Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. “I will go in unto the Altar of God, to God, Who giveth joy to my youth.” This is how the Tridentine Rite Mass begins – with the priest saying these prayers at the foot of the altar. Going to the Lord’s House to praise, worship and adore Him should be a joyful experience.
On January 27th, the First Reading, Nehemiah 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10, ended with, “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!” The Tridentine Rite’s Prayers at the Foot of the Altar end with, “Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini. Qui fecit cælum et terram, “ or in English, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord, Who hath made heaven and earth.” Basically the same message: be happy, be strong in the Lord.
Joy and Power in God’s Word
That reading from Nehemiah is worth a second read if you didn’t pay attention or forgot. It was paired with the Gospel recounting Jesus being handed the scroll to read in the Temple and telling all in the Temple that they have seen that prophecy fulfilled in Him. The power of the Word of God is beyond anything we can imagine. Nehemiah recounts how Ezra the priest read the Word and interpreted it all day, and everyone listened intently with hearts, minds and ears. It is recounted that “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, ‘Amen, amen!’” Sound a bit Pentecostal or Charismatic Catholic, doesn’t it? Hands in the air proclaiming Amen.
Recently I had an experience that might make one think of that enthusiasm for God’s Word. I was watching the Jewish network for Shabbat services. I came upon it while channel surfing. It was filmed that evening from the Central Synagogue in New York City. There were female Rabbis and it seemed almost charismatic. The Orthodox would not like it, but I marveled at how much Scripture came alive. The Scroll was brought out from the Aron Kodesh or Ark. It was brought out with great joy, singing and celebration, and returned the same way. A young man was asked to come up and read from the scroll. They spoke of joy.
I thought of Jesus and the Mass readings of the 27th. I admired how these Jewish people were praising God and, unknowingly, Jesus who is the Word of God, just like their ancestors did 2,000 years ago when they asked Jesus to read the Torah but did not recognize the day of their visitation.
I thought about how the Novus Ordo and the other Catholic Mass Rites are celebrated too, and how Vatican II caused such a rift among Traditionalists. I see how an Orthodox Jew would be offended by the Central Synagogue Service, and I can understand how Traditionalists get upset with the Novus Ordo. However, if we let the external things that we perceive to be the “Law” get in the way, we will fail to see the beauty in praise and worship, and, for Traditionalists, the beauty and power and mystery in every Apostolic Mass. I feel sorry for all those people of every faith hindered by law, tradition (human traditions, as opposed to inspired Sacred Tradition), or pride, who can’t see the beauty in praise and worship in many different forms.
The “Right” Way To Pray
Full disclosure: I used to be one of those angry folks. If the Novus Ordo wasn’t celebrated the “RIGHT” way I would get infuriated. I was also upset about Vatican II, the subrogation of the Council of Trent, and on and on. I was guilty of the sin of Pride. Everyone needed to worship like I did or they were wrong.
I was wrong. I cannot think that God makes such distinctions about the different cultural expressions that His people use to show Him honor and love. Can you imagine a parent getting birthday greetings from all of their many children, in all different beautiful ways, and scorning one greeting over another? I can’t imagine that.
Now don’t start writing nasty letters; I’m not suggesting not following the Rubrics or the Order of the Mass or incorporating different things or using different matter for consecration. What I am saying is that maybe we need to allow everyone to pray in the way that most helps them draw near God, and to enjoy their expressions of love towards our God, even if it is not our expression of love. God spurns no one who comes to Him.
Personally, I have an affinity for the Latin Mass. I don’t like many of the changes that came about with the Novus Ordo specifically as it pertains to Baptism and Exorcism; however, I believe it may be a grave sin to attack the Mass in any Rite. I assist at the Novus Ordo almost every day and I love the Charismatic Catholic Masses. I have not assisted at a Tridentine Rite Mass in many years. I would be considered a heretic by my Traditionalist friends. I am not.
I belong to a couple of Tridentine Rite web sites and the traditionalists are very angry, upset and concerned. I don’t disagree with many of their valid concerns, but as I pointed out to them, Saint Padre Pio faced the people and said Mass using some of the Novus Ordo Rubrics. Had he been commanded by a superior to serve only the Novus Ordo, he would have, because he was obedient.
So that should end the validity concerns. It does in my mind. If Padre Pio did not condemn it, who are we to do so? What happens at Mass is unchangeable. We are transported outside of time to Calvary, in any Apostolic Rite. I implore anyone who gets upset at the various ways people worship to sit in meditation before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and really ponder why you are angry. Are you angry because it offends you? I can assure you, God rejects no one who comes to Him—Jesus said that Himself.
Eyes of Faith Reveal God’s Presence
We are truly blessed if we have faith. We need the eyes and hearts of faith to really appreciate all the beauty God reveals to us. He speaks to us, and He draws near to us, in the sacred liturgy.
I meditated on those Mass readings all week, and I felt so blessed to come upon the Shabbat services at the Central Synagogue. They seem like wonderful people who love the Word of God. It brought out the readings of the Old Testament to me and made it a real current day experience for me, even though it was on TV. I love how we as Catholics venerate the Word of God both Sacramentally and in Scripture; it is so similar to the way the Jewish people love and venerate the Torah. Many would die to protect it—many have.
The Word (written) is powerful. If we attend to it and let it sink in, it can profoundly change us. “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Many times, if it is late at night and I need to be near Jesus, since I cannot receive Him Sacramentally, I just hold the Scriptures close to my heart. The Word of God is in my hands. If I am ill or having breathing issues, I grab my Bible and hold it close, clinging to God in His holy Word, and I feel better physically and spiritually.
It is fitting that we acknowledge the holiness, power, and tremendous gift of God’s Word in our liturgical celebrations. Watching the Jewish people bring out the Torah with such fanfare reminded me not only of Ezra the priest, as noted above, but of how the Lectionary at Mass is carried solemnly to the pulpit to be read.
I thought, too, of the various processions held to honor the Divine Word in Person among us. God has given us not only His written words, but His living, breathing Word, in the Person of His Son. Here, we as Catholics remember that our liturgy has two parts: the Liturgy of the Word, in which the Scriptures are proclaimed to us, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which revolves around Jesus’ Real Presence among us.
Processions acknowledge this supreme reality as well, including Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday when the Eucharistic Lord is carried in procession to the Altar of Repose, and Corpus Christi when Jesus is carried in joyful procession over a carpet of rose petals. All of these are signs of our faith that “God has spoken to us through His Son” (Hebrews 1:2) Who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and remains with us always (Matthew 28:20).
Have you ever meditated on these things? Have you ever thought about the gift of God in these acts, in the physical presence of God among us? So many people think that the miracles that occurred 2,000 years ago do not happen anymore. They do—just open your eyes to see them. They happen every day in every Catholic Church the globe over, when Mass is celebrated and God condescends to man to become our food, making mere bread His flesh and mere wine His blood.
I implore us all to be people of faith and joy. Let us go unto the house of the Lord, the Lord who gives us joy and strength. Amen!