Editorial of the first issue of Nova et Vetera, 1926
Spiritual life puts us in state of weightlessness. It is the realization of the words of Saint John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It allows us to be seized by Christ and to be introduced into His mansion, and not to seclude Him within our dimension as we are so inclined to do. Spiritual life is the life of Christ in men, and Christ elates those who cultivate it.
So does the Church unsurprisingly, for the very simple reason that “Our Lord and the Church are one,” according to the Maid of Orléans. What an act of faith it requires in order to understand this! What an act of charity and of humility it takes in order to accept this! The Saints show us how to understand and how to love the Church, even when the Church, or rather churchmen, make them suffer. The sentire cum Ecclesia of Saint Ignatius of Loyola truly is the practical application of the call of Jesus Christ: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) It offers us the grace of living the Beatitudes.
But again, we have the tendency to enclose the Church in our own little dimension. The Church is this subtle and harmonious combination of new and old things, Nova et Vetera. This is precisely the principle of Tradition: bringing forth out the treasure of the Revelation old and new things. On one hand, there are those who take only the Nova part. They are the innovators – but innovating is not renovating – who believe that the Church began with the Second Vatican Council. They want to make all things new, as if Jesus Christ did not do it two millennia ago before them. They have a constant and obsessive thirst for novelties that Pope Saint Pius X has well described in his Encyclical letter, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, condemning the Modernist error. Everything must be new: a new liturgy with a new Ordo of Mass, a new calendar, a new Ritual, and so forth. Even the Dogmas are not spared. “Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. Here we have an immense structure of sophisms which ruin and wreck all religion,” Saint Pius X said. Ruin and wreck; this is what is usually left over after a revolution. And a revolution is usually made by revolutionaries – this is evident – whose marks are hatred and tyranny: hatred for any vestiges of the previous order that they try desperately to destroy, and tyranny toward those who are attached to this previous order. This is certainly what the future generations of Christians will remember when they look at the history of the Church in the last decades of the twentieth century. In the best case, we find among the innovators, who are not all monsters, a certain commiseration for those poor traditionalist Catholics attached to an older fashion of worshiping God that no longer adapts to the needs of our time, provided that they accept the Council. But have they read it well, those who make the Council their new Bible, and yet who have banished from the Liturgy Latin and Gregorian chant? Let us turn the page before my itching envy for sarcasm takes over!
On the other hand, we can find those who take only the Vetera part. They claim to be traditionalists, but I see them as conservators, as they desperately try to conserve identically things as they were fifty years or so ago. For them the Church stops at the Second Vatican Council or even before. Since Pius X said that novelty is a mark of Modernism, they reject all novelties without discernment. If they had a little bit of logic they would know that it is not because novelty is a mark of Modernism that every novelty is necessarily marked with the seal of Modernism. If they had a little bit of understanding of the History of the Church, they would see that many things had been new one day. They would also notice that every time new things came, there have been some narrow-minded persons who opposed them. If novelties were always evil, we ought to get rid of the Mendicant Orders, just to give an example, a novelty from the twelfth century, which had at its time its detractors. If these traditionalists are afraid of losing their faith by praying the luminous mysteries of the Rosary, I advise them to not pray the Rosary at all, which is a novelty from the twelfth century, too, that has known different developments, additions, and modifications throughout the centuries.
They often enjoy themselves with a certain apocalyptic literature based on some revelations to prove themselves right, and all others are condemned. I do not mean that we do not have to take seriously the last messages from heaven that have been approved by the Church – Fatima, for instance – but it is not a reason to set aside the reading of the Fathers and of the great Doctors of the Middle Ages, which are still so accurate for our modern time. They would certainly enlarge their vision of the Church that is without question, wherever we stand, bigger than any idea of her we may have. The Church is a mystery and a great one. It is only with humility that we can appreciate and love her. Then we can peacefully rejoice with her while contemplating her ancient and young Beauty. The acceptance of the new things that are given to us today supposes the understanding of the old things that have been given to the previous generations.
May Our Lady, seat of Wisdom, help us to see clearly with prudence and discernment. May she open our minds and hearts to the comprehension and the love of God’s mysteries.