25 May 2007

Heroes of our Time

Taken from NLM

In these days prior to the Motu Proprio, many people are busy – in a fin de siècle sort of way – sizing up the past and deciding who should be given credit for courage and steadfastness during the difficult decades following the close of the Second Vatican Council. It's true: the impending Motu Proprio invites us to take another look at those who refused to abandon the traditional Roman Rite, believing it to be the Mass of the Ages, and endured all the put downs and ecclesiastical ridicule for their fidelity. Sometimes adhering to truth requires even pushing around the edges of the legal norms, or taking activist risks to push those norms to comply with what is true. Many priests and laypeople took those risks to keep the old liturgy part of the ongoing history of Catholic life.

But we should also draw attention to a different kind of courage that we don't often hear celebrated: namely, those who complied with the changes as they took place following the Council and stuck to them all these years, even when they found the environment less than perfect, or even judged the new rite as it is ill-suited to the dignity of the liturgy. I'm thinking of a priest I know who winces at the new translations; you can see it in his face as he reads. But he obeys, endures, and keeps his complaints to himself as best he can.

Or there is another priest I know who adores chant and high ritual but found himself as an associate under an aging-hippy pastor who for years worked to stamp out anything distinctively Catholic or traditional at the parish. The young priest suffered in silence and always with genuine charity until he was finally made pastor of a parish across town. That exact scenario is repeated in dozens of cases I can think of.

Another priest I know is no fan of the new rite as it is but took risks with the diocese to put an altar rail in his parish: and earned the wrath of bureaucrats at the chancery. He defended the legitimacy of the rail against all attacks, and the people backed him. The rail survives, but he has been punished through a whispering campaign that encourages others to look down on him and keep their distance.

Or another who suffers miserably at the hearing of pop music but endured it at his parish for a decade because he was not in a position to stop it. Or another who was ordered from parish to parish throughout his diocese because the Bishop suspected that he was secretly converting parishioners to orthodoxy. Still another was actually silenced by his order but believes himself called to be there, so he doesn't budge. He serves as best as he is able.

There are hundreds of stories like this, people who complied, obeyed, and stuck it out for years, promoting the faith in the best way they could but always within the norms and in the context of an unfriendly diocesan culture. Isn't this a kind of heroism too? I've heard it said among monks that poverty and chastity are the easiest part of vows; it’s the vow to obedience that is the most difficult. So it must be.

I genuinely admire the priests who have stayed on the path within the norms all these years, while knowing it was imperfect. Some of them have suffered terribly. The new Catholic liturgical culture that is emerging – with the Motu Proprio and the new translations coming from the ICEL, together with the extraordinary influence of Benedict XVI – will make their lives easier. They aren't as likely to be regarded as odd balls. It's good to remember that resistance isn't the only path to heroism. Obedience can be the most difficult path of all.

24 May 2007

Sunday after Ascension

Taken from De Fide Catholica

At first sight, the words of Jesus that we have heard in the gospel are not very encouraging: “They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.”(Jn16,2) The History of the early Church would confirm the words of Jesus. The Jews, who had not known the Father and not recognized His Son expulsed the Apostles and their disciples from the synagogues. They killed those who professed that Jesus who was crucified was now risen from the dead, because they were blasphemers. Doing this, they thought that they did a service to God. Among them, one of the most zealous, was Saul of Tarsus. A day would come when he would truly glorify God, not with the blood of his victims, but with his own blood after having glorified Him with the ardor of his charity as the Apostle of the Gentiles for many years.

But who turned Saul into the great Saint Paul? It was certainly not himself and he would deny this fact. He rather said: “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Co 15,9) You can hear a true disciple, who does not deny the work of God in him, but who knows how to recognize it and to glorify its Author. It is again Saint Paul who says that “the grace of God has appeared to all men.” (Tt 2, 11)

The grace has appeared and it has changed the world. First, it changed the Apostles, who still had understood almost nothing until the effusion of the Spirit they received on Pentecost day. Twelve men have really changed the world, or more exactly, God through twelve men. They were the rock on which Jesus Christ built His new Church. (Eph2,20) The miracle has endured until today. The same Church, teaching the same Faith, providing the same Sacraments and diffusing the same grace throughout the world is now renewing the face of the earth. “The grace has appeared to all men” (Tt2, 11) and God did not take it back.

Certainly, the powers of Hell try to hide the light of the world and to make tasteless the salt of the earth. It is true that the Church shines of merest radiance today than what she used to in days of old. But it is not because the clouds impede us of seeing the sun that the sun does not shine. Even in the midst of the torrent of impurity of the world, she is the “holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”(Rev21,2) Even in the midst of the stream of relativism and liberalism, She is the Mistress of truth who teaches and enlightens the consciences.

The Church today is still a visible expression of the grace in the world. As the first Vatican Council reminds us, “there is a visible teaching authority which publicly proposes dogma that must be interiorly believed and openly professed. There is a visible priestly office which publicly supervises and takes care of the visible mysteries of God by which interior sanctification is conferred on men and due worship is paid to God. There is a visible governing body which orders the union of the members among themselves and which guides and directs the whole external and public life of the faithful in the Church.”

The Church in herself is a grace, but one needs a particular and individual grace in order to listen to her and to accept her as the means of salvation given by Jesus Christ. The grace has appeared to all men: to all men as humanity in general, but also to each single person. The truth is taught in an audible manner by the Church, but one needs to enter into oneself in order to hear it. That is the meaning of the sentence of Saint Augustine which we commented on last week: “Foris admonet, intus docet.” You can hear the truth with your ears, but if you don’t want to believe, then you don’t believe. And we need a prompting of divine grace so that our will can accept the teaching of the Church. We need the grace of God in order to believe. We need the grace of God in order to bear testimony of Jesus Christ, as the Apostles did in their time. The laws of divine grace are not different today than what they were 2000 years ago. Like the first disciples, we are weak and cowards, but like them we have been told by Jesus: “But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. "(Jn15,26)

Dear Brethren, we do not live in a more difficult time today than the Apostles 20 centuries ago. I would say that we have even more than they did. We have 20 centuries of Tradition of the Church and we can be proud of this heritage in which we can find the strength to continue the work of evangelization. For sure, many things are not perfect today and we can find many reasons to complain every day. But then, what would be the use of complaining? Because we don’t live in a catholic society? Because it is not easy to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ today? Well, it is for these reasons that Jesus promised to send the Paraclete. What else do you need? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! If we have God and His grace, it is sufficient as Saint Paul says. But now, we still have to bear fruit and it is our work, under the promptings of grace. What the first Christians accomplished, we can also do even though we have to be expulsed out of the synagogues “understand churches” or even though we have to be killed. And this cannot take away our joy, if we are really with God.

So may Our Lady help to accept the grace of God in our souls, so that we can truly and entirely respond to it and be good and faithful disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

20 May 2007

Latvia & Liturgical Reform

Taken from Cardinal Rating

In a recent 'Catholic World Report' interview (extracts from which appear below), Cardinal Janis Pujats, Archbishop of Riga, Latvia, explained how the post-Vatican II changes in the liturgy were implemented in his country without the range of problems which have been encountered in other parts of the Catholic world.

(AD2000, May 2003) By 1972 we had the new Missal in Latvia, but it was not yet translated. We celebrated the Novus Ordo in Latin, so the people did not notice much change.

So we were already celebrating the liturgy according to the Roman Missal, in Latin. We read the Gospel in Latvian. If the entire Mass had been in Latvian, then maybe we would have faced towards the people. But we used Latin, and we couldn't "talk to them" in Latin, so there was no particular point in turning towards the people.

Consequently we did things in a step-by-step fashion. First we did the Mass in Latin. Then we started to translate the Lectionary. Finally we translated the whole Missal. When we were done with this, we turned towards the people for the Liturgy of the Word.

In the Liturgy of the Word, we are talking to the people, and they are listening to the Word of God. So at that point we should face them. But even today, after we are finished "talking to the people," we turn to the altar to prepare the elements and so forth.

We are not hurrying to turn around the altars. When we build smaller churches, even today, I do not have the altar built out from the wall. This is not a particularly significant matter. The Pope himself turns his back to the people in his own chapel.

The Second Vatican Council does not require facing the people, and I was fully aware of this. According to Vatican II, if it is better to face the people, then the priest should do so; if not, one can celebrate Mass in the old manner.

I think that the criticism [by Western liturgists of Eastern Europe's 'backwardness' in liturgical renewal, e.g., priests celebrating Mass with their backs to the people] is unjustified. These critics see only the outward appearance; they see that the altar has not been turned around. They ignore all the rest of the liturgical reform to focus on this one thing. But liturgical reform touches all of the Mass. There is a very significant difference between the texts of the Tridentine Missal and the texts that are given to us now.

I do not look upon it as an offence to anyone that the priest stands facing the altar to celebrate Mass, even in the Novus Ordo. The Pope knows that we are not in any particular rush to change this. When you make such a change, some people like it and some people don't, so you stir up controversy.

Our liturgical reforms, on the other hand, have been going on for 30 years, and the people do not feel any negative effects from the changes, because of the way they have been introduced and administered. The people are at peace.


What happened outside Latvia happened rather quickly. The Council was not to blame, but the liturgical translators were at fault. The Council was not radical, but when the liturgists began formulating changes, all sorts of extremes emerged. They confused people's minds by what they did.

And we can even boast that our slow liturgical reform preserved old traditions that have been lost elsewhere. I am thinking in particular of the tabernacle in the centre of the altar, with the Eucharist as the centre of the church rather than somewhere off to the side, and the confessionals.

