Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Mass is not the Faith and Other Items


Recently I posted an article in which I stated that "The Mass is not the Faith. The Faith is bigger than the Mass." I initially thought this concept would be readily agreed upon by my readership, but on our Facebook thread a rather sizable dispute erupted over the phrase. Some misunderstood this phrase to mean I was saying the Mass wasn't important, or that it did not affect our faith, or that it was disposable; others disagreed and argued passionately that the Mass and the Faith were identical. I wanted to take an opportunity to explore this phrase further and clear up some other issues from the last article.

By the way, thank you for the thoughtful and (for the most part) charitable comments. I learn very much from them and never object to being disagreed with - it has not infrequently happened that a revolt in my combox has led me to reevaluate and change my position subsequently.

So, what is the Faith? What is the Mass? Why is it right to say that the Mass and the Faith are not the same thing?

When we speak about "the Faith", we typically refer to the Catholic religion in its totality. This would include everything a Catholic believers and everything he does. In the words of the Catechism, the Faith is "all that she herself is, all that she believes" (CCC 78). Let us examine what this entails.

First, the deposit of Divine Revelation, included both in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Sacred Tradition.
Second, all theological traditions and interpretations associated with the doctrines of Divine Revelation, as summed up in the Creeds of the Church and the canons of the Ecumenical Councils.
Third, all of the sacraments and liturgical functions and rites of the Church; how the Church worships.
Fourth, all of the Church's disciplinary customs (the Lenten Fast, no communion for divorced and remarried, etc.)
Fifth, the Church's hierarchical constitution.
Sixth, the spiritual heritage of the Church, from great prayers such as the Pater Noster and Rosary down to the smaller devotions that have come down to us.
Seventh, the heritage of the great saints who have all gone before us; the example of their lives, their profound writings, their contributions to doctrinal development, and their intercession from heaven.


Eighth, all of the Church's artistic heritage, both in her sacred art, sacred music and sacred architecture.
Ninth, the historical papal-magisterial corpus of writings.

We could probably include more - for example, great works of Catholic literature like the Divine Comedy or Everlasting Man; Hilaire Belloc, when writing on this question, tended to include European Christian culture as such - hence his famous statement, "Europe is the Faith; the Faith is Europe." But let us not cast our net too far abroad; everyone has their particular focus, but the above nine items would be the core of what I think most Catholics speak of when they refer to "the Faith."

It is a very broad thing, the Faith. It encompasses much more than a few propositions or ceremonies. It is a totality; it is in fact the fullest way of being human.

What is the relation of the Mass to the Faith?

The Mass is absolutely integral to the Faith. Remember the principle Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi. There is an intimate union between Catholic belief, Catholic life and Catholic worship. The Eucharist, the heart of the Mass, is the "source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC 1324). As such, it is the irreplaceable foundation from which Faith is built up and the end towards which it tends. It is difficult to overstate its intimate connection to the Faith. While it is possible to maintain the Faith without access to the Mass (like in Japan), the Faith without the Mass cannot long endure, at least not in its fullest form.

But the Mass is not the Faith itself. The Mass is to the Faith what a heart is to the body, or what an engine is to the car. It is integral. It is the center. The rest is of little value without it. It is that which gives vitality to the whole.

And yet, it is not the whole. Just as it would be foolish to present someone with a car engine and suggest you were giving them a whole car, or display a human heart and suggest you were displaying an entire human person, so it would be very reductive and inaccurate to suggest that the Mass itself is the Faith. Remember, the Faith can exist without the Mass. Did Cardinal Kung lose the Faith when imprisoned for 30 years without the Mass? Some of the Desert Fathers simply did not attend Mass because of their physical isolation. Nobody would accuse the founders of monasticism of not having the Faith. So the Mass is extremely important, but it is not the totality.

Msgr. George Agius in his 1928 classic Tradition and the Church states that the liturgy of the Church is the principal type of constitutive tradition. That is, of all the content that is uniquely passed on via Tradition, the liturgical rites of the Church hold a pride of place. This is because, while the Mass is not the Faith, the Mass sums up the Faith and itself instructs us in all of the fundamentals of the Faith.

