Solid Food and the State of the Liturgy


“I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh” (1 Cor. 3:2-3).

To wit, I would submit that the changes that have taken place in the sacred liturgy since the Council closed find their impetus in but one of two places; either the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit or the deceptions of the Devil. That’s just the milk.

The solid food that relatively few can digest is this — many of the changes foisted upon the sacred liturgy over the last forty years fall into the latter category.

To be very clear, the ever evolving state of the Pilgrim Church, and likewise Her liturgy, is evidenced by a deepened understanding of Divine revelation and an increasing awareness of Sacred Mystery as She and Her members grow in holiness; i.e. Her progression toward heavenly perfection.  

When there is evidence, however, that the Church has allowed Herself and Her members in any given age or circumstance to become infected by worldliness, we must be willing to identify it for what it is — a sign of regression.

The former, of course, is the work of the Holy Spirit who leads the Church into all truth along the way of salvation. The latter, quite obviously, is the work of His adversary who even now seeks to deceive men into joining him in destroying all that is good and holy. Of this there can be no doubt.

As Jesus said, “One is either with me or against me” (Mt. 5:30), and with the parameters so set let’s turn our attention toward the state of the sacred liturgy as it currently exists at this point in the ongoing process of reform.

While drawing direct point-by-point comparisons to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is not my ultimate intention, it is useful to do so in some measure. Consider for instance, this most basic observation:

Even a disinterested observer can see that in simple appearance alone (i.e. as evidenced by the liturgy’s visible signs) the Ordinary Form as it is commonly celebrated bears far greater resemblance to any number of Protestant praise and worship services than its traditional counterpart.

Can anyone sincerely deny that the attention of God’s people has drifted away from Sacred Mystery in the newly configured celebration, away from the sacrificial character of the Mass, and away from the Redemptive work carried out by Christ therein?

This more “Protestantized” form of the liturgy has clearly fallen short (in its outward signs) to communicate the unique presence and operations of Christ in the Catholic liturgy; for who in their right mind would ever consider trading the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a community prayer meeting as so many have since the Council closed?

More importantly as it relates to the topic at hand we must ask ourselves to whom shall we attribute the impetus for this phenomenon — the guiding hand of the Spirit or the influence (albeit frequently unknown even to those who comply) of the Enemy? It’s not a difficult choice.

Let’s continue by examining some of the specific changes in the Mass by the light of Sacrosanctum Concilium; the supposed blueprint for the reform.    

Though the Council neither suggested nor encouraged as much, the altar of Sacrifice has been replaced by a structure that by no mere coincidence resembles a “table” upon which a “meal” is prepared, allowing for the priest to approach as contemporary man now commonly does in the ordinary course of secular life; facing his guests as he invites them to partake in a communal event.

Of course, this is the only arrangement that most Catholics today have ever known, but if we simply shake off the dust of familiarity to view this remarkable liturgical change within the context of the Church’s great liturgical tradition, this is a breathtakingly bold innovation that most people simply accept without question.

Those who crave solid food, however, cannot help but wonder how, given the Council’s utter and complete silence on the subject, such a drastic change ever came to be? To rephrase the question in accordance with the current exercise; if the “reformers” who pushed forward this innovation were not following the voice of the Council, whose voice were they following? Stated yet another way, who were they serving?

In most places where the Ordinary Form is celebrated, another stunning change without conciliar foundation can be witnessed as laymen and women (in numbers far exceeding priests) hand out Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to other laity who come forward to take Him in their hands to place in their mouths like common food.

Further observation reveals how often, thanks to these innovations, the Blessed Sacrament is approached in the most ordinary, casual and even sacrilegious of ways!

Only the willfully deluded, it seems, can deny the degree to which the Real Presence is routinely profaned in the process, most often in subtle ways such as the brushing of one’s hands free of “crumbs” after consuming, taking the Lord in hands that are unwashed, or by approaching the Lord in so nonchalant a manner that it would invite ridicule if one were to so enter the chamber of a judge at the local courthouse.

That said more ghastly offenses do indeed take place; like people of ill intent walking out of the church building with the Eucharist in their pocket, the Sacred Host being accidentally dropped or left in the pew, etc.

