April 14, 2007
The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: A ReviewBy Robert Cheeks
A review of:
Among my first experiences in the metaxy, the place that philosopher Eric Voegelin defined as "the middle ground of human existence between the divine and material realms," occurred in 1958, when as a twelve year old, I attended a celebration of the Mass at St. Aloysius Catholic Church. The experience that occurred during the Consecration of the Mass culminated in an intimate, conscious awareness of the divine ground-of God-that left me in a state of sublime joy and peace.
Needless to say contemporary man is finding it more and more difficult to achieve such a state, developed either as a function of reason or revelation, considering the never-ending assault by the "philosophers of groundlessness" against the notion of the divine ground. For the Rationalist and Gnostic there is no God, at least not in the Greek-Judeo-Christian definition, and thus there is no metaxy, or worse yet, no reason for there to be one. For the Christian, God may be considered in the spatio-temporal reality, but in the metaxy He can begin to be experienced.
There was a time when there was a decided consensus about God that was acknowledged in the celebration of the Mass. The Catholic Church then acted as a bastion against the Enlightenment heresies, a home in which to attain spiritual rest, a place to gather strength against the conflagrations of modernity, and, most importantly, to be before God in adoration. This state of adoration is man's most natural condition and it is this condition that postmodern man neither seeks nor tolerates.
Prayer and prayerful meditation were accepted methods for human beings to place themselves before the Creator, and while we recognized, or should have, that there are a number of methods to dwell in the metaxy, the Mass was unique to Roman Catholicism as a universal mechanism with the potential for an individual to achieve a state of adorific communion with the divine ground, with God. The Mass, at least the Mass celebrated in 1958 (pre-Vatican II), provided the required elements essential to the nature of sacrifice and adoration. An opportunity, freely chosen, for Catholics to experience Transcendent truth, to be in a state of adoration before the one, holy, true, and generous God of Creation.
The pre-Vatican II Mass, a nearly 1500-year-old Roman Rite, that had been modified only a few times throughout its history-and then for very good reasons- carried with it the weight and ambiance of tradition. A tradition that was Apostolic in nature and, more importantly, Christ-centered. It was a tradition that held firmly to the concept of the liturgical cultus; i.e. "the liturgy is primarily a sacred act before God," whose denouement St. Gregory lyrically explicates in terms both sacramental and metaxical:
"...at the hour of Sacrifice, in response to the priest's acclamation, the heavens open up; the choirs of angels are witnessing the Mystery; what is above and what is below unite; heaven and earth are united, matters visible and invisible become united."
Furthermore, the uniqueness of the Mass, as Msgr. Robert Sokolowski points out in his essay, The Eucharist and Transubstantiation, is that it is "one and the same sacrifice offered on Calvary and in the Eucharist, first in a bloody then in a sacramental manner." Sokolowski goes on to explain that, "His (Christ's) obedience to the Father, his acceptance of the cross for our redemption, was an action in time that was related to the eternal Father. It occurred in time but touched eternity. It changed the relationship between creation and the Father. The celestial Eucharist is the eternal aspect of the death of Christ; it is not just a memorial or reminder of that event." The Mass, then, because of the salvific, metastatic nature of the Transubstantiation, is a "cosmic" event, unique in Christendom. Yet, this mysterium fidei, this act of worship and adoration, has come under a severe tension caused by heresy and blasphemy promulgated by "progressive" clerics determined to establish a "modern" church that seeks to answer the "needs," real and imagined, of the proletariat. The "problems and background" of this pernicious liturgical disorder caused by the modern liturgical rite is the thesis of the book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, written by Msgr. Klaus Gamber nearly twenty years ago and recently republished by Roman Catholic Books (Fort Collins, Co.).
Msgr. Gamber was Director of the Institute of Liturgical Science at Regensburg University (Germany). He died June 2, 1989. A quiet, scholarly, man, unknown beyond his circle of friends, colleagues, and those priests and laity who would eventually flock to him seeking answers to the questions raised by the inchoate and heretical actions of the post-Vatican II "progressives." Mgsr. Gamber, however, was widely published and the book in review is a compilation of two or his most important essays: The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background, and Facing the Lord: On the Building of Churches and Facing the East in Prayer.
