The Festival and The Sacrifice: Part 1

stlouis_pontifical-massIf you have gone to Mass in the past forty years, the chances are excellent that you have encountered a Liturgy not up to a high standard of solemnity. Perhaps the priest spent five minutes making jokes. Maybe there was dancing, or puppets. Maybe there were simply a ridiculous number of children swarming the altar at various times. There are those of a traditionalist bent who see these things as a modernist aberrations that must be wiped out. Against these there are those modernists who see these things as the necessary means of building communion within the Body of Christ. The former call the latter misguided (if not outright heretical) innovators, while the latter call the former reactionary and close-minded Pharisees.

Apart from these there is a third camp, one that recognizes that deviations from the rubrics de-solemnizes an action that should be the highest act of mankind, but also sees merit in these etra-normative instances. This group, I think, has hit the mark. There is something good in the dances and the stories and the hoards of children, but the Mass is not the place for them.

Reader: What the devil are you talking about. What do you want, everyone in the parish to meet up at sometime other than Mass for singing and dancing?

Author: Well, yes I do.

Reader: Wait, really?

Author: Yes.

Reader: Oh.

What you, dear reader, have hit upon, earlier than I planned on mentioning it, is my grand scheme for the restoration of a solemn Mass, and a completely formed Christian person. Quite a tall order, no? Well to make my point we have to take a step back.

st_joan_easterI do not believe that the innovations that have crept into the Mass since the Council are the work of magical liberal fairies who suddenly appeared in 1967. I cannot speak to the actual motives of the men at the time, but what they did really did respond (though badly) to a glaring problem in the Church that has existed for more than 200 years in the West. The Industrialization of the West began the process, and it reached its fruition with the marriage of Big Business and Big Government around the turn of the 20th Century. Business wanted wage slaves, and Government wanted dependent slaves. To reach their goal they needed to do two things: First destroy local patriotism, and then destroy the family. In the coming posts I will detail the destruction of the local patriotism and the family. In particular, I will show how these led step by step to the watering down of the Liturgy. Finally, I will outline my plan for the Restoration of Christendom, and the Solemnity of the Mass.

I hope I have whetted your appetite.

God Bless.

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8 comments

  1. scaramouche051387 · · Reply

    There is a fourth camp. I think that perhaps the Eastern Church and its liturgy is an appropriate model for anyone looking to restore not the solemn, but the reverent Mass in the Western Church. I was raised in the “Tridentine” (rite), extraordinary form (post motu proprio) celebration of the Mass, but also experienced the Byzantine Liturgy at a young age. I find the descriptive term, “solemn,” to be odd and misappropriated for the context of Mass or Divine Liturgy.

    The word comes from the Latin “sollemnis” or “sollenis” which is a smash of “solus” and “annus” and means “that which happens every year; ritual; festive; customary,” but more closely from the Old French “solempne,” which means pretty much the same as the Latin. The word seems to have acquired an elevated, Gothic, and rather forbidding meaning nowadays that is quite removed from its original connotations.

    Reverence, not “solemnity” as we understand it, seems to be the characteristic of the Mass that has become scarce in the Church today. Anyone who has been to a healthy, Byzantine parish and participated in their Divine Liturgy cannot escape the observation that in the face of modernity the East has maintained not only a reverent, but also a JOYFUL celebration of the Eucharist; furthermore, their reverent and joyful celebration of it is in the vernacular (a liturgical experiment of the West that hasn’t had much success in the past 50 years)! They must be doing something right.

    This active spirit of joyful reverence, so strengthened by Byzantine sacramentality, is not only AT the heart of Catholic worship, but IS the heart of it. Thinking of the Mass in terms of solemnity is perhaps not only a linguistic error, but also a spiritual one.