I myself have seen (I will not say in what country) the tabernacle on the floor - in a corner on the floor. That is no way to honour Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I have seen an altar that has been erected from left-over logs: big split logs, placed cross-wise; and across these planks they put a tablecloth to cover it. And this was not in a mission territory, but in a traditionally Catholic country! So the fact that the Eucharist is still in the centre is the primary thing which we have preserved.

The other important thing that we preserved is the confessional. We have not taken them out of the churches, and therefore we have not shortened the lines of penitents. The confessionals are a sort of visible advertisement. The people are already in lines, and so someone who is fearful of going to confession will look at the lines and see that they are very long, and that makes it easier for him to get in line. No one whose faith is shaky will go by himself, and ask individually to see a priest for confession; instead, he will not go to confession at all.

Of course there is another big problem: that in many countries people have the idea that confession is no longer necessary. The result is that today, in many places, few people go to confess their sins, but they all go to Communion. I look on this as the biggest mistake that "reformers" have made. When they lifted the people onto their feet it was apparent to me that it would take two generations to get them back on their knees. And to get them to go to confess their sins, to make their individual confessions, after they have tossed that practice aside - I doubt that can be done.

But with us, individual confession has remained the norm. We have never given general absolution - that is to say, absolution for the whole congregation. That practice is for extreme circumstances, and with the obligation for individual confession later. It is better to go straight to the individual confession. If the people are already accustomed to that practice, then it is better to keep it. We look upon that as a matter in which Westerners can learn something from us.

St Francis Xavier & Inter-Religius Dialogue

The Brahmins eat sumptuous meals to the sound of drums, and make the ignorant believe that the gods are banqueting. When they are in need of any supplies, and even before, they give out to the people that the gods are angry because the things they have asked for have not been sent, and that if the people do not take care, the gods will punish them by slaughter, disease, and the assaults of the devils. And the poor ignorant creatures, with the fear of the gods before them, obey them implicitly. These Brahmins have barely a tincture of literature, but they make up for their poverty in learning by cunning and malice. Those who belong to these parts are very indignant with me for exposing their tricks. Whenever they talk to me with no one by to hear them they acknowledge that they have no other patrimony but the idols, by their lies about which they procure their support from the people. They say that I, poor creature as I am, know more than all of them put together.

They often send me a civil message and presents, and make a great complaint when I send them all back again. Their object is to bribe me to connive at their evil deeds. So they declare that they are convinced that there is only one God, and that they will pray to Him for me. And I, to return the favor, answer whatever occurs to me, and then lay bare, as far as I can, to the ignorant people whose blind superstitions have made them their slaves, their imposture and tricks, and this has induced many to leave the worship of the false gods, and eagerly become Christians. If it were not for the opposition of the Brahmins, we should have them all embracing the religion of Jesus Christ.


The heathen inhabitants of the country are commonly ignorant of letters, but by no means ignorant of wickedness. All the time I have been here in this country I have only converted one Brahmin, a virtuous young man, who has now undertaken to teach the Catechism to children. As I go through the Christian villages, I often pass by the temples of the Brahmins, which they call pagodas. One day lately, I happened to enter a pagoda where there were about two hundred of them, and most of them came to meet me. We had a long conversation, after which I asked them what their gods enjoined them in order to obtain the life of the blessed. There was a long discussion amongst them as to who should answer me. At last, by common consent, the commission was given to one of them, of greater age and experience than the rest, an old man, of more than eighty years. He asked me in return, what commands the God of the Christians laid on them. I saw the old man's perversity, and I refused to speak a word till he had first answered my question. So he was obliged to expose his ignorance, and replied that their gods required two duties of those who desired to go to them hereafter, one of which was to abstain from killing cows, because under that form the gods were adored; the other was to show kindness to the Brahmins, who were the worshippers of the gods. This answer moved my indignation, for I could not but grieve intensely at the thought of the devils being worshipped instead of God by these blind heathen, and I asked them to listen to me in turn. Then I, in a loud voice, repeated the Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments. After this I gave in their own language a short explanation, and told them what Paradise is, and what Hell is, and also who they are who go to Heaven to join the company of the blessed, and who are to be sent to the eternal punishments of hell. Upon hearing these things they all rose up and vied with one another in embracing me, and in confessing that the God of the Christians is the true God, as His laws are so agreeable to reason.

Saint Francis Xavier
Letter from Goa to the Society of Jesus (Rome), 1543

"Eucharistic" Prayer V

Taken from Rorate Caeli

What does that Eucharistic Prayer really say?

An article by our reader Antonio Basto, an attorney and law professor in Rio.


The Vatican website released the Presentation of Pope Benedict's apostolic voyage to Brazil (in Portuguese; in Italian), a document signed by the much (ill)-famed Archbishop Piero Marini, Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. As it usually happens, the document of presentation contains a chapter about the Liturgical Book of the Apostolic Voyage, a special liturgical book condensing the rubrics for all the liturgical actions to be celebrated during a Papal Trip.

According to said document of Presentation, the texts are in Portuguese as a rule, with the exception of the celebration of one Mass and of Vespers [both in the day when the Latin American Episcopal Conference-CELAM Conference is to be opened], in which, apart from Portuguese, the Spanish, French, and English languages are also used; furthermore, some sung texts are in Latin.

Apart from the private Masses that the Pope will celebrate in the places that will host him (the St. Benedict Monastery of São Paulo and the Good Jesus Seminary of Aparecida), the Pope will celebrate two public Masses, one in São Paulo, on Friday, May 11th, and another in Aparecida, on Sunday, May 13th. The first public Mass will be the Mass for the Canonization of Blessed Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvão, and the second, the opening Mass of General Conference of the CELAM. Regarding this second Mass, the Presentation informs that His Holiness will use Eucharistic Prayer III. However, the same document declares that, for the Mass of Canonization, His Holiness will employ Eucharistic Prayer V! That is correct, it is not a typo: Eucharistic Prayer... V!

This requires an explanation: thanks to bizarre requests on the part of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference (CNBB), and the leniency over the years on the part of the Apostolic See, several other Eucharistic Prayers are approved for use in Brazil, other than the translations of the Eucharistic Prayers I to IV. Those are the Eucharistic Prayer V, which we will discuss in more detail below, and also Eucharistic Prayers VI-A; VI-B;VI-C;VI-D (for various needs); Eucharistic Prayers VII and VIII (for reconciliation); IX, X and XI (for Masses with children).

Unfortunately, Eucharistic Prayer V is quite terrible: next to it, Eucharistic Prayer II seems the pinnacle of reverence in prayer. As far as possible for an Eucharistic Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer V contains no mention of the sacrificial nature of the Mass (in fact, the words "sacrifice", "victim", and similar expressions are NEVER used in this prayer), and it also manages to contain an impressive level of cheap, pedestrian language, whereas Eucharistic Prayers I to IV, in spite of the omission of several words and expressions denoting reverence in the process of translation, are still phrased, especially when compared to Prayer V, in respectful language.

For instance, Eucharistic Prayer II contains the words "E nós vos suplicamos" ("and we beseech Thee"), and contains several expressions such as "Remember, O Father", in which the "O", makes the prayer sound more reverent (much more reverent than if one were to say "Remember, Father"). It begins by acknowledging the Holiness of the Father, Fountain of all Holiness; it uses words such as "Bread of Life and Chalice of Salvation"... "Chalice of Salvation" is much better than "Wine that gives courage", an expression used by Eucharistic. Prayer V.

Eucharistic Prayer III also employs more than once the verb "beseech", and it refers to the Resurrection as "glorious". Eucharistic Prayer I starts by addressing the Father as "Father of Mercy, to whom our praise goes up" (Pai de Misericórdia, a quem sobem os nossos louvores), it asks "Receive, o Father, kindly, the offering", in the translation of the Hanc igitur, and "Vouchsafe, o Father, to accept..." (in the Quam oblationem); in the Qui pridie, the mention of the eyes of the Lord being raised up to the Father has not been omitted in translation; the Ascension is called "glorious"; in spite of a poorly translated Supplices Te rogamus, the words "we beseech" are employed in the Supra Quae, the line "not by our merits, but by your goodness", was preserved in the translation of the Nobis quoque. All that serves as a prelude to a comparison between those Prayers and the regrettable Eucharistic Prayer V.

Eucharistic Prayer V was drafted during the First Eucharistic Congress of Manaus, the 9th National Eucharistic Congress of Brazil, held in 1975. It was approved by the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, which requested to the Holy See for permission to include it in the Brazilian versions of the Roman Missal. Such permission was, of course, granted.

In Brazil, the use of the Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon, is quite rare. In most parishes, it is the Eucharistic Prayer II which is used from Monday to Saturday, and the Eucharistic Prayer III on Sunday. So the several other prayers, including the universal prayers I and IV, and the several specific Eucharistic Prayers, are rarely used.

However, if one goes to a church whose pastor is an adherent of Liberation Theology, he will be, in all likelihood, dressed without chasuble, wearing only alb and stole without cincture, and one will probably hear, as a general rule, Eucharistic Prayer V. Perhaps it is a coincidence. Or is it?

No, it is no coincidence that liberal priests prefer that pedestrian prayer. It is tailored for them. And now, thanks to the organizers of the Papal trip to Brazil, and to the good graces of Archbishop Marini, the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff, will recite that prayer. A prayer that should not even be on the Liturgical Books, that should not be recited by any priest, much less by the visible Head of the universal Church. The papal use of that prayer will send a wrong signal. Papal Masses should be an example of devotion. Instead of the Roman Canon, the concelebrants will make use of the worst Eucharistic Prayer ever to be approved by the Apostolic See, in one of the lowest moments of its liturgical law-giving activity.

Here is my translation of Eucharistic Prayer V, followed by more commentary [translation of the Portuguese ORIGINAL text]:


Priest: Lord, you who always wanted to be very close to us, living with us in Christ, speaking with us through him, send your Holy Spirit so that these our offerings be changed into the Body (+) and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ

Congregation: Send your Holy Spirit!

