Mediation and Possible Gnosticism

A pseudonymous commenter offered this:

“The general rule today is for Mass to be said “facing the people.” While this seems to be “pastoral,” in fact it is a circumstance of great theological significance. In the traditional Mass, both the priest and people face the altar, where the priest, on behalf of the people, offers the sacrifice. The fact that the priest stands between the people and the altar visibly shows the priest’s role as a mediator between the people and God. We can call this the “face the altar” orientation.

I might agree there is theological significance, but the impact more addresses the Catholic indulgence for appealing to the senses: what we see, hear, touch, etc., in our worship and devotional life. The truth is that we accurately say “the priest’s back is to the people,” because it is. Our long history finds movements among the Catholic laity for a religious observance that is more “in touch” and not just an exercise in ceremony or reason.

There are times when a priest is a mediator between people and God. The obvious question: is the Mass the best time for this? I ask the question from a sense of the Catholic impulse to be more engaged at liturgy. We’ve moved on from a time in which hundreds of Catholics gathered for Mass, each on their own wavelength: presiding, reading, rosary, personal prayers, singing in choir, etc..

This orientation in what we do causes a slow shift in what we believe, from sacrifice to meal, and causes a loss of faith in the Mass as a sacrifice.

The reality of the Mass as a sacrifice is not a matter of faith, but of fact. Either it is or it isn’t.

The fact that this loss of faith is encouraged by the priest facing the people makes the New Mass a threat to our Faith and hence offensive to God.

This is dangerous territory, the presumption that liturgical change is “offensive to God.” The implication is possibly gnostic, that a smaller group of Catholics has a more faithful and authentic bead on worship and that the rest of the world: thousands of bishops plus ministers and laity have it all wrong.

The threat to our Faith is very real, (you can’t continue to do something and believe the opposite) and continued attendance at the New Mass can make us lose our Faith in the Mass as a sacrifice and even in the Real Presence just as faith in these things has already been lost by millions of Catholics.”

Loss of belief in the Real Presence has never quite been proven. For all we know, belief was low before Vatican II, before it was polled. We assume one-hundred percent compliance because that is what some of us saw.

I don’t think earnest arguments like those of my commenter are to be taken likely. Or ignored. But they do need to be gently confronted within the bounds of Catholic unity, morality and ethics, and to seek a deeper understanding of what God asks of us.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Mediation and Possible Gnosticism

  1. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    Our pseudonymous commenter needs to do Liturgical Theology and HIstory 101. He might like to start with Gerhards and Kranemann’s “Introduction to the Study of Liturgy” (a Pueblo Book/The Liturgical Press, 2017), particularly Chapter 3. It’s possibly too “German” style-wise for some, but is already gathering lots of positive reviews.
    As I’ve come to expect from your response to commenters like him, your response is very irenic in tone. I’d be a little stronger and possibly more critical of what he writes.
    The only website or FB page I regularly write for on strictly liturgical topics is that of the Diocesan Liturgy Commission, Nagoya, Japan, and there my writing is in Japanese. There I’ve touched on some of the topics you raise in your response.

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