Curiouser and Curiouser. . .


5 August 2014

        Exactly 35 years ago today, on August 5, 1979, the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois, published a full page Sunday feature  written by me about the Novus Ordo Mass.  Whereas I had formerly worked for the newspaper, this story was a free-lance deal.  The previous year I had come across a booklet written by Fr. Francis Fenton that revealed how the new liturgy was more Protestant than Catholic.  Having had a vague dislike of the changes for many years, I now could understand why.  His book led to further research, and travels, to hear a talk given near Chicago by Mary Martinez, for instance, and to assist at traditional Masses said by O.R.C.M. priests: Fathers Robert McKenna and Victor Mroz.  After one of these I met with Fr. Mroz, who  told me how he had studied in secret during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and because of his difficulty with Latin nearly given up, until his spiritual director, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe insisted that he “be a priest.”  After escaping the Communists he came to the U.S., only to encounter, within a decade or so, the Novus Ordo, which he also left.

        Meanwhile, back in Springfield, I also consulted local priests, most of whom seemed confused and upset over the issues, and a couple of Protestant ministers, who proved quite eager to help me understand their beliefs, and how these fit in with the recent changes in our liturgy.  As for the article at hand, exactly when I started writing it, I cannot recall.  Never having sold one before, I had no idea the local paper would actually buy it.  When they did I was quite surprised, and grateful, since I was able to use the money to finance a trip to an SSPX conference held later that month in Kansas.  There, among other notables, I met Michael Davies, who, when shown my article, said he liked it. Joseph A. McNicholas, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, however, did not.  In a column for the diocesan newspaper, he trashed my article without so much as mentioning me by name.  Entitled “Don’t Be Confused,” his words went:

        In today’s world…religion is news.  Secular publications, radio and TV often give brief news accounts of some profound subject.

        Here in Springfield our daily paper recently printed a strange and curious article entitled “The New Mass.”  Quotations by ministers and priests of different faiths were used.  Many of these were vehemently denied by those quoted.  Confusion resulted.

        As your Bishop I write simply to remind you of a fundamental and basic rule in today’s world — listen to the voice of our Holy Father as he systematically reviews our faith.  In this instance, the magnificent encyclical of Pope Paul VI entitled “Mystery of Faith” is available to all.  If you would like a copy of it just write me directly and I will supply it free of charge.  Its clarity and simplicity can remove any confusion or doubt about the most beautiful treasure of our faith—the Blessed Sacrament.

        A long quote from that document followed—but failed to explain the prevailing issues.   Simply reiterating the doctrine of transubstantiation does not explain, or justify, the drastic changes in a liturgy that is supposed to result in this.  As for the verdict regarding my “strange and curious article,” we think that after 35 years of events that could be described as being even stranger and curiouser, if not downright weird, today’s readers should judge for themselves.  Unfortunately, because of copyright laws, we cannot reproduce the original article.  When I contacted the Journal-Register, I was told that was their property, but that I could post an earlier draft.  So we have done just that.  The following version is  a bit wordier than the one  which was edited for publication in the paper, but the basic idea is the same, i.e., just as strange and curious, as things in general continue to go that way. 

Curiouser and curiouser. . .

Here is the article…


        If today’s Roman Catholic goes to an updated Mass, he tends to do so in the belief that it remains true to his ancient faith.  Of course, the altar looks more like a table now.  Facing his flock, the priest prays in English, accompanied by lively hymns or folk tunes –– even guitars –– while laymen and women read from scripture and distribute communion.  It’s changed, all right, but not essentially.  Or so he’s told, and who’s he to argue?  Priests accept the Novus Ordo Missae –­ The New Order of the Mass –– don’t they?

        Most do, certainly.  An adamant few, though, charge the changes denote a radical break with tradition comparable in many respects to Luther’s.  The hierarchy, of course, refutes this “traditionalist” stance.  Ironically, some of the most candid testimony in its support comes from Protestants who admit the new Mass is much more to their liking than was the old one.  Indeed their updated liturgies actually reflect some of the new Catholic trends.

