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Latin Mass & Catholic Tradition: Q & A (Pg.4)

Latin Mass / Catholic Tradition | Latin Mass/Catholic Trad. Q & A

Traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass

Latin Mass & Catholic Tradition: Q & A (Page 4)

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Question

Answer

Is it Strictly Accurate to Refer to the Traditional Latin Mass as the 'Tridentine' Mass?

No. It is generally thought to be unfortunate that the traditional Mass is referred to as the 'Tridentine' Mass since "this practice has led to the widespread impression that it was composed following the Council of Trent." As Davies says, "It should be made clear immediately that the terms 'Tridentine Mass' and 'Mass of St. Pius V' are not strictly accurate. They give the impression that the Mass promulgated by St. Pius V was a new Mass composed on the instructions of the Fathers of the Council of Trent. On the contrary...the Tridentine Fathers endorsed the Missal then in use in Rome, a Missal whose use had long transcended the boundaries of the Eternal City and which...already formed the basis of most of the Mass rites in use throughout Latin Christendom."

Were There Changes Made to the Mass Just Prior the Introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass in the 1960's?

Yes. Further, it has been said that these changes were designed to pave the way for the imposition of the Novus Ordo Mass of the 1960's (note that "implementing changes in steps reduces dissent and prepares people to accept change"). Regarding the changes, Davies states, "No layman could help noticing the changes made to the Ordinary of the Mass in the 1965 Missal, and there can be little doubt that its purpose was to prepare the faithful for the revolutionary changes that were to be introduced in 1969. By design or by coincidence the preparation for this revolution followed precisely the strategy of Thomas Cranmer, the apostate Archbishop of Canterbury, prior to the imposition of his English Communion Service of 1549. One of the principal features of the Catholic liturgy had been stability. Developments in the manner in which Mass was celebrated did occur, but they crept in almost imperceptibly over the centuries, and the Missals in use in England and throughout Europe in the sixteenth century had remained unchanged for at least several hundred years. The faithful took it for granted that whatever else might change, the Mass could not. In order to avoid provoking resistance among the Catholic faithful Cranmer deemed it prudent not to do too much too soon. Parts of the Mass were celebrated in the vernacular - but, many insisted, it was still the same Mass, so why risk persecution by protesting? New material was introduced into the unchanged Mass, which while open to a Protestant interpretation was in no way specifically heretical; once again, why protest?"

Also, Davies states: "Every such break with tradition lessened the impact of those to follow, so that when changes that were not simply matters of discipline were introduced the possibility of effective resistance was considerably lessened. The introduction of the vernacular was the most significant innovation. Where the ordinary Catholic was concerned the celebration of parts or all of the traditional Mass in English was far more startling than the imposition of the newly composed vernacular Communion service in 1549. Douglas Harrison, the Anglican Dean of Bristol, accepts that by introducing English into the liturgy, 'Cranmer clearly was preparing for the day when liturgical revision would become possible.' In his Liturgical Institutions, Dom Prosper Guéranger writes: 'We must admit that it is a master blow of Protestantism to have declared war on the sacred language. If it should ever prevail, it would be well on its way to victory.' Exactly the same process was initiated following the Second Vatican Council. There is not the least doubt that the changes imposed upon the traditional Mass before 1969 were far more startling than the introduction of the Novus Ordo in 1969. By the time it came into use the faithful had already reached the stage of either accepting any innovation without question or joining the mass exodus from our churches that has continued to this day and shows no sign of abating. The 1965 Missal can be compared to Cranmer's 1549 Communion Service or Mass, which was only an interim measure, intended to condition the faithful into accepting its 1552 replacement which could be interpreted only as a Protestant Communion service. Likewise, the 1965 Missal was intended to condition the faithful into accepting without protest the radically reformed Missal of 1969."

As Dom Gueranger said, many years before the Second Vatican Council: "There has been such a systematic effort made to destroy, or at last to impoverish, the exterior rites and practices of religion, that we find, throughout the world, thousands of Christians who have been insensibly made strangers to those admirable sentiments of faith, which the Church alone, in her Liturgy, can give to the body of the faithful."

Why Doesn't the Priest Face the People in the 'Tridentine' Mass?

Some persons used to the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass of the 1960's sometimes complain that the priest "has his back to the people" in the 'Tridentine' Mass. This outlook may arise because such persons have no background in liturgical history, because they don't understand the reasoning for this orientation, or possibly because they are used to being "the center of attention" in the Novus Ordo Mass. In the 'Tridentine' Mass, however, the focus is not on the people, but on Almighty God, who from the earliest days of the Church has been represented as coming from the East. As Cardinal Ratzinger has stated, 

"...a common turning to the east [the traditional position, wherein the priest and the people face eastward, and not each other]...remains essential. This is not a case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord." (Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, emphasis added)

Such persons may mistakenly believe the Second Vatican Council called for a change in orientation, but this is not true.