Add to this the fact that our current practice (which is carried out only by indult) has produced a class of “ministers” both ordinary and otherwise who are visibly uncomfortable (and in my own personal experience even hostile) toward the venerable and normative practice of dispensing and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

Acknowledging this situation for what it plainly is renders all appeals to antiquity as an excuse for continuing this abomination (the favored argument of progressives) utterly hollow.

Don’t be afraid to ask the simple question: Can anyone really be so naïve as to believe for even a fleeting moment that Satan does not delight in witnessing what has taken place with respect to our treatment of the Blessed Sacrament?

One cannot help but conclude that the Devil, who has already convinced many (clergy included) that he himself does not even exist, now in no small measure thanks to the changes that most just mindlessly accept in the way Holy Communion is given and received, is also making remarkable inroads in his attempt to lure foolish men into denying that the Lord is truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist!

En route to promoting that outright denial, Satan has successfully tempted men to practice idolatry-of-self specifically during the Rite of Holy Communion!  

Information offered by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC), which is relied upon as a resource by many dioceses, illustrates the problem very well.

The Last Supper was a ritual meal following the customs of the time. Communion in the hand was the universal practice then… Communion in the hand can deepen our faith in the dignity of every Christian as a member of the body of Christ, including our own personal dignity.

Setting aside the glaring error of omission in categorizing the institution of the Eucharist as a “ritual meal” apart from its sacrificial nature, note that this attention to “personal dignity” comes at the expense of recognizing the Divinity uniquely made present. This irresponsible treatment has, not surprisingly, been extrapolated to validate the rather ordinary use of “extraordinary” ministers as evidenced in the liturgical guidelines published by the Diocese of Alexandria, LA, for example:

This ministry (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) is more than one of convenience; affirming the dignity and holiness of all the baptized, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is a sign that all are called to share the life and sustenance of Christ with each other.

It is noteworthy that where the Council speaks of Sacrifice, the contemporary liturgist stresses “ritual meal,” where the Council focuses on the unique presence of Christ in the most Holy Eucharist, the progressive seeks a venue for calling attention to the dignity of man, where the Council Fathers highlight the unique role of the priest who acts in persona Christi, “extraordinary ministry” is stressed as a tool for diluting distinctions; where the Council promotes a liturgy that turns the hearts and minds of men toward God, the modern day liturgist seeks to draw man’s attention toward his own personal holiness.

Yet another common example of man’s self-focus in the liturgy lies in the fact that sacred music as Holy Mother Church has defined it throughout the centuries — including at Vatican Council II — has all but disappeared in most places. Enter into a conversation on this topic with those whose faith can only handle milk and the conversation very quickly devolves into a debate about personal taste.  

We could go on, but at this let’s consider the Lord’s own words, “So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 7:17-19). 

Make no mistake about it; Holy Mass is a work of the Lord. It is, in a sense, our fore-entrance into Eden restored. It is here where we are granted access to the Tree of Life in the form of the Cross and its most precious fruit, the Most Holy Eucharist, wherever it is validly celebrated.

We must not, however, allow this manifestation of God’s mercy to pacify us into ignoring the plain truth that human beings are still being seduced by the Evil One in this new garden as well. The Master Deceiver is constantly, and with some obvious success, enticing man to eat the bad fruit of the bad trees that we ourselves, if not at his urging his utter delight, planted in the liturgy with our very own hands.

Why is it so important for us to acknowledge this and to patiently yet diligently share it with others?

It is high time for the axe to be taken to our bad liturgical trees, but God help the faithful pastor who is determined to do just that! Nothing guarantees howls of protest and letters to the bishop like tinkering with the “me-centered” goodies that have infiltrated the Mass!

Knowing this, many a good shepherd is reluctant to do what is necessary lest the sheep turn into ravenous wolves. We need to pray for our pastors’ courage, yes, but we also need to take responsibility and have their backs.     

After four-plus decades of liturgical madness otherwise misnamed as “reform,” there’s not a one of us who can still legitimately claim recourse to the innocence and ignorance of children in the matter.