        Thus Dean Eckford de Kay of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul insists Catholic rites and those of his own Anglican communion are now “almost identical.”  He notes that both use exactly the same up-to-date translations of prayers like the Nicene Creed, Gloria, and Kyrie.  So do Lutherans in their updated service.  Lay members of all three churches may take bread and wine to the altar, and pray in unison for community leaders or those in need.  Sharing a common lectionary, they hear the same gospel on Sunday; and similar accounts of the Last Supper or “words of institution,” after which they may proclaim: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”  And, like Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans may give their fellow worshippers a “greeting of peace,” or handshake.

        Music, too, is much alike.  Catholics may sing Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, or Methodist hymns; or Jewish folk tunes.  On occasion, Episcopalians still use Gregorian chant, which Catholics have largely given up –– but do still recall.  Father de Kay tells how Bishop Joseph A. McNicholas, attending a funeral “Mass” at St. Paul’s, ran up afterwards to exclaim how “glorious” it had been: he’d sung every word!

        The high altar at St. Paul’s has been moved forward so that Father de Kay can now preside from behind it in the manner of his Catholic or Lutheran counterparts.  Even so, it still looks like an altar.  Most Catholic churches in town boast the new, table-like “free-standing” style.  This is, indeed, ironic, for it was an Anglican reformer, Thomas Cranmer, who destroyed all the stone altars he could in 16th century England and put in their place –– yes, wooden tables!

        Cranmer aimed to Protestantize the “popish Mass” by purging it of its basic sacrificial aspect –– or as he saw it, of its “manifest wickedness and idolatry.”  In England, the Catholic rite had survived Henry VIII’s rift with Rome.  As Archbishop of Canterbury under the young Edward VI, however, Cranmer transformed it into something new: a memorial of the Last Supper, centered on a table.  For, as he put it: “The use of an altar is to make sacrifice upon it: the use of a table is to serve for men to eat upon.”

        Traditionally, the Catholic Mass is said to be the unbloody renewal of Christ’s death on the cross.  On the altar, too, the Divine Victim offers Himself to the Father for our sins.  He becomes present Bodily (i.e. materially as well as spiritually), under the appearances of bread and wine, with  the priest acting in His place.  The same Sacrifice of Calvary is thus re-enacted, its merits applied to souls as sanctifying grace, which is a sharing of divine life.

        Luther, though, denied human souls could be made holy –– or “sancti­fied” –– by grace.  He taught that, believing Christ died for us, we’d be saved –– that is justified –– but not really cleansed of sin by means of sacraments; nor with the help of an “eternal sacrifice” offered here and now.  Christ’s sacrifice being totally past, we could but recall it by celebrating the Lord’s Supper as described in scripture.  For him the old rite was an “abomination,” a “false, blasphemous cult,” more wicked than “all brothels, murderers, robberies, crimes, adulteries. . .”

        Yet, having been said in Germany for about 900 years, it was not easily got rid of, and Luther, in fact, kept much of the old rite.  He did eliminate the offertory prayers, and most of what he called the “abominable Canon.”  The central part of the Mass, this was also the oldest: Catholic scholars say its Latin form was fairly well set by about 375 A.D.  Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) altered a few words, but after him nothing was changed, until . . .

        Of the Canon, Luther kept the “words of institution,” spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, but, put in a different context, these and the whole service took on a new meaning.  No longer was it a propi­tiatory sacrifice, renewing and affecting that of Calvary.  Nor was transubstantiation –– the substantial change of bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood –– said to take place.  Luther did hold that Christ was somehow objectively present in, or under, the elements.  Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer –– and Cranmer –– however, denied even this.

        Popes called Luther a heretic.  He, though, considered himself a true Catholic who’d simply purged the liturgy of false, “medieval” distortions.  And Anglicans, too, claimed their liturgy as revised by Cranmer was true to the primitive Church, that is, the pure, unadulterated faith.  To this day, “high” Episcopalians like Father de Kay call themselves Catholics.  He even describes Queen Elizabeth I of England as having been a “staunch Catholic,” though others, of course, would disagree.

        Cranmer also called his liturgy a “sacrifice,” but meant this in the human sense of people offering their minds and bodies to God in a “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”  No Divine Victim was to be offered here and now.  Christ’s sacrifice being past, they could but recall and believe in it.

        To this day, the “articles of religion” found in the Book of Common Prayer declare the “sacrifice of Masses, in the which it was commonly said that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead” to be “blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.”  Transubstantiation, too, is refuted, and Cranmer’s belief asserted: “The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.  And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.”

