Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: The Heresy of Formlessness

I purchased this book at Eighth Day Books, BTW. Martin Mosebach is a Catholic German layman, a writer (novels, screenplays, short stories, poems, essays, etc). Ignatius Press published this translation of his book on the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite with a foreword by Father Joseph Fessio, SJ in 2006.

Sure to be the subject of much discussion, this book takes a look at the post Vatican II approach to liturgy through the eyes of a man who says the Church has lost much and gained nothing through the promulgation of the “Novus Ordo” Mass. An accomplished novelist and writer, German author Martin Mosebach gives a plea for a return to the preconciliar Latin Rite, giving a persuasive and compelling argument against what he sees as a jarring break in tradition. Yet there is another way to approach the Liturgy.

In his foreword, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., points out the difference between Mosebach’s approach and “those who, like myself, the Adoremus Society, and—I think I can assert this with confidence—Pope Benedict XVI, advocate a rereading and restructuring of the liturgical renewal intended by the Second Vatican Council, but in light of the Church’s two-thousand-year tradition.”

Mosebach writes about his experience of the changes in the Mass after the Second Vatican Council with the regret that he has had to become a liturgical specialist. Instead of actual participation in the Mass, he has had to experience the Mass because of the changes to the liturgy and their effect on Catholic theology and belief. In these essays, he discusses everything from Latin, to Gregorian chant, Catholics' belief in the Real Presence, veiling, gestures, art, iconoclasm, and beauty. He even discusses problems with the way that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass IS celebrated with the delays caused by the choir's singing of the parts of the Mass! One passage I thought particularly unfortunate was his regret that the priest would speak in the vernacular to give a homily and perhaps even make parish announcements. Since the homily or sermon has always been part of the Mass, and since the Mass is celebrated most often at least in the context of a parish with activities and community events, his concern that the homily breaks through the mystery of the liturgy and disrupts the Mass with the personality of the priest seems all too pedantic to me.

This is a collection of essays, and even includes a chapter from a novel, and is a very personal book, even in translation.The author's interest in and knowledge of history and art shine through clearly, as does his passion for holy worship of God in the liturgy.

As I have been attending Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form for several years, I'm glad to say that recently I have been able to put aside the Missal at certain points of the liturgy and enter into the mystery of the Sacrifice without reading it. Thus my worship is less literary and more sacramental, I hope.

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