Tearing down the house

Sorry for the mildly prolonged absence. Marty's been busy.

Marty would like to allude to one of his favourite movies – and an interesting conversation contained therein. Marty thinks he may have posted on this before, but he'd like to again.

It's from the movie 'Into Great Silence' and is a conversation (about the only one in the movie!) between some of the monks. They discuss the symbolic washing of hands before they enter the refectory for lunch (it is rare for Carthusians to eat in common). Here it is:

Monk 1: ‘In Selignac, they have not been washing their hands before the Refectory for 20 years now. Do you think we should stop washing our hands?’

Monk 2: ‘No, but it wouldn’t be a big deal to get rid of something useless.’

Monk 3: ‘Our entire life, the whole liturgy and everything ceremonial are symbols. If you abolish the symbols, then you tear down the walls of your own house. When we abolish the signs, we lose our orientation. Instead, we should search for their meaning…one should unfold the core of the symbols. The signs are not to be questioned, we are. The error is not to be found in handwashing, the error is in our mind.‘

To Marty, that is one of the best comments he's seen in a while…

The signs are not to be questioned, we are.

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    Comments: 19

    1. Rubyshine March 10, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      This makes me want to see this film.

      I also love the follow on statement, The error is not to be found in handwashing, the error is in our mind.‘ 

      Monk 2's response interests me. He describes the handwashing as useless, but his answer to whether they should get rid of it is still, "No." 

    2. Teresina March 11, 2014 at 12:45 am

      Yes, signs are important and the signs are not to be questioned, we are.  It reminded me of not my favourite film but a favourite passage which to me is so Catholic because of the signs and symbols expressed:

      "The chapel showed no ill effects of its long neglect. The paint was as fresh and bright as ever. And the lamp burned once more before the altar. I knelt and said a prayer – an ancient, newly-learned form of words. I thought that the builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend. They made a new house with the stones of the old castle. Year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness, until, in sudden frost, came the Age of Hooper. The place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing. Quomodo sedet sola civitas – vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet, I thought, that is not the last word. It is not even an apt word – it is a dead word from ten years back. Something quite remote from anything the builders intended had come out of their work and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played. Something none of us thought about at the time. A small red flame, a beaten copper lamp of deplorable design, re-lit before the beaten copper doors of a tabernacle. This flame, which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out: the flame burns again for *other* soldiers far from home – farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians. And there I found it that morning, burning anew among the old stones."

    3. Dominican March 11, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Ah! Brideshead –  Evelyn Waugh.

      If you have only seen the film Teresina do watch the BBC TV series – superb!

    4. Teresina March 11, 2014 at 9:53 am

      Yes, Dominican, I have seen the BBC TV series.  Superb as you say and true to Waugh – the film version just doesn't cut it!

    5. Teresina March 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

      I did watch part of the Tudors – the part which dealt with the Reformation – it was superbly done and rich with symbolism but riddled with sex scenes which I switched off.  I wouldn't recommend it for that reason but I have to say the parts that dealt with St Thomas More I thought were superb and it was rendered historically correctly.  The scene where St Thomas is beheaded you see him go to the scaffold and make his famous speech and then it pans away.  You hear a thud and the chain with crucifix falls to the ground and blood flows over it – there had to have been Catholic input into that symbolism and unusual for the blood of the martyrs to be depicted in that way.  However because of the sex scenes I could not recommend anyone watching it, which is a great pity because it depicts a lot of what happened at the reformation: the smashing of the altars and statues, particularly of the Virgin Mary and the derision of Latin, Latin prayers and priests.  

    6. Von Balthebrand March 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks for the post Martyn. There is such depth in that comment, and I think it goes to the heart of many ills of the present age. No longer do we look for why something is, but rather how we should like things to be. For instance, we don't hear people ask why homosexual relationships have never been called marriage, they just want to change it with no understanding of marriage's true meaning.

      Not sure about the rest of you, but I read Monk 2's comment quite differently to Rubyshine. I read it as him affirming the value of the ritual by saying that they ought to keep it, but if it were useless it would be fine to let it go.


    7. Teresina March 11, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      Von Balthebrand, I can see how Rubyshine could read the comment in the way that she did but on a closer read I agree it is as you say, Monk 2 is saying he wouldn't see a problem in getting rid of something useless but by saying "no" he is affirming that he finds value in continuing the washing of the hands.

      In a sense the Church seems to be divided into two sets of people: some who see no value in symbolism and are happy with a plain liturgy – but how long can a plain liturgy stand before it does bring down the house (as Monk 2 states)?  The finest examples of plain liturgy, devoid of symbolism, can be found in the Protestant religion and the walls fell down on them long ago.  

