I have temporarily installed a clock showing the current time in Rome, Italy, as an aid to those who are eagerly awaiting the release of the motu proprio about the Tridentine Mass, which reportedly will be available to the public sometime after noon tomorrow, Rome time. For the best post-release analysis I'm planning to go here first of all; Father Zuhlsdorf seems eminently qualified to explain what the document does say, to expound, perhaps, on what it doesn't, and in general to provide the kind of thoughtful and detailed analysis he's known for.
I don't think I'll be blogging about it right away; like most people I want to take the time to think about what our Holy Father is saying, how he is saying it, and what the results of the motu proprio on the liturgical life of our Church will be. I am very hopeful, though, that this will be the first step in Pope Benedict's XVI's plan to 'reform the reform,' to return some sanity and standards to the actual liturgical life at the parish level.
For there can be no denying that things as they are are less than they should be; in some places, under some bishops, considerably less. Catholics shouldn't have to drive from parish to parish hoping to find a Mass they can attend which is relatively free from liturgical abuse; a diocese such as mine shouldn't have the dramatic contrast between this and this in one and the same geographic region (especially when there's a lot more of the latter and not nearly enough of the former). It would be a very good thing for a new appreciation of the sacredness of the Holy Sacrifice to be instilled in all of us, and for new reminders of the importance of reverence and the appropriateness of offering our best to God to permeate through the Church by the influence of the Holy Spirit Who is operating through His servant Benedict XVI.
The best result of a widespread resurgence of interest in the Traditional Latin Mass would not be for TLM enclaves to be formed wherein the weary souls of those buffeted about by the prevailing winds that howled in the aftermath of Vatican II might protect themselves from the rest of the Church (though I sympathize with that desire, especially among the Catholics of California who even now might be looking at my little Rome clock and murmuring "How long, O Lord?"). No, the best result would be for all Catholics to become inspired by the examples of the old liturgy, to reflect upon the solemnity and reverence, to gain a new appreciation of the Church's liturgical heritage, particularly that expressed in Latin and Greek, and to seek to blend elements of this richness with those things about the Mass of Pope Paul VI that were good. And some elements of the Novus Ordo were good; there had been an effect of time on the Tridentine Mass that made that liturgy, in the words of our current pope when he was still Joseph Ratzinger:
...rather like a fresco [in the early 20th century]. It had been preserved from damage, but it had been almost completely overlaid with whitewash by later generations. In the Missal from which the priest celebrated, the form of the liturgy that had grown from its earliest beginnings was still present, but, as far as the faithful were concerned, it was largely concealed beneath instructions for and forms of private prayer. The fresco was laid bare by the Liturgical Movement and, in a definitive way, by the Second Vatican Council. For a moment its colors and figures fascinated us. But since then the fresco has been endangered by climatic conditions as well as by various restorations and reconstructions. In fact, it is threatened with destruction, if the necessary steps are not taken to stop these damaging influences. Of course, there must be no question of its being covered with whitewash again, but what is imperative is a new reverence in the way we treat it, a new understanding of its message and its reality, so that rediscovery does not become the first stage of irreparable loss.” (From The Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, copyright St. Ignatius Press, 2000.)
I like to believe that the release of this motu proprio is the first of those "necessary steps" referred to in the quote above, that are intended to stop the threatened destruction of the Mass by those who will keep seeing it as their personal plaything, of no more importance than the kind of "shared-meal-gather-community-experience" they're always comparing it to, whose highest form is the parish potluck picnic. It is imperative to the integrity of our faith that we see the Mass as it is, the unbloody Sacrifice which places us here. It would be no more appropriate for a picnic to break out at this holy place, than it would have been if some first-century idiotes decided to try to sell refreshments to those gathered at the foot of the Cross; and it is high time that all Catholics, clergy and laity alike, accepted and understood that fact.
The motu proprio will not change things overnight; nor should it. But as we wait in joyful hope for its release tomorrow, let's not lose sight of the fact that this is probably only the first step in what may be a long and sometimes even painful process of restoring what was stripped away only by accident, and building up and solidifying those aspects of the reform that were needed in the first place.