What for and why?
In the previous articles I have cast light on certain aspects connected with the phenomenon of pompon, in the broad sense of the term, which was, above all, the response for the discussions conducted on our Facebook fanpage. Nevertheless, on other occasions, other questions arise, once again more or less substantive arguments develop , once more IKTP is accused of surplus of form over content. Some people have a problem with understanding our, often humorous (like our term “pompons”), attitude to the matter and highlight that lace and the rules of bowing and kneeling overshadow what is most important. And always the question “what is it all for?” must be asked. Thus, I respond why and what for.
IKTP has chosen a specific and quite specified field of the ecclesiastical life on which it focuses. The matter of principles, the presence of God in His holy liturgy is so obvious for us that, apart from special cases, we do not see need to remind about it. One rarely sees the surrounding world through the prism of its molecular structure, looking on the Sun one does not think of it as a gigantic sphere of gas, one does not think about breathing or keeping one’s balance. I look on the Church pompons as one looks on, for example, a car: what attracts attention the most is usually its look and shape which reflects the character of the car. Everyone knows that beneath the mask, beneath this superficiality, there are various mechanisms and electronics; finally there is also the engine without which the car would not move and without which the vehicle would lose its proper function. For IKTP it is equally obvious that the centre of everything in the Church is God, that He is the most important, that He is the only reason and the only goal, that He is the centre of the liturgy and all ceremonies and it is so obvious that there is no point in repeating it.
And in what way long trains, lace rochets, various materials and ancient vestments are connected with it? I do not intend to write about the role of beauty in the cult because I have tackled this topic before, but I am going to explain why I champion so fiercely the return of what Paul VI abolished with one stroke of pen and to what contributed earlier Pius XII. The first and basic reason is a simple consequence. In the same way I support the use of chasubles, albs and corporals during the Mass, and gremials, and the choir dress. “Wait for a second!” –someone could say – “ The alb and the chasuble have the symbolic meaning and a mozzetta does not mean anything!” But who said that the alb means something? It is just an element of the ancient Roman dress, just as the chasuble. The same applies to the cape or the dalmatic. “But the alb is the symbol of chastity, and the dalmatic is a robe which expresses joy!” Yes, it is true indeed. However, the symbolism of these items, just like the other ones, was described practically by the same people who explained the meaning of the papal choir dress or the train of the choir cassock. And do all people, or even ordinary priests, know what symbolic meaning has the cope which they don for the service? The problem is not in the robes or ceremonies themselves but in the attitude towards them: instead of abolishing something because its meaning becomes blurred one should rather restore the proper meaning and teach the faithful about it. Has anyone seen art conservators disposing of old paintings when those darken and become faint because of time and conditions? Or maybe they work over them, lighten them, fill the flaws in order to restore their original splendour?
This is why, in a sense, I understand better those in the Church who strive to celebrate the Mass wearing civil dress, although it is obviously contrary to the law and blameworthy. They are at least consequent and reject all what is indistinct and obsolete for the modern man; as it is not worthy to explain it – it is easier to dispose of it. The alb and the chasuble do not carry any symbolic meaning for the ordinary faithful – the priest has always dressed like this, so this is why they exist, that’s it. Unfortunately the attitude of a large group of the clergy is similar: An amice? A cingulum? What for? It is not visible anyways. And what meaning does it carry? Whatever… Maybe it did in the Middle Ages. “The helmet of Salvation”? “The belt of chastity”? “Come on, it is XXI century! People cannot see it anyways.” The situation of the stole and the pectoral cross is similar, this is why they sometimes are put on the chasuble: in the case of pectoral crosses this practice has already been legalised. Will the same happen to the stole? Will everything which is not absolutely necessary for the “properness” of the celebration be removed?
When approaching the issue of robes or ceremonials one must choose one side: we assume that they should be restored in such a way that they, after a proper explanation, once again could become a standard of the ecclesiastic life or we reject them all as a superfluous remnant of the past, alien to the man of XXI century. There is also one more group, the most numerous, standing in the middle: people who do not wander about such problems; at best those “more aware” explain everything with the Council: Vaticanum II has abolished it, so why should we return to this issue? As I have written above, in this struggle for symbolism one must pronounce for one of the sides because this central one, although it seems for its members a healthy and reasonable option, is internally illogical. Standing on two carts driving apart one must decide and hop on one of them in order not to fall.
Then, what to respond to those who want to limit everything to the extreme, justifying it with a changing fashion and generally a different world than it was 50 years ago? One should ask question in what extent the Church must respond to the haste of the world and whether to chase it or maybe walk its own pace? Of course, today the trend is different than in the times just before the last council, but it is also different than it was 20 years ago. And it is different from this of 200 or 500 years ago. In the graphic for this article I have presented a simple example: the papal choir dress which generally has been the same for over 500 years, or maybe even earlier. Please, think how many times the fashion changed during this period of time? The same comparison could apply to the Pope in the tiara, on the sedia gestatoria or to the cardinals in the cappa magna and the galero. Thus, the argument that the Church must adapt itself to the present day, that it must abandon “obsolete” garments, is completely absurd. And even more – it is dangerous because following this reasoning one must reach the conclusion that the Holy Sacrifice should be celebrated in lay dress and that the cassock should vanish from our streets as a product of times when the men also walked in “dresses”.
Is it possible to return to these former ceremonies, robes and gestures? In my humble opinion it requires only the explanation of their meaning, so that the restoration of these things would not become a shallow façade, because then it could easily go out of use again. As examples may serve chaplaincies where the old form of the Roman Rite is cultivated and the fact that it grows slowly and quietly, even entering some Church communities as their proper rite. However, the best, the most well-known, but in the same time so quiet example was the pontificate of Benedict XVI – the Pope who in XXI century proved possible things which some people deemed dead and gone. And but for the unfortunate attitude of Francis this small movement of restoration would have survived and no one would have been surprised because the world and the media paid attention to the papal dress only when it had been so overtly rejected.