Priest: In the night in which he would be delivered, dining with his apostles, Jesus, having the bread in his hand, looked to heaven ["céu", same word in Portuguese for both heaven and sky] and gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU, AND EAT: THIS IS MY BODY, THAT WILL BE DELIVERED FOR YOU. Similarly, at the end of the supper, he took the chalice in his hands, gave thanks again and delivered it to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK: THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT, THAT SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL, FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

Priest: All this is the mystery of faith! [instead of "Mysterium Fidei", "Behold the Mystery of the Faith", a translation that is common to all other Eucharistic Prayers in Portuguese].

Congregation: Every time that one eats from this Bread, every time one drinks from this Wine, one recollects the passion of Jesus Christ, and one awaits his return.

Priest. We recall in this moment, o Father, the passion of Jesus, our Lord, his Resurrection and ascension; we wish to offer you this Bread that feeds and gives life, this Wine that saves us and gives courage.

Congregation: Receive, o Lord, our offering!

Priest: And when we receive the Bread and Wine, his offered Body and Blood, may the Spirit unite us in one only body, so that we may be one only people in his love.

Congregation: May the Spirit unite us in one body!

Priest: Protect your Church that walks in the roads of the world towards heaven, each day renewing the hope of arriving next to you, in your peace.

Congregation: We walk on Jesus's road!

Priest: Grant the Holy Father, Pope N., that he be very firm in the Faith, in charity, and to N., who is bishop of this Church, and to his auxiliary bishops, plenty of light to lead his flock.

Congregation: We walk on Jesus' road!

Priest: We expect to enter life everlasting with the Virgin, Mother of God and of the Church, and with the apostles and all the saints that in live knew to love Christ and his (the word used could also mean "their") brothers.

Congregation: We expect to enter the eternal life!

Priest: All those that you called to the other life in your friendship, and to those marked with the sign of Faith, receive them, opening your arms. That they may live very happy forever in the kingdom that for all you have prepared.

Congregation: To all give the light that never ceases!

Priest: And to us, who are now assembled and are a holy and sinful people, give strength to build together your kingdom that is also ours.

Priest: Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, to you, God Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be every honour and every glory, now and forever.

Congregation: Amen.


Eucharistic Prayer V makes use of clearly puerile and informal language: for instance, in "Senhor, vós que sempre quisestes ficar muito perto de nós", "muito perto de nós" (very close to us) is a clear use of informal language. Several other nobler images could be used, but since the drafter decided to speak about God´s proximity, they could use "próximo", instead of the informal "muito perto". The Prayer, following the bad example of Eucharistic Prayer II, starts immediately with the Epiclesis, and, again, the sole use of the image of proximity to God here makes this part of the prayer very poor.

In the equivalent of the Qui pridie, instead of using words to denote that Christ looked up to His Father, the word "céu" is employed, which means both Heaven and sky. Instead of "In the night in which he was to be delivered, He took the bread", as is used in most other Eucharistic Prayers, two insertions are here made: one is the "dining with his apostles" phrase, which emphasizes the idea of the Mass as a meal; the other is the replacement of the word "He took the bread", used in most Eucharistic Prayers (a reference to the earlier "Our Lord Jesus Christ") with the informal "Jesus took the bread". "Jesus", plain "Jesus", is informal, and is almost never used in liturgical prayer, at least in Portuguese, for it denotes a Protestant-like intimacy and lack of reverence.

The same lack of reverence is noted when the prayer states, "we recall.. the passion of Jesus, our Lord", instead of "the passion of Thy Son", or "Celebrating, therefore, o Father, the memory of Thy Son, of his passion that saves us, of his Resurrection from the dead and glorious Ascension into the heavens", as used in other prayers. Also, "passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ..." would be more reverent than "passion of Jesus, our Lord".

There is the absurd reference to "Wine that... gives courage" AFTER the Consecration. No other Eucharistic Prayer does that. Some speak of "chalice", such as in "chalice of salvation" (from the Latin calicem salutis perpetuae translated with the omission of perpetuae). However, no other Eucharistic Prayer speaks of the content of the Chalice as this one does. The content, of course, is the saving Blood of Our Lord, not "this wine that saves and gives courage". The reference to "wine" at this point, is unheard-of. Although references to "bread of life" are common, a reference to "chalice" would be much more appropriate that to "wine". And what is this "gives courage" line? Is that language appropriate for Eucharistic prayers?

The reference to the pope and to the Bishop is also done in a different way in this prayer compared to others: there is no reference to "your servant Pope N." or to "our Bishop N.", and that "plenty of light to feed his flock" line is also very pedestrian. In general expressions like "bem firme" (very firm); "bem felizes" (very happy) are informal ones, and thus unsuitable. They are, however, present in this Eucharistic Prayer. The "bem" clause gives that note of informality here. Other Eucharistic Prayers do not use that kind of cheap language, not even in very poor translations.

There is, finally, the problem of the acclamations after each paragraph. Certain acclamations after each paragraph of the Eucharistic Prayer were requested by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil for every Eucharistic Prayer in the books. They can be dispensed with.

Almost every parish uses those acclamations, and there are different texts that go with different Eucharistic Prayers. The acclamations themselves are inappropriate, and the fact is that their very existence is a source of disturbance and loss of concentration, as it breaks the unified text of the Eucharistic Prayer into fragmented bits. However, the acclamations for other prayers, such as for prayers I to IV, are a bit more respectful towards God, at least, in that they use the "O" clause much more than prayer V --- "Accept our offering, o Lord" --- or in that they ask "Grant us society with the elect". Grant us (concedei-nos), is a formal verb, and denotes more reverence.

Here, however, reverence is totally absent: "Send your Holy Spirit!" -- who do you think you are talking to? That is certainly no way to address God the Father. And also, "We expect to enter eternal life!" -- it is proclaimed with an exclamation point, more like a demand, rather than a humble request. Not to mention the bizarre acclamation, "We walk on Jesus´s road", which sounds more like the language of Protestant neo-pentecostal sects. This line matches another very poor line on the Priest´s part, in which the Holy Catholic Church is referred not as "Thy Catholic Church", "the Church pilgrim on Earth", but in a cheesy way as "the Church that walks in the roads of this world". What is that, country music?

As it can be noticed, it is truly deplorable that Eucharistic Prayer V was ever approved as part of Catholic Liturgy -- it is even worse that it will now become a model, after being granted the rubber-stamp blessing of being used by the Pope himself.

First Picture: Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, in Aparecida, Brazil
Second and Third Pictures: Masses celebrated in the Jesuit Youth House of Goiania, Brazil.

Examining Vatican II Part 2

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

Following up on what I wrote a few weeks ago concerning a reconciliation of Vatican II with tradition, we will be attempting here to look at the particulars, the practical manner by which one would do this, and the document which will be our subject today is Unitatis Redintegratio.

In recent years we have heard a number of alarming statements vis-à-vis Ecumenism. In his book A Marginal Jew, John P. Meier, a scripture scholar at "Catholic" University of America, tried to argue that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were in fact his true blood brothers, and made this same case in a 1992 lecture to the Catholic Biblical Association. (Both bodies are quite un-Catholic). How could Meier claim that we could set aside the doctrine of the Blessed Virgin’s perpetual virginity? Quite simple really, by the “hierarchy of truths” talked about in Unitatis Redintegratio. In his address to the CBA he said the following:
If the criterion of the hierarchy of truths cannot be invoked in a dispute that is so marginal to the witness of scripture....is there any dispute in which the criterion could be effectively applied?”(J.P. Meier, "The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus in Ecumenical Perspective", Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54.1, January 1992, p. 28).
Obviously he believes that the concept of the hierarchy of truths means certain doctrines are important, and that others can be fudged. How can this be applied to ecumenism one might wonder? An alleged conservative, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. explains how:
The Council worked powerfully to undermine the authoritarian theory and to legitimate dissent, through this teaching of the hierarchy of truths. Thus the Church need not insist that converts accept the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.” (Presidential Address to the Catholic Theological Society of America in 1976)
Yet the most notable ones have been made by Cardinal Walter Kasper. In January of 2000, he stated in L’Osservatore Romano that:
The old concept of the ecumenism of return has today been replaced by that of a common journey which directs Christians toward the goal of ecclesial communion understood as unity in reconciled diversity. The Ecumenism of return is no longer applicable to the Church after Vatican II.” (Quoted in The Great Facade, pg. 201)
Without question this statement is heretical by itself. The question thus becomes what gave him this obviously heretical idea? Given that he cites the “Church after Vatican II”, it would seem logical that it was Vatican II, and where else would one get this idea if not from Vatican II’s document on ecumenism?

However when we do examine the document, we do not find any broad sweeping heretical statement such as Kasper’s. Rather we find a document which, though is not without its problems, does not advocate the sweeping changes we have seen in Ecclesial life, and most certainly it does not justify the Assisi prayer meetings. In fact I would contend that none of this can either be justified or approved by Vatican II, following our rubric for this series that it is the ambiguous language of Vatican II which lends itself to error, and that it requires the Magisterium to officially interpret the documents in light of Tradition. In fact, as you shall see at the completion of this piece, it already has done that in this case.

The document is divided into three chapters. The first deals with the unity of the Church, the second on the practice of Ecumenism, and the third with relations between the Orthodox who have a full sacramental life via valid orders, and the protestants who do not. All of these are divided into sub-sections which deal with different subjects within a given area.

