Abp Sample's TLM Homily
This is an unofficial transcript of the homily delivered by Archbishop Alexander Sample at a Solemn Pontifical Mass on March 1, 2014, (Quinqagesima Sunday) at the Brigittine Monastery of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Oregon. Mr. Marc Salvatore was the official photographer for the event, and it is his from Youtube video of the homily that this transcript was made. (Transcription by Jay Boyd.)
Homily on the Importance of the Usus Antiquor
by Archbishop Alexander K. Sample
Laudete Jesus Christus! What great joy it is to gather with all of you this evening for this beautiful, sacred, holy liturgy. This is a first for me, certainly since becoming the new Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Portland to celebrate my first pontifical high Mass, solemn Mass, here in the Archdiocese. And quite honestly this is only the fourth time that I've had the privilege to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass what we refer to as the Extraordinary Form, as a bishop in the pontifical way.
In fact, the very first time that I had the privilege of celebrating this sacred liturgy in the pontifical high Mass form was in Denton, Nebraska, with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, at which ceremony I ordained this holy priest a deacon. So it is a great joy for me to have Fr. Vreeland to join us here. He is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter currently stationed in Seattle, but we've maintained some contact since he was assigned here to the Northwest.
I would just like to reflect very briefly with all of you this evening about the importance of what we are doing here tonight, and the importance of this liturgy in the life of the Church. Not in the life of the Church past, but even in the life of the Church today. Thanks be to God, our Holy Father, the Pope Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, issued his wonderful letter to the Church, moto proprio, Summorum Ponticum. In that letter, Pope Benedict XVI opened up to the Church once again a wider and freer use of the pre-conciliar form of the Sacred Liturgy. Certainly, by the time Pope Benedict issued Summorum Pontificum, there had been a lot of relaxation in allowing for the use of this usus antiquor, the ancient use of the liturgy. But that letter, Summorum Pontificum, really in many ways broke down all barriers to celebrating freely this form of the Sacred Liturgy, what we call the extraordinary form; some refer to this as the Traditional Latin Mass, some refer to it as the pre-conciliar liturgy, the Tridentine liturgy - whatever name it goes by, it is alive and well in the Church, praise God, and thank you Pope Benedict XVI.
But why? Why did Pope Benedict allow for this wider use of this liturgy that you are experiencing here tonight? What you're experiencing here tonight, let me make it clear, is the most solemn form of this liturgy. The pontifical liturgy celebrated by the bishop, especially by the bishop in his own diocese, is the highest form of the liturgy, and every other celebration of the holy mass derives from this liturgy. In the usus antiquor, in the former rite, the Mass could be celebrated in the most simple way, what we call the low Mass, even a private low mass; but the private low mass, sort of the lowest way of celebrating this Mass, still is a participation and takes its lead, its example, from this liturgy, the solemn pontifical liturgy, the liturgy celebrated by the high priest.
But why is this so important? Why did Pope Benedict see that this was necessary to keep alive in the Church? Well, in his letter, and in the explanatory note, the letter that went with Summorum Pontificum, he made it very clear. His first reason for allowing a greater and freer use of this solemn liturgy is as a way of extending his pastoral care and concern for those Catholics who remain very much attached to the former rites. It was a grave pastoral, loving extension of a hand of mercy toward them - to allow those appreciate and who are deeply attached to this form, to be able to experience and celebrate it freely, without barriers. And so, a great, great outreach.
And even quite honestly, I think, to those who are no longer part of the full communion of the Catholic Church, but who have separated themselves in some way and find themselves in a very unique canonical situation, but who no longer have that full communion with the Church - to extend a hand of friendship to them as well. So certainly that's true, although what's always amazing to me is when I see congregations gathered to celebrate this sacred liturgy, I'm always amazed at how many young people are present. Maybe not so many here tonight, but we have a lot of young people here tonight. And young people who experience this liturgy are amazed, and that's the second reason why Pope Benedict allowed for this greater use of this Mass.
