The value of the Ancient Roman Rite

We publish an email that has come to us in recent days from an Exsurge “rosary”:

Dear Fathers Brothers in Christ, in the meantime I inform you that regardless of the calendar commitments I am praying to three Holy Rosaries every day. I am not a Consecrated Woman, I dedicate myself to the house, so part of my prayer is when I cook, work and iron, walk and drive. Before I had some difficulty praying the Rosary of the day, now three are my commitment with the Lord.For several months I have been frequenting almost exclusively the Churches where he officiates with the Vetus Ordo of St. Pius V, this is because during the months of spring imprisonment I had reread in my Missal of 1960 the words of that Mass: I had understood how we were robbed. Not only of words, of prayers, but above all of the true and profound meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of Christ the Lord offered to the Father, so that the Priest must be addressed to the Father, to the Lord in the Tabernacle, to the Cross, not to the faithful. The Offering, the Holy Sacrifice, must be made to the Father and the Prayers must be addressed to the Father, because Jesus offered himself to the Father.Today I could only go to my Parish and realize the misunderstanding that is normally made, as a consequence, of the Offertory: “we offer bread and wine, the fruit of our work, so we offer ourselves”. And once again my heart was frozen. I do not entertain you about the double and blasphemous apostasy contained in the homily of a Jesuit on the day of Corpus Christi, a few years ago, words that I remember well and that made my Confessor exclaim ” Mercy! And the Bishop doesn’t even know! Let us pray the Rosary, but I ask you to begin to publish with due importance what holy mass is, what it really is, because if the meaning is lost we are lost. Thank you for what you want and can do. My regards. Praise be to Jesus Christ. Gd

To respond to this email we believe we do what is welcome in publishing a homily held by the priest of the FSSP, Father Konrad zu Loewenstein,when he was parish priest of the church of Simon Piccolo in Venice:

The value of the Ancient Roman Rite

To evaluate the merits of a rite of Mass it is first necessary to consider the nature of mass. Now, Holy Mass is nothing more than the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary: the priest is the same, that is, Jesus Christ in the person of the celebrant; the victim is the same, that is, Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. The same priest, the same victim: the same sacrifice. Every rite of Mass of the Catholic Church makes this sacrifice present; there are many rites, including the Byzantine rite, the Ambrosian rite, the Syro-Malabar rite, the new rite of Paul VI, but to evaluate a particular rite one must ask how appropriate it is to the Sacrifice of Calvary.

Sacrifice, humility and
With regard to the ancient Roman rite, we must immediately note that it is very appropriate to the sacrifice of Calvary and this in three general ways, that is, the ancient rite clearly manifests the sacrificial nature of mass, and the due humility and reverence of those who participate in this Sacrifice. The ancient rite manifests the sacrificial nature of the Mass first in its use of a sacrificial altar (rather than a table) that contains the relics of the martyrs, a sacrificial altar in an elevated position (as suggested by the etymology of the term altar, or high macaw) representing Mount Calvary; the sacrificial nature of the Mass in its constant use of the terms “sacrifice” and “oblation”, and in the many signs of the cross. The ancient rite manifests humility in several ways, including the two Confectors, with their recourse to angels and saints, Domine prayer not sum dignus three times before Holy Communion, beating one’s chest three times in the Confiteor and Domine non sum dignus and Communion on its knees and on the tongue – because Holy Communion is not any object that is appropriated , but God himself who receives, in all unworthyness, humiliation and recollection. The ancient rite also manifests reverence in all these ways and, moreover, in the many bows and genuflections of the celebrant; in his attention not to drop any fragment, not even the smallest of the Blessed Sacrament, to keep his fingers closed and to scrupulously purify the patena, the corporal, the fingers, and similarly also the chalice. These three aspects of the ancient rite: his clear manifestation of sacrifice, humility and reverence are expressed in an exemplary way in the Placeat Tibi prayer, recited by the celebrant towards the end of Holy Mass with a profound bow: “May it be to you, O Holy Trinity, the ossequity of my servitude, and grant that the Sacrifice I unworthy offered in the eyes of Your Majesty , may I accept you and fruitful goodness for your goodness to me and to all those to whom I have offered it, for Christ our Lord. So be it.’