Chapter 1 presents the least problems as a whole. The second sentence of the whole document is: “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only.” It goes on to decry the appearance of a separation in Christianity as “a scandal to the whole world.” Without doubt they are right. In chapter one, the document goes on concerning the Church’s unity: “The Church then, is God’s only flock.” It goes on to draw out a concept from Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis, that those who are baptized possess an imperfect unity in the Church, viz. that baptism is still baptism. Fr. Feeney used to teach that protestants who were baptized as infants were in fact Catholic until they reached the age of reason. It would appear such a teaching has strong grounding in Pius XII’s encyclical, and Vatican II again brings out this point to preface its teaching on unity. It then goes on to endorsement of the “ecumenical movement”, and explains just what it means by it.
The term ‘ecumenical movement’ indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity." (UR 4)
We stop here to examine the idea of Christian unity. The Latin of the document says “Christianorum unitatem” which is a little more certain. What is meant by that is a unity of Christians, which differs from the English "Christian Unity" in this respect: Unity denotes being in agreement about core values, ideas, etc. A unity of communists, socialists, Catholics and Hindus would be described by scholastics as a “Chaotic unity”, because necessary principles are lacking. What is suggested by the Latin words is a unity that is truly Christian. Reading in light of tradition there is no wiggle room left for a liberal, there is no Christian unity if it is not a Catholic unity. Thus the possibility of a reconciled diversity is impossible. #4 continues:
These are first, every effort to avoid expressions, judgments, and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult; then ‘dialog’ between competent experts from different Churches and Communities. At these meetings, which are organized in a religious spirit, each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings out clearly its distinctive features. In such dialog, everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions. In addition, the way is prepared for cooperation between them in the conscience; and wherever this is allowed, there is prayer in common. Finally, all are led to examine their own faithfulness to Christ’s will for the Church and accordingly to undertake the vigor the task of renewal and reform.
Ultimately this passage is not much different from Pius XII’s Monitum on ecumenism, which stated that priests specially trained were the ones to carry out dialog, not the average layman. Again Vatican II is not declaring that all laypeople must now engage ecumenical activity. Furthermore while prayer in common is advocated, it does not advocate celebration of Mass with protestants or Orthodox, and furthermore, it does not allow for praying with anyone other than a Christian. It may be that a future Pope could judge the whole prudential plan of this document to be a failure and repudiate it. However in the meantime, there is nothing that is contrary to faith and morals, no heresy, no schism.

The first problem we encounter is in UR #10 which is in chapter 2.
Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially of an historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts.
This statement makes little practical sense. Perhaps we should say Luther was a "zealous scrupulous" man. Perhaps Calvin "flogged those who prayed for the dead with compassion." Perhaps the Russian Orthodox "persecuted Jews with compassion." The council fails to tell us what the ecumenical point of view is! This would assume that there were history books at the time which were somehow distorted to make protestants look bad. However I have never read or heard of Church histories which do this. If anything the distortions are on the protestant side, which starting with the English in the 19th century accused the Church of all kinds of fantastical things, and distorted Church teaching with games like “Simon says” to give the idea that Catholics are slaves physically and mentally to the Pope’s mere whims. As with other off -statements of the council, there is nothing heretical here, just stupidity and imprudence.

In #11 we come upon one of the most difficult statements of the council as a whole:
Moreover, in ecumenical dialog, Catholic theologians standing fast by the teachings of the Church and investigating the divine mysteries with the separated brethren must proceed with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility. When comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a “hierarchy” of truths since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith.”(Emphasis mine)
This was eluded to in my introduction. The view taken by liberals toward this passage is that some truths are important, such as the Trinity, or Christ’s divinity, but things like Mary, the Eucharist or Papal infallibility can be fudged, forgotten, consigned to the dustbin of Church teaching. Professor Meier (whose books belong on a modern index of forbidden books) typifies this approach. In truth it must also be admitted that this term is entirely new at Vatican II. A quick search of Denzinger, Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, or any text of the previous councils fails to yield this term anywhere. However, it is also possible to understand this in another way, that this term suggests the relationship between doctrines, how they are related, that certain doctrines are plain in the deposit of faith while others are deduced from those plain and obvious doctrines. It would also appear that the Church’s magisterium has endorsed this position. In the CDF document Mysteria Ecclesiae of 1973, the following is stated:
It is true that there exists an order as it were a hierarchy of the Church's dogmas, as a result of their varying relationship to the foundation of the faith. This hierarchy means that some dogmas are founded on other dogmas which are the principal ones, and are illuminated by these latter. But all dogmas, since they are revealed, must be believed with the same divine faith. (Mysteria Ecclesiae, #4).
UR 11 is footnoted directly in this passage. Thus the Church is ruling out the possibility of leaving out doctrine for the sake of Ecumenism. Thus when modern prelates decide they don’t want to mention doctrines or else tell others that acceptance of doctrine is not necessary, they are acting against Vatican II itself.

Finally, the remainder of the document, Chapter III, deals explicitly with the Churches separated from the Catholic Church. Firstly the Orthodox, who are a valid Church separated from Rome by schism and heresy (though the council doesn’t use words like that, it settles for division), and secondarily protestants. This is because it is not appropriate to lump the Orthodox and protestants together, since the Orthodox have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin, posses all seven sacraments while protestants have rejected all of that. The council takes time to evaluate the Eastern (Orthodox) Church, its origins and shared features with the Roman Church. Then it takes time to note the status of the protestant Churches, and features about them. For example in #21:
While invoking the Holy Spirit, they seek in these very Scriptures God as it were speaking to them in Christ, Whom the prophets foretold, Who is the Word of God made flesh for us.”
As we will observe in Nostra Aetate’s remarks on Hinduism and Buddhism, protestants seek but they do not find it. They seek the scriptures and indeed find grace, but they do not find the fullness of truth because that exists only in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Council concludes:
It is the urgent wish of this Holy Council that the measures undertaken by the sons of the Catholic Church should develop in conjunction with those of our separated brethren so that no obstacle be put in the ways of divine Providence and no preconceived judgments impair the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The Council moreover professes its awareness that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this only objective-the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ. It is because of this that the Council rests all its hope on the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans V: 5)” (UR 24)
The council’s hope in “dialog”, and “ecumenism” was at least reasonable from a merely utilitarian point of view in the 60’s. However we have had 41 years of ecumenism, of dialog, of endless conversations and meetings with the Orthodox, and with protestants, and now, 41 years later, we are exactly where we were then with respect to their conversion. When Dominus Iesus was promulgated in 2000, there was an uproar amongst the World Council of Churches, and they suddenly threatened to pull out of dialog. So John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger had to backpedal away from the document. When Benedict dropped the title “Patriarch of the West”, the Orthodox said “That’s not enough, you need to go further! Renounce supreme authority!” When the Catholic-Lutheran committee on justification wrote a joint declaration concerning that doctrine, the heart of Luther's doctrine, it contained heresies and needed to be corrected by Cardinal Ratzinger. Yet when it was, the Lutherans refused to sign the corrected version!

As UR begins, we must read the signs of the times. The signs of the times are that the temporary and experimental ideas of the 60’s have failed. Like certain other councils in the past (Constantinople II, Lateran V, Florence) Vatican II’s document on ecumenism shall be added as a failed document, a failed idea, and a waste of time. There is no observer save the delusional who can possibly argue that ecumenism has been good for the Church, and that the renewal and conversion hoped for by the Council Fathers who signed this document has materialized in any way shape or form. We should not continue to cry out to Baal as his prophets did on Mt. Carmel, who seeing nothing happened then proceeded to cut themselves, and tear their clothing, rather than acknowledge the obvious. We should not insist the emperor’s new clothes are great, when the stark naked reality is before us: Ecumenism doesn’t work. The wisdom of Pope Pius XI in Mortalium Animos is confirmed....by forty years of ecumania. Enough is enough already, it is time for Pope Benedict to stop dropping titles and start dropping pointless and fruitless reforms which thus far have only confused the faithful, and failed to produce results.

Examining Vatican II

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

Because my theological concentration tends toward Dogmatic Theology, I have read the majority of the documents for all the councils of the Church, including little known Councils like the council of Constance or the council of Vienne. In the history of all these councils, even the ones that failed, there were never instances of chaos and confusion emanating from the Holy See itself. The whole process by which an ecumenical council closes, universally the decrees of that council are ignored, distorted and changed, and a new liturgy is created by a team of liturgists and forcefully imposed on the whole Church is utterly novel in the whole history of councils and ecumenical councils.

Now against this some will say wait a minute, the Council of Trent asked for a reform of the liturgy in order to combat protestantism, and Pope St. Pius V composed a new liturgy. There are still a lot of people who think this. The truth however is that no such thing occurred. The Council of Trent asked for uniformity in the liturgy, because what the Protestants did in many cases was to retain certain usages of the Church's liturgy then in use, for example proper parts of the Mass in Latin. This led to an overall confusion, especially with an uneducated populace, and provided for the gradual indoctrination with errors. So it became necessary to formalize and codify the liturgy so it was universal, and could be recognized easily as Catholic, vs. not Catholic. This was not a novel step because through the combination of Charlemagne in the 9th century and the Franciscans in the 13th century, the Roman Liturgy was spread all around Europe. Any local variation was a saint's collect, or some local custom that occurred in place "x", like the French custom of lighting an extra candle at the consecration which survives to the present in some places. When the bull of St. Pius V "Quo Primum" was promulgated, the liturgy being issued was virtually the same as that in use in the local parishes everywhere. In cases where it wasn't, a special exception was made within the bull itself for liturgies over 200 years old. These were the Dominican rite, the Carmelite Rite, the Ambrosian liturgy, the Mozarabic liturgy, the Sarum liturgy, and several others. In practice, many churches in France defied this bull and continued using their local liturgies well into the 19th century. Of course, there was no body of politically active neo-conservatives to say they were in schism, and the "gallicanized rites" were in use when Dom Gueranger wrote his Liturgical Year, with the aim in view of championing the Roman Liturgy in France.

