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‘Liturgy is not ours. It is not a form of self-expression…’

In a homily Archbishop Nichols echoes Benedict XVI’s humility

By on Thursday, 30 June 2011

Archbishop Celli assists Benedict XVI with an iPad for the launch of the Vatican's new website (CNS photo)

Archbishop Celli assists Benedict XVI with an iPad for the launch of the Vatican's new website (CNS photo)

I have just watched with some amusement a clip of the Holy Father receiving an iPad as a gift on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his ordination. A couple of elderly cardinals, aided by some respectful men in smart suits, were on hand to instruct the Pope in the intricacies of how to use it. He tentatively pressed a few buttons and looked at the photos onscreen of his youthful self; and all the time I had the distinct impression that he was secretly bemused by the whole operation and trying to mask this with his usual courtesy.

L’Osservatore Romano also records this anniversary with a quote from the Pope’s book, Milestones, in which he recalled his ordination at the hands of Cardinal von Faulhaber in June 1951:

“On the day of our first Holy Mass, our parish church of St Oswald gleamed in all its splendour… We were invited to bring the first blessing into people’s homes, and everywhere we were received even by total strangers with a warmth and affection I had not thought possible until that day.

“In this way I learned first hand how earnestly people wait for a priest, how much they long for the blessing that flows from the power of the sacrament. The point was not my own or my brother’s person. What could we two young men represent all by ourselves to the many people we were now meeting? In us they saw persons who had been touched by Christ’s mission and had been empowered to bring his nearness to men…”

Alongside reading these moving words, a friend sent me a recent homily by Archbishop Vincent Nichols from the Zenit news agency. I quote extracts from it to indicate that in his own way the archbishop echoes what the Holy Father had written:

“The Liturgy is never my own possession, or my creation. It is something we are given, from the Father. Therefore my own tastes, my own preferences, my own personality, my own view of ecclesiology, are marginal, of little importance. When it comes to the celebration of the Mass we don vestments to minimise our personal preferences, not to express or emphasise them. Liturgy is not ours. It is never to be used as a form of self-expression. Indeed, the opposite is the truth… The Mass is the action of the Church. That’s what matters, not my opinion. I once heard that Blessed Pope John Paul never commented on a Mass he had celebrated. It’s the Mass. My task is to be faithful… Ordained into the person of Christ the Head, I am just an instrumental cause of this great mystery… We are servants of the Liturgy through which God opens to us His saving life.”

The archbishop concludes, “Let us accept with joy the search for a renewal in our celebration of the Mass, guided solely by the Church…”

Given the criticism that Archbishop Nichols often comes in for, it was good to read these words. Both his and the Pope’s reflections were borne out last Sunday, in the Mass celebrated for Corpus Christi, where a very elderly retired monsignor replaced our parish priest for the occasion. I would guess he was the same age as the Holy Father, so had been ordained to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form. He brought to the celebration of the Ordinary Form the same self-effacement, humility and reverence he would have been taught in his youth. His homily was brief, clear and instructive, touching on the liturgy and the revision that will be implemented this autumn. Summarising the history of the liturgy in the last 40 years, I was struck by one sentence of his homily: “In time we learned to love the New Rite of the Mass.” He introduced no politics, no controversy, no private preferences – just a humble priest, quietly and obediently carrying out what he was ordained to do all those years before, as were the Holy Father and Archbishop Nichols.

Sometimes it is good to eschew all the arguments and debates – and simply pray for our priests.

  • Petrus

    “The Liturgy is never my own possession, or my creation. It is something we are given, from the Father. Therefore my own tastes, my own preferences, my own personality, my own view of ecclesiology, are marginal, of little importance. When it comes to the celebration of the Mass we don vestments to minimise our personal preferences, not to express or emphasise them. Liturgy is not ours. It is never to be used as a form of self-expression.”

    A pity Archbishop Bugnini didn’t think like this!

        “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Prostestants.”  – Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, main author of the New Mass, L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

    “The adaptation or ‘incarnation’ of the Roman form of the liturgy into the usages and mentality of each individual Church.” Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, 1974

    “To tell the truth it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.”  Father Joseph Gelineau SJ, a Council peritus

  • Anonymous

    How very true.
    There is much we don’t know concerning the late archbishop. What is certain however is that the most central element of worldwide Catholicism – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – was revolutionized nearly single-handedly by disgraced and dubious man. One Annibale Bugnini. 

  • Charles Martel

    “In time we learned to love the New Rite of the Mass.” Well, I’m afraid he was probably just being polite. How could he really mean that? How can you love a ‘fabricated rite’, a ‘banal, on-the-spot product’? We were softened up for it through the 60s and by the time it was foisted on us in 1970 we were all too punch drunk to put up much resistance. Growing up in the 1960s, I did my best to learn the prayers, because my parents wanted me to and gave me little Mass books for children…until these prayers changed yet again for the umpteenth time. To this day I cannot recite the Nicene Creed in English thanks to these clowns. Creator of Heaven and Earth…Maker of Heaven and Earth…who knows? It was a pastoral disaster of epic proportions, loved so much that it emptied our churches and made mass-going a truly penitential experience. Cheesy music, clammy signs of peace, monotonous, desacralized and protestantized verbiage… It’s really hard to forgive the perpetrators. Really hard.

  • http://jacquelineparkes.blogspot.com/ Jacquelineparkes

    Spot on Francis!

  • Anonymous

    Am I correct in saying that there is a weekly Mass in Soho for homosexuals on the Archbishop’s approval?

  • Ratbag

    Yes. And it’s WRONG!

  • Charles Martel

    Yes, you are, and don’t bother protesting to him. He has said that opponents of these Gay Rites should ‘hold their tongues’.

  • Anonymous

    There is a similar mentality elsewhere in the hierarchy against Church teaching. Here’s a sobering video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_FDl1XX7js

    It really bothers me that so few Catholic lay people intervene to stop these sacrileges, while those who do, say, for example, Daphne McLeod, are treated with contempt. Where are all the so-called Catholic columnists who recently descended on the devout Fr. Paul Kramer like a pack of wild animals, but who don’t dare open their mouths against Archbishop Nichols, whose support for the Soho Masses clearly violates the teaching of the Church as expressed even in recent instructions.

  • Anonymous

    And I’ll bet Archbishop Nichols would be the first to accuse the SSPX of not obeying the Pope? It’s hypocrisy at its worst. God forgive them!

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely every statistic under the sun tells them that they made a catastrophic mistake with the New Mass, yet they still put forward a case for this Reformation rite as if it has some kind of continuity with the ancient liturgy it usurped. Talk about the blind leading the blind!

  • seraphicsingles

    “In time we learned to love…” Shudder.

  • maryp

    We are blessed in our parish in the US to have Mass both in the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms. The beauty of the latter (previously unknown to me) is beyond compare. The church is packed at every Mass, many of the families are large and the youth are as devout as their elders. However, it would seem that the hierachy are not impressed and want to give us less orthodox priests. According to the man in the red hat, we are apparently ‘not inclusive enough’ (although we do have a Spanish Mass) and ‘lukewarm Catholics would feel uncomfortable with us.’ And I thought dinosaurs were extinct.