Wherein I respond to a non-concern, and support Fr. Longenecker

coffee mugsI have had more than one emails from readers who are all excited about the possibility that Fr. Dwight Longenecker took a shot at me in one of his posts on his good blog Standing On My Head.

People see some phrase I use quoted and they rush to think the worst.  Sometimes people don’t read very carefully.

Here is what I am guessing is Fr. Longenecker’s reference to what I have written.  Context: Someone opined that the Extraordinary Form is "objectively reverent".

Fr. L responds:

Those who would argue that the priest should just "say the black and do the red" have a good point and I agree with it. A priest should certainly not deviate from the words printed and the rubrics given. However, even when the priest does just this it doesn’t make the Mass reverent necessarily. Terrible music can intrude, poorly drilled servers can distract, bad vestments and awful architecture can distract, or the priest might ‘say the black and do the red’ with total faithfulness to the rubrics, but say the words either in hip hop– ‘look at me aren’t I making the Mass meaningful’ kind of way, or say the black and do the red in a casual and bored way and both would affect the perception of reverence. […]  What is ‘reverence’ at Mass anyway? Some traditionalists think it can be packaged and performed and if it is all done ‘just so’ then it will be reverent. …

I respond: I agree.

I think that saying the black and doing the red is a necessary component of reverence.  But it is not a guarantee of reverence.  Myriad elements contribute to reverence.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict wrote in his post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis 38 ff. about the ars celebrandi.  The Holy Father writes:

The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness…

Norms are the starting point of a proper liturgical approach.  Fidelity to the norms is a sine qua non, but not the only thing necessary.

Benedict goes on to explain something that Fr. L alludes to as well:

The ars celebrandi should foster a sense of the sacred and the use of outward signs which help to cultivate this sense, such as, for example, the harmony of the rite, the liturgical vestments, the furnishings and the sacred space.

Liturgical worship is a whole, more than the sum of its parts.  It cannot be reduced to mere observance of the rubrics.

Fr. Longenecker is right and I perceive no shot at me in what he is saying except at those who think that liturgy is theurgy.  On the contrary.  I think we are on the same page.

That said, I think someone should send some Mystic Monk Coffee to Fr. L for use in his "Say The Black – Do The Red" coffee mug to refresh his spirits as he works!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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14 Responses to Wherein I respond to a non-concern, and support Fr. Longenecker

  1. EXCHIEF says:

    Hard to see how anyone could read his comments as critical of Fr. Z. Seems pretty obvious that what he is saying is that say the black and do the red is not a guarantee of reverence and there are other factors that need to come into play as well. We just got our latest shipment of MM Coffee yesterday–we’ll send Fr L a pound.

  2. Okay, now…everyone together…say the black, do the red…ars celebrandi…say the black, do the red…ars celebrandi…say the black, do the red…ars celebrandi…
    hey, maybe the venerable T. Ferguson could do a rap for this…just thinkin’ out loud!

  3. TKS says:

    I go to Mass seven days a week in many different cities, all NO (not by choice), but I have noticed that it’s very easy to sense when a Priest is worshiping God. And it’s when he says the black and does the red. Not a coincidence, I think. Coupled with an attitude of humility, it is true worship. Unfortunately, one or both components are usually missing. I can’t imagine anyone here thinks just saying the correct words is sufficient.

  4. You know the mere use of that phrase does not necessarily constitute anything at all to do with Fr. Z. I hate to break it to you all but while he has done much on his blog to popularize that phrase he DID NOT COIN IT. I had a professor in the seminary who used that expression. This was in 1987, before Fr. Z was even a priest yet and before there were blogs…or much of an internet yet.

  5. becket1 says:

    So if what you are saying is true. Then don’t chastise the Papal organizers in Britain. They may very well believe in the true presence, albeit a non Benedictine altar arrangement. Or their great contemporary music CD as Damian Thompson has. “Terrible music can intrude, poorly drilled servers can distract, bad vestments and awful architecture can distract, or the priest might ‘say the black and do the red’ with total faithfulness to the rubrics, but say the words either in hip hop—‘look at me aren’t I making the Mass meaningful’ kind of way, or say the black and do the red in a casual and bored way and both would affect the perception of reverence. […] “.

    But I will still never receive communion on the hand or by a EMHC, no matter how reverent the NO Mass is done.

  6. staggering but still standing says:

    As usual, very well said. This is not the liturgy, so, “Clap, clap, clap, clap……”

  7. shadowlands says:

    I’m a relative phillistine in most areas except my own opinions so I didn’t even pick up on the phrase particularly, I’m not even sure what it means?

    I can never imagine Fr L taking a critical pop at a fellow priest. I think he is trying to bring unity in the differing camps, and as Fr Z has advised to me before, in an unrelated comment, this must move both ways. We all have to learn to love those that we find the most difficult to love, or perhaps see Jesus in, due to our seeming differences.

    Personally for me, reverence for Mass, what I experience as true reverence, started after I began regularly praying the rosary. And this reverence was due to an awareness of the presence of God, or holiness and the immeasurable forgiveness He keeps on showing me, a sinner. It’s an ongoing revelation, I hardly understand the rules, rubrics etc but I sense something other and that alters my behaviour and response. I’m just about to start a book called ‘The Mass in Slow Motion’ by Mons R Knox. Haven’t really got a clue what it’s about yet, but someone sent it to me.
    Yup, Our Lady teaches us how to behave at Mass, and towards each other, if we let her. Having said all that, I still have days when I don’t let her, the ‘me, me, me’ days. God forgive me.

  8. If anyone construed that as a shot at Fr. Z, it would be good to step back for a minute.

    Reverence is certainly not limited to the action of the priest with regards to his words and postures during the Mass and their alignment with the Missal. It goes far beyond that as both Fr. L and Fr. Z point out.

  9. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

  10. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    But Father, Damain Thompson intimates that YOU are Father Longdnecker? Is this some sort of red herring?

  11. Random Friar says:

    I agree and do not think Fr. L was shooting across the bow of Fr. Z’s boat, or any such thing. The rubrics are there to aid us to, to facilitate celebrating with love and reverence and awe.

    Wording of prayers and rubrics alone cannot convey that, but they are an excellent foundation to build on. Think of it as one of the bricks in the “brick by brick” motto.

  12. Magpie says:

    The part I took issue with is the final paragraph of Fr. L’s post:

    ”Can someone come along and say I did not experience reverence in these places because the Masses did not follow the rubrics of the Catholic Mass?

    I think not.”

    I think that, as you say Father Z, that ‘fidelity to the norms is a sine qua non, but not the only thing necessary.’

    However, if the rubrics are ignored, can there be genuine reverence, or is not a spirit of either ignorance or dissent present?

  13. dlongenecker says:

    Thank you Fr Z. We have certainly had our tussles in the past. I remember the clergy blogger fashion wars some time ago, and I think it all ended in a draw…

    I would be grateful for any Mystic Monk coffee, but I would instantly donate it to charity as I am much too young to drink coffee. My Say the Black and Do the Red mug is used only for English tea.

  14. English Tea: Yeah! That’s it! Nothing like a good strong potta tayh! I’m with you Fr. L! Long live the English and Irish!!!