The celebrant’s position, Latin, silence We
now consider three particular ways in which the ancient rite is appropriate to the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, that is, the position of the celebrant, the use of Latin, and silence. These three elements have been criticized by those who do not like this rite.
The first element is criticized with phrases such as: “The priest gives his back to the faithful”. The simple answer to this is: “The priest gives the face to God”. We have seen that Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary. This sacrifice, in the words of Saint John of the Cross, is the Sacrifice of God, from God, to God: it is the Sacrifice that our Lord Jesus Christ makes of himself to God the Father. During Holy Mass the celebrant (in the person of Christ) offers this Sacrifice to God truly present in the tabernacle and represented on the cross. It does not offer sacrifice to the people, but with the people and for the people, as also means the word “liturgy”, which means “the work (ergon) for the people (laos)” and this explains the position of the celebrant who is at the head of the people addressed as they and with them to God. Criticizing this position of the celebrant is like criticizing a lawyer who is not in front of his clients in court. That would be absurd criticism, because the lawyer has to present his case to the judge for his clients, and therefore he must be addressed to the judge like his clients and with his clients who are therefore behind him. The second element, the use of Latin, is criticized with phrases such as: “No one understands Latin”. The answer to this is that, in fact, some understand it, and many understand at least some element, such as prayers, Gloria in excelsis Deo, Agnus Dei; and yet there are booklets with translations to help us understand, and there have always been. It is true that Latin requires a certain effort for the faithful, but there are good reasons to make this effort. A first reason would be that Latin is a sacred language, more appropriate to the Holy Sacrifice of Mass which is a work of God that absolutely transcends all things of this world; a second reason is that Latin is an immutable language, and therefore it is appropriate for the Holy Sacrifice which is also immutable and made present in its identical form with each celebration of Mass; a third reason is that Latin is a traditional language that unites us with Holy Mass as it was celebrated over the centuries; a fourth reason is that Latin is a universal language for all those who pray according to the Roman rite, just as the sacrifice of the ordeal is a universal sacrifice: for all men – at least for all men who want to accept it. Until recently a faithful could go to Mass in any country of the world: Poland, China, Holland, Germany etc. and through this rite be united with the other Catholics present, and be welcomed into the comforting bosom of the mother Church.

In fact, because Latin is traditional and universal, it can unite all Roman Catholics of all nations and all eras. Latin is a sacred, immutable, traditional and universal language, and for this reason it is more appropriate to the Sacrifice of Mass, as it is to the Church and catholicism itself. It may be added that rejecting Latin from Mass means rejecting even the most beautiful music in the world, which was written for the Church: Gregorian chant and the works of music of the greatest classical composers, which music was banned by the Church and desecrated, confining it to concert halls and recording studios. One may wonder whether the criticism of the celebrant’s position and Latin does not contain something self-centered: “I want the celebrant to address me and I want to understand immediately”. Because in Holy Mass you do not lower something at the level of man, but you rise to the level of God; you do not remain locked up in your own humanity, but you leave oneself towards divinity; you do not appropriate yourself, but you give yourself; you do not dominate, but humiliate one one one one one one may before the infinite Majesty of God.

And it’s not so much about knowing, it’s about loving. In fact, Holy Mass, the Sacrifice of Calvary are something that we will never fully understand. If Latin is an excellent way to express what we can understand, the rest is silence. Now, people who do not appreciate silence, who say: “Nothing is said, nothing is done, no participation”, neglect that silence makes possible what is greater than words or gestures, which allows a deeper participation in the holy mysteries of Mass: that is, contemplation and adoration of God, the humiliation of oneself and the offering of oneself to God. “Be quiet and know that I am God.”

Perfect work
and mystery
There are two last aspects of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that are well expressed in the Ancient Roman Rite and these are its perfection and mystery. The Holy Sacrifice of Mass is a perfect work because the work of God, Opus Dei in the words of St. Bernard, indeed his greatest work: it therefore requires a corresponding collaboration on the part of men, in fact the solemn Mass according to this rite has been called the greatest fulfillment of Western civilization. All elements must contribute to this sublime, divine and human work at the same time: gestures, movements, church architecture, vestments, candles, incense, singing, music, flowers. Everything must be perfect (humano way), beautiful and worthy of God.

In the final analysis all these elements express a mystery that, as we have said, we can never understand: the mystery that God is called on the altar by a man, that bread and wine become God and make present the Sacrifice of Calvary, that this unique Sacrifice is repeated over the centuries, that God sacrifices God to God, that God is consumed by His creatures , who are thus united with him and with all the members of the Church, who the whole Church on earth, in Purgatory and paradise enjoy it. These mysteries require an adequate framework, a framework that the ancient rite provides in an admirable way, in which the faithful, at least once a week, can emerge from the modern world and from daily life, hard and sometimes even ugly and painful, to find a reflection of the beauty and mystery of God sublime and absolutely transcendent, the One who alone can make sense of their life; finally, a picture where they can lower themselves before His divine Majesty, worship Him and offer himself completely to Him in union with the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary.

Venice, Sunday, October 22, 2006

To learn more about the topic, we attach the following essay for which we recommend reading:

Hail Mary, Deo gratias!

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