"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I Label Myself a Liturgical Purist

People like to label other people. Call it a sin, call it a vice; it's really part of our fallen human nature.

We Catholics are as bad as anyone else. Just think for a second and a long list should come quickly to mind:

Hippie Catholic
Conservative Catholic
Cafeteria Catholic
Liberal Catholic
Spirit of Vatican II Catholic
Pre-Vatican II Catholic
Traditional Catholic*
Integral Catholic
Homeschooling Catholic
Social Justice Catholic
Pro-Life Catholic
Small "o" orthodox Catholic.

I think you get the point. This doesn't even include all the labeling that results from allegiances to all the various orders - Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Marianists, etc.

I have a love/hate relationship with labels. I think they're damaging, yet convenient; idealistic and naive; descriptive, distinctive, and divisive. But they're not going away.

So might as well embrace them right?

Personally, when it comes to labeling myself, especially to the "outside" world, I tend to shy away from the "typical" labels, such as those listed above. I am first and foremost a Catholic. That's it. No addendum needed. No clarification required.

However, when, in polite discussion, the topic of Catholicism is broached - which in my conversations is quite common - and greater distinctions are needed for the sake of more thoughtful discourse, I do have a label with which I prefer to describe myself: "liturgical purist."

You might be saying to yourself "What sort of new-agey mumbo jumbo is that?" Or "that sounds awefully hoity-toity."

Well, this descriptor of mine was really inspired by a little twist on James 1:27 which I think (I hope) makes clear what I'm trying to say:
Liturgy that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To give glory to God through the Son and to keep the sense of the sacred mystery at all times.

We Catholics can get very divisive when it comes to labeling ourselves based on our liturgical preference, and I don't think it's not a positive development in the history of the Church. So no, I don't use the term "traddie." Nor do I call myself a "Latin Mass" attendee. And I am definitely not an "onlyist." These labels are especially short-sighted, intentionally alienating, and generally unhelpful.

I think the biggest problem for either side of this discussion, but especially for those on the "traddie" side, is the tendency to worship the Mass (consciously or unconsciously), with all its glory and beauty, as an object of worship in-and-of-itself, instead of worshiping Christ through the Mass. Similarly, I argue there are those who fall firmly in the, let's say, "Spirit of Vatican II" camp who worship the Mass too, but for reasons distinct from why those on the "traddie" side do.

In my view the Mass is a tool for us to give glory to God through the Son by a re-creation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. That is, I believe, the proper understanding of Mass. I say this with all humility, and I am willing to be corrected on this point if it is in error.

I believe any intellectually honest person will admit there are problems with Mass in the Ordinary Form/New Rite/Mass of Paul VI/Novus Ordo (too many options and lack of clarity in the rubrics, misplaced emphasis, and lessening of the sense of the sacred) just as there are also issues with the Mass in the Extraordinary Form/Traditional Latin Mass (complex rubrics, the difficulty of the Latin language, tendency towards feelings of spiritual superiority).

What we must remember is that we are flawed humans trying to bring a little bit of heaven here to earth. That's a tough assignment. Oh most certainly, the Mass is divinely inspired and the most beautiful thing this side of heaven, so we have some help in the task, but ultimately it is not the Mass itself (meaning the rubrics, actions, words, music, etc.) that will get us to heaven. It is only God and His endless mercy that will get us there - we must always remember that! - but only if we properly take advantage of and use the tools He has entrusted to us, the most vital and important being the Mass (and the sacraments).

Which is why I say the Mass needs to be glorious, reverent, and purposeful. As long as it is, I'm fine with it, no matter the form it takes.

I want liturgy, pure and undefiled before God, because I believe that will help get me to heaven. Is that too much to ask?


*A friend of mine even came up with labels specifically for the "traddies" to define just what sort of traditionalist flavor one might come from - "rad" (short for "radical) trad, sad trad, glad trad, and mad trad. I then came up with two more: fad trad (those who attend the TLM just because it's the "thing" to do) and "crad" trad (short for "cradle", i.e., those who were raised attending the TLM, such as yours truly)

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