Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Could Attend Masses Forever and Not Be Tired

"The idea of worship is different in the Catholic Church from the idea of it in your Church; for, in truth, the religions are different. Don't deceive yourself, my dear Bateman," he said tenderly, "it is not that ours is your religion carried a little farther,—a little too far, as you would say. No, they differ in kind, not in degree; ours is one religion, yours another. And when the time comes, and come it will, for you, alien as you are now, to submit yourself to the gracious yoke of Christ, then, my dearest Bateman, it will be faith which will enable you to bear the ways and usages of Catholics, which else might perhaps startle you. Else, the habits of years, the associations in your mind of a certain outward behaviour with real inward acts of devotion, might embarrass you, when you had to conform yourself to other habits, and to create for yourself other associations. But this faith, of which I speak, the great gift of God, will enable you in that day to overcome yourself, and to submit, as your judgment, your will, your reason, your affections, so your tastes and likings, to the rule and usage of the Church. Ah, that faith should be necessary in such a matter, and that what is so natural and becoming under the circumstances, should have need of an explanation! I declare, to me," he said, and he clasped his hands on his knees, and looked forward as if soliloquising,—"to me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words,—it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present on the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble. This is that awful event which is the scope, and is the interpretation, of every part of the solemnity. Words are necessary, but as means, not as ends; they are not mere addresses to the throne of grace, they are instruments of what is far higher, of consecration, of sacrifice. They hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission. Quickly they go, the whole is quick; for they are all parts of one integral action. Quickly they go; for they are awful words of sacrifice, they are a work too great to delay upon; as when it was said in the beginning: 'What thou doest, do quickly'. Quickly they pass; for the Lord Jesus goes with them, as He passed along the lake in the days of His flesh, quickly calling first one and then another. Quickly they pass; because as the lightning which shineth from one part of heaven unto the other, so is the coming of the Son of Man. Quickly they pass; for they are as the words of Moses, when the Lord came down in the cloud, calling on the Name of the Lord as He passed by, 'the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth'. And as Moses on the mountain, so we too 'make haste and bow our heads to the earth, and adore'. So we, all around, each in his place, look out for the great Advent, 'waiting for the moving of the water'. Each in his place, with his own heart, with his own wants, with his own thoughts, with his own intention, with his own prayers, separate but concordant, watching what is going on, watching its progress, uniting in its consummation;—not painfully and hopelessly following a hard form of prayer from beginning to end, but, like a concert of musical instruments, each different, but concurring in a sweet harmony, we take our part with God's priest, supporting him, yet guided by him. There are little children there, and old men, and simple labourers, and students in seminaries, priests preparing for Mass, priests making their thanksgiving; there are innocent maidens, and there are penitent sinners; but out of these many minds rises one eucharistic hymn, and the great Action is the measure and scope of it. And oh, my dear Bateman," he added, turning to him, "you ask me whether this is not a formal, unreasonable service—it is wonderful!" he cried, rising up, "quite wonderful. When will these dear good people be enlightened? O Sapientia, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia, O Adonai, O Clavis David et Exspectatio gentium, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster."
From John Henry Newman's Loss and Gain, Part II, Chapter 20 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur

Newman as a young man
"Newman," a Jesuit once said, "was the first person to have an original thought since Saint Augustine." Newman and his original thoughts earned a renewed vivacity during the middle years of Benedict XVI's pontificate culminating in the cardinal's beatification in 2010. Newman, perhaps not unlike Saint Joseph, became something of a projection board for whatever was one people's minds. Converts rightly looked at Newman's journey from Calvinistic Evangelicalism to the "one fold" of the Church as a blueprint for their own path. Others more active in politics and politicking called Newman's non-Scholastic, near-Patristic outlook the inspiration for the Second Vatican Council. I have even heard a very few, more old fashioned traditionalists wag a disapproving finger at John Henry's memory because he prioritized individual experience over objective reason, anticipating the relativism of the post-War days. Yet Newman endures among those who read him rather than read about him, which alone makes him worth understanding better.

