Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old Rites Priestly Spirituality

This from America Magazine, it is by a priest who desrcibes himself as "liberal", who responded to the request of some of his parishioners to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. H/T Fr Z

One reason that commentaters have put forward for the Moto Proprio is the Pope's desire to renew the Priesthood, presumably part of that is to increase vocations, and to deepen the spirituality of priests, and therefore the Church. I continually, ask can the Novus Ordo Mass give the same spirituality?

Having decided to offer the Tridentine Mass, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the liturgy in a prayerful, intelligible way. As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.”
The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.


Brother James Hayes f.i.c. said...

Wow! I have never had the experience of a Latin Mass in the Extraordinary form, but somehow I really feel I can empathise with this particular priest. What he says seems to make a great deal of sense to me... the loneliness and paradoxical solidarity with the people. As a religious Brother I will never be a celebrant of either Mass form, but I am feeling as if I need to experience this for myself at least once.

Going off on a tangent slightly, this paradoxical solidarity reminded me of my experience of watching "Into Great Silence". I have always felt a yearning for a more comtemplative form of monastic life having nearly tried out with both the Benedictines + Cistercians before becoming a De La Mennais Brother... a yearning for the desert which is a good thing to have I think for an "urban" religious.

I have always sensed a tremendous solidarity between members of such monasteries, but was very surprised to sense it so strongly in a film about Carthusians (a monastic order whose members live in greater individual isolation). I think this is the kind of communion that John talks about in Jn 17:

"May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me".

I also like what this priest says about taking the focus of attention away from the priest. This seems to chime with Benedict's recent comments about the liturgical centrality of the altar crucifix.

There's more I could say but... got to get to class (= teaching!).

Anonymous said...

It all about prayer, we belive what we pray and we pray what we belive.

Yes the feelings of loneliness wanting to be alone and the feelings of solidarity with people all Well up from the person of Christ who went through the same thing in his life on earth.

This is prayer and union with the trinity they are willing us to arrive at mount Zion and prayer is all we have. The work follows from the prayer. The re-discovery of the Extraordinary form and the rise adoration of the blessed Host and even the feelings of watching ''into the great silnce'' are all from that yerning to be in realtionship with Him who sends us out into the vineyard. Waht we need like that priest is to be stripped of everthing and know are weakness, so that it can be filled with the Grace of God to do His will.