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Saturday 9 June 2012

LMS in London Third Talk by Fr. Z. on the Mystery in the Mass and Facing Death

The famous blogger Fr. Z., gave the third talk, whose bio can be seen on several websites.

The theme of the talk was Save the Liturgy, Save the World. He started his talk with a small talk on the social Internet communication network for Traditional Catholics. The vast majority get their information online!!!!!!

What follows is a close paraphrase and some quotations.

One of the points which he wanted to emphasize is the borrowed phrase morphed from Heroes. They were saving the cheerleader to save the world. Fr. Z. noted that the enculturalization of the culture is not the point. The Mass is not primarily for enculturalization, or for the improvement of art, architecture, music, etc. In his phrase, Fr. Z. is concentrating on the spiritual, invisible world, which also is a battle ground. The way that we celebrate Holy Mass creates spiritual ripples, he said. He noted that through the Eucharist the transcendent irrupts into the world. This means that what we do in Church, everything surrounding the Consecration, makes a difference.

If a baptized member of the Church does not kneel in Church, this makes a difference. Violations of rubrics effect the entire world. Music, words, gestures in Church effect the whole world.

We hurt everyone, he said, if we sin and so, too, there is a personal and corporate connection to the world through our actions in Holy Mass. Worshiping badly effects the whole world. Worshiping well effects the whole world.

Fr. Z. spoke of the multiple Masses and the contemplative orders which prayed correctly and reverently in the past. Who can know, he said, how these good orders and the Masses turned back catastrophes in the world? Everything we do surrounding how and what we do in Mass effects the world.

Fr. Z said that we are part of a mysterious plan in this. We shall not know our part until the Final Judgement. We can add to worthy worship, not only as an act of love to God, but to our neighbor.

We are participants in something mysterious, he stated. He noted that we need to understand what we mean by active participation. What we do is significant and how we pray is significant.

He rightly notes that the critics of the TLM continually saying that form is "passive" instead of active. He said that what the Church meant by active participation is not what has been taught. It mean active receptivity. We are to actively receive whatever God wants to give us at Mass, and Mary is our Model. Father noted that Mary was always receiving and pondering in silence what God has given her. 

He gave the example of the Annunciation. She was silent and then cam the Magnificat. She watched at the Wedding Feast at Cana, pondering and then having outward expression. He was emphasizing that the Mass is not primarily about outward expression, but inward receptivity.

Holy Mass is really about what God is doing for us. Fr. Z. emphasized that our receptivity is based on our baptismal graces and state. (Note my posts on baptism below, please). Baptism makes a difference, Fr. Z. noted. The receptivity is active, he said, not passive. We have to engage our will.

It is hard to pay attention, he added. It is hard for us to engage our attention for any length of time, he noted. "We can get buried in distractions", he said, and "in our liturgical worship".

"I think that with the rise of the new generation of Catholics, unlike the old hippies, who think active participation means carrying things around", is passing, Fr. Z. said.

"Here is the point I would like to share with you about active is a little piece of information, useful in this discussion. In 1958, Pius XII promulgated the document On Sacred Music." Fr. noted that paragraph 22 says that proper. most perfect active participation is the receiving of Holy Communion.  He noted the pattern of the TLM always in the Mass. It was the same parallel structure in the beginning of Mass and in the offertory. The procession is the parishioners getting up and receiving Holy Communion, a willed interiorly active receptivity, is the outward expression of the interior movement.

Fr. Z. went on to talk about the rites helping or hindering the virtue of religion which is the virtue of giving God His due.  Worship helps or hinders this virtue of religion.

He quotes St. Augustine of Hippo on his theology on the interpretation of Scripture.  The saint wrote that the Bible is full of signs, which are all designed by God, the "res", the things, the truths, the meanings. Caritas, the love of God and neighbor are the focal point of all the signs of the Old and New Testament.  These "signa", these cultural elements help us to deepen our understanding of the meaning. Fr Z. gave the example of Handel using Scripture to make The Messiah

Father Z referred to St. Augustine of the goodness or badness of a thing or sign. Here is a close paraphrase.

Utilitas is St. Augustine's word for determining the good of a thing. If something is useful and leads us to God, these are good. In other words, if something is good, like good music and good art in Mass are good and bad music and bad art are bad for the souls of ourselves and our neighbors.

Fr. Z. said that the only reason we go to Mass is that we are all going to die someday and we shall see God face to face. "And, if Mass does not prepare us for death, what is the point", he said.

This is a unique position of thinking we should all consider and Fr. said that as a priest he must say this. That he has, as a priest, to talk about death. Fr. Z. noted that St. Augustine calls our awareness of death as our daily winter, the cold reminder of death.

Father went on to remind us that many things distract us from death. And, the Mass should help us get to heaven and that the Mass should never distract us from that goal of eternal life.

We have to die, he reminded us and our liturgical worship should be the means of reminding us of our end and give us the aid to get there.

"Our rites have to reflect this, he said. We have to be emphasizing God's Sacrifice which opened up the gates of heaven..this has to be made explicit in the rites all the time."

"We have to keep that fact of death before our eyes." he said. The Mass, where the Sacred Mysteries are being celebrated, is where we must meet suffering and death. He noted that the Crucified One is what he wants to see at Mass, not a happy Christ.

So, he went on, what are the choices we make in our liturgy which will help us concentrate on that end?

We have to encounter the mystery to get us past our fear of death to the magnificent hope and fact of the Resurrection.

If we are constantly distracted, he noted, and it is possible to have too much, too many things going on. 

And a really important point, in the effort of the Church to make everything understandable, happy and chummy, we have, he said, moved away from the challenge of facing death, the mysterious.

All this must be met in the Liturgy-the encounter with the mysterious. 

Fr. Z referred to the cleft in the rock where Moses stood while God passed by, the Back of God. That is the kind of thing we should be focused on in our liturgical resources. Father noted that people who go to the TLM for the first time meet something mysterious and hard to understand and that this is good and real.

When we fall into the trap, Fr. Z. said, of trying to understand everything, we create, as Cardinal Ratzinger said, a golden calf, something easy to understand, not something mysterious, like the spiritual God. The point Fr. Z. emphasized was that the people knew the golden calf was not God, but they chose something which was comfortable and that we cannot fall into the same trap of wanting to be comfortable at Mass. Mass should be challenging and even terrifying, he said, in the face of the Mystery of God and our final end.

I hope you can follow all the threads here, as this was a packed talk.