In the Gospel we hear Jesus telling people to obey the scribes and Pharisees even though they might not admire the manner of living of those leaders.
“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you.”
In the past few centuries our popes have been admirable men, but even if they hadn’t been, we should obey them as vicars of Christ. St. Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher faced a more difficult problem. They had agreed with Martin Luther in seeing some Renaissance popes as disgraceful; but they saw them as sitting on the throne of Peter. Even to save their necks they could not accept Henry VIII as supplanting the pope as head of the Church.
We follow their great example by going along with the popes even in matters where we would do things differently. So, even thought I don’t care for the changes in the wording for our Mass, I will go along with the Holy Father.
We are being told what is being introduced is more traditional, but that is debatable. Let me say something about traditions. On a walk yesterday I saw a father and son decorating their house for a traditional Halloween. The father was hanging white pillow cases from the trees while the boy was spiking images of black cats on the lawn. They put me in mind of an older tradition that had us making visits to the Blessed Sacrament to pray for the poor souls.
French bishops at Vatican II crusaded to make the Mass true to the earlier traditions of Jesus and the Apostles. The French bishops saw the Eucharistic prayers as growing out of the blessing Jesus offered at the Last Supper. One aspect of those early Eucharistic prayers was that while keeping all the parts of Our Lord’s blessing, the celebrants used their own words, following their own language.
Then, barbarians overran Europe in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries; and in doing away with the schools they left the Church without educated priests who could use their own words for the Eucharistic prayers. Pope Gregory the Great in 600 a.d. did the best he could under the circumstances. While including the main parts of Our Lord’s table blessing he wrote a Eucharistic prayer in Latin. That “Roman Canon” was the formula for saying Mass that I learned in becoming a priest in 1952.
During Vatican II when we began saying Mass in English we used words and idioms that sounded right to Americans. That was in line with the traditions of the early church when people and priests were encouraged to use variations with which they were comfortable.
Now, Rome’s modern liturgists are laying down rules for priests and people. They demand that we follow Latin wording, supplanting the traditions of the Apostles with ones originated in Rome. It is something of a power play, but we go along with it because they, as it were, “have taken their seats on the chair of Moses.”
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