        Though said in English, Cranmer’s service wasn’t at first popular.  In fact, as Father de Kay admits, it caused a “great commotion” in the country.  The Modern Mass, a booklet by British author (and former Anglican cleric) Hugh Ross Williamson, tells how, on the June day in 1549 after the new liturgy was imposed, a body of Devonshire men forced their parish priest to return to the old Latin Mass.  Soon thereafter a peoples’ army marched on Exeter, demanding their age-old practices be restored in full.  To disperse them, Cranmer resorted to an army of foreign mercenaries.  According to Hilaire Belloc, “Four thousand were shot down or ridden down or hanged before the men of Devon” succumbed.

        Cranmer had won, though.  Much later the Church of England would restore the use of altars, but his reformed liturgy would prevail down to our day in the Book of Common Prayer universally used by Anglicans.  That this is not Catholic has been the ruling of the Roman Church: popes, bishops and historians, including the late English Cardinal (Francis A.) Gasquet, an authority on the subject.

        And the old Latin Mass: what became of it?

        To preserve it for posterity, Pope Pius V issued in 1570 his decree Quo Primum, by which he meant to “freeze” the way of saying Mass.  Within the Latin rite, this had varied in minor details, though not in essentials: the Canon had long been set.  Now, however, Pius V ordered priests in general to use his Roman Missal containing the traditional Mass in a single, codified form.

        Quo Primum states in part: “By this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth now, and forever, We declare and enjoin that nothing must be added to our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed with it.” It is to be “followed absolutely” without “fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure.”  No one may be “forced or coerced” to alter it.

        Pius V’s missal continued in general use until the 1960’s, when a series of changes culminated with the promulgation in 1969 of Pope Paul VI’s Novus Ordo Missae. While liberals praised it, not so conservatives like Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect-emeritus of the Sacred Congregation of the Faith in Rome.  He wrote Paul that the new Mass represented a “striking departure” from Catholic theology and a “grave break with tradition.”

        Accompanying the Cardinal’s letter was a critique made by a group of Roman theologians who said the New Order “teems with insinuations or manifest errors” against the Catholic faith.  As it’s presented, “the emphasis is obsessively placed upon the ‘supper’ and the ‘memorial’ instead of on the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary.”  Also “no distinction is allowed to remain between divine and human sacri­fice; bread and wine are only ‘spiritually’ (not substantially) changed.”

        Nor were these critics alone.

        Others, such as the founders of the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement in Monroe, Conn., have pointed out that the Consilium which designed the new Mass included six Protestant advisers: representatives of the Lutheran Church, Church of England, World Council of Churches, and the Protestant Community of Taize.  And the Rev. Annibale Bugnini, the Catholic priest who chaired the Consilium, had been removed from his position in the Lateran seminary in Rome by Pope Pius XII because of his unorthodox pronouncements.

        Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre has called the new Mass a “Protestant conception,” and some non-Catholics of note seem to agree.  In Pope John’s Council, British author (and Catholic convert) Michael Davies quotes the Ven. Bernard Pawley, Archdeacon of Canterbury –– and an Anglican observer at Vatican II –– as saying the new Mass has in many places “outstripped the liturgy of Cranmer, in spite of the latter’s 400 year-start, in its modernity.” It “now resembles the Anglican liturgy very closely.”

        Elsewhere Davies quotes liturgist Joseph Gelineau, S. J., who, while in the vanguard of Catholic “experts” favoring change, has said: “Let those who like myself have known and sung a Latin-Gregorian High Mass remember it if they can.  Let them compare it with the Mass that we now have.”  Not only the words, but also “the melodies, and some of the gestures are different.”

“To tell the truth,” he concludes, “it is a different liturgy of the Mass.  This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman rite as we know it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.”

        Can this actually be true?

         Protestant Church of the Confession of Augsburgh (Alsace-Lorraine), has stated that today Protestants may “recognize in the Catholic Eucharistic celebration the Supper instituted by the Lord.”  Attaching “great importance” to the use of new prayers, it says these give a “different interpretation to the theology of sacrifice than we were accustomed to attribute to Catholicism.”

        And. . . .

