The Grandeur of Unity

Men put the grandeur of the idea of unity in the means; God, in the end; the result is that this idea of grandeur leads us to a thousand petty things.

To force all men to march with the same step, toward the same purpose, that is a human idea.

To introduce an infinite variety in actions, but to combine them so that all these actions lead by a thousand paths toward the accomplishment of a great design, that is a divine idea.

The human idea of unity is almost always sterile; that of God, immensely fruitful.

Men think to attest to their grandeur by simplifying the means. It is the purpose of God which is simple, His means vary infinitely.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

In this pregnant passage, we discover a key to discerning more than the difference between legitimate and abusive acts of authority. Tocqueville’s slam on petty dictatorship also points to features distinguishing the healthy life rightful authority is meant to promote, from its opposite.

Among other things, this wavering Catholic’s wisdom illuminates a central mystery of the divine liturgy, deeper reflection on which might be one of the providential blessings inadvertently occasioned by the latest attempts to rebury the treasures of liturgical tradition.

According to our white-robed caudillo, the unity of the Church demands the extinction of that form of worship employed by an overwhelming majority of history’s saints (among whom we count successfully penitent sinners).

Even at first glance, it is easy to see how this definition of unity as uniformity constitutes one of the “thousand petty things” Tocqueville rightly deplored.

Those possessing first hand familiarity with the ancient Roman Rite can go one step further, noting that the very structure of that magnificent inheritance has the stamp of God upon it.

Especially in its most solemn forms, one cannot help noticing that while the priest says one thing, the schola (Gregorian choir) often sings another, while the servers do yet a third. As for the people, they are in the blessed position of standing, sitting, kneeling, singing, speaking, or silently praying, more or less as their heart is inspired to desire.

These “thousand paths” of the Traditional Latin Mass drive liturgical ninnies batty. They want to force us to march to the same step, in mindless unison, and here God is combining our infinite variety of actions toward the accomplishment of his one grand design. Intolerable!

Returning to the question of fruits, whether one looks to the liturgy itself or to its place in the history of the Church, one sees that the “divine idea” governing it has, age after age, sent its glorious sound out to the ends of the world (Ps. 18:4).

As for the petty proclamations of ninnies and their strongmen, if their sterility is not sufficient to open the eyes of their deluded authors, it should at least comfort us with the reflection that, even if “time is greater than space,” both dimensions ultimately belong to the “immensely fruitful” “purpose of God.”

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