He says that we must remain in very close communion with our past. Pope Benedict was one who spoke very stridently about the need for a hermeneutic, he calls it, of continuity. A way of interpreting the reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council, in continuity with the Church's past. He says there can be no rupture. There can be no rupture. We cannot go from something that was, to something that is completely new and different. He said that would be a hermeneutical way of interpreting the Council and the called for reforms in a way of rupture with the past, as if somehow everything sort of was reset at the Second Vatican Council, and everything began anew at the Second Vatican Council. He says, no, this is the wrong way to interpret the Council, the wrong way to interpret all of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, including Her teaching on the reform of the sacred liturgy. No, he says, we must have a hermeneutic, a way of interpreting, that is in complete and utter continuity with the past. And so as we look at liturgical reform, it must be seen as an organic development from that which has gone before. It has to be clearly seen and experienced as not a rupture, as not something new, but as a very readable, a very understandable, a very obvious, even, organic outgrowth of what has gone before. That's continuity.
And that's why I think Pope Benedict wanted this liturgy to still exist and to be present in the Church, because THIS liturgy, then, becomes, if you will, the model against which we measure all liturgical reform. It becomes the exemplar for the reform. When we look at what needs to be reformed in the sacred liturgy, this is the liturgy we start with. And then we reform from this liturgy as the exemplar.
Why would he think he needed to do that so many decades after the Council? Well, I think he felt very obviously that there had been some rupture in some places and in some ways. I can tell you - I don't want to scandalize these young people here tonight [laughter]...You're looking at this beautiful liturgy tonight, with all of its solemnity, with all of its precision, with all of its beauty, with all of its pageantry in a sense, and with the beautiful chant which is meant to accompany this liturgy. And you look at this and you say, how did we get to some of the abuses that we have experienced since the Second Vatican Council? I can remember in the mid-1970's...now think of that: that's probably about 10 years after the Church stopped celebrating in this way. I was a high school student, a high school student attending a campus ministry Mass at the university, sitting around a coffee table with a basket with a napkin in it, and with bread in it, and a ceramic pottery chalice. The priest [was] sitting with us with nothing on but a stole, adlibbing the Mass. How did we go in 10 years from this beautiful liturgy to such abuses? And sadly to say, maybe not in that extreme – don’t tell me if it is [laughter] – but those days are not over. We need to continue to look at the sacred liturgy, and this is what I think Pope Benedict was trying to get us to do.
Pope Benedict coined a phrase, and many of you have heard it. He said what was needed in the liturgy was a reform of the reform. A reform of the reform. A reform of the reform that took place in the wake of the Second Vatican Council; that somehow the reform had gone off track and needed to be re-connected, if you will, with the Church's past, with her tradition, with the beauty of this liturgy. This liturgy is ancient. Ancient. There are prayers that we are praying in this liturgy tonight that are ancient, that go back to the earliest centuries of the Church. Our way of celebrating tonight is a way of celebrating from antiquity. You know, Pope Benedict said in Summorum Pontificum, that which at one time in the history of the Church was considered beautiful and sacred, cannot be suddenly not sacred, but is good for us, too, he said.
And I think as we take a good hard look at the reform of the liturgy in our own day, we need this liturgy as the touchstone, as the measure of what true reform would look like. And there are some who will always be attached specifically to this form, and praise God, it's wonderful. We're a big Church. But even in the ordinary form, where I believe continued reform is needed, we have to look to our tradition; we have to root that reform in our tradition, in the sacredness of this liturgy.
Even the way we worship tonight, where we come soon to the Eucharistic prayer, to the canon of the Mass and the consecration of the sacred species, we will be celebrating ad orientem, facing east (I'm not really sure which way this chapel faces; are we doing liturgical east or is that really east? We're doing liturgical east. I'm sorry; there's a lot of bends in the road getting down here, I wasn't sure which way we were facing anymore [laughter]). But if not facing east itself, facing symbolic east, or liturgical east. We orient the sacred liturgy toward God, toward Christ. It is Christ who acts in the liturgy, and we wait for Christ to come again. The Church waits in expectation for Christ to come again; and the scriptures have the great image of Christ coming from the East, and as we come to our prayers, we come to our worship, we turn East, we look to the East, we look to the direction of Christ when he comes again in glory. And so the liturgy, all of us, face east, face Christ, waiting his return. And you'll experience that tonight, for those who have not experienced it or have not experienced it in a long time. And nothing is such a false description of that orientation of the liturgy when you hear people say "Oh, I didn't like it when the priest used to turn his back on us." You've all heard that. That's not what it was about. It wasn't about the priest turning his back on the congregation. It was the priest joining you, and facing East with you, leading you, at the head of the Body, the Church - at the head of the congregation, leading us all in worship and prayer, in offering the Holy Sacrifice, facing God. It's not a time for us to be focused on one another, but rather we turn our gaze - our liturgical gaze - to Christ. And there we offer the sacrifice which brings us salvation. This is a tremendously beautiful experience for all of us, and I can tell you [that] as a celebrant of the liturgy in this form.