This is all a very stark difference from what occurred in 1965. Whatever difficulties occurred after the Council of Trent were nothing compared to the chaos after Vatican II, and furthermore what liberals say nowadays, namely that there is 40-50 years of chaos after every ecumenical council is absurd. Certainly after some councils, like Chalcedon or Constantinople II, but even that was nothing compared to what happened in 1965.

What did happen in 1965 then? What caused the chaos that has resulted in the disintegration of every fabric of ecclesial life familiar to the previous 1800 years of Catholics? There are some who maintain that Vatican II's documents themselves contain the errors that led to this process. They will say that the council contains heresies, and that it must simply be forgotten to move on. Then of course we know well the position of the Sedevacantists who will claim that Vatican II was a false council, presided over by an anti-Pope.

Could it not also be, that there is a third way, (much like in Economics) which ascribes to neither of these positions? If such a way can be found, it is generally referred to as "reconciling the Council with Tradition". The fact that we need to speak of such a thing is evidence enough of the problems present in Vatican II.

Now those who are in the "neo-conservative" category, those George Wiegle, Karl Keating type conservatives who lament the problems in the Church but dare not say there was anything wrong with Vatican II, will often say "the problem was not with the council, the council documents are beautiful, but it was in the interpretation." This begs the question, if there were so many false interpretations of Vatican II in such a widespread manner, could it not be that the problem is with the documents themselves and that they are not beautiful but horrible? I would say almost certainly. Yet on the other hand, I would maintain in unity with the above mentioned that Vatican II at the same time does not contain heresy.

How can I assert this? It seems to me that an Ecumenical Council under the authority of the Pope, the documents of which are promulgated under his authority can not contain error. They might contain bad ideas, and failed ones most certainly, as Ecumenical Councils have in the past. Then what is the problem? Most certainly the problem is that the council documents, written in hideous Latin, are not clear, concise, and are intentionally ambiguous. They were written to be ambiguous by certain Council Periti so that afterward they could go back and re-interpret what they said in order to make it heterodox.

Therefore the solution to the Post-Conciliar crisis is not a "reform of the reform", because such a solution goes back to the very source of the problem. The solution can not be to just forget the Council or ignore it, because it would constitute a perennial blot on the Church's authority. Vatican II is both an event and a challenge that can not be ignored. The only way in which we can approach Vatican II is to do so as the late John Paul II put it (though he certainly never did anything toward this end) "Vatican II must be reconciled with Tradition."

Therefore in this series I will be examining and approaching Vatican II with the goal of reconciling it with Tradition, to demonstrate the viability of this approach and to propose a possible formula for accomplishing this end. However, I also do so aware that as a layman, I can not constitute this reconciliation, only contribute toward it. It is the Magisterium of the Church alone which can reconcile Vatican II with tradition, and we need to pray earnestly for it. The liturgy is only one area of the crisis (though the most visible) and if we say give us that Motu Proprio, but ignore the other items of the Post-Conciliar crisis, we are not contributing to a viable solution, but only attacking one facet of the problem.

Easter with St Athanasius I

Taken from Athansius Contra Mundum

We duly proceed, my brethren, from feasts to feasts, duly from prayers to prayers, we advance from fasts to fasts, and join holy-days to holy-days. Again the time has arrived which brings to us a new beginning, even the announcement of the blessed Passover, in which the Lord was sacrificed. We eat, as it were, the food of life, and constantly thirsting we delight our souls at all times, as from a fountain, in His precious blood. For we continually and ardently desire; He stands ready for those who thirst; and for those who thirst there is the word of our Saviour, which, in His loving-kindness, He uttered on the day of the feast; 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.' Nor was it then alone when any one drew near to Him, that He cured his thirst; but whenever any one seeks, there is free access for him to the Saviour. For the grace of the feast is not limited to one time, nor does its splendid brilliancy decline; but it is always near, enlightening the minds of those who earnestly desire it. For therein is constant virtue, for those who are illuminated in their minds, and meditate on the divine Scriptures day and night, like the man to whom a blessing is given, as it is written in the sacred Psalms; 'Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of corrupters. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law does he meditate day and night.' For it is not the sun, or the moon, or the host of those other stars which illumines him, but he glitters with the high effulgence of God over all.

2. For it is God, my beloved, even the God Who at first established the feast for us, Who vouchsafes the celebration of it year by year. He both brought about the slaying of His Son for salvation, and gave us this reason for the holy feast, to which every year bears witness, as often as at this season the feast is proclaimed. This also leads us on from the cross through this world to that which is before us, and God produces even now from it the joy of glorious salvation, bringing us to the same assembly, and in every place uniting all of us in spirit; appointing us common prayers, and a common grace proceeding from the feast. For this is the marvel of His loving-kindness, that He should gather together in the same place those who are at a distance; and make those who appear to be far off in the body, to be near together in unity of spirit.

3. Wherefore then, my beloved, do we not acknowledge the grace as becomes the feast? Wherefore do we not make a return to our Benefactor? It is indeed impossible to make an adequate return to God; still, it is a wicked thing for us who receive the gracious gift, not to acknowledge it. Nature itself manifests our inability; but our own will reproves our unthankfulness. Therefore the blessed Paul, when admiring the greatness of the gift of God, said, 'And who is sufficient for these things 2 Corinthians 2:17 ?' For He made the world free by the blood of the Saviour; then, again, He has caused the grave to be trodden down by the Saviour's death, and furnished a way to the heavenly gates free from obstacles to those who are going up. Wherefore, one of the saints, while he acknowledged the grace, but was insufficient to repay it, said, 'What shall I render unto the Lord for all He has done unto me?' For instead of death he had received life, instead of bondage, freedom, and instead of the grave, the kingdom of heaven. For of old time, 'death reigned from Adam to Moses;' but now the divine voice has said, 'Today shall you be with Me in Paradise.' And the saints, being sensible of this, said, 'Except the Lord had helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in hell..' Besides all this, being powerless to make a return, he yet acknowledged the gift, and wrote finally, saying, 'I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord; precious in His sight is the death of His saints.'

With regard to the cup, the Lord said, 'Are you able to drink of that cup which I am about to drink of?' And when the disciples assented, the Lord said, 'You shall indeed drink of My cup; but that you should sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give; but to those for whom it is prepared Matthew 20:22-23 .' Therefore, my beloved, let us be sensible of the gift, though we are found insufficient to repay it. As we have ability, let us meet the occasion. For although nature is not able, with things unworthy of the Word, to return a recompense for such benefits, yet let us render Him thanks while we persevere in piety. And how can we more abide in piety than when we acknowledge God, Who in His love to mankind has bestowed on us such benefits? (For thus we shall obediently keep the law, and observe its commandments. And, further, we shall not, as unthankful persons, be accounted transgressors of the law, or do those things which ought to be hated, for the Lord loves the thankful); when too we offer ourselves to the Lord, like the saints, when we subscribe ourselves entirely [as] living henceforth not to ourselves, but to the Lord Who died for us, as also the blessed Paul did, when he said, 'I am crucified with Christ, yet I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me Galatians 2:20 .'

4. Now our life, my brethren, truly consists in our denying all bodily things, and continuing steadfast in those only of our Saviour. Therefore the present season requires of us, that we should not only utter such words, but should also imitate the deeds of the saints. But we imitate them, when we acknowledge Him who died, and no longer live unto ourselves, but Christ henceforth lives in us; when we render a recompense to the Lord to the utmost of our power, though when we make a return we give nothing of our own, but those things which we have before received from Him, this being especially of His grace, that He should require, as from us, His own gifts. He bears witness to this when He says, 'My offerings are My own gifts.' That is, those things which you give Me are yours, as having received them from Me, but they are the gifts of God. And let us offer to the Lord every virtue, and that true holiness which is in Him, and in piety let us keep the feast to Him with those things which He has hallowed for us. Let us thus engage in the holy fasts, as having been prescribed by Him, and by means of which we find the way to God. But let us not be like the heathen, or the ignorant Jews, or as the heretics and schismatics of the present time. For the heathen think the accomplishment of the feast is in the abundance of food; the Jews, erring in the type and shadow, think it still such; the schismatics keep it in separate places, and with vain imaginations. But let us, my brethren, be superior to the heathen, in keeping the feast with sincerity of soul, and purity of body; to the Jews, in no longer receiving the type and the shadow, but as having been gloriously illumined with the light of truth, and as looking upon the Sun of Righteousness Malachi 4:2 ; to the schismatics, in not rending the coat of Christ, but in one house, even in the Catholic Church, let us eat the Passover of the Lord, Who, by ordaining His holy laws, guided us towards virtue, and counselled the abstinence of this feast. For the Passover is indeed abstinence from evil for exercise of virtue, and a departure from death unto life. This may be learned even from the type of old time. For then they toiled earnestly to pass from Egypt to Jerusalem, but now we depart from death to life; they then passed from Pharaoh to Moses, but now we rise from the devil to the Saviour. And as, at that time, the type of deliverance bore witness every year, so now we commemorate our salvation. We fast meditating on death, that we may be able to live; and we watch, not as mourners, but as they that wait for the Lord, when He shall have returned from the wedding, so that we may vie with each other in the triumph, hastening to announce the sign of victory over death.

