Martin Mosebach will be familiar to a number of readers as a trenchant traditionalist, and the author of The Heresy of Formlessness. The talk below is the best thing I’ve read on liturgy and tradition for a long time. Any traditionalist who can should read it – Ed.
It’s tricky with contemporaneity: when you try to grab and hold onto it, you end up holding the dead tail of a lizard in your hand. Arrested contemporaneity is necessarily always about to go out of date. The radical form of the liturgy, by contrast, cannot go out of date because it does not belong to time, but moves outside of time.
by Martin Mosebach, Roarate Caeli: address Given at Holy Innocents Parish, New York, May 12, 2015 – translation of a talk Mosebach was asked to give by the Bishop of Limburg/Lahn on Ash Wednesday 2013.
St Paul Cathedral, Munster, 1946. Photo: New Liturgical Movement
When it became apparent in the early 1950s that television sets would soon be in many households, German bishops deliberated about whether it would be wise to allow or even promote television broadcasts of the Holy Mass. Indeed, people thought about such questions sixty years ago and they asked the great philosopher Josef Pieper for an expert opinion. In his opinion, Pieper rejected such television broadcasts on principle, saying they were irreconcilable with the nature of the Holy Mass. In its origins, the Holy Mass is a discipline of the arcane, a sacred celebration of mysteries by the christened. He mentioned the lowest level in the order of priests – done away with following the Second Vatican Council – the ostiary, or doorkeeper, who once had to ensure that the non-baptized and those temporarily excluded leave the church and move to the narthex following the liturgy of the Word. The Orthodox still do so in some places; the call of the deacon, “Guard the doors” is heard in every Orthodox liturgy before the Eucharist. While in Georgia I once experienced this demand, often merely a ceremony of a recollected past, being taken literally. A monk approached me, fell to his knees and apologetically asked me to leave the church since I, as a Roman Catholic, was not in full agreement with the Orthodox Church. I gladly acquiesced as I think not everyone has to be permitted everywhere all the time. Sacred places and holy acts are first declared quite plainly by the drawing of boundaries and such boundaries must somehow be visible and palpable. Still, anyone who has not given any thought to the dubiousness of filming the Mass has perhaps on occasion felt uncomfortably moved when they saw believers receiving communion on television or as the camera rested on the face of a celebrant chewing the host. Are such feelings truly only atavistic, produced by ancient magical fears? Other cultures are also acquainted with an aversion to photography. It is as if it would disturb a spiritual sphere.
So it is all the more surprising that a photograph of a Mass has become very valuable to me.
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