SAVE THE LITURGY – SAVE THE WORLD: Thoughts on the Rites in the Starfield

I will probably post more in the near future about the Rites we experienced in Gower, for the Consecration of the new Abbey church and Abbess.   Everything was done according to the traditional Roman Rite, using the pre-1961 Pontificale Romanum.  The nuns and the very walls radiated joy.

And POWER.

The two days and some 12 hours of liturgy.

What a contrast to The Present Crisis!  What an antidote.

A few things occur as I mull over this experience and its ongoing, resonating effect in my mind and heart.

  • First, I was here just last year to view the great 2017 Total Eclipse.  The path of totality passed directly over the new Abbey.   The next big total in these USA will also pass over Missouri, but from another direction.
  • The weather before the two days of Rites was, I am informed, quite simply dreadful for weeks.   The two days were spectacular, sunny with puffy clouds, a breeze and low temps and slight humidity.
  • The monastery is not in Gower, but at some distance.   Apparently, once upon a time, there was a small post office near where the abbey is, called “Starfield”.
  • The completion of the aforementioned Rites occurred on day 27, the halfway mark, during the 54 day novena of prayers the Feast of the Assumption to the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael on 30 September, a period of yore called “St. Michael’s Lent” for fasting and penance.    Prayers now shift from petition to confident thanksgiving.
  • The work of the nuns is in large part to pray for priests and for bishops.

Timely.

I’ve written for years – and with deadly earnest – about the core concept within the terse: Save The Liturgy, Save The World.  I really mean that.  I my STLSTW Manifesto I wrote, inter alia

Do we believe the consecration really does something? Or, do we believe what is said and how, what the gestures are and the attitude in which they made are entirely indifferent? For example, will a choice not to kneel before Christ the King and Judge truly present in each sacred Host, produce a wider effect?

If you throw a stone, even a pebble, into a pool it produces ripples which expand to its edge. The way we celebrate Mass must create spiritual ripples in the Church and the world.

The two days of Rites began with going around and around the Abbey church, outside with Holy Water, blessing different elevations of the walls, around and around inside blessing the levels of water and the whole of the floor with Gregorian Water.  The grip of the Enemy, the Prince of this World was pried off and the whole place was ripped from evil influence and handed over to the King.   Just the clergy and religious were involved in this.  Then there was a procession with the relics, from outside into the church and the whole of the laity was allowed in for the first time.   We saw the Church Triumphant enter under the veiled guise of First Class Relics, and the Church Militant enter after them into the newly secured space.

Here’s an image.  In the movie We Were Soliders about the Battle of Ia Drang, it was necessary to clear a new Landing Zone for helicopters in a field of small trees and bushes.  They wrapped detonating cord around all the growing obstacles and took them down – BAM!  The LZ was cleared.

The next phase came as the altar had to be consecrated.  Elsewhere I used another image, nuptial imagery.   During the Rites there are times when we, in the person of the bishop, would knock the doors with his staff.  Each time the church was circled, the door was knocked.  The soul of the baptized Christian is intended to be the bride of Christ, the soul’s Spouse.  The women religious at this Abbey are consecrated for their Spouse.  What we had done is prepare the thalamus, the bridal chamber for the arrival of the Spouse.  The lamps were lighted on the walls in the consecratory candles and with the Bishop we entered into the chamber.  Then the center of the bridal chamber had to be readied: the altar.   There were anointings with Oil of Catechumens and of Chrism.  In ancient Judaism, at the time of Christ, intended spouses were anointed with nard and myrrh (think Mary Magdalen and the jar, think Song of Songs, think burial of the Lord in the tomb no one had ever “slept” in before).  There were washings: the unused Gregorian Water was poured out 360° around the base of the altar.  The mensa’s sepulcher was sealed and the whole anointed.  Fires were lighted on the surface and incense burned.  Then the altar was clothed for the first time.  After all the preparatory rites of the difference nuptial zones, church as a whole, sanctuary as a separate part for clergy (yes, there really is such a thing is a good clericalism, properly understood), and then the core of the whole place where everything is consummated: the altar for Holy Mass, the ultimate sacramental foreshadowing of the heavenly nuptial banquet of the Lamb.

Save The Liturgy, Save The World.

In years past, these Rites were more commonly performed, and then they were virtually lost.   The whole world weakened and darkened, especially the clergy of Holy Church.  The Church herself, in her members, was enervated and sickened.

How to put this?

Think of body, weakened by fatigue and abuse, which is invaded by a diseasing critter.  The body tries to combat it with various elements of the blood and with raising a fever.   Then an antibiotic is introduced and BAM, help has arrived.

Think of a scifi scenario.   A looming cosmic dread is heading for Earth.  The only way we can save the planet is if a small and gallant band of warriors can fight their way through the alien enemy invaders and restart an ancient machine that will drive away the coming evil.

Think of a dystopian scenario.  A coronal mass ejection hits the planet dead on and the resulting EMP takes down our tech.   Dire things result.  Global humanity is sundered, each group from the other, except for tiny networks who reach out through ham radios that survived.    Then, suddenly, a massive signal is heard on different bands: We’re here.  You are not alone.  Persevere!

All of these things are working in my mind at the moment as I reflect on the events of the last two days.