His personal motto, "heart speaks to heart," conveys Newman's thought in his own time so suitably that it should be the lens for interpreting anything he wrote. His Gain and Loss is something of a fictionalized intellectual autobiography, not a straight novelization of his conversion. In Gain his protagonist, the eager to please Charles Reding, studies for the Anglican ministry in mid-19th century Oxford amid the whirling ideological vortex of the day: what to make of Catholic's absolute claims to truth; whether Anglo-Catholicism was a legitimate expression of Anglicanism or a Romish perversion; the rectitude of the Evangelical wing and their fundamentalist concept of faith; and the gradual dying out of via media, old fashioned Anglican clergy like our hero's father. Reding wishes to know the truth of what his co-religionists believe and whether or not even that is true.

In Reding's Oxford, and Newman's, reason simply fails as a singular tool for discerning true religion and salvation. Reason aids in breaking down falsehood, but it also produces some wildly irreligious views of its own. Early on Reding and his fellow students recall Paley's statement that all of Christ's miracles were entirely "reasonable" and that revelation ought not be construed as a "mystery" because He would not reveal anything about Himself that He would not want us to understand. In his own relationships Reding finds faults and inconsistencies both within others' views and within his national Church's as a whole, given that the diversity of the former means there can be no binding doctrine with the latter. In dilating with an Evangelical acquaintance he is told that faith is the instrument of salvation, even if the Prayer Book does not agree with this. Faith produces good works if the faith is true; good works do not improve faith or work with it, as the Romanists say, but rather descend from it. Reding can pick this idea apart from Scripture and from other Anglican sources without finding any resolution. This intellectual and spiritual vagrancy suits his cynical other half, Sheffield, just fine, who comes to similar conclusions than those of Reding without Reding's burning desire for truth. Sheffield is fine signing onto the Thirty-Nine articles and consigning their purpose to creating a consensus. For Reding this just will not do.

The "solution" to the nigh impossible equation of computing salvation is to descend to the heart. Reding, like Newman, never felt inclined toward marriage because from an early age he never found himself alone, but instead always sense the presence of another within him, following him and with him in his every thought and movement. He never wanted to welcome any impediment to this presence which could only be the indwelling of the Trinity after Baptism. Dostoevsky speaks of a similar presence attributable to Jesus Christ Himself just prior to the Grand Inquisitor dialogue in The Brothers Karamazov. Our Lord returns and walks through the streets of late medieval Spain; people acclaim Him and follow Him, dropping whatever they happening to be doing after beholding His countenance and knowing, from within, that this is Christ. It is a similar presence that Newman describes in less verbosity than the Russian. Reding, if he desires to hear anything, desires to hear from those who speak to that presence.

The first definitive attraction to the Church for Reding is that the Catholic Church might well be God's prophet on earth. God spoke through prophets in ancient times and revealing previously unknown truths is a hallmark of real religion. The Catholic Church's absolute claim to truth and his own Church's intellectualized indifference means that Reding, who admittedly knows nothing of the "Church of Rome" or its particular teachings, holds that either the Catholic Church is God's prophet on earth or there is no voice for God on earth. And if the Catholic Church does speak for God then its doctrines are not a set of propositions worthy of consideration; instead the Church is a teacher to whom the faithful should listen as students.

Far from embracing moral relativism Newman saw all too well that excessive intellectualism would lead to religious relativism; only ten years after Newman published Gain and Loss Darwin published his Origin of Species and threw a poorly prepared world into a fit and left little sure other than the heart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vatican I: An Eastern Perspective

Adam DeVille wrote The Long Shadows of the First Vatican Council, an insightful article that provides some removed perspective on the centralization following Vatican I which made Vatican II possible. A few observations I hope readers can discuss:

