Skip to comments.Homily of Fr. Calvin Goodwin on EWTN (Transcript)
Posted on 09/18/2007 2:45:09 PM PDT by maryz
The Priestly Society of St. Peter, whom you see in the sanctuary today, would like to thank Mother Angelica, Mother Vicar and the Poor Clare community for their gracious invitation to celebrate this Mass here today in this magnificent church. We are particularly grateful to Bishop Foley of the Diocese of Birmingham for supporting our presence here today and to the members of the EWTN staff and board of directors of this tremendous enterprise, born of Mother Angelicas faith and wisdom and which has been so fruitful for the needs of the Church all around the world now, for a quarter of a century.
There are so many things that could be said on this momentous occasion of the coming into full legal power in the Church of the Holy Fathers motu proprio on the traditional Mass. I will do no more than offer a few reflections, as the least of the members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. There are many who would be able to offer more eloquent and apposite thoughts. My comments reflect only my own poor grasp of the gift that the successor of Peter offers to the Church in his teaching and his decrees in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.
I could never claim to represent the priestly fraternity as a whole -- or any other ecclesial body -- just me. Fr. Trigilio said to me this morning before Mass -- he was looking at the preaching stole, and he said, Wow! Thats really beautiful! And I said, yes our theory is if the preaching cant be good, at least it can look good. Today marks a moment -- a great moment in the Church in modern times. This Mass offered today for the need s and intentions of our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, is a concrete and visible token of that interior reconciliation within the church, which the Holy Father has both called for and made possible through his recent motu proprio, which restores the traditional liturgical rites of the Church to a central place at the heart of the Churchs life.
Certainly no one now is unaware of the painful confusions and divisions which afflicted the Churchs interior life in recent years. The Supreme Pontiff bears poignant witness to these afflictions, when in the letter to the universal episcopate, which accompanied the motu proprio, he writers, I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church. And so the Vicar of Christ, making use of that personal authority which binds the universal church and which is his alone, has determined that healing of those painful wounds must begin, and it must begin at the heart of the Church, in the sanctuary, in the Holy Sacrifice which makes present on the altar that very exaltation of the saving Passion of Christ which is commemorated in the Feast which we celebrate here today.
So, therefore, let any spirit of suspicion which has led to division among Catholics be banished once and for all by this proclamation of the Vicar of Christ, where he says, What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. And we cannot fail to note that the ancient feast which we celebrate today here bears witness to the fact that out of the most abject suffering the world has ever witnessed -- the ignominious Passion and death on the Cross of the Son of God -- there emanated reason for joy and exultation, a joy and exultation that will endure as long as this world endures and indeed is crowned for all eternity in heaven. So too, though the church has witnessed contradictions and conflicts throughout her history, she, the unspotted Bride of Christ, always emerges intact, to continue her mission, for the honor of God and the needs of souls. Out of this conviction, the Vicar of Christ offers to the whole church an invitation to what he calls an interior reconciliation much needed and long awaited and so deeply appreciated by faithful Catholics everywhere.
Still, it is not sufficient to take advantage only of the joy of this great moment. We must apply ourselves to the task of appreciating more fully the substance of the mind of the Church as articulated by the Successor of Peter. What then does the Holy Father have in mind as he restores the immemorial rite of the Mass, with all the liturgical rites and uses of the Latin Rite? What does he expect it to achieve in the life of the church?
Well, without attempting to speak for him, let us briefly look at the rite itself, so as to glean from its nature and character what it is that the Supreme Pontiff wishes to offer through its restoration to the attention of the whole Church. Certainly, we will find there in the rite itself, elements revelatory of the essence of authentic Catholic liturgy. For as Pope John Paul II of blessed memory reminded us just a very few years ago, In the Roman Missal so-called of St. Pius V, one finds the most beautiful prayers, with which the priest expresses the deepest sense of humility and reverence before the Sacred Mysteries. These reveal the very substance of what liturgy is.
