OLY WEEK with the FSSP here in Los Angeles was unforgettable. The Easter Vigil, which began at 11:00pm, was conducted in complete darkness (until the Gloria), except for the light of candles. The darkness helped our minds focus. As the Exsultet was being sung, these words caught my attention:
“O inæstimábilis diléctio caritátis: ut servum redímeres, Fílium tradidísti!”
The precious favor of Thy love delivered up to death Thine only Son to buy back a slave’s life.
Giving up one’s child can only be fully appreciated by a parent, and this hit me like never before. Moreover, I began to feel utterly unworthy to be in God’s presence. In a few moments, I would enter the Sanctuary—along with another cantor, both of us wearing cassock & surplice—kneel down, and begin leading the Litany of the Saints. I was quite uncomfortable entering the Sanctuary; I would have preferred to hide under a rock.
At that moment, I realized the Liturgy is a type of SHIELD, helping us approach God without being obliterated by His Purity. Nothing we sinners can do will “earn” our salvation according to strict justice. Yet, fulfilling our role in the liturgy—praising God according to the ancient rites of the Church—is pleasing to Him, and this gave me comfort. I did not run from the Church; I sang the Litany as best I could.
According to Rocco Palmo, someone associated with the Congregation for Divine Worship recently intimated they will take the following approach to liturgy:
“Go by the book. Don’t make a fuss about it. And remember that liturgy’s always a means to an end—not an end in itself.”
Anyone with a rudimentary theological knowledge understands that liturgy is not an end in itself. 1 On the other hand, we ought to pay careful attention to the liturgy and perform our actions as perfectly as we can.
I USED TO ASSUME THAT ANYONE who denigrates the Traditional Latin Mass de facto had evil intentions. In recent years, I’m more inclined to think it’s a misunderstanding. Those who have little experience with the Extraordinary Form often characterize things in way I find utterly perplexing. They’ll take innocent actions—such as receiving Holy Communion kneeling or wearing traditional Church vestments—and explain them in ways I never imagined after decades of attending the EF. It reminds me of the comedian who explained the etymology of MANKIND by breaking it into fundamental parts: “mank” and “ind.”
Consider the words of Msgr. Francis Mannion, who has been horrified 2 to observe the resurgence of the Traditional Mass:
“I must say that having attended a number of Tridentine celebrations in recent years, I have been left with the impression that it is the ritual—rather than God—who is being worshipped. There can be a kind of idolatry here.”
Imagine a young boy wishing to please his father by carefully polishing his shoes. Is it really “idolatry,” or is it a child showing love to the parent? More than 1,200 people attended our EF Holy Week services; I would be reluctant to accuse a single one of idolatry.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Traditionally, Catholics use the acronym “TARP” to remember the four ends: Thanksgiving, Adoration, Reparation, and Petition. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen has reminded us that “TARP” comes close to matching the order of importance, too!
2 To be fair, many critics of the Extraordinary Form went to the seminary at a time when the Old Testament was deëmphasized and are, therefore, unaware of the “ritualism” (to use one of Msgr. Mannion’s favorite words) of the Jewish ceremonies.