Thursday, February 2, 2017

Repost: Peter Kwasniewski on "A Defense of Liturgy as 'Carolingian Court Ritual'"

Source: Peter Kwansiewski, "A Defense of Liturgy as 'Carolingian Court Ritual'," New Liturgical Movement blog, January 30, 2017, accessed February 2, 2017,

Monarchy or princedom, the oldest and arguably the most natural form of political organization, has been a far more consistent part of the human experience and of the formation of Christian culture than the democratic/egalitarian ideology of “self-evident truths” of which we have persuaded ourselves in modernity. Regardless of whether we think democracy can be made to work or not, in the realm of supernatural mysteries, Christianity is purely and entirely monarchical. Against the backdrop of the Old Testament revelation of God as the (one and only) great King over all the earth, and of the people of Israel as a kingly, priestly people ruled by prophets, judges, and ultimately the Davidic dynasty, we profess that Christ is our King, the Lord of heaven and earth, of all times, past, present, and to come, of this world and of the next; that His angels and saints are His royal court; that He deigns to call us His friends and brethren, yes, but such that we know that we never cease to be His servants. We long for His courts and tabernacles. The thick “politicism” of the imagery points to the real, sovereign polity of the Mystical Body, subsisting in the Roman Catholic Church as a societas perfecta and altogether perfected in the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the great King. Our ecclesial sacrifice, the Most Holy Eucharist, is a kingly and high-priestly oblation.

Consequently, the modern fixation on democracy, as if it were the best or the only good form of government, not only does not abolish our need for the language of kingship and courtliness, but makes it far more needed than ever before, in order to impress on our minds the way things really stand in the definitive reality of the kingdom of God. All of our democratic and egalitarian experiments will fall away at the end of time, as the glorious reign of Christ the King is revealed to all the nations, and those who have submitted to His gentle yoke will be raised to eternal life in glorified flesh while those who have rejected Him will wail and gnash their teeth, condemned to eternal fire in unending torment. The liturgy should reflect the truth of God — His absolute monarchy, His paternal rule, His hierarchical court in the unspeakable splendor of the heavenly Jerusalem — and not the passing truths of our modern provisional political organizations, or, in other words, that continual redesign of the liturgy, in language and ceremonies and ministers, for which the noveltymongers [sic] are agitating.


One of the greatest blessings of the traditional Latin liturgy, therefore, is its pure, open, unembarrassed representation of the court of the great King of all the earth, in all of its prayers, rubrics, and ceremonies, and in the magnificent art forms that emerged from its “courtliness” and reinforce the “drama” of the holy mysteries of our redemption. We find in it an uncompromised and unapologetic expression of the divine monarchy as it radiates through the panoply of sacred symbols and the ecclesiastical hierarchy endowed with fatherly potency. We are wrapped in an atmosphere of spiritual aristocracy, namely, the world of the saints, who reign with Christ as his vicegerents. After all, this liturgy was not produced by a committee of experts, as laws and bills are manufactured in contemporary parliaments or congresses, but emerged slowly over time from innumerable currents of doctrine and devotion espoused by an elite of pious souls and assimilated by God-fearing laity. The traditional liturgy, in short, challenges everything modern man has come to take for granted, everything he has persuaded himself to believe “self-evident.” It throws down the gauntlet to our modern assumptions, routines, and expectations. It is an enormous challenge to our collective social hubris and cultural pride. This is why it is hated and feared by those who embrace modernity as a primary value, giving value to all else; this is why it is passionately loved by those who recognize in it a call to a higher, deeper, and better way of thinking, loving, and living.

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