"Mass facing the people is not once mentioned in any conciliar document. It has never been the general practice in any Apostolic Church, Catholic or [the schismatic] Orthodox. The invariable tradition has been to celebrate Mass facing the East, a symbol both of the Resurrection and the Second Coming." (Davies)

"[N]o law mandating a celebration facing the people has ever been promulgated since the [Second Vatican] Council." (Davies)

Note that the facing of a particular direction for worship may be traced back even to the Jews:

"Orientation, in its present sense of facing a particular direction, is a religious custom which long pre-dated Christianity. The Jews, wherever they lived in the world, turned to face the temple in Jerusalem when they prayed. So-called liturgical 'experts' today often attempt to justify Mass facing the people by stating Our Lord did not turn His back upon His Apostles at the Last Supper. Of course He didn't, but neither did He face them across a table. They were all on the same side, facing the temple! It is thus nonsensical to claim that we are returning to a practice of the Last Supper by adopting the practice of a celebration facing the people. Similarly, it is equally nonsensical to claim that having Mass in the vernacular is a return to what took place at the Last Supper. A major part of the Jewish paschal liturgy was conducted in Hebrew, as it is today. Hebrew was no more comprehensible to an ordinary Jew at the time of Our Lord than Latin is to an ordinary Mexican today, even though Aramaic (the language then used in Palestine), was derived from Hebrew, just as Spanish is derived from Latin." (Davies)

Further, it should be noted that Mass facing the people is not historical - contrary to the claims of some. Archeological evidence shows that the altars did not face the people - but faced eastward. The few notable architectural aberrations in no way support claims of Masses facing the people - rather the people and priest still faced eastward and did not turn in towards each other (e.g. the lay persons had their backs to the altar). In any event, such cases were not the general practice. As Davies points out: 

"[At] no time in the history of the Church have altars ever been constructed specifically to facilitate a celebration facing the people. As I have already shown, there is no precedent in the entire history of the Church for celebrating Mass facing the people as an act of conscious pastoral policy. The practice constitutes a radical break with Tradition, and has been invested with an anti-sacrificial signification since its adoption by Protestants as a sign that they believe their Lord's Supper to be no more than a commemorative meal."

Those who point to examples such as St. Peter's as "proof" of the practice of Mass facing the people should take note of the following:

"It has been proved beyond any shadow of doubt that from the time the Christians were first allowed to build churches, they constructed them along an east-west axis. Some had the apse containing the altar at the east end, and the entrance the west; in others this procedure was reversed. By the end of the fourth century almost every church building in the East had the apse at the east end, and by the second half of the fifth century, this was also the case in the West. But, even where the altar was situated at the west end of the church, Mass was still celebrated facing the East, and so the altars of these churches were constructed in such a manner that the priest could stand on the west side in order to celebrate Mass facing the East. This arrangement can still be seen in such basilicas as St. Peter's in Rome, and it is precisely this arrangement that has given rise to the myth of Mass facing the people as a practice of the early Church. But surely, it might be argued, if the celebrant stood on the west side of the altar, as he would have done in St. Peter's Basilica, then Mass must have been celebrated facing the people. Not at all. The ancient practice in churches where the apse was at the west end was as follows: the congregation did not stand directly in front of the altar but on either side of the nave, the men on one side and the women on the other. During the first part of the Mass, the Mass of the Catechumens, the congregation would face the celebrant in order to hear the readings and the homily. But for the Mass of the Faithful...they would all turn to face the East. Ancient liturgies contain directions for the congregation to face the East, or, as the instruction was usually expressed, to turn toward the Lord (conversi ad Dominum). Turning toward the Lord, symbolized by the rising sun, and turning toward the East, were synonymous... The construction of the altar in such basilicas as St. Peter's was, then to make possible a Mass facing the East and not a Mass facing the people." (Davies)

By facing the east, the direction of the rising sun, we are facing the direction which symbolizes the heavenly Jerusalem and in the direction in which Christ is expected to return. Furthermore, it should also be noted that "Our Lord had faced the west while redeeming mankind upon the cross and by looking towards the east we are actually facing Him because the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present during the Mass." (Davies)

As Davies states: 

"The adoption of the eastward direction for worship by Christians also represented a reaction against the Jewish practice of turning towards Jerusalem to pray. The East symbolized the heavenly Jerusalem in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem of the Jews. The Christians of antiquity found a rich and seemingly inexhaustible symbolism in the eastward direction. Christians worshipped not the sun king but the King of the sun, because the sun itself was created by Christ... Our Lord had faced the West while offering the Sacrifice of His Life upon the Cross, and so by facing eastwards during the Mass we are actually facing Him, because the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present during the Mass... St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the eastward direction symbolized both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Paradise had been situated in the East, and so by worshipping in this direction we symbolize our desire to regain Paradise, the heavenly Paradise represented by the East. There are also traditions that just as the birth of the Messiah was heralded by a star in the East...His Second Coming will be like lighting coming from the same direction (Mt. 24:27)... There is also a tradition that the Second Coming will take place during the celebration of Mass. With their eyes fixed on the East, priest and people will be prepared to receive Our Lord in an attitude of adoration."

