Another chapter in the great series on the dismantling of the Latin Mass from Tradition in Action’s Dr. Carol Byrne.
Our family was too late a conversion to have witnessed this beautifully described aspect of the Easter Vigil service.
For many centuries, the process of bringing the fire to the Paschal Candle was part of the complex of features that gave the Easter Vigil its unique and recognizable identity. In the Church’s immemorial tradition, this was accomplished by the deacon carrying in procession a triple-branched candlestick representing the Holy Trinity.
As the procession of clergy advanced into the church, the three candles were lit successively to honor each Person of the Holy Trinity; at each lighting the deacon sang the three-fold Lumen Christi and the choir responded Deo gratias, whereupon all genuflected.
The final destination of the Procession was the sanctuary where the unlit Paschal Candle was already in place waiting for the deacon to light it from one of the three candles. This tripartite symbolism was calculated to make a lasting theological impact on the faithful. For those who were waiting inside the unlit church, this was a pinnacle moment, the climax to which the procession was leading.
It illustrated in the most visually dramatic way the doctrine that it was the Holy Trinity – represented by the triple-branched candlestick – that effected the Resurrection. It was a statement without words that Christ raised himself from the dead by His own Divine power.
Elimination of the triple-branched candlestick
The Commission [The 1948 Papal Commission] eliminated the ceremony of the triple candle with its Trinitarian symbolism and replaced it with a procession involving “active participation” of the laity, leaving it, as we shall see, with only secondary, if not exactly marginal, connections with the Resurrection. What this amounts to in practical terms is an attempt to censor or silence the liturgical expression of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It was a pattern that Bugnini replicated not only during the rest of the Holy Week reforms but also in the creation of the New Mass.
The most obvious effect of suppressing this symbolism was to give the impression that belief in the actual physical i.e. bodily Resurrection of Christ – the chief of His miracles as proof of His Divinity – is not something that should be taken too literally. This was the position of the mid-20th century progressivists, successors of the early modernists, (1) who succeeded in spreading doubts about the great supernatural interventions of God in human history. (2)
As we have seen, their influence in the Liturgical Movement was beginning to make itself felt in the Holy Week reforms of Pius XII.
We are, therefore, justified in raising the question: Did those members of the Commission who proposed reforms that accommodated the ideas of the neo-modernists hold the integral Catholic Faith? To ask the question is to answer it.
Here, however, we are less concerned with the presumed intentions of the reformers than with the reforms themselves and their internal logic. Our brief is an objective examination of certain affirmations made by Fr. Antonelli in the “Memo” and the conclusions to which they logically lead.