Monday, September 19, 2016

Reclaiming St. Josemaría Escrivá for the New Liturgical Movement

St. Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), the founder of Opus Dei, celebrated the traditional Latin Mass all his life as a priest. He had mystical experiences in connection with it. He loved it so much that he obtained permission (it was thought at the time that such permission was necessary) to continue with the Mass he had always offered, rather than shifting over to the Novus Ordo Missae. These are facts that deserve to be better known.[1] A marvelous gallery of photos of the saint celebrating the usus antiquior may be found here.

For spiritual reading, my son has been using St. Josemaría’s three famous books of aphorisms — The Way, The Furrow, and The Forge — and has taken pleasure in sharing with me some wonderful remarks on liturgy and the virtues it forms in the soul. It is obvious from reading the remarks that they emerge out of the rich spirituality of the traditional Mass and the healthy phase of the Liturgical Movement. Modern-day members and supporters of Opus Dei would benefit from rediscovering this important side of their founder and his life of prayer.[2]

Some sayings from his most famous book, The Way:
Your prayer ought to be liturgical. Would that you were given to reciting the psalms and prayers of the missal instead of private or special prayers!  (#86)
Show veneration and respect for the holy liturgy of the Church and for its ceremonies. Observe them faithfully. Don’t you see that, for us poor humans, even what is greatest and most noble enters through the senses? (#522)
The Church sings, it has been said, because just speaking would not satisfy its desires for prayer. You, as a Christian — and a chosen Christian — should learn to sing the liturgical chant. (#523)
“Let’s burst into song!” said a soul in love, after seeing the wonders that our Lord was working through his ministry. And the same advice I give to you: Sing! Let your grateful enthusiasm for your God overflow into joyous song. (#524)
That woman in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany, anointing the Master’s head with precious ointment, reminds us of the duty to be generous in the worship of God. All the richness, majesty and beauty possible would seem too little to me. And against those who attack the richness of sacred vessels, of vestments and altars, we hear the praise given by Jesus: “opus enim bonum operata est in me”—“she has done me a good turn.” (#527)
A very important characteristic of the apostolic man is his love for the Mass. (#528)
“The Mass is long,” you say, and I add: “Because your love is short.” (#529)
You saw me celebrate the holy Mass on a plain altar— table and stone, without a reredos. Both Crucifix and candlesticks were large and solid, with wax-candles of graded height, sloping up towards the Cross. The frontal, of the liturgical colour of the day. A sweeping chasuble. The chalice, rich, simple in line, with a broad cup. No electric light, nor did we miss it. And you found it difficult to leave the oratory: you felt at home there. — Do you see how we are led to God, brought closer to him, by the rigour of the liturgy? (#543)
From The Forge:
By a process of assimilation we should make these words of Jesus our own: Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum, I have longed and longed to eat this Passover with you. There is no better way to show how great is our concern and love for the Holy Sacrifice than by taking great care with the least detail of the ceremonies the wisdom of the Church has laid down. This is for Love: but we should also feel the need to become like Christ, not only inside ourselves but also in what is external. We should act, on the wide spaciousness of the Christian altar, with the rhythm and harmony which obedient holiness provides, uniting us to the will of the Spouse of Christ, to the Will of Christ himself. (#833)
We should receive Our Lord in the Eucharist as we would prepare to receive the great ones of the earth, or even better: with decorations, with lights, with new clothes… And if you ask me what sort of cleanliness I mean, what decorations and what lights you should bring, I will answer you: cleanliness in each one of your senses, decoration in each of your powers, light in all your soul. (#834)
I understood you very well when you confessed to me: I want to steep myself in the liturgy of the Holy Mass. (#644)
From Furrow:

A great response to the urge, the fever, the panic almost, to modernize and be relevant — a fool’s errand which always ends with a path of destruction in its wake:
Is the idea of Catholicism old and therefore unacceptable? The sun is older and has not lost its light; water is more ancient and it still quenches the thirst and refreshes us. (#937)


Here are some statements of eerie relevance to the past three years:
Although it seems a paradox, those who call themselves sons of the Church may often be precisely those who sow greater confusion. (Furrow, #360)
Always have the courage — the humility, the desire to serve God — to put forward the truths of the faith as they are, not allowing any concessions, or ambiguities. (The Forge, #580)
The conversion of a soul cannot be made easy at the risk of many others possibly falling away. (Furrow, #966)


[1] There are, as one might expect, different stories circulating around about what exactly happened after 1969, some of them more colorful than others. This is a fairly sober account, although its title is oddly anachronistic: "Why St. Josemaría Escrivá Only Celebrated the Extraordinary Form."
[2] Someone might say it is a matter of indifference which form the founder celebrated. But this cannot withstand critical scrutiny. After all, the two forms are sufficiently distinct and different that Pope Benedict XVI could establish them as two forms or uses of the Roman Rite. Hence, the total formation offered by each will be distinct and different. Thus, if one's goal is to assimilate the spirit of the founder of a community, one should strive as much as possible to be formed in the same school of piety in which he was formed, the same texts, chants, and ceremonies.

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