QUESTION ONE often hears asked: “Why do traditionalists focus so much on the liturgy? Do they think it’s the most important thing in the world?” The implied answer is, No, it really isn’t the most important thing; after all, there’s the doctrinal content of the faith, and the Church’s whole magisterium, there’s missionary work and social work for the poor, there’s catechesis and adult education, etc. Surely, all that together is more important or at least equally so?
But in truth, it is not so. Catechesis, marriage, theology, devotions, everything hinges on the sacred liturgy, which, in its eucharistic consummation, is the source and summit of the Church’s entire life, as Vatican II lucidly taught. The Christian people is formed by the liturgy more than by anything else; it is the one formative influence that is universal to believers and intended by our Lord to be their very food and drink. Catechesis may vary, interest in doctrine and use of devotional practices may vary, but Sunday worship, and the celebration of the other sacraments, will profoundly affect the way believers think of God, worship God, and lead their lives. Take away the liturgy, and you have ripped the heart right out of the body. Or, to use a similar metaphor, it’s like the difference between cutting off a limb and chopping off the head. Man can survive a lot of wounds and amputations, but once the head is gone, nothing else matters.
Jesus taught us: “eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mt 6:22-23 RSV) The liturgy is like the eye of the Church. If this eye is sound, the whole body will be full of its light. When the public worship of God is our first priority, when it is carried out reverently, lovingly, with adoration, and we give our very best to it, doing everything in harmony with Catholic tradition and the directives of the Church, then we have brought ourselves into the right relationship with the Mystical Body and its Head, Christ our King, Sovereign High Priest. From that right relationship flows our personal prayer, our study and catechesis, our works of charity and evangelization, even our leisure and recreation.
But if the liturgy is perverted, if it is shallow, horizontal, and full of abuses, if it embodies and promotes a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity vis-à-vis the great tradition of the Church, then the Church has been dealt the closest thing to a death-blow that she, who is immortal, can be dealt. We are not only not bringing our entire lives into harmony around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are even running the risk of sinning against the light, profaning the holiest of holies, losing our way in the world, losing our ability or even desire to evangelize because there ceases to be that for the sake of which all proclamation of the Gospel exists. “How great is the darkness!”
Let us flee such darkness as much as we can, doing all that we can to illuminate the world with the light and warmth of the adoration of God in spirit and in truth. When the liturgy is intrinsically good, as it was and still is wherever the traditionalist revival has caught on, the Church will thrive again, will gain converts and produce missionary shoots, and will prevail over every tyranny that dares to stand in her way.