Reviewing WDTPRS bullet points

Over time I have developed some ideas which guide most of what I post here regarding liturgy, liturgical translation, use of the older form of Mass, etc.

Let’s review some of the aphorisms and basic starting points I use here which are like helpful pegs upon which we can organize our thoughts when talking to people.

Think of a tool shop, where you see pegs on the wall with the shape of the tool that belongs their painted around the beg. 

Liturgy is the tip of the spear

There is a reciprocal relationship between how we pray and what we believe.  Change our prayer, we change our understanding of doctrine.  At the same time, if you believe a certain thing, that will affect how you pray.  Our identity begins to shift.  The Latin phrase lex orandi lex credendi expresses this… the "law of praying is the law of believing". 

The older Mass exerts a "gravitational pull"

Use the image of gravity or "cross-pollination", "harmonic resonance", whatever.

The use of the older form of Mass will exert an influence on the way the newer form of Mass is being celebrated.  First, younger priests (and older too) will discover new dimensions to Holy Mass by learning or refreshing the older form.  This will change their self perception and how they say Mass.  In turn, this will influence how people in the pews see them and understand Holy Mass.  Since the Eucharist (Its celebration and the Sacrament Itself) is the "source and summit" of our Christian life, identity, mores, etc., everything about our Church will begin to shift because of these changes of self-perception.

Say The Black Do The Red

The "Black" means the texts written in black ink on the pages of liturgical books.  The "Red" means the rubrics which explain the actions to be done.

Our sacred rites have their own interior force and power.  Remember that the true Actor in every Mass is the High Priest Jesus Christ.  He speak in every word.  He acts in every gesture. 

By our baptism, we have a share in Christ’s priesthood.  Thus, when we united our heart, mind and will with the sacred action, He takes our voices and hands and makes them his own, each according to our proper role.  The priest acts as Christ, Head of the Body.  The congregation is His Body in union with the Head. 

When we simply do what the Church asks and provides in our sacred rites, Christ is more easily discerned, His graces are more easily mediated, His voice and teaching more clearly heard. 

We must get ourselves out of the way and simply do what Holy Church asks and offers. 

Save The Liturgy Save The World

The Eucharist, its celebration and itself as the extraordinary Sacrament, is the “source and summit of Christian life”. 

If we really believe that, then we must also hold that what we do in church, what we believe happens in a church, makes an enormous difference.

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.

So does our good or bad reception of Holy Communion.

So must violations of rubrics and irreverence. 

Mass is not merely a “teaching moment” or a “celebration of unity” or a "tedious obligation". Our choice of music, architecture, ceremonies and language affect more than one small congregation in one building. We are interconnected in both our common human nature and in baptism. When we sin we hurt the whole Body of Christ the Church.

If that is true for sin, it must also be true for our liturgical choices. They must also have personal and corporate impact. Any Mass can be offered for the intentions of the living or the dead.

Not even death is an obstacle to the efficacy of Holy Mass.   We offer Mass for the living and the dead.

Celebrate Mass well, participate properly – affect the whole world. Celebrate poorly – affect the whole world.   This is another reason why we must Say The Black and Do the Red.

Already but not yet

Christ died and rose again.  Thus our humanity, taken by Christ into an indestructible bond with His divinity, died, rose and ascended to the Father’s right hand.

Christ’s work is complete.  But its fullness has not yet been realized.

In this world, in our Church, in our lives, we are "already" enjoying the first fruits of Christ’s redemptive work.  But we have not received the fullness of what Christ has done.

Even the Eucharist is a foretaste of what is promised to us.

But we obscure the promise and place obstacles before what Christ offers us in the Church, in the liturgy, etc., when we places ourselves, our self-centered designs, in the way. 

We must get out of Christ’s way, so that His will may be brought to fruition.

We are already "there", but we still have a long way to go. 

The stakes are very high indeed.  What we do here is very important. 

We are dealing with choices questions of life and death for ourselves and our children.

Ad intra et ad extra

When we consider large questions about the Church and who we are as Catholics, it is useful to make distinctions about who we are in ourselves and who we are in the world. 

Catholics, Christians, are both of in the world and yet not part of the world, removed.  We are living in a state of "already but not yet".  What we have here in the Church is a foretaste of the world to come. 

But it is Christ’s will that Holy Church shape the world. 

It is especially the role of Christian Catholic laymen to shape the large world.  For this lay people need clergy to do their jobs, according to their vocations, to shape them and their identity, to sanctify, teach and govern them, so that Christ can act through their words and actions in the world. 

