Monday 6 July 2020

The History of the Mass Explained - Father Charles Dilke

The History of the Mass Explained
Father Charles Dilke
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860824821
eISBN 9781784693589
CTS Booklet H508

Over the last few years, I have fell in love with the books from the Catholic Truth society. I am not certain if this volume is part of the CTS Explanations series, or juts part on the of the CTS Histories. Or even both, but either way it is an excellent little read. The booklet was originally published in 2008 and the eBook was released in 2017. The description on the back of this book is:

“This booklet looks at how the Mass has changed and developed over the centuries, and how changes have occurred at different times in the Church's history, up to and including recent changes by Pope Benedict XVI.”

The chapters in the book are:

The Primitive Roman Mass 
Growth and Enrichment of the Rites 
Reform of the Mass 
The Mass in the ‘Ancien Régime’ 
To Involve the People 
The Aims of Vatican II 
Some of the Modern Changes

We are told in the preface that:

“The material in this booklet was originally given as some talks to the members of the Catholic Evidence Guild in 1993 on the subject of misgivings aroused by modern changes in the Roman Mass. It was reviewed and revised in 2007.”

Father Dilke also states that he is not a liturgical scholar. He is a student of history. And that he has a passion for the topic. The book is written in an engaging and entertaining volume. If I had come across this volume and had the chance to take a course with Father Dilke I would not hesitate. And if I stumble upon anything else written by him I would immediately purchase it. The book can easily be read by anyone with a grade school education. There is a lot of great information in this volume, even as a student with a Religious Studies Degree with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought there was much in this volume that was new to me. I highlighted many passages while reading the book a selection of them to pique your interest are:

“Roman rite lies in the fact that there are quite a few devout people who feel, either explicitly or as it were by instinct that the so-called “Tridentine Mass” has an authenticity about it which is lacking in the Mass we celebrate today, namely the Paul VI Mass or Vatican II Mass. These people make us all ask ourselves - has the Mass changed in some essential way, or has the holiness of our Mass become less than it was before Vatican II? A strong unease or even a vague unease about the most important act of our religion is highly undesirable in the Church and for the individuals. The question needs to be settled one way or another.”

“Accordingly the booklet contains three parts. This first deals with the Growth of the Roman Rite. Next, the Reform of the Roman Rite. And in the final chapter I shall try and gather the threads together to bring about an understanding of the modern changes of our own time.”

“In the course of time many features have been added to the Mass but we must also remember that features have also been subtracted from it. And quite often features have been added, then subtracted and then added again.”

“This was the Agapé, which was a Jewish type ceremonial meal with blessings and prayers. People brought their own food and as well as the blessings spoken by the senior ecclesiastic present there was conversation on matters important to the group. This was the sort of weekly meeting that a teacher would hold in Israel with his disciples and Our Lord would have done it with his followers. The Mass was celebrated, though the word Mass was not used until 300 years later. At this stage it was called Klasis Artou, Greek for the breaking of Bread.”

“You may have noticed that a lot of things began to change in the rite of Mass from the beginning of the 4th century until the time of Gregory the Great about 600 AD.”

“For most people therefore the Mass remained mysterious and unknown and their spiritual needs were satisfied by the growth of a great many devotions and extra-liturgical services, most of which have now died out, but some are still kept alive, like the Stations of the Cross, Benediction and Holy Hours.”

“Pope Paul VI articulated what was felt by many of the clergy when he said that there was a need to re-educate the faithful, purify, and restore dignity, beauty, simplicity and good taste to our ceremonies. This would have effect in a more fruitful and intelligent spiritual life for the faithful, which would make them more resistant to the spiritual dangers of our times.”

“Historically we can see that frequent, weekly, Communion was the rule in the early centuries. The Eucharistic fast seems to have become general in the 4th century. About the 8th century Communion in the hand was being replaced by reception on the tongue, and between then and the 11th century Communion under both kinds and frequent Communion were both dying out. We have seen some of the causes of these developments in earlier chapters.”

It is of particular interest to read about some of the changes that were later changed back. For example, the use of vernacular. Which direction the priest faced, and others. Many of the modern debates in Catholic worship do not appear new after reading this volume. It would be a great volume for those who want only The Latin Mass, of those who want only the Novus Ordo, Or the Latin of the ordinary rite. Each of these three camps could learn from the history presented in this volume. In the epilogue we are told:

“A few comments are necessary about two positive interventions by the Magisterium in recent times. One is Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum (2007), which defines the position of the post Vatican II Mass as the Ordinary Roman Rite, and the Mass as it was in 1962 as the Extraordinary Rite. This regularises and makes clear the situation of Old Rite Masses, saying that they are legitimate options in the right circumstances, while at the same time refusing to backtrack completely with regard to the Vatican II Mass. This is an interesting return to a plurality of rites as was seen in earlier periods of the Church’s history.”

And further on:

“In the history surveyed by this essay we have seen that it is only in relatively recent times that complete standardisation of the Roman Rite has been aimed at and that even then the policy of standardisation was not adopted for its own sake but only to remedy abuses and for pastoral reasons. So it is not necessary to look for uniformity, a uniformity in any case which has never existed even in the Roman Rite.”

This is another excellent volume from the Catholic Truth Society. And honestly one that many Catholics, particularly those prone to arguments on social media regarding the Mass should read. I highly recommend this volume and was encouraged and edified by the reading of it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books in the CTS Explanations Series:
Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Does the Church oppress Women?
Organ Transplant – and the definition of Death
Be Yourself An Explanation of Humility - William Lawson SJ
Gene Therapy – and Human Genetic Engineering
Prenatal tests
Gift of life and Love
Cloning and Stem Cell Research
Contraception and Chastity
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Spirits, Mediums & The Afterlife

1 comment:

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