Furthermore, when the priest faces eastward, he also faces the Lord directly and really - in the tabernacle. In fact, turning the priest around to face the people in the Novus Ordo Mass necessitated removing the tabernacle - containing Our Lord - from the altar. As Pope Pius XII has said, "To separate the Tabernacle from the Altar is tantamount to separating two things which, of their very nature, must remain together." 

Those who criticize the traditional orientation of the priest are criticizing nearly the entire history of the Church and are criticizing the Eastern rites. They may fail to realize that what occurs at the altar is mysterious and does not need to be seen by the people (note that "the solemn moments of the Eastern liturgy are conducted behind the iconostasis and not seen by the people at all"). They may fail to realize that "clearly seeing what occurs at the altar does not increase our attention - but over time, attention from it may be reduced." They should also reflect on the fact that one cannot actually see the Transubstantiation occurring. They may have never reflected on the fact that the priest may be distracted by the actions of the people and the people may be distracted by the expressions and mannerisms of the priest. Also, it is fitting that we should not see the face of the priest, since the priest acts in the place of Christ. 

Finally, it should be noted that it is fitting that the priest, who reconciles sinful man with his offended God (cf. Mt. 16:19, Mt. 18:18) be focused on God, rather than on man: 

"It should now be apparent how fatuous it is to speak of the priest celebrating Mass with 'his back to the people'. During Mass the priest stands between people and altar, a mediator between God and man, the outermost representative of humanity, standing at the very point where heaven and earth come together when God the Son is brought down upon the altar as our Sacrificial Victim (hostia). The priest is also like a shepherd in eastern countries. He does not need to drive his flock from behind, to watch them lest they stray. [He] walks before them, leading them to green pastures [for] the safety of their fold. They know him and he knows them. But Catholics at worship today no longer look outwards and upwards to heaven, no longer fix their hearts and minds upon Our Lord. Contemporary Catholicism is an introspective religion, symbolized aptly by the turning round of the altar so that, turned in upon themselves, priest and people can fix their minds upon each other." (Davies)

Note: For more information regarding the differences between the Traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass, click here.

Isn't the 'Tridentine' Mass Complicated or Hard to Understand?

No, the 'Tridentine' Mass is neither complicated nor hard to understand. In fact, this Mass was clearly understood by persons of all ages for many years. The fact that the Mass is said in the Latin language may give some people who are used to Mass in the vernacular the impression that it is difficult to understand, but they probably have either (1) not attended very many 'Tridentine' Masses, or (2) have put little to no effort into understanding the 'Tridentine' Mass. Note that it is not at all necessary to understand Latin to understand the 'Tridentine' Mass, even though it is said in Latin. Not only can one follow along in a Missal (which contains English), but one can simply observe what is going on. Note also that the Epistle and Gospel are commonly re-read in the vernacular language just before the sermon. And, after attending a few times, it becomes even more familiar. After a while, persons often come to appreciate the use of the Latin language during Mass, which offers many benefits (click here). It is also helpful to appreciate the many benefits of the 'Tridentine' Mass as a whole (click here for a comparison between the 'Tridentine' Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass). Finally, if more explanation is desired, one may obtain good reading materials concerning the Mass or simply ask a knowledgeable parishioner or the priest. Clearly, "the way to make people understand better is not to change what is, but to better explain it to them." Remember that tying one's shoes probably seemed complicated in the beginning!

Is it True That Some Wonder Whether the Pope Had a Right to Create & Impose a New Mass? 

As the supreme head of the Catholic Church, it is clear that the pope has absolute authority and jurisdiction in the Church. However, even his authority necessarily has limits (e.g. he cannot add or delete sacraments, discard infallible teachings, order people to sin, etc.). With regard to the creation and imposition of the new Mass, some have considered whether the pope really had the authority to do so. Considering that the Pope has the solemn duty to pass on that which he has received, and that the traditional Mass was previously developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that the New Mass - which was created by men - contains radical and unprecedented reforms (even novelties that parallel the Protestant 'reforms' of the 16th century), debate has ensued over the pope's (moral) right to make such changes. 

