It is no accident that much of the most beautiful art and music in the Western tradition has been religious, and that a good deal of that has been produced for use in the sacred liturgy.
Evangelization isn’t just giving people a set of propositions, or a rulebook to follow. It’s inviting them into a relationship with the living God. But first we must get their attention. Human beings are by nature drawn to beauty. If we want people to fall in love with God, we must give them a glimpse of His loveliness.
Of course, love is the primary way we do this. But it’s a mistake to think that the outward forms of the Faith—liturgy, music, art, architecture—are superfluous. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These outward manifestations of beauty reveal something of the great love of God for us. They are also a sign of our love for Him.
There’s so much ugliness and banality all around us—it’s the hallmark of our post-Christian age. The Church must provide a refuge from all that.
The article linked below describes the connection between beauty and right worship, and explains why “there are no box stores… in the City of God.”
This is not what we council fathers decided; this is against the decisions of the council. I cannot understand how the Holy Father could give his consent to such a thing.
Josef Cardinal Frings, 1969
The short article linked below gives us a little insight into how the Mass of Paul VI (aka the Ordinary Form) came to be.
The point of sharing this is not to shock our readers (though it might indeed raise some eyebrows). Rather, we just want to reaffirm why we are so concerned with conforming our liturgical celebrations to the authentic vision of Vatican II, as revealed in the document Sacrosanctum concilium.
It’s not about mere aesthetics or nostalgia: it’s simply about being faithful and giving God what is due Him.
More parishes are discovering Mass the way it was meant to be celebrated, returning to the authentic teaching of Vatican II. Take some time to watch this episode of The Catholic Talk Show, where they discuss “5 Ways to Improve the Novus Ordo Mass.”
How many of their suggestions do you see here at St. Mark every Sunday? Did they miss anything?
The Church’s existence lives from proper celebration of the liturgy, and the Church is in danger when the primacy of God no longer appears in the liturgy nor consequently in life.
Pope Benedict XVI
If you would like more insight into the reform of the liturgy, both before and after the Second Vatican Council, this article from Adoremus is worth your time. In it, the author traces liturgical developments in the 20th century through the eyes of Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.
There is only one inner direction of the Eucharist, namely, from Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The only question is how this can be best expressed in liturgical form.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1986
There continues to be considerable misunderstanding of ad orientem worship by many Catholics, which is unfortunate, because there is so much depth of meaning and rich theology involved in the simple gesture of the priest facing the same direction as the people during Mass.
One of our goals at St. Mark has been to gradually restore Gregorian chant to its rightful place in the sacred liturgy. This is specifically in response to the call of Vatican II: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specifically suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (Sancrosanctum concilium, 116).
One might be tempted to think that there was an unbroken tradition of Gregorian chant in the Roman liturgy right up until the 1960’s, when “everything changed.” But that’s not quite right. It turns out that Gregorian chant fell on hard times from the about the end of the Middle Ages up until the mid-19th century. It’s ironic that it was that other venerable liturgical musical form, polyphony, that worked to undermine the purity of chant and initiate its decline.
The Communion meditation sung by our choir this Sunday was the motet Ave Verum Corpus by English composer William Byrd. This is a Eucharistic hymn that is also very fitting for the Transfiguration and the season of Lent. Listen to a recorded version below.
How come churches don’t look like they used to look when I was a kid?
Last week, we saw how the use of sacred images in churches has waned over the past half-century or so, and why it’s important to rediscover them, as they are a legitimate part of the liturgy itself. In Part 8 of the series, Dr. McNamara draws our attention specifically to liturgical images, and explains why the good intentions of liturgical reformers ultimately resulted in the beige, sterile church environments we often encounter today. He goes on to
distinguish liturgical images from the other types of sacred images (devotional and historical) and calls for the return of images to their rightful place in the liturgical space.
The article from The Catholic Thing linked at the bottom provides an interesting perspective on the ongoing conflict over the two forms of the Latin Rite Mass, a conflict sometimes referred to as “the Liturgy Wars.”
This unfortunate battle involves a small but vociferous minority of Catholics who have only hardened their positions since Pope Francis issued Traditionis custodes. Whether you’re a partisan in these “wars,” or merely a bemused bystander, we should be able to agree on one thing: this is NOT the way forward for Christ’s Holy Church.
In Part 7 of the Catholic Architecture series, Dr. McNamara addresses the importance sacred images in the church building. Like many of the things we’ve been looking at in this video series, the use of sacred images suffered a bit of a decline in the years since Vatican II, at least in the Western Church. Some spoke of images being a “distraction,” taking your attention away from the action of the liturgy.
But as Dr. McNamara points out, far from being a distraction during the liturgy, sacred images are part of the liturgy itself. They make visible things that are ordinarily invisible. They enable us to encounter people (and other beings) who are not physically with us, but who are nevertheless present spiritually. Images also make us aware that we are worshiping with a much larger community than we can see with our eyes.