendence. The Holy Father wants this for pastoral reasons as well as for theological ones.” (See L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, June 25, 2008)

The following selection of quotations from Pope Benedict XVI help us to understand more clearly certain liturgical principles essential to preserving the sense of the sacred or "sacrality" in the liturgy. These “riches”, together forming one seamless garment in the ancient use of the Roman Rite, have been “in use for more than 1,400 years. It is this rite, which we may call Gregorian…” (Cardinal Dario Castrillión Hoyos, L’Osservatore Romano, March 28, 2008)


Why do the priest and congregation face the same direction in the TLM?
In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: “Conversi ad Dominum” – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign of Christ returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at least turn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, this involved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light. (Pope Benedict XVI, Easter Vigil Homily, 2008)

Why are Latin and Gregorian Chant esteemed in the TLM?
[…]while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire…that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy…In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church…such [international] liturgies could be celebrated in Latin. Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis)

Why does kneeling have an important place in the TLM?
Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. Jn 3: 16). We prostrate ourselves before a God who first bent over man like the Good Samaritan to assist him and restore his life, and who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet. Adoring the Body of Christ, means believing that there, in that piece of Bread, Christ is really there, and gives true sense to life, to the immense universe as to the smallest creature, to the whole of human history as to the most brief existence. (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, 2008; Also see L’Osservatore Romano, June 26, 2008 where Mgr. Guido Marini, Papal master of ceremonies, explains why the Holy Father has adopted the traditional manner of distributing communion during Papal liturgies: “The manner [distributing communion to the faithful in the mouth while kneeling] adopted by Benedict XVI…highlights the truth of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful, and introduces [them] more easily to the sense of the mystery. These are aspects which, in our time, pastorally speaking, it is urgent to stress and recover.")

Why are there so many periods of silence in the TLM?
There is another aspect of prayer which we need to remember: silent contemplation. Saint John, for example, tells us that to embrace God’s revelation we must first listen, then respond by proclaiming what we have heard and seen (cf. 1 Jn 1:2-3; Dei Verbum, 1). Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening? Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth into goodness? Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, adore him in the Eucharist. Let his word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness. (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Young People and Seminarians in New York, 2008)

How does “active participation” find expression in the TLM?
It should be made clear that the word "participation" does not refer to mere external activity during the celebration. In fact, the active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life…The beauty and the harmony of the liturgy find eloquent expression in the order by which everyone is called to participate actively. This entails an acknowledgment of the distinct hierarchical roles involved in the celebration. It is helpful to recall that active participation is not per se equivalent to the exercise of a specific ministry. The active participation of the laity does not benefit from the confusion arising from an inability to distinguish, within the Church's communion, the different functions proper to each one. There is a particular need for clarity with regard to the specific functions of the priest. He alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests, presides over the entire eucharistic celebration, from the initial greeting to the final blessing. In virtue of his reception of Holy Orders, he represents Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and, in a specific way, also the Church herself. (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis)

Why is the TLM a rich treasure of the spiritual life?
The ars celebrandi [the art of proper celebration] is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio [full, active and fruitful participation of all the faithful]. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5, 9). (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis)



Anonymous Bryan said...

An interesting "Interview with the Pope" style of article.

Just celebrated the 2nd Anniversary of Summ. Pont. Deo Gratias.

September 16, 2009 8:59 AM  

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