    8. Teresina March 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      That should be: but how long can a plain liturgy stand before it does bring down the house (as Monk 3 states)?  

    9. Dominican March 11, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Smells and bells!  oh where is the incense of my youth?  it is not just the smoke it is also the fragrance which speaks to me of all things Roman.  Recently I visited the country church I grew up in and the sacristy was permeated with the symbols of benediction – incense and candle grease infused in the walls and the confessional screen. The Divine Praises came flooding back and the latin hymns

    10. Rubyshine March 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Von Balthebrand, yes your reading makes a lot more sense. Although I had gone off on all sorts of theories in my mind of a person who cannot express the importance they see in something. The person who, when questioned, says, "because this is how we've always done things," and the simplicity (and validity) of that answer leaves the questioner unsatisfied.

      I watched an interesting programme last night. Griff Rhys Jones was exploring a West Africam tribe, and their art and sculptures. The sculptures had a lot of religious significance, and the traditions surrounding the carving were being eroded.

      I was struck by two different things, one was the anthropologist naming one of the threats to the indigenous culture being modern religion (he also had a whole list of other threats). It got me thinking about evangelisation and Pope Francis. Pope Francis has spoken on the importance of respecting the religion of others. I know some people here have been a bit scathing of that. The reason why all of this struck me, however, was that the anthropologist, who was also of that tribe, said, "we are a culture in agony." 

      These words strike me as being so achingly sad. The importance of tradition is universal.

      I think that many traditions, not just religious ones, have been cast aside as the importance of the individual has usurped the importance of community. To be an individual, to be different, to stand out from the crowd is one of the modern mantras that runs completely counter to ritually washing one's hands because of some spiritual symbolism. To be part of something symbolic is to be humble and to accept oneself as part of something much larger and more significant.

    11. withhope March 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Marty said: the signs are not to be questioned, we are.


      and the younger generation seem to get what perplexes even the highest prelates:


    12. Teresina March 11, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks for the link, Withhope, yes, it doe seem that the younger generation do get it.

      This video of the Latin Mass is an instructional video by the FSSP.  I thought that Rubyshine maybe interested in this as she has expressed an interest in finding out about the Latin Mass.  The first part shows how the priest vests and it is full of symbolism.  All the vestments (including those worn by the priest at the Novus Ordon Mass) all have a special meaning.  I believe that the prayers the priest says while vesting should also be said by priests when vesting for the Novus Ordo Mass.




      Some of the vestments that the priest wears at the Latin and the Novus Ordo Mass are full of symbolism of Our Lord's death and resurrection and are explained here:

      "Let us examine some further elements of the Traditional Mass. The chalice symbolizes the heart in which Our Lord's Blood flowed; or according to others, the bitter chalice of his passion; or again, the grave in which he was laid. The pall covering the chalice represents the stone which was rolled across his tomb. The paten represents the vases containing the unguents used to anoint his body. The corporal is the square of fine linen carried in the bursa and placed under the chalice during Mass. It must always be white for it symbolizes the purity of the Virgin from whence Christ drew his terrestrial body. It also symbolizes Christ's passion, for linen acquires its whiteness only after many washings and much travail, as also Christ underwent. It further symbolizes the Church which is the body of Christ present in the world, and finally, the host is placed upon the corporal, and both on the altar, just as the body of Christ united to His divinity was attached to the Cross. It is folded in three, representing the three theological virtues, faith hope and charity, by means of which we are united to God.

      The purificator represents the other cloths that were used at His interment; the veil of silk covering the chalice represents the veil of the temple that was torn from top to bottom at the moment of His death; the two cruets represent the vessels which contained the wine and the gall given Him to drink upon the cross. The three altar cloths under the chalice at Mass also represent the shroud in which he was laid – and according to Catherine Emmerich there were three cloths used at the time of the Last Supper. Everything on the altar and everything the priest does or says is replete with meaning. Such of course is also true of the novus ordo missae, but in a negative fashion. I say, in a negative fashion, because one must look at precisely those prayers and words which were deleted or changed to understand the nature of this new desacralized rite.