The bad liturgical trees have matured, their rotten fruit are now plainly known, and the heady post-conciliar days of milk are over. It’s time for solid food.


About Author

Catholic News Agency columnist, author and speaker w/ particular focus on applying the hermeneutic of continuity to Vatican Council II.

  • Be careful, Mr. Verrecchio, you might say something controversial!

    I am watching the debate over the Traditional vs. the Ordinary form of the Mass with great interest and haven’t yet drawn a conclusion. I did however attend the Traditional Form a couple of months ago and was deeply impressed.

    I have a couple questions. One, in parishes that give prominence to the Traditional form, what have been the fruits? Do they see an increase in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, a return to better sacred music, and increasing numbers of parishioners who want to worship in the Traditional form?

    Two, what is the role of the office of Pope in this discussion? The Ordinary form is called the “Rite of Paul VI” and I’m having a hard time stretching my brain around the notion that Pope Paul would have introduced anything harmful. Also, our beloved Blessed John Paul II celebrated the Ordinary form many, many times to stadiums full of people clamoring for God. If recent Popes have used and promoted the Ordinary form, how can it be bad?

  • guitarmom

    “Enter into a conversation on [contemporary Catholic music in the liturgy] with those whose faith can only handle milk and the conversation very quickly devolves into a debate about personal taste.”

    As someone who has entered into conversation with you this topic, I find it disheartening that you left out many of the topics we discussed. There was so much more to our dialogue that mere “personal taste.”

    Sadly, I only retained one of our eMails, but in that I discussed several topics outside of “personal taste.”

    Let’s begin with Scripture. The final Psalm tells us to:
    Praise God in His holy sanctuary …
    Give praise with blasts upon the horn,
    praise him with harp and lyre…
    Give praise with crashing cymbals
    Clearly, God Himself, the Author of the Bible, likes trumpets, strings and percussion since He chose to have His human writer include this Psalm.

    Beyond that, we discussed the social justice aspects of possibly yanking away the living of contemporary composers. I feel this would be a violation of their families’ ability to survive, you felt that these composers could sell their music for venues outside of the Mass.

    I asked your opinion on the most frequently used musical setting for the Mass in the United States, Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation, if it were presented by a four-part choir and accompanied by an organ. You responded that you are not familiar enough with this musical setting to give an opinion. My question is this: How can you comment on contemporary Catholic music at all if you are not familiar with the most frequently used musical setting of the Mass?

    We discussed aesthetics, which are not a matter of mere personal taste. Music must be done well when presented at Mass. There are bad organ-accompanied Masses just as there are bad guitar-accompanied Masses. Conversely, there is inspiring and uplifting music presented by either instrument.

    Moving on to other eMails which I can only recall by memory, I further discussed the evangelization offered by contemporary Catholic music. I personally know of two conversions to the Catholic faith that began with this first step: “Hey, come to Mass with me. You’ve got to hear this music.”

    Both these young men had been un-churched prior to these invitations, and both embraced the Catholic faith so deeply that each spent some time in seminary discerning whether God was calling him to the priesthood. Fruit matters, as you yourself say.

    We also discussed Vatican II documents, each giving our interpretation for how the section on the value of music in evangelizing might apply in modern America. I agree that the documents cite third world communities, but I still contend that the ability of contemporary Catholic music to evangelize the un-churched is huge.

    I further talked about worship experience. I understand that polyphony and chant greatly enhance the worship experience for many people. And I am a huge advocate of parishes offering this style of music. I also told you that polyphony and chant do not enhance my ability to worship. This is not a matter of personal taste. I actually find it difficult to stay focused on God when this style of music is presented. My conclusion is that many styles of music should be offered in Catholic worship so that the style which best enhances one’s worship is available to all.

    We also discussed what makes music sacred. My question to you was what, if not the lyrics, makes music sacred? I continue to assert a musical setting of the Magnificat — such as John Michael Talbot’s “Holy Is His Name” — has a place in the sacred Mass whether accompanied by organ or guitar. To say otherwise would be a matter of “personal taste.”

