The Fathers of the Church emphasize the corruption of the liturgy that will prevail in the last days. As the end draws near, the Church will be subjected to a fiercer, more diabolical persecution than any previously suffered.
Fr. Vincent Miceli, S.J.
REMNANT COLUMNIST, RIP(www.RemnantNewspaper.com) More than a century ago, when times were rather peaceful, even Christian, compared to the general apostasy and religious confusion of our times, John Henry Cardinal Newman, with the vision of a prophet, predicted the desolation of our day: “Surely there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ in a net, and preparing the way for a general apostasy from it. Whether this very apostasy is to give birth to Antichrist or whether he is still to be delayed we cannot know; but at any rate this evil apostasy and all its tokens and instruments are of the Evil One and savor of death.”
It is certainly profitable for Christians to reflect on the First and Second Coming of Christ, to keep their hearts prayerfully alert, awake to the hope and longing for His Second Coming. Christ Himself exhorted us to look out for, recognize and study the signs of His coming as Judge of the living and the dead. We are also encouraged by the Fathers of the Church to think often and much of this final judgment, to dwell on the particular accounting each of us must make. Such religious reflection will nurture a profound and saving faith; it will increase an intelligent, far-seeing wisdom in the faithful follower of Christ. For in the light of His Second Coming the face of the wicked world is unmasked. In this prayerful reflection the veil will fall from our eyes and we will clearly see how the world is secularizing, corrupting and desacralizing the whole superstructure of society – politics, economics, law, education – indeed, the whole strata of personal and social activities. We will understand how this process of cosmic perversion is preparing the stage of history for the Coming of the Man of Sin who will quickly seize total power and set himself up as God in his own right. Détente, as Liturgical Disorder Once again we find that Cardinal Newman foresaw another serious attack upon our Faith. This time he warned Christians against innovators who would relax Christian forms and usher into the Church liturgical frenzy. Such devotees of change question every Christian form of prayer, every posture of devotion, every devotion itself and the very personal or traditional symbols of the Faith. Their lust for innovation is used as a battering ram against the stability of long-established sacred rites, which have been witnesses and types of precious Gospel truths for Christian communities. Hurriedly, even violently, they replace divine forms with new diluted Masses, new prayers, new sacraments, new churches; all of which confuse the faithful. Newman writes: “No one can really respect religion and insult its forms. Granted that such forms are not immediately from God, still long use has made them divine to us; for the spirit of religion has so penetrated and quickened them, that to destroy them is in respect to the multitude of men, to unsettle and dislodge the religious principle itself. In most minds usage has so identified them with the notion of religion, that one cannot be extirpated without the other. Their faith will not bear transplanting…precious doctrines are slung like jewels upon slender threads.” Moreover, the new forms are without splendour, flattened, undifferentiated. Why was kneeling replaced by standing? Jesus Himself fell on His knees and on His face as He prayed to His heavenly Father. Satan too knows the meaning of worship and man’s need for it. He tried to get Jesus to fall down and worship him. Why has the liturgical year and the Mass been so unfortunately mutilated that the faithful are now confused about the Mass, the saints, the holy seasons? Why was the Gloria, that prayer of total concentration on God’s Majesty and Goodness, restricted practically to Sundays alone? Is the Faith really renewed and vivified by obscuring our sense of community with Christians of apostolic and ancient times? The new liturgy no longer draws us into the true experience of reliving the Life of Christ. We are deprived of this experience through the elimination of the hierarchy of feasts. Then, too, the new forms are the result of experimentation. But one experiments with things, with objects that one wants to analyze. Experimentation is the method of science. But a liturgy is full of mysteries, of realities in which one must participate. Experimentation only desecrates mysteries. The wretched idolatry of tinkering with sacred realities has, unfortunately, penetrated the Church and produced a mediocrity-ridden liturgy, a show for spectators that distracts from the holy, frustrates intimate communion with God and vulgarizes, where it does not suppress, sacred actions, symbols, music and words. In reality, such diminished liturgies have renewed nothing. Rather have these innovations emptied churches, dried up vocations to the priesthood and sisterhood, driven off converts and opened the doors wide to a flood of renegades. Even though valid in