THE NEW MASS: A Catholic or ... A Protestant Mass?

 

 

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THE NEW MASS: A Catholic or ... A Protestant Mass?

 

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST was founded for a double mission: a mission of faith and a mission of sanctification of those redeemed by the blood of the Saviour. She must bring to men faith and grace: the faith by her teaching and grace by the sacraments, which were confided to her by Christ the Lord. Her mission of faith consists in transmitting to men the revelation of spiritual and supernatural realities made by God to the world, and to safeguard this revelation without change through the passing centuries. The Catholic Church is, first of all, the faith which does not change; she is, as St. Paul says, "the Pillar of truth" (I Tim. 4, 15), which travels through the ages, always faithful to herself, an inflexible witness of God in a world of perpetual change and contradiction. Through the course of the centuries, the Catholic Church has taught and defended her faith on the basis of one sole criterion: "That which she has always believed and taught." All the heresies which the Church has faced have been judged and repudiated in the name of their non-conformity to this principle. The "first reflex principle" of the hierarchy of the Church and especially of the Roman Church, has been to maintain without change the truth received from the Apostles and Our Lord. The doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass belongs to the Church's treasure of truth. And if today, in this particular domain, there appears to be some kind of break with the Church's past, then such a novelty should alert every Catholic conscience, as in the times of the great heresies, and should provoke univocally a confrontation with the Church's faith which does not change.

 

What is the New Mass?

We know, of course, that the ancient Mass was not given to us ready made. It has kept the essential rituals performed by the Apostles at Christ's command; and new prayers, praises and precisions have been added to it in a slow elaboration so as to make more explicit the Eucharistic mystery and to preserve it from the denials of the heretics. The Mass was thus progressively elaborated, fashioned around the primitive kernel bequeathed by the Apostles, the witnesses of Christ's institution. Like a case containing a precious stone or the treasure confided to the Church, it was thought about, adjusted, adorned as a piece of music. The best was retained, just as in the construction of a cathedral. What the Mass explicitly contains in its mystery was carefully made more explicit. Just like the mustard seed, it spread forth its branches, but everything was already contained in the seed. This progressive elaboration, or explicitation, was achieved according to the essentials by the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century. Only a few secondary additions were made in later years. This work accomplished during the first centuries of Christianity has brought forth a basis for our faith in order to impress upon the human intelligence the institution of Christ in its recognized truth. Thus the Mass is the unfolding or explicitation of the Eucharistic mystery and its celebration.

 

The Catholic Doctrine Defined

In reaction to Luther's negations, the Council of Trent recalled and defined the unchanged doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, essentially in the following three points of doctrine: 1) in the Eucharist, the Presence of Christ is real; 2) the Mass is a true sacrifice: in its substance it is the sacrifice of the cross renewed, a true sacrifice of propitiation or expiation for the forgiveness of sins, and not just a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving; 3) the role of the priest in offering the Holy Sacrifice is essential and exclusive: the priest, and he alone, has received by the Sacrament of Orders the power to consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ. The ancient millennial Mass, Latin and Roman, expresses most clearly the complete profundity of this doctrine, without detracting in the slightest from the mystery .

 

What is the Situation with the New Mass?

It is a fact that the New Mass was imposed on the Catholic world in order to fulfill the needs of ecumenism: the ancient Mass was the major obstacle to the reconstruction of unity with the reformers of the seventeenth century. Without the slightest room for doubt, it affirmed precisely the Catholic Faith denied by the Protestants, especially concerning the three essential points of doctrine, namely: the reality of the Real Presence, the reality of the Sacrifice, the reality of the power of the priest.

The New Mass, quite simply, was to turn a deaf ear to this Catholic Faith. Once introduced and having become indifferent to all dogma, the new rite would be able to suit a purely Protestant faith. It would be used as a meeting-point of ecumenical unity for the world, for a single celebration where the contested dogmas would have been prudently veiled, and where the only gestures, expressions and attitudes to be retained would be those open to an interpretation according to the faith of the individual. Can the evidence of the facts be denied? The changes wrought by the New Mass bear precisely on the points of doctrine disputed by Luther.