    Finally, I did touch on personal taste. I pointed out that our late Holy Father was delighted by the music commonly known as Life Teen. It suited his “personal taste.” But I contend this single mention of a Pope’s “personal taste” is far from our dialogue devolving “into a debate about personal taste.”

    If you retained our eMail communication, I ask that you review our dialogue. If you still believe that our discussion devolved “into a debate about personal taste” please feel free to voice that opinion, either here or in eMail. I hope that such a devolution was not the only thing you took away from our discussion. I was trying to offer you some solid food from a conservative, hopefully faithful, Catholic.

  • Thanks to both of you for your comments.

    Prariehawk – While I’m not sure I can answer your questions about the ongoing fruits of the Extraordiary Form in places where it has be reintroduced. Within itself it communicates greater reverence for the Blessed Sacrament in that the indult way of receiving, which it is difficult to deny has led to a decrease in reverence, is not practiced. Where people go from there I don’t know, but common sense alone tells me that there is nothing about the traditional rite itself that encourages anything other than reverence.

    There is no question that the Novus Ordo is valid and good and indeed all that the sacred liturgy is by its very nature. The Popes shouldn’t shy away from its celebration. But that does not mean that both forms are equally as effective in their outward signs of communicating that nature for our good. E.g. Holy Mass is a sacrificial offering. This is equally as true for both forms, but do both forms equally communicate this truth? No, they don’t.

    The Holy Fathers, in particular Benedict XVI, are being careful not to repeat the mistake of enforcing drastic change – even change for the beterr – over night. Doing so, as Cd. Ratzinger states in “Spirit of the Liturgy” would only reinforce the mistaken notion that the liturgy is open to spontaneous change.

  • Guitarmom – Please, help me out here…

    I find it very curious that you immediately identified yourself with “one whose faith can only handle milk.” Why is that?

    If the “personal taste” shoe really doesn’t fit your particular approach to the topic of music in the liturgy, why did you just assume that it was you to whom I was speaking?

    In any event, it’s nice to see that you recall so much of your part of the conversation, but it appears you’ve forgotten nearly everything I offered in response, which I feel compelled to remind you, was not my own opinion, but rather that of Holy Mother Church.

    We’ve been caught up in decades of me-centered liturgy. Breaking free of it takes time, humility and real effort.

    If you’re willing, go back and reread your post and count the number of times you say things like “I contend… I assert… I find… my ability… my conclusion…”, etc. and then count how many times you reference the relevant Magisterial documents on the topic. (I believe I provided you with a list of several.)

    The results should tell you something important.

    I’m happy to re-answer your concerns here since you posted them here, or better stated, I’m happy to share with you and anyone else interested the Church’s understanding of sacred music such as I’m able, but I have to ask you to check back tomorrow. Time won’t allow me to do so right now.

  • Mary Kochan

    Louie, you are being unfair. She did not identify herself with “one whose faith can only handle milk.” She identified herself “[as] someone who has entered into conversation with you this topic.”

    Let’s have robust conversations without snarkiness.

  • Hi Mary. Have we met?

    Your reading is selective to the point of convincing yourself that you’ve detected a whiff of “snark” where it doesn’t really exist, and most certainly wasn’t intended. If you would only take the time to read and consider the sentence immediately following (and then maybe even the rest of my post) you would see (I should hope) where I was going.

    In any event, it is certainly valid to ask Guitarmom why she would assume that ANY portion of the paragraph being quoted from this column applies to her personally, when I can assure you (and her) that it wasn’t written with a year old email exchange in mind!

    The answer to that question has obvious implications (obvious to me anyway) that are entirely germane to the conversation, which seemed to me to be well on its way to robust already.

  • goral

    You’re telling it like it is Mr. Verrechio.
    The main reason, in my thinking, why the Church is in so much disarray is the shoddy manner in which the Sacred Host is treated. There are times that I don’t go to Communion because the so called extraordinary minister is someone resembling a fast-food order filler.
    Many times the priest calls the minister(s) from the pews to come and help. There is no preparation, no proper dress, no washing of hands and no skill in giving Communion on the tongue.
    It’s nothing short of sickening.

