Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Liturgical Peace

There is an interesting recent essay on the Reform of the Reform movement as the second aim of Summorum pontificum emanating from a website called Paix Liturgique, i.e., Pax liturgica. I like the name since it is what Benedict XVI called for in his letter to the Bishops of the Church in promulgating the Motu proprio.

Its author is not named, so I can only reference the article itself. Its anonymity is a bit of a problem, though, since it makes some very strong claims. Does the author have the knowledge to make such claims? Who knows? I myself think more nuance is needed; not random nuance, but that of one who does have the authority to make them. Joseph Ratzinger, as Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, possessed such authority.

The author's main point, as I read it, is that the predominant (if not exclusive) influence is to be, and ought to be, that of the Ordinary Form being reformed in the light of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It makes the strong claim that the Older form is to be changed in no way whatsover, that there ought not to be, nor will there ever be, a tertium quid, i.e., a third form of the Rite to eventually emerge as the ultimate child of the "mutual enrichment" the Pope spoke about.

As to the rest of the article, I am sympathetic, since it argues that what is needed is a restoration of adoration of God in the Holy Mass, greater sacrality, and asserts that the Offertory prayers of the Older form should and will replace the current Offertory prayers of the Ordinary Form.

The two problems that I perceive with the argumentation are that a) the author speaks as if the starting point, the terminus a quo, is well-known and fixed, and b) the author ignores the directives of the bishops assembled at Vatican II in the Liturgical Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium (SC).

Is the Mass of Blessed John XXIII of 1962 a well-known and fixed entity? At first glance, one might think that it is: there is a Roman Missal dated 1962, and it includes the insertion of the name of St. Joseph during the commemoration of the Saints. This much is well-known and fixed.

But the Mass celebrated just before and during the Council, was not entirely contained in a book with prayers and rubrics. There were degrees of prescribed solemnity for the Sacrifice of the Mass, degrees which were not changed with the Missal itself. There was a concept of a "normative Mass", which was -- so I've been told -- the Solemn Pontifical Mass, where the Bishop was the main celebrant, and he was assisted by Deacon and Subdeacon, Master of Ceremonies, and a number of other assistants, not to mention the choir. There was a concept of a "private Mass", not that any mass is actually private, but rather that the priest was celebrating with no more than one other, a server to assist him.  There were gradations between these two, depending on many different circumstances. The proper number of ordained ministers was set; the vestments used were determined by the solemnity, as well as the liturgical solemnity of the feast or feria; etc. So far, we have gone deep into the weeds without getting any answers.

In addition, there co-existed at the time a certain freedom to celebrate Holy Mass using modalities which some have made controversial. Elsewhere, I copied some text from the introductory section of my old hand missal, which describes about six modalities for celebrating Holy Mass. That post may be found here. The different modalities involve participation by the congregation and choir. Such practices were not only entirely orthodox at the time, but even encouraged. But because some "liturgical experts" have decided that they were the camel's nose under the tent of what they regard as an almost invalid reform of the liturgy over the next decade, they deplore these modalities. On the other hand, it strikes me that what SC was calling for, included some of them. But more importantly, it seemed that way to Joseph Ratzinger in 1998 (cf. an address of his to a conference of "Eccesia Dei" participants here along with some pointed remarks by me here).

What the author does not make clear is whether or not such freedoms (permissions), dating from 1962 or before, are part of the terminus a quo he has in mind, or not.

Separately, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, on his blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say, has been asking over the last few years what the experience of his readers has been, both those who have always tried to keep in touch with the Older form of the Mass, as well as younger people who now have the opportunity to experience it. In the last week or so, he has been publishing impressions that he requested come to him via email. I am not going to reproduce them here, though I would recommend that anyone interested in those impressions take a look at his blog. I will characterize the responses as coming from people with ages ranging from late teens to people in their 60s and older. Some have preferences between the two Forms, others do not. Some have backgrounds in Latin, others do not. It is a good mix of people.

Some have opined that they would like to respond to the priest more (that was a modality); some have mentioned that they missed praying or singing the Gloria, Creed, and Our Father (that was a modality); others have mentioned that the would prefer that the readings be in the vernacular (rather than repeating them as is done in some places) (that is a modality that Benedict XVI mentions explicitly in Summorum pontificum, though the author of this article fails to mention it, only mentioning use of some of the new prefaces). Some mention that being unable to hear the prayers during the Canon makes it hard for them "to keep up with the priest". I have seen very rude responses to such observations, things like "you don't need to know where you are, only the Priest needs to know". Such rudeness fails to realize, or feigns ignorance, that one of the examples given by the Popes in the twentieth century, in speaking of "active participation" is, in fact, following the prayers of the Mass in hand missals. After all, it is also true that only the celebrant needs to receive Holy Communion, the highest form of "active participation" in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The point is that while the Roman Missal of 1962 is a known entity, what exactly should be taken as the norm by those desiring to effect a reform of the reform is not thereby known. It would be helpful if the terminus a quo were spelled out authoritatively, so that the Ordinary Form of the Mass might also be able to participate in the "mutual enrichment" of the two Forms for which Pope Benedict is hoping.

It's hard to applaud with only one hand.

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