  • Vatican II was a reaction to Vatican I, as Mr. DeVille claims. It was also caused, in part, by Vatican I's channeling all the administrative power in the Latin Church to Rome and neutering bishops of the governance of their dioceses.
  • The aforementioned problem came from the collapse of Catholic culture and Catholic governments during the various mid-19th century nationalistic revolutions. The result is a "secular" Church, a Church that exists in the world but is not fundamental to it.
  • Pursuant to this last point, I re-link to my "The Pre-Conciliar Church," which touches on how the "perfect society" model of the Church developed in the 19th century and informed the popular imagination until Vatican II ripped it up.
  • Mr. DeVille is right in jealously guarding bishops' apostolic rights to govern their dioceses. I once held to the idea that patriarchal and synodal powers ought to have their own say, but a longer historical view reduces patriarchs and synods to practical matter of administration, better suited to administer than Roman congregations but no more or less fundamental to the exercise of Apostolic ministry than those same Roman congregations. The most authentic mode of teaching and government is that of the bishop.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

English Traddie-dom

The state of Traditionalism in the English Church has a few lessons for the wider Church and for those who seek to promote the old rite and its accompanying doctrinal perspective beyond the reaches of small communities. The real state of English Traddie-dom is that, aside from some growth here and there, in larger places it has stagnated. This is not the case globally; the old Mass continues to expand in the United States, Italy, and Africa; but it does carry some meaning for Catholics in thriving places.

What does stagnation look like? It means one could not reasonably split a Mass community up into two separate Masses and justify either service. The tell tale signs of this are 1) constancy in the number of Masses and 2) constancy in the congregations of existing Masses. The 8AM "EF" Mass at the Oxford Oratory still has the same 150-200 people it did seven years ago and probably the same number it did ten years before that, when the bishop asked for a 1962 Mass to assuage potential devotees of the FSSPX. Similarly, I did not notice any difference in the number of Masses offered within the Archdiocese of Westminster from seven years ago. The 9:30AM Mass at Saint James, Spanish Place, boasted the same congregation as the Oratory, although it competes with half a dozen other spoken Masses and a sung Mass at Saint Bede's, Clapham Park.

Catholicism in England itself, like the general English population, has not flourished very much one way or another in the last several decades. One would presume the Traditionalist crowd would get a larger portion of a shrinking pie, like they are in the United States or France, but this is not the case. Instead, Oratories and Oratorian takes on the Pauline Mass are abounding and taking those very slices. The last few years have seen Oratories emerge in Bournemouth, York, and Manchester, which doubles the number of Oratories from just five years ago. Attendance at the Oxford Oratory's 11AM Solemn Latin Novus Ordo has dipped a little; it is no longer standing room only because "Several churches in the diocese are now imitating what we do and people no longer feel compelled to drive two hours to Mass," one priest told me. So why is the Latin Mass of Paul VI, which has never caught on anywhere else in the world, out-doing the flailing Latin Mass of Pius V?

One answer is that people see different things at a 1962 Mass in London than they do at a Brompton high Mass. Someone who has never seen a pre-Conciliar form of the Roman Mass will walk into a church and witness a priest speaking garbled Latin in an echo chamber for 45 minutes, perhaps stopping to give a short sermon and Communion; yes, it is why the church was built, but that does not make it more accessible to the uninitiated of 2018. By contrast, someone who walks into an Oratorian-styled Mass sees something he knows and which happens at a familiar pace, the readings are in his own tongue, and rather than hearing a spoken Mass he hears the finest Renaissance music sung by a professional choir; in short, he sees an inspiring variation on something he already knows and takes it to be something very different. A large percentage of parishioners at these sorts of conservative or traditional settings are converts from Anglicanism who like loud organs, strong hymns, well done services, and the like. The old rite low Mass may be more consonant with Charles Reding's observations in Newman's Loss and Gain about the Catholic Mass being focused on the priest offering Sacrifice, not the congregation, but that may not help get people in the pew.

