REQUENTLY, I’VE TALKED ABOUT what is—in my humble opinion 1—a serious flaw of the liturgical reformers: treating men like angels. Their mistake was an A PRIORI one which deemed physical motions unnecessary for prayer, and they eliminated hundreds of physical gestures from Mass. 2 But men are not pure spirits; we have bodies and live in the physical world. They failed to realize that such gestures had greatly assisted devotion. And whether we like it or not, music also has an effect on us.
One of my favorite films has always been Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Can you imagine the following scene without music?
For decades, progressive liturgists have insisted that one style of music is as good as another. According to them, all styles are “equally suitable” for use at Mass. But movie directors know better! They know that different styles of music accomplish different goals.
If you ever feel mischievous, ask progressive liturgists what styles they would forbid during Mass. If you want to make them furious, ask WHY such styles are bad. (They will never answer that question.)
I believe music is powerful. Moreover, I believe certain styles are appropriate for a football game, a toothpaste commercial, a carousel ride, or a wedding reception. On the other hand, I believe other musical styles possess a “level of dignity” suitable for Mass. I became convinced of this (again) last Sunday, hearing our volunteer FSSP choir in Los Angeles sing a Viadana Gloria—so beautiful, prayerful, and uplifting. I was blown away!
Our culture tries to convince us we can live in an alternate reality—a “computerized” reality. I believe many of our liturgical issues will be solved when our culture once again becomes fully human!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 It is not forbidden to criticize the reforms, which were enacted with unbelievable haste. I’ve been reading the memoirs of Fr. Louis Bouyer, recently published by IGNATIUS. Bouyer, a close friend of Pope Paul VI, was deeply involved with the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. His sober assessment corroborates what many others have attested, such as the words of Cardinal Antonelli. At some point, I hope to share excerpts of what Bouyer has written. Suffice it to say, the sloppiness which characterized much (not all) of the post-conciliar reforms is horrifying.
2 The traditional rite contains numerous gestures. Examples would include physical instructions given to the celebrant, such as full bow, medium bow, head bow, striking one’s breast, kissing the Altar, holding one’s hands in a certain position, making circular motions with one’s arms, and so forth. The pre-conciliar rubrics even controlled where the priest’s eyes must look during certain times at Mass.