Midnight Mass, 1916
Fort Douaumont, Verdun (France)
Fr. Richard G. Cipolla, Ph.D., D. (Oxon.), "The Devirilization of the Liturgy in the Novus Ordo Mass [Exclusive article]" (Rorate Caeli, June 26, 2013) -- [This is a long and scholarly article, well-worth reading. Click on the "Read more" link at the bottom of the post to access the whole article.]:
The correspondence between Cardinal Heenan of Westminster and Evelyn Waugh before the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Mass is well known, in which Waugh issues a crie de coeur about the post-Conciliar liturgy and finds a sympathetic, if ineffectual, ear in the Cardinal. What is not as well known is Cardinal Heenan’s comment to the Synod of Bishops in Rome after the experimental Mass, Missa Normativa, was presented for the first time in 1967 to a select number of bishops. This essay was inspired by the following words of Cardinal Heenan to the assembled bishops:At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children.What the Cardinal was referring to lies at the very heart of the Novus Ordo form of the Roman Mass and the attendant and deep problems that have afflicted the Church since the imposition of the Novus Ordo form on the Church in 1970. One might be tempted to crystallize what Cardinal Heenan experienced as the feminization of the Liturgy. But this term would be inadequate and ultimately misleading. For there is a real Marian aspect of the Liturgy that is therefore feminine. The Liturgy bears the Word of God, the Liturgy brings forth the Body of the Word to be worshipped and given as Food. A better terminology might be that in the Novus Ordo rite of Mass the Liturgy has been effeminized. There is a famous passage in Caesar’s De bello Gallico where he explains why the Belgae tribe were such good soldiers. He attributes this to their lack of contact with the centers of culture like the cities. Caesar believed that such contact contributes ad effeminandos animos, to the effeminizing of their spirits. But when one talks about the effeminization of the Liturgy one risks being misunderstood as devaluing what it means to be a woman, womanhood itself. Without adopting Caesar’s rather macho view of the effects of culture on soldiers, one certainly can speak of a devirilization of the soldier that saps his strength and resolve to do what a soldier has to do. It is not a put-down of the feminine. It rather describes the weakening of what it means to be a man.
This is the term, devirilization, that I want to use to describe what Cardinal Heenan saw that day in 1967 at the first celebration of the experimental Mass. In its Novus Ordo form, what Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio: Summorum Pontificum somewhat cumbersomely, if understandably, calls the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite, the Liturgy has been devirilized. One must recall the meaning of the word, vir, in Latin. Both vir and homo mean “man”, but it is vir alone that has the connotation of the man-hero and is the word that is often used for “husband”. The Aeneid begins with the famous words: arma virumque cano. (“I sing of arms and the man-hero.”) What Cardinal Heenan presciently and correctly saw in 1967 was the virtual elimination of the virile nature of the Liturgy, the replacement of masculine objectivity, necessary for the public worship of the Church, with softness, sentimentality and personalization centered on the motherly person of the priest.
... On one of my many stays in Italy I noticed that many of the baby strollers were built such that the baby sat in his seat and faced his mother who was pushing the stroller. This seemed strange to me, since in the United States the baby faces the same way as the mother who is pushing the stroller. When I asked a friend about this she told me that too many Italian mothers want to keep constant eye contact with the baby and to be able to smile at the child, talk in baby talk, to make sure the bond is always there between mother and child. The classic mother-child relationship is heightened almost in a perverse way by this perceived need of the mother to constantly engage her child face to face lest contact with the outside word, with “the other” will damage the relationship.
Without pretending that the above analogy is exact or complete, I would assert that the radical innovation, never mandated by the Council or by any liturgical book, of celebrating Mass with the priest facing the people, has transformed the priest’s role at the Mass from the father who leads his people to offer Sacrifice to the Father, to the mother whose eye contact and liturgical patter- banter with the people and whose sometimes deliberately silly behavior, as if the people are infants, reduces his role as priest to that of the mother of an infant. This reduction of the congregation to infants who are forced to look at the mother-priest prevents them from seeing beyond him to God who is being worshipped in the presence of the cosmic sacrifice of Christ.
... Before turning to the important question of the continuity of the Novus Ordo rite with the traditional Roman rite from the viewpoint of the devirilization of the liturgy, I want to offer comments on two practical results of the devirilization of the liturgy and of the priest. The first is this: the music that the Novus Ordo has produced, both for Mass settings and songs to be sung at the liturgy, is at best functional, at worst sentimental junk that makes the old Protestant evangelical hymns sound like Bach chorales. When Mass is reduced to a self-referential assembly, then music becomes merely functional at best, at worst something to rouse the feelings of the people. This functionalism is a mark of the chilling, outdated and anti-liturgical stance of the liturgical establishment that still controls much of the liturgical life of the Church in the Roman dicasteries, in seminaries, in dioceses and therefore in parishes.
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