15 May 2008

The Smoke of Satan

Some of you may have heard about the homily of His Holiness, Paul VI, in which he said that "from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God." The Holy Father spoke of this in a homily on June 29, 1972, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Some loony rad-trads have taken this to mean that the New Mass or the Second Vatican Council itself are of diabolical origin. Those of us who have our heads screwed on straight, though, know that the Second Vatican Council was a true ecumenical council and that the Novus Ordo is indeed a valid Mass. The Council and the Mass have been hijacked and grossly misinterpreted, to the detriment of Holy Church.

A new interview with Cardin
al Virgilio Noé, a former Master of Ceremonies for Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, sheds some light on what the Pope meant when he referred to the smoke of Satan.

"[Pope Paul], for Satan, meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dry straw in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One. So, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which wanted to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony."
Wow! Now Paul VI isn't my favorite Pope because of several reasons: the simplification of the Mass, ridding himself of the Papal Tiara, etc.. but he was Pope nonetheless and did stand against artificial contraception and some of the other liberal movements in the Church. Now if Cardinal Noé is correct, we get some very interesting insights into Paul VI's idea of the state of the liturgy immediately after the implementation of the New Mass. When priests try to get creative and do their own thing, the Mass can only get worse. This is one of the benefits of ad orientem worship- the priest is focused on the altar and not the congregation, so he is less inclined to try to perform.

The Cardinal's mention of an errant interpretation of the Council brings up a broader point. First, I'd like to distinguish between the Novus Ordo de jure and the Novus Ordo de facto. The celebration of the New Mass de jure (as it is laid out in the books) can be solemn and reverent, especially if the more traditional options are used. This would include ad orientem celebration, generous use of Latin and chant, and Eucharistic Prayer I over the shorter (and may I say uglier?) prayers. I still prefer a good Traditional Mass over the Novus Ordo, but that is beside the point here. On the other hand, we have the de facto celebration of the Novus Ordo in parishes throughout the world. Icky, sometimes heretical songs... additions, changes, deletions. These things are what make Mass a joke. This is the smoke of Satan.

Now that this is out of the way, let's look at what the Council really wanted. The document related to the Liturgy is the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. First, the Council Fathers say "
there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing." Now, that sounds like a limiting restriction. There should be minimal changes in the Mass, only changes that need to be made. Also, these changes should grow from the current form. In many cases, there was a rupture, not an organic growth.

"Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful." Mass is meant primarily for worship and adoration of God. Its main focus is not didactic in nature. Unfortunately, I find myself in most 30 minute Novus Ordo weekday Masses listening to readings and a homily for about 15 minutes! From the time I return to my pew from Communion to the dismissal, maybe 2 minutes have passed. The emphasis has turned from adoration of the Blessed Trinity through the Sacrifice to a people-oriented "me, you, us together" learning experience and get together.

Finally, the issue of Latin. The Council desired that Latin remain the language of the LATIN Church, but that the vernacular could be used in some places, at the discretion of the bishop. Compare this to what we see in most places- no Latin at all, vernacular throughout, and ugly, innacurate translations at that!

There are the exceptions, however. By exceptions I mean those places and priests that actually follow the books and love tradition.
  • St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago celebrates the TLM and the Novus Ordo (in English and Latin) with great beauty.
  • St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul is famous for its beautiful music- Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony. The Novus Ordo is often celebrated in Latin.
  • St. Peter's Basilica! The Holy Father and his new MC Guido Marini is bringing great solemnity and reverence to Papal Masses, with seven candles on the altar, an ad orientem Mass in the Sistine Chapel, more frequent use of chant, etc.
Let us all pray to St. Michael the Archangel that he might defend the Church from the attacks of Satan. If the Devil can get a hold of the liturgy, he has the Church by the throat. We have confidence, however, that the Holy Spirit will never allow the Church to go under.

In Jesus and Mary,

The interview may be found here.


Anonymous Gerald said...

Man, I've been to St. John Cantius. It is absolutely breathtaking, and puts to shame so much of the child's play I've seen in local masses of late.

There is no doubt there that the focus of the Mass is Christ Himself. Something many liturgists, choir directors, and even priests could stand to be reminded of every now and then.

May 15, 2008 7:05 PM  
Blogger Cliff Notes said...

There are so many liturgical gems you are overlooking. Thuma Mina for instance, or Sing a New Church, or how about Se Ya Hamba?

May 16, 2008 8:09 AM  

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