        Having participated in the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogues on the Eucharist, Anglican theologian Dr. J. W. Charley wonders about the “agreed statements” that resulted from these.  “Is there not here a change of theological stance on the part of Roman Catholicism?” he asks.  “If ‘change’ is too strong a word, then at least there seems to be a considerable shift of emphasis... “

        Locally, Rev. George Ronald Nesbitt, a convert from Anglicanism who is now assistant pastor at the Catholic Christ the King parish, admits the Novus Ordo lacks the “constant mention” of sacrifice that is found in the old Mass.  By this “hammering home” of one aspect, the Eucharistic banquet was obscured, he thinks, and blames “reactionary interests” prevailing at the time of Pius V.  Rather than listen to the Reformers, the Pope emphasized in his missal the very things they denied.  Those who drew up the Novus Ordo, however, had no interest in quarreling with Protestants.  They aimed to revise the liturgy in order to make it clearer what the Mass really means, he says.

        Yet, as traditionalists point out, Pius V did not actually write a new Mass; rather, he “froze” a ritual which had been around in its Latin form for 900 years and more.  So . . . How could the contents of his missal have been a mere “reaction” to Protestantism?  In answering this, Rev. Hugh Cassidy, pastor of Catholic Blessed Sacrament, insists the same old words can be given a new emphasis.  There is, for example, the Our Father, which Catholics and Protestants both said for centuries without agreeing on its “emphasis,” he says.

        Of course, Luther didn’t object to the Our Father.  He did to the Canon of the Mass, most of which he abolished.  Nor did the architects of the Novus Ordo merely give old words a new emphasis.  They, too, eliminated, or changed whole prayers –– even some of the ancient Canon.  The English translation of the Novus Ordo is yet further removed than the Latin version is from the old original.

        Did the traditional Latin Mass have to be changed in order to express better the “true theology” of the Eucharist?  Luther and Cranmer thought so.  So, apparently, did Pope Paul VI; at any rate, he has declared the new Mass to be an improvement.  In May of 1970, he was quoted in a French periodical as having expressed thanks to both Catholic and Protestant members of the Consilium that designed it.  He said they had “. . . re-edited in a new manner liturgical texts tried and tested by long usage or established formulas which were completely new.”  He thanked them for “imparting great theological value to the liturgical texts so that the lex orandi (the rule of praying) conformed better with the lex credendi (the rule of Catholic belief).”

        Father de Kay, too, thinks the Consilium did a “super job” in “firming up” the theology of the Mass so that its true meaning is now clearer.  This involved a “soft-pedaling” of the sacrificial idea, he says, since people used to get the false impression that in each Mass it was almost as if Christ were being recrucified anew.

        He feels “much at home” with the new Mass, which he said once for the wedding of a former parishioner who’d just converted to her fiancé’s faith of Catholicism.  The Catholic priest who was originally to marry them at St. Paul’s had to back down when he was unable to secure his bishop’s permission.  So Father de Kay got his bishop’s, and was assisted at the Catholic rite by the Catholic priest.

        Since Vatican II, Father de Kay has seen a “growing together” of Anglicans and Catholics, and he notes that Jesuit writer Gregory Baum calls the Council “the Anglicanization of the Roman Catholic Church.”  These words “won our hearts,” he admits.  In his opinion “silly medieval” ideas like transubstantiation have become less crucial today.  Instead, Anglicans and Catholics are coming to realize they’ve always shared the same basic beliefs, but have given these a different “emphasis.”

        Robert Schrack of Luther Memorial Evangelical Church says that with Vatican II, Catholics began talking about the things Luther had brought up four and a half centuries earlier.  The liturgical changes that resulted are consistent with the reformer’s beliefs, he thinks.  Not only is the Mass said in the vernacular; Catholics may also now receive communion in “both kinds” (wine as well as bread), as Lutherans do.

        Today, too, he finds “both Church bodies really believe the same thing about the sacrament (the Eucharist)”, for Catholics put “less and less emphasis on transubstantiation.”  Gone are the old Offertory prayers to which Luther objected.  In these the priest offered a “spotless host” to God “to atone for my numberless sins, offenses and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation to life everlasting.”

        Now the priest offers bread, “which earth has given and human hands have made.  It will become for us the bread of life.”  And wine: “fruit of the vine and work of human hands,” which “will become our spiritual drink.”  There being no allusion to a “spotless Host,” or “Victim” nor to the Mass being a sacrifice of atonement, Pastor Schrack says he can find “nothing theologically objectionable” in the new Offertory prayers.

