Friday, July 11, 2014

Seven Year Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum

Father Alexander Lucie-Smith writes about the seventh anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, in The Catholic Herald:

My father was a huge admirer of the Latin Mass of his youth: he used to say that its great advantage was that wherever you went in the world, the Mass was the same, in Latin, in the universal language, and thus accessible to all. That is a point of view I have not heard expressed for many a year. But there is something in it. The EF, I discovered as I learned it, is very formal: every gesture and every word has its place, and there is no room for variation, which is a good thing. Every Mass, in theory, is exactly like every other Mass. Why is this good? It is good because it reminds us that the Church is Catholic, universal. Of course we all have our particularities, but we need to remember that the universal aspect ought to take precedence. Why? Because the revelation of Jesus Christ is something that makes sense across space and time. It is valid for all times and places. Therefore it seems to me that the Mass ought to be celebrated in a way that emphasises the unicity of revelation and the unity of the human family. We should not be celebrating diversity, but identity; not celebrating difference, but the common heritage we all share.

I think this is one thing that has changed in the last seven years, and this is one of the looked for fruits of Summorum Pontificum: the EF has ‘reminded’ the OF of the ‘catholicity’ of the Church.

If the horizontal aspect is important, so is the vertical. The EF is clearly old, indeed very old. Codified at Trent, it is much older than Trent, going back to the time of Gregory the Great; in his time it was already old. Moreover, the OF is not ‘new’, in the sense that it is clearly in continuity with the ‘old’ Mass; the ‘new’ Mass is not ex nihilo. So, whether you celebrate one Mass or the other, or both from time to time, you are standing in a millennial tradition, going right back to the time before Pope Gregory. The ancient nature of the Church’s tradition is not something you heard much about when I was growing up, when all the talk was of the importance of ‘relevance’. So it is good that we should feel the worth and weight of tradition, and antiquity. These are useful counter-cultural correctives in this culture of ours, a culture which will one day be in the dustbin of history while the Mass, ever old, ever new, will continue.

So this is the main thing that we owe to Benedict’s motu proprio: it has put us more in touch with our history and with our universality.

As you may know from reading this blog, my husband and I have grown devoted to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, attending Sunday Mass at St. Anthony of Padua (my husband took the picture above on Palm Sunday this year) here in Wichita and seeking it out when we travel--especially at St. Eugene-Ste. Cecile in Paris. I echo Father Lucie-Smith's statement about being in touch with "our history", our Catholic past. To me, the historical connection has been to the English Catholic martyrs, since the missionary priests who had studied on the Continent came back to England, celebrating the Mass according to the Missal of Pope St. Pius V. They knew the glories of the rite in Rome, Paris, and throughout Europe--in their native land they celebrated Low Mass secretly, furtively, and faithfully. It's the form of Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite that Blessed John Henry Newman learned to celebrate when he studied for the Catholic priesthood in Rome and then celebrated at the Oratory.

We are very thankful to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to our local Ordinary, Bishop Carl Kemme, and the priests of our diocese who offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Anthony and throughout the diocese--and to the master of ceremonies and the servers he's trained and the choir director and the choir members he directs to sing the parts of the Mass and the beautiful hymns.

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