Drawing a distinction between legal authority and moral authority, Davies states: "Fr. Dulac also shows that whatever legal powers he may possess, the Pope certainly does not have the moral right to overthrow the established liturgy in so drastic and unprecedented a manner." He also explains: "When this pamphlet was first published, several letters were received from readers stating that they did not agree that a valid distinction could be made between what is legally and morally right. Two simple examples should suffice to make the validity of the distinction clear. In many countries there are laws permitting abortion, but the fact that abortion is legal does not mean that it ceases to be immoral. The father of a family who had inherited a large fortune might decide to increase it considerably by involving himself in speculative ventures which offered a very high rate of return, but involved a high degree of risk. If he lost the entire fortune he would have broken no law, but he would have behaved immorally in squandering money which he should have considered as being held in trust for his children, and which should have been invested prudently... The Pope is absolute ruler of the Vatican State. He would have the legal authority to order the demolition of St. Peter's Basilica to be replaced by a contemporary concrete monstrosity which reflected the spirit of twentieth-century man. Such an act would be a moral outrage, and any pope rash enough to undertake it would no doubt be prevented from doing so by physical resistance on the part of the outraged faithful. But what of the liturgy? Surely the argument cannot be applied here. It most certainly can! The Pope is the custodian of the Church's liturgy. It is not his to dispose of at his whim. The Roman Liturgy is a far greater cultural and spiritual treasure than St. Peter's Basilica or any other church or cathedral built to enshrine it." Or, simply put, "If the building is sacred, how much more so the Mass!"

We can see in history that Popes who were thought to have abused their power met up against the resistance of persons who in no way denied papal supremacy. For example, consider the case of the people of Milan who successfully took up arms in defense of their liturgy. 

Further, consider the following argument: "Imagine that the Pope, as supreme pastor of the Church, issued a decree today requiring all the uniate churches of the Near East to give up their Oriental liturgy and adopt the Latin Rite... The Pope would not exceed the competence of his jurisdictional primacy by such a decree, and the decree would be legally valid. But we can also pose an entirely different question. Would it be morally licit for the Pope to issue such a decree? Any reasonable man and any true Christian would have to answer 'no'. Any confessor of the Pope would have to tell him that in the concrete situation of the Church today such a decree, despite its legal validity, would be subjectively and objectively an extremely grave moral offense against charity, against the unity of the Church rightly understood (which does not demand uniformity), against possible reunion of the [schismatic] Orthodox with the Roman Catholic Church, etc., a moral sin from which the Pope could be absolved only if he revoked the decree... The exercise of papal jurisdictional primacy remains even when it is legal, subject to moral norms, which are not necessarily satisfied merely because a given act of jurisdiction is legal. Even an act of jurisdiction which legally binds its subjects can offend against moral principles... To point out and protest against the possible infringement against moral norms of an act which must respect these norms is not to deny or question the legal competence of the man possessing the jurisdiction." (Davies, quoting a theology book)

Is it Allowed to Pray the Rosary Silently During Mass?

Yes. As Pope Pius XII has said, "So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947 A.D.)

Why Are There No 'Lay Ministers' in a 'Tridentine' Mass?

The use of 'Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist'+ (also wrongly, but popularly called "Eucharistic Ministers") - lay persons (including women) distributing Holy Communion - began in the 20th century as a result of disobedience to the Pope. Their use, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, has contributed to irreverence, loss of faith, confusion of the priestly role, desecration, and sacrilege. Their use is an entire break with Catholic tradition, and it coincides with Protestant sensibilities. It should be noted that the Second Vatican Council never called for their use. As the Council of Trent states: "In the sacramental reception it has always been the custom in the Church of God that the laity receive Communion from the priests and that priests who are celebrating Mass give Communion to themselves. This custom should rightly and deservedly be kept as coming down from apostolic tradition." Thankfully, therefore, the use of 'Lay Ministers' is prohibited in the 'Tridentine' Mass. Note: For more information on this topic, click here.

+ Reminder: The correct term is "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion"

What Posture is Required For Receiving Holy Communion at the 'Tridentine' Mass?

Holy Communion at the 'Tridentine' Mass is received from the priest on the tongue by kneeling communicants (unless physically unable to kneel).

Why is Communion Not Offered to the Laity Under Both Species in the 'Tridentine' Mass?

Introduction of Communion under both species for lay persons in the 20th century began as a result of disobedience to the Pope. It has contributed to irreverence, desecration, and sacrilege. It has caused some Catholics to erroneously (and heretically) believe that it is necessary to Communicate under both species or that they receive Christ "more fully" if they receive Holy Communion under both species. It has also led to the widespread proliferation of 'Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion' (lay persons dispensing Holy Communion), a practice always condemned by the Church. [Note: Click here for more information on this topic.] This practice has been especially pushed on the faithful by certain groups (e.g. liberals/modernists, feminists). In practice, it leads various problems (e.g. spillage & profanation, confusion of teaching, hygiene / sanitation concerns, danger of infection / spread of disease, interference with medications, etc.). Further, the Church has ruled that it is not necessary to receive Holy Communion under both species. Therefore, only the priest receives Holy Communion under both species in the 'Tridentine' Mass. Note: For more information on this topic, click here.

