Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Apostolic Zeal and Contemplation

This afternoon I made a hurried read of an article by the ever feisty Peter Kwasniewski, taking on the neo-con establishment's dismissal of all the good folk who embrace the tradition: "I wish someone would explain to the Longeneckers and Weigels of the world that whatever else is going on, nostalgia plays no role in it." 

Dr. Kwasniewski's article goes beyond the usual parry, that traditional liturgy attracts young people and families and hence cannot be simply an exercise in nostalgia. Personally, rather than dismiss nostalgia altogether, I guess I would like to quarter it as a healthy, yes enriching component to life. But I would put the accent on its being a component of something much greater or a part of the pedestal for that something else which should be classified piety or true devotion in matters religious.

Despite the forecast of imminent rain, I decided to try and get in as much of my daily constitutional as weather conditions would permit. I was treated to my first glimpse of snow this year in Bern (at 500 meters above sea level, we are generally below the snow line here in Switzerland). As nostalgia goes, it reminded me of an outing maybe three years later than I stand in the picture above. Dad and I went on a snowy, slushy afternoon before Christmas to downtown Sioux Falls to buy the family's very first black and white TV set, a Magnavox! The blond wood cabinet was more impressive than the picture  tube. The nostalgia surrounding this event defies sorting out. Was it going to the music store for the purchase along with Dad? Was it the slushy snow we trudged through on our mission? Whatever it was, the memory is pegged to certain associations and always draws forth a good feeling about the rightness of certain things in the world, when called forth by slushy downtown streets in my hometown or even in Bern.

I have no intention of breaking a lance in defense of nostalgia, although the Longeneckers and Weigels of this world would seem unjust or overblown in their attempts to give it a bad rap. Rather, I would like to say that what the embrace of the tradition and of traditional liturgy has to offer ought rather to be classified, yes, as piety or true devotion. Apart from my own personal sense or experience of the profound rightness of worship according to the 1962 Missal, as I have experienced it as a bishop celebrating both solemn pontificals and the more restrained Missa Praelatitia, I wish to testify first and foremost to the devotion with which people assist at these Holy Masses.

For me, the absolute game changer is the way they receive Holy Communion. Not only will I decry the hectic of Novus Ordo Communion processions by comparison with Communion at the altar rail, but in distributing Holy Communion I am witness to the extreme qualitative difference between Communion as traditionally given on the tongue and Communion in the hand. Let me put it this way: I have never but never been edified by a person who presents himself or herself for Communion in the hand. Nostalgia is not a component in this equation.

The recovery of the Vetus Ordo with all its intricacies, its Latin, its silences, its absolute orientation is the most people appropriate way to inspire true devotion. I just wish I could always celebrate that way. We live in hope!

My title to this blog entry is a reference to a book I finished recently, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. THE WAY OF PRAYER A Commentary on Saint Teresa’s Way of Perfection. Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition. I can recommend it to all who want to give meditation and contemplation another try. Father Gabriel speaks in the book of the Carmelite reform of St. Teresa of Avila as apostolic, as grounded in the apostolate.

By analogy, I would like to see in a reform or recovery or restoration, returning us to the solid ground of the Mass of All Times, that ineluctable and necessary seedbed for the proclamation of the Gospel from the rootedness of a life not so much hidden in Christ as immersed in Him.


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