its essence, such a new liturgy cannot inspire for it is colourless, artificial, and banal, without the odour and flavour of sanctity. A humanized, popularized liturgy will never produce saints; only a divinized liturgy can accomplish that miracle. In our times, it is no secret that the enemies of the Church want to destroy belief in the divinity of Christ. Once the liturgy is humanized, Christ the Center and Object of it becomes the humanist par excellence, the liberator, the revolutionary, the Marxist ushering in the millennium; He ceases to be the Divine Redeemer. We must be alerted to those who plan, by convincing us to abandon our sacred forms, at length to seduce us into denying our Christian Faith altogether. The Church is attacked by these Sons of Satan, in and outside her fold, because she is a living form, the sacrament – sign and instrument – of communion with and of unity among all men; because she is the visible body of Religion. Hence those shrewd masters of sedition know that when the sacred forms go, religion will also go. Violate the lex orandi and you must inevitably destroy the lex credendi. That is why they rail against so many devotions as superstitions; why they propose so many alterations and changes, a tactic cleverly calculated to shake the foundations of faith. We must never forget then, that forms apparently indifferent in themselves become most important to us when we are used to using them to nurture our lives in holiness. Places consecrated to God’s honor, carefully set apart for His service, the Lord’s Day piously observed, the public forms of prayer, the decencies of worship—these things, viewed as a whole, are sacred relatively to the whole body of the faithful and they are divinely sanctioned. Rites sanctified by the Church through ages of holy experience, cannot be discussed without harm to souls. Moreover, in the words of Newman, “Liturgical reformists must ever be aware of the following truth; Even in the least binding of sacred forms, it continually happens that a speculative improvement becomes a practical folly, and the wise are tripped up by their own illustrations.” Bishops today would be wise to follow Newman’s conclusions with regard to this war on the sacred liturgy. “Therefore, when profane persons scoff at our forms, let us argue with ourselves thus – and it is an argument which all men, learned and unlearned, can enter into; These forms, even were they of mere human origin (which learned men say is not the case, but even if they were), are at least of as spiritual and edifying a character as the rites of Judaism. And yet Christ and His apostles did not even suffer these latter to be irreverently treated or suddenly discarded. Much less may we suffer it in the case of our own; lest stripping off the badges of our profession, we forget that there is a Faith for us to maintain and a world of sinners to be eschewed.” The Fathers of the Church emphasize the corruption of the liturgy that will prevail in the last days. As the end draws near, the Church will be subjected to a fiercer, more diabolical persecution than any previously suffered. There will be a cessation of all religious worship. “They shall take away the daily sacrifice.” Some Fathers, interpret these words to mean that Antichrist will suppress for three and a half years all religious worship. Others remind us that Antichrist will set up his throne within the temple of God and demand worship of himself from his depraved followers. St. Augustine wondered whether Baptism would be administered to infants. We are living in times so wicked that many nations will not allow innocent human beings natural birth, much less the grace of supernatural rebirth. The reign of Antichrist will be supported with a galaxy of miracles, such as the Magicians of Egypt effected before Moses and Simon the Sorcerer displayed before Sts. Peter and John. St. Cyril writes: “I fear the wars of nations; I fear divisions among Christians; I fear hatred among brethren. But enough! God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our day! However, let us be prepared.” Thus we see that over and above the persecution of blood and death, there will be a persecution of craftiness and subversion. The Man of Sin will be effective in splitting up and dividing Christians. He will be successful in dislodging many from the rock of salvation, in driving many into heresy and schism, depriving them of their Christian liberty and strength. In the presence of this terrifying prospect, what Christian can look for salvation from politics? Hope for peace from a political détente that strives for a balance of powers, a nuclear stand-off, an appeasement through economic favoritism and a piecemeal surrender to the enemy’s plan for global conquest is nothing but a form of foolish whistling-in-the-dark. For such political tactics of defection are the inevitable fruits of religious forms of disruption that have previously dethroned God, the Church and the world of sacred values. Peace will never be the result of policies that promote commerce, cultural exchange and many varieties of communication. Such policies are like cheap cosmetics, beautifying a dying