On 5 July 2016, in London, Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, gave a powerful address at a conference on liturgy. Card. Sarah appealed to priests to say Mass ad orientem. Let’s call it the… Sarah Appeal™.
I fully expect that there will soon be a tremendous backlash unleashed on all who support the Cardinal’s proposal.
Frankly, when the other day I saw in the Bolletino that Card. Sarah had been granted an audience with Pope Francis, I wondered if the Cardinal might not have in his stars the same lot as Card. Burke. Francis wanted a different direction for the Signatura so he moved Card. Burke to be the Patron of the Knights of Malta. Now that Card. O’Brien is over 75 and has, therefore, no doubt offered his resignation to His Holiness as Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, that group of Knights might be opening up. Who knows? In a light-hearted exchange with a priest friend it was quipped that if the Holy Sepulcher isn’t a possibility, perhaps the Knights Who Say “Ni!” are available.
You’ve gotta look for some humor in life in the Church these days, friends. That’s how you know that you not a liberal. But I digress.
It is early to tell, very early, but my spidey-sense tells me that Card. Sarah’s speech marks a turning point.
Through history, there have been short speeches with long effects. Sometimes they are delivered to small crowds, such as the Gettysburg Address. Sometimes they are broadcast to many, as in Churchill’s 13 May 1940 radio call-to-arms. Sometimes they are given by the famous, as in Martin Luther King’s 28 August 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Sometimes the speech-maker is relatively unknown, as in Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech at the Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio. You can make your own list of short history-changing oratory.
Every once in a while, a Cardinal makes an important speech that both reveals the state of the Church and the speech leaves an enduring mark.
For example, on 12 May 1879, John Henry Card. Newman gave his formal “Biglietto” Speech, when he was given the red hat. He spoke about liberalism in religion. “Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion.” He talked about the replacement of revelation by natural virtues as “a great apostasia.”
On 3 August 1941 Clemens Card. von Galen gave a speech, a sermon, in the Cathedral of Münster against the Nazi euthanasia program. As a result, Hitler suspended the program which had already killed a hundred thousand people. Hitler couldn’t touch von Galen physically, but he retaliated by having three priests beheaded. They had distributed von Galen’s sermon. Von Galen gave three sermons against Nazism.
On 18 April 2005, Joseph Card. Ratzinger delivered a sermon at Mass “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice“, which probably was a major factor that catapulted him in to the See of Peter. This is the sermon in which he said: “Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”
You can probably come up with examples of your own.
It seems to me that Card. Sarah’s London ad orientem appeal will prove to be a catalyst that will set in motion significant change. As often happens with catalysis, however, violent reactions can occur. And, if I remember my college chemistry rightly, catalysts remain even after the reaction occurs, so that reactions can keep on occurring down the line. Catalysts have an enduring effect.
Each priest who takes up Card. Sarah’s catalytic call will in turn become a catalyst in his parish or wherever he serves. The way priests say Mass has a knock-on effect in congregations.
Carefully review what Card. Sarah said (read the whole this HERE). In part:
I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.
And so, dear Fathers, I humbly and fraternally ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their backs to me and not their faces” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord! Since the day of his Baptism, the Christian knows only one direction: the Orient. “You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the East (ad Orientem), [NB] for one who renounces the devil turns towards Christ and fixes his gaze directly on Him” (From the beginning of the Treatise on the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan). [De mysteriis 2,7 – Ingressus igitur, ut adversarium tuum cerneres, cui renuntiandum in os putaris, ad orientem converteris; qui enim renuntiat diabolo, ad Christum convertitur, illum directo cernit obtutu.]
I very humbly and fraternally would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way, particularly at large celebrations in your dioceses and in your cathedral. Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the centre of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ’s faithful to him as fellow worshippers united in the one same act of adoration. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries.
We bishops have a great responsibility, and one day we shall have to answer to the Lord for our stewardship. We are the owners of nothing! Nothing belongs to us! As St Paul teaches, we are merely “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). We are responsible to ensure that the sacred realities of the liturgy are respected in our dioceses and that our priests and deacons not only observe the liturgical laws, but know the spirit and power of the liturgy from which they emerge. I was very encouraged to read the presentation on “The Bishop: Governor, Promoter and Guardian of the Liturgical Life of the Diocese” made to the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon in the USA, and I fraternally encourage my brother bishops to study his considerations carefully.
All liturgical ministers should make a examination of conscience periodically. For this I recommend part II of the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of Benedict XVI (22 February 2007), “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated.” It is almost ten years since this Exhortation was published as the collegial fruit of the 2005 Synod of Bishops. How much progress have we made in that time? What more do we need to do? We must ask ourselves these questions before the Lord, each of us according to our responsibility, and then do what we can and what we must to achieve the vision outlined by Pope Benedict.
At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the extraordinary liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.
Card. Sarah put his finger directly on a huge wound that must be dealt with before true renewal can take place: Holy Church’s all important liturgical worship. He identified something that would be a great contribution to that renewal: ad orientem worship.
That means that he must be attacked, discredited. Those who support his proposal must be intimidated, silenced, crushed. They must not be allowed to create effective, enduring changes.
One of the reasons why I think there will be an attack on priests who support the Sarah Appeal™ is because the liberal elite hear in it a criticism of their projects perpetrated in the name of the reforms called for by the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium. They think the suggestion that, perhaps, we could say Mass as our forebears did for so long is an accusation that they were wrong all along. In fact, the versus populum thing was built precisely on a sandy foundation of incorrect scholarship which experts such as Louis Bouyer and Joseph Jungmann eventually repudiated. However, by the time they did that, the fix was in.
Another reason why there will be harsh blow-back for anyone who supports the Sarah Appeal™ is because ad orientem worship is an invitation to conversion. In another post, I alerted you to a priest who touched on the moral dimension that ad orientem invokes. HERE Ad orientem worship is itself an implicit call to right conduct. That’s certainly a reason for Satan to hate it, to move his agents to stomp it and those who support it into the dust whence Adam came. That’s why the Enemy will move his pawns, bishops and … queens… into action. NB again what Card. Sarah quoted, above, from St. Ambrose De mysteriis.
Speaking of “mysteries”, another reason why ad orientem worship will be ferociously resisted is because it is yet another corrective toward producing during Holy Mass the apophatic conditions in which the worshiper might have an encounter with Mystery. This encounter is both alluring and frightening. It is alluring because we who are in the image and likeness of God are restless to be with God, who in this life is utterly mysterious, whom we can only glimpse darkly, as if in a glass or perhaps through the crack in the rock as He passes on the other side. It is frightening because it moves us to deal with the reality of death, the knowledge that one day we will cross over. Holy Mass must prepare us for death. But if we are too afraid to deal with this, then we fill our liturgical worship with myriad distractions. We eliminate silence. We reduce music and ornament to the lowest sort of thing. We banalize the language and eliminate anything too challenging. We do all that we can to eliminate the difficult, challenging apophatic conditions that are the necessary propaedeutic for that alluringly frightening encounter. If Holy Mass is not helping you to get ready for your own death, it isn’t fulfilling one of its most important purposes.
Card. Sarah placed his finger directly on a huge wound. His speech will some day be recognized as an important turning point, a healing point. But remember that, as Augustine once pointed out, the doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because the patient screams for him to stop. Things will get mighty noisy and ugly before this is over, my friends.
Therefore, clean your house.
Examine your consciences, look over your vocation and your duties, and GO TO CONFESSION!
And please, I beg you, pray for me. I can feel it on the horizon. Pray for all priests and bishops. Pray that their minds and hearts be opened and that their actions reflect a loving balance of prudence and courage.