“How grandly impressive is Catholic worship! What an awful holocaust is its sacrifice! Far surpassing the power of human concept is the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, the supreme worship of the Church.” - Rev. William W. Pounch
I found the traditional Latin Mass (TLM), also known as the Tridentine Mass, as a beacon both for the Church and for my own soul’s voyage amidst the stormy seas of current times. It is the Mass where “tradition is awakening within souls.”
The Tridentine Mass constitutes a living tradition for me. It is the Eucharistic liturgy as it developed in the West “under Pope St. Damasus, with special contributions made by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century and by other ancient popes, through the Middle Ages and down into modern times,” according to Peter Kwasniewski.
And so, it had endured for centuries. Then, in the 1950s, Pope Pius XII authorized a few changes to its structure.
In the early 1960s the Second Vatican Council declared that the Church needed further reforms of the Mass.
Innovations in the liturgy duly ensued with the institution of the “Novus Ordo Missae” (the “New Order of the Mass”) as promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Pretty soon the entire service was in the vernacular.
TLM was supposed to recede into oblivion. But it has not.
Therefore, John Paul II resolved that the departure from tradition went too far. He gradually freed the Latin rite from restrictions imposed post-Vatican II.
His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, continued to protect the Old Mass.
On July 7, 2007, he issued Summorum Pontificum. It declared that any priest could celebrate the TLM without explicit permission of his bishop.
Benedict explained: “What earlier generation held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirety forbidden or even considered harmful.”
Indeed, TLM is a part of 2000 years of the Catholic tradition. It expresses us, our faith, and our Church. It became a living component of our life, our community, our home, our school, our family, and more. “Lex orandi, lex credenda,” what we pray is what we believe.
Unfortunately, this year, in a radical move, Pope Francis his predecessor’s signature decision regarding the celebration of TLM.
Even if the current Pope’s intention is for some mysterious greater good, the effect seems to contradict it.
The Pontiff’s intervention has led to departure from Tradition and the “the mystery of the living Christ,” which permeates the liturgy of the Old Mass.
TLM is a mystery itself. It’s ordered. It’s beautiful.
It’s rebellious against the post-modern age. The keystone of the Christian faith, it is vouched for by the testimony of the saints.
As John Cardinal Newman explained: “Nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said it is among us. I could attend Masses forever and not be tired.
It is not a mere form of words – it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is not the invocation merely but, if I dare use the world, the evocation of the Eternal.”
The Tridentine Mass is also a foundation of Western civilization.
The Christian culture and Latin language of the Mass endured for long as dominant forces in the Western culture, guiding the course of science, art, music, philosophy, architecture, and other domains of life. The Latin Mass inspired Christendom and lifted the human spirit up.
Thus, Pope Francis’s decision to introduce restrictions on TLM further confuses the faithful in times when they need clarity.
Many Catholics see no legitimate cause to justify such measures. They believe that his radical move fosters disintegration of the liturgy and courts even a more serious crisis in the Church than the one that we are experiencing today.
It is feared that the restrictions on the TLM will “hamper the spirituality of a growing number of young adults” who enthusiastically have been drawn to it.
TLM is a real treasure for faithful Catholics. It exists for the sake of the integrity of the Roman Catholic Doctrine. It guides Catholics towards Him, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the beginning and the end of everything.
Once Dostoevsky wrote that “beauty will save the world”. I truly believe that beauty can save the TLM, keep the faithful together, preserve the Catholic Church and our tradition.
Monika Jablonska is an author of "Wind from Heaven: John Paul II, The Poet Who Became Pope." Her next book on Saint John Paul II is forthcoming in 2021. She is a lawyer and a literary scholar living in Washington D.C. Read Monika's Reports — More Here.
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