The World, the Sacred Heart and the New Mass

A PRIEST who offers the traditional Latin Mass soon becomes very familiar with the Propers for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The feast itself falls on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi, but the Missal prescribes the same texts for the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart which is offered on First Fridays.

In the Postcommunion, the following phrase appears:

… having tasted the sweetness of Thy most dear Heart, may we learn to despise earthly things and love those of heaven.

The phrase in bold, “to despise earthly things” (terrena despicere), is one that recurs frequently in the orations that the old Missal prescribes for various feasts and observances throughout the liturgical year.

The expression reflects the teaching that there will always be a conflict between the Christian and the world. It is founded in Scripture (“Whosoever, therefore, will be the friend of the world,” says St. James, “becometh an en­emy of God”) and echoed in the writings of countless theologians, ascetics and saints throughout the ages. The traditional liturgy, therefore, points to this disdain for earthly things as something singularly virtuous.

Not so the new liturgy. The Missal of Paul VI excised this idea not only from the Mass of the Sacred Heart, but also from the many other prayers in the Missal where it formerly appeared, for example, from orations for the Second Sunday of Advent, and for the feasts of St. Peter Damian, St. Cajetan, St. Angela Merici, St. Casimir, St. Paulinus of Nola, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Hedwig, and St. Henry. (See Work of Human Hands, 231–4.)

The creators of the New Mass said that this change in the “doctrinal reality” that the prayers expressed reflected “the new view of human values” proposed by Vatican II (WHH, 223), and was “dictated by the new theology.” (WHH, 300)

Those of us who endured the post-Vatican II liturgical revolution recall the assurances that the liturgical changes in fact represented a “return to the sources” (ressourcement) or a restoration of  the spirit of the early Church. So, did the reformers then “restore” prayers from older liturgical sources that were more “positive” about the world?

Alas, no. A Secret from the old Leonine Sacramentary, for instance, contained the petition that we “be purified from the [moral] infections of the world.” But the man of today, said one of the revisers, believes that earthly reality is fundamentally sacred; the phrase would appear “severe” and would “collide with modern sensibilities.” Hence the petition in the “restored prayer” that appears in the Missal of Paul VI now merely asks that we “be freed from the allurements of the world.”  (WHH, 300–1)

Even some scripture texts were considered too much. The new Lectionary makes optional St. Paul’s condemnation of the “enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame,” and of those “who mind earthly things.” (Formerly, it was read on Pentecost XXIII.)

And the Lectionary permits a substitute reading for the passage containing Our Lord’s words: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal.” (See WHH, 269)

And so it goes countless times in the New Mass. The differences between the old and the new rites run far deeper than atmosphere, “tradition” and “a sacrality which attracts.”

The Novus Ordo does indeed, as its creators stated, reflect a new “doctrinal reality.” And  it is for that reason that the faithful Catholic must reject it.

Lex orandi, lex credendi — the law of praying is the law of believing.

TALKS: I will be giving talks and signing copies of Work of Human Hands in Brooksville FL (June 16), Northeast Detroit (June 18) and Southwest Detroit (June 19).

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