 

I. THE NEW MASS AND THE REAL PRESENCE

In the New Mass, the Real Presence no longer plays the central role which was highlighted by the ancient eucharistic liturgy.

All reference, even indirect, to the Real Presence has been eliminated. One recognizes with amazement that the gestures and signs which spontaneously expressed our Faith in the Real Presence have been either abolished or seriously changed. Thus the genuflexions, the most expressive signs of the Catholic Faith, have been suppressed as such. And if the genuflexion after the elevation has been maintained as an exception, one must recognize unfortunately that it has lost its precise meaning of adoring the Real Presence. In the ancient Mass, the priest makes the first genuflexion immediately after the words of consecration; this signifies, without any possible ambiguity, that Christ is really present on the altar by virtue of the very words of consecration pronounced by the priest. He genuflects a second time after the elevation: this genuflexion has the same meaning as the first and re-enforces it. In the New Mass, the first genuflexion has been suppressed. The second genuflexion, on the other hand, has been kept. This is where the trap is for those minds not sufficiently acquainted with the wiles of Modernism: in fact, this second genuflexion isolated from the first, can now receive a Protestant interpretation. If the Protestant faith does not admit the Real Physical Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it does nevertheless recognize a certain spiritual presence of Our Lord on account of the faith of the believers. Thus, in the New Mass, the celebrant does not firstly adore the Host which he has just consecrated, but he elevates it, presenting it to the assembly of the faithful which engages its faith in Christ, and this faith renders Christ spiritually present; one kneels and adores, and this can be done simply in the Protestant sense of a presence purely spiritual. The exterior ceremonial can thus be adapted to fit a purely subjective faith, and even a denial of the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence. The genuflexion retained after the elevation of the Host and Chalice has become capable, in effect, of a Protestant interpretation. It has taken on a meaning which can be adapted to the faith of the individual, and which is therefore ambiguous. A rite such as this is no longer the clear expression of the Catholic Faith. Other changes made to the ancient rite - even if they are less serious than those touching the very heart of the Mass - all nevertheless point to a decreasing respect for the Real Presence. Under this heading mention must be made of the following suppressions which, when taken in isolation, may seem unimportant, but when considered as a whole, are no less indicative of the spirit which prevailed in the reforms. The following have been suppressed: the purification of the priest's fingers over the chalice and into the chalice; the obligation for the priest to keep joined together those fingers which have touched the Host after the consecration, in order to avoid all contact with the profane; the pall protecting the chalice; the obligatory gilding of the inside of the sacred vessels; the consecration of the altar if it is fixed; the altar stone and the relics placed in the altar if it is movable; the number of altar cloths reduced from three to one; the prescriptions concerning the case where a consecrated Host falls on the ground. All these suppressions represent a decrease in the expression of respect due to the Real Presence; to them can be added the posture of those present, which again tends in the same direction, and which has been practically imposed on the faithful: Communion received standing and often in the hand; thanksgiving after Communion, which, although extremely brief, one is urged to make sitting down; standing after the consecration; These changes, made worse by the removal of the tabernacle, which is often relegated to a corner of the sanctuary, all converge in the same direction - away from the doctrine of the Real Presence. These observations can be applied to the Novus Ordo Missae as a whole, whatever Canon is chosen, and even if the New Mass is said with the so-called Roman Canon.

 

II. THE NEW MASS AND EUCHARISTIC SACRIFICE

Apart from the dogma of the Real Presence, the Council of Trent also defined the reality of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the renewal of the sacrifice of Calvary, the saving fruits of which are applied to us for the forgiveness of sins and for our reconciliation with God.