      Other symbols used in the Mass that date back to Apostolic times are worthy of mention. Of the sacerdotal vestments: The Amice is symbolic of the linen cloth wherewith in the house of Caiaphas the Jews covered Christ's face, bidding Him in mockery: 'Prophesy to us, who is it that struck Thee?'; the alb represents the white garment in which the son of God was mocked in the house of Herod; The linen girdle with which the priest girds himself represents the cord wherewith Christ was bound in the Garden of Olives. The maniple on the priests left armrepresents the bonds wherewith Christ was tied to the pillar when he was scourged. The priest takes this off when he leaves the altar to give his sermon because he gives the sermon as Christ's representative – but he services the altar as an alter Christus or another Christ. Or again, it is that maniple of tears intended to wipe away the filth resulting from our attachment to the things of this world. It is not without significance that the novus ordo missae has dropped the use of the Maniple. The stole represents the chains laid upon Our Lord after He was sentenced to death. The chasuble represents, either the purple robe that the soldiers laid upon his shoulder, or the need above all for Charity. It bears upon it the image of the Cross which Our Lord Jesus Christ bore upon His own shoulders"


    13. withhope March 12, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Teresina, that's an excellent video. meanwhile the novusordo is still evolving. for some reason now the altar isn't dressed till after the homily. and the credence table has switched from south to north of the altar – be interested if anyone knows where these new steps in the novusordomass have come from and why.

    14. Teresina March 12, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Withhope, I don't know why that happens.  All I can think is that it is to separate the readings from the consecration or perhaps it is to give more of an idea of attending a banquet.  I know at the Cathedral in Hamilton the parish secretary advertises for "table setters" in the newsletter rather than altar servers.  Certainly the original intention of the Novus Ordo Mass seems to have been a meal rather than a sacrifice, although there seems to be a move back more towards the traditional Mass.  Actually, the more I read about the anathemas surrounding changing the traditional Mass even from Latin into the vernacular the more it points to serious problems with these changes out of line with what the pre-conciliar Church.  No doubt this is why we have had such problems over the last 40 years or so.  The more and more I read, the more and more convinced I become that the Church will continue to have problems until the traditional Mass is fully restored.  The fact that there are many martyrs who died for the traditional Latin Mass rather than attend Cranmer's Mass speaks volumes.  The similarities of the Novus Ordo Mass to Cranmer's Mass is unmistakable which leads to only one conclusion: either God got it wrong at the Reformation and the martyrs died for nothing or the Church got it wrong at the Second Vatican Council. Simply both cannot stand together.  It just defies logic.  To me the fact that we have had problems since the introduction of the new Mass shows the proof of the pudding.  There is talk of still reforming the new Mass but with the lay involvement in the Mass the way it is there will always be problems with the new Mass.  All the rich symbolism that is in the traditional Mass is largely missing from the new.

    15. Teresina March 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      How Cranmer tore down the house in England is shown in a short booklet written by a Catholic in 1969: "The Modern Mass a Reversion to the reforms of Cranmer :

      "It is my purpose here to set down quite simply the method by 
      which the Faith was destroyed in England by measures for which the 
      main responsibility rests on Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of 
      Canterbury, who was all-powerful in the religious sphere from 1547 
      to 1553.

      He was honest enough about his intentions and made no effort to 
      hide his opinion that the power of “the great harlot, that is to say, 
      the pestiferous see of Rome” lay in “the popish doctrine of 
      transubstantiation, of the real presence of Christ’s flesh and blood in 
      the sacrament of the altar (as they call it) and of the sacrifice and 
      oblation of Christ made by the priest for the salvation of the quick 
      and the dead.

       It was this that must be destroyed. People must learn 
      that Christ was not in the Sacrament but only in the worthy receivers 
      of the Sacrament. “The eating and drinking of Christ’s flesh and 
      blood is not to be taken in the common signification, with mouth 
      and teeth to eat a thing being present, but by a lively faith, in heart 
      and mind to digest a thing being absent.”

       The new rite which Cranmer devised to embody this belief, “the administration of the 
      Holy Supper,” must have nothing in it which could be “twisted” to 
      resemble “the never-sufficiently-to-be-execrated Mass.” And that in the Mass “there is offered to God the Father a sacrifice, namely the body and blood of our Lord, truly and really, in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins and to obtain the salvation as well of the dead as 
      of the living”  was defined as a heresy deserving the death-penalty. 

      So much for Cranmer’s objective. The three chief means by which 
      he attained it were the use of the vernacular, the substitution of a 
      Holy Table for an altar and changes made in the Canon of the Mass

      W ithin a year of Cranmer’s accession to full ecclesiastical 
      power, one of the foreign Protestants in England wrote 
      exultantly to Bullinger, who had succeeded Zwingli in Zurich: “Arae 
      facta sunt harae” — the altars have been made into pigsties.13 It was 
      not at that point quite true, for in various places altars were retained 
      by pious priests and congregations. But in the November of 1550, 
      Cranmer, through the Privy Council, issued an edict that all altars 
      throughout the kingdom should be destroyed. For the future, 
      wherever the rite for the Holy Eucharist was celebrated, a wooden 
      table was to be used
      .                 …