Gamber's erudite scholarship, introduced the concept of the liturgy "as the mystery of adoration, an idea developed from his innermost thought and from the knowledge he gleaned from obscure prayers used in the early Church; it was this new way of understanding the Mass that he sought to introduce to the Church of our time." Gamber explains in his historical overview, that the Church was involved in internecine contretemps even during the Middle Ages when a virulent minimalism "evolved in the West." A minimalism that sought to "...celebrate the holy mysteries only to the degree absolutely necessary for validity. Thus, in the Western Church, the rites were no more than carried out, rarely celebrated." Also, during the Gothic period the "phenomenon of individuality" was, in part, responsible for the abrogation of the "cosmic liturgy," while he credits the Enlightenment heresies with diminishing the central mysteries of the Faith during the Baroque period. Because of these sometimes external and secular influences the laity began pressing the Church to address "the problems of the day," an oft heard lament utilized by "progressives" to foster "modern" changes in the liturgy today.
Gamber's historical examination of Roman Catholic liturgy is in-depth and exegetical. His affection and admiration for the Eastern (Orthodox) Church for their unwillingness to alter their centuries long liturgy or abandon their focus on adoration, is frequently mentioned throughout the text. While his criticism, both penetrating and extensive, is saved for his historical and theological examination of events following the Second Vatican Council.
Interestingly, Gamber's research cites specific limits to papal authority. The Mgsr. writes, "In fact, it is nowhere mentioned that the pope has the authority to change even a single local liturgical tradition." But, on April 6, 1969, just five years following the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, exercising authority he clearly did not possess, did just that, violating the intent of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Not only had the pope gone beyond the stated recommendations to "revise" the liturgy, he "abolished" the Roman Rite (the so-called "Tridentine" Mass), and "a couple of years later, the traditional liturgical rite was, in fact, forbidden." No pope in history had ever gone so far in changing the liturgy, and in many of those instances where a pope made minor changes they "have never been readily accepted."
Gamber explains that, in his opinion, many of the "progressives" clamoring for liturgical change came out of the Catholic Youth Movement of the 1920s and 1930s which was something of an umbrella organization that included "such diverse groups as hiking clubs, folk dancers, the youth hostel association, the Hitler Youth, and the Young Pioneers. They all shared, however, a communal-socialist perspective according to which tradition and authority were inherently limiting to the energy and innocence of nature of youth intent on building a New World Order."
He examines in detail the totality of changes in the liturgy of the Ordo Missae of 1969. These changes are so sweeping that Gamber argues anyone returning to the Church, after years of separation would not recognize the Mass. But his primary criticism is saved for those who would not only change the words Christ spoke at "the hour of Sacrifice," but also change the intent of those words. For here we have not only heresy, but heresy compounded by blasphemy, and Msgr. Gamber as a disciple of Jesus Christ, as a true church father, could never tolerate such demonically inspired acts within his beloved church.
"Pope Paul VI," the Msgr writes, "saw fit to alter the words of Consecration and Institution, unchanged in the Roman liturgy for 1,500 years-a change that was neither intended by the Council nor of any discernable pastoral benefit. Truly problematic, in fact truly scandalous, is the translation of the phrase pro multis as "for all," a translation inspired by modern theological thinking but not to be found in any historical liturgical text." And, to compound this egregious error, the "moderns" excluded from the liturgical text the words "mysterium fidei" following the Transubstantion "without apparent reason."
All Christians know that Christ died for the sins of man, the Atonement. But Christ did not "take away the sins of all," as St. John Chrysostom so eloquently writes because of the requirement, on the part of the individual, to accept Christ's redeeming grace, in order to accede to God's desideratum.
But God's salvific design is averred in Christ's words spoken at the Last Supper and derived from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, "This is the cup of my blood, of the new and everlasting covenant, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."
