Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Traditionis custodes & Desiderio desideravi - the soon-to-be abolished Tridentine Mass in Malta


With the death of Benedict XVI at the end of 2022, it became known how painful it was for the late Pope the publication of Traditionis custodes (16 July 2021) as well as Desiderio desideravi (29 June 2022). In the latter document, Pope Francis called on Catholics to overcome forms of aestheticism that appreciate only outward formality or allow sloppiness in liturgy, noting that “a celebration that does not evangelize is not authentic.”

The Pope’s Apostolic Letter reaffirms the importance of ecclesial communion around the Novus Ordo Missae to the detriment of other valid Catholic rites. Below are some pertinent points from it:

  • Recalling the importance of Vatican II’s constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium  the Pope adds, ”I want the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the Church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue” (16).
  • After warning against “spiritual worldliness” and the Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism that fuel it, Pope Francis explains that “Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice is not our own achievement, as if because of it we could boast before God or before our brothers and sisters” and that “the Liturgy has nothing to do with an ascetical moralism. It is the gift of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord which, received with docility, makes our life new. The cenacle is not entered except through the power of attraction of his desire to eat the Passover with us” (20).
  • To heal from spiritual worldliness, we need to rediscover the beauty of the liturgy, but this rediscovery “is not the search for a ritual aesthetic which is content by only a careful exterior observance of a rite or is satisfied by a scrupulous observance of the rubrics. Obviously, what I am saying here does not wish in any way to approve the opposite attitude, which confuses simplicity with a careless banality, or what is essential with an ignorant superficiality, or the concreteness of ritual action with an exasperating practical functionalism” (22).
  • He writes that “it would be trivial to read the tensions, unfortunately present around the celebration, as a simple divergence between different tastes concerning a particular ritual form. The problematic is primarily ecclesiological.” (31) 
  • The Pope points out he does not see how it is possible to say that one recognizes the validity of the Council, and at the same time not accept the liturgical reform born out of Sacrosanctum Concilium.
  • A liturgical-sapiential plan of studies in the theological formation of seminaries would certainly have positive effects in pastoral action. There is no aspect of ecclesial life that does not find its summit and its source in the Liturgy. More than being the result of elaborate programs, a comprehensive, organic, and integrated pastoral practice is the consequence of placing the Sunday Eucharist, the foundation of communion, at the centre of the life of the community. The theological understanding of the Liturgy does not in any way permit that these words be understood to mean to reduce everything to the aspect of worship. A celebration that does not evangelize is not authentic, just as a proclamation that does not lead to an encounter with the risen Lord in the celebration is not authentic. And then both of these, without the testimony of charity, are like sounding a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (37).
  • Among the ritual acts that belong to the whole assembly, silence occupies a place of absolute importance” which “moves to sorrow for sin and the desire for conversion. It awakens a readiness to hear the Word and awakens prayer. It disposes us to adore the Body and Blood of Christ” (52).
  • Pope Francis asks “all bishops, priests, and deacons, the formators in seminaries, the instructors in theological faculties and schools of theology, and all catechists to help the holy people of God to draw from what is the first wellspring of Christian spirituality,” reaffirming what is established in Traditionis custodes so that “the Church may lift up, in the variety of so many languages, one and the same prayer capable of expressing her unity,” and this single prayer is the Roman Rite that resulted from the conciliar reform and was established by the saintly pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II.   
  • Let us recall that in an interview a couple of days after Benedict XVI's death, Archbishop Gänswein admitted the following:

Interviewer: So, Pope Benedict’s lifting of restrictions on celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite according to the 1962 Missal did not last as long as he intended. As Pope Emeritus, he was around to see the promulgation of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis Custodes. Was he disappointed?

Archbishop Gänswein: It hit him pretty hard. I believe it broke Pope Benedict’s heart to read the new motu proprio, because his intention had been to help those who simply found a home in the Missale Vetustum — to find inner peace, to find liturgical peace — in order to draw them away from Marcel Lefebvre. And if you think about how many centuries the old Mass was the source of spiritual life and nourishment for many people including many saints, it’s impossible to imagine that it no longer has anything to offer. And let’s not forget that many young people — who were born long after the Second Vatican Council, and who don’t really grasp all the drama surrounding that council — that these young people, knowing the new Mass, have nevertheless found a spiritual home, a spiritual treasure in the old Mass as well. To take this treasure away from people … well, I can’t say that I’m comfortable with that.

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