Consider our list above. All of these are touched on in the ideal Mass. The Sacred Scriptures are read and expounded, the liturgy of the Church carried out for the glory of God; the Creed of the Church is professed and the Holy Eucharist is administered; the existence of the hierarchy is evidenced and the greatest spiritual treasures of the Church are demonstrated in the Pater Noster and other ancient prayers of the Mass. The saints are invoked and commemorated in an atmosphere of the Church's artistic and musical heritage. All is done in conformity with the Magisterial direction of the Church. All of this is summed up and offered with the most august sacrifice of the Son of God and presented to God the Father.

So the Mass touches on and sums up everything that is integral to the Faith. It reaches into every dimension of the Faith and incorporates each into its rites. It represents the core of the Faith, its most vital heart. But there is more content to the Faith than just the Mass. Yes, the Mass focuses in on those most essential elements and in doing so provides the most perfect form of instruction in the Christian faith. In a way, it crystallizes the most essential elements of the Faith for us in one singular, glorious act.

But the Faith in its entirety is not contained in the Mass. It would be absurd to try to claim, for example, that the entire historic papal Magisterium is some how included in the Mass. Or consider the sacraments - baptism, anointing of the sick, penance, all traditionally done outside Mass. Clearly, the Mass, though central, is not and was not meant to be all-encompassing. In fact, one complaint traditionalists have often made about the Novus Ordo rites is that it tends to try to make the Mass a "one-stop-shop" for everybody's spiritual needs. Baptisms, anointing, penance and everything else is incorporated into Mass, often (at least in the case of the last two) with deleterious results. The Mass was never meant to be a "one-stop-shop", and it is certainly not equivalent with the Faith itself, no matter how important.

It is therefore a little off center when Traditionalist Catholics focus on the Mass to the exclusion of everything else. There are a variety of ways this can happen; I don't want to cite examples for fear of possibly offending some other bloggers. But it definitely happens.

Can too much be made of the Mass? Well, yes and no. No in the sense that the Mass is the offering of Jesus Christ and has infinite merit; this cannot be emphasized too much. But yes if we give the Mass a position it was not meant to have, such as the "one-stop-shop" approach of the post-Conciliar era that is objected to by some traditionalists.

There is perhaps nobody in the Church who knows more about Tradition than Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP. Fr. Ripperger wrote the introduction to the modern reprint of Msgr. Agius' Tradition and the Church, which is admitted by all to be the pivotal work on the doctrine of Tradition. Fr. Ripperger has spoken and written copiously about tradition and has noted that it is a very common pitfall among Catholic Traditionalists to assume that faithful attendance at and devotion to the Extraordinary Form is an adequate substitute for knowledge of Catholic Tradition. In many cases, he says, so-called "Traditionalists" are entirely ignorant of the Tradition they profess to venerate. This is because they assign a role to the Mass it was never meant to have - i.e., assuming that the Mass suffices for everything, and that no further reading, study, etc. is necessary. Consequently they are woefully ignorant of Catholic tradition. You can listen to Fr. Ripperger's homily on this subject here, although the quality of the recording is very poor. His argument is that Traditionalists sometimes think mere attendance at the EF Mass is sufficient and that no further knowledge is necessary; or that mere attendance at such Masses imparts one all the knowledge of tradition they need.

Thus, the fundamental question: Should a priest who has been saying the Extraordinary Form Mass exclusively, upon being ordered to cease by his legitimate superior, obey this order?

I answer, absolutely. Yes. It may be an illegitimate order, but one must obey even illegitimate orders so long as they do not lead you to commit sin - and not saying an EF Mass is not a sin. If the legal channels are open to a priest to seek incardination elsewhere in a more friendly environment, that is a legitimate option open to him. In the meantime, a cleric is bound to observe any canonical penalties imposed by a superior - even if imposed errantly, or based on untruths. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that when a person is censured, even unjustly, "the censure has valid effects in that forum and must be observed externally, to avoid scandal and for good discipline." Therefore until the situation is resolved, or until that cleric becomes incardinated somewhere else, he is bound to observe the censure. 