The other factor may well be the Traditionalists themselves, who have often been their own worst enemies; one thinks of Tracey Rowland's attempt at some Traddie self-criticism back when Rorate Caeli still enabled comments. In England the problem has not been as pronounced as the visceral attitude of '90s American traditionalists, but recusancy does still attract its cranks. The real problem with any spiritual movement that has to fight political battles—and Traditionalists are a prime ecclesiastical example—is that spiritual focus and spiritual values can unintentionally be subverted by an ideological outlook intent on conforming the world to one's views. This, again, may be less prevalent in England since a good portion of the Traditional rite Masses in England are run by diocesan priests who perform older rituals out of pastoral duty and person interest. Then again, the issue may not be with clergy as much as laity, who desire holiness and wisdom, but have historically contented themselves with the promises of the Rosaries and the errors of Vatican II. What emerges then carries the danger of a hypocritical Catholicism, a flock that does the right things but carries little to no sign of sanctity.

This last issue, like the "visceral attitude of '90s American traditionalists", may well be solving itself with age and the gradual replacement with new blood. In 2011 one could still start a conversation at coffee hour after the 8AM Oratory Mass with the words, "The Novus Ordo is a horror show." Today those same people would justly roll their eyes and keep to their own chatter.

If proponents of the old rite wish to see Waugh's "fire burning among the old stones", then, regardless of whether they live in London or Liberia, they must do something to attract those soldiers who are "farther in heart than Acre or Jerusalem."

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Monastic Office: Early "Renewal"?

Practically every alteration, deformation, and mutation that touched the Roman liturgy in the last century came to the faithful clergy and laity with marketing buzzwords from the Holy See like "renewal", as if the liturgy had died, or "restoration", as if the novel practices now prescribed had existed in this form at some prior point. Papa Sarto spoke of the older Roman Office in very harsh terms while calling his psalter "restitueretur." Pius XII repeated his Venetian predecessor's language after he restored Holy Week by tossing the rites, Offices, and unique ceremonies out the window for new ones. And then, of course, came the paterfamilias of "renewal", the liturgy of Paul VI, which failed to maintain even the form of similarity with the past like Sarto's psalter, which preserved some aspects of the Office for major feasts and the 150 psalm weekly schedule. Everything became new, nothing was different, and all was fixed.

The Roman Breviary went through no less than four sets of revisions in the 20th century, each leaving less the genius of the original Office than the former. What many critics of the liturgical reforms, myself included, often fail to realize is that these changes, like those to the Mass, happened gradually and under the influence of others who belonged to the places and communities where these concepts originated. The psalter of Divino Afflatu looks much more like the "Jansenist" Offices of 18th and 19th century France than it does that of Saint Pius V. In the same vein, the rubrics and schedule of Offices in John XXIII's breviary strangely resemble those of the Monastic Psalter in force three decades earlier. What were those features?

First, and most characteristic of John XXIII's Breviary, the Monastic Office underwent a reduction of supposedly quintessentially Roman feasts, both in number and in kind. Just as the 1960/2 Breviarium Romanum observes one feast of Saint Peter's Chair, so does the Monastic Diurnal of the '30s, although it previously followed the Roman praxis in observing both Rome and Antioch. Some uniquely Benedictine feasts even saw mergers in the case of saints whose historicity was deemed dubious in the early 20th century. A few alterations to the Monastic sanctoral did make clean up certain aspects of the kalendar, like transferring the octaves of Saints Benedict and Scholastica outside of Lent, where they would no longer impede the penitential season.

Second, the days of the kalendar underwent substantial revision of rank and kind. Double feasts previously enjoyed three nocturnes of four lessons each at Mattins throughout the year, except the summer when they had three. The revised kalendar provides three lessons per nocturne throughout the year and only one per nocturne during the summer. Semi-Double feasts were generally made into something equivalent to Third Class feasts in the 1960/2 Roman rite and feasts that were previously Simples found themselves more akin to John XXIII's "Commemoration" rank. The reforms did retain the traditional Semi-Double Offices for days within octaves.

One wonders why these Benedictines required a reduction in their Offices? Perhaps they needed time to buy suits and sit on liturgical reform commissions?