Friday, May 02, 2008

Sanity, blessed sanity...

Amy Welborn has an excellent and thought-provoking post based on her stumbling across a 1960 book written by one of the leading members of the American Liturgical Movement. She does a nice job of identifying the aims of the movement, as well as picking out the strengths and weaknesses of their approach.
My favourite bit (it made me laugh out loud):
So you’ve got two factors working here - connect the laity more consciously to Christ in the Eucharist - and take a look at the structure of the Mass from various perspectives.

Notice the absence of Freemasons.
Needless to say, with hindsight about the less desirable fruits of the liturgical reform Amy can ask the obvious question:
The book ultimately left me with a feeling of “What were they thinking?” Easy for me to say, again, with the convenience of hindsight.

I mean…think of it this way. How could anyone think that taking an ancient form of the Mass and totally reforming it in a matter of less than a decade would not turn out to be problematic? Reinhold refers to it as a “thorough reconstruction.” How could they not see that taking what Catholics had been taught was the “Mass of the Ages” and that in some way represented truths about their faith, not just in the content, but in the fact of its antiquity and universality and what those qualities expressed about the antiquity, solidity and universality of the faith itself…and then saying, “Oh, here’s a new one..” - how could they not see that as disruptive and a recipe for confusion?
Read the whole thing, and you'll find it shot through with Amy's characteristic sanity.

Personally, I think the Church needs to engage with a number of issues. The question of a liturgical spirituality amongst the priests and the faithful needs to be tacked - the best way of avoiding the excesses (coming from both ends of the left/right spectrum) of archeologist, activism, hyper-traditionalism (Angry-Trad Syndrome), rubricism, anti-rubrisicm, etc... etc... is the nurturing of an authentic liturgical spirituality. Such a spirituality respects the liturgy and is formed by the liturgy, but is not blind to the social aspect of worship and the reciprocal relationship between the liturgy and the broader life of the Church.

Secondly, we have Marini's account of how Bugnini et al 'won' the post-conciliar battle concerning the liturgical reform. We also have a number of strong critiques of the resultant liturgy. The missing part of the equation is an analysis of how the 'traditionalists' (for want of a better word) lost the battle against Bugnini. Objectively speaking, because they lost, we know that there was some political or intellectual or spiritual flaw in the case which they advanced or in the manner in which they pressed their case. An appreciation of the weaknesses and tactical failures which helped determine the course of events is essential if a New Liturgical Movement is to be built on a solid foundation.

Concluding Postscript
Some of the Comment Box 'discussion' in some of the liturgy websites is driving me freaking crazy. Even sympathetic readers grow tired when certain points are raised again and again and again, often on only the slimmest of pretexts. Additionally, some of the intemperate language used about the Second Vatican Council, various Popes and bishops rarely does little more than alienate people. Even legitimate criticism loses its weight when it's clothed in the garments of hysteria, outrage or just plain grumpiness.


Jeffrey Smith said...

Amen to the lot.

TheCrankyProfessor said...

What makes me most tired at certain liturgy site comboxes is the magical thinking - 'take one Church, apply the Latin Mass with slavishly accurate pre-1962 rubrical enforcement, expect the Millennium.'

I have to say that one mistake of the traditionist position is something Amy mentions, though not identifying it as the fault that I see: "How could they not see that taking what Catholics had been taught was the “Mass of the Ages” and that in some way represented truths about their faith, not just in the content, but in the fact of its antiquity and universality..."

Well, what about antiquity and universality? Better liturgical history would have helped people understand that wasn't the whole situation. I like to ask folks to go look up when the Agnus Dei made it into the Mass and why (I'm fond of it's intrusion as a thumbing-the-nose at the Anti-Council in Trullo explanation of why).

Or ask them to investigate how quickly and universally the calendar of the City of Rome, referred to as the Universal Calendar in recent centuries, was applied before the Napoleonic period.

Oh, well.