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“Acceptable Worship, with Fear and Reverence”— An Appreciation of Peter Kwasniewski’s New Book

Editor’s Note: Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who received an advance copy of Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages  Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s new book on sacred liturgy — has written the following reflection on it and given us permission to publish it. We are honored to be able to share these thoughts from His Excellency on the topic of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The whole meaning and aim of creation—and in the first place, of the spiritual creatures, namely, angels and men—consists in glorifying the Triune God through their existence, through their life, and through visible acts of worship. The most sublime act of God’s glorification is the worship of adoration (latria), which man has to perform according to his nature, that is, both in a spiritual, interior way and in a bodily, exterior way, as explained lucidly by Saint Thomas Aquinas:

Certain sensible works are performed by man, not to stimulate God by such things, but to awaken man himself to divine matters by these actions, such as prostrations, genuflections, vocal prayers, and hymns. These things are done not because God needs them, for He knows all things, and His will is immutable, and the disposition of His mind does not admit of movement from a body for His own sake; rather, we do these things for our sakes, so that our attention may be directed to God by these sensible deeds and that our love may be aroused. At the same time, then, we confess by these actions that God is the author of soul and body, to Whom we offer both spiritual and bodily acts of homage.[1]

Juan Carreño de Miranda; Mass of St John of Matha (1666)

In order that man may be able to offer God a most worthy worship, God Himself became man and taught us by His words and acts how to worship. Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated by His example that the essence of true worship consists in filial fear and in the loving reverence of God: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Heb 5:7). Through His redeeming sacrifice of the Cross, Christ the God-man made men capable of worshiping God truly by associating the Church with this, His own highest act of worship.

The liturgy of the Church is the more true and God-pleasing, the more all of its elements—words, gestures, music, architecture, liturgical objects and paraments, and, of course, the state of mind and soul of the celebrant and of the assisting faithful—correspond to the spirit of Christ the High Priest, to His filial fear and to His loving reverence towards God. He alone is the “universal priest of God the Father,” the “catholicus sacerdos Patris,” according to an affirmation of Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, 9; IV, 35). The entire life of Jesus Christ was a glorification, an adoration, of God the Father: “I glorified you on earth” (Jn 17:4). Therefore, the life and work of Christ constitutes a reminder to fallen humanity of the first duty and of the very first commandment: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Mt 4:10). Giving glory to God brings true salvation to men, as the liturgy of the Church says: “Our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation.”[2]

The Church, the Bride of Christ, has as her first duty to proclaim and to praise the majesty of God and the wonders of His redeeming work. Christ, the only true worshipper of the Father, imbued His Bride with His reverential worshiping spirit. The reverential, adoring, sacred, and keenly Christocentric spirit of the liturgy is part of the spiritual “genetic inheritance” of the Church. Since the beginning and throughout her bimillennial history, the Church preserved this spirit of the liturgy and realized it in her rituals, above all in the rite of Holy Mass, the sacramental celebration of the sacrifice of the Cross. Since the beginning of the Church, this liturgical program sounded forth: “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with fear and reverence [cum metu et reverentia], for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29).

Bishop Athanasius Schneider at the Consecration as he offers the traditional Roman liturgy

Due to the consequences of original sin, which remain in the sons and daughters of the Church and in her ministers, there has always been in the history of the Church the temptation to yield to an egocentric, anthropocentric, naturalistic, and idolatrous tendency in worship. This means yielding to a perversion of the meaning and of the rite of divine worship, so that the essential liturgical law proclaimed in the words of Sacred Scripture, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Ps 115:1), is perverted into: “To us, O Lord, to us, and to our name give glory!” The texts and the rites of the reformed liturgy issued after the Second Vatican Council show unfortunately a shift towards an anthropocentric mentality, and this, contrary to the basic teaching of the liturgical Constitution of the same Council. The imprecise character of the reformed liturgy leads often to a kind of free-style celebration, which destroys the very nature of true worship. The widespread practice of the reformed liturgy demonstrates the fact of liturgical anarchy in the Church of our days. The true apostolic and perennial spirit and practice of the liturgy is in some way in exile.