  2. I concede the existence of the fourth camp, but I do not concede the point you make. You must forgive me the pretentions of a poet; I linger over words, choosing only the one that I find quite right. You critique me for using ‘solemn’ in a manner apart from the original, and then you base your whole argument against the word on the novel meaning. Perhaps it would have served you to ask whether I did mean the new meaning or not.

    Quite apart from this, and arguing a point not directly associated with this discussion, what exactly does the etymology of the word have to do with its definition. You give the Latin and the French as if that will settle the matter completely, but it is the nature of words to change meaning, at least a little, when they change tongues. Solemn means what solemn means, not what solmpne means.

    As it happens, I agree with you entirely on the evolution of the meaning, it has indeed become a forbidding word, associated with old men performing dark acts full of ritual and shades of meaning. It makes you think of brooding men in tall gothic buildings with dark hoods. I believe this evolution is a Protestant mutilation. Does it not strike you that what you think of when you think solemn, sounds quite like a Protestant attack upon the wicked ways of Popery.

    The word solemn is filled with joy and reverence, it is in fact more efficient than your argument, because it manages to use one word where you needed two. Even your Latin translation works in my favor: that which happens every year; ritual; festive; customary. Festive! Is festive now somehow divorced from joy. And are the rituals and customs that were drawn on (from the Apostles no less) divorced from the reverence due our God.

    My whole argument, and I hope to address your concerns better in the latter parts of this study, is that we need a return of the Customary Festivity of the Mass. What we have now is an Innovated Festivity encroaching on the Mass. The divorce of reverence from joy is indeed a terrible one. And when customary reverence left, the joy died away without her partner. My plan will remove innovative rituals and customs from the ancient SOLMENITY of the Mass. It will restore the innovations to where they belong. Because the innovations, and the local rituals are the brothers of the ancient rituals, and both are necessary for the complete forming of the Christian.

    Now, I have spent a good deal defending the word. Now, let me quickly offer my reason for rejecting your plan of Eastern Influence. It is this: I desire a restoration of the West, not a reformation of the West into the East.

    1. Jacob T. Reilly · · Reply

      “I concede the existence of the fourth camp, but I do not concede the point you make. You must forgive me the pretentions of a poet; I linger over words, choosing only the one that I find quite right.”

      …An unrelated topic, but I am curious about why you call yourself “a poet.” Simply because you write poetry? I write and have written a good deal of poetry. But I never quite know if that merits me the title “poet.”…

      “You critique me for using ‘solemn’ in a manner apart from the original, and then you base your whole argument against the word on the novel meaning. Perhaps it would have served you to ask whether I did mean the new meaning or not.”

      …I did not properly speaking critique you for using “’solemn’ in a manner apart from the original.” I simply supplied the semantic background of the word to illustrate the fact that the meaning of the word has changed, and further we cannot escape the change that has taken hold of the word…

      “Quite apart from this, and arguing a point not directly associated with this discussion, what exactly does the etymology of the word have to do with its definition?”

      …The etymology of words has everything to do with its definition. Words are historically referential; they either accumulate different meanings or purge themselves of meanings. In each case, the historical root of a word and its historical meanings are profoundly relevant….

      “You give the Latin and the French as if that will settle the matter completely, but it is the nature of words to change meaning, at least a little, when they change tongues. Solemn means what solemn means, not what solmpne means.”

      …“Solemn” means what “solemn” means only because the words “sollemnis” and “solempne” existed before it, meant something, and were used in specific contexts….only because the is a traceable current between historic uses of words and contemporary uses of words…

      As it happens, I agree with you entirely on the evolution of the meaning, it has indeed become a forbidding word, associated with old men performing dark acts full of ritual and shades of meaning. It makes you think of brooding men in tall gothic buildings with dark hoods. I believe this evolution is a Protestant mutilation. Does it not strike you that what you think of when you think solemn, sounds quite like a Protestant attack upon the wicked ways of Popery”

