Our world is consumed with pride.
So are we, if we’re honest. Or maybe it’s just me.
We see this pride in everything. The media proudly struts about, pounding their nonsense into the brains of those foolish enough to listen to them, lecturing us about how we should be living a more woke life. The education system proudly flaunts the fact that they have largely abandoned traditional teaching methods and classic education and, rather than teaching our children how to think and read and interact with their fellow humans, they clamor about how modern their methods are, while teachers unions whine about doing their job because they might get sick. The government so proudly lectures us, in the persons of the radical left, about how we are all racists and sexual bigots because we (Catholics) cling to the Faith. Our own Church hierarchy, in their arrogance, feel that they can adjust the Tradition of the Church to fit into their liberal ideology and expect the faithful to just go along with the nonsense.
It’s everywhere and consumes all in its path.
This was, perhaps, the great sin of Lucifer. In his pride, he wanted to be the star of the show, not some lowly virgin who would give miraculous birth and certainly not to God the Son who would dare to lower Himself to become human. How dare God not recognize the beauty and knowledge and wonder of him, Lucifer thought! He was and is consumed by pride.
But our readings today point us in a very different direction. Our Epistle is St. Paul’s famous text on humility: Philippians 2:5-11. Our gospel reading is St. Matthew’s narrative of the Passion of our Lord Jesus: Matthew 26:36-75, 27:1-60.
Let us consider together the humility of our Lord Jesus. St. Paul reminds us that we are to have the mind of Christ. And, in our text today, what is the mind of Christ?
He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. God the Son, who has existed for all eternity, through Whom the world was made, for Whom the world was made, took upon Himself human flesh. He took on all our weakness and frailty. Imagine, brothers and sisters. God has become human. He emptied Himself of the glory in which He lived and the constant praise of the angelic hosts to hear the hateful words of sinful man who spat on Him and mocked Him. We could spend the rest of our lives meditating on this fact and not exhaust its depths:
He emptied Himself.
He humbled Himself, being obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Fathom, if you can, the humility of the God-man, God the Son, who was and is and is to come. He obeyed the will of the Father, knowing it would cost Him agony that we cannot possibly comprehend and suffering a death that was excruciating beyond what we can imagine. Look at our gospel reading and see His agony. He was beaten, spat upon, stripped naked, nailed to a cross. Behold His suffering and fall on your knees, brothers and sisters.
And we, brothers and sisters, we not only observe but are invited to participate in His very Passion. What grace He has given us, that we should be joined to His suffering and death by faith! We cannot, we must not turn away from our own suffering for, in it, we embrace the suffering of our Messiah.
Embrace the humility of our Lord Jesus in your own life. In the garden, He said, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me.”
What an invitation He has given us! We are invited to stay with Him and watch with Him in prayer!
Do our souls sorrow for our sins?
Do we watch with Christ in prayer?
Our Lord said to the Father, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Are we willing to submit to the will of the Father, no matter the cost? Are we willing to submit our own will? Do we submit to His Church, and thus to Him, or do we demand our own way? Let us take to heart the words of our Savior, even in His suffering and Passion,
“Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.”
Let us embrace what our Lord has gone before us to show. Let us take to heart His words and amend our lives, rend our hearts and submit. Let us watch and pray that we may not enter into temptation. Our flesh is indeed weak and selfish and prideful. Pray, brothers and sisters, that your spirit would be made willing. Fast, pray, embrace the life our Lord has called us to, a life of submission to the will of the Father and service to our Lord Jesus.
And what shall come of us after we have submitted, after we have fasted and prayed, after we have submitted to the will of the Father?
Like the veil of the temple, our hearts will be torn in two. Not in pain but in freedom. For the veil of our flesh and sin that has separated us from God our Father will have been torn finally in two. Our hearts of stone will become hearts of true flesh. We shall have then the mind of Christ. And we shall see our Lord face to face, as He is.
Oh, this is the end, dear brothers and sisters, of embracing the Passion of our Lord. We shall be made in His image and we shall see Him face to face! Watch ye, therefore, and pray!
So as I said in the introductory post, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the pre-conciliar papal encylicals. I won’t be able to really cover these in the way that I would like. One could write tomes on these and probably should. I’ll do my best to keep it to around 2k words or so.