Why is There No 'Communion in the Hand' at a 'Tridentine' Mass?

Like the reception of Communion under both species and the use of 'Lay ministers', the introduction of Communion in the hand for lay persons in the 20th century began as a result of disobedience to the Pope. It has contributed to irreverence, loss of faith, desecration and sacrilege. Communion in the hand often results in sacred particles - Christ's true Flesh and Blood - being dropped on the floor and trampled on by parishioners. In fact, since most people fail to examine their hands for sacred particles after receiving Holy Communion in the hand, there could be dozens or more sacred particles on the floor in any parish where this practice is tolerated. This means that many people at each parish may literally be stepping on Christ's body - even those parishioners who don't take Communion in the hand. Remember that: "If any one denieth that in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent) Unfortunately, many were "influenced to adopt this practice by deceitful measures, by 'a campaign of deliberate deception and misleading propaganda'". No known pope recommends this practice. Further, the practice of Communion in the hand lessens respect for the Holy Eucharist, contributes to sacrilege & desecration, leads to loss of faith in the Real Presence, detracts from priestly dignity, and places lay persons on the same level as priests. It has been used as a tool by liberals and feminists who want to change the Church (they want the practice to be imposed on everyone). Thankfully, therefore, 'Communion in the hand' for the laity is prohibited in the 'Tridentine' Mass, where handling the Holy Eucharist is reserved to the consecrated hands of the priest. Note: For more information on this topic, click here.

Why Do Traditional Catholics Object to the 'Sign of Peace' Among the Laity During Mass?

There are numerous reasons why faithful Catholics object to a 'sign of peace' among the laity during Mass. For example:

  • It turns one's attention away from Christ, who is truly present on the altar.

  • It is NOT appropriate to socialize during a solemn sacrifice - the very re-presentation of Calvary.

  • It forces people to turn their back on Christ in the Holy Eucharist in favor of their neighbor.

  • It tends to harm belief in the Real Presence. Note that when 'the sign of peace' occurs, the Eucharist is ignored - it is left alone on the altar with no one adoring It... people are instead exchanging handshakes or ? with their neighbor...even the priest may leave the Holy Eucharist alone on the altar to shake hands with others.

  • It does not honor God to turn our back on Christ and toward our neighbor.

  • Socializing with our neighbor is inappropriate in a place of worship.

  • It turns our thoughts away from God and onto ourselves and our neighbor. This action occurs at the very moment when Christ is present at the altar - our attention is drawn away from Him and on to our neighbors during one of the most solemn and sacred parts of the Mass.

  • It gives a false sense of peace. "True peace isn't a worldly peace, a superficial peace, or a mere act of politeness. True peace comes from Christ and is wholly incompatible with sin. In fact, true peace is lost upon committing a single mortal sin." In fact, one may offer "peace" during the Mass to strangers - strangers who may have had an abortion, be abortionists, have recently committed adultery, be living in sin, be using contraception, be dressed scandalously (e.g. tight or revealing clothes, showing cleavage, bare stomachs or shoulders, etc.). It is wrong to offer such persons "peace" - it gives them the impression that they already have Christ's peace and leaves them uncorrected. "'Peace, peace!' they say, though there is no peace." (Jer. 8:11) Scripture commands us to love one another, but never commands us to offer one another a "phony peace". Rather, consider St. Paul's instruction to "Reprimand publicly those who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid." (1 Tm. 5:20)

  • Instead of preparing quietly and internally for the worthy reception of Holy Communion, our attention is directed to superficial gestures to our neighbors.

  • It does not help our neighbor, but rather distracts him from Christ, present on the altar.

  • It brings a profane spirit into the church: "They shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up anything lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer." (Council of Trent, Twenty-second Session) 

  • "This single action has done much to turn the Mass from a sacrifice to a fraternal banquet".

  • It can become an occasion of sin (flirting and romantic kisses are not uncommon).

  • It creates much noise, contrary to biblical (and other important) admonitions:

"But the LORD is in his holy temple; silence before him, all the earth!" (Hab. 2:20)

"Silence in the presence of the Lord GOD!" (Zeph. 1:7)

"Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD! for he stirs forth from his holy dwelling." (Zech. 2:17)

"As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church." (St. Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 14:33-35) (emphasis added)

"Let all mortal flesh be silent, standing there...in fear and trembling; for the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Christ our God is about to be sacrificed and to be given as food to the faithful." (St. James)

"Nothing so becomes a church as silence and good order. Noise belongs to theatres, and baths, and public processions, and market-places: but where doctrines, and such doctrines, are the subject of teaching, there should be stillness, and quiet, and calm reflection, and a haven of much repose." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Holiness befits the house of the Lord; it is fitting that he whose abode has been established in peace should be worshipped in peace and with due reverence. Churches, then, should be entered humbly and devoutly; behavior inside should be calm, pleasing to God, bringing peace to the beholders, a source not only of instruction but of mental refreshment... The consultations of universities and of any associations whatever must cease to be held in churches, so also must public speeches and parliaments. Idle and, even more, foul and profane talk must stop; chatter in all its forms must cease. Everything, in short, that may disturb divine worship or offend the eyes of the divine majesty should be absolutely foreign to churches, lest where pardon should be asked for our sins, occasion is given for sin, or sin is found to be committed." (Second Council of Lyons)

Other complaints include:

  • It is distracting.