  • guitarmom

    Louie, my friend, I recall our eMail communication from some months back as informative and delightful. As such, it was a shock to read your article and hear no defense of contemporary Catholic music after all we spoke of. I could come to no other conclusion but that you included me in the category of “those whose faith can only handle milk.”

    I truly am quite sad that I lost all but one of our eMails. This was due to a computer crash coupled with a bad setting on my eMail program. Thus in writing the response above, I had to work from memory. Referencing specific paragraphs you’d cited was impossible.

    At your suggestion, I have happily reviewed my comment above. It is true that references to myself are plentiful. I beg you, please, to notice that the vast majority of those include a reference to you. It is tough to report on an important dialogue without an “I said, You said” format.

    There are many magesterial documents which form the bases for the conclusions stated above. To give a sampling, there’s the Bible (Psalms 144, 147, 149, 150), the Catechism (pp 1156-1158, 1191, 1928, 1936, 1201-1204) and Sacrosanctum Concilium (pp 14, 22, 24, 27, 29, 30, 33, 36.3, 42, and 46). All these teachings of the Church were uppermost in my mind both in both our public and private discussions. I apologize for the self-centered and thoughtless tone I must have conveyed in not referencing these in a more scholarly manner.

    Remember, please, that the point all along has been to make a case for both contemporary Catholic music and traditional Latin chant and polyphony co-existing. The Catholic Church is big enough for both, not to mention other “legitimate variations and adaptations … especially in mission countires” (SC 38). Further, it is not up to us to decide which is better. That task falls to our bishops and pastors (SC 41,42).

    In conclusion, I would like to quote the Catechism, paragraph 1191:
    “Song and music are closely connected with the liturgical action. The criteria for their proper use are the beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly, and the sacred character of the celebration.”
    and Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph 54:
    “Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin …”

    We must take these two instructions together. Latin is important, and we musicians must take care that it is not forgotten by Catholics who worship at the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Also true is that beauty, sacredness, and unanimous participation are the criteria fostered by the Catechism. These criteria can be met by worshipful, beautiful music whether sung in Latin or English and whether accompanied by an organ or a guitar.

    Friends again?

  • I have sung chant and polyphony in churches and have found it beautiful, moving, and conducive to deep worship. I have also heard a guitar played at Evening Prayer in a Trappist monastery and had a similar reaction. The guitar has a simple beauty that the organ can’t muster. I think there’s room for both in our liturgy.

  • Mary Kochan

    Louie, my apologies. I see from Guitarmom’s comment that you understood her initial response correctly and were not being snarky.

    Neither of you need any input from me.

  • Guitarmom,

    First, thanks for your concern, but no need. My response was never intended to even hint unfriendliness. Anyone passionate enough about the Faith to enter into this kind of conversation, even if we don’t fully agree, is a friend of mine. : )

    First thought – “the unanimous participation of the assembly” need not mean that all the music is such that all present are able to sing along. “Participation” often means silent contemplation.

    From here I’ll just try to hit a few highlights here for anyone reading; i.e. some of this may not apply to your thinking, Guitarmom.

    I think one of the fundamental difficulties that Catholics have today is that many of us tend to think of Holy Mass generally as the praise and worship of God offered by the believing community. Our thoughts concerning the Mass are often shaped by a tendency to consider the perceptible signs in the Mass and their value as tools for evangelization.

    I don’t intend to be provocative here, but there is no better way to say it: This is a “Protestantized” perception of what liturgy is. I don’t offer this in accusatory fashion to Guitarmom or anyone else in particular, but only to say that this mindset shades much of the debate surrounding liturgy in the Church today.

    We FIRST need to get back to a fundamental understanding of the Mass as a Divine action – the Sacrifice of thanksgiving, praise and worship offered to the Father by the Son into which the believing community is invited to enter by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    This MUST be the basis for all fruitful discussion concerning liturgy and the perceptible signs therein, be it music, language or any other thing.

    OK… the Psalms offers us a good example of how this may come into play. The Psalms often refer to giving praise and worship to God in song, at times with horns and strings and drums. It would incorrect to assume that this necessarily means that these instruments are therefore fittingly employed for Holy Mass.

