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Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages Paperback – June 7, 2017
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From the Back Cover
"Anyone who wants a frank, honest, and deep explanation of worship, prayer, and liturgy should get this book. Be prepared to marvel at the depth of the Mass."--REV. JAMES W. JACKSON, F.S.S.P., author of Nothing Superfluous
"With a delightful variety of insightful angles, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness is an admirable contribution to reminding the Church how to move the world with her irreplaceable liturgical traditions."--MICHAEL P. FOLEY, Baylor University
"This tremendous new book is an eloquent and erudite confrontation with the very root of the liturgical debate: whether the radical de-mystifying of the Catholic liturgy has been for the good of souls. It is a ringing affirmation that the kind of liturgy that pleases God, softens the hearts of sinners, and raises the pious towards sanctity, is the mysterious product of centuries of development."--JOSEPH SHAW, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales
"Peter Kwasniewski illustrates the total collapse of the hierarchy of values brought about by a modern world that has 'turned its back to God,' and man's need for the Traditional Mass to spin him round to a recognition that all good things--temporal things included--flow only from aiming our attention firmly at the Creator."--JOHN RAO, St. John's University
"Dr. Kwasniewski has a genius for making a fresh case for Catholic tradition, with a blend of perspectives from the entire 60-year Catholic traditionalist movement. A unique reading experience."--ROGER A. MCCAFFREY, President, Roman Catholic Books
About the Author
PETER KWASNIEWSKI is a founding faculty member of Wyoming Catholic College, where he is professor and choirmaster. He is a prolific writer and a composer of sacred music.
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Also, the writing is GORGEOUS. If you already know and love the TLM, you'll be reading quotes aloud to friends and family. If not, you'll be inspired to search the internet for the nearest Latin Mass.
I once read in a short article, "There are two doors which lead to the Latin Mass: one is the door of beauty, the other is the door of the intellect." I would dare to say that this book serves as an expansion on that idea. However, it does not stop there. He goes on to explain why this Mass is so efficacious at leading all men, scholar and laborer alike, to meditating on the things of God. If you have ever been in the unfortunate situation of having to explain why you prefer the Latin Mass but could not find the words, this will help you.
This book is written in a style easily accessible to the "ordinary" man while not abandoning the scholarly research typical of Dr. Kwasniewski's writings.
Kwasniewski brings deep learning and sharp reasoning to bear upon today’s questions of worship, not flinching away from logical, and frequently uncomfortable, conclusions. Although some readers may find his writing too trenchant, Noble Beauty breathes with such a spirit of prayer and devotion that the reader can be taken up into the splendor of the Church’s ancient worship while simultaneously seeing contemporary problems as they are. His prose is sterling. Scripture (Vulgate and Douay-Rheims) flows copiously and continuously from Kwasniewski’s pen (calamus scribae velociter scribentis), underscoring the deeply biblical character of the Latin liturgy and its connection to contemplation. The chapter on Our Lady and the Mass is particularly excellent in this regard.
One of the most attractive features of the author’s liturgical theology is the way that his Thomism has been influenced by a good ressourcement. He repeatedly insists on the patristic dictum that “orthodoxy” means both right belief and right worship. One of the great ironies, indeed mysteries, of liturgical change in the twentieth century was that it took place amidst a great flowering of patristic and aesthetic studies, yet managed to produce liturgical rites that were notably lacking from these standpoints. Kwasniewski returns time and again to the beauty and mystagogy of the traditional rites while preserving a Thomistic framework that facilitates rigorous thought. It is an improvement over both the “neoscholastic reductionism” that afflicted the twentieth century and a certain kind of ressourcement theology that, for all its concern with form, has been strangely inattentive to the form of the liturgy.