The Mass is, therefore, a sacrifice. It is also a communion, but a communion at a sacrifice previously celebrated - a meal, where the immolated victim of the sacrifice is eaten. The Mass is first and foremost, then, a sacrifice, and secondly a communion or meal. But the whole structure of the New Mass is geared to the meal aspect of the celebration, to the detriment of the sacrifice. Again, and more seriously, this is in the direction of the Protestant heresy. The substitution of the table facing the people in the place of the altar of sacrifice bears witness already to a specific orientation. For if the Mass is a meal, it is in conformity with custom to gather round a table, whereas an altar raised against the cross of Calvary is quite out of place. The Liturgy of the Word has been developed to the point where it now occupies the greater part of the time-space of the new celebration, and diminishes in the same proportion, the attention due to the eucharistic mystery and sacrifice. Essentially, one must note the suppression of the Offertory of the victim of the sacrifice, and its replacement by the offering of the gifts. This substitution is truly grotesque, and tends toward the farcical: for what do they mean by this offering of a few bread crumbs and drops of wine - "fruit of the earth and work of human hands" - that they dare to present before the Sovereign Lord? The pagans did much better - they offered to their divinity not just bread crumbs, but something a bit more substantial: a bull, or some other animal whose immolation was a real sacrifice for them. Luther railed very violently against the presence of the sacrificial Offertory in the Catholic Mass. And in fact, he was not mistaken in the way he looked at it - the simple presence of an offering of the victim is the undeniable affirmation that there really is a sacrifice involved, and indeed a sacrifice of expiation for the forgiveness of sins. Thus the Offertory of the Catholic Mass was an obstacle to ecumenism. There was no hesitation to make it look ridiculous and here again to undermine the Catholic Faith. The old Offertory specified the oblation of the actual sacrifice of Christ: "receive, O holy Father . . . this spotless host . ." (hanc immaculatam hostiam), "We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation. . ." (calicem salutaris). It was neither the bread nor the wine which was offered to God, but already the spotless Host, the chalice of salvation, within the perspective of the approaching consecration.

Certain liturgists, too preoccupied with the letter of the rite, had held that this was an anticipation. But this opinion is quite wrong. The intention of the Church, expressed by the priest, is in fact to offer the actual victim of the sacrifice (and not bread and wine at all). In the Sacrifice of the Mass, everything takes place at the precise moment of Consecration, in which the priest operates in persona Christi and where the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. However, given the impossibility of saying everything at once about the spiritual riches of the mystery of the Eucharist, the liturgy of the Mass begins to make an exposition of these riches at the Offertory. It is therefore not a matter of anticipation, but of perspective. In the New Mass, the Offertory of the sacrificial victim has therefore been suppressed, as well as the signs of the cross over the oblations, which were a constant reference to the Cross of Calvary.

And thus in this cumulative manner the prime reality of the Mass as the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary is de-emphasized in its concrete expressions. This is the case right up to the central moment of the celebration. The actual words of Consecration in the new rite, are in fact pronounced by the priest as a narrative, as if it were simply the recital of an event in the past; it is no longer pronounced in the intimate tone of a Consecration made in the present and proffered in the Name of Him in Whose person the priest is acting. This is extremely serious. What could be the intention of the priest - celebrant in this new perspective? - The intention, which, according to the Council of Trent's reminder, is one of the conditions for the validity of the celebration. This intention is no longer signified by the ceremonial of the rite. The priest-celebrant can of course supply it by his own will and the Mass can then be valid. But what about the progressive priests, who are concerned above all else with breaking with ancient tradition? In this case doubt becomes legitimate. And there is nothing else then, it seems, to distinguish the New Mass in its general structure from the Protestant Communion Service. They say that they have kept the Roman Canon. At first glance at the new rite, it is offered to the choice of the celebrant, along with three other Eucharistic Prayers. What is the meaning of this choice? The Roman Canon they have kept is no longer the former Canon. It has in fact been mutilated in many different ways: it has been mutilated in the very act of the Consecration as we have just seen; it has been mutilated by the suppression of the repeated signs of the cross; it has been mutilated by the suppression of the genuflexions which were an expression of belief in the Real Presence; it is no longer presignified by the sacrificial Offertory. In the official vernacular versions, which, in practice are the only ones used, it has been translated in a tendencious fashion, brushing away the rigorous expression of the Catholic Faith. Moreover, it has lost its proper character as "Canon," that is as a fixed prayer, as unchangeable as the very rock of the faith. It has become interchangeable. It can be substituted, according to each individual whim or belief, with one of the other Eucharistic prayers. And this, obviously, is the supreme trickery of the new ecumenism. Officially, there are three new "Preces" offered as choices to the celebrant. But, in fact, the door is open to all kinds of innovations and it has become impossible to list all the different Eucharistic prayers introduced and practiced in the various dioceses.