The rehabilitation and restoration of the traditional Roman liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI and before him already to a small extent by Pope John Paul II marks the beginning of the return of this spirit and practice from exile back into the ordinary life of the Church. The traditional Roman liturgy, since it reflects and realizes in a most sure manner the liturgical spirit of Christ Himself, is nowadays conquering slowly but steadily new generations of Catholics. This process cannot be reversed, because the traditional liturgy is the clearest voice of the Bride of Christ—a voice that was heard and experienced by our forefathers for over a thousand years. This liturgy remains therefore always young and up-to-date, because it constitutes the very living expression of the faith of the Church. To the traditional Roman liturgy one may apply an affirmation of Saint Irenaeus, paraphrasing it in the following manner: “This liturgy, which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth.”[3] The traditional Roman liturgy in the objective aspect of its content and ritual is the most apt manner to renew souls spiritually and thereby the Church herself. As we read in the words of the Eucharistic Hymn Sacris solemniis of Saint Thomas Aquinas, nova sint omnia: corda, voces et opera: “may the liturgy renew all things: hearts, voices, and works.” The same truth express the first words spoken in the traditional Roman rite: Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam, “I shall go in to the altar of God, Who giveth joy to my youth.” In this way we begin a ritual permeated with beauty, powerfully summoning us to holiness, the true youthfulness.

Peter Kwasniewski offers to us a precious book with the emblematic and extremely apt title Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages. The author demonstrates masterfully the perennial theological, spiritual, and ritual meaning of the liturgy of the Mass. However, Dr. Kwasniewski does not merely present us with the truth in its theoretical aspect. The liturgical truth becomes more evident and convincing through the numerous witnesses of people of different ages and states of life to whom the author gives a voice. What is most striking and moving are the voices of young people, whom the traditional Roman liturgy spontaneously attracts, as truth and beauty always attract sincere hearts and souls. Such witnesses cause the edifice of anti-traditional ideas of today’s liturgical nomenklatura to collapse. The traditional Roman rite is the rite of all ages and is therefore the true Youth Mass.

May this new book by Peter Kwasniewski, published by Angelico Press, circulate as widely as possible and reach especially those in the Church who have the crucial responsibility for the liturgy. May bishops and most of all the Supreme Pastor of the Church listen to the voices of many young people who bear witness to the up-to-date character and the perennial youth of the traditional Roman rite. May God grant that not only the “little ones” in the Church (the young people and the laity) be lovers, defenders, and witnesses of the traditional Roman liturgy, the liturgy of all ages, but also—and indeed in the first place, as their office requires—the Shepherds of the Church, and especially her Supreme Pastor. I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Kwasniewski and to Angelico Press for this book, with constitutes a valuable contribution on behalf of the authentic renewal of the sacred liturgy and of its practice in the Church of our days. May we have more serious liturgical scholars who, like Dr. Kwasniewski, are at the same time true adorers of Christ, and lovers and defenders of the traditional Roman liturgy, the liturgy of all ages and of the Saints, so that the liturgical life of the Church may keep its perennial beauty and youth. May all those who do not yet know the traditional Roman rite of the Mass, or who reject it due to ignorance or other reasons, come to experience this form of the Church’s worship and discover in it the beauty of God’s house and the dwelling-place of His glory (cf. Ps 25:8).

June 24, 2017

+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana

[1] Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 119, 4.

[2] Roman Missal, Common Preface IV.

[3] cf. Adversus Haereses, III, 24, 1.

39 thoughts on ““Acceptable Worship, with Fear and Reverence”— An Appreciation of Peter Kwasniewski’s New Book”

  1. May Our Lady of Perpetual Help shelter him and the four Cardinals under Her Holy Omophorion!

    Bleseed Nicholas Charnetsky, Blessed Vasyl Velychovsky and all our Ukrainian Saints, pray for us and them!

  2. I am no longer a youth, but having grown up in the post-Vatican II 1980s and 1990s I was overwhelmed when I attended he Mass of Ages for the first time this month.

    Tears streamed down my face as I was overcome by the beauty, majesty, and solemnity of this most Holy Mass. I left feeling as though we had been robbed. All these years and I had never known what had been taken from us. I’d argue that most of my generation doesn’t even know that the TLM exists – I didn’t up until a few years ago.

    I am still unable to attend the TLM each week for various reasons but I have begun praying to Our Lord to find a way for us to make the change – permanently. I think my entire family would grow closer to the Lord as a result.

    May God Bless Bishop Schneider and Dr. Kwasniewski and through them bring many souls to the Mass of Ages.

    • I loved the Latin Mass as a child in the early to mid 60s and was in awe of its beauty. When I think of of how it was maliciously taken from us, how altar rails were removed, how so much beauty was smashed, annihilated, I am filled with horror. Three generations of Catholics have largely left the Church in my family. The carnage is significant. Souls are likely lost forever.