The "modern" Rite has changed the word many to all, and this substitution, Msgr. Gamber tells us may be not only a "falsification," but also a heresy "originating with Origen, who held that in the end everyone will be saved." And, he goes even further by suggesting that "...to use falsely the very words spoken by our Lord, words that are to bring about the transubstantiation of the sacrificial offering into His Body and Blood, is to put into the Lord's mouth what is clearly heresy, thus rendering the Mass invalid."
To make the Mass "invalid" is the most serious charge ever leveled against elements of the Church hierarchy; the Inquisition, church authorities permitting known homosexuals to be ordained, prelates overlooking and hiding known pedophiles, the misuse of church funds by individuals, in fact any of the failings charged against the Church stand as insignificant compared to Msgr. Gamber's indictment that because of this change in the wording of the sacrifice, the Mass is rendered "invalid," for it carries with it the seeds of the destruction not only of Catholicism but also the West. Here, we might make the philosophical inquiry, Why is this so?
An "invalid" Mass negates the opportunity for millions to participate in the Theophanic event, to be before the Lord our God in adoration, to experience the "fullness of joy." The precise meaning and use of the words our Lord spoke define the cosmic order, the ultimate reality of God and the myth of immanent reality. The true Mass, predicated on the true words of Christ at the Last Supper, draw the participant into the metaxy permitting the individual the experience of Pneumatic differentiation-the realization of an absolute distinction "between the radically transcendent God" and the "realty" of His creation. And, here the tension in man, existing since the "Fall," finds denouement in the holy act of Consecration and Transubstantiation. Christ's sacrifice and atonement established a nexus between the immanent mythos-reality and the true and everlasting reality of the Transcendent. It places the individual in a Metaleptic (divine-human participation) reality where communion with the one, true God exists, where the vision "is the response to divine presence." There is no Truth beyond this experience.
To "invalidate" the Mass through the heresy of the "modern" rite separates the celebrant and laity from God and adumbrates a parousiasm-a Gnostic mentality "that expects deliverance from the evils of the time through the advent, the coming in all its fullness, of being construed as immanent"-whose intention is the replacement of the Roman Rite (its Consecration and Transubstantiation) with the "communal meal" served by Brother Jesus, while the faithful sing John Lennon's Imagine, with appropriate readings from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
The "progressives" seek to destroy the ability of the individual to enter into the Metaxy, to reduce the Word of God to the innate drivel and meaninglessness of gnostic man speak; the theophonic reality superceded by the immanent reality of a narcissistic self-fulfillment which has distorted human consciousness, and banished the mysterium fidei to history. Many of the Church's clerics and faithful are blissfully unaware of the "untruth of disorder" in which they exist. And, many who know the truth await a metastatic (God's intervention) event that will save the Church and the faithful. Yet, who knows the future?
While our Fundamentalist and Evangelical brothers concern themselves with the physical Apocalypse, where war, famine, disease, and death sweep across the Earth, there already exists an Apocalypse that has distorted the revealed truth, disrupted and mocked the adoration of God, and threatens to extirpate the existential consciousness that provides the reflective or meditative self awareness that opens the metaxy to the faithful. If Satan's goal is to "rob the Christian of his joy and God the worship that is due to only Him," he is succeeding brilliantly.
In the final analysis it is, of course, the burden of Pope Benedict XVI to address this heresy, and I can assure the reader that the pope is not one of the hierarchy responsible for this abomination against God. In the French translation of Msgr. Gamber's book, then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, "What happened after the Council (Vatican II) was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came the fabricated liturgy...Gamber, with the vigilance of a true prophet and the courage of a true witness, opposed this falsification, and, thanks to his incredibly rich knowledge, indefatigably taught us about the living fullness of true liturgy."
The pope's words, then, give us hope that he will work to restore spiritual order in the Roman Catholic Church. We should pray that the work begins soon!
Note: On Nov. 18, 2006, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, announced that the Vatican, siding with Msgr. Gamber. "has ruled that the phrase pro multis should be rendered as "for many" in all new translations of the Eucharistic Prayer."