Though it is the most difficult to formulate, the fifth point is the most vital factor, and this is the LITURGICAL TRUTH of the liturgy. The liturgy is a special form of sign language, an individual manifestation of the faith having its own laws, proportion, style, logic and structure. This sui generis system links on one level all authentic liturgical manifestations of mankind; on another level all the Christian rites. Every individual rite has its own inner laws, preserved even during the changes. If the rite lacks these laws it becomes a fiction. If a house is not constructed firmly, it will eventually collapse. But if the liturgical truth is diminished or attenuated, no visible trouble will result right away, since the liturgy is falsely assumed to be the sum of human conventions. It is commonplace, however, that in a society serious disorder will follow if the commonly accepted norms of behavior become regarded as mere conventions that can be changed at will. The spiritual unity of such a society disintegrates when its former principle of order changes to fiction. Similarly, the violation of liturgical truth will sooner or later grievously harm the common sense and spirituality of the Church, as well as the religious behavior of her priests and faithful. Sad to say, this thesis has been proven right by the events that followed Vatican II. As Cardinal Ratzinger put it: “The cause of the Church’s inner crisis is the disintegration of her liturgy.”

Just what is this “liturgical truth”? The matter resembles St. Augustine’s relationship to time: “If you do not ask me about it, I know it clearly, but when you ask me, I suddenly do not know.” I offer an absurd example of this. Let us imagine that someone comes up with the following idea: the Gospel is the Word of the Living Christ Who is present among the congregation. Hence it is more logical if first of all Christ appears among us (through the Transubstantiation), and then afterwards speaks to us (in the Gospel). We all sense the falsity of this conclusion, and the absurdity of the idea. But on the level of speculation it is difficult to offer a rebuttal. If the Gospel were transferred to a position following the words of the Last Supper, no dogmatic truth would be offended. But the whole liturgical truth of the Mass would have collapsed.

Since this “liturgical truth” is the aggregate of a great number of components, effects, proportions, which can hardly be described in most cases, the human mind is unable to construct it. This truth is something more vibrantly alive than the dogmatic, juridical or pastoral truth. As the human mind and body cannot be produced by construction, since they are the marvelous result of conception, birth and growth, so too the liturgical truth can only be inherited, nursed and transmitted. We may change it in approximately the same measure as we can change our own bodies. This is the TRADITIONAL TRUTH of the liturgy. We can know how, why and when certain individual elements of the liturgy were introduced. Its totality, however, comes (or should come) to us from a world of anonymity, from the immemorial ancient traditions of the Church.

Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)


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