      Vatican II must be condemned. It can’t be fixed.

      • Our bishops told us a lie: “The latin mass is forbidden FOREVER”. Because they hated it.
        Pope Benedict XVI said it never was forbidden and he issued “Summorum Pontificum”.
        I am afraid they will have to undergo a very looong Purgatory if they don’t repent beforehand..

  3. Ave Maria!!!

    Domine non sum dignus!!! I remain a sinner looking up to the Mercy of God Who is Just. And I trust the Queen of the Sacred Liturgy to assist me in becoming non just a Saint but as St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe would say, a Great Saint. Amen.

    I must admit that from 2009, as a young Religious seminary, when I met the TLM, a turning point began! What struck me the most was the Sacred Silence! Later on in 2011, I got the privilege to serve the TLM. During the Consecration, the moment of Silence par excellence, I realized that the Holy Roman Catholic Church was systematically “silenced” through a Liturgy which is quite if not very inclined to noise!!!

    I realized immediately that the if the Church, in her subjective part, would want to speak louder again after the great examples of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Virgin Coredemptrix, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter Apostle and all the Saints, she must return to her Tradition of Silence expressed with Nobility in the TLM .

    Whoever is sincere knows that Noise silences piety; while Silence engenders piety. Indeed, now is the time to counter the dictatorship of noise as Robert Cardinal Sarah has aptly taught us. I believe strongly that the TLM is the antidote.

    Ave Maria!!!

    • You are perfectly right.
      But times are not yet ripe to reinstate the TLM in its fullness since Cardinal Sarah has been silenced by the Pope.

  4. The Benedictine monk John Main said that we are called to something much greater than merely talking to God or thinking about him or worshipping him – and that is knowing him, knowing him as a real presence in ourselves and the world. After 2,000 years of worshipping and thinking about God, this is the overriding need of the Church today. Worship can be uplifting and inspiring, but its forms and style can just as easily act as a barrier to knowing God and alienate us from him (as, for example, in the current English version of the Mass, which over and over reimposes a distance between God and ourselves). How can the Church today help people really to know God? This is what we should be addressing, not bringing back archaic forms of worship which make the Church an airless museum. To quote John Main again, ‘Religion is meaningless if it is confined to external and ritual acts of worship. Liturgy and ritual only have meaning when they are inspired by conversion of heart.’

    • There is a fine line here that is being overlooked.
      Yes, good and proper liturgical celebrations are able to lift the mind and heart to God on the affective level, but we cannot judge liturgy on the effect it has on our affect. “Feelings” of consolation and inspiration are only as good if they uphold us in faith and good works, both spiritual and corporal.
      Liturgical prayer need be offered with consciously and with proper comportment according to the rubrics primarily in order to bring right worship to Almighty God. Whether or not it provides us sensible consolation is quite secondary. Its unseen and insensible effect is always operative, even when we might find the liturgical celebration incredibly distracting and poorly celebrated – which is far too common. After all, we need to remember that the sacraments are “efficacious signs” instituted by Christ to confer grace.
      Living through the calamity that has been in place since “the” council, we need to be deeply cognizant of this reality. Seeking “consolation and inspiration” from liturgical prayer was no small rationalization for the corruption of liturgical celebrations. Low Mass in the pre-conciliar period was a muted and staid event – which was all for the good. The very good.

      • I’m not sure how your contribution is a reply to mine or what the fine line is that is being overlooked (by me?). I mostly agree with what you say about liturgy, but would ask you to read again the words I quoted from John Main. They are the real point of what I said. Liturgy can be as wonderful as you like, but if it need not necessarily embody any real experience of God – this is what is most important.

        • You mean THIS John Main?

          “Main began Christian meditation groups which met at Ealing Abbey, his monastery in West London, England and, later, in Montreal, Canada. These were the origins of the ecumenical network of Christian meditation groups which have become the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). . . . .

          “He graduated in 1954 and joined the British Colonial Service. . .Main was assigned to Kuala Lumpur in Malaya, where he met Swami Satyananda, who taught him meditation using a mantra as the means to arrive at meditative stillness. The swami taught Main to meditate by giving him a Christian mantra. . . .

          After ordination, “In 1970, Main was appointed the headmaster of St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Washington, D.C., where he began to study seriously the writings of the desert father John Cassian for the first time. Main saw parallels between the spiritual practice taught by Cassian and the meditative practice he had been taught by the swami in Kuala Lumpur.”

