Go to any city church: What do people do naturally and as a matter of course? Hardly anyone kneels for the act of transubstantiation; often enough, not even the priest genuflects before the transubstantiated gifts. A woman brings the Hosts for the congregation from a little golden cupboard to one side; she does so in a busy and confident way, as if she were bringing some medication from a medicine cabinet. She places the Hosts in the communicants’ hands; few of them show the Host the reverence of a genuflection or a bow.
People of aesthetic sensibility, much scorned and suspect, are the recipients of a terrible gift: they can infallibly discern the inner truth of what they see, of some process, of an idea, on the basis of its external form. I had often spoken with pious apologists about the situation I have just described—it is observable all over the world. It was painful for the clergy to talk about these things, but they were not willing to admit that there had been a loss of spirituality. Kneeling was medieval, they said. The early Christians prayed standing. Standing signifies the resurrected Christ, they said; it is the most appropriate attitude for a Christian. The early Christians are also supposed to have received Communion in their hands. What is irreverent about the faithful making their hands into a “throne” for the Host? I grant that the people who tell me such things are absolutely serious about it all. But it becomes very clear that pastors of souls are incredibly remote from the world in these matters; academic arguments are completely useless in questions of liturgy. These scholars are always concerned only about the historical side of the substance of faith and of the forms of devotion. If, however, we think correctly and historically, we should realize that what is an expression of veneration in one period can be an expression of blasphemy in another. If people who have been kneeling for a thousand years suddenly get to their feet, they do not think, “We’re doing this like the early Christians, who stood for the Consecration”; they are not aware of returning to some particularly authentic form of worship. They simply get up, brush the dust from their trouser-legs and say to themselves: “So it wasn’t such a serious business after all.” Everything that takes place in celebrations of this kind implies the same thing: “It wasn’t all that serious after all.” Under such circumstances, anthropologically speaking, it is quite impossible for faith in the presence of Christ in the Sacrament to have any deeper spiritual significance, even if the Church continues to proclaim it and even if the participants of such celebrations go so far as to affirm it explicitly.
Martin Mosebach, The Heresy of Formlessness (HT to Steve Skojec, “Bad Liturgy Is Not a Victimless Crime: Just Ask Jimmy Fallon“)