  • It causes commotion.

  • It causes confusion.

  • It is generally superficial; a trivial gesture that has no deep or lasting significance. It is "contrived community".

  • It is often hypocritical and phony (as witnessed by behavior in the parking lot).

  • Many people dislike it (especially men).

  • It is often presented as 'mandatory' (even though it may have originally been a mere option).

  • It is disorderly ["...he is not the God of disorder but of peace." (1 Cor. 14:33)]

  • It does not create peace! It doesn't even represent peace! True peace comes from Christ alone.

  • It often causes hurt feelings by those "whose hand wasn't shaked by enough persons" or were passed over by someone.

  • It puts pressure on people to make physical contact with strangers simply because they are in close proximity.

  • It has left many people with the impression that it's the most important part of Mass. In fact, many people actually consider the 'sign of peace' to be the highlight of the Mass!

  • It is promoted by liberals and others with an agenda to change the Church.

  • People are forced to participate / unwelcome gestures are forced on people.

  • It causes strange men and women to make physical contact with one another.

  • It causes strange men and women to make physical contact with children.

  • It is an unsanitary practice and causes the spread of germs. Note that one doesn't just shake hands with a few persons, but essentially with all whom they've touched as well (as well as picking up germs from the filthy, dollar bills, collection baskets, kneelers, etc. that they have just touched). This spread of germs is a special concern for those with sensitive immune systems. And, further, this practice is often followed by the handling of the Holy Eucharist with unwashed hands.

  • It makes people (especially women) more concerned about their appearance, rather than focusing on important spiritual realities.

  • It is distracting even long before it actually occurs (e.g. when a neighboring person has a cold, sneezes into their hands, wipes their nose, etc. and one knows the sign of peace is coming they may become bothered).

  • It has affected where people sit - people have selected seating based on who they want to / don't want to shake hands with.

  • Is notoriously noisy and uncontrolled (e.g. people wave, hug, kiss, pat on the back, have conversations, roam throughout the church, "pew hop", greet as many as possible, etc.).

  • As alluded to previously, this practice makes it difficult for faithful Catholics to follow certain scriptural admonitions, such as:

"Silence in the presence of the Lord GOD!" (Zeph. 1:7)

"Serve the LORD with fear; with trembling bow down in homage" (Ps. 2:11)

 "...As in all the churches of the holy ones, women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church... what I am writing to you is a commandment of the Lord." (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 14:33-37)

"... we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe." (St. Paul, Heb. 12:28)

  • It can be personally offensive - sometimes strange people may come up and grab and touch you against your will. 

  • It is uncomfortable for many people. It should be noted that not all people are demonstrative. 

  • It may be considered pointless - an external 'sign of peace' may have nothing whatsoever to do with how "peaceful" we are.

  • True 'signs of peace' should be spontaneous and heartfelt - not scheduled and planned.

  • It is really meaningless - and potentially harmful - considering that it is given to all people nearby - even those you don't know. One may be offering 'peace' to those in mortal sin, Jews, heretics/Protestants, schismatics, etc. (Note: See 2 Jn. 1:10-11 for how we are called to treat heretics who come to us with strange doctrine.)

  • It is not a spiritual activity or a liturgical action and therefore seems inappropriate for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

  • "No matter how many hands you shake, you are no better spiritually."

Further, those who do not wish to participate may find it difficult to refuse. This may occur even if one is concerned over another's inappropriate dress, their coughing into their hands, wiping their nose, etc. They may not want to appear unfriendly or unsociable to others. Even if they have a compromised immune system, they may find it difficult to refuse to participate.

Those who do refuse to participate may be judged as unfriendly, uncharitable, grumpy, weird, etc. They may be ostracized or even harassed. They may be touched by others without their permission. If they refuse to join in, they may experience glaring looks, hurtful/nasty comments (by those wishing others 'peace'!), or have to feel bad that they may have hurt someone's feelings. If they choose to kneel during this time and focus on the Holy Eucharist and preparation for Communion, they may be considered rebels - whereas those who ignore the Holy Eucharist and roam the church, pat persons on the back, hug, shake hands, etc. are considered "friendly" or "virtuous". It appears that the order of the Commandments is forgotten - God is first, our neighbor is second.

