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On Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, I read a fascinating essay on Ann Barnhardt’s site called ‘Here Rests in Honored Glory’, part of the epitaph on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

The full epitaph reads:

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.

I assume Ann Barnhardt, who is Catholic and formerly owned Barnhardt Capital Management, wrote it, but she introduces it as follows (emphases in purple mine):

(This has been a very popular piece since it was originally written over a decade ago, and explains to a culture so stripped of any sense of reverence, respect or even decorum why it is that liturgy should be masculine, solemn, reverent, and especially BEAUTIFUL, in the only terms that can still, just barely, be understood: the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. I have received many emails over the years mostly from men, but also a few women, who reported having a change of heart about the “fancy vestments” or “hyper-formal and distant” rubrics of the Traditional Mass after reading this piece. It is so sad that today’s infiltrated and fallen culture considers masculinity and beauty to be in opposition to each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth.)

I would never imagine linking the changing of the guard at this tomb to Latin Mass, but Barnhardt’s essay makes a compelling case:

The Tomb of the Unknowns is also extremely instructive, and believe it or not, it instructs us about . . . the Mass. The reason the Tomb of the Unknowns instructs us today about the Mass is because the Tomb of the Unknowns rubrics are highly informed by the rubrics of the Mass, which were themselves informed by military rubrics, which were informed by even older liturgical rubrics. Military ceremonials and the Ceremonials of the Church are intertwined. Only since the Asteroid hit in the 1960s has the masculinity and, if I may use the term, militant aesthetic been utterly purged, in an attempt by the infiltrators to destroy the Church Militant from within by concealing its very nature from itself – MILITANCY. And so I am reminded of a quote I once heard:

It is important for Christians to know their own history, because if you know your own history, no one else can tell you who you are.

And that is precisely what has happened, and continues to happen. The enemies and infiltrators desperately want all knowledge of WHO and WHAT the Church truly is suppressed and forgotten so that they can lyingly “tell you who you are”. And if you have no knowledge of your own history, you will have no way to discern what is truth and what is lies, and you can thus be conned into believing that you are what you are not, and deceived into believing that you are not what you in actuality are.

She includes a video of the changing of the guard:

The essay discusses the frightful Novus Ordo Mass, the product of Vatican II:

After watching the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns above, I want you to imagine the guards walking about casually, maybe wearing a partial uniform jacket, but with jeans and sandals. Imagine the guards walking out and introducing themselves, “Hi, my name is Lieutenant Jones, but you can call me Lieutenant Jake, or just Jake.” Then the guard might say something like, “Isn’t it a beautiful day today? It sure was rainy yesterday. I had to wear a rain jacket. I’m so glad you all could make it to my shift today. I’m going to be guarding the tomb for the next few hours, and I know that it can sure get BOOOORING! That’s why I have asked a local band to come in and play some awesome new music for you guys, because I want this to be A FUN EXPERIENCE for all of us! And, of course, GO RAVENS!”

If this happened, you would be shocked and disgusted, right? Do you understand that what I have just described is a watered-down comparison of what has happened to the Holy and August Sacrifice of the Mass? The Mass went from being even more reverent than the rubrics of the Tomb Guard to what I just described above – and many times even worse than what I described above. And this happened for many people within a span of several WEEKS in late 1969 into early 1970.

She is not wrong with the rapidity and shock of change, although I remember the Mass in English (I was a Catholic then) from 1965. One Sunday it was in Latin, the next in English. The priest said that would be the end of Latin Mass. My mother was floored, my father silent. I was disappointed because by that point, even though I was a child, I could recite parts of the Mass in Latin.

The essay cites parallels between the changing of the guard ceremony and what a priest praying the Tridentine Rite does at the altar:

The soldiers are in full dress uniform, meticulously turned-out and maintained. They are not in combat gear that soldiers would use to walk a patrol in Afghanistan. The Tomb guards are doing something DIFFERENT, and thus their uniforms reflect that.

