The crisis and the renewal

Some time ago I got a book of Peter Kwasniewski entitled Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church translated into Polish and published by Wydawnictwo Tynieckie. This Polish-sounding surname is familiar to those involved in the traditional movement and following English websites about the TLM. The author is a theologist, a philosopher, a sacral music composer, a writer, a blogger and a publisher. The book, published in 2014, is one of several Kwasniewski’s books and the only one translated into Polish.

It begins with strong, meaningful words of bishop Athanasius Schneider summarising Kwasniewski’s remarks on the causes of the current crisis of the Church, especially the deplorable change of relevance from God to the congregation. He also highlights a fact, not so popular among moderate traditionalists, that the problems lie not only in abuses but also in the very premises of the reforms that hit the Church in the second half of 20th century. According to the Author, they are the reason of an unprecedented crisis on the level of the Church’s own identity which has infected doctrine, spirituality and Its mission. Kwasniewski accentuates the relevance of the demise of the liturgy which in its “rejuvenated” form presents serious flaws in its substance, causing confusion and anxiety among the faithful.

As the book is a collection of the Author’s articles concerning liturgy and its various aspects, every chapter is a separate entity and deals with a different notion. It is a thorough work which will be a perfect introduction outlining the most significant topics for all those who are just beginning discovering the classical Roman rite. It is also suitable for people who are not fond of the TLM but still they would like to understand traditionalists. For some of them, however, the language may be too blunt: the Author describes post-conciliar reforms and the current state of the Church in harsh words on many occasions, writing about Egyptian darkness of 1970s and unshapely tables serving as altars. Contemporary churches in his eyes are like barns or stables and the new liturgy – a banal and shallow form, a barren desert, a surrogate of a ritual and an exhibitionistic farce. He criticises it for its trivial verbosity and ritual poverty, and believes that NOM introduces quasi-Arian Christology and it is only the real presence of Christ that prevents it from becoming a mere parody of liturgy.

As I have mentioned before, it is the liturgical revolution which Kwasniewski regards as the main cause of the crisis of the Church. He agrees with a statement of card. Ratzinger who perceived the Mass as the essence of the Faith, the undermining of which shook the whole Church. Thus, Catholicism has become commonplace and infertile, as it has merged with humanistic goals of the modern world and thus it has ceased to be an attractive alternative for the man. This has resulted not only in the collapse of liturgy but also in the demise of the social teaching of the Church and the departure from the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas; according to Kwasniewski, the three aspects of Catholicism are inseparably connected and conditioning for the Church. Therefore, restoring their former splendour is a necessary way to the renewal and rejuvenation of the Church.

The aforementioned views of the Author do not imply that he is uncritical of the Old Mass and all the issues connected with it: he points out the threats traditional Catholics might face, such as hubris or Phariseeism of the law, speaks of the insufficiency of the participatio actuosa before the last Council and presents the elements of the new liturgy which might enrich the traditional Missal – this could be a point of contention. Kwasniewski also sees the need of returning to the actual teachings of the last Council and its documents, despite the fact that for many this seems to be only unreal fantasy.

Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis is a must-read for anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of traditional Catholicism and the whole Church from an American perspective which we, Europeans, are not familiar with. It is a strong voice concerning the TLM which demands not merely tolerance for the rite, but reverence and canonical equality, similar to that of the NOM. It will surely attract beginners in the world of traditional Catholicism, but also whoever would like to broaden their views on difficult topics concerning the liturgical reforms of Paul VI.