“The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, ch. iv, “Nature”
“[T]he decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form…. [Language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. … [Yet,] the process is reversible. … A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. … [Restoring language] is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness.“
— George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (1946)
On the way home from a First Saturday Mass yesterday, I realized how we consistent (viz. we “traditionalist”) Christian Catholics must “flip the script” in one little but crucial way. I read the above quotation from Emerson last week (in Charles Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences), and I realized that the same dictum holds for our Faith and for us Catholic men.
As an illustration of this trend toward “bad usage,” please read Paul VI’s closing address to “The Council”. Like “The Council”, that address is, by Paul’s own admission, dripping with populist, quasi-Modernist, catch-phrasey, neo-Protestantoid optimism and vagueness:
[The Second Vatican Council] devoted its attention not so much to divine truths, but rather, and principally, to the Church…. This secular religious society, which is the Church, has endeavored to carry out an act of reflection about herself, to know herself better, to define herself better [Nothing self-referential here!]…. deeply committed to the study of the modern world. Never before [Ahem!] … has the Church felt the need [Eh?] to know, to draw near to, … to penetrate…, almost to run after [the modern world], in its rapid and continuous change. … The religion of the God who became man has met the religion … of man who makes himself God. … Was there a clash, a battle, a condemnation? There could have been, but there was none. The old Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of [‘]the council[‘].
Sound familiar? “Heal the wounds! Heal the wounds!!”
Well, let me pause to note what the authentic, traditional understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan actually entails. According to Haydock’s commentary (as echoed in large part by Lapide’s commentary and elaborated upon in the Catena Aurea),
This is the allegorical meaning of the parable: The man that fell among robbers, represents Adam and his posterity; Jerusalem, the state of peace and innocence, which man leaves by going down to Jericho, which means the moon, the state of trouble and sin: the robbers represent the devil, who stripped him of his supernatural gifts, and wounded him in his natural faculties: the priest and Levite represent the old law: the Samaritan, Christ; and the beast, his humanity. The inn means the Church; wine, the blood of Christ; oil, his mercy; whilst the host signifies S. Peter and his successors, the bishops and priests of the Church [and his money represents the Church’s treasury of merits — EBB]. [Cf.] Origen, S. Jerom, S. Ambrose, S. Austin, and others.
I suspect that some–perhaps most?–of you had never heard or considered the parable in that sense. Is that understanding the spirituality which undergirded the Second Vatican Council? Really? Or might the council instead have been based on a spirituality more content to meet Modern Man as an equal, in the ditch of a supposedly neutral public square, and, rather than seeking to “proselytize” Modern Man into the Church, content to tend to his wounds in the sterile ditch of Enlightenment rhetoric and compromise? The point I am trying to make is that, according to the parable of the Good Samaritan itself, a genuine and complete adherence to the “spirit” (that word!) of the parable of the Samaritan would have led the council to an unflinching equation of true “healing” with complete sacramental membership in the Church. Instead, Paul VI reminds us how V2 sought a collaboration with the world, rather than its conversion.
A feeling of boundless sympathy has permeated the whole of [the Second Vatican Council]. The … council has been absorbed by the discovery of human needs [What?]…. [Hence, we ask the world] to recognize our own new type of humanism…. [T]his council, which exposed itself to human judgment [sic!], insisted very much more upon [the] pleasant side of man…. Its attitude was very much and deliberately optimistic. A wave of affection and admiration flowed from the council over the modern world of humanity. … [M]essages of trust issued from [‘]the council[‘] to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honored, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed.
There are some orthodox gems in the V2 documents, to be sure, but, by and large, as the above excerpts show, the language is–once again, by Paul’s own admission–so self-absorbed that it painfully obvious how it led to the amorphous Sponge Church of our day. Exactly whatever happened at Vatican II, we can, in the immortal words of Alice Thomas Ellis, in The Sin Eater, say that at the very least, “It is as though…one’s revered, dignified and darling old mother had slapped on a mini-skirt and fishnet tights and started ogling strangers. A kind of menopausal madness, a sudden yearning to be attractive to all. It is tragic and hilarious and awfully embarrassing. And of course, those who knew her before feel a great sense of betrayal and can’t bring themselves to go and see her any more.”
In any case, here is my epiphany:
Instead of saying, “I assist at the [Traditional] Latin Mass”, let us say, with the pride that can only from a consistent embrace of our patrimony, “I assist at the Mass, but I sometimes assist at the New Mass when the need arises.”
Or something to that effect.
If it wants to be known as a New Order, let the Novus Ordo be known as the New Mass. We Consistent Christian Catholics must drop all revisionist qualifiers about THE MASS and treat the Novus Ordo as it wants to be treated: as the New Mass. This in no way suggests that the New Mass is illicit or invalid, nor does it seek to insinuate any inferiority of the New Mass. It is simply an attempt, heeding Orwell’s advice cited above, to reverse the revisionist corruption of language in the modern Church, whereby a liturgy that’s younger than most of the priests offering it is spoken of as the default expression of Catholic worship, while the oldest form of Christian liturgy is looked down upon as some kind of deviant, decadent innovation.
After all, your typical New Mass is not even what V2 had in mind. I very recently acquired a used copy of the 1966 St. Joseph’s Continuous Sunday Missal, and its every page displays a liturgical something that is far more “traditional” and rich than the typical New Mass on any given day (which, of course, isn’t even said in Latin, despite, once again, V2’s wishes).
If you’ve read this far, then I know I’m preaching to the choir on all this, so I’ll wrap it up.
From this day forth, let this (or something like it) be your new conversational plumb line with other Catholics:
“So you assist at the New Mass in _____ parish. Lovely.”
“Where do you assist at the Mass? Have you ever assisted at the Mass?”
“I normally assist at the Mass in ____, though of course I have nothing against the New Mass.”
And so on.
Let me know how it goes.
I’m off to the Mass.