      …I am sure that the changes in Christian worship and spirituality over the past 500 years had an effect on the word’s meaning, but to call it a “Protestant mutilation,” to see that as the only influence on the word is a massive oversimplification. Furthermore, if you “agree with me entirely on the evolution of the meaning,” you should also agree that the word is not the most accurate description of the liturgical changes you are planning to effect. History has changed the word (and this is why you questioned my use of etymological information) in the same way that history has changed the Mass. Just as you think we should not go back in time and return the Mass to its pre-Vatican II state but rather reorient and re-form the Mass in light of history, so too perhaps the descriptions of this “reformation” of the Mass need to be reoriented and re-formed…

      “The word solemn is filled with joy and reverence,…”

      …No, as you said, the word has evolved and the etymological roots are irrelevant to the novel meaning. We cannot go back in time with words and insist that the historic meaning is the correct and only meaning….

      “…it is in fact more efficient than your argument, because it manages to use one word where you needed two.”

      …It is not more efficient. Solemnity can be joyful and reverent, but often it is not both of those at the same time. Furthermore, most people do not use the word or understand the word to contain those two meanings…It is not redundant to say a “joyful solemnity”…if solemnity were a joy filled word, the distinction that “joyful solemnity” makes would either be redundant or simply not exist…

      “Even your Latin translation works in my favor: that which happens every year; ritual; festive; customary. Festive! Is festive now somehow divorced from joy. And are the rituals and customs that were drawn on (from the Apostles no less) divorced from the reverence due our God.”

      …My Latin translation was simply to point out that two things, reverence for God and Joy, which should be congruous, are now not perceived to be so, and that the modern word “solemn” is a very good example of how their congruity cannot be expressed in a single word, given today’s society and its language…

      “My whole argument, and I hope to address your concerns better in the latter parts of this study, is that we need a return of the Customary Festivity of the Mass. What we have now is an Innovated Festivity encroaching on the Mass. The divorce of reverence from joy is indeed a terrible one. And when customary reverence left, the joy died away without her partner. My plan will remove innovative rituals and customs from the ancient SOLMENITY of the Mass. It will restore the innovations to where they belong. Because the innovations, and the local rituals are the brothers of the ancient rituals, and both are necessary for the complete forming of the Christian.”
      “Now, I have spent a good deal defending the word. Now, let me quickly offer my reason for rejecting your plan of Eastern Influence. It is this: I desire a restoration of the West, not a reformation of the West into the East.”

      …If you read what I wrote carefully, you would see that I wasn’t suggesting a reformation of the West *into* the East, but rather that a close look at the dynamics of the Eastern Divine Liturgy could be very fruitful in suggesting practical methods of Western reform. I said that the Divine Liturgy is an appropriate model for study by anyone interested in how to preserve reverence without it lapsing into rote performance or spectacle and joyful participation without it lapsing into disrespect or casualness.

  3. I’ll only make two comments. First, what exactly did the Church mean then, when she called the most reverent and the most joyful Mass a Solemn High Mass? Second, you must forgive me all of this. I call myself a poet because that is nearly all I write, and it is the way I best make my meaning plain. I have no skill for prose argument, I should have written a poem about the Mass and public festival to make a point I still hold, and a point I still think you do not understand. (Though how could you after reading a mere introduction before the actual argument I make. Would you write a letter of criticism to an author after only reading his preface and not waiting to read the whole book?) But the thing has been done, and it must be completed.

  4. Jacob T. Reilly · · Reply

    To your three points:

    1) I believe you, but please tell me where the church describes the Solemn High Mass as the most reverent and the most joyful Mass? If I have this information, I can read the context myself and better give you my opinion on that particular statement; unless of course, your question was merely rhetorical. I do find it interesting, however, that the Church deems it important enough to clarify and define how reverence and joy relate to solemnity. It is as if she is aware of the insufficiency of “solemn” to mean “reverent AND joyful” without some sort of clarification. Also, I think the date of this quote is particularly relevant since we both agree on the relative “evolution” of the word’s meaning.

