These cultural ramifications of the Latin Mass are the reason why, after Vatican II, English novelists Agatha Christie and Nancy Mitford and other British cultural luminaries sent a letter to Pope Paul VI asking him to continue. Their letter does not even claim to come from believing Christians. “The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts – not only mystical works, but works of poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors from all countries and of all eras. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to clergymen and formal Christians.
But the Vatican Council had called for a review of all aspects of the central act of worship, so altar rails, tabernacles and canopies were torn in countless parishes. This ferment was accompanied by new radical theologies around the Mass. A freshman major in Religious Studies would know that revising all the vocal and physical aspects of a ceremony and changing the rationale is a real change in religion. Only overconfident Catholic bishops could imagine otherwise.
The more outspoken progressives agreed with the radical traditionalists that the council was a break with the past. They called Vatican II “a new Pentecost” – an “event” – who had given the church a new understanding of itself. They thought their revolution had stalled in 1968 when Pope Paul VI released “Humanae Vitae,” asserting the church’s opposition to artificial contraception, then put it on ice in 1978 with the election. of Pope John Paul II.
To eradicate the old Latin Mass, Pope Francis uses the papacy in precisely the way progressives once claimed to deplore: he centralizes power in Rome, usurps the prerogatives of the local bishop, and institutes a style of micromanagement motivated by paranoia. of disloyalty and heresy. . Perhaps it is to protect his deepest beliefs.
Pope Francis considers that we will return to the New Mass. My children cannot go back there; it is not their religious training. Frankly, the New Mass is not their religion. In countless alterations, the belief that the Mass was a true sacrifice and that the bread and wine, once consecrated, became the body and blood of our Lord has been played down or replaced. With the priest facing the people, the altar was separated from the tabernacle. The prescribed prayers of the New Mass no longer even tend to refer to this structure as an altar but as the Lord’s table. Prayers that indicated the Lord’s real presence in the sacrament have been pointedly replaced with prayers emphasizing the spiritual presence of the Lord in the assembled congregation.
The traditional Mass prayers emphasized that the priest represented the same sacrifice Christ made on Calvary, a sacrifice that appeased God’s anger against sin and reconciled mankind to God. The New Mass was presented as a narrative and historical remembrance of the events recalled in the Scriptures, and the offering and sacrifice was not of Christ, but of the assembled people, as the Eucharistic prayer most commonly used in the new mass, “from the age to grow old, you gather a people, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made.
For Catholics, the way we pray shapes what we believe. The ancient ritual directs us physically to an altar and a tabernacle. In this way, he sends us back to the cross and to heaven as the ultimate horizon of human existence. In doing so, it shows that God graciously loves us and redeems us despite our sins. And the proof is in the culture that this ritual produces. Think of Mozart’s great interpretation of faith in the Eucharist: “Ave Verum Corpus” (Hail True Body).