Corpus Christ End of Mass

Who’s Afraid of Pomp and Splendor?

by PETER KWASNIEWSKI |  |  published on June 11, 2015

Obviously, not the zealous Catholics who participated in the Sacra Liturgia 2015 conference and its liturgies. According to some left-leaning news reports, the conference was an esoteric gathering of a tiny elite. Interesting. I was there for the whole time and I saw hundreds of people, mostly young and middle-aged, including families with small children who came for the Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Manhattan—the vast majority born after the annus horribilis of 1970. When one looks at photos of more liberal gatherings, one tends to see a disproportionate representation of graybeards and aging hippies, longing nostalgically (one might say) for the good old days.

In truth, the Sacra Liturgia conference was a glimpse of the future of the Church. Even as the statistics tell us that bored, uncatechized, unchallenged, and utterly secular faithful are leaving the Church in droves, we see renewal coming from a joyful and serene embrace of the Church’s patrimony of liturgy, doctrine, morality, beauty, and holiness. Experience, a good teacher yet seldom heeded, tells us that most of the reforms following in the wake of Vatican II have been a resounding failure; experience is also telling us that the way forward is the recovery of Tradition.

Let us return to our question. Who, after all, can be afraid of or offended by pomp and splendor? Well, some of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council were certainly nervous about it, at times indigant. In the first volume of his Vatican Council Notebooks,[1] Henri De Lubac notes a number of speeches of council fathers who seemed to be calling for a “church of the poor” in a manner strikingly reminiscent of recent papal statements:

Bishop Argaya, Spanish, expressed a wish “de solemnibus . . . formis simplificandis” [concerning the solemn forms to be simplified]. The norms should be: pietas, simplicitas, et dignitas. Let everything be brought back to the spirit of the Gospel, especially in the Pontifical. We should eliminate everything that in dress and ceremonies resembles “alicui pompae humanae et mundanae” [some human and worldly pomp]. (p. 177)

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