        To be sure, the new Mass still talks of sacrifice, but of what sort?  The (Cardinal) Ottaviani critique says: “The Novus Ordo changes the nature of the offering, turning it into a sort of exchange of gifts between man and God: man brings the bread, and God turns it into the ‘bread of life’; man brings the wine, and God turns it into a ‘spiritual drink.’ ”

        “By suppressing the continual reference to God in the Eucharistic prayers,” it concludes, “there is no longer any clear distinction between divine and human sacrifice.”

        Only one of four Eucharistic prayers now in general use incorporates most of the ancient Canon.  What remains of this has been altered, moreover, even in the Latin version of the Novus Ordo, and the English translation is much looser.  After the consecration, the priest used to offer “the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the all-perfect Victim; the holy Bread of life eternal and the Chalice of unending salvation.”  Now, in English, it’s simply “this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.”

        What precisely are “the bread of life” and “the cup of eternal salvation?”  In the context of the old Mass such words referred obviously to transubstantiation.  Because continual, explicit reference to this has been deleted from the Novus Ordo, however, it’s no longer clear, the Ottaviani critique contends.  But if these terms still seem too strong, the celebrant may choose to say Eucharistic Prayer II (or III or IV –– only one is said), wherein he offers but “life-giving bread” and “this saving cup.”  This is the form Protestants tend to prefer.

        Especially at first, Cranmer’s liturgy did not directly contradict Catholic doctrine, Michael Davies points out in his book Cranmer’s Godly Order.  Rather, it did so indirectly, in its omissions.  His Prayer Book of 1549 has been called “an ingenious essay in ambiguity,” because it allowed conservative priests to read into it their own Catholic interpretation, while Protestants gave it theirs.  Ultimately, the latter prevailed, as the liturgy was further Protestantized –– and the old generation died off.

        The Novus Ordo, too, may be interpreted in more ways than one.  Take the words mysterium fidei, or “mystery of faith,” which in the ancient Canon came during the consecration of the wine.  In his service, Luther omitted these altogether, for they are not from scripture.  Also, they referred to transubstantiation as being the central mystery of the Catholic faith.

        In the new Mass, these words are no longer part of the consecration formula; instead, they follow it.  In the Latin version they are set off in a paragraph by themselves.  Four altogether new acclamations follow, but these, too, are in separate paragraphs, and Father Nesbitt says mysterium fidei refers to what comes before: the change of wine into Christ’s blood.

        In the English version of the Novus Ordo, however, the words in question are translated: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:”  Next come the four acclamations, any one of which may be said: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”  (Or: “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, etc.”  Or: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”  Or: “Lord by your cross and resurrection you have set us free.  You are the Saviour of the world.”)

        So. . .

        Asked the meaning of “mystery of faith,” Rev. Eugene Costa, assistant pastor at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, says it refers to the “life, death and resurrection of Christ” –– to the acclamations, not to transubstantiation.  His view is, of course, the one logically drawn from the English version of the new Mass.  It’s also the one that Protestants apparently accept.

        In their new liturgy, the Anglicans, too, follow the institution narrative with: “Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”  The same part in the new Lutheran rite goes: “For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  Then: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

        Formerly the consecration formulae of the Catholic Mass were set off from the rest of the text in bold type: “For this is my Body” and “For this is the Chalice of my Blood of the new and eternal covenant: the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins.”  Now, however, as in Protestant services, the new versions of these are merged with the rest of Christ’s words at the Last Supper.  Also, His final words, called the “anamnesis” (“As often as you shall do these things, in memory of Me shall you do them”) are now: “Do this in memory of me.”

        To the first consecration formula, the words “which will be given up for you” have been added –– a change Cranmer, too, made.  Like Luther, he eliminated “mystery of faith”, and, also from the institution narrative of his 1552 Prayer Book, the word “blessed” (Christ blessed the bread, broke it, etc.), because this word was believed to denote transubstantiation.  It is also missing in this context from the English version of the Novus Ordo.

        According to the Ottaviani critique, such alterations transform the consecration formulae from “categorical and affirmative,” or “sacramental” statements, into mere parts of a scriptural narrative.  Still more controversial is the English version of the consecration of the wine.  In this, “pro multis,” literally “for many,” has been translated “for all men.” (“. . . It will be shed for you and for all men. . .”)  In the new Anglican and Lutheran rites, this change is also evident, except that in “desexed” versions, “for all people” is used.

