Search This Blog

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Our First Duty is to God! Liturgical Worship is among the Most Important Things We Do....

....and how we do it is not a trivial issue!

Remember the story of Cain and Abel. Both sacrificed, but one sacrifice pleased God and one did not. That event in Genesis reminds us that we can say, "Lord, Lord!" without pleasing God.

I think of that when I go to the Novus Ordo (N.O.). The priest enters the church and we recite the entrance antiphon. He processes to the sanctuary steps, makes a quick genuflection or bow, climbs the steps and goes behind the altar. He kisses the altar and then many priests, with their backs to Jesus in the tabernacle, say, "Good-morning, everybody" or some other greeting that violates the rubrics. This sets the stage, not for a sacrifice, but for a conversation sharing a meal with the congregation.
The Mass continues with the priest's back to Jesus in the tabernacle. If, at the gospel, he goes between the tabernacle and the altar, he bows, not to the King of Kings, but to the altar with his back to Christ.

In many ways, moving the tabernacle out of the center for the N.O. made perfect sense. Jesus is no longer at the center. The Mass is more about fellowship than worship. If that sounds Protestant, it's because it is. And those who developed the Mass led by Annibale Bugnini had that in mind. As Bugnini told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, in 1965, “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is for the Protestants.” So why haven't the Protestants all converted to the Catholic Church? Because stripping the Mass did not attract them. In fact, the result was, not to open the door and welcome people in, but to watch the backs of Catholics as they left.

Is it surprising that most Catholics today don't believe in the Real Presence? The body language of the priest loudly states that no one is in the tabernacle. Instead, the liturgy represents a dialogue between the people and the priest. In fact, the priest actually gets in God's way as he faces the people, literally in the middle between the congregation and God. Instead of leading the people to God, like a shepherd leads his sheep, the priest often becomes an emcee, sometimes developing a schtick to go with it. And often, rather than being called the "minister," he is described as "the presider," no different from the congregation, just acting as the host. Is it really surprising that many priests become liturgical showmen, imitating standup comics? Is it any wonder that you have congregations applauding for the choir, the musicians, the altar servers, etc.? It's a celebration of a feast, after all, not a sacrifice.

Why is the Traditional Latin Mass attracting so many? Because it liturgically imitates Abel's sacrifice which rose as a sweet offering to God.

Think for a minute.

How does the Traditional Latin Mass begin? The priests enters, stops at the bottom of the sanctuary steps and prays for himself and the congregation to be worthy to enter the Holy of Holies and offer the sacrifice. This links us to the Old Testament. Think of Zachariah when the angel announced the birth of John the Baptist. It was his turn to go into the inner sanctum to offer the sacrifice.

The prayers at the foot of the altar implore God to make us worthy to offer the Holy Mass. Only God can make us worthy. The priest teaches us the proper disposition to approach the altar of God by saying the Confiteor. Then we imitate him, like a baby imitates his mother, by repeating it. Only after asking God's forgiveness for himself and asking God to "take away our iniquities...[that] we may be made worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies," does he mount the steps, genuflect to Christ in the tabernacle, kiss the altar, and proceed with the Introit.

Is it surprising that this attracts the young as Cardinal Sarah said?:
"Young people have entrusted me with their absolute preference for the Extraordinary Form… […] But, above all, how can we understand—how can we not be surprised and deeply shocked—that what was the rule yesterday is prohibited today? Is it not true that prohibiting or suspecting the Extraordinary Form can only be inspired by the demon who desires our suffocation and spiritual death?”
The N.O. is a valid Mass. But the issue here is not about validity. It is about proper and worthy worship of God. I have no doubt that many who attend the N.O. have a disposition that is most pleasing to the Lord. I know many holy people in the local N.O. parish whose faith and devotion put me to shame. I know many devout and holy priests who have never been trained to say the Traditional Latin Mass and I respect and revere them.

Nevertheless, I pray that in the future all seminarians will be required to learn the TLM. I pray that all the priests I know will also learn it. Despite the attacks on the TLM, I believe that, in the words of St. John the Baptist, the TLM will continue to increase and the N.O. will decrease, even if I'm not here to see it.

May Jesus Christ be praised!


  1. Inspiring post. The essence of our choice we face.

  2. Mary Ann, you are exactly right that the Cain and Abel story is a figure of the Novus Ordo (offering of Cain) and the TLM (the offering of Abel). One only needs to compare the Offertory prayers from each missal. In the Cain and Abel story, Cain (the farmer) is offering "the fruits of the earth" while Abel (the shepherd) is offering "the firstlings of his flock." The Novus Ordo offers "the fruit of the earth, the work of human hands." The TLM offers the "immaculate host," the lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

    But don't forget the next part of the Cain and Abel story. Cain becomes jealous of Abel and kills his brother. This is the figure of the end times persecution that will soon reach its climax. The NuChurch will claim to excommunicate the TLM remnant. The only problem, for them, is that the NuChurch is a Counterfeit in God's eyes. It will be the Counterfeit who is severing itself from the authentic mystical body of Christ. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic remnant will be led by the true Vicar of Christ, Benedict XVI, while the NuChurch follows "the hireling" to their destruction.

  3. Please, stop calling a simple meal table an altar.

  4. Excellent reflection. Regarding the placement of the tabernacle, I wonder if the phenomenon of using a side altar tabernacle for reservation of the Blessed Sacrament was born out of uneasiness on the part of older priests who were uncomfortable turning their backs to the tabernacle. This, of course, gave rise to the people’s uneasiness with not being able to see it, which, in my mind, is the most obvious problem with having the priest and people facing opposite directions at Mass. I know that this varied from region to region; diocese to diocese. In the ‘90s in Boston, Cardinal Law expressed a desire to move the hidden tabernacles back into the sanctuary. They were to be placed prominently in the sanctuary, but still not in the center. This led to having the altar just a few feet away from a huge tabernacle. It wasn’t done in many places, but it was done in the seminary (which has since been changed, at great expense). The solution is obvious, and it is not novel. Bring back the Old Rite, everywhere.

  5. The definition of Altar that I find is this: “A table or stand on which sacrifice is offered. In Catholic churches the table on which the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. That is not my idea of a simple meal table.