5. Would therefore, O my beloved, that as the word requires, we might here so govern ourselves at all times and entirely, and so live, as never to forget the noble acts of God, nor to depart from the practice of virtue! As also the Apostolic voice exhorts; 'Remember Jesus Christ, that He rose from the dead 2 Timothy 2:8 .' Not that any limited season of remembrance was appointed, for at all times He should be in our thoughts. But because of the slothfulness of many, we delay from day to day. Let us then begin in these days. To this end a time of remembrance is permitted, that it may show forth to the saints the reward of their calling, and may exhort the careless while reproving them. Therefore in all the remaining days, let us persevere in virtuous conduct, repenting as is our duty, of all that we have neglected, whatever it may be; for there is no one free from defilement, though his course may have been but one hour on the earth, as Job, that man of surpassing fortitude, testifies. But, 'stretching forth to those things that are to come,' let us pray that we may not eat the Passover unworthily, lest we be exposed to dangers. For to those who keep the feast in purity, the Passover is heavenly food; but to those who observe it profanely and contemptuously, it is a danger and reproach. For it is written, 'Whosoever shall eat and drink unworthily, is guilty of the death of our Lord 1 Corinthians 11:27 .' Wherefore, let us not merely proceed to perform the festal rites, but let us be prepared to draw near to the divine Lamb, and to touch heavenly food. Let us cleanse our hands, let us purify the body. Let us keep our whole mind from guile; not giving up ourselves to excess, and to lusts, but occupying ourselves entirely with our Lord, and with divine doctrines; so that, being altogether pure, we may be able to partake of the Word.

-Collected Letters, #5

Easter with St Athanasius II

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

Let us now keep the feast, my brethren, for as our Lord then gave notice to His disciples, so He now tells us beforehand, that 'after some days is the Passover,' in which the Jews indeed betrayed the Lord, but we celebrate His death as a feast, rejoicing because we then obtained rest from our afflictions. We are diligent in assembling ourselves together, for we were scattered in time past and were lost, and are found. We were far off, and are brought nigh, we were strangers, and have become His, Who suffered for us, and was nailed on the cross, Who bore our sins, as the prophet Isaiah says, and was afflicted for us, that He might put away from all of us grief, and sorrow, and sighing. When we thirst, He satisfies us on the feast-day itself; standing and crying, 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink.' For such is the love of the saints at all times, that they never once leave off, but offer the uninterrupted, constant sacrifice to the Lord, and continually thirst, and ask of Him to drink; as David sang, 'My God, my God, early will I seek You, my soul thirsts for You; many times my heart and flesh longs for You in a barren land, without a path, and without water. Thus was I seen by You in the sanctuary.' And Isaiah the prophet says, 'From the night my spirit seeks You early, O God, because Your commandments are light (Isaiah 26:9).' And another says, 'My soul faints for the longing it has for Your judgments at all times.' And again he says, 'For Your judgments I have hoped, and Your law will I keep at all times.' Another boldly cries out, saying, 'My eye is ever towards the Lord.' And with him one says, 'The meditation of my heart is before You at all times.' And Paul further advises, 'At all times give thanks; pray without ceasing.' Those who are thus continually engaged, are waiting entirely on the Lord, and say, 'Let us follow on to know the Lord: we shall find Him ready as the morning, and He will come to us as the early and the latter rain for the earth.' For not only does He satisfy them in the morning; neither does He give them only as much to drink as they ask; but He gives them abundantly according to the multitude of His lovingkindness, vouchsafing to them at all times the grace of the Spirit. And what it is they thirst for He immediately adds, saying, 'He that believes in Me.' For, 'as cold waters are pleasant to those who are thirsty,' according to the proverb, so to those who believe in the Lord, the coming of the Spirit is better than all refreshment and delight.

2. It becomes us then in these days of the Passover, to rise early with the saints, and approach the Lord with all our soul, with purity of body, with confession and godly faith in Him; so that when we have here first drunk, and are filled with these divine waters which [flow] from Him, we may be able to sit at table with the saints in heaven, and may share in the one voice of gladness which is there. From this sinners, because it wearied them, are rightly cast out, and hear the words, 'Friend, how did you come in hither, not having a wedding garment?' Sinners indeed thirst, but not for the grace of the Spirit; but being inflamed with wickedness, they are wholly set on fire by pleasures, as says the Proverb, 'All day long he desires evil desires.' But the Prophet cries against them, saying, 'Woe unto those who rise up early, and follow strong drink; who continue until the evening, for wine inflames them.' And since they run wild in wantonness, they dare to thirst for the destruction of others. Having first drunk of lying and unfaithful waters, those things have come upon them, which are stated by the Prophet; 'My wound,' says he, 'is grievous, whence shall I be healed; it has surely been to me like deceitful waters, in which there is no trust .' Secondly, while they drink with their companions, they lead astray and disturb the right mind, and turn away the simple from it. And what does he cry? 'Woe unto him who causes his neighbour to drink turbid destruction, and makes him drunk, that he may look upon his caverns.' But those who dissemble, and steal away the truth, quench their hearts. Having first drunk of these things, they go on to say those things which the whore says in the Proverbs, 'Lay hold with delight on hidden bread, and sweet stolen waters (Proverbs 9:17) .' They lay snares secretly, because they have not the freedom of virtue, nor the boldness of Wisdom, who praises herself in the gates, and employs freedom of speech in the broad ways, preaching on high walls. For this reason, they are bidden to 'lay hold with delight,' because, having the choice between faith and pleasures, they steal the sweetness of truth, and disguise their own bitter waters [to escape] from the blame of their wickedness, which would have been speedy and public. On this account, the wolf puts on the skin of the sheep, sepulchres deceive by their whitened exteriors. (Letter #XX)

Easter with St Athanasius III

Taken from Athansius Contra Mundum

And this above all shows the foolishness of those who say that the Word was changed into bones and flesh. For if this had been so, there were no need of a tomb. For the Body would have gone by itself to preach to the spirits in Hades. But as it was, He Himself went to preach, while the Body Joseph wrapped in a linen cloth, and laid it away at Golgotha. And so it is shown to all that the Body was not the Word, but Body of the Word. And it was this that Thomas handled when it had risen from the dead, and saw in it the print of the nails, which the Word Himself had undergone, seeing them fixed in His own Body, and though able to prevent it, did not do so.

On the contrary, the incorporeal Word made His own the properties of the Body, as being His own Body. Why, when the Body was struck by the attendant, as suffering Himself He asked, 'Why do you smite Me?' And being by nature intangible, the Word yet said, 'I gave My back to the stripes, and My cheeks to blows, and hid not My face from shame and spitting (Isaiah 50:6).' For what the human Body of the Word suffered, this the Word, dwelling in the body, ascribed to Himself, in order that we might be enabled to be partakers of the Godhead of the Word. And verily it is strange that He it was Who suffered and yet suffered not. Suffered, because His own Body suffered, and He was in it, which thus suffered; suffered not, because the Word, being by Nature God, is impassible. And while He, the incorporeal, was in the passible Body, the Body had in it the impassible Word, which was destroying the infirmities inherent in the Body. But this He did, and so it was, in order that Himself taking what was ours and offering it as a sacrifice, He might do away with it, and conversely might invest us with what was His, and cause the Apostle to say: 'This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.'

Now this did not come to pass putatively, as some have supposed: far be the thought: but the Saviour having in very truth become Man, the salvation of the whole man was brought about. For if the Word were in the Body putatively, as they say, and by putative is meant imaginary, it follows that both the salvation and the resurrection of man is apparent only, as the most impious Manichæus held. But truly our salvation is not merely apparent, nor does it extend to the body only, but the whole man, body and soul alike, has truly obtained salvation in the Word Himself. That then which was born of Mary was according to the divine Scriptures human by nature, and the Body of the Lord was a true one; but it was this, because it was the same as our body, for Mary was our sister inasmuch as we all are from Adam.

And no one can doubt of this when he remembers what Luke wrote. For after He had risen from the dead, when some thought that they did not see the Lord in the body derived from Mary, but were beholding a spirit instead, He said, 'See My hands and My feet, and the prints of the nails, that it is I Myself: handle Me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me to have. And when He had said thus, He showed them His hands and His feet.' Whence they can be refuted who have ventured to say that the Lord was transformed into flesh and bones. For He did not say, 'As you see Me to be flesh and bone,' but 'as you see Me to have,' in order that it might not be thought that the Word Himself was changed into these things, but that He might be believed to have them after His resurrection as well as before His death.

-Letter LIX

Easter with St Athanasius IV

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

But they who disbelieve in the resurrection afford a strong proof against themselves, if instead of all the spirits and the gods worshiped by them casting out Christ, who they say is dead, Christ on the contrary proves them all to be dead. For if it be true that one dead can exert no power, while the Saviour does daily so many works, drawing men to religion persuading to virtue, teaching of immortality, leading on to a desire for heavenly things, revealing the knowledge of the Father, in spiring strength to meet death, showing himself to each one, and displacing the godlessness of idolatry, and the gods and spirits of the unbelievers can do none of these things but rather who themselves dead at the presence of Christ, their pomp being reduced to impotence and vanity- whereas by the sign of the cross all magic is stopped, and all witchcraft brought to nought, and all the idols are being deserted and left, and every unruly pleasure is checked, and everyone is looking up from earth to heaven-whom is one to pronounce dead? Christ, that is doing so many works? But to work is not proper to one dead.

