Vatican II and the eradication of the Tridentine mass

luc

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I had a very interesting experience not long ago: I went into a church (in SE France) just to visit the place, when there was a mass taking place. And I immediately was kind of transfixed: there was a sheer magnetic pull and I just had to stay for a while. And it was beautiful beyond belief - there was a fantastic organist who really was into the music, which was truly great. And there was a choir (probably made up of members of the congregation), which was gorgeous. The ritual itself felt extremely uplifting: a whole complex choreography performed by the priests who were very much part of the congregation (as opposed to preaching to the congregation), their robes were beautiful, the Latin prayers and music that was intrinsically connected to the whole ritual... magic!

This was unlike anything I have seen in a Catholic mass (I've been to quite a few in different places), so I began noticing some oddities: the congregation was dressed up, not over the top with everyone in black suits or something, just classic sort of conservative clothes. Some women wore hats. No short pants. Quite a few children - they were also dressed up in "Sunday chic". And, no masks! It looked almost like from the 50ies, although a bit more casual. The congregation in any event clearly knew everything and took it very seriously.

So what was going on? It was Monday, so why a mass? Maybe it was a wedding? No, that couldn't be. An ordination? But there was no bishop, and the ritual didn't fit. Then it dawned on me: this must be one of those Catholic groups that still adhere to pre-Vatican II rituals. I heard about them before (they are usually slandered as right-wing nuts, but by now we know what that means...)

I knew some things about all that before, but did a bit of research. Although there were many important theological issues brought up at Vatican II (the council that completely changed the church in the 60ies and after), one of the most important and radical changes concerned the celebration of the mass. They abolished the traditional Tridentine mass in favor of a "modern" mass - what Catholics refer to as "Novus Ordo" ("New Order").

In light of my experience, I thought that there may be something to the Tridentine Mass, something very uplifting for those receptive of such things, which was eradicated on purpose. Apparently, there was sort of a conspiracy among liberal forces at Vatican II - after there had been done lots of preparatory work for the council, as is usually the case (pre-negotiated docuements and the like), they suddenly tossed out all of that during the council and brought in completely new ideas.

There was huge resistance in the church during that time. One important figure was the French cleric Marcel Lefebvre, who still celebrated the old Mass (as did quite a few others). Interestingly, back in the 80ies, Ratzinger (the future pope Benedict II) conceded that the "traditionalists" were allowed to celebrate the pre-Vatican II mass. As a pope, Benedict went further and officially allowed the old Mass. The new pope Francis, by contrast, just recently declared war on the traditional mass. Go figure.

For those interested, here are two videos that show what the "pre-Vatican II" movement is about. Some of it IMO is a bit on the "conservative polemics" side, but I can't help but wonder whether the old Mass, in particular, was something spiritually positive that stood in someone's way. I noticed that among the comments on the videos, many regular catholics have become "traditionalists" because of Covid - the traditional mass was never "shut down" and mask mandates were ignored...

The documentary about Lefebvre is really well-done and fascinating, whether one agrees with everything the "traditionalists" stand for or not.



 

Michael B-C

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wonder whether the old Mass, in particular, was something spiritually positive that stood in someone's way.

In light of my experience, I thought that there may be something to the Tridentine Mass, something very uplifting for those receptive of such things, which was eradicated on purpose.
Thank you for your post Luc. It brought back some very powerful memories for me. Am I correct in assuming you are not by birth a Catholic? Well, I'm of a certain generation of birth Roman Catholics who lived this schism in that I was born the year of the infamous Vatican 2's commencement and it finished 3 years later. My family was catholic to its core and both my parents regarded V2 as an abomination - so that by the time I became conscious of such things (late 60s say early 70s) it was still a lived reality. My mother obeyed the church and grudgingly followed the new order but my father never did. To the day he died (5 years ago) he stood in church and quietly (but audibly) spoke/chanted the full Latin mass as the priest attempted to battle his mumbles as he in turned delivered the much watered down 'liberal' new English catechism to the assembled. Some Sunday's my father would get the bit between his teeth and there would ensue a battle of wills and volume to see who could maintain control as well as dignity. Suffice to say the priest normally lost because his tool kit lacked all the power, hypnotic rhythm and strangely wondrous cohesion which the 'alien' seeming language of Latin possessed. It was as if you could apprehend more whilst comprehending less.

