04 October 2007

Liturgical Reform - Liturgical Change

In private correspondence, Moretben reminded me of a posting of his which, I realise, has been gnawing away at me for just under a year, and which was the source of an increasing concern: why should anything in the Church change?

I understand the need for aggiornamiento: the Church must always be able to proclaim the Faith in a way in which people of each Age can respond to; a nineteenth century priest reading out an eighteenth century court sermon of Bourdaloue to a bunch of working class men and women is, to say the least, inappropriate.

I understand the need for resourcissement: we can't understand the Tradition unless we constantly seek to understand where it has come from. Pius IX said "La tradizione sono io": "I am Tradition"; and he was completely and utterly wrong.

But (and here's a big but) why does either of these principles mean that, for example, the Easter Vigil has to take place at Midnight, when over the course of 1500 years the sense of the Church had gradually moved the time of the celebration?

These are deep waters, and I am not a confident swimmer: but if the Extraordinary Use is to be recognised again, and the anti-traditionalism of the post-Vatican II era is finally to be challenged; and if the 1965 revision of the Missal is to be ignored; and if the idea of "change by Papal Fiat" has gone away; why has the 1962 Missal been selected as a high water of orthodoxy?


Anagnostis said...
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Anagnostis said...

Yes - a real can of worms! The choice of '62 is pure pragmatism, not an assertion of any "high water of orthodoxy". It came about as a consequence of Mgr Lefebvre's negotiations with the Vatican in the mid-80's, and it split the SSPX at the time. The Vatican insisted on '62 as the basis for negotiations, and Lefebvre imposed '62 on the SSPX in order to "show willing". Prior to that, there was no uniformity in the Society, with many of the clergy using the Pius X Breviary and the pre-1950 Missal. The imposition of '62 alienated many, and drove several senior figures out of the SSPX (most of those who left were, or became subsequently, sedevacantist or sedeprivationist, so the crisis had at least the beneficial effect of flushing them out).

I think we need simply to get behind the MP in the short to medium term at least, unsatisfactory as '62 is from several points of view; it is, after all, an "interim rite". As for the times of Holy Week celebrations, that's a disciplinary question and thefore unexceptionable IMO; but the content is another matter. The loss of the Mass of the Presanctified is a tragedy, and I don't believe the Bugnini Vigil is an enrichment of the traditional order in any sense. Then there's the Octave of Pentecost, the other Vigils with their fasts, Benedicamus Domino, the loss of the two extra collects (as someone said, "they abolished the collect for the Church and look what happened!") the slash-and-burn editing of the lessons at Matins etc, etc.

When things settle down it will be productive, I hope, rather than divisive, to return to these questions. I expect individual congregations will seek, and receive permission to "experiment" with the restoration of things suppressed in the 20th century, without any question of compulsion or uniformity (I believe the Institute of Christ the King already has permission to use certain features of the old order of Holy Week, for example). That's how it will happen. The SSPX themselves daren't open this particular can worms again though, so we could be in the very amusing situation of seeing them hold fast to the latest revision, while others revive the pre-Bugnini order with Papal approval!

Anagnostis said...

On the larger question of "why should the Church change at all?", I think you get it dead right. Technocratic, rationalistic tinkering is essentially a "modern" thing to do; but in what sense can a fast, for example, or a liturgical rite, be more or less "modern" - unless "modern" is taken to mean exclusively "assimilated to the prevailing secular mentality"?

Anagnostis said...

Sarum Use, anyone? The idea was floated at the time of the restoration of the hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

i have no problem with good change..it's just when some get too extreme...

Ttony said...

Nobody has a problem with good change.

The point I think I'm trying to make (I said I was an unconfident swimmer in deep water) is that change (as opposed to good change) is never the best option.

The local Waitrose has lately changed all its aisles about: who was that for? Not for me. I just swear a lot and end up coming back with less than I went in for. Some marketing manager has decided that if everything changes I will end up buying more: but it's not true, as I end up buying less and go elsewhere for the things I can't get.

I could continue with this analogy ...

Anagnostis said...


Have you seen Sandro Magister's excerpts (featured also on Rorated Caeli)from Card Biffi's memoirs?

The Berlin Wall is crumbling. The shreiking commissar on every Catholic's shoulder is sounding more stricken and querulous by the day.