First up (in no real order) is Pascendi Dominici Gregis, promulgated on September 8, 1907 by Pope St. Pius X. Why did the sainted Pope write this? He was specifically refuting the doctrines of the Modernists. He tells us, in the opening paragraph why. It is worth quoting.
“The office divinely committed to Us of feeding the Lord’s flock has especially this duty assigned to it by Christ, namely to guard with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge so falsely called. There has never been a time when this watchfulness of the supreme pastor was not necessary to the Catholic body; for, owing to the efforts of the enemy of the human race, there has never been lacking “men speaking perverse things” (Acts xx. 30), “vain talkers and seducers” (Titus i. 10), “erring and driving into error” (2 Tim. iii. 13). Still it must be confessed that the number of the enemies of the cross of Christ has in these last days increased exceedingly, who are striving, by arts, entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ’s kingdom itself. Wherefore We may no longer be silent, lest We should seem to fail in Our most sacred duty, and lest the kindness that, in the hope of wiser counsels, We have hitherto shown them, should be attributed to the forgetfulness of Our office.”
Right out of the gate, the Pope tells us the job of the Pope; feeding the flock of the Lord, guarding the deposit of the faith and rejecting profane novelties. The job of the Pope is this, not posing for photo opportunities or cozy up to the powers that be in the world. In fact, I would say that, if the Pope is popular in the eyes of the world, he’s probably not doing his job very well because the Church and the world should look very different from one another and probably will not get along well. So, if the Pope is getting along well with the world, that seems like a bit of a problem.
The Pope goes on in the next paragraph to call out those who “belong to the Catholic laity, nay, and this is far more lamentable, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, feigning a love for the Church, lacking a firm protection of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, vaunt themselves as reformers of the Church…” Does this sound like anyone we know or have known in the last, oh I don’t know, 50-60 years? The so-called reformers are, in the words of the Pope, enemies of the Church. On a practical note, priests should be saying pretty much the same thing today that priests have always been saying. I would dare say that, if a priest (or bishop or Pope) is saying things that do not align with what the Church has always said, you need to be careful about listening to that guy.
When I was preaching full time (as a Protestant pastor), I would often say that I have nothing new to say. I’m going to keep repeating what has been said by pastors for the better part of 2000 years. Now, we can apply it in different ways to our modern life, but the Faith has not changed. Neither should how the priests tell us to live or how they interpret Holy Scripture.
He goes on to tell us, in paragraph 3, that (basically) the goal of the enemy is to take down the Catholic Church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the visible body of Christ on earth, the Kingdom come. The world hates Her. The enemy will stop at nothing to destroy her…even infiltrating the clergy (this is my commentary).
In paragraph 6, the Pope tells us about the root of the Modernist problem: agnosticism. The agnostic says it cannot be “reasonable” if it cannot be perceived by the human senses. How arrogant of us to assume that we are the arbiters of what is true, that we are the measuring stick. This very notion is a slap in the face of objective Truth. This is really at the heart of Modernism; that your personal experience of religion is what matters most. If something cannot be proven empirically (by evidence) then it must not exist. The problem with that is that feelings cannot be proven one way or the other, which then leads to all things being true if you experienced them in a certain way. That then obliterates objective Truth and makes all “truth” entirely subjective according to your own perspective, feelings and experiences. This inevitably leads to what’s next.
He also addresses (paragraph 8) the folly of the Modernists, which is the notion that every religion, no matter what it is, must be “considered as both natural and supernatural.” In other words, all religions are equal. This is called ecumenism and it is evil and ultimately unloving. If indeed Christ formed a Church on earth (and He did) and intended that it be passed on (and He did), then it stands that there can be only One True Church. To say otherwise is to deny what Jesus came to do and is ultimately unloving of us. Ecumenism is the direct product of what was discussed in the last paragraph. If all you need is your experience and “your truth”, then ecumenism makes perfect sense. If, however, there is objective Truth, as the Catholic Church teaches, ecumenism cannot exist.
