“One of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform can doubtless be traced to the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth. The most blatant example of this is the reform of the Calendar: those responsible simply did not realize how much the various annual feasts had influenced Christian people's relation to time […] they ignored a fundamental law of religious life.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith, 81-82 (published by Ignatius Press).
7th Sunday of Easter, or “Ascension Sunday”
In the years since the Second Vatican Council, in an effort to make the liturgy more readily acceptable and agreeable to the people (with the obvious hope that they would grow in devotion and love for God), there have been a number of changes to the liturgical calendar. Furthermore, it has also happened that certain adaptations may be employed either by the local bishops’ conference or by a local bishop himself.
Most of these changes and possible adaptations have done little to encourage the devotion of the faithful, but have served only to destroy the little reverence and solemnity left to the Novus Ordo.
Happily, whatever the bishops may do to the public prayer of the Church, parents remain the primary leaders of the domestic church – the family. In this little article, we will discuss a few of the banalities present in the calendar of the New Mass (there are far too many to point out in a blog post, but we will mention those most obvious and egregious).
However, lest this seem a rant (something which is unbecoming of a member of the clergy and about which no worthy priest would ever boast), we will conclude with a few thoughts on how to preserve the life of faith in the home.
Cardinal Ratzinger – New Mass is “a fabrication, a banal product”
“The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.” (Ratzinger in Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104)
"[W]e have a liturgy which has degenerated so that it has become a show which, with momentary success for the group of liturgical fabricators, strives to render religion interesting in the wake of the frivolities of fashion and seductive moral maxims. Consequently, the trend is the increasingly marked retreat of those who do not look to the liturgy for a spiritual show-master but for the encounter with the living God in whose presence all the 'doing' becomes insignificant since only this encounter is able to guarantee us access to the true richness of being." (Cardinal Ratzinger's preface to the French translation of Reform of the Roman Liturgy by Monsignor Klaus Gamber, 1992).
"I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy." (Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977)
Let us consider a few examples of this banality, this radical disintegration of the liturgical calendar, which has been perpetrated in the years since Vatican II.
First, look at how the New Mass has destroyed the season of Christmas. (the following is from an earlier blog post, which can be found [here])
Msgr. Charles Pope has written a good article [here] on the havoc wreaked on the Christmas Octave by the Liturgical Renewal. The feast of the Holy Family (which is a recent invention to begin with [here]) has been transferred to the Sunday which falls in the middle of the Octave of Christmas –from its creation until 1962, Holy Family was celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany, but now that it has been moved into the Christmas Octave we celebrate the hidden life of Christ (the flight to Egypt and the return to Nazareth) before we even celebrate the visitation of the Magi! The history of the events is displaced, and the time is far from sanctified.
Then there is the re-naming of the Octave of Christmas (January 1st) to “Mary, Mother of God.” Here, I have less a problem than does Msgr. Pope – the character of the Mass has been focused on our Lady’s Maternity from ancient times. However, it is quite sad that the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus has been pushed aside – how is it that, in our present day of sensitivity to the Jewish religion, the Liturgical Reform has been so successful in helping us to forget that the Lord himself was a practicing Jew?
Then, of course, there is the horrible custom in so many parts of the world of transferring the Epiphany from January 6th to the nearest Sunday – this destroys the twelve days of Christmas. Even setting aside the fact that there is good reason to believe that the Magi literally came to Bethlehem on the thirteenth day, the transference of Epiphany is yet another example of losing the Judaic roots of our Tradition – the Jewish significance of the number twelve is lost, and so is the sanctification of time.
While it is not explicit in Sacred Scripture, there is an ancient tradition according to which the wise men (owing partly to the divine assistance and partly to the speed of dromedaries) traveled a great distance from a land of the far east to Bethlehem, arriving on the thirteenth day after Christ’s birth. This gives us the twelve days of Christmas.
Now, while it is certainly not a matter of divine and Catholic faith that the Magi arrived on January 6th, does it not give us at least some slight pause when we see ancient traditions dismissed off-handedly? Will we not lose something of our Catholic identity if we simply change the Mass to fit our schedule rather than adapting our life to the duty of divine worship? Can the liturgical calendar which made the saints be replaced with the banal product of arm-chair experts (some of whom had questionable morals)?
Well, perhaps the bishops see no problem with giving up Christmas to secular life, but at least parents can rescue the twelve days by keeping the tree up and placing the star not early in advent but only on Christmas morn. Then the wise men can begin a journey through the home and arrive at the Nativity scene on January 6th. Perhaps small gifts could be given for each of the twelve days, and a larger gift saved till the Epiphany itself. Meanwhile, the tree and decorations should be kept up through to January 13th (Octave of Epiphany and traditional feast of our Lord's Baptism).
In many dioceses throughout the world, the feast of Corpus Christi is moved from Thursday to Sunday. Little needs to be said here, except to remind the bishops that the Last Supper was offered on Thursday. It was the Resurrection which occurred on a Sunday.
Well, I suppose we can be glad that no one is yet recommending that we begin to honor our Lord’s Resurrection on a day other than Sunday. Oh, the so-called evening vigil (Canon 1248.1). Hmm …
The loss of the Pentecost Novena
The Bishops of the United States, exercising their pastoral prudence and with the blessing of the Holy See, have chosen to move the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord to the following Sunday (thus abrogating the 7th Sunday of Easter).
To this, Sacred Scripture states:
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. […]And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts of the Apostles 1:1-3,9)
The inerrant and historical Scriptures tell us that Jesus was with his disciples for precisely forty days after his Resurrection. That means that he ascended on a Thursday. He was not with his disciples for forty-three days, but for exactly forty days. To say otherwise would be to deny the truth of the Bible, it would be a veritable heresy.
Now, the bishops are not committing heresy, obviously. They are not stating that Jesus ascended on a Sunday, obviously. They are simply setting aside the venerable tradition and the Scriptures themselves in the name of “prudence”. Oh, what “prudence” this is! Saints deliver us from such “prudence”!
What is particularly devastating about this disintegration of the liturgical calendar is that we lose the novena from Ascension to Pentecost. If Ascension is celebrated on Sunday, then our “novena” will be only six days (from Monday to Saturday). When the Ascension is on Thursday, we gain the true novena (from Friday to the following Saturday).
A thought for families
However, whatever the bishops are doing to the Liturgy and to public worship, faithful families everywhere can preserve the season of Ascensiontide and the Pentecost novena within their own homes.
Why not offer (at least next year) a novena to the Holy Spirit? A wonderful novena for the Seven Gifts can be found at EWTN [here]. You will find a printable version [here].
It might be simpler to say the Litany to the Holy Ghost each day [here].
Further, we must recall that the Apostles were gathered around Mary, and we must join her in these days. Perhaps pray the family Rosary each day, or at least the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary [here].
Wouldn’t Pentecost be a wonderful time to renew our baptismal promises and recall the graces of our baptism? Perhaps the novena can incorporate some creative dinner decorations in preparation for a special celebration of baptism on Pentecost.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful. And enkindle within them the fire of thy love!