The Order of the Mass: The Foundation of all Right Order

I have been writing about the principles of social justice. Social justice means nothing if it does not mean the right order of human society. We see the foundational principles of that order in Eden where there is right order of man to God, right order in the human soul, right order between man and woman, the fundamental human society, and right order of man over creation. That order was disrupted when man rebelled against God and can only be restored in the measure that man first returns to God through right religion. Because the modern world is practically founded on the rejection of right religion all its attempts to restore the right order of human society will be vain and useless. Unless the Lord builds the house in vain do the builders labor. (Ps 127:1)

Further, I have shown that the natural law, by itself, is insufficient to restore the right order of man to God; a merely natural religion is actually offensive to God. The temporal order of human society needs not only to be ordered to God, but also to the divinely willed, supernatural goal of man and all creation, eternal life and the heavenly Jerusalem. The fundamental principle of this order is the Lord’s Day, which celebrates the beginning of the new creation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the inbreaking of his grace and salvation into this world of time. The principle activity of the Lord’s Day is the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the sacrifice of our reconciliation and salvation, the renewal of the new and eternal covenant in the Blood of Christ, the worship in spirit and truth that the Father desires, the only worship that is truly worthy of God and pleasing to him. The order of the Mass is the foundation of all right order.

That means that when disorder enters the order of the Mass, as has taken place since Vatican II on account of widespread liturgical abuse, the whole order of society is threatened. Ironically, many ‘social justice’ Masses, in which the Mass has been placed at the service of motivating some form of ‘social justice’ activism, by undermining the order of the Mass have actually worked against true social justice.

The right order of things is expressed in this beautiful, but neglected, passage from the Council: “The liturgy, ‘through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,’ most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek. While the liturgy daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ, at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ, and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together, until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.” (Sacrasanctum 2) Observe the fundamental order: human subordinate to divine, visible to invisible, action to contemplation, present world to the city yet to come.

We can consider, in miniature, the order that is produced by the Mass, if we consider the life of a contemplative Benedictine monastery, meant to be a ‘school of the Lord’s service’, in which nothing is to be set before the ‘work of God’, the sacrifice of praise. (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue, Ch. 43)

Fr. Hugh Somerville-Knapman of the Douai Abbey wrote: “Monks live liturgy. ‘Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God’ our holy father St Benedict bids us. The Divine Office and the Mass punctuate and structure our day, uniting our lives with Christ’s sacrifice of perfect praise in his Body and Blood on the Cross. This union is what gives the monk’s life its truest and deepest value.” (https://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2014/02/let-nothing-be-preferred-to-the-work-of-god/)

(To be continued)

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.