      The alternative Canon, Anaphora II, now imposed on the 
      Church, follows Cranmer with exactitude. For the consecration there 
      is no preparation whatever.
      After the Benedictus, the celebrant 
      merely says: “You are truly holy, Lord, the fount of all holiness” and 
      then immediately prays that “these gifts may be made for us the 
      Body and Blood.” In the Roman Canon it is impossible to 
      understand “nobis” in the Cranmerian sense; in Anaphora II it is 
      almost impossible to understand it any other way. What makes it 
      worse is that the instruction of the Consilium was that this Canon, 
      Anaphora II, should be the one in ordinary use and, further, be 
      utilized for catechetical instruction of the young in the nature of the 
      Eucharistic Prayer.  …

      At the end of Trent, during which the Protestants everywhere 
      made, like Cranmer, new rites embodying the heresy, “the great 
      Catholic need had become that of unity and the closing of the ranks 
      against the new negations. For this the old liturgy, in the same 
      language everywhere, was too valuable an instrument to lose. The 
      result was the reformed Roman Missal of Pius V, imposed on the 
      whole Roman obedience by an unprecedented legislative act of the 
      central authority.” 
      This Tridentine Mass was enacted by St. Pius by his Quo Primum 
      on July 19, 1570. He ruled that “by this our decree, to be valid in 
      perpetuity, we determine and order that never shall anything be omitted from or changed in this Missal
      .” To bind posterity, he affirmed that “at no time in the future can a priest, whether secular or religious ever be forced to use any other way of 
      saying Mass. And so as to preclude once for all any scruple of 
      conscience and fear of ecclesiastical penalties and censures, we 
      herewith declare that it is in virtue of our Apostolic Authority that 
      we decree and determine that this our present order and decree is to 
      last in perpetuity and can never be legally revoked or amended at a 
      future date.

      As this was delivered three centuries before the definition of 
      Infallibility, it is perhaps pointless to argue how far it is binding, 
      though the “in virtue of our Apostolic Authority” suggests a 
      reasonable rigidity. And certainly St. Pius’s own estimation of its 
      importance can be gauged from his “and if anyone would 
      nevertheless dare to attempt any action contrary to this Order of 
      ours, given for all times, let him know that he has incurred the wrath 
      of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.” 
      It is these prohibitions and censures of St. Pius which the present 
      Pope has set aside in his Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum 
      of April 3, 1969, decreeing the new forms of Mass: “We wish these 
      our decrees and prescriptions may be firm and effective now and in 
      the future notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic 
      constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors.” 
      The Tridentine Mass, forged as an everlasting weapon against 
      heresy, is to be abandoned to a new form which is only too 
      compatible with the heresies of Cranmer and his associates. 
      Some of us wonder why. 
      The Feast of S.S. Peter and Paul 1969"


      This is why Catholics for over 50 years have been fighting for the restoration of the traditional Latin Mass.  I question myself on what authority could the decrees of Pope St Pius be overturned?

    16. Teresina March 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      This would be a wonderful film to see:  Faith of our Fathers – In search of the English Martyrs

      Here is the shorts from the movie which ends with the great quote of St Edmund Campion:  The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored."


      It will be up to the young people in the Church today to build up the House and restore the walls that have been torn down and perhaps some of them will be inspired by movies, such as this, on the martyrs that have gone before us.

    17. Dominican March 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      The DVD is available from the Online Catholic Store from 26.3.14.  I will  be purchasing it.

    18. Rubyshine March 12, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      Teresina all of that explanation of the symbolism is really interesting. I'll have  alook at that video when I have a bit more time.

      I have often wondered about the different symbols on the chasuble. I understand that the colour reflects the season or feast days, and it's not hard to work out what the images (crosses, wheat, water etc) might symbolise. I just wandered if the use of various symbools are just down to the taste or preference of the priest, or if they are worn on different days for different reasons?

    19. Teresina March 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Dominican – thanks for that reference I will certainly purchase it too.  I found this review.  It certainly looks like a must see to me:



      Rubyshine: yes, the colour of the vestments reflects the seasons of the Church's liturgical year.  The priest usually chooses his own set of vestments with the symbols that he prefers.  Often a priest is gifted a set of vestments by his family on ordination.  Parishes usually have a set of vestments as well.

      Quite often the vestments are made by nuns.  Here is a site where the nuns make vestments – they state that if an order is placed now it will be approximately 12 months before it is fulfilled – that may relate to a full set I'm not sure.  They seem to have two different styles of vestment – what the call Gothic style which is the chasuable with "sleeves" that comes down to about the elbow and the Roman style which have no "sleeves".  (They are not really sleeves but I don't know what to call them!) .  There are a few pictures on here showing the nuns making the vestments: http://benedictinesofmary.org/content/violet-chasuble-brocade-dupioni-or-wool-0