As kids we found this excruciatingly embarrassing but we had no choice but to live between both extremes. In his later years he finally tracked down one of these traditionalist priests that you mention still granted a dispensation to say the Latin Mass and even returned to serving at altar as part of his communion with this. It was as if the 'true faith' he had maintained - which was by nature authoritarian - against such a tide of 'liberalism', only took its authority and substance from the Latin text and rite itself; anything else was by its perversion meaningless and verboten. It left a deep imprint on me and having, like you, attended full Tridentine occasions, I was equally struck by the awe, reverence and mystical quality that emerged (and I had a personal love of chimes and incense anyway!) It was theatre of the highest aspiring kind and there's no doubt the biggest reason I went into that 'industry' was to try and recreate or bring back to being in this profane world the 'mystery' of the ancient mass.

The Latin Mass has its antecedents in the temple practices of pre-christian worship. Its connection to true theatre religiously maintained. Theatre was the language of communal communion with the Gods and the living, ever present world of dead ancestors. I think you are spot on when you say there was a deliberate eradication of this ancient link - one of the first ground laying preparations for what was to come (I simply note this event coincides with the assassination of the catholic king, JFK).
 

Mike

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Thanks @luc. I will have to give the videos a watch.

I've been very slowly reading a book by Jean Hani called 'The Divine Liturgy: Insights Into Its Mystery' (originally in French and published in 1981). He touches on the older traditions in his books (I first read his book 'The Symbolism of the Christian Temple' - originally in French and published in 1962), but I was pretty much unaware exactly what he was referring to in terms of the turning away from tradition. Your post fills that in a bit. Since the mass touched you in such a way, you might find the book(s) interesting.

I had intended to start a thread on his books once I finished 'The Divine Liturgy' or at some point when reading his other books that are in English.

Fwiw, when reading his first and now his second book, it often crosses my mind that he may have had some connection to Alchemy or alchemists. His writing gives me an impression that he was a person that knew much more than he was giving in the books and reminds me of Fulcanelli's books, even if the information given is less cloaked from view and mystery. Fulcanelli's books are referenced in his bibliography. Fwiw.

 

Mike

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Also, Jean Borella is mentioned in Jean Hani's wikipedia post. I just looked at a few of his books.


This one looks like it connects to this topic in a direct way:

'Love and Truth: The Christian Path of Charity'

Love and Truth (Amour et Vérité, 2011), by Jean Borella, is the revised and recast second edition of a book first published in France in 1979 under the title La charité profanée (The Desecration of Charity). The original idea for this book sprang from the author's bewilderment and dismay at seeing, in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, theologians and other Church members call into question or reject some of the fundamental dogmas of the Christian faith, all in the name of a love for humanity! By that time, of course, humanitarian ideology had already made worrisome inroads, having already for two centuries and more extended its unrelenting sway over minds (though sometimes justifiably so). But when it incited both clergy and laity to break with the faith of the Creed itself, this was beyond bearing.

Jean Borella shows how at the core of this "rage" for love then (and still now) animating a Church in the throes of revolution, there festered an illusion--indeed, a perversion--of charity in its inmost essence. But not only this: he likewise shows that to relinquish custody of truth to the keeping of a materialist science would be to ignore the limits and errors of this science, and above all to grow calloused to the doctrinal splendors of the loftiest theological and metaphysical science. Hence the necessity, when dealing with the created world and human beings, to present a concept--new in form if not in its depths--that offers faithful Christians fertile ground to put down roots again. A vast undertaking, yes, but one that has led Borella to discern the strayings of modern man, and to his quest to rediscover beneath that perversion the unique Light shining in the darkness which represents the authentic meaning of Christian charity. Christ has said: only knowledge of the Truth will set us free... and free to love.
 

Mike

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It is also interesting that you started this thread. The last two Sunday's I've gone to a local Catholic church. I was raised Catholic, but hadn't been to mass in years and years.

I haven't been going to church to take part in the mass, but to try and observe some of the things talked about in Hani's 'The Divine Liturgy' firsthand and also some things mentioned in 'The Symbolism of the Christian Temple'.

So I go a little early, say prayers for some people and a few other prayers, and observe the mass while thinking about Paul, Jesus/Caesar, and Laura's new book. It has been grounding in a way and in some way has filled a spiritual void of sorts for me.
 

Michael B-C

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There is a documentary on this topic called the Mass of the Ages, which is available for free on the internet.

This is the first part.

