In his article on the present sad state of the liturgy (February 16) it seems to me that Aidan Sharratt is making the mistake of approaching the subject from a horizontal rather than a perpendicular point of view.
Whether one refers to the crisis or the watershed which exists makes little difference. Does not the situation arise out of the present concern with transient fancies when the primary and most essential concern of all of us should be whether our worship is satisfactory in the sight of Almighty God'? A question which re quires a spiritual rather than a logical approach.
Father Sharratt's alternatives to describe the priest's function at Mass, while correct, are unsatisfactory. To say or to celebrate Mass (surely the most correct term is "to offer Mass") "representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders and offered by him (the priest) in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body (the Mass) is the Sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacra mentally present on our altars" (Credo of the People of God).
Has not the emphasis in recent years on the community meal detracted from the Mass as the Supreme Act of Worship of Almighty God with a consequent loss of reverence? The mystery and wonder of the greatest of miracles has disappeared and with them the transcending of' time and place: transcendence and mystery which many young people are seeking in the Orthodox Churches and even in Buddhism and the many cults springing up in all parts of the world.
The worshipping community, like any other group of people, is made up of individuals and it is the strength of the deepest interior feelings of each one of' them which makes up the quality of worship of the whole.
Is it not the giving of ourselves as individuals which decides what we "get out" of the Mass? But, being only human we need help in giving ourselves. We need to come to God in a religious atmosphere divorced from the world; in faith and humility; with a recognition of our own unworthiness: to be lifted out of the mundane and into the spiritual.
The banality of pedestrian language is attempting to bring God down to our level when we should be raising ourselves — our hearts and minds — to Him.
We do not need the greetings reminiscent of the host of a TV chat show; we do not need handshaking at the very moment when we are preparing to receive the Body of Our Lord; we should not be thanked for coming as if we were doing God a favour.
We need priests who. aware of the magnitude of their function effecting the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity — offer the Mass with dignity and reverence; with a concentration which makes them oblivious to all else and taking the people with them into the presence of God.
This has, admittedly, become more difficult now that the priest faces the people; a change which has proved a distraction and hindrance to the devotion of priest and people alike and for which there is no provision in either the Documents of the Vatican Council or the institution of the Novus Ordo.
The unceasing Sacrifice of the Mass, the living and continuing proof of God's redeeming love in the Sacrifice of His Son most assuredly deserves and should be given as worthy a setting as man can provide.
No amount of elocution lessons for lay readers, of gimmickry, of matey approaches, of guitar music is going to put back what has been lost; neither will it attract or keep the young whose capabilities and in telligence are so much underrated.
The question Fr Sharratt should be asking is not what the people want. but is the way in which we offer Mass as fitting as inadequate man can make the worship of the Supreme Being?
It is not only for the elderly that the Latin Mass Society is seeking parity of the Old Rite with the New; it is also for the young, of whom we have an increasing number.
They cannot be dismissed as nostalgic, as backward-looking; they too want to worship God in a manner befitting His Divine Majesty; in the manner which stood the test of time — of centuries of constant change in the world of man, and for which holy men and women have been prepared to sacrifice everything, including their lives.