Monday, December 22, 2014

More on Emptiness and Silence in the Mass

Here’s another quote from Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, by Peter Kwasniewski:

In the old structure of the sanctuary, everything leads the eyes and the soul up to the majestic altar of God, where our youth is replenished where the Lion of Judah, with all the roaring of silence, descends in a flash of invisible light. There, in the empty and silent sanctuary, is the symbol of the soul thirsting for God, the soul which lacks and knows where to find its plenitude. In the space, the very space is a home for the homeless God who dwells everywhere and nowhere, who dwells in inaccessible light.

I have noted more and more just how much noise we experience in the novus ordo Mass. Sometimes I think to myself, as I listen to the priest recite every word aloud, “could you please just stop talking for a minute and let me focus?!” In the Traditional Latin Mass, so much of what the priest prays is silent. I follow along with the prayers in the missal; I don’t need to hear them all said aloud. Also, sometimes, I don’t follow along! I let the priest do his “job” of taking the prayers to God for me; I know what he’s saying, and I rest in a more contemplative mental silence while he prays silently.

The paragraph goes on to describe the role of the priest. This description, when I really think about it, actually gives me chills. This is what I experience at the extraordinary form of the Mass, though I could never have articulated it in this way:

 Moreover, the priest standing at the altar, the small priest swallowed in the empty space and in the silence, his arms raised in a solemnly hushed prayer of sacrifice, represents the ultimate smallness, one might even say the nothingness, and yet the infinite dignity and incomparable glory of man incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, offering the very sacrifice of Jesus Christ (per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso…) – he is a true participant in the cosmic liturgy, where earth and heaven unite in the person of Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest. This one lowly man, ordained to mediate as a living sign of the sole Mediator, stands there at the juncture of every ontological axis. He is, for a moment, the centermost point of the cosmos, in imitation of Christ, the Word through whom all things live and move and have their being.

Does that describe the priest at a novus ordo Mass? Certainly not in my experience! Even the most reverent priest saying the new Mass in the vernacular while facing the people has an air of the mundane about him. It’s just not the same.

No wonder the old Mass has converted people to Catholicism! I don’t think the new Mass does so; in fact, I have always maintained that I came into the Church in spite of the way Mass was celebrated, rather than because of it!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

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