          Troll somewhere else, Ricardo.

          • Yes, that’s the one! When you have tried to enter into his teaching and practise contemplative prayer, the prayer of Jesus, as he taught it, maybe you will want to troll somewhere else.

          • I looked up what says about meditation. Unfortunately it shows a complete misunderstanding. It is not a mind-blanking exercise. It is impossible to blank the mind and there is no need to do so. What meditation does is move beyond the incessant chatter of the mind to rest in the peace of God. But if you never practise it and experience it for yourself, because you are misled by incorrect interpretation, you will never know it. Try it, senrex. What are you afraid of?

          • Again, you presume I haven’t been down that road. VERY judgmental for such a “contemplative” person.

          • It seemed to me that I was being very even-handed, while you were the one being aggressive, dismissive and abusive, which makes one question your experience of the contemplative way. (Incidentally I don’t claim to be very good at it). Thomas Merton said to his fellow monks, “You think you are contemplatives, you are really just introverts.” Not very tactful, but I suspect he was right!

          • It often happens that people try meditation for a while but give up rather quickly without ever really entering into it, either because they find it too demanding or because they are misled by incorrect interpretations of it. People hear that John Main was first taught the way of meditation by a Hindu and uses the term mantra and then assume he is drifting away into Eastern religions. But the way of meditation is only a method or form. Repeating prayers over and over is of course a very Christian form, as in the Rosary or the Jesus Prayer. It is the whole context of faith and devotion within which one meditates that makes it Christian prayer and here as a Benedictine monk Main was always solidly Catholic. By the way people who reject meditation at first often come back to it later in life when they begin to experience a need to go deeper in their faith. Maybe that will happen to you, Senrex? Wishing you every blessing..

          • What am I afraid of? Well, for starters, try this:
            “LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON SOME ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MEDITATION” (CDF 1989) Let me give you the abbreviated version: Combining traditional Catholic meditative prayer with Eastern religious presuppositions and practices is very dangerous and is to avoided.

            And I still say that you coming to this web site and lecturing us about the deficiency of worship that hinders us from truly “knowing” God is part of the drivel in which I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. Take your lecture elsewhere. It has no place here. Period.


          • That very helpful CDF letter does not mention John Main’s way of
            meditation. It seems to be concerned with practices of Zen or Yoga adopted by
            some Christians. Main may have learned a way of meditation from a Hindu teacher
            (the letter says we need not reject anything helpful in other traditions), but
            he followed what the letter says in practising it always in the context of his
            secure Trinitarian Christocentric faith and did not import any Eastern
            religious presuppositions. It was the Christian contemplative tradition, as
            explored for example in Augustine Baker’s ‘Holy Wisdom,’ that he was
            reconnecting with.

            Is this website to be visited only by those who agree 100% with
            everything in it, as if it is all immune to any questioning? It must be a very
            insecure fragile form of faith that needs that kind of protection. I did
            not in fact speak about the deficiency of worship, but merely suggested that
            worship needs to reflect and spring from inner conversion if it is to have its
            own real meaning. Truly knowing God is hardly a 1960s fashion – it is the heart
            of the Christian Gospel. You may recall that it is what Christ did – help
            people truly to know God in his healing, forgiving, acceptance – and that he
            was often severely critical of preoccupation with the externals of religion, as
            were the prophets before him. God does not look on the outward observance, only
            the inner heart etc. etc. How curious that we so often forget that. It is a
            lecture that we still badly need. Period.

          • How do you know I haven’t tried it and rejected it because, as Main and his groupies teach it, it contains pagan influences that are conduits for the demonic? Isn’t that a little bit of rash judgment? Maybe you ought to practice a bit more with this “contemplative prayer.” With so much practice at the calming influence of such “contemplative prayer,” shouldn’t you be a bit less aggressive?

            The Benedictines (especially in Main’s time) were the main purveyors of the worst type of liturgical abuse. Also an Order (if Collegeville is typical — and I’m told that it was [is?]) filled with perverts.

            You annoy because you come to a liturgically traditional blog and peddle this inflammatory 70’s pseudo-spiritual nonsense.

          • Thanks for that bio, senrex.

            I am not familiar with this dude Main but he sounds a lot like E. Stanley Jones from my old Methodist days…..

    • Less of the “airless” if you please. The SSPX has very good air conditioning installed in all its chapels and churches.