    They ARE, however, most certainly fittingly employed for praise and worship. Catholics can gather to offer praise and worship apart from Holy Mass! It seems we never acknowledge this when discussing music. The assumption seems to be that our religious music is shared at Mass or nowhere.

    The truth of the matter is there is room for all manner of musical expressions and tastes and genres and instruments in Catholic praise and worship. This diversity of expression can indeed serve as particularly valid tool of evangelization. None of this, however, implies fittingness for Holy Mass!

    Perhaps part of the answer is for there to be more occasions of praise and worship in music outside of Mass where a wide variety of forms can be properly employed to good benefit. The Church has long recognized the value of religious music as a tool of evangelization and catechesis, but know this – the Magisterium tells us that there is a difference between religious music and that sacred music which is fitting for liturgy.

    I’ll wrap it up by saying that the Church’s understanding of sacred music cannot be adequately ascertained through the Catechism and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy alone. The Council deliberately chose NOT to redefine “sacred music” in any way; rather it referred to the venerable tradition of the Church as expressed elsewhere.

    Therefore, anyone who wants to understand the mind of the Church WRT to sacred music in the liturgy must read and contemplate at the least the following:

    Tra Le Sollecitudini of Pope St. Pius X:

    Musicae Sacrae of Pius XII:

    Instruction on Sacred Music – Sacred Cong. of Rites, 1958:

    Musicam Sacram – Sacred Congregation of Rites – 1967:

    The bottom line? What really matters isn’t what I think, the key for all of us, me included, is approaching the Church with childlike humility so She can guide us Holy Mother.

    On the topic of music, it will take time and effort to allow Her to form our thoughts, and I’ll be the first to say that I’m a work in progress. The list above is a great start. I hope some of this helps!

  • guitarmom

    Louie, family needs demand that I sign off from our discussion with this final comment.

    Throughout our correspondence, including in your comments here, it is striking how many times you have suggested praising and worshiping God outside of the Holy Mass. Please understand what a Protestant notion that is. Protestantism’s only form of praise and worship is outside of the Holy Mass.

    On the contrary, Catholics are called to praise and worship in the Holy Mass. Psalm 150 specifically tells us to praise God with flutes and lyre, cymbals and tambourines “in his holy sanctuary.” This is not a call to praise and worship services outside of the Holy Mass, nor did the Holy Mass somehow override this Old Testament command.

    The Holy Mass is the “source and the summit of the whole of the Church’s worship and of the Christian life” (Eucharisticum Mysterium 3e). This same document speaks of worship outside of the Holy Mass not as some kind of Protestant praise service, but as “devotion to the sacred species which remian after Mass” (EM 3g). The Catholic tradition is for quiet and solemn Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass.

    And while Latin must be preserved (cf SM 54), we are taught that “the more intelligible the signs by which it [the Eucharist] is celebrated and worshipped, the more firmly and effectively it will enter into the minds and lives of the faithful” (EM 4). So, as much as I love singing “Jubilate Deo” (personal taste), I also recognize that an English hymn will be “more intelligible” (magisterial instruction) to the vast majority of Catholics assembled at the Holy Mass.

    Finally, it is firmly a Catholic idea, not a “Protestantized perception,” that the Holy Mass is a “tool for evangelization.” Lumen Gentium 17, in discussing evangelization, tells us that while “each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of his ability,” it is priests who must “complete the bulding up of the body in the eucharistic sacrifice.”

    As we all know, the word “Catholic” means “universal.” This is reflected in the magisterial documents and their openness to instruments “that can be made suitable for sacred use” (SM 120) and to traditions “not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error” which may actually be admitted “into the liturgy itself” (SM 37).

    And on this firmly Catholic notion that there is a universal character to the Holy Mass, I must run.

  • Guitarmom, with all respect, you’ve gone rather far afield here in more ways than I can respond.

    You’re so entirely focused on convincing me (or perhaps yourself?) that the contemporary music you enjoy playing and singing belongs in the Mass that the you don’t appear willing to even consider the mere suggestion that the teachings of the Magisterium taken as a whole, in context, indicate (and they do) that its proper place is really best found elsewhere in the life of the Church.

