Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Book Review: Sacred Then and Sacred Now

Recently a new book was mentioned, Sacred Then and Sacred Now: The Return of the Old Latin Mass, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., published by Roman Catholic Books. ($15.95 USD)

I was pleased to be sent a review copy and wanted to quickly share some thoughts about the book. The book is very brief, coming in at around 120 pages, and seems especially suited to those uninitiated in the ancient Roman rite and the liturgical issues which surround it. Such is, of course, quite necessary. Short enough to be undaunting to the neophyte in such matters and thus more likely to find a readership while also providing a comfortable venue for those exploring the issues.

The book essentially does a few things. On the one hand, it presents the actual Explanatory Letter and Motu Proprio of the Pope; an evidently good inclusion which allows people to read the plain-speaking texts of the Pope directly. Beyond this however, Thomas Woods includes two chapters which present the background of the matter, "Why Benedict Restored the Classical Liturgy" and "Benedict's Revolution", essentially providing a history of the liturgical debate (and Cardinal Ratzinger's stated positions in this regard -- many quotations are included) as well as a commentary upon the motu proprio itself, demonstrating what Benedict's intentions are and are not -- this is particularly relevant considering how much effort there has been to skew the intent of the Pope and the scope of the motu proprio itself.

Woods also includes "A Brief Guide to the Extraordinary Form" which takes one through the various prayers and postures of the older form of the Roman Mass, while another chapter explains some of the differences one can expect to see in the usus antiquior from the modern Roman liturgy. Many people are naturally uncomfortable at the prospect of attending something in which they may not know "what to do" and these chapters will no doubt be particularly beneficial to those unfamiliar with the older form of the rites and can thus help them be less intimidated and better prepared. The latter chapter also higlights some of the points of debate to be found within the modern liturgy today: altar girls, the overuse of EMHC's and so on.

Similarly, the chapter on "Common Misconceptions" presents a concise question and answer format to issues such as the use of Latin in the liturgy, the priest "having his back to the people", what the Council mandated and so on. This provides Woods the opportunity to introduce conciliar teachings and to introduce some of the fundamental questions proposed by the reform of the reform. Such will not only be useful to the beginner, but are also pertinent summations for parish priests and those already familiar with these liturgical debates.

Finally, the book includes the excellent sermon delivered by Fr. Calvin Goodwin, FSSP, for the occasion of the Sept 14th Mass held at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Alabama, and a listing of "Useful Resources" which includes a short-list of particular book titles and websites that those aspiring to learn more about these issues might consider -- one of which is the NLM, to which we are appreciative to receive such a recommendation.

Overall, this a good and concise resource for introducing friends, family, even clergy, to the motu proprio, to the Pope's liturgical thought and to the ancient Roman liturgy itself.

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