MASS OF THE AGES: Episode 1 — Discover the Traditional Latin Mass (4K)


The official website: WATCH — Mass of the Ages
Thank you for posting this Tristan. Yes, it would be easy to see this as no more than a glossy sales pitch for a suspect theology (as Laura's recent book so artfully reveals) but all I see is a beautifully considered, moving, thoughtful and most human film in search of the divine. Even as we descend into hell I am not surprised to see how powerfully and needfully certain people - often young people - are reaching back into tradition for solace and protection from the storm. Dominus vobiscum.
 

whitecoast

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As a pope, Benedict went further and officially allowed the old Mass. The new pope Francis, by contrast, just recently declared war on the traditional mass. Go figure.

To expand on this point:

Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.

This is earth-shattering to traditionalist and neotraditionalist Catholics because before a Priest could host the Latin/Tridentine Mass at their own discretion. Going forward, they require permission from the Bishop of the diocese. So if someone wanted the Latin Mass they could just go find another Church close by. If one liberal Bishop shuts the mass out of an entire diocese, they would have to travel to a different region entirely for it. Questions of "consulting with the Vatican" raise a lot of concerns about what exactly the criteria are for permitting or denying a Latin Mass are. This is seen by the traditionalist base of the Church as just a stick to force recalcitrant Catholic communities into line over social issues, such as Covid or any other future political pet projects the Catholic Church will be used to promulgate. So if a group refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated for example, the Bishop may retaliate and threaten to pull the traditional mass from their parish. It's using the sacraments of the Church as political tools.
 

BHelmet

The Living Force
Awesome. This issue has become a lightening rod within the Catholic Church. It has come to the point that even some Archbishops are decrying that Francis himself is a manifestation of the dark side and that the novus ordo is but a hollow facsimile enacted to divert the faithful. (Viganò). Yes the two are so different in tone. The C’s did mention Gregorian chant and that’s what you get in a high mass if it’s traditional.

Think about it. The V2 mass was designed to secularize and supposedly make it more user friendly. The old ways were dissed. “Why is the priest facing away from the congregation? He is excluding the faithful.” But the critics failed to note that all the humans were facing God together versus the modern version where the priest becomes the intermediary between man and god. The music became the local folk music with a smattering of old warhorse hymns that were more Protestant in nature.
When I step in a church I don’t want “accessibility” and John Denver style hymns. I wan mystery and magisterium. I want reverence. I don’t want the priest starting off with stand up comedy to make me relax and feel comfy.
I will stop there but, yes, this is a huge battleground.

The church should be standing up to the new world order, not cheering it on and helping to usher it in. Guys like Viganò are an inspiration. He does not mince words and condemns Francis in no uncertain terms.
 

Adaryn

The Living Force
To give an idea, here're 2 extracts of a tridentine mass in Latin. Notice the solemnity:



The Church has always celebrated with its back to the people
Today, a liturgical trend is gaining ground, including in the Vatican, to say that the liturgy of the word, during the Mass, should be celebrated facing the people, while the Eucharistic liturgy of the Mass should be celebrated facing the Lord (no face-to-face meeting of the people and priest).
In order to understand this problem, it is essential to read the book written in 2004 and published in French in 2006 by Editions ad solem with a preface by Joseph Ratzinger. The work entitled « Se tourner vers le Seigneur – Essai sur l’orientation de la prière liturgique » ("Turning to the Lord - An Essay on the Orientation of Liturgical Prayer") is a brilliant and thorough synthesis of archaeological, historical, liturgical and theological works on this subject.
The author, Uwe Michael Lang, has done a colossal and erudite job. This book scientifically blows apart the very biased works of certain liturgists who once provided ideological weapons to those who militated for a dogmatized absolutization of the mass celebrated before the people.
The author explains at the outset (p. 24) "An examination of the historical data will show that the common orientation of the priest and the people is widely attested in the early Church and that there was indeed a general custom in this sense.
It will become clear that this common direction in liturgical prayer was a solid tradition in both East and West." Let us specify that "the common direction of the priest and the people" means that they look together in the same direction and therefore that the priest does not celebrate facing the people.
And "p.35 There is no doubt that, from the very first times, it was taken for granted for Christians throughout the known world to pray in the direction of the rising sun, that is to say, towards the geographical east.
It was an eschatological direction of the return of Christ, the Light rising on the world.
And p. 51 "Praying facing east was a determining element for early Christian liturgy and architecture. Established as a rule, the direction of the east decided the position of the celebrant at the altar.
Source (in French): Célébration dos au peuple - SERAPHIM
 
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