What he ought not to do is declare that he is going to go off and keep on doing what he wants anyway because somehow the Old Mass just trumps everything no matter what. That is scandalous, to me at least. Am I not scandalized when bishops and members of the Magisterium crack down on good, faithful, traditional priests? Yes. I am horribly scandalized by it. Which is precisely why I do not want my scandal to be made worse by seeing these traditional priests play around with disobedience as a recourse to their difficulties.

Seeking transfer is a legitimate thing to do - in my last article too I stated that "it is certainly legitimate to seek legal redress to these problems through appropriate canonical channels." Even so, I don't think doing that is the most perfect form of obedience. The most perfect form would be to humbly and quietly submit to whatever was dished out to you, per the Apostle Peter:

"For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval...who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also you suffer any thing for justice' sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled" (1 Pet. 2:19-20, 3:13-14).

What do these passages from 1 Peter look like lived out in the life of a priest or order unjustly under attack for doing good? That is what I am trying to sort out. I think - especially since March, 2013 - we all are grappling with this. It will probably be sloppy. There will be a lot of collateral damage. But I do believe in my heart that the Church will not be saved by a bunch of people with the "I would like to be obedient, but" attitude.

I'm not bringing these things up because I "like" them or like thinking about them. But we are in strange times and we all need to sort these things out. May God be gracious to us all!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just a note regarding Summorum Pontificum, Art. 2. It is a special law vis-a-vis a general Law (CIC), so the former in its specific subject matter (the choice of the liturgical book in Masses sine populo) prevails over the latter. It is not at all obvious that a very general statement about preserving bishops' rights in the accompanying letter would serve to restrict the above, especially, if Universae Ecclesiae being a legal comment on the motu proprio and treating the competence of bishops (e.g. nn. 13,14) says nothing of this sort. The general rights of bishops in the text of Summorum Pontificum itself are mentioned in connection with a different subject matter (Art. 5.1) and refer to one specific canon (392).

And yes, a traditionalist bishop or superior cannot under Summorum Pontificum, Art. 2, prohibit his subject from celebrating Novus Ordo sine populo.

Andris Amolins

cda said...

The examples offered (Fr. Ripperger, Cardinal Kung and the Desert Fathers) seem to conflate the observance of mass with the subject of mass. That is, they seem to conflate the proper administration of the mass by the priest and, if applicable, the proper attendance of the mass by the faithful with the person of the Christ acting as both High Priest and Victim in a propitiatory sacrifice. To say that proper administration and observance of mass is not the whole of the faith is one thing, to say that the person of Christ, High Priest and Victim, is not the faith is quite another.

First, the statement “The mass is not the faith” seems to poorly communicate what is intended. Given the examples mentioned, a more accurate wording would be “The proper administration and attendance of mass is only a partial fulfillment of the obligations enjoined by the Christian life.” Obviously, a Christian is still bound to observe other things, e.g., the moral law. For example, it would be grossly insufficient for a priest to administer mass perfectly, or for the faithful to attend with perfect reverence, (if such were possible) and then blaspheme, lie, murder, fornicate, etc. outside of mass. I think there is little disagreement on this. Fr. Ripperger seems to be addressing a particular manifestation of laxity. But, again, laxity would concern reducing the observance of the Christian life to the observance of mass and not the faith to the subject of the mass.

Second, it ought to be said that fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation to keep the Sabbath holy is, strictly speaking, ecclesiastical and not divine law. One is under such obligation to go to mass only when it is not gravely inconvenient (e.g. traveling very long distances, risking mortally dangerous weather conditions, etc.). The church imposes the obligation and has an obligation to provide masses so that the faithful can reasonably fulfill those obligations. In short, ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. The cases of Cardinal Kung and the Desert Fathers are offered as such examples. But, again, these examples concern the observance of mass and not the subject.

