Fr. Rutler’s Weekly Column
February, 17, 2019
Like the optimist who sees a glass of water half-full and the pessimist who sees it half-empty, people assess the times in which they live by their personality. Each age has had its crises, but the time in which we live seems especially fit to the description with which Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”
While other generations have known philosophical and physical conflicts, ours is conspicuous for an evaporation of moral certitudes by which good and bad are judged. Our Lord warned against pessimism (Luke 17:23), but he also cautioned against the deceits of false optimists who would caricature Christ to promote evil (Matthew 24).
The Catechism is clear: “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth” (CCC 675).
No cogent veteran of the last century, with its mega-villains, could deny the existence of Satan. But the Lord of Death and Prince of Lies employs his agents to kill babies, shatter families, corrupt priests, and mock the Church. Each modern economic, sexual, and artistic “liberation” has masqueraded as an “angel of Light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
In the fourteenth century Saint Bridget of Sweden predicted: “During the first part of (the Antichrist’s) reign, he plays more the part of sanctity; but when he gains complete control, he persecutes the Church of God and reveals all his wickedness.”
During the bicentennial of our own nation, the future St. John Paul II said in Philadelphia to a crowd not altogether paying attention: [NB] “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. “
In dealing with “principalities and powers not of this world” (Ephesians 6:12), human politics and social reforms to fight them are as useless as a pea shooter. Spiritual combat begins and ends with worship of the one true God in His one true Church. The prime Antichrist hates that the most. Around the year 300, Abba Apollo said, “The Devil has no knees, . . . he cannot worship, he cannot adore.”
Fr. Rutler has made a point of critical importance to which I shall offer a gloss of my own.
As I have often written in these electronic pages, no initiative that we undertake in the Church – including cleansing – will succeed if it does not begin with and return to our sacred liturgical worship of God.
We must revitalize our liturgical worship. This is URGENT. In turn, this revitalization will have a massive knock-on effect on priests and, with them, congregations.
We have to get serious again. How shall we fulfill our obligations under the virtue of religion both individually and collectively? Sacred liturgy.
And by liturgy I don’t mean Mass! PLEASE, people, stop using the word “liturgy”… “the liturgy” … if you are talking about Holy Mass. Mass is liturgy, but liturgy is more than Mass. A square is a rectangle, but not all rectangles are squares. Liturgy includes the liturgical hours and all manner of other rites. Mass the most important liturgy we have, but not the only liturgy.
We need a restoration of The Liturgy across the board, from top to bottom.
Is it too much to hope that we collectively sobering up after the decades of drifting on the halcyon vapors of the 60’s and the delusions about what was mandated and what was not by the Council Fathers? With Team Francis prowling through the Church it is hard to say. It’s like déjà vécu all over again.
The revitalization of our Catholic identity – isn’t that what we are talking about in This Present Crisis? – must come from revitalization of our collective formal liturgical worship of God. Then it must return to worship in an unending circle. Christ is the one who is the True Actor in every world and liturgical gesture. Our participation in those words and gestures have transformative power. This is TRUE “Liberation Theology”! Authentic active participation by active receptivity in serious and reverent and time-proven liturgical rites that tie across the gulfs of centuries, regions and even the door of death.
LEARN THE TRADITIONAL ROMAN RITE.
Teach about it. Make it available. Use it often and oftener.
This is one of the greatest tools we have in The Present Crisis to help us do what needs to be done.
WE ARE OUR RITES!