And we have in this sacred liturgy the beautiful chant - the beautiful chant which is wedded to the liturgy to the Latin rite, the chant that you have been learning about, those of you who are participants in this conference, who have been learning about the chant of the Church, Gregorian chant, the ancient chant of the Church. It's fitted to this liturgy, it flows with this liturgy, it's wedded to it. It's so natural to it. The chant that you've been studying, the chant that we are now experiencing within the liturgy itself, this chant is not meant to be listened to on a CD in the car while we're driving. Yes, we can do that...[laughter] But it's not for entertainment, it's not for just simple enjoyment outside the liturgy, as much as we do. It's meant for the liturgy. This is its proper place, here, in the sacred liturgy. And again, you talk about a misinterpretation of the council, and this rupture, and the lack of a hermeneutic of continuity; the Second Vatican Council itself, and I'm sure Dr. Bissonnette, you shared this with all of them. The Council didn't say chuck Gregorian chant, chuck the Latin. The Council said that Gregorian chant being particularly suited to the Roman liturgy, the Latin rite, should therefore enjoy a pride of place in the sacred liturgy of the western Latin Church. A pride of place. Well, I'm sad to say that since the Council, not only has Gregorian chant not enjoyed a pride of place, but it's hardly been heard, and that's again part of the need for reform.
We need to be patient. We need to be patient. We need to appreciate our past as we look to our future. But it all has to come together, and that's why, too, for this liturgy to flourish in the Church is a great blessing. And I'm not at all embarrassed or ashamed to be celebrating this liturgy. I'm sure it will raise a few eyebrows. But it's the liturgy of the Church, it's a liturgy permitted by the Church, it's a liturgy even encouraged by the Church.
I learned this liturgy when Summorum Pontificum came out. I had never celebrated it before, as a priest or in my early years as a bishop. I'd always been interested in it, but had never taken the time to learn it. When Summorum Pontificum came out and the Holy Father said this is one of the forms of the Latin Rite, the extraordinary form, I said, I am a bishop of the Church; I must know this rite. And I encourage my priests and my seminarians to learn and to know this rite. even if you never have a chance to celebrate it, knowing it, experiencing it, I guarantee you will affect the way you celebrate the ordinary form. It will do so. And so we have this beautiful chant which we highlight in the liturgy today. And I thank the schola, I thank you all for the wonderful workshop that you've done here these days, and it's wonderful now to experience this in the liturgy.
And I want to leave you with one final thought. I should say something about the Scriptures we just heard. St. Paul in his letter: he talks about love. And he talks about the importance and the centrality of love. It is the greatest of all the virtues. And he says it doesn't matter; you know, if I have faith enough to move mountains, but I don't have love, it's useless. If I have the gift of prophecy and have not love, it's useless. If I even give everything I have and tend to the needs of the poor, but don't have love, it's for naught.
I would add something, if I may add to St. Paul. We can have the most beautiful liturgy in the world, but if we do not have love, it is for nothing. And that's what I encourage all of us to remember. As we seek our way forward, not to be ever embittered or angry, but people filled with the joy of the Gospel, and in love with Our Lord Jesus, and showing that love to our brothers and sisters. The greatest witness that those of this more traditional sensitivity, shall we say, the greatest witness you will give will be a witness of great love, of great kindness, of gentleness, of patience. Love is patient, love is kind, it does not put on airs, it does not brood over injuries; all of those things. If we show love, then we change the face of the world. So let’s not ever forget, that as much as we may want to get every word right in the liturgy, and as much as we want to get every movement down perfectly in the liturgy, if we do not have love, then it's just a show. So let's be people filled with love.