Or him that exerts no power at all, but lies as it were without life? which is essentially proper to the idols and spirits, dead as they are. For the Son of God is "living and active," and works day by day, and brings about the salvation of all. But death is daily proved to have lost all his power, and idols and spirits are proved to be dead rather than Christ, so that henceforth no man can any longer doubt the resurrection of his body. But he who is incredulous of the resurrection of the Lord's body would seem to be ignorant of the power of the Word and the Wisdom of God. For if he took a body to himself at all, and -in reasonable consistency, as our argument showed- appropriated it as his own, what was the Lord to do with it? or what should be the end of the body when the Word had once descended upon i? For it could not but die, inasmuch as it was mortal, and to be offered unto death on behalf of all: for which purpose it was that the Saviour fashioned it for himself. But it was impossible for it to remain dead, because it had been made the temple of life. Whence, while it died as mortal, it came to life again by reason of the life in it; and of its resurrection the works are a sign.
-On the Incarnation of the Word

Easter with St Athanasius V

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

Now if by the sign of the cross, and by faith in Christ death is trampled down, it must be evident before the tribunal of truth that it is none other than Christ himself that has displayed trophies and triumphs over death, and made him lose all his strength. And if, while previously death was strong and for that reason terrible, now after the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and resurrection of his body it is despised, it must be evident that death has been brought to nought and conquered by the very Christ that ascended the cross. For as if after nighttime the sun rises and the whole region of the earth is illumined by him, it is at any rate not open to doubt that it is the sun who has revealed his light everywhere, that has also driven away the dark and given light to all things; so now that death has come into contempt, and been trodden underfoot from the time when the Saviour's saving manifestation in the flesh and his death on the cross took place, it must be quite plain that it is the very Saviour that also appeared in the body who was brought death to nought, and who displays the signs of victory over him day by day in his own disciples.

For when one sees men, weak by nature, leaping forward to death, and not fearing its corruption nor frightened of the descent into Hades, but with eager soul challenging it, and not flinching from torture, but on the contrary, for Christ's sake electing to rush upon death in preference to life upon earth; or even if one be an eyewitness of men and women and young children rushing and leaping upon death for the sake of Christ's religion; who is so silly, or who is so incredulous, or who is maimed in his mind, as not to see and infer that Christ, to whom the people witness, himself supplies and gives to each the victory over death, depriving him of all his power in each one of them that hold his faith and bear the sign of the cross.

-On the Incarnation of the Word, no. 29

Pugin on Prayer at the Heart of Reform

Taken from NLM

The illustrations in this post come from A. W. N. Pugin's 'Contrasts' which he wrote and illustrated in 1836. They are worth viewing larger, so do click on them.

In his first polemical work, which had such an influence on the Gothic revival, Pugin spells out the failings and inappropriate uses of the neo-Classic style - then in vogue - and he champions the medieval forms of Britain's Catholic past. It is noteworthy that in his day, Pugin despaired of the Oratorians who espoused the Baroque and neo-Classical architecture of post-Tridentine Rome.

Weighed in the Balance

Interestingly and rather controversially, Pugin asserted that only a Catholic society could produce a truly Gothic style and he denigrated the neo-Classical style as a return of paganism.

The illustrations Pugin used in 'Contrasts' were literally a series of contrasts; one image is of a building or object in the neo-classic style, in his mind depleted and inappropriate. Next to it is an image of the same type of structure, but of a proper, honest, and high Gothic design.

So for example, when speaking about the Altar, he inserts the following illustrations:

Gothic altar Baroque altar

Pugin says: "In the first - the true Catholic one - every portion breathes the spirit of purity and reverence; the sacred mysteries are depicted in a mystical and devotional manner; the full, draped and modest garments of the figures, the devout and placid position of the angels, the curtains, the embroidered frontal, the two candlesticks and cross, are all in strict accordance with Catholic antiquity and feelings."

Turning his ire to the second illustration, Pugin says: "An altar used for Catholic purposes, but of a debased and profane style, - we discern the fatal effects of revived Paganism. The loose and indecent costume and postures of the figures intended for saints (but which are all concealed copies of the impure models of Pagan antiquity), the classic details devoid of any appropriate signification, the paltry and trifling taste of the ornaments, more suited to a fashionable boudoir than an altar for sacrifice, all evince the total absence of true Catholic ideas of art."

Strong words indeed... and that just about sums up most of the churches in Rome, apart from those in the care of the Dominicans(!) - Santa Sabina, San Clemente, Santa Maria sopra Minerva - among a rare few others in the Eternal City. In his writings Pugin comments in passing on St Peter's in Rome but little else in that city. He is clearly writing for his fellow Englishmen and Wren, Hawkesmoor and Wyatt might be some of the architects he had in mind.

Pugin then laments the fact that he was so pre-occupied with the Protestant destruction of the Altar that he had failed to account for the 'Pagan revival' but finally in 1836, he is able to turn his mind to neo-Classicism. He says: "I did not draw a sufficient distinction between Catholicism in its own venerable garb, or as disguised in the modern externals of Pagan corruption."

I rather suspect we might still be able to apply that sentence today but very differently from that originally intended by Pugin. Today, we might speak of modernist and minimalist influences on church architecture. Indeed, some of us might be very happy to return to 'just' neo-Classical forms, as evinced when the Basilica at Baltimore was recently restored. However I think Pugin rightly prompts us to wonder if the neo-Classical form really best serves traditional Christian piety.

Pugin himself harks back to the glories of medieval Catholicism. He writes: "It is only by communing with the spirit of past ages, as it is developed in the lives of the holy men of old, and in their wonderful monuments and works, that we arrive at a just appreciation of the glories we have lost, or adopt the necessary means for their recovery."

One of these holy men whom Pugin admired greatly was Bishop William of Wykeham who founded Magdalen College at Oxford in 1458. In his later work, 'True Principles of Pointed Architecture'(1841), Pugin made the following illustration of Wykeham's College, considered still to be the ideal Oxbridge college:

Magdalen College

Pugin says about it: "The main feature of these buildings was the chapel: to our Catholic forefathers the celebration of the divine office with becoming solemnity and splendour formed a primary consideration... the place set apart for this holy purpose generally towered over the surrounding buildings... How Catholic wisdom and Catholic piety stand conspicuous in all the arrangements of these noble buildings! How great the master mind who planned and executed them, and yet how few are there in these days able to understand or willing to imitate them!"

Pugin's ringing words still apply today, indeed ever more so. However, I think he would not want mere imitation of our older forms, but rather would desire that the architecture we produce is an organic expression of our Catholic wisdom and piety. Where these both have been lost or dimmed, so too, our architecture reflects that loss. Such is the beauty and reality of sacramentals - they express an interior reality.

Therefore, I think a reform of our liturgy and art can only come from a reform of our Christian lives. The debates, arguments, study serve to inform the mind but the mind also has to be sanctified by prayer and contemplation.

Pope Benedict XVI once wrote in 'The Spirit of the Liturgy' that "Man himself cannot simply 'make' worship. If God does not reveal himself, man is clutching empty space... Liturgy implies a real relationship with Another, who reveals himself to us and gives our existence a new direction" (pp22-23). Unsurprisingly then, Pope Benedict has gone about exhorting us to strengthen and re-discover God in prayer and in love. He has told us that God is love, and in seeking love, we have a real relationship with Him. Only then will God reveal Himself to us, and the worship, the Liturgy, we offer in spirit and in truth will be an expression of that relationship. Otherwise, we run the risk of fabricating our worship.

As Pugin said: "Before true taste and Christian feelings can be revived, all the present and popular ideas on the subject must be utterly changed. Men must learn that the period hitherto called dark and ignorant far excelled our age in wisdom, that art ceased when it was said to have been revived, that superstition was piety, and bigotry faith."

In short, a reform of our lives in accordance with the faith and wisdom of Christian antiquity must precede any reform of the Liturgy and Christan art. I think we can agree with that but I wonder how many of us concur with Pugin's instinct that the Gothic form is the fruit of genuine Catholic contemplation?

Beauty and her sisters

Taken from NLM

In Defense of the Eclectic

I love A.W.N. Pugin and the medieval universe he conjured out of the thin and smoggy air of his day's Britain, and yet every one of the arguments he used to intellectually prop up that universe drives me mad with frustration. This love-hate relationship—as well as a hard-won ability on my part to see the good in just about any sort of art after a long period of mostly only seeing the bad—leaves observers a little baffled as to the nature of my architectural politics. A well-known classicist and good friend of mine half-jokingly thinks me a closet Goth, while my college buddies branded me “Mr. Baroque.” I have generally found that if I am offending both sides simultaneously, I must be on to something.

I am, at heart, a proponent of the Baroque in all its golden glory, its oratorical zeal, its marble saints, its purple half-lights and clustered angels an ecstatic tribute to the fleshy realities of salvation and a worthy successor—albeit a very different one—to the rich gilded gloom of medieval civilization. However, I also believe what is most needed today is not the triumph of one style, but a level playing-field to begin a dialogue between styles in the hopes that the fullness of the past will inform the course of the future. Whether that future is eclectic, revivalist, or electrified by some inconceivable organic whole, it is not mine to say. I can only get the ball rolling, and pray.

The Catholicity of Art

Such a debate involves not a search for a single right answer, but a multiplicity of them, and an equal multiplicity also of wrong answers. What I am after is not so much the guidelines for a single style, but the boundaries of freedom that demarcate a whole multifoliate Catholic visual culture, a way of looking and learning from past and present, from nature and the human realm, that creates a truly godly art. The artist learns by canons, but he also learns through the contemplation of beauty in the forms around him, by much looking, not unlike the way Aristotle’s virtuous man learns the practice of virtue until it becomes second nature.

Likewise, as Plato writes, “A man should, from his youth, seek for forms which are beautiful…[in time] he will recognize the beauty which resides in one as the sister of that which dwells in another.” The Holy Trinity has been expressed in a myriad of metaphors and symbols, and God can be found in the luminous darkness of Dionysius the Araeopagite and the bleached glow of Tabor. The mind-boggling variety of the beauty of holiness that has been expressed in the various saints—whether widow or virgin, grouch or ingénue, martyr, confessor or penitent—is similarly varied. And, on a more earthy level, I have seen equal beauty in women who were small and delicate or tall and aristocratic , golden-haired or brown, lissom or rounded, and every possible combination in between. (Trust me, my gaze is quite chaste.) Beauty’s sisters are shockingly numerous.