And, interestingly, it often seems that some persons who offer "peace" to unknown people inside of Mass, are far less "peaceful" in the parking lot. Not only might they seem reluctant to receive physical contact from a stranger outside of Mass, but they may positively refuse such gestures. In contrast, many who refuse to participate in a 'sign of peace' during Mass are happy to offer appropriate peaceful gestures to Catholics they don't know outside of Mass.

In any event, people should act neighborly towards each other voluntarily in a genuine manner - in their own way - outside of Mass - and not a forced way inside of Mass. Such actions create confusion, harm faith, and do not belong inside the Church - a "house of prayer" (Mt. 21:13). Rather, we should be happy to appropriately greet one another outside of the Church. 

Those who point to early Church history as the basis of this practice should consider the following:

  • Scripture does not show a 'kiss of peace' as being part of a liturgical service - and certainly it does not show such an action occurring during a solemn sacrifice.

  • The 'kiss of peace' of old was not for any persons - e.g. any unknown person in close proximity - and especially not for those in a state of mortal sin.

  • The 'kiss of peace' before was not an ordinary kiss, but one that was to show "forgetfulness of every injury". The new 'sign of peace' has "taken an ancient symbol and striped it of its symbolism."

Clearly, today's contrived 'sign of peace' at Mass is nothing like a 'kiss of peace' from apostolic times.

Further, it should be noted that those who want to go back to 'earlier practices' are quite selective about those they wish to adopt. For example, consider that men and women were separated in the early church (and therefore could not make physical contact), and that those who committed certain sins were entirely excluded from the church for years and had to remain outside the church as "weepers", begging for prayers. To illustrate this practice, consider this early writing which illustrates how certain sinners were treated in the early Church:

"Let him who has been defiled with his own sister, the daughter of his father or mother, not be permitted to be present in the house of prayer until he cease from his iniquitous and unlawful conduct. After coming to an awareness of that dread sin, let him be a weeper for three years, standing at the door of the houses of prayer and begging the people entering there for the purpose of praying to offer in sympathy for him, each one, earnest petitions to the Lord. After this let him be admitted for another three years among the hearers only; and when he has heard the Scriptures and the teachings let him be put out and not be deemed worthy of prayer. Then, if he has sought it with tears and has cast himself down before the Lord with a contrite heart and with great humility, let him be given submission for another three years. And thus, when he has exhibited worthy fruits of repentance, let him be admitted in the tenth year to the prayer of the faithful without Communion. And when he has assembled for two years in prayer with the faithful, then let him finally be deemed worthy of the Communion of the good." (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church, c. 375 A.D.)

By contrast, today, the same sinner may enter the Church, possibly receive Holy Communion, and would be freely wished "peace" by those around him - and this might occur not only after he has stopped his shameful conduct, but even before he has stopped! Further, it should be noted that non-Catholics were previously forbidden to view certain parts of the Mass (including the part in which the 'sign of peace' now occurs in the Novus Ordo Mass). Given the above, even if a 'kiss of peace' were to be offered in olden times, many of the dangers that now exist would not have existed then (since the people were segregated and all persons in church could be presumed to be Catholics "in the peace of Christ" - and assuredly they would not have dressed or acted inappropriately or have had doubts about the Real Presence, etc.).

Note that in the traditional Latin Mass, an exchange of peace was limited to the priest and deacon, whose actions were symbolic and reminded us that we must be at peace with others. It is important to note that being at peace with others primarily comes from within, and does not arise from merely hugging or shaking another's hand - especially considering that those we may need to reconcile with may not be sitting in close proximity to us.

Similar objections may also be raised to the abuse of hand-holding which is common even among strangers or near strangers in some parishes (e.g. during the Our Father). Additionally, hand-holding has been considered an "intimate gesture" and is therefore especially improper in Church. Further, it "takes a personal prayer to our Father in heaven and makes it a 'community event'". This practice is thought to be connected with the Protestant-inspired Charismatic movement.

Note: For a printable flier based on the above, click here.

Is it True That the People Don't Participate in the 'Tridentine' Mass?

No. The confusion lies in the fact that the laity's participation in the 'Tridentine' Mass is mainly internal participation - as opposed to empty external displays. As Pope Pius XII has said, "The worship rendered by the Church to God must be, in its entirety, interior as well as exterior... But the chief element of divine worship must be interior". Further, it should be noted that the faithful do participate externally in a 'Tridentine' Mass (e.g. kneeling, standing, signs of the cross, striking one's breast, receiving Holy Communion, making any appropriate responses, participating in singing, etc.).

Why is There So Much Kneeling in the 'Tridentine' Mass?