    We have vastly different goals in mind here and so are destined to go in circles. Yours is making the aforementioned point. Mine is to encourage you (and others) to consider the great liturgical tradition of the Church, expressed throughout the centuries, to which the Council Fathers claimed recourse without redefinition. The best I or anyone else can do is point to the relevant Magisterial documents – the same ones the Council relied upon in treating the topic of sacred music. It is necessary to place this entire topic within that context in order to truly grasp at the mind of the Church,and I encourage you to do that.

    For anyone interested, here is a good article on the topic by Msgr. Richard Shuler entitled, “What is sacred music?”

    Lastly, for anyone still hanging in there, I’d point out that the topic of sacred music occupies all of 2 sentences in this article. I’d be thrilled to discuss the broader points made herein with anyone who is interested.

  • I’m still here, and I’ve been reading Sacrosanctum Concilium (a treacherous pastime).

    It’s 5 am and we’re having thunderstorms, a common summer event here on the prairies. Also, there is some sort of debauchery going on next door that is evidently left over from last night. So I will write this punctuated by flashes of lightning and the loud sounds of carrying-on.

    I was wondering what you would say to this. When I attended the Traditional Form of the liturgy recently, I was struck first of all by the “vertical” nature of the worship; everything was clearly ordered to God. But what troubled me, honestly, was the fact that I felt left out. The most important prayers were spoken (really mumbled) by the priest, in Latin, a foreign language, while he had his back to me.

    My favorite part of the Mass is the Eucharistic prayer. I have the four of them more or less memorized and I usually say the prayer to myself along with the priest. I can’t do that if the prayer is in a language I don’t know, particularly if I can’t even hear the words the priest is saying.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium emphasizes very strongly the participation of the faithful in the liturgical sacrifice. How are we to do this if we can’t hear and understand what the priest is saying?

  • Mornin, PrarieHawk!

    Treacherous pastime. lol!

    The liturgical experiences of the last four decades have been such that when think of “fully conscious and active participation” most of us tend to overlook, or at least de-emphasize, the fact that “active participation” demands things like silence, stillness, contemplation, subordination to the Divine, entrance into sacred mystery…

    I think part of the difficulty for you, and for many who are perhaps just starting to explore the Tradition Mass, may come from applying our current perception (misperception in a lot of cases) of what “Active participation” is on the rite.

    WRT to your experience, I’d only point out that being able to see the sacred actions being carried out on the altar and hearing the prayers spoken by the priest aren’t really a necessary component to active participation. (Notice that SC doesn’t emphasize either.)

    We’ve gotten away from the recognition that it takes real effort to “actively participate” in the liturgy.

    Now, some people will argue that the great benefit of the Ordinary Form is precisely this – that it is easily approached and easily understood, whereas the Traditional rite takes effort.

    One might rightly counter, however, by saying that the Lord our God Himself is just such an unfathomable and unapproachable Mystery! Does this not make such qualities a necessary part of the liturgy as well? After all, is not union with the ineffable God the purpose for which we enter into the sacred liturgy?

    Indeed it is! So… if you plan to explore the Traditional Mass more deeply, there’s no substitute for a hand Missal. It really doesn’t take long before you’ll be able to follow the rite.

    Even with hearing you’ll know what it taking place and what is being said and can join yourself to the sacred action interiorly – the most important part of active participation.

    All of that said, the Council did say that the principal aim of SC was to promote active participation. Clearly, they felt some reform was desirable to facilitate this. Notice, however, that the single greatest change they envisioned is not so much in the rite itself, but in US! Liturgical instruction, formation, teaching… these are the things the Council stressed.

    I hope this helps!

  • Sorry… Lots of typos. I meant “Even without hearing…” My 15 year old Weimeraner dog is panting and pacing with some malady and distracting me! Off to the vet.

  • I see now that the Traditional Mass, among other things, emphasizes the mystery of God to a vastly greater extent than the Ordinary Form. It reminds me of the two times I attended a Byzantine Catholic liturgy in Seattle. The Eastern rites emphasize mystery too, and I think that is an amazing thing.