Noble Beauty brought to my attention once again a basic difficulty with any discussion about the traditional rites. There is an important psychological barrier to entering the conversation: one has to entertain the possibility that the highest authorities in the Church have been making serious mistakes for the last sixty years about her corporate worship, a matter of the utmost importance. For some Catholics, this is tantamount to denial of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church, and they dismiss the case for the traditional liturgy out of hand on these grounds. I think such an approach is mistaken (if understandable), but it does mean that there are limits to what arguments on paper can accomplish by themselves. I think the book that most successfully attempts to bridge this psychological gap (despite its technical content) is the late Laszlo Dobszay’s The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite, not least because the author’s tone is relatively gentle and he shows high regard for Sacrosanctum concilium, even its practical directives. Yet Kwasniewski’s book is both more clear-sighted and reflective of contemporary discussion insofar as he does not treat every jot and tittle of SC as sacrosanct, and rightly deflects the many current proposals for “fusing” the two forms of the rite. He is far more concerned with the merits of various proposals than their provenance.
Occasionally I found statements that might have benefited from greater nuance. Even if traditionalists are the most consistent opponents of Modernism, it is not entirely fair to say that they are the only ones in the Church. I would also say that the true holiness and genuine Eucharistic devotion of people who are only exposed to the Novus Ordo (.e.g the Missionaries of Charity) merit some consideration, even if the author’s critiques of that form of the rite still stand.
Although he is a prolific scholar, Kwasniewski understands that the Church’s ancient worship is something to receive and enter into more than to study or write about, and that being exposed to its beauty and splendor is the best way to love and understand it. Among the volumes that have been written since the end of the Council, I have not found a more spiritually and intellectually compelling apologia for the usus antiquior than Noble Beauty. Kwasniewski consistently honors his forebears in the Liturgical Movement, which is another way that he articulates the principles set forth in the book. Thinking within a tradition, not breaking with it, is the real precondition for new life and fresh insights, a reality to which he attributes the present flourishing of traditional Catholicism. Noble Beauty will make the reader want to go up to the altar of God, as generations past and present have done.
A codicil on the “Jesuit approach” to the liturgy
I treat this matter separately, because it is of lesser importance to potential readers, but as a Jesuit I could not pass over in silence the author’s discussion of the Jesuit approach to the liturgy. The point of departure is the debate between Jesuits and Benedictines in the 1920s about the relative importance of the liturgy in Christian life, with the Jesuits tending to downplay it and the Benedictines giving it pride of place. Kwasniewski identifies in the Jesuit tendency a dangerous turn towards subjectivity that is a major part of the Church’s present woes.
What is to be said in reply? Kwasniewski is pretty fair. He does not engage in shallow caricatures or deny the value of Jesuit spirituality, even though it is different from its Benedictine counterpart. It is true that Jesuit spirituality has never been and cannot be as immersed in the liturgy as other traditions are, if for no other reason than that Jesuits do not pray the Office in choir. This fact, coupled with the Ignatian methods of prayer, does give Jesuit spirituality a tendency towards the subjective (or as we would say, attentiveness to the interior movements of the soul) that is problematic if it unmoors itself from the “givenness” of the faith and forms of worship.
Yet this is not quite the whole story. As his “Rules for Thinking with the Church” show, St Ignatius had the highest regard for all those traditional forms and did not countenance attempts to alter them. He loved solemn Vespers and oversaw the order’s abandonment of choir only for the sake of the apostolate. By the time he was established in Rome as superior general, he experienced uncontrollable tears whenever he celebrated Mass or prayed his Breviary. St Peter Faber, his companion, was convinced that a more dignified and reverent celebration of Mass was essential to the reform of the clergy and the Church in general, and worked tirelessly on its behalf. St Francis Xavier refused to pray the Quiñones breviary, a radical attempt to alter the Church’s prayer, and kept rather to the traditional Office. Alfonso Salmeron, who gave an outstanding defense of the sacrifice of the Mass at the Council of Trent, took great care for the celebration of Mass and Vespers at the Jesuit church in Naples during his long tenure as provincial there. In other words, Jesuit spirituality is meant to be rooted in the givenness of worship, at least if our founders are any example. We are not Benedictines, it is true, but there is no reason for us not to live and breathe with the liturgical year, with the Mass and the Breviary.
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Approachable and engaging to the average layman, yet with very helpful scholarly apparatus for those looking to dig deeper (the...Read more