Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Latin Mass: Teaching the heart to love

This is part of something I wrote in the comments this morning that I wanted to repeat (with some additions and corrections) here:
As to the participation issue, it seems to me that the big question is not whether the people should feel that our participation is somehow required (which is pretty vain) but what special efforts can and should we make when participating? Should we prepare ourselves by, just for example, 
  • reading the collect of the day, which the priest still says for us, ahead of time and making sure that we believe and want what that prayer asks for so it really is our prayer,
  • reading the antiphons and readings and thinking deeply about what they mean ahead of time,
  • thinking about and making a specific intention for this mass,
  • fasting.
One thing about the TLM is that it has specific rules for that sort of thing. Nowadays we tend to argue that what comes from the heart is better than following rules by rote. The problem is that, while that sounds good, it tends to become a matter of doing nothing. We think that our heart wants to love but it has to be trained to love.

ADDED: That is one  thing we do when we go to mass; we train our heart to love. It is also, we hope and pray, being granted grace by God and that grace is, by far, the more important part. But there is a tendency to forget that we should act differently because of that grace because I don't really believe in that grace if I don't act differently. One of the specific functions of the liturgy is to train our hearts to love. On that measure the Novus Ordo, at least the way it is celebrated in most churches, is seriously lacking. The restored TLM, because it requires more effort, does that job better.
ALSO ADDED: Yes, I know all about the pious lady who said her rosary right through the mass, stopping only to bow her head when a bell rang and to shuffle forward to receive communion. But my point here is to discuss the restored Latin Mass. Whether they meant to or not, and this is going to be my argument going forward, the fans of the TLM have made it into something modern and even modernist (in the cultural sense of modernism and not the religious heresy). Thinking this over in the shower just now, I've decided that is a bad way to put it. Words mean what they mean in conventional use and I can't over-rule the use of "modernist" by insisting on some special meaning of my own. A better way to put it is that the TLM enthusiasts have, without meaning to, created something that is modern without being modernist.
STILL ADDING: Think of it this way, a Catholic going to the TLM or returning to it, has to make a huge effort just to participate and that makes us actually earn our participation rather than treat it like a right; we have far more in common, when going to the Novus Ordo,  with that pious woman of yesteryear than we do with the seriously devoted fans of the TLM of today. It also forces us to think about the past and our relationship with the dead than the new mass does, really being modern means basing ourselves in the past rather than obliterating it.
I should add that I am not necessarily advocating a return to the TLM, although I think it should always be available where numbers wanting it warrant it. I do think, however, that we would celebrate the Novus Ordo in a way that was much more genuine and meaningful if we emphasized its continuity with the TLM rather than its discontinuity.

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