The Rites themselves were POWER.  The Body of the Church received a massive dose of antibiotics.  A massive machine of grace was ignited into action.  A mighty signal now ripples outward into the Church and the world from the Starfield near tiny Gower, over which God seems to have intended to draw the sign of the Cross with the clock of the heavens.

As the rites went on and on and on and on – seemingly always something more to follow – I thought: “Right now, this may be the still turning point of the world.  Volvitur mundus.  There is no better place that one could be.  There is no better thing that any cleric could be doing.  There is no way for a priest or bishop to be more useful to the Church than to be right here, doing this right now.”

From yesterday onward, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, at Our Lady of Ephesus Abbey have taken up their new form of service in the Church.  In the prayers of for the profession of the nuns, the verb militare occurred in different forms.  In that context militare is to serve.  

Their prayers are now rippling out.  They have transformative power.  It is as if with every psalm verse, every act of obedience, they are injecting hope into the rest of us who militate out here in the world.

Finally, it is of enormous importance that the Rites of the last two days were captured on video and sent out to a wider world.

I have a feeling that this is the beginning of something we have only hoped for.

Timely.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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12 Responses to SAVE THE LITURGY – SAVE THE WORLD: Thoughts on the Rites in the Starfield

  1. bobbird says:

    A powerful statement, Fr. Z, on what the supposed “meaningless symbolism of pre-Vatican II” actually did for us! We are body, mind and spirit: what the body does not absorb, or the mind not comprehend, the 3rd element of the human person DOES. Internally. Not recognized until it is missing. Rediscovered, it is like water in the desert.

    Our own requests about the need for Liturgical Reform fell on the tone-deaf ears of our bishop recently, during a “listening session” where he specifically said, “I don’t want to hear complaints. I have already heard them.” Hence, last Sunday’s Mass included a pre-Mass 15 minute glad-handing session of “Let’s get to know one another”, which meant that the priest had to tell us his autobiography, then asked for all the birthdays, anniversaries and tourists to announce themselves. This certainly brought the focus onto the Sacred Mysteries! Well, at least it was before Mass.

  2. maternalView says:

    So so beautiful.
    I loved your observation that there was no better place to be. Oh, that more would approach being at the Mass feeling that way! That more would see the observation of the many Church traditions and feasts as a valuable way to spend their time! Instead of spending time doing things that will matter not one whit in the end or are actually sinful.

  3. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for this encouraging news of the beloved sisters of Ephesus. I very much wished to be able to attend this event, but was unable. I am glad you were there and were willing to share your insights with those of us who could not attend.

    Your remarks reminded me forcefully of something written by the great Robert Hugh Benson in “The Light Invisible” In Chapter 8 “The Convent Chapel” he describes a priest being brought face to face with the reality of the link between the Blessed Sacrament and contemplative nuns which forms a dynamo of grace in the world. If you are not familiar with this work, I would urge you to read it (It is available on Kindle very reasonably) and if you do know the work, I would suggest to take another look at it. In many ways, Benson was prophetic.

    [Thanks for that! I’ll review it.]

  4. Malta says:

    VERY nice post Father! Faith can be likened to training for a marathon (I’ve ran two): if you don’t train, you don’t complete. These faith-practices of old developed through the centuries to help us “finish the race,” in the words of St. Paul. Why we threw it all away after Vatican II is a mystery to me.

  5. Malta says:

    And St. Paul, when he wasn’t sailing, I believe he was mostly walking throughout the Mediterranean world; that Saint must have been super-fit spreading the Gospel!

  6. Therese says:

    “I have a feeling that this is the beginning of something we have only hoped for.”

    Me too!

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    In the recent anime Cells at Work, the story points out that we have more than one kind of white blood cell. The normal ones are great against normal infections, while the lesser -known kind is weak against them. But if a parasitic critter gets into the blood, suddenly you want those “useless” kinds of white blood cells!

    A lot of stuff in our rites is there by inspiration or tradition. We don’t necessarily know why it is there or what it is good for, but it has a purpose that becomes clear when it is needed.

  8. Paul says:

    Nice to hear of an abbey being consecrated rather than deconsecrated like we usually hear about

  9. oakdiocesegirl2 says:

    I was pleased to discover your motto “STLSTW” was quoted, along with the paragraphs you reprinted above [and with appropriate attribution], in the 9.9.2018 Sunday Bulletin of St. Joseph the Worker Church, Berkeley, CA. It is within the larger article: “The connection between liturgical abuse and abuse of minors” by Peter Krasniewski, which is printed in the bulletin.
    Shout out to our pastor, Fr. Kenneth Nobrega, for ad orientem Mass and working so hard to restore the liturgy in the Diocese of Oakland!

  10. PostCatholic says:

    These posts about the consecration of churches and the rites of passage for nuns have been interesting. I think it’s fair to say they’re uncommonly celebrated in either form in the United States. How does the newer rite change the ceremonies? I’m curious.

  11. SanSan says:

    Your posts of late have kept me in awe and thanksgiving……I’m so happy that there were pictures and a video taken so that many could share in this beautiful event in Holy Mother Church. God bless you Father Z.

  12. james huffaker says:

    How different the world would be if this weren’t an earth shattering event, if such were in the common lexicon, if we lived our lives and measured our comings and goings, by the seasons of Mother Church. Once upon a time, the world stopped 3 times per day, to pray the Angelus.