    2) Please do continue to post your poetry. I enjoyed reading your first posted poem, and hope to see more soon. I find it interesting that you feel you “make [your] meaning most plain” in poetry. That is quite unconventional. Poetry, from the time of Socrates to the 21st century, has had a certain antagonism to “plain” meaning and simple communication of thought. It could be argued in fact that poetry, relative to prose or speech (from which it receives its existence), is the exact opposite of “plain meaning.” Anyways, I found that comment of yours extremely interesting, and would very much enjoy any further comment you have on it.

    3) Unfortunately, given the publication of your “program” for the restoration of Christendom in installments, I cannot read the rest of your program until you publish the rest; I assure you that I will though once you do. Furthermore, what is the point of having a “reply” box or even of publishing it in installments if the reader cannot comment on each of the parts. You had mentioned the prefatory or introductory nature of this first installment. Prefaces and introductions are most often overviews or outlines of the work to come; and any good preface or introduction cannot be inconsistent with that which it is prefacing or introducing. So, I don’t think it should matter much that I commented on the word “solemn” which was used quite focally in your preface. Also, let me say that I agree entirely with you on the relation between the Mass and the public festival. In fact, I agree almost completely with your article thus far. My original comment was meant merely to question the usefulness of the word “solemn” and “solemnity,” given what it means today. I just think there is a better way of expressing your idea, which I agree with it. The power of words is not merely descriptive, but primarily constructive. It is better not to risk the chance that the word “solemn,” what it means today, will change what you are trying to express in the mind of your reader; I think this is most likely to happen in the minds of those for whom your article and thoughts are the most relevant and potentially persuasive. My comment about the Byzantine liturgy was merely an observation that in the face of the vernacular they have had no trouble maintaining reverence and joy in their liturgy and a suggestion that looking at how they have managed to do that could be greatly rewarding for anyone deeply interested in the topic of liturgical restoration.

    Thank you for engaging my comments. I wish we could have this discussion over some of my homebrew or a glass of scotch (a pipe or cigar would be a companion to either of those, of course). Looking forward to your next post, be it a poem or the next part of “The Festival and the Sacrifice.”

    All the best,

    Jacob T. Reilly

  5. “This active spirit of joyful reverence, so strengthened by Byzantine sacramentality, is not only AT the heart of Catholic worship, but IS the heart of it. Thinking of the Mass in terms of solemnity is perhaps not only a linguistic error, but also a spiritual one.”

    It’s helpful to see how the Church chooses to use the word in Sacrosanctum Concilium (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html). Of the 8 times it’s used in the body of the document, 3 of those times (sections 35, 100, and 102) use it in the sense Dan mentioned – “that which happens every year; ritual; festive; customary.” Four times (sections 66, 112;1;3, and 113) it is used to connote a more elevated or ornate rite. Finally, once it uses it in the context of vows (sect. 95c).

    It seems, then, that he the western church 50 years ago thought the word was still adequate to describe its liturgy. My questions to Jake are:

    1) Do you think the word has developed since then, so that it was appropriate then and not now? Or do you think it was not the best choice then, either?
    2) Am I write to say that part of your suggestion is that “joyful reverence” is a better phrase to describe the liturgy than solemn?

    I’d be interested to know your response to question 2, for I actually don’t think the former is really what the liturgical reformers were after when they used the word solemn. I think that the western Mass (in its best form) really does express solemnity (seriousness, sobriety, economy of gesture) more than joyful reverence and that that was something the council was striving to bring back to the liturgy. (I think of “noble simplicity”(sect. 34)). It really contrasts the Eastern and Western liturgies, I know, but perhaps that’s a good thing?

    I appreciate the change in how the word “solemn” is perceived now, but I question if it is really, even with the overly dark connotation given it, that far off the mark for what the Western liturgy should be striving for.

  6. Darn auto correct: write —> right.

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