        Most of today’s clergymen seem to think that in biblical parlance “many” means about the same as “all.”  The Catholic catechism derived from the 16th century Council of Trent, however, states the words “for all” were specifically not used for consecrating the wine because, while Christ died for all, the fruits of his passion reach only “many.”  Thus, traditionalists say, the new English formula distorts the true intent of the Sacrament.  By implying all men, even unrepentant sinners, are saved, “the Mass is rendered a mere memorial of Redemption and its nature as an efficacious Sacrifice is destroyed.  For if all are saved, what is the need of a Sacrifice for many unto the remission of sins?”

        For a funeral Mass, a priest used to wear black, and the Dies Irae would be sung.  Now, though, it’s a “joyful experience,” as, wearing white, he celebrates a “feast of victory,” observes Pastor Schrack.  He thinks the idea of purgatory, which Luther rejected, is thus put aside.  Nor does he see any need to worry about hell in the case of churchgoers, who’ve shown faith in Christ. According to Luther, this alone will save them.

        Still. . .

        Most Catholic priests assert nothing essential has been changed.  Transubstantiation, for example, is still official doctrine.  Younger priests like Father Nesbitt and Father Costa, however, say its definition depends on the Aristotelian philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.  And. . . . while fine for medievals, it is now said to be outmoded.  Moderns don’t think like that!

        Or so taught Father Costa in a religion class for adults that was given during Lent of last year.  For this, too, he introduced the theory of “transignification,” which sees Christ’s presence in the Eucharist as being symbolic, not substantial.  Because Pope Paul VI upheld transubstantiation in his encyclical Mysterium Fidei, Catholics are still officially bound by it.  Father Costa thinks it’s possible, though, that, say in forty years, the pope may accept a new term.

        The Mass, he said, began as a commemorative meal –– a communal thing, with Jewish roots.  Only gradually did it gain a new Christian emphasis.  Then, with the Dark Ages came a “breakdown in community,” as Father Kevin Sullivan, who assisted in the course, put it.  The Mass became removed from the people, and the meal symbolism was lost.  The result: a “semi-magical” rite, characterized by an “exaggerated reverence” for the Eucharist.

        A filmstrip shown to the class depicted barbarians huddling in a huge cathedral before a distant, ever-receding altar.  As, down through the roof, floated the figure of Christ, the narrator said: “They thought Christ came at the moment of consecration, when actually he was already in their midst.”

        The idea expressed here is one Protestants, too, emphasize: Christ’s presence in the assembly, as opposed to the sacred elements.  The group is the “Body of Christ.”  Pastor George J. Matranga of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church notes that unlike the Catholic Masses, Lutheran services are never said without a congregation.  He is glad to see the Novus Ordo involve more lay participation, and also thinks it was when the Mass became removed from the people that it evolved into a propitiatory sacrifice.

        Protestants claim their liturgy has been restored to its original purity and simplicity.  So do defenders of the Novus Ordo.  Isn’t the meal symbolism back in the Mass?  Father Costa calls this “the most fundamental aspect” of the new liturgy.  But is it really true to the early Church?  Are guitar Masses truly “primitive”?  Primitive, that is, in the sense of the catacombs?  Traditionalists say no, that the Novus Ordo is actually quite modern –– and destructive of tradition.  Luther’s slogan was after all, “Tolle Missam, tolle Ecclesiam (Destroy the Mass, destroy the Church.)”

        Certainly many, if not most, Catholics in authority aren’t teaching what they used to.  Those in the schools of northern Europe tend to refute transubstantiation, Father Costa says.  Closer to home there’s Rev. Tad Guzie, S. J., whose book Jesus and the Eucharist was on a reading list for Father Costa’s class.  Fr. Guzie says “the Protestant reformers rightly wanted to do away with the superstition and idolatry which had grown up around the sacrament of the altar.”

        For him, Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is purely symbolic, subjective, or “personal”, as lovers may be spiritually present to one another while physically apart.  “The real presence is not and never was a substance,” he says.  “That presence makes no human sense; it has no relation to the human spirit. . .”


Copyright by Judith M. Gordon 2014


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