Really, what the ceremonies surrounding the Tomb are is the highest form of ART. It is living ART, not consisting of a mere two-dimensional representation, not consisting of inanimate objects, but ART consisting of human beings in action. The uniforms, the gait, the precise rubrics, words, gestures and movements – these all combine into a perpetual work of art that not only moves and inspires the people who witness it, but also accomplishes the goal of making tangible a RESPECT for and a REMEMBRANCE of all of the fallen unknown soldiers. The Tomb Guards walk their patrol whether anyone is there to see them do it or not. It isn’t a show. It is a service. It is a rite …

-In the Tridentine Mass, the priest observes “custody of the eyes”, never looking around and NEVER looking out at the people. Like the guards, priests are supposed to keep their eyes on exactly what they are doing without distraction. The Guards at the Tomb wear mirrored sunglasses to block out all eye contact. Priests are supposed to keep their eyes DOWN or CLOSED, with a couple of exceptions such as just before the consecration when they are to look up to Heaven. This is like the Guards’ rubric of looking from side-to-side very deliberately when inspecting the rifle and the relieving officer. Did you catch that?

Priests are also supposed to walk with a very deliberate gaitslow, measured and reverent in exactly the same way the Tomb Guards walk in a slow, deliberate, reverent gait.

Priests are only supposed to say very specific words – no improvisation, no modifications. The Guards are the same way. They have a very strict announcement that they make at the changing, and they have very strict words that they say when telling people to be quiet and observe reverent silence (there is a YouTube video of that happening, look it up.) There is no chatting or extemporaneous speech. In the Church, the command is “Say the black, do the red,” in reference to the layout of the Roman Missal with the words of prayer in black and the instructions for the intensely precise rubrics, down to every gesture, in red.

By contrast, the Novus Ordo Mass is an abomination:

most Novus Ordo priests wander around the sanctuary with their backs turned to the Tabernacle while they put on their “performance.” This would be analogous to the Tomb of the Unknowns itself at Arlington being moved “out of the way” and instead a stage being erected upon which the Guards would perform. It makes you sick to think of that happening at Arlington – but that is largely what has happened to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

-There is even an analogue in the Changing of the Guard ceremony to the Consecration of the Host in the Mass. Did you hear it when you watched the video above? It comes at the 2:36 mark. A rifle is fired, its report thus commemorating the moment of death of the Unknowns. In the Mass, the moment of consecration and transubstantiation are the report of Christ’s words spoken by the priest:

HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM.
(This is My Body.)

If you are fortunate, you can still find a church with a bell tower which rings the bell at the consecration of the Host and again at the consecration of the Chalice. This enabled everyone within earshot – oftentimes miles away – of pausing and saying a prayer as Our Lord came down upon the Altar, uniting themselves to the Mass.

Finally, the words engraved on the Tomb of the Unknowns:

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD

This is analogous to the words of the Mass:

ECCE AGNUS DEI, ECCE QUI TOLLIT PECCATA MUNDI.
(Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.)

The essay concludes:

The point is this: if we all know and understand and FEEL the power of the excellent, excellent ceremonial rubrics of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, if we understand the power of “living art”, and we understand how important the concepts of reverence, solemnity, precision, dignity and beauty in movement and action are in the context of the Tomb, why, oh why, do we continue to tolerate the lack of reverence, the lack of solemnity, the absence of liturgical precision and dignity and the resulting UGLINESS that has been unleashed on the Holy Sacrifice of the Masswhich is not just a mere memorial of Calvary, but is Calvary Itself, made supernaturally present, and Our Resurrected Lord physically substantially present?

The Tomb of the Unknowns merits the excellent, beautiful, solemn, reverent, disciplined ceremony of the Guards.

Our Lord, Crucified, Risen and physically substantially present to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar deserves INFINITELY MORE excellence, beauty, solemnity, reverence, discipline and dignity in His Mass.

I could not agree more.

Even as an Anglican, I went to a Latin Mass in Cannes one Sunday evening several years ago. The priest travelled in from Nice. The church was full. It was a beautiful reminder of my childhood church experiences.

I would highly recommend any Catholic seeking out at least one Latin Mass in person during his or her lifetime. They won’t regret it.

In the meantime, here are two on YouTube: Easter Vigil and Easter Day 2021.

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