|The Latin Mass Society pilgrimage to Walsingham, at the site of the Holy House|
It might be thought that it would be better for those attached to the Extraordinary Form to travel light, and not associate their cause with anything else controversial: to fight one battle at a time. I know that this is not how the Latin Mass Society’s members and supporters usually feel, however. On the contrary, while the case for the holiness and beauty of the Vetus Ordo can stand on its own feet, the Mass we love points beyond itself, to the God it worships and the praying Church which it serves. It points not only to the theological truths it teaches directly, like the communion of Saints, and the reality of sin and grace, but to the antiquity, majesty, and authority, of the Church’s teaching in general.
In thinking of the role of the Traditional Mass, and its adherents, in the wider Church, it is not only in the directly liturgical area in which we bring a gift to the Church. The preservation of the ancient Mass is something of inestimable value for the whole Church, even for those who do not make it a regular part of their devotional lives. Something else of great value, however, is the existence of a robust community of believers whose respect for Tradition carries over into the theological sphere.
The prophet Jeremiah makes this point very beautifully in relation to the Rechabites of his own day (Jer 35). This was a community of Judeans who stuck literally to the command of an ancestor of theirs not to drink wine, and to live only in tents. These practices are symbolic of a special commitment to holiness of life and dependence on God, but they must have struck many of their contemporaries as archaic and unnecessary in the extreme. Jeremiah, however, contrasts the Rechabites’ fidelity with the widespread impiety and even apostacy of mainstream Judean society. The Rechabites were a witness of fidelity to Tradition in ancient Judea, a witness others sorely needed: even if other Judeans were not personally obliged to abstain from wine or live only in tents.
When it comes to the moral teachings of the Church, Catholics attached to the ancient liturgy can almost always be relied upon to hold fast also to the ancient and unchangeable teaching of the Church, coming from the Apostles, the Fathers and Doctors, and from Our Lord and Saviour Himself. This fidelity, indeed, is required of Catholics: not to attach themselves to the latest novelty, but as St Paul writes (2 Thess 2:15):
Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.
Itaque fratres state et tenete traditiones quas didicistis, sive per sermonem sive per epistulam nostrum.
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