Continuing a look at Desiderio desideravi. The letter, as I wrote before, is a mixed bag. It seems divisible according to the voice and topic. That probably reflects authorship by different people or groups. The section I’ll look at today smacks of Francis, because it get into his old accusation of gnosticism and neo-pelagianism.
The theological sense of the Liturgy
16. We owe to the Council — and to the liturgical movement that preceded it — the rediscovery of a theological understanding of the Liturgy and of its importance in the life of the Church. [I don’t think this can go unchallenged. This sounds as if the Church had lost a “theological understanding of the Liturgy”, and that the Church had, somehow, forgotten that Liturgy is “important in the life of the Church”. Only the Council rescued us from that ignorance and that negligence. Does anyone really believe that? Okay, yes. I’m sure some libs out there do. But this myopic view must at least be challenged.] As the general principles spelled out in Sacrosanctum Concilium have been fundamental for the reform of the liturgy, they continue to be fundamental for the promotion of that full, conscious, active, and fruitful celebration (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 11; 14), in the liturgy “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.14). [NB: He gives a reason for the Letter…] With this letter I simply want to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration. I want the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the Church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue. [“Stop the tape!” is what Rush used to say. I’ll add a couple of points of my own. If this is about “rediscovery”, okay. But you would have to then admit that that includes rediscovery of the foundation without which the Novus Ordo is not to be fully understood: the TLM. Furthermore, to exclude the TLM from this “rediscovery” for whatever reason – for example, it doesn’t sound in its proper prayers like the joyful emphasis on the eschatological realization of the “Paschal mystery” because they dwell too much on concepts like sacrifice and propitiation, is precisely to force some “ideological vision”.] The priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper that all may be one (John 17:21) judges every one of our divisions around the Bread broken, around the sacrament of mercy, the sign of unity, the bond of charity. [Should we also add the “propitiatory sacrifice of the Cross renewed”? Do I hear an “Amen!”?].
The Liturgy: antidote for the poison of spiritual worldliness
17. On different occasions I have warned against a dangerous temptation for the life of the Church, which I called “spiritual worldliness.” I spoke about this at length in the exhortation Evangelii gaudium (nn. 93-97), pinpointing Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism as two versions connected between themselves that feed this spiritual worldliness.
The first shrinks Christian faith into a subjectivism that “ultimately keeps one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings.” (EG 94) The second cancels out the role of grace and “leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.” (EG 94)
These distorted forms of Christianity can have disastrous consequences for the life of the Church.
18. From what I have recalled above it is clear that the Liturgy is, by its very nature, the most effective antidote against these poisons. Obviously, I am speaking of the Liturgy in its theological sense and certainly not, as Pius XII already affirmed, Liturgy as decorative ceremonies or a mere sum total of laws and precepts that govern the cult. [More on this below. Stay tuned!]
Just a brief ramble before leaving off, but it seems to me that when your foundation for everything you do is something that has to be read into the Council documents, something searched for in the gaps between the words and letters, a “spirit” of the Council that isn’t explicitly laid out, but rather intuited… doesn’t that seem like a kind of gnosticm?
For example, the claim is made that the Novus Ordo is the liturgy wanted by the Council. But, nooooo…. it isn’t. Show me how replacing whole sections of the Roman Mass with new material, even Hebrew blessing prayers supplanting the perennial offertory prayers, is consistent with what the Council Fathers voted on, which was a text.
Oh… I see… you have to sense the Council’s spirit in order to understand: nisi credideritis. I get it.
As far as neo-Pelagianism is concern, which of the two rites Vetus or Novus consistent throws the Christian soul down before God begging for graces and mercy and forgiveness, while asking for help from saints and angels? On the other hand, which of the two rites massively deleted concepts like propitiation from its prayers with a strong assumption that the eschatological joy desired is already pretty much in the bag, though “not yet” realized?
Let’s read a little of Mediator Dei of Pius XII, cited above. He is talking about the TLM in 1947:
23. The worship rendered by the Church to God must be, in its entirety, interior as well as exterior. It is exterior because the nature of man as a composite of body and soul requires it to be so. Likewise, because divine Providence has disposed that “while we recognize God visibly, we may be drawn by Him to love of things unseen.”[26 – Roman Missal, Preface for Christmas.] Every impulse of the human heart, besides, expresses itself naturally through the senses; and the worship of God, being the concern not merely of individuals but of the whole community of mankind, must therefore be social as well. This obviously it cannot be unless religious activity is also organized and manifested outwardly. Exterior worship, finally, reveals and emphasizes the unity of the mystical Body, feeds new fuel to its holy zeal, fortifies its energy, intensifies its action day by day: “for although the ceremonies themselves can claim no perfection or sanctity in their won right, they are, nevertheless, the outward acts of religion, designed to rouse the heart, like signals of a sort, to veneration of the sacred realities, and to raise the mind to meditation on the supernatural. They serve to foster piety, to kindle the flame of charity, to increase our faith and deepen our devotion. They provide instruction for simple folk, decoration for divine worship, continuity of religious practice. They make it possible to tell genuine Christians from their false or heretical counterparts.” [Hey! Wait a minute! I thought the Church had to have Vatican II to rediscover all this stuff. But here it is years before the Council. How does that work?]
24. But the chief element of divine worship must be interior. For we must always live in Christ and give ourselves to Him completely, so that in Him, with Him and through Him the heavenly Father may be duly glorified. The sacred liturgy requires, however, that both of these elements be intimately linked with each another. This recommendation the liturgy itself is careful to repeat, as often as it prescribes an exterior act of worship. Thus we are urged, when there is question of fasting, for example, “to give interior effect to our outward observance.”[28 – Roman Missal, Secret for Thursday after the Second Sunday of Lent.] Otherwise religion clearly amounts to mere formalism, without meaning and without content. [There must be some mistake. This can’t be 1947. This has to be an accidental interpolation of something from, well, today more enlightened time.] You recall, Venerable Brethren, how the divine Master expels from the sacred temple, as unworthily to worship there, people who pretend to honor God with nothing but neat and well-turned phrases, like actors in a theater, and think themselves perfectly capable of working out their eternal salvation without plucking their inveterate vices from their hearts. [The Lord did that? Threw people out? Hmmm… I wonder if accompaniment means saying “No” sometimes.] It is, therefore, the keen desire of the Church that all of the faithful kneel at the feet of the Redeemer to tell Him how much they venerate and love Him. She wants them present in crowds – like the children whose joyous cries accompanied His entry into Jerusalem – to sing their hymns and chant their song of praise and thanksgiving to Him who is King of Kings and Source of every blessing. She would have them move their lips in prayer, sometimes in petition, sometimes in joy and gratitude, and in this way experience His merciful aid and power like the apostles at the lakeside of Tiberias, or abandon themselves totally, like Peter on Mount Tabor, to mystic union with the eternal God in contemplation.
25. It is an error, consequently, and a mistake to think of the sacred liturgy as merely the outward or visible part of divine worship or as an ornamental ceremonial. No less erroneous is the notion that it consists solely in a list of laws and prescriptions according to which the ecclesiastical hierarchy orders the sacred rites to be performed. [He is talking about the TLM, not the Novus. It is an ERROR to think of the TLM in those shallow ways.]
26. It should be clear to all, then, that God cannot be honored worthily unless the mind and heart turn to Him in quest of the perfect life, and that the worship rendered to God by the Church in union with her divine Head is the most efficacious means of achieving sanctity.