Smite Them, O Lord! Traditional Mass for the Defense of the Faith
Whoever authored this prayer evidently did not undergo sensitivity training
'Almighty everlasting God, in whose hand are the power and the government of every nation; look to the help of the Christian people, that the heathen nations, who trust in their own fierceness, may be crushed by the power of Thy right arm.'
Extraordinary Form of the Mass
RICHMOND, NH (Catholicism.org) - Some of the richest treasures of the traditional Roman Liturgy are the Votive Masses near the back of the Missal. I was reminded of this before Lent when assisting at Holy Mass. That day, the celebrant availed himself of his option on a fourth-class feria to offer the Missa votiva pro Ecclesiae defensione (votive Mass for the defense of the Church). The St. Andrew's Missal I use calls it by the much more "offensive" title, "Mass Against the Heathen."
The propers that go with this Mass are a reminder that the Most Holy Trinity is, even after the Incarnation, the strong living God of the Old Testament, the God of Armies, the conquering Deliverer of His people, who strikes their enemies down into the dust. The difference, of course, is that "His people" are now, as the Collect of this Mass calls them, "the Christian people."
That Collect reads in its entirety:
Almighty everlasting God, in whose hand are the power and the government of every nation; look to the help of the Christian people, that the heathen nations, who trust in their own fierceness, may be crushed (conterantur*) by the power of Thy right arm.
Whoever authored this prayer evidently did not undergo sensitivity training. No, this was penned at a time when churchmen were unafraid to point out that we have enemies, that these enemies are God's enemies, and that they ought to be "crushed." Consider the fact that the Church doesn't merely state this, but she prays it, and enjoins her sacred ministers to pray it, and, by extension, invites all the faithful to make this heathen-crushing intention their own.
Those who think the Old Testament God was exclusively "just," while the New Testament God is exclusively "merciful" would shut their mouths in the presence of such contrary evidence. They would shut their mouths if, that is, they considered the Church's traditional liturgy a treasure to preserve and not an accretion to excise. But even if they shun the traditional Missal, they still can't get away from the fact that the Psalter -- the prayer book Jesus used, and that the Church still prays -- is full of such sentiments.
Evidently, the Church was not praying that Christian armies would drain the lifeblood out of peace-loving agrarian infidels, or that God would send the angel of death to strike the firstborn of pacifistic pantheists, no matter how religiously wrong such people are. As is manifest in the prayer just quoted, the objects of our wrathful piety are those pagans "who trust in their own fierceness." Or, as the Church instructs us in the very title of this votive Mass, the prayer is "for the defense of the Church" against heathen aggressors. There have been many throughout history, are still many presently, and will likely be many in the future.
The Epistle the Church has selected for this Mass is taken from the Book of Esther. It is the trustful prayer of Esther's uncle, the just man Mardochai, who beseeches God for the deliverance of Israel from the wicked machinations of Aman. I'll not tell the story here, but Aman ends up literally hanging from the gibbet he had prepared for Mardochai - so the prayer worked. In this Old Testament episode, by the way, Esther was a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who intercedes for us with God, just as Esther besought the mercy of King Assuerus and obtained the deliverance of her people.
The faith-filled and efficacious prayer of Mardochai is a model of trustful surrender to the Divine will:
O Lord, Lord, almighty king, for all things are in your power, and there is none that can resist your will, if you determine to save Israel. ... O Lord, O king, O God of Abraham, have mercy on your people, because our enemies resolve to destroy us, and extinguish your inheritance. ... Hear my supplication, and be merciful to your lot and inheritance ... and shut not the mouths of them that sing to you.
Since the foundation of the Catholic Church, we Christians are Israel. By virtue of the continuity of religion, the faithful of the Catholic Church can speak of their own mouths as "the mouths of them that sing to you" -- mindful of the fact that the New Testament Liturgy of Holy Mass in its more solemn form is literally "sung," just as Old-Testament liturgical prayer was. Since we still sing God's praises, and since we yet have enemies bent on the destruction of Holy Church, then we can fittingly offer Mardochai's prayer.
The Gospel is from Luke 11:5-13, wherein Our Lord instructs us through different figures on the necessity and benefits of persevering prayer. The heart of the reading is this: "And I ...
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