body in preparation for its burial. But in the realm of the spirit, fighting for the victory of truth and justice is to be found a necessary condition for victory; faith and courage pave the path to peace; fortitude in trials of strength is the guarantee of life and liberty. In the realm of the spirit it is futile to attempt to quarterback a tie, especially against an enemy who will settle for nothing less than one’s total destruction. A strategic stalemate between Satan and society, man and Mammon, atheism and Christianity is an impossibility. We either conquer the forces of evil or they conquer us; we either join the forces of God or the forces of evil; compromise is unacceptable to both sides. Our actions and loyalties in this struggle, though performed in time, are determining our eternal as well as our temporal destiny. There is a radical, most important nexus between spiritual health, with its will to win, and the material forces at hand for victory. Without spiritual health, the overwhelming material resources for victory will be dissipated in the feeble hands of a sick nation that draws back because its heart is cowardly, its head confused, its vision blurred, its hearing dulled, its attention flagging and its feet slipping. Such a nation may rattle its armaments in comic bravado, but it frightens no tyrant. Such a nation plays the international clown for, though it arms, it is not prepared to draw and, though it draws, it is powerless to shoot. As the will of the West is inflated by its rebellion against God, that same will is simultaneously vitiated before the technological terror of its own weapons and those it helped create for the world of organized, militant atheism. For the West has lost its transcendent motive for “fighting the good fight”, for finishing an honourable course. Not having kept the faith, it is now morally paralyzed, incapable of projecting a cogent politics of peace with dignity. Its politics falter; events are out of control; things fall apart. With the escalation of violence, crime, confusion, wars and rumours of wars emanating from religious apostasy and political disengagement, the stage is being set for the Coming of Antichrist…. No doubt agnostic and atheist sophisticates will smile patronizingly at the prophecy of Antichrist’s coming in a pestilence of heresies, preternatural heroics and wars. Progressivist Christians will join the intellectual scoffers. It was thus in the days of Noe, who was laughed to scorn as he built his ark of salvation. It was thus in the days of Abraham, as he pleaded fruitlessly with Sodom and Gomorrah. It was thus in the days of Christ, as He wept over the city of Jerusalem. All these skeptics were wiped out violently for their incredulity. It will be thus, at the end of time. For the wicked are too proud to accept and understand the ways of God. In those last perilous days men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false-accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure instead of lovers of God, scoffers walking after their own lusts, and jeering. Where is the promise of His Second Coming? Men will be despisers of government, presumptuous, self-willed, calumniators of civil and religious authorities, promising everyone liberty while subjecting themselves and their fellowmen to the corruption of run-away licentiousness. The basic issue of détente, then, is how does the West reverse its own conduct of moral perversity? When will the West return to its life of sanctifying tensions through a faith that loves and serves God? When will the West renew its dangerous war of tensions against the world, the flesh and the devil? When will it cease being unfaithful? When will it reject half-measures that temporize in the face of its moral obligations? When will it finally accept God’s grace and justification as the only cure for its spiritual exhaustion? Saintly Christians alone can give the example and inspiration for a universal reconciliation with God. Such Christians never forget they are pilgrims without a lasting city which is to come. They reject the temptation to live in ease and comfort; their first priority is a life of prayer and self-restraint; they reject the pursuit of money, prestige and power as the primary activity of man. Such Christians form “little islands of holiness” everywhere, but especially in their homes which will surely but slowly re-Christianize a neo-pagan society, even as the little band of original disciples Christianized the pagan Roman Empire. “Will I find faith when I come?” asked Christ concerning those last days. We Christians must be His eager heralds, watching for the morning, the light, the signs of His Second Glorious Coming. For, despite the general Apostasy that will be prevalent at the time, the Lord will be welcomed in His Final Coming in power by the remnant of His Faithful Christians. These will rejoice exceedingly, knowing that this Parousia will put an end forever to the despicable détente with sin, will gather in His elect and establish eternally that entente cordiale, that eternally loving communion with God known as the Beatific Vision. (Reprinted from The Remnant, February 28, 1978)