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Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New

Dr. Anthony Esolen just posted online an engaging article* that is best read rather than summarized--as I attempt here. It talks about Pope Francis' latest effort, with his Apostolic Letter, Desidrerio Desideravi, that attempts to corral Catholics into expressing a singular appreciation for the Novus Ordo liturgy from Vatican II. The good professor's insights are both enlightening and entertaining.

For instance, Pope Francis suggests that the NO mass involves concrete images that are symbolic of the beauty of God, things like bread, wine, wood and stone, gestures and songs. Dr. Esolen replies: "I agree with all of that, and because I do, I find the Novus Ordo, as it is commonly celebrated, to be rather pallid. It is not, as Chesterton said of Catholicism, 'a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar.' It is more like tinned meat and bottled water."

Yikes! And while the pope criticizes the Traditional Latin Mass as a form of prayer marred by sentimentality, Esolen argues that Francis merely supplants pre-Vatican II symbolism with new and empty liturgical forms, forms which may appeal to the Conciliar Documents but often fail to make a real connection with the believer:

"All of the music written for the Mass in English, since 1965, has ranged, poetically, from the barely adequate to the wretched ('Gather Us In'); it is musically structured neither as hymns nor as folk songs but as show tunes for soloists; and its theology is often a kind of heretical sentimentalism, with Jesus as a boyfriend and all of us sinners going merrily on to Heaven, without repentance, suffering, or a salutary fear of judgment; as if the whole world were a good-humored, perky, much-petted, and rather daft teenage girl."

Esolen argues that people don't need to be "taught" true beauty, as the Holy Father seems want to do by pushing post Vatican II style worship. Rather, true beauty, he concludes, is obvious; even an aboriginal native ignorant of what a beautiful church represents, is immediately impressed. "And in the things of God, there must always remain an infinity of beauty beyond what we can grasp. There is no substitute for it." Such things of God, Esolen contends, are adequately represented by Tradition's lovely ways of offering divine worship.

I find this article helps to explain the Catholic mind regarding the Traditional liturgy which the pope wants to suppress. It offers another look into that mindset in which one finds Tradition isn't so daft as it is made out to be. Here, though, I only interpret the professor's article; it's best to head over and read the real deal, making up your own minds.


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