Also, there seems to be also a conflation between the faith and its enumeration into articles, as in the following statement: “It would be absurd to try to claim, for example, that the entire historic papal Magisterium is some how [sic] included in the Mass.” Likewise, with scripture, prayers, etc. Certainly, the mass does not contain every article proposed for belief as such articles, every scripture as enumerated words, every prayer, etc. However, the mass does have the person of Christ as its agent and victim, who fulfills scripture, who prays unceasingly before the Father, etc. If one is speaking of the mass in terms of its subject and not merely its observance, and if the mass is said to be lacking not just the enumeration of the faith into articles proposed for belief, scripture, prayers, etc. but something of the faith itself, then to hold that the “The mass is not the faith” one must be willing to hold that “the person of Christ, High Priest and Victim, is not the faith”. Seen from this perspective, I think that the violent reaction to the words “The mass is not the faith” is understandable.

cda said...

Also, there seems to be some confusion about what, strictly speaking, is part of the mass and what not. The homily, strictly speaking, is not part of mass. This is supposed to be manifested by the priest divesting before delivering the homily. This is relaxed so that it is sufficient for the priest to remove the maniple. But, admittedly, this is often not observed. Nevertheless, the homily is not part of mass.

Because the homily is not part of mass, the power of a bishop to prohibit his priest from giving homilies simply cannot support any assertion of a bishop’s “power in particular to prohibit him from doing certain parts of a Mass (the homily)”.

Related to this point is that the communion of the faithful as well, strictly speaking, is not part of the mass. This is why a priest may say mass alone. And it is also why a second Confiteor is traditionally said immediately prior to the communion of the faithful (despite it being suppressed in the 1962 missal). That is, the rite of communion, which has its own Confiteor, is, as it were, interpolated into the mass.

cda said...

There is also a conflation of suspension of faculties with a specific command. Suspending a priest from saying mass and ordering a priest not to say the traditional mass are not the same thing. Analogously, prohibiting a priest from delivering homilies and ordering a priest to be silent in his homilies on the Church’s teaching concerning contraception, abortion, and sodomy are not the same thing. The underlying problem with the traditional mass is that the Novus Ordo derogates from the faith (e.g. diminishing the character of propitiatory sacrifice, diminishing the role of minister from priest toward presider, etc.), just as silence on the ‘hard sayings’ derogates from the faith. The traditional mass says things the Novus Ordo doesn’t.

Consequently, “the fundamental question: Should a priest who has been saying the Extraordinary Form Mass exclusively, upon being ordered to cease by his legitimate superior, obey this order?” must be answered in the negative because the bishop’s power extends to suspending faculties, not to suspending (i.e. suppressing) the mass itself. Either suspend the priest from saying mass or do not.

Boniface said...

Sounds like I am full of conflation a then!

These are all good points. I'm not necessarily sure the distinctions imply everything you say. I am not ready to totally abandon my thesis but I think you have exposed some significant weaknesses in it.

Boniface said...

I still think it is more correct than not to say the Faith and the Mass are not the same thing, but given the confusion and indignation it has aroused, I probably will not insist on this phrase in the future.

Boniface said...

And I don't think it is right to say the Homily is "not part" of the Mass, unless you are restricting the Mass to the Canon alone. At most it is a non-essential part of the Mass since, as you point out, it can be licitly omitted.

Mighty Joe Young said...

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi.

Dear Brother Boniface, In Mediator Dei Pope Pius XII taught that was wrong and he reversed the order teaching that the rule of faith is the rule of prayer.

M.J. wil go chase down the citation

Mighty Joe Young said...



Mediator Dei:

46. On this subject We judge it Our duty to rectify an attitude with which you are doubtless familiar, Venerable Brethren. We refer to the error and fallacious reasoning of those who have claimed that the sacred liturgy is a kind of proving ground for the truths to be held of faith, meaning by this that the Church is obliged to declare such a doctrine sound when it is found to have produced fruits of piety and sanctity through the sacred rites of the liturgy, and to reject it otherwise. Hence the epigram, "Lex orandi, lex credendi" - the law for prayer is the law for faith.

47. But this is not what the Church teaches and enjoins. The worship she offers to God, all good and great, is a continuous profession of Catholic faith and a continuous exercise of hope and charity, as Augustine puts it tersely. "God is to be worshipped," he says, "by faith, hope and charity."[44] In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly, not only by the celebration of the mysteries, and by offering the holy sacrifice and administering the sacraments, but also by saying or singing the credo or Symbol of the faith - it is indeed the sign and badge, as it were, of the Christian - along with other texts, and likewise by the reading of holy scripture, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church.