No doubt much of the ceremony of todays Mass will be unfamiliar to many. Two things is particular will probably stand out. One is that the Mass is celebrated entirely in Latin. The other is that for much the greatest time of the time of the ceremony, the priest-celebrant prays facing the altar. These phenomena are by no means the only significant ones, but they are both immediately different to what many have become accustomed to in the liturgy as most often celebrated in recent times.
Yet these phenomena, however much they may bring with them the shock of the unfamiliar, are nonetheless integral to the most central principles of liturgical prayer in the Catholic Church. And they are hallowed by an unbroken tradition, which as the Council of Trent solemnly defined, is rooted in the liturgy of Apostolic times. Still, given the more common liturgical practice of recent times, it should cause no surprise if good and sincere people simply ask, Why is the Mass in a language that I dont understand? And the rites in a configuration which makes it impossible for me to see whats going on?
It should be made clear then, this venerable rite of Holy Mass in no way has as its goal the obscuring of the elements of the Mass. Just the opposite. It is so constructed as to be eminently revelatory, as Pope John Paul said, of the very substance of what liturgy is. There is no need, nor would it be germane to the context of a sermon, to analyze elements which may have contributed to certain confusions and anomalies during a time of tumultuous changes in the Churchs life. For his part, and this is surely sufficient for us, the Holy Father clearly comprehends the historical context and does not forbear to draw certain difficult but unavoidable conclusions when he says, in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. Beyond that, it is surely our priority to note first the profound compassion with which the Vicar of Christ seeks to bind up the wounds of those who have suffered and then the sober and insistent fashion in which he summons the whole church, bishops, priests and faithful, to that interior reconciliation without which our service of God, liturgically and otherwise, would be gravely impaired.
All the varied rites of the Church stand together in offering to God the same worship which His human creatures owe to Him, and all these rites, singly and together, are equally bound constantly to reflect upon the fidelity and constancy with which they do so. The texts of todays Mass -- todays Feast -- reveal to us a great deal about the essence of liturgical prayer. In the Introit we read, May God have mercy on us and bless us. May He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us. What do we perceive here, if not the reality that in this world we are threatened by a darkness, a darkness founded in elements of sin and error. And further the acknowledgement that it is Gods merciful action that we must await to effect the dispelling of that darkness.
In the Gospel, we read just how that darkness is dispelled -- it is through Christ alone, Christ our Light, and it is Christ Himself Who guides u by the light of truth, that light which saves, Whilst you have the light, believe in the light, that you may be Children of Light. What is our response to the action of God Who saves us in Christ the Eternal Light? It must be to believe in that Light. Thus in Holy Mass, everything builds on that belief in the Light. But -- and this should lead us to a profound reflection -- the initiative is Gods. And Christ alone is, in the Incarnation, the means of that initiative. Just a few days ago, at the beginning of this week, the Holy Father gave an elocution in Germany in which he reflected upon the essential elements of Catholic liturgical prayer. These are his words In all our efforts on behalf of the liturgy, the determining factor must always be our looking to God. We stand before God. He speaks to us first, and then we speak to Him. I ask you to celebrate the sacred liturgy with your gaze fixed upon God within the communion of saints, the living Church of every place and time.
The liturgical prayer of the Church is therefore, first of all, something given to us by God, something which we receive, something to which we are obliged faithfully and humbly to conform ourselves -- our hearts, our minds. What is obscure in a world so convinced of its self-sufficiency is made plain to the eyes of faith, turned and lifted toward Him. It is given and revealed to us in fact by God, through an unbroken tradition of rites, which embody that tradition that stretches back directly to the Apostles themselves. The worlds cultural inclinations and fashions pass and fade away, but the Light remains constant. The ancient character of the Churchs liturgical actions -- its words, gestures and ceremonies -- reflect this enduring Light in a concrete and sensible way. The words pronounced at the altar today are, to a very significant degree, the same words, the gestures and motions are the same, as those used by Blessed John XXIII and by St. Pius V, by St. John Vianney and St. Dominic, by St. Miguel Pro and St. Edmund Campion, by the martyrs of North America and the martyrs of the Crusades, by St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Augustine of Hippo -- hallowed words, hallowed gestures, hallowed action, hallowed not only by use but by where they come from, that precious and holy Tradition, that has sanctified individuals, made devout families, given abundant vocations and martyrs to the Church and to the honor of God for almost two millennia.