Note: Click here for 'Kneeling / Prostrating / Bowing / Genuflecting' Reflections

Note: Click here for 'Kneeling / Genuflecting' Topic Page

 

There is more kneeling in the 'Tridentine' Mass (especially a low Mass) than in the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass of the 1960's - however a better question may be "Why is there so little kneeling in the Novus Ordo Mass?". In fact, some parishes have even been built without kneelers! In other places, persons have been told not to kneel at certain points of the Mass even when the Holy Eucharist is present. In at least one area, those who continued to kneel at "forbidden times" were told that the "disobedience of kneeling" was a "mortal sin". Some were kicked out of positions in the parish for such "egregious sins". As to why such things occur and why there is so little kneeling in the Novus Ordo Mass, one can only be left to contemplate what possible reasons may account for it - e.g. is it to please Protestants who reject the Real Presence?, is it to promote the 'meal' concept?, etc.- surely it cannot be to promote piety or to please God! Jesus himself knelt in prayer. The Apostles knelt. Scripture tells us to kneel. The Saints and Popes knelt. Etc.

"Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us." (Ps. 95:6)

"In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" (St. Paul, Phil. 2:10)

"All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage." (Ps. 22:30)

"I bend my knee to the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all paternity in heaven and on earth is named" (St. Paul, Eph. 3:14).

Some persons today may cling to certain early Church quotations to support the lack of kneeling - for example an early Church decision to stand on Sunday in order that "there will be uniformity of practice in all things in every diocese" (First Council of Nicaea, 325 A.D.) or St. Basil's remark that "On the first day of the week, we stand when we pray; but not all of us know why. The reason is that on the day of resurrection, by standing at prayer, we remind ourselves of the grace we have received." (c. 375 A.D.)

While the practice of standing practice may have promoted uniformity and reflected a belief in the Resurrection in the early Church, it does not really support their argument in today's world. For example, consider that: 

* Many persons nowadays go to Mass only on Sundays (and would therefore never kneel at Mass - which was surely not desired by the Council of Nicaea or St. Basil)

* Since the substitution of the Novus Ordo Mass for the 'Tridentine' Mass there is no longer any "uniformity of practice in all things in every diocese", so it is ridiculous to claim that standing will bring such "uniformity of practice in all things in every diocese".

* Today there is widespread disbelief in the Real Presence, combined with a serious lack of fear of the Lord. Considering that St. Paul says that a person who fails to discern the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist "drinks judgment on himself" (St. Paul, 1 Cor. 11:29), we can see that this is a very serious matter with very serious consequences. Therefore, every appropriate action possible should be done to restore this belief in the Real Presence and foster fear of the Lord - such as kneeling - rather than promote things which do not assist in such matters (or even tend to contradict them). The Council of Nicaea and St. Basil certainly never faced this problem - and it is certainly doubtful that if they had faced this "crisis of faith" they would want parishioners to stand rather than kneel.

Furthermore, it may be argued that those who want parishioners to stand aren't genuinely seeking uniformity of practice or wanting to return to earlier practices - but really just don't want people to kneel for the Holy Eucharist. If they really want uniformity of practice, why do they so dislike the 'Tridentine' Mass which is universally essentially the same? If they really want to return to primitive practices, why do they not seek a return to all the primitive practices - including one contained in another canon in the same Council of Nicaea which ("mercifully") requires a dozen years of penance for a sin [three years among the 'hearers' (those allowed only in the vestibule of the church and only allowed in for part of the Mass), plus 'seven years among the kneelers' (those who knelt in the knave while the faithful stood), and two additional years without receiving the Eucharist']?

"Concerning those who have transgressed without necessity or the confiscation of their property or without danger or anything of this nature, as happened under the tyranny of Licinius, this holy synod decrees that, though they do not deserve leniency, nevertheless they should be treated mercifully. Those therefore among the faithful who genuinely repent shall spend three years among the hearers, for seven years they shall be prostrators, and for two years they shall take part with the people in the prayers, though not in the offering." (Council of Nicaea)

Why is it they selectively choose what primitive practices they want and reject all that they don't want if they are really so concerned about following the early Church?

Finally, as some saints have said:

"['The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican.' (Lk. 18:11)] It is said 'standing,' to denote his haughty temper. For his very posture betokens his extreme pride." (St. Theophylact)

["He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe in (the Son of God)? And Jesus said to him, You have both seen him, and it is he that talks with you. And he said, Lord, I believe. And falling down, he worshipped him." (Jn. 9:36-38)] An example to us, not to pray to God with uplifted neck, but prostrate upon earth, suppliantly to implore His mercy." (St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church)

"But what means His bending of knees? of which it is said, And he kneeled down, and prayed. It is the way of men to pray to their superiors with their faces on the ground, testifying by the action that the greater of the two are those who are asked. Now it is plain that human nature contains nothing worthy of God's imitation. Accordingly the tokens of respect which we evince to one another, confessing ourselves to be inferior to our neighbors, we have transferred to the humiliation of the Incomparable Nature. And thus He who bore our sicknesses and interceded for us, bent His knee in prayer, by reason of the man which He assumed, giving us an example, that we ought not to exalt ourselves at the time of prayer, but in all things be conformed to humility; for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

Continued on Next Page

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