In Ecclesia Dei bulletin was this homily by Fr. Brankin. I asked his permission to reprinted. He was so kind as to allow me to do this.
For those who are just arriving at our 9:30 Mass, may I mention that we have with us today many men from Mundelein Seminary—seminarians from all over the country. Mundelein was the womb of my priesthood as well.
I am honored to be able to celebrate this Mass this morning—with you and these seminarians. It is a very special Mass—certainly because of their presence and precisely because of their presence we are celebrating the Solemn High form of Mass—which if the truth be told is the Source Mass for all Masses—Latin or English—Extraordinary or Ordinary.
This is the Mass with the Priest Deacon and Subdeacon all circling around the mysteries of God at the altar. In all cases, it is good to be here.
I just saw the other day that Julian Assange—you know the Wiki-leaks guy– went on a tear against the Catholic Church. He accused Her of being one of those huge worldly entities whose only concern is control of its subjects.
First he accused the Church of using the confessional in order to spy on people. well, if any one of us has ever been to confession and we remember what we told the priest—and anonymously as well—we would be hard-pressed to understand how we were being spied upon. But confession has always been the bug-a-boo of the anti-Catholics.
Where he became really unglued was his accusation that the Catholic Church celebrated a ritual—the Mass—which no one was able to understand. He said that this was a classic control technique of the powerful over the powerless. I thought how interesting that a presumably educated journalist would think that even a vernacular series of prayers—which is what we have had for forty five years– is impossible to understand.
His case might have been more plausible were he simply talking about the Latin Mass—prescinding from the fact that even if the Mass were still in Latin we have missals and worship aids and translations and 2000 years worth of explanation and theology.
Then it dawned on me– the problem for moderns like Julian Assange is not so much the form of the Mass as it is the Mass itself. The neuralgic point is neither the language of the Mass —nor the whispering—nor the way the priest is turned. The problem for them is the Mass—at least insofar as the Mass is a mystical moment in the Presence of God.
Moderns do not accept that there is a God with whom we can converse—and Who converses with us– which is the point of the Mass. Indeed, moderns do not accept the reality of the supernatural. Their universe is here and now and only that which can be put under a microscope.
And so when Catholics say that—by means of the Mass they are in touch with another level of reality—the modern world balks and scoffs.
The modern world would accept the Mass as a piece of vernacular prose about this world and these concerns. It might accept the priest as the ever-bubbly Master of ceremonies—the co-ordinator of your emotions. The modern world would accept that the Mass is a sort of line by line exposition of ideas and concepts about effective living– to which we give or withhold assent.
But it will never accept that what we are doing—Extraordinary or Ordinary– as the vehicle meant to carry our souls—through the soul of the priest– to the heart of God. Because the modern world is pretty small and has no room for such things as souls and hearts and heavens—let alone God.
That is why the Mass— particularly in the Extraordinary Form— is an affront to modernity because it proclaims at every turn and with every syllable that there is communication on a deeper level than ever could be achieved with words or digits or cyphers in space. The Mass – even though it uses words– is essentially wordless. And the moderns cannot make heads or tails out of that.
The Mass—so well highlighted by this Solemn High Ceremony– teaches without books and without lessons without screens and PowerPoints. It teaches by means of Presence and Beauty and sight and sound. And what does it teach? Love. And could anyone say that love needs words and paragraphs and punctuation to be understood?
I often will tell my students that as important as is the knowledge of the catechism —as crucial as is learning the facts of their faith —it is not the ultimate goal of anything. Because Satan knows and understands even more than they will ever know and understand. Satan doesn’t even believe it is all true—he knows it is all true—because he was there from the beginning.
Satan’s problem is that he doesn’t love any of it—He hates it—both God and creation. The words of a catechism – as important as they are– are only the barest beginning. If the Mass begins as a teaching moment, it must still be more. The Mass must not be content with content—the Mass must lead to love, for Love is ultimate. Love is the Source and Love is the goal. And Love is of God.
And that is why the words of the Mass are the conduit of hearts. the Mass eschews typical ways of learning and understanding and communicating, and uses ritual and music and sense.
We have always heard that it is the Mass that matters. Not the sermons, not the homilies, nor even the readings or hymns—not any of the peripheral business to which we have all become so accustomed for the last forty-five years.
The Mass is the ensemble of a thousand individual elements taken together—seen as a whole—appreciated as one moment—and gathered together in an intuitive surprise.
Only a modern deconstructs such things into their component parts and thinks he has solved the whole.
The modern will never understand how this Mass—every Mass—any Mass– is the center point of the universe. It is the sacrifice on a cross– of the God made man. What more is there? What more could there be than to know that everything in life—is simply a prelude to the moment where God out of love once and for all died for us—and at every mass –out of love –sacrifices Himself again.
Why is it important to maintain the Extraordinary form? Because it is the clearest most effective response to the modern world in all of its gray dull plastic humdrum.
Yes, you will see today– during this Solemn High Mass– something that is so very old—that it reaches back even beyond Charlemagne to Gregory the Great—Ambrose and Augustine— Constantine– and you will sense and see here the first piecing together of lectionaries and sacramentaries –the stammerings of the various Bishops’ first Eucharistic prayers—the final resolution of the inchoate words and postures from the First Century.
But you will see more than that— in the incomprehensible Latin Mass– in its very incomprehensibility!– you will see the Unseen– with the eyes of the heart, and be moved to love.
Fr. Anthony Brankin, Pastor St. Odilo Catholic Church, National Shrine for the Poor Souls 2244 East Avenue, Berwyn, Illinois 60402
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.