As the Holy Father states in Summorum Pontificum, It is evident that the Latin liturgy has stimulated in the spiritual life of very many saints in every century of the Christian age and strengthened in the virtue of religion so many peoples and made fertile their piety. You know that in the Eastern rites, when people come into the church, there is a wall, called the iconostasis, beautifully decorated, which separates their gaze from what is transpiring in the sanctuary. In the ancient times of the Church, when it was time for the most central part of the Mass to begin, a curtain used to be drawn across the sanctuary, in order to withhold from profane gaze the sacred Mysteries.
No longer is such a curtain drawn -- its not needed because God in the Holy Ghost has guided the Church to that same reality -- the reality represented in the Eastern Church by the iconostasis -- with a sacred language, a non-everyday special language devoted only to the Churchs most holy endeavors. It serves as a verbal curtain drawn over the Mysteries being carried out at the altar to remind us that, yes, there is a wide and fathomless gap between the incomprehensible majesty and holiness of God, on the one hand, and our human sinfulness and smallness on the other. It is a gap which cannot be breached by human presumption or initiative or comprehension. It is a gap unbridgeable by anything we do and is overcome only by what God does in our Lord Jesus Christ and which we receive from Him. The Holy Father Benedict XVI has repeatedly warned against the tendency in modern times for prayer -- liturgical prayer for the community to drift toward a celebration much of itself, and John Paul II insisted in a pointed analysis of elements undignified and inappropriate to liturgical prayer that It is necessary to purify worship of deformations, of careless forms of expression, of ill-prepared music and texts which are not very suited to the grandeur of the Act being celebrated. In all the several liturgical rites and uses of the Church, then -- all of them, we are in common urged to seek only those elements which authentically and worthily reflect the august sacrifice they embody.
Thus today in the ancient Roman Rite, we bow as did our fathers in the Faith, we kneel as those before us did many centuries ago, we prostrate ourselves before the awesome re-presentation on the altar of the Sacrifice of the Cross. The Epistle of todays feast reminds us that even at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow of those that are in heaven, on earth and under the earth -- the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering. If this is the appropriate action to the mention of the Holy Name, how much more reverence and devotion should inform our acknowledgement of His actual Presence on the altar? Nothing casual, but instead a communal turning toward the Lord. Once again, the words of our Holy Father, A turning to the Lord in gratitude, love and awe, for what is donated to us by a merciful God and which we could never achieve on our own or make happen for ourselves. And by this humble submission, we are united, as St. Paul reminds us, to the Church Triumphant in heaven and the Church Suffering in purgatory and offering to God our common homage.
The first thing, then, that we have to understand, is that this Mystery takes us beyond the limits available to unaided human understanding. It cannot be grasped or encompassed by puny human intellect alone, darkened as it is by the inroads of sin. We can find our way to it only through a humble and reverent and faith-founded attentiveness. Not a passivity, mind you, but an attention which is in fact the activity most essential to our participation in Holy Mass. As Pope John Paul II put it, making his own the words of St. Augustine from so long ago, but still wholly normative for all authentic Catholic worship. The highest music is one that arises from our hearts. It is precisely this harmony that God wants to hear in our liturgies. The most perfect participation in that Sacrifice is in fact exemplified by Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross. And what is it that Our Lady does there, at the foot of the Cross? Nothing in fact that mortal eyes can perceive. What does she say there, at the foot of the Cross? Nothing that mortal ears can hear. And yet no human being ever was or ever could be more fully or more intimately involved in that Sacrifice than she was at that moment, because her heart and soul and being were united to her Son and to what He was doing for us all. As always, she shows us the Way.