We need not stop here to consider these "wildcat" liturgies, which, although unofficial still blow in all directions in the same wind of reform, or rather revolution. We will just give a brief analysis of the three new Eucharistic Prayers, introduced with the New Mass. The second prayer, presented as the Canon of St. Hippolytus, older than the Roman Canon, is in fact the canon of the anti-pope Hippolytus at the time of his revolt before the martyrdom which merited his return to the unity of the Church. This Canon has probably never been in use in the pontifical Church of Rome and has only come down to us in a few verbal souvenirs recorded by the recension of Hippolytus. It has in no way been retained by the Tradition of the Church. In this extremely short Canon which - apart from the recital of the Last Supper - contains only a few prayers of sanctifying the offerings, of thanksgiving and of eternal salvation, there is absolutely no mention of sacrifice. In the third Eucharistic Prayer, there is a mention made of sacrifice, but in the explicit sense of a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. No mention is made of the expiatory sacrifice renewed in the present sacramental reality, which can win us the forgiveness of sins. The fourth Prayer is a history of the benefits of the Redemption wrought by Christ. But here again, the propitiatory sacrifice - actually renewed - is not explicitated more than elsewhere. Thus in the three new texts proposed the Catholic doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, a doctrine defined by the Council of Trent, is in fact left in the shadow, and, being no longer affirmed in the very act of celebrating the Mass, this doctrine is in fact abandoned and, with such a significant omission, denied.

 

III. THE NEW MASS AND THE ROLE OF THE PRIEST

The exclusive role of the priest as instrument of Christ in offering the sacrifice is a third point of Catholic doctrine defined by the Council of Trent. This role of the priest in offering the sacrifice disappears in the new celebration, along with the sacrifice itself. The priest appears as the president of the assembly. The laity invade the sanctuary and attribute to themselves the clerical functions, readings, distribution of Communion, sometimes preaching. One must not be surprised by certain former terms still in use, as they are now capable of having a different meaning. Thus, as we have already observed, the word "offertory" is maintained, but no longer in the sense of an oblation of the sacrificial victim, just as the word "sacrifice" is retained here and there, but no longer necessarily in the sense of the renewed sacrifice of Our Saviour. It is capable of signifying nothing more than thanksgiving or praise, according to the faith of the believer. Concluding this brief analysis of the new rites, we can only remark - in the light of the facts - that the New Mass has been totally conceived and elaborated in the direction of ecumenism, adaptable to the various faiths of the various churches. This is what the Protestants of Taize recognized immediately, declaring that it was now theologically possible for Protestant communities to celebrate the communion service with the same prayers as the Catholic Church. The Protestant Church of Alsace spoke out in the same vein of thought: "There is no longer anything in the Mass as it is now renewed to upset the evangelical Christian." And an important Protestant paper has said: "The new Catholic Eucharistic prayers have dropped the false perspective of sacrifice offered to God." Already the presence of six Protestant theologians, duly authorized to participate in the elaboration of the new texts, had been a significant presence. This ecumenical Mass is therefore no longer the expression of the Catholic Faith. In their entreaty to Pope Paul VI, Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci were not afraid to make the following observation, and no one today can contest its rigor: "The Novus Ordo Missae departs in an impressive fashion, both as a whole and in its details, from the Catholic theology of the Holy Mass."