From the President of CIEL UK
Sir, As a recent convert, Dwight Longenecker's well argued piece entitled Doom, Gloom and Latin, (May 19), referring to the CIEL UK annual Mass on Saturday 13th May, deserves answers.
Of course, as your writer himself suggests, he is missing the point, as do so many converts and Catholics horn since the sixties, an era that brought much confusion both liturgically and catechetically. It is his instruction that he should blame, and not the Tridentine Mass, which, merely codified in the sixteenth century, goes back in all essentials to St. Gregory the Great and thence back to Our Lord at the Last Supper.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains "the night he was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until he should come again".
The point that your writer is missing, is that it is Christ himself who acts through his priests in the Mass, which is a mystery and as such cannot really ever be completely "understood" this side of the grave. So it matters little if each word is intelligible or every action visible in an immediate sense. Any glimpses of this mystery that we may perceive are on a deeply spiritual level, and the theology behind this cannot be glibly summarised within a few paragraphs. This does not mean that such teachings and spiritual perceptions are reserved for intellectuals, on the contrary, as Monsignor Schmitz pointed out at the Third CIEL Colloquium, every person is capable of profound yet simple adoration on the lines of St. Thomas's "My Lord and My God".
Your writer confuses gravity and reverence with doom and gloom; a superficial effervescence with the virtue of Christian joy, which is born deep within a person and may or may not well up to the surface in physical expression.
Within the physical reality and philosophical concept of Calvary there is gravity and reverence, but as the means of our redemption there is also a profound joy and hope. These are serious concepts and we hear little in the gospel crucifixion narratives of jolly hugging or guitars.
The Classical liturgy of the CIEL UK Mass, has absorbed the distilled holiness of countless souls throughout the ages. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it is able to convey particularly well this sense of mystery, into which individuals may penetrate some more deeply than others.
Above all, Mr Longenecker's article draws our attention to the failure of contemporary catechetics to teach the faith of the Catholic Church, in particular the great eucharistic truths, with precision. There needs to be a renewed effort to explain the very nature of liturgy, together with its supporting culture. This need is expressed by the ancient phrase "Lex orandi lex credendi", which can be roughly translated as "the way we pray is the way we believe".
Yours faithfully, NICOLE HALL Bovingdon, Herts HP3 OQA