It is right--it is essential, in fact--to impute moral and spiritual values to the symbolic qualities of art and architecture, but the wideness of history, the startling diversity of God's creation (aardvarks and jellyfish, for instance) and the catholicity of our saints and rites suggest that to suggest any single value to those forms is problematic. Indeed, one can readily impute virtues and morals to Corinthian columns as easily—or even more easily—than one can to groin vaults and clustered columnettes.

But both can be raised in praise to God. The point is that whatever their shape, are capable of being understood that way. A Renaissance dome may suggest the downward embrace of the heavens and the Incarnation of God, and a Gothic tower may suggest our upward prayers towards Him. But a church resembling a badly mangled Rubik's cube does neither. There is a limit, of course, but one that could embrace many styles, even those not yet conceived or those of the East and south only now beginning to be put to Christian use. There may be relative values of the ability of such elements to express these virtues, but each may also equally express some different part of the Divine nature as well. I certainly have my own opinions of the spiritual superiority of the Baroque, but that hardly means I would snuff out other forms of beauty, as they too offer insights into the nature of God.

The Unconscious Baroque of A.W.N. Pugin

It is curious to note that many of the vices the popular mind ascribes to the Baroque would also be present in the Gothic if it were pointed out to them. Baroque hardly has the market cornered on enormous—even somewhat cluttered—masses of ornament, as the splendid heaped-up aedicules of Gothic architecture demonstrate, and rather than despising one and loving the other, both in their filigreed glory are worthy of our attention.

Fra Lawrence has spoken movingly of Pugin’s incredible attention to detail, of his creation of an organic whole in each of his projects—from painting, sculpture and architecture down to even the vestments, church furnishings and altarpieces.

Such a unity of purpose is indeed the product of its times, or at least of the post-medieval era, when such a grand scheme would be outside the grasp of craftsmen working for decades on a grand cathedral. Indeed, it is reminiscent strongly of the most appealing aspect of the Baroque tradition, that of the bel composto or total work of art, that Bernini most notably perfected in his Ecstasy of St. Teresa, where a painted heavens drips down into the otherworldly altar-shrine where an angel pierces the heart of the swooning Teresa de Jesús in a tableau of mystical love.

Whatever the problems of the Baroque when it came to digesting the more puritan strictures of Trent, as a problem-solving thought-process, it offered the first and probably most ambitious attempt to integrate the arts as a worthy sacrifice to God. Pugin doubtlessly had no idea of this when he decried the paganism of continental churches, but it suggests, as many things do, of a deeper intellectual and formal similarity beneath such polychrome skins. Perhaps it is proof of the Divine sense of humor, and one wonders what startled conversations Augustus has had since then with old Gianlorenzo in the sight of the beatific vision. Perhaps both have learned much.

The Morality of Pediments and the Language of Symbols

Certainly some boundary lines must be drawn; I am not advocating an amorphous eclecticism governed by mere good taste. But the arguments of Pugin—I will continue to use him as an example in this case, as he has been much-discussed of late—betray a scrupulous desire for exclusion that seems alien to the universality of the Catholic mind, and its ability to bring out and baptize the virtue in nearly everyone, from Socrates to the happy bees of the Exsultet. To impute a one-to-one doctrinal correspondence between virtue and the elements of art can lead you down some very odd and confusing paths. There are clearly some wrong answers, but there are many right ones.

All beauty comes from God, as the great Gothicist Sir Ninian Comper once wrote: “ ‘What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common” [Acts 10:15]. All beauty inspired by the Creator Spirit is one, as all goodness is one and all truth is one. It is this which Dante and the spirit of the Renaissance and the Schoolmen saw when they claimed Greece for Christ.” Comper’s privileging of liturgical over stylistic questions allows us to embrace the fullness of that beauty—not through a revival of his own personal eclecticism but through the imbibing of the restless, searching spirit that it embodied. Any artist who does not try to simply look at as many things as much as possible, in any style or location, is missing out on some small bit of the Divine.

There are certainly styles that cry out their hostility to the faith—orthodox Modernism is one of them, though in a few very rare instances even it has been able to be Catholicized, with the careful attention of a man diffusing a high-explosive bomb—but to ascribe a one-to-one correspondence between canons and pediments, acroteria, or spires, is impossible in light of the multiform and layered nature of any work of art.

Art is rich with symbols, and symbols gain their most illuminatory meanings through embodying not one but an intersection of many ideas, and many symbols embodying aspects of one Truth too rich to be collapsed into a single sigil. How else could a triangle represent the unfathomable Trinity, or the dove be the Holy Ghost? It is worth quoting the words of the Aristotelian savant Emanuele Tesauro, who wrote in 1655:
A metaphor packs tightly all objects into one word and makes you see them one inside the other in an almost miraculous way, and your delight is the greater because it is a more curious and pleasant thing to watch many objects from a perspective angle than if the originals themselves were to pass successively before your eyes. [...]
Metaphors are slippery things. Pinning down a crocket or a spire to a moral imperative can have some odd results, as we will see.

The Trap of the Golden Age

Pugin’s moral architecture ran into problems fairly early along. One of them is the problem that if Gothic is the sole ideal, it means it must have peaked at some point, and it would be all downhill from there. Such an attitude was not taken by most of the Victorian Gothicists, who embraced an ideal of flexible development, but it did cause a considerable amount of counter-productive hand-wringing in certain high-church circles that occasionally became so extremist as to lead one writer to brand German neo-Romanesque “almost pagan.” One architect joked at the time, in the face of this popular propaganda of a set golden age, of his fear of using moldings a half-hour too late.

Pugin’s imputation of a unilateral moral value to structure and structural ornament is also problematic. The popularity of Gothic in America is often the result of sentiment, and a lingering love of the Middle Ages, but Pugin’s tectonicist principles were intended to dispel this slippery ground.

However, in imputing a unitary moral quality to the weight of stone and glass, he finds himself in very odd company—the Abbé Laugier, Vasari, Vitruvius, Viollet-le-Duc, and the modernist Le Corbusier, all of which argued the superiority of their own pet style in the name of tectonic excellence. Laugier claimed the neo-classical style of his day was a perfectly logical expression of techtonic truth; Vasari thought the slender piers of Gothic Germany ludicrously weak and thin; Vitruvius imagined a structural pre-history for every classical element under the sun; Viollet-le-Duc interpreted Gothic structural brilliance from a secular point of view, and Le Corbusier, with his blank walls and strip windows, despised the carapace of sham fireplaces, overstuffed furniture, and bookcases that the bourgeoisie crammed the ice-tray rooms of his apartment buildings.

Each claimed their own style was the best, because it was the most perfect expression of its own structure. Somebody has to be wrong.

Such a defense is effectively indefensible as it seeks to make architecture only about architecture, rather than truth, beauty, and all the rest. Furthermore, it can hardly be applied to support a Gothic revival for today, as no building—not even Modernist ones—have been structurally true in its appearance for decades, and given the profusion of air conditioning ducts, electrical wires, plumbing, fire-code insulation, and the other unpleasant architechtonic guts of any building, will probably never be again. Taking it to its logical extreme, we would have to start worshipping under exposed I-beams. It is, at its heart, a Modernist argument, and an area of truth that homo Gothicus would have considered irrelevant. And indeed, as historian Walter C. Kidney writes, frequently did:
Architecture […] has always presented an edited version of the constructional facts. Japanese frame architecture, seemingly so straightforward, abounds in small shams introduced for the sake of finish. The Gothic cathedral dramatizes its structure with shafts, clustered around the piers, that support absolutely nothing and ribs that are often totally unnecessary.
It appears the structural purity so crucial to neo-Gothicists was not as important to their stonemason forebears. The modernists weren’t much better, finishing brick surfaces with cement or padding out Prairie-style chimney-stacks. And any building built today will abound in walls stuffed with insulation, electrical wiring and ductwork systems. And there is nothing wicked or false in this, because architecture is never merely about architecture, just as painting is not just about brushstrokes or color, but the integration of technique, story and symbol. Certainly, the narrative of a building’s structural logic—real or symbolic—is crucial to such a design; though even that is not always the case. It is hard to disagree with the historian John Summerson’s appreciation of Gothic’s fairytale fantasy defiance of gravity, or to be moved by the structurally disreputable but glorious plasterwork heavens and paradisiacal perspectives of the Baroque.

Nearly every previous attempt to reform Christian architecture has centered on some grandiose stylistic cleansing of the Temple that fizzled out. We have already spoken of the neo-Gothic. Anglicans of the Jazz Age briefly promoted reunion with Rome by festooning their chancels with Baroque cherubim, which came to nought. Partisans of the twentieth-century Liturgical Movement found their ideals in the far future or amid the secret liturgies of the catacombs, while some traditionalists (only some!!) today are convinced liturgy was never so good than at the parish low mass of 1956, that most perfect paradise.

There is much truth and beauty in each of these attempts to discover the transcendent, but it is not the whole truth. In the end, to limit one’s artistic apprenticeship to one era is the surest way to self-destruct artistically.

Such cultivation of the past provides for the future--and opens up the road for new development within the grand tradition, whether it be through small increases within the accepted styles or something bold and new that is nonetheless rooted in the wisdom of the past. More artists than we realize proceeded in this way, and were more aware of style than we suppose. As early as fifteenth-century, Flemish artists were self-consciously and selectively learning from the past. Comper sought out beauty among the ruined churches of North Africa and the polychrome apostles of Nuremberg, while even the Baroque architects Bernini and Guarini spoke approvingly of Gothic work.
Though not all possessed such catholicity of mind. I am reminded of the Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian, who was quite firmly convinced at the close of his life of the immorality of curved lines and wasn’t too sure about diagonals, either. The result was not so much cubism as bath tiles, and an artist trapped within a circle—a wicked curved line—of his own making.