9 November 2022

UNFINISHED BUSINESS (2) Newman, the Mass and Office

Surely, the liturgical celebration of S John Henry Newman calls for attention. 

The most moving small room in the world, I believe, is at Birmingham, where the Saint's study contains his intimate library, including his Breviary. Even as an Anglican, Newman held the Roman Breviary is the very highest regard. He was convinced that, if Anglicans actually opened it and looked at it, they would be stunned, awed, by what they would find. 

What is now needed is a full provision (with three nocturns) of whatever liturgical formulae are required to enable the celebration of his Feast in whatever version of the Roman Breviary may be called for by different people and different groups. 

And proper provision for [the Tridentine] Mass, on his festival, and at Votives, is needed. 

And, in that same little room, behind a screen, is the altar at which Newman offered, morning by morning, the August Sacrifice.

Newman gives us this encomium of the Tridentine Mass, on the lips of "Willis": "I declare, to me, nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever, and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words--it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare to use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present on the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble. This is that awful event which is the end, and is the interpretation, of every part of the solemnity."

I have often wondered about the six words I have rendered here in red. Why did our Saint put them in to this passage?

Did Newman, with the eyes of his very great holiness, discern and look into a future when the Holy Mass, "said as it is among us", might again have to be fought for, suffered for; during a sort of corporate martyrdom when wicked men would strain their every sinew to destroy such a divine wonder?


Protasius said...

Perhaps St John Henry had in mind the Eastern liturgies. The Byzantine liturgy, the Syriac liturgies, the Armenian liturgy all accomplish the same awe-inspiring mystery of God being present in flesh and blood on the altar; the validity of the sacraments according to the Eastern rites has to my knowledge never been questioned. The outer form, however, is rather different from what a Roman is accustomed to.

John Vasc said...

In the context of the novel, the speaker (Willis) was apparently lightly indicating that *elsewhere* - outside the Catholic community at Oxford - the Mass was possibly not said with the same clarity and formal dignity. (Might Newman have been thinking of some past instances observed when he was visiting Rome?)