Thursday, August 30, 2007

Divo Barsotti

If there were no hell, I could not accept paradise.
— Divo Barsotti, quoted in Sandro Magister, Divo Barsotti, a Prophet for Today’s Church

I see the Church's progress beginning from here, from the return of holy Truth as the basis of every action. The peace promised by Christ, freedom, love are the goals that every man must attain, but he may reach them only after constructing the foundation of truth and the pillars of faith.
— Divo Barsotti, ibid.


Luis Buñuel

He still has a blind man’s reflexes and is not yet accustomed to his new situation. Besides, he doesn’t know what a ditch or a hole looks like.
— Luis Buñuel, quoted in Spenger, The biblical world of Luis Buñuel

Bergman is the only major director whose actual work is inferior to the lampoons of it (for example, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life).
— Spengler, ibid.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Quotation and not dramatic depiction

There is an interpretation of the Eurcharistic Prayer that would draw us away from the context in which the liturgy is performed before God the Father: we may be inclined to think that the consecration is rather like a drama, a play performed before the congregation. We may even tend to think that the congregation is involved in the play, as depicting the disciples at the Last Supper: the priest takes the role of Christ and the congregation the role of the apostles. To this way of thinking, the words and gestures of the priest are seen as dramatic depictions of what Christ did and said at the Last Supper.

Such a dramatic interpretation of the Mass would not be appropriate. It is more fitting to think of the words and gestures of the priest as quotational, not dramatic. The priest quotes the words and gestures of Christ; he does not perform then in the manner of an actor. There are several reasons why quotation is a more fitting presentational form for the consecration than drama.

First, to see the consecration as a drama would shift the focus of the liturgy from its relation to God the Father to an axis between the priest and the people. The liturgy would cut away from its presence before God, which had been established in the Preface and Sanctus, and it would be centered on the dramatic impact on of the priest acting before the congregation as audience or participants. Second, such an interpretation would highlight the Mass as representing the Last Supper, but would diminish its reenactment of the redemptive death of Christ. The Mass would be seen as a sacred meal and not a sacrifice. Third, this interpretation would place the liturgical emphasis on the person of the priest as the performer; drama highlights the present actor, whereas quotation takes us away from our present context and lets someone else speak through us. If Lawrence Olivier is depicting Hamlet, we think of Olivier, not primarily Hamlet, as taking center stage; but if we quote what someone says we subordinate our voice and especially the content of our speech to that other person. We let someone else speak through us and we subject our responsibility to his. Christ is more palpably the speaker when we take his words as being quoted than if were to take the priest as dramatically representing him. Christ, the one who is quoted, speaks with the authority of the incarnate Son of God, as one who has the power to bring about what he declares in his words. Fourth, in the old rite the possibility did not arise that the priest was dramatically depicting the Last Supper before the congregation; the focus was entirely toward God the Father.

The difference between quotation and dramatic depiction is also relevant to the prayerful attitude of the priest. If the priest sees his words and his gestures as quoting those of Christ, he can more appropriately see himself as the servant of both Christ and the Church, the person who is there to hand on to others the message and the achievement of Christ the Lord. If the priest were to see himself as a dramatic actor, his own person and style would come to the fore in an inappropriate and probably intrusive way. His would be the primary agency. Quotation affords a salutary anonymity to the priest in his sacramental ministry. It also relieves the priest of a burden that actors have, that of finding every new ways of making their performance interesting to their audience. The priest is not there to perform; he is there to accomplish the liturgy as it is written in the Roman Missal. He is there as the servant of Christ and the Church, a servant who becomes quotationally transparent in the words and gestures of the consecration. Christ is the ultimate minister of the Eucharist, and his activity is perceptibly manifest when his words and gestures are quoted at the center of the Church’s offering.

The Church’s quotation of the words and gestures of Christ is done primarily before God the Father. Christ’s speech comes to life in an address before the eternal Father, expressing the eucharistic action of the Son toward the Father. However, at the Last Supper the words of Christ were directed toward the disciples (Take this, all of you, and eat it: for this is my body, which will be given up for you). Certainly an overtone of such an address spoken by Christ, now directed toward the people, remains in the words of the consecration, but the primary focus of the celebrant toward God the Father is never interrupted. When the priest recites the words of the consecration, he will quite naturally tend to take them as being spoken to the faithful, but he should not let the theocentric focus of the Church’s prayer be lost.

— Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Praying the Canon of the Mass, in his Christian Faith & Human Understanding: Studies on the Eucharist, Trinity, and the Human Person (Catholic University Press, 2006), pp. 89–91

I go to church to see God and come away like a theatre critic.
Martin Mosebach

See also Fr. Jay Scott Newman, Worshipping the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ecumenical Latin

Though the Holy Father does not mention this issue [in Summorum Pontificum], it seems clear that the self-separation into different language groups has in effect broken down community, not opened it up. If you have a parish in which the 9:00 a.m. Mass is in Spanish, the 10:30 a.m. in English, and the 12:30 p.m. in Lithuanian, you really have not one community but three using the same church. If it is quite clear today that one has to hunt for a Mass in one’s own language, it is a sign of division even though valid. Not even English is a common language of worship in this country. If we all used Latin with a tradition of seeing it related to our own language, we would in many ways have a more unified Church. Even today, a hymn like the Salve Regina, sung in Latin, is often one with which every one in all language groups is familiar.
— Fr. James V. Schall, S.J, On Saying the Tridentine Mass, Ignatius Insight, August 16, 2007

Schall on Sermon versus Homily:

The replacement of the sermon [by] the homily on scripture has yet to prove its superiority. The faithful are in dire need of systematic teaching on doctrine. The neglect of doctrine has left generations bereft of familiarity with orthodox teaching in the Church, this all in the name of Scripture. It is not that one cannot find doctrine in Scripture — that is its origin — but the discipline of clear teaching is not merely or fully satisfied by scriptural commentary or reading. Catholicism includes the direct addressing of reason.

Indeed, too often the homily turns out to be merely hominy.

Friday, August 17, 2007


The highly charged term pastoral is always used when liturgical changes are to be introduced. Pastoral means pertaining to a shepherd's care, but we have long become used to translating it differently: We, the clergy, decide how much of the splendor of truth the stupid and confused lay people can take.
— Martin Mosebach, excerpt from The Heresy of Formlessness, Ignatius Press, 2006

I haven’t yet read The Heresy of Formlessness. The following excerpts are taken from the blog Uncovering Orthodoxy.

On kneeling and receiving:

People of aesthetic sensibility, much scorned and suspect, are the recipients of a terrible gift: they can infallibly discern the inner truth of what they see, of some process, of an idea, on the basis of its external form. I had often spoken with pious apologists about the situation I have just described - it is observable all over the world. It was painful for the clergy to talk about these things, but they were not willing to admit that there had been a loss of spirituality. Kneeling was medieval, they said. The early Christians prayed standing. Standing signifies the resurrected Christ, they said; it is the most appropriate attitude for a Christian. The early Christians are also supposed to have received Communion in their hands. What is irreverent about the faithful making their hands into a throne for the Host? I grant that the people who tell me such things are absolutely serious about it all. But it becomes very clear that pastors of souls are incredibly remote from the world in these matters; academic arguments are completely useless in questions of liturgy. These scholars are always concerned only about the historical side of the substance of faith and of the forms of devotion. If, however, we think correctly and historically, we should realize that what is an expression of veneration in one period can be an expression of blasphemy in another. If people who have been kneeling for a thousand years suddenly get to their feet, they do not think, We’re doing this like the early Christians, who stood for the Consecration; they are not aware of returning to some particularly authentic form of worship. They simply get up, brush the dust from their trouser-legs and say to themselves: So it wasn’t such a serious business after all. Everything that takes place in celebrations of this kind imply the same thing: It wasn’t all that serious after all.

Contra Novum Ordinem:

Of course there will always be people who are so filled with grace that they can pray even when the means of prayer have been ripped from their hands. Many people, too, concerned about these issues, will ask, Isn’t it still possible to celebrate the new liturgy of Pope Paul VI worthily and reverently? Naturally it is possible, but the very fact that it is possible is the weightiest argument against the new liturgy. It has been said that monarchy’s death knell sounds once it becomes necessary for a monarch to be competent: this is because the monarch, in the old sense, is legitimated by his birth, not his talent. This observation is even truer in the case of the liturgy: liturgy’s death knell is sounded once it requires a holy and good priest to perform it. The faithful must never regard the liturgy as something the priest does by his own efforts. It is not something that happens by good fortune or as the result of a personal charism or merit. While the liturgy is going on, time is suspended: liturgical time is different from the time that elapses outside the church’s walls. It is Golgotha time, the time of the hapax [once], the unique and sole Sacrifice; it is a time that contains all times and none. How can a man be made to see that he is leaving the present time behind if the space he enters is totally dominated by the presence of one particular individual? How wise the old liturgy was when it prescribed that the congregation should not see the priest’s face — his distractedness or coldness or (even more importantly) his devotion and emotion.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

dona nobis pacem

. . . whether English can now be said to have a common language of prayer at all.
— Ian Robinson, Who Killed the Bible?, 2006

In the Mass, simple statements translated into the vernacular don’t sound like ordinary talk; nor should they. Since grant us peace is not everyday English, why not say the Latin? What do we understand by grant us peace that we cannot learn to understand better by dona nobis pacem? For we can pray dona nobis pacem as we cannot pray grant us peace. Our very knowledge of English will forever make grant us peace sound foreign — not like us — whereas our lack of vernacular Latin makes our praying dona nobis pacem, learned by heart, come from heart, mind, and will.

Written for Catholic Carnival 132: Back to School We Go, hosted this week by Sarah in Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering. Please also read Joseph P. Swain, Liturgical Latin — Reconsidered.

Dom Armand Veilleux

A photo of Dom Armand appears with this talk on Le service : attente active. Perhaps the site will be undergoing a makeover.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Dabo quod habeo.