söndag 20 augusti 2017

The Journey East #5

Catholic Mass obligations
With the Tridentine Masses suspended for the holidays, I could not face the Novus Ordo vernacular Masses with Lutheran hymns which were all that was on offer in the Catholic church locally. I would come out feeling irritated and unsatisfied, if not outright angry at the liturgical vandalism verging on abuse.

The question that arises is this. Catholics have an obligation to go to Mass every Sunday. I have not missed going to Mass every Sunday, but the Masses I have attended have been Orthodox liturgies. Is this a sin that needs to be confessed? Can it even be confessed? Can a priest give absolution? If, at some point in the future I am received into the Orthodox church, what is the situation then?

The following reply came to my response on Fr Blake's blog
Physiocrat, I generally find that when somebody asks if something is a sin which needs to be confessed, they already know the answer - yes.

Our Lord did not invite us to pick up our crosses and follow Him only when the going was easy and edifying. We have to carry on carrying on even when we are wading knee-high in filth. Sometimes that might mean enduring banal, puke-making Masses like the rest of us have to endure on a more-or-less regular basis. You never know, God might give you the opportunity to bring a suffering Novusordo-ite to the knowledge and delight of the traditional Mass.

My response was
You might be correct about the sin in the interim period - that was why I asked, but the real question that arises is that "banal, puke-making Masses like the rest of us have to endure on a more-or-less regular basis" are unworthy as worship and spiritually damaging. Their universality also calls into question the claims of the Catholic church itself to be the one true church founded by Jesus Christ himself. How can we be sure that we are not in a schismatic and heretical church founded in 1054?

I am not sure there is any spiritual merit in putting up with atrocious liturgy. There is a failure here which stems from the top of the hierarchy and passes all the way down. We, the faithful are entitled to a worthy liturgy for our spiritual well being. If the shepherds do not feed the sheep, what should the sheep do?

Then there is the use of the vernacular. Latin is both a sign of Catholicity and a means of maintaining it. Having abandoned the universal language, can the Catholic church claim to be a universal church? This is not a theoretical thing - my own parish is divided into Swedes, Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Spaniards, Slovenians, Slovakians, Croatians, English speakers - all Latin Rite Catholics - who hardly ever get to meet. There is not much universality in a church where the priest struggles to celebrate Mass in a language in which he is not proficient.

The problem originates in the monarchical claims of the Bishop of Rome. If the Papacy had held to the Orthodox view as first among equals, these liturgical changes could never have happened. Once one starts looking at the Orthodox position, other subtle but important points emerge, such as the Filioque clause, both in its substance and the manner in which it was adopted, Transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, Original Sin, the use of statues, the design of churches, even the Sign of the Cross.

The Roman changes are all subtly damaging in different ways. The Catholic view of Transubstantiation seems to be that it is necessary only for the words of consecration to be pronounced by a validly ordained priest, whereas the Orthodox seem to take the far more sensible position that Christ becomes really present within the overall action which includes the building in which the liturgy is held, the music, and the Liturgy in its entirety. If the latter view was held, nobody would even have considered messing with the liturgy.

Orthodoxy is not a light and easy option to be followed because of the beauty of the liturgy, where, incidentally, standing is obligatory for most of the time, usually between 1 1/2 and two hours. It is a tough choice. During the fast periods only vegan food is permitted. There are not only the Advent and Lent fasts; there are also the four week fast before the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and a two week fast before the Feast of the Dormition (Assumption). In addition, with a couple of exceptions in the year, Wednesday and Friday in the non-fasting periods are vegan days.

The Orthodox Eucharistic fast begins at midnight and nothing, not even water, may be taken before receiving not just the sacrament but also applies to the antidoron.

If you just want some nice music, there are easier ways of getting it than by going to an Orthodox liturgy. You could stay in bed on a Sunday morning, have a leisurely breakfast and listen to whatever you want in comfort.

Fr Blake's original piece referred to the small numbers attending the EF Mass. It is a tiny minority within the church. The real picture is of a majority accepting the NO Mass but within that group an impending catastrophic decline, for which the 1960s liturgical reforms must bear an important responsibility.

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