48. For this reason, whenever there was question of defining a truth revealed by God, the Sovereign Pontiff and the Councils in their recourse to the "theological sources," as they are called, have not seldom drawn many an argument from this sacred science of the liturgy. For an example in point, Our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, so argued when he proclaimed the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Similarly during the discussion of a doubtful or controversial truth, the Church and the Holy Fathers have not failed to look to the age-old and age-honored sacred rites for enlightenment. Hence the well-known and venerable maxim, "Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" - let the rule for prayer determine the rule of belief.[45] The sacred liturgy, consequently, does not decide or determine independently and of itself what is of Catholic faith. More properly, since the liturgy is also a profession of eternal truths, and subject, as such, to the supreme teaching authority of the Church, it can supply proofs and testimony, quite clearly, of no little value, towards the determination of a particular point of Christian doctrine. But if one desires to differentiate and describe the relationship between faith and the sacred liturgy in absolute and general terms, it is perfectly correct to say, "Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi" - let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer....[46]

Boniface said...

Thanks MJ. I don't think I meant the phrase in any order of priority, but thank you for sending the citation from MD.

cda said...

Re: Pius XII's reversal

Pius XII might -- might -- have introduced a confusion in reversing the traditional order of priority of the law of prayer over the law of faith.

First, the law of faith ought not be confused with the deposit of the faith. The rule of faith is something enumerated into articles (e.g. creeds, dogmatic definitions, etc.) proposed for belief, just as the rule of prayer is something enumerated (e.g. as it is in missals, breviaries, etc.). The deposit of faith is the whole of faith, not all of which is enumerated into articles proposed for belief.

Second, the deposit of faith is prior to both the law of prayer and the law of faith. For example, one simply could not order the observance of a feast of the Immaculate Conception or of the Assumption if they did not belong to the deposit of faith. Or again, one could not have a law obliging one to believe in an article of faith (e.g. the dual nature of Christ, or, more recently, the Immaculate Conception) unless those articles were already part, however implicitly, of the deposit of faith.

Third, generally, the rule of prayer has preceded the corresponding rule of belief. For example, (if I remember correctly) the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the Assumption predate their respective definitions by over a millennium. However, of course, there are contrary instances (e.g. some elements are sometimes introduced into the mass following rules of faith and even for spurious reasons, e.g., the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed might have been originally introduced as a monophysite protest against Chalcedon). Nor is this to say that every article of the faith has some precedent in the rule of prayer (e.g. there is no feast of papal infallibility). Again, it is only a general rule of precedence.

If -- if -- what Pius XII meant by the reversal was that the deposit of faith determines the rule of prayer, then that is undoubtedly true, albeit unfortunately worded. However, if what Pius XII meant was that the rule of faith per se (i.e. enumerated articles of belief) determines the rule of prayer, then that might -- might -- be a case of making the exception the rule.

It is at least a matter of curiosity, whether such thinking is in part what allowed the questionable (both because of its novelty and because it was Bugnini driven) reform of Holy Week, which was explicitly cited by Paul VI as what "formed the first stage of updating the Roman Missal for the present-day mentality." (Missale Romanum)

Mighty Joe Young said...

Dear cda. M.J always keeps the reversed order of Mediator Dei in mind when it comes to all of the changes following the V2 rocket, which was launched without infallible fuel, but, nonetheless delivered significant damage.

The new theologians/modernists had a new faith and, thus ,they were constrained to create a new rite of mass, new sacraments, new breviary, new rules for religious orders, new exorcism ect ect world without end, amen.

It really is that simple.

O, and all of these massive changes are called continuity.

Is it too early to have a drink?

Fr. Scott Archer said...

Boniface, in the Tridentine Mass, the sermon is not a part of the Mass. That is why the priest leaves his maniple (or even chasuble) at the altar. It is also why he makes the sign of the cross before and after the sermon.