So we must consider who we are as Catholics, within our Church, as ourselves, in relation with Christ the Lord.  This is the ad intra angle.  Then we also must consider who we are in the world around us, what our role is in the world we influence.  This is the ad extra dimension

This can be applied, for example, in the liturgical choice we make?  What does doing X mean to ourselves as worshiping Catholics?  What does it say to the world?  When the College of Cardinals meets in conclave to choose a Pope, they must consider the man they choose in light of the Church’s needs in Herself and also how the Church interfaces with the world now and in the future.  Ad intra et ad extra.  This is not a chronological distinction but rather a logical distinction, helpful merely to get our thinking and planning organized.

Pope Benedict has a "Marshall Plan" 

After World War II Europe was devastated.  That devastation made it more likely that the enemies of humanity promoting Communism would find a good foothold.  Also, Europe was in no position to engage in useful trade.  More importantly, people were suffering.  So the United States began to help rebuild Europe.

After Vatican II there has been terrible devastation of the Church.  This is not so much because of the texts issued by the Council but because of the lack of correct reading of those texts, the ideological designs (sometimes malicious) of some few who had great influence in the Council’s implementation, and a deadly reversal of the logical priority which the Church must be given in the ongoing interchange between the Church and the world. 

In short, Catholics have by and large lost their identity because of the general rupture created in nearly every aspect of our experience of worship, education, devotions, etc. 

Because Catholics lost their identity, we have little or no influence in the public square.  Thus, Catholics are easier targets for bigotry or persecution or simple apathy.  We are more easily marginalized from public debate, pushed out of the square and given no voice.  Sadly, many "Catholics" then compromise Catholic teaching on faith and morals, violate the Church’s laws, for the sake of gaining influence in the public square.  Think of some Catholic politicians and even some clergy.

Pope Benedict’s plan is to reinvigorate Catholic identity from within the Church (ad intra) especially through our liturgical experience so that we can begin to claim our rightful role in the public square (ad extra), precisely as Catholics. 

If we don’t know who we are, what we think and believe, can’t explain our position, then what could be possibly have to say to the world around us?

Saying the black and doing the red has a wider influence on the whole world, not just on ourselves in an enclosed Catholic ghetto.  Liturgy is therefore our crow bar, the tip of the spear.  It is the force which draws everything nearer to Christ.

This is why Summorum Pontificum is so very important.  It reaches far beyond the desires of some people for older forms of liturgy.

This is why must have good translations for our vernacular Novus Ordo liturgy as well.  The vernacular Novus Ordo is here to stay for the long-term, whatever your desires to the contrary may be. 

Therefore, we need to have translations which reflect accurately and beautifully what the prayers really say.  They will shape Catholics from within and then Catholics shape the world according to how they pray and believe.   The prayers themselves begin to draw all things to Christ.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Memphis Aggie says:

    Thank you Father.

    I was skeptical at first about this subject thinking that the concern over the liturgy was bordering on legalism. However, after seeing the real abuses, reading about the Pope’s work, reading sites like Father Longenecker’s and changing my own practice (receiving on the tongue, not the hand) I’m convinced.

    An elevated liturgy helps maintain the sense of awe and gratitude for the Eucharist. I need my sense of reverence to be sustained and nourished, not just by the Host, but by the liturgy as well. Keep up the good work Father and thanks for the review.

  2. Paul says:

    Another possibility (tongue-in cheek!!)

    The Rubrics Match the Rhetoric

    I feel it easier to appreciate the doctrine of the Real Presence in the TLM than in the (often poorly celebrated) Novus Ordo. The rubrics of the TLM show so much reverence to the Blessed Sacrament that they inspire reverence also in the congregation. If only the rubrics of the Novus Ordo mass were followed as carefully!

  3. Dustin says:

    Speaking of the new translations, there are currently several articles on the website of America magazine that look quite interesting. One of them deals with the coming translations (“A New Roman Missal”), another with symbolism in the liturgy (“More Than Words”) and yet another with the deficiencies of the reform (“Return to Our Roots”).

    I don’t have a subscription, so I can’t read them, but I hope, Fr. Zuhlsdorf, that you might to be willing to provide some future commentary on at least one of them? I think you’ve commented on articles in America in the past, though I don’t know whether you’ve since let your subscription lapse. I’m quite aware that you’re a man hard-pressed for time, so under no circumstances should my request be interpreted as anything like a demand. Hopefully, there might be someone else willing to help in case you’re simply unable. Thank you.

    Good, valuable principles to remember, above. I’d quibble with the “gravitational pull,” bit, as I worry sometimes that the tribal associations that people attach to the forms of our Rite may be forcing us into closed, uncommunicating and warring factions (there isn’t a lot of overlap between devoted readers of the National Catholic Reporter and The Remnant). I’m not sure whether this is peculiarly American, but I think people get a little “nationalistic” over this, the way people use their political parties, favored media outlets (Fox v. CNN) and other things as bludgeons against their ideological opponents, impugning their patriotism or, in this case, their Catholicity.