      As to the rest, we KNOW all that thanks Ricardo. You don’t find brain dead morons worshipping God without engaging their minds, hearts or anything else at any Traditionalist centre I know.

      Go and try it on the protestants.

      • Unfortunately we do not know all that, thanks Great Stalin. The emphasis on the externals of worship without any corresponding concern with inner conversion is found everywhere in the Church, among traditionalists and progressives alike. I have no idea what you think should be tried on the protestants, and I was using “airless” metaphorically – as I though was rather obvious.

        • The Church is a visible society, Ricardo. This means that in her official worship, she concerns herself with the outward forms of piety.

          As far as the Church is concerned, the outward profession of the Faith is required in order to belong to her, but invisible things like the state of grace or a deep spiritual life are not.

          Certainly the Church also teaches that the state of grace and the spiritual life are necessary, but there is no way to truly impose these invisible aspects of the life of grace upon anyone.

          When “expert” know-it-alls come along and try to meddle in the invisible and spiritual activities of the souls of the faithful, by changing visible and official rites, they cause incalculable damage to souls.

          • I do know that the Church is a visible society, thank you Mike, and therefore must concern herself with the outward forms of religion. My point was to suggest that if the life of grace is lacking at the heart of the person the outward forms will be of no use. This is scarcely a new or original thought. It is what Scripture says over and over: God does not look on the outward observance, it is the circumcision of the heart that he desires. I agree there is no way to impose this on anyone, but the Christian tradition does have rich resources for helping people to develop it (there are plenty of “experts” in this field – the Desert Fathers, Julian of Norwich, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola}, resources which have been badly neglected in the concern with outward forms, ritual, doctrine and so on. Again I am not saying these do not matter, but that they can easily become ends in themselves without the real experience of God that they point to.

          • Thanks Ricardo. Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for paying their tithes of mint and cumin, while neglecting the weightier matters of the Law – Justice, Mercy and Love. These you should have done, He said, without leaving the others undone. Notice that they performed the outward forms of piety but were empty on the inside. He said that the internal things should have priority, but the outward forms were also necessary.

            If people are empty on the inside, the remedy is not a radical overhaul of the Mass and the rites of the Sacraments.

  5. Ave Maria!!!

    We are very grateful to you Dr. Peter Kwasniewski for this priceless, fresh and concise contribution towards a better understanding of the TLM. It is true the Saying: Do you want to be current? Speak of Eternal Things!

    Indeed, your Opusculo Sir Peter can also be styled as what Pope Benedict XVI described as “Intellectual Charity” that is spreading Roman Catholic Teaching-Understanding through Rigorous and Objective Study. Indeed this Liturgy title, “Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages” is a MUST READ.

    We entrust this stupendous up-to-date Treatise on Sacred Liturgy to the Queen of the Sacred Liturgy so that after great minds like Monsignor Athanasius Schneider, a quasi infinite readers shall peruse it in spirit and truth. Amen.

    Ave Maria!!!

  6. I believe the Ordinary Mass is also beautiful if done with proper reverance. In my parish in India, we experience God in a beautiful way even in the Ordinary form of the Mass because the congregation participates in the responses and in the Singing of the hymns. Also English or the vernacular language is always more appropriate as Latin in not known by anyone of the faithful in India. In fact I wouldn’t mind having the Extraordinary form of the Mass if all the prayers are done in English or the vernacular all else remaining the same. I am sure that like me there are millions in India who would not like to learn Latin just to participate in the Extraordinary form of the Mass. Whether Ordinary or Extraordinary form does not really matter if the celebrant and all those present at Mass are aware that they are worshipping the all holy God at Mass especially in Jesus who makes his Sacrifice at Calvary available. That is all that really counts.

    • After attending the Latin Mass, the ordinary mass can be a very big disappointment. From the time of the Church, Latin was the universal language of the world. Latin especially during Mass, is not difficult to comprehend. As an Altar Server in the late ’50s thru the mid ’60s, Latin was always said. It was not unusual to have a Missal for the congregation that is Latin on one page, with the vernacular on the opposite facing page for comprehension. Used enough and you would find the beauty in the offerings. I, too, thought that the vernacular was no big thing until i spent time at different masses in Argentina. I relied on celebrant’s action to determine where he was at during the Mass because i could not speak Spanish. Same thing happened in Chile (Portuguese). if these masses were, indeed, said in Latin (universally) and i had my missal from home with me, all would have been well.


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