Rorate Caeli

Radicati EDITORIAL: "The New Mass, The Mass of the Assembly: the Cradle of Agnosticism"

Editorial: Radicati nella fede, September 2015
Newsletter of the Catholic community of
Vocogno, Diocese of Novara, Italy

That which is no longer present in the Mass, inevitably disappears from Catholic life. It is only a matter of time - and not much at that.

This is what has happened with the last liturgical reform: the “empty spaces” of the rite have become the “empty spaces” of a new Christianity.

We’d like to focus on one among the many: the disappearance of the submissa voce for the priest, which corresponds to lack of silence in the assembly. It appears to us that this is one of the points that most evidently indicates a radical change in the Catholic Rite. Then again, it is typically this which appears to be scandalous to the faithful who chance upon the Traditional Mass: the long parts where the priest, especially in the Canon, pronounces the words softly, and the faithful - not being able to hear anything - are obliged to be silent.

We have noticed many times that this is more of a problem than the use of Latin.

And yet, the submissa voce is a determining factor. If it is eliminated, everything changes not only in the Mass, but in Christianity itself.

The submissa voce, for the priest and the corresponding long silence of the faithful, “interlocks” the priest and faithful, with no human support [at all]. The priest at the altar must be present before God, repeating softly Our Lord’s own words,[thus] renewing the Sacrifice of Calvary. It is a direct personal, intimate relationship with God; obviously mediated by orders of the Church, which guards and transmits the words that constitute the form of the Sacrament, yet, in that instant, does not lean upon Her human aspect, but on a miracle of grace. In doing this, the priest in the Traditional Rite, teaches the faithful immediately that it is God Himself Who is the main protagonist, it is His action, it is His salvation and these [graces] reach each one of us personally.

The New Mass is not like this; it’s all about the community. The priest, besides facing the assembly, operates as one who narrates what the Lord did at the Last Supper: he recounts the words and gestures of the Lord to the faithful so that the sacramental action which arises from it, appears entirely mediated by the attention that the assembly are obliged to have. The Canon, this exceedingly personal relationship that the priest has with God at the very heart of the Mass, disappears, and is substituted by the extenuating relationship with those who are present. The new form of community Mass has consequently changed the priest so much, as he is thrown into the most exhausting activism, i.e.; letting his faith and relationship with God be mediated by the faithful. The new Mass has produced a new type of clergy, no longer able to be with God, nor anchored in the act of faith.

The continuous dialogue in the Mass between the priest and the assembly has also modified the very concept of the Church: today we think of the Church as nascent from the lower ranks, from Baptism and thus from the Christian populace; we don’t believe anymore that She is nascent from above, from God, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Those who believe that the Church rises from Baptism, cannot bear that priest on the altar softly pronouncing the words that constitute the miracle of the Sacrament.

Even the faithful are being ruined by the new Rite, being that they are continuously entertained by the priest’s talk and they too have also forgotten how to be still before God. In this way God finds Himself being substituted by the celebrating assembly, which becomes an encumbrance in the teaching of a personal act of faith.

Recently, there has been an attempt to put things right in the modern Mass, by trying (in vain) to reintroduce a bit of silence right after the reading of the Gospel. However, also this measure proves the gravity of the new position. This reintroduced silence, usually very brief, is a human silence of meditation, or rest: it is of a completely different nature than that silence produced by the submissa voce. The submissa voce produces a silence which envelopes the priest’s intimate relationship with God. The priest gives his person [to God] so that the Divine act of salvation occurs. The silence of the submissa voce is centered on the action of God and not on man’s meditation, and is one of the greatest reminders of the primacy of supernatural life and grace.

There is nothing else for it, we need a return to the Mass of ages – for a return to the central position of the act of faith which is the personal response to God’s action. Both the priest and the faithful cannot resist the world if they are not strengthened by this very personal relationship which no assembly can substitute.

The alternative? Real agnosticism: real doubts in the faith, the soul suspended but nonetheless filled by the words of an assembly which ‘entertains’ in order not to think. We dare say it: the new Mass - practically all said aloud, all narration and preaching - has nourished different kinds of agnosticism in both priests and laity, thus, not blocking the drama of apostasy: the actual abandonment of the Christian life.

The New Mass has mislead then, by giving, in the best of cases, some cheap human warmth yet educating [people] poorly from the position of the true faith, something that is absolutely necessary in order to get through the battles of this life.

Let’s go back to the Traditional Mass, first-class training in true Christianity.

[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]