    Further, I fear that the coming translations are not going to be handled very well, that there’s going to be very poor catechesis preceding their imposition, and that their imposition will be done as ruthlessly as certain earlier aspects of the reform were said to have been done. I fear that tensions in the American church will get much, much worse before they get better.

  4. I have never subscribed to “America”. If someone sends me the articles, I can look at them.

  5. Paul Murnane says:

    Thanks for the excellent exec summary, Father. It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the details (pick any topic that drives people nuts) that you forget the big picture.

    It almost functions like a mission statement; might I suggest putting it under your “Pages” section on the left under the calendar?

  6. Brian Day says:

    Fr. Z,

    Perhaps you can revise and extend your remarks. I think what is missing is the Five Rules of Engagement.

    You are, in a sense, preaching to the choir. While there are many priests (Thanks Be To God for all of you) that read this blog, most of your readers like me are laymen. We will have to be the new evangelization to help spread the revitalization of our Catholic identity. In doing so, we must not do harm. So perhaps a re-posting (or link to your permanent post) would be appropriate.

  7. lmgilbert says:

    I am in a Novus Ordo parish whose parishioners are not up to speed with what Pope Benedict is doing. The words motu proprio would ring no bells.

    I want to put out a two or three page document, a type of liturgical catechism if you will, and distribute it to the parish council, the school board, the lectors, the eucharistic ministers, the pro-life people- the creme de la creme of the parish. It has to be short, pithy, non-technical, with a minimal use of Latin and especially has to emphasize the notion that if we went to be “with-it” and not wind up in a liturgical backwater, we need to bring ourselves up to speed with Pope Benedict.

    Frankly, I have neither the learning nor the expertise to create this document.

    We fly the papal flag from all the light poles in the parking lot, but I want to sweetly and resonably intimate that if this is to mean anything we have to find out what the pope wants and implement it in our parish.

    I think that our good parishioners would respond to the notion that maintaining the status quo is simply old-fashioned at this point, that the new wave of thinking emphasizes recovering our lost treasures. This is suburbia, and while it may not be the best motivation, I am pretty confident that it will evoke a horrified and energetic response. We don’t want to be left behind.

  8. Dustin says:

    So, is there anyone out there with access to America‘s archives willing to send those articles to Fr. Z?

  9. Mark says:

    I sent the articles to Fr. Z. earlier today.

  10. KK says:

    Thank you for this. The next time you are searching for a PODCAzT topic, this would make a lovely outline. :-)

  11. Tom says:

    “The vernacular Novus Ordo is here to stay for the long-term, whatever your desires to the contrary may be.”


    That is why the crisis of Faith is here to stay for the long-term.

    As long as the watered down and ecumenically-flavored Novus Ordo remains, then the crisis of Faith will remain.

    Latin Catholic identity cannot possibly be reclaimed via the Novus Ordo.

  12. Tom says:

    “After Vatican II there has been terrible devastation of the Church. This is not so much because of the texts issued by the Council but because of the lack of correct reading of those texts…”

    Let us face reality.

    The terrible devastation…we’re talking about the Latin Church…has been brought about by post-Vatican II Rome’s decision to promote novelties that have sapped our Latin Catholic identity.

    Replacing the TLM with the Novus Ordo has shattered Catholic identity.

    Our Churchmen’s obsession with ecumenism and interreligious “dialogue” has sapped Catholic identity.

    The Mass and our traditions have been watered down in the name of ecumenism.

    Everything from the Novus Ordo to prayer and worship with heretics and schismatics…everything from liturgical novelties to Papal “apologies”…

    …everything from politically correct Stations of the Cross (we don’t wish to “offend” certain folks) to multicultural liturgies…

    …has come from Rome and our bishops.

    Sorry, but the lack of correct reading of Vatican II texts is not the main culprit regarding the crisis of Faith that has beset the post-Vatican II Church.

    The main problem is that our Churchmen have moved us from our great Roman liturgical tradition to faith-sapping liturgical novelties as well as their decision to embrace the faith-sapping ecumenical/interreligious “dialogue” movement.

    A strong sense of Catholic identity will return to Latin Church dioceses only when Rome and Latin bishops return to the TLM…and regain pre-Vatican II Rome’s reluctance to favor the faith-sapping ecumenical movement.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    “After Vatican II there has been terrible devastation of the Church. This is not so much because of the texts issued by the Council but because of the lack of correct reading of those texts…”

    I think this is what it’s all about. Everyone who calls himself a Catholic… lay and religious, self-proclaimed “traditionalists” and “progressives”… the time is long over due to re-examine the documents of Vatican II. I think everyone on “both sides of the fence” would be very surprised.

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