On liturgy and nostalgia

Observations by Catholic scholar Peter Kwasniewski:

Though Our Lord first appeared on earth in a humble manger, hidden and poor, the sacred liturgy is not time-travel to Bethlehem circa 4 bc. The Mass is a living image or efficacious likeness of the perfect worship offered by Jesus Christ as Head of the Church — the sinless Lamb slain on Calvary, now reigning in the heavenly Jerusalem — and so it makes present in our midst the glorified Savior whose second coming will not be in quiet poverty but in earth-shattering splendor. For this reason the instinct of our faith has always been to maximize the beauty of the liturgy and its diverse furnishings and surroundings, yearning for what is to come rather than indulging in backward glances. From that point of view, the liturgists who clamor for a return to evangelical or apostolic “simplicity” are the ones guilty of nostalgia, not the faithful who desire the traditional Roman rite. They want to go back, we want to press forward. It is the difference between archaeology and eschatology. The irony, in fact, is greater: one of the most ancient liturgical customs of all, and one that survived all ages and cultures until it met its match in the hubris of the modern West, is that of facing eastwards when we pray to Christ, the true light that enlightens every man (cf. Jn 1:9). In having the priest turn his back to the Sun of Justice and “face the people” in a closed circle, as if he were the coming light, advocates of the new liturgical style disdained universal symbolism and banished one of the few customs we can be certain the church of the early centuries practiced. Once again, those who defend Tradition find that they are more capable than their adversaries of preserving what the latter claim to value most — in this instance, antiquity.

Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Angelico Press, 2014)

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