In section/paragraph 13, Pope St Pius X gets to a very real and current problem. He talks about what he calls “religious sentiment” and says that it can possess an infinite variety of aspects. He goes on to say,
“Consequently, the formulae too, which we call dogmas, must be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma…Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and as clearly flows from their principles.”
Does that sound like almost all our Church leaders over the last fifty or so years or what? We keep hearing about a more modern faith, that the Church needs to “get with the times” or some other such drivvle and nonsense. That’s called Modernism. And it is false and against the teachings of the Church. Dogma, by its very definition, cannot change. To say or even hint otherwise should be anathema.
See, the Modernist says that how you feel about something is what is true. To the Modernist, how you feel about something is what matters. It is entirely subjective and there is no fixed truth, no objective standard. Sound familiar? If this is true, then, as the Modernists proclaim, all religions are true.
But no, says the sainted Pope. He says (via Pius IX),
“In matters of religion it is the duty of philosophy not to command but to serve, but not to prescribe what is to be believed but to embrace what is to be believed with reasonable obedience, not to scrutinise the depths of the mysteries of God but to venerate them devoutly and humbly.”
This, then, is Catholic doctrine. The submission of our will to what Christ has given us through the Church. It is not our place to prescribe what is to be believed but to embrace what is to be believed with obedience, devotion and humility.
The Pope also speaks of the relationship between Church and State. The outplaying of the Modernist is that the Church comes completely under the dominion of the State. He says,
“If the Modernists have not yet reached this point, they do ask the Church in the meanwhile to be good enough to follow spontaneously where they lead her and adapt herself to the civil forms in vogue.”
I think we can all see this in the middle of this so-called Covid-19 pandemic. The Church has bowed to the State. She has not stood up but rather cowered in fear like the rest of the world. Hmmm, from whence did that come?
A final thing I want to engage with in this encyclical is universal worship and Tradition. One of the biggest problems, in my opinion, that came from Vatican II was the ripping up and throwing away of centuries-old worship in the Church. Since the 3rd century, the Church had worshipped in one way (with very few exceptions) and in one language. This gives a true universality to the worship of the Church. You would never have had to wonder or guess what the Mass was going to be like from one church to another, from one country to another or one age to another. The Church’s worship was, indeed, universal. There was a universal language, Latin. The reason for the use of Latin, even today, is quite simple. First and foremost, it is the language of the Church. Second, because it is a “dead” language, it is not subject to the whims of culture. In other words, the Latin words the priest says in the Mass don’t change their meaning based on the epoch of history.
Allow me an example. In 16th century England, you could say that you went to a party and had a “gay time.” That meant it was fun and merry. That word, “gay”, has a very different meaning today. However, the Latin language as used by the Church has not changed the meanings of the words. In point of fact, the meanings cannot change. It is necessary for the Church to use unchanging language in the face of an ever-changing world.
Pope St. Pius X also deals with this when he says, in the eyes of the Modernist,
“The chief stimulus of evolution in the domain of worship consists in the need of adapting itself to the uses and customs of peoples, as well as the need of availing itself of the value which certain acts have acquired by long usage.”
Thus, the death of universal worship in the Church. If the Church must conform to the customs of the people, and not the other way around, there can be no universal Church. That becomes abundantly clear when we see the effects of the liturgical tinkering and innovations that came post Vatican II. Worship is now vastly different from one parish to another. My brethren, this should not be so. That is a direct result of Modernism.
How do we combat this spirit and effect of Modernism? The Pope answers: Tradition.
“The conserving force in the Church is tradition, and tradition represented by religious authority, and this both by right and in fact, for by right it is the very nature of authority to protect tradition, and, in fact, for authority, raised as it is above the contingencies of life, feels hardly, or not at all, the spurs of progress.”
Tradition protects. Tradition feels no need for so-called “progress.” Tradition cannot progress in the Modernist sense, precisely because it is objective Truth. There is much more that could be gleaned from the timeless words of the sainted Pope.
I will close with one final word from the Pope.
The doctrine of the Faith is not ours to change. It is ours to guard and pass on,
“The doctrine of the faith which God has revealed has not been proposed to human intelligences to be perfected by them as if it were a philosophical system, but as a divine deposit entrusted to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted.”