Vatican II and the Renewal of the Parish Liturgy: Part II of II.
Almost immediately after the liturgical commission began to introduce texts of the new rite alarms began to sound. Some felt that what had been unleashed in the Novus Ordo was alien to the spirit and express intention of the Liturgical reform movement. Thus, in 1968 the Oratorian scholar Louis Bouyer (1913-2004), whose work had been influential at the Council, wrote in his 1968 study Decomposition of Catholicism that under the pretext of "adapting" the Liturgy, the Liturgy had been destroyed:
Perhaps in no other area is there as great a distance (and even a formal opposition) between what the Council worked out and what we actually have. Under the pretext of 'adapting' the liturgy, people have simply forgotten that it is and can only be the traditional expression of the Christian mystery in all its spring-like fullness.
Others found it particularly baneful that the priest should have to face the people. In a correspondence with Evelyn Waugh, Cardinal Heenan of Westminster speculated rather sardonically as to what this new turn in direction might mean. "The Mass is no longer the Holy Sacrifice but the meal at which the priest is the waiter. The bishop, I suppose, is the Head Waiter and the Pope the Patron."
These were not isolated protests. In 1988, in response to the dissatisfaction felt by many and in recognition of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sascrosantum Concilium, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus. There he addressed some of the more egregious liturgical abuses. Apparently, a growing number of priests felt the need to be more responsive to their parishioners. In view of what were named as the pastoral needs of the people some took to exercising creativity within the liturgy. John Paul II warned that "the right to compose Eucharistic prayers" and "to substitute profane readings" in place of Scripture did not belong to the authority of the priest (VQ 13). It did not belong to any individual, for that matter. Liturgical developments, he concluded, could only proceed as "the organic growth of a tree" which grows stronger "the deeper it sinks its roots into the soil of tradition" (VQ 23).
John Paul II was affirming nothing new. Sacrosanctum Concilium itself specified that any adaptations of the liturgy must be in conformity with the Church's tradition. No doubt partly as a response to recent arbitrary innovations we find this principle codified within the Catechism. Since liturgy is a constitutive element of holy living, "For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community" (CCC 1125). Commenting on this text, Pope Benedict has called these "golden words" which "come from the depths of genuine liturgical understanding."
In most dioceses the worst of the liturgical experimentations appear to be over. In a growing number of parishes the Novus Ordo is said with faithful attention to the prescribed forms as set forth in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. We now pray with a vastly improved translation of the ordinary form of the Mass. Additionally, if Benedict XVI'S influence will be felt by young priests and seminarians, it will not be long before parishioners once again expect their clergy to read Latin and sing Gregorian chant. (As he declared in Sacramentum Caritatis, the 2007 Post Synodal Exhortation on the Eucharist, "I ask that future priests, from their time in seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant ..." (SC 62)).
And, since the Holy Father's 2007 Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, there are no longer any canonical restrictions on Catholics who wish to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal. That is to say, there remain only practical restrictions. Even though the Tridentine Mass has been restored and given once again "due honor for its venerable and ancient usage" (SP art. 1), finding a willing and able priest remains a barrier. Still, as the number of young people who wish to worship according to the extraordinary form of the Latin rite increases, as is particularly the case among university students, so too will access.
The sacrament we celebrate in the Mass is the source and summit of the Church's power. According to the Catechism the most efficacious work of the Church is not social service, not evangelism, but worship (CCC 1069). When priests--and laity for that matter--set aside the forms of the liturgy they not only display a lack of reverence, they undermine the foundation of the Church's mission. It is for this reason that among the most urgent tasks in the renewal of Catholic culture is what the Dominican theologian Fr. Aidan Nichols has called the "re-enchantment of the liturgy."
How can this be done? Thankfully, it already is being done as Bishops have begun in recent years to exercise greater discipline in fidelity with the norms of the Church. Nonetheless, for those wishing to encourage renewal in their own parish, consider these four suggestions:
1. Restock your pew. At my parish, beside the CBW II, my seat holds a baneful blue "Glory and Praise Hymnal" which includes such golden oldies as "All our Joy" and "Rainbow." Such a collection might have been suitable for campfire sing-alongs in 1970s; now they are only suitable for the campfire. Why not try the new Adoremus Hymnal (Ignatius Press)?
2. Relearn your manners. At church we are guests of the Lord. Pay your respects. Put on a tie. Insist that your children and grandchildren bow at the altar, genuflect at the sacrament, and pray their thanksgiving--and model this yourself. "Have veneration and respect for the holy Liturgy of the Church and for its ceremonies. Observe them faithfully. Don't you see that, for us poor men, even what is greatest and most noble must enter through the senses?" (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way no. 522). If you want learn more, pick up a copy of Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy, or do some reading on the web at: newliturgicalmovement.org or adoremus.org.
3. Return to Latin. Fifty years ago, in the year that he opened the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John XXIII restated in Veterum Sapientia (1962) why Latin remains the Church's mother tongue. It unifies. It stabilizes. It elevates. "For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time ... requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular." After twenty minutes of practice you know enough Latin to begin to sing the ordinaries in the most popular Gregorian setting of the Mass, the Missa de Angelis.
4. Relive the liturgy. Grace before meals, family pilgrimages, Feast-Day suppers, Corpus Christi processions, and St. John Bosco day games are among the dozens of ways that we can enact what theologians call "the liturgy after the liturgy." If you would like more ideas you might take a peek at Mary Reed Newland's The Year and Our Children (Sophia Institute Press). Pray at home. Invite others. Before long you will be prepared to receive and also expect more from the liturgy of the parish.
Ryan N.S. Topping, D.Phil., is the Chair of Studies in Catholic Theology at the John XXIII Centre for Catholic Thought at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, N.B.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2012|
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