Friday, July 27, 2007

Loss of Liturgical Innocence

I have recently been reading "The Heresy of Formlessness" by German author Martin Mosebach. It is truly an illuminating book that puts the liturgical rupture of the past four decades in perspective from the point of view of the layman in the pew. One thing I found particularly fascinating is his notion that the liturgical problems since the 60's have caused us all to lose our "liturgical innocence." Liturgy, the expression of cult, for it to be authentic, must be natural, reflexive and unthinking. The reforms, because they are unnatural and non-organic, force those on either side of the debate to delve into liturgical matters and become "experts", thus robbing the liturgy of the mystery and sanctity that it formerly possessed (not objectively, of course, but in the mind and feelings of the layman). Mosebach says:

"Perhaps the greatest damage done by Pope Paul VI's reform of the Mass (and by the ongoing process that has outstripped it), the greatest spiritual deficit, is this: we are now positively obliged to talk about the liturgy. Even those who want to preserve the liturgy or pray in the spirit of the liturgy, and even those who make great sacrifices to remain faithful to it-all have lost something priceless, namely, the innocence that accepts it as something God-given, something that comes down to man as a gift from heaven. Those of us who are defenders of the great and sacred liturgy, the classical Roman liturgy, have all become-whether in a small way or a big way-liturgical experts. In order to counter the arguments of the reform, which was padded with technical, archaeological, and historical scholarship, we had to delve into questions of worship and liturgy-something that is utterly foreign to the religious man [ie, the man whose religion is so natural to him as to be unintentional and reflexive].

We have let ourselves be led into a kind of scholastic and juridical way of considering the liturgy. What is absolutely indispensible for genuine liturgy? When are the celebrant's whims tolerable, and when do they become unacceptable? We have got used to accepting the liturgy on the basis of minimum requirements, whereas the criteria ought to be maximal. And finally, we have started to evaluate liturgy-a monstrous act! We sit in the pews and ask ourselves, was that Holy Mass, or wasn't it? I go to church to see God and come away like a theatre critic. And if, now and again, we have the privilege of celebrating a Holy Mass that allows us to forget, for a while, the huge historical and religious catastrophe that has profoundly damaged the bridge between man and God, we cannot forget all the efforts that had to be made so that this Mass could take place, how many letters had to be written, how many sacrifices made this Holy Sacrifice possible, so that (among other things) we could pray for a bishop who does not want our prayers and who would prefer not to have his name mentioned in the Canon.

What have we lost? The opportunity to lead a hidden religious life, days begun with a quiet Mass in a modest little neighborhood church; a life in which we learn, over decades, discreetly guided by priests, to mingle our own sacrifice with Christ's sacrifice; a Holy Mass in which we ponder our own sins and the graces given to us-and nothing else; rarely is this possible any more for a Catholic aware of liturgical tradition, once the liturgy's unquestioned status has been destroyed" (Mosebach, 25-26).

I have this book linked on the sidebar if anybody wants to purchase it. I can't recommend it enough.


Mara Joy said...

FG wants me to read that! Can I borrow it when you're doine?

Zach said...

Why can't you recommend the book?

Boniface said...


I said I can't recommend it enough, which means that I recommend it highly.