Thus, with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, we too can only be present and wonder, asking ourselves in union with the prayer of the priest at the altar, Quid retribuam> -- What return shall I make to the Lord for all that He hath given unto me? This is both the beginning and the goal of participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Everything that fails to lead to that reverence and interior union, or which impedes it, impedes authentic participation, and all the elements of exterior participation consonant with these principles will inevitably have the character of authenticity. And when that Sacrifice is crowned in the moment of Holy Communion, what is it that we do? We receive. We receive what we could never fashion or make for ourselves, but which is freely and mercifully and lovingly given to us by a loving and merciful God in His Son, our Savior, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Son of God, a moment above all for devout and humble receptivity.
This is the moment of Mt. Tabor, when the apostles are rapt in silent wonder, their heads bowed low in awe and holy fear, until, as St. Matthew tells us, Jesus came and touched them and then, looking up, they saw only Jesus. That is a text in which the early Christians -- and Christians of all time -- will certainly have recognized their own rite of Holy Communion. Through this rite of Holy Mass and not infrequently without particular verbal comprehension, saints and martyrs have been raised up in the Church. Simple people and children have entered into heroic holiness, not because they grasped or saw, but because they revered and believed. How we need today -- how young people need that simple and humble faith of a Therese of the Child Jesus, who said at the very end of her life, I always sought only the Truth. How we need that simple and humble faith of a Bernadette, who attested, when questioned by the priest, that she did not understand the awesome message -- I use the word awesome several times in this sermon in honor of Mother Angelica -- that she did not understand the awesome message that Our Lady had chosen her to convey, but nevertheless her faith in Our Lady was real and wholly unshakable. And thus that faith became richly fruitful for her own relationship with God, as well as for the mission that had been entrusted to her. Yet how many have forgotten that their first responsibility in this world is to know God through the exercise of the virtue of faith? The worlds modalities are insufficient in themselves for Divine Worship. We must surrender to the Christ, our Light who alone guides us beyond the worlds deceptions to the realm of divinely given revelation. And that revealed truth is made present here today and every day that Holy Mass is celebrated in all the approved rites of the Church through the renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross.
Finally, let us be clear: No one here has the slightest intention of proposing the immemorial liturgy as some solution to the Churchs trials or troubles. The purpose of liturgical prayer is, in any case, not to fix things in the Church but so to unite us to Christ our Lord that we can navigate the troubled sea of this world, always oriented towards -- and one day finding our repose in -- Him. But the Church will surely benefit so much from the reintegration into her life of this most beautiful thing this side of heaven, as Fr. Faber once memorably described the ancient rite of Holy Mass. Priests will benefit in their interior life, and countless souls will benefit from that silence in which alone the voice of God may be discerned. No, this Mass is not a challenge to the Church, nor an act of condemnation, nor an act of politics, but an immeasurable enrichment of the Churchs life. It is a sign of restoration, a sign of renewed vigor and self-awareness for and in the Church. We should familiarize ourselves with the provisions that the Holy Father has made in Summorum Pontificum, ponder them for the wisdom they embody beyond their immediate practical prescriptions. The Sacrifice of the Cross in this ancient and venerable form is to be exalted, as is the Cross itself, in this ancient and venerable feast that we celebrate today.
The source link is to EWTN’s podcast archive page — the homily is below the regular programming. The transcript is mine (as are any errors, of course).
This homily was so powerful! Glad it’s getting replay.
(Was also glad to see your post on another thread, maryz, that all the DVD copies are sold out! Maybe the number of copies sold would convince the Cardinal that there is more than “no” interest in the TLM. LOL!)
And if it's my Cardinal you mean, well, he'd probably just think they were bought by all those benighted people outside North America who might still have some interest . . . :(
Indeed I did mean yours. :(
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Thank you, Mary. This sermon really touched my soul!
Thanks so much, maryz, for making this transcript available, taking the time to transcribe. Bookmarking. I was unable to catch the podcast and it’s wonderful to reflect upon the words of this holy Priest and the Holy Father, to read and re-read. Thanks again!
Thank you so much for this. I have watched the Mass twice, it was truly awesome.
Thank you for transcribing this!
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