I mentioned the firehose effect of onrushing news in another post. There are strong debates going on over many important issues right now. One of those which most interests me has been stoked by the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s monumentally important Summorum Pontificum. I called it the “Emancipation Proclamation”, and have dubbed it a foundation block of his “Marshall Plan” for the revitalization of our Catholic identity and a bulwark against the dictatorship of relativism.
For the 1oth anniversary, the great Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, wrote an article for the French magazine La Nef. The text was hard to find (I have it now). I was also sent a good English translation which I read as a PODCAzT.
I didn’t agree with everything the Cardinal suggested about the future path of Benedict’s desired “mutual enrichment” of the two “forms” of the Roman Rite. However, I have prayerfully engaged them.
Fr. Raymond de Souza (he’s been busy lately), not an enemy of traditional expressions of worship but not a strong supporter, wrote an endorsement of Card. Sarah’s suggestions at the UK’s best Catholic weekly (for which I also write) The Catholic Herald: “Cardinal Sarah’s challenge to traditionalists“. HERE De Souza:
Sarah proposes that efforts be made to have a shared calendar and a shared lectionary, so that both the EF and OF would celebrate more feasts together and have the same Scripture readings at Mass. [Additions of saints to the traditional calendar is not terribly problematic. The addition of a new lectionary would introduce the serious problems of coherence that the Novus Ordo experiences, at least on Sundays. Also, I am not entirely sure that everyone would agree that the new Lectionary has been 100% successful. That said, yes, it would be easier for priests to have the same readings in both forms, especially when they – as I frequently do – say both forms on a Sunday. But easy isn’t a good objective in worship.]
That poses a twofold challenge. First, it requires the EF community to acknowledge that some aspects of the OF, particularly its reformed calendar and its lectionary – which includes far more Scripture than the EF one – are actual improvements and possible enrichments for the EF. [That isn’t apparent.]
There are certainly some in the EF community who are happy to acknowledge this and would be pleased to see a shared calendar and lectionary. [Again, these are two different issues.] But others, not an insignificant part, consider the entire OF to be an impoverishment with little, if anything, enriching to offer. [It would be good to put together the bullet points of what riches the OF would bring to the EF. That could be a helpful starting point for discussion.] In the background, of course, is the Society of St Pius X, which would be deeply suspicious of any talk of changing the EF Roman Missal, 1962 edition.
Moving towards Cardinal Sarah’s vision begins, though, not with practicalities but with a change of heart. That is likely why he chose the term “reconciliation”. Reconciliation requires a change of heart, a willingness to see the good in the other, and an openness to make things different in order to accommodate that good. [A change of heart…]
I think we all can agree that at the heart of most instances of reconciliation, especially in the life of the Church, all parties need a “change of heart”.
However, I must of observe that, for decades, many of the traditional leaning, have experienced their hearts being torn from their breasts and stomped on by the other side, as it were. Their hearts have again and again been bruised and riven. If a change of heart is at the heart of reconciliation, then so are apologies. So is a time for healing. Talking about a change of heart is easy.
That brings me to another reaction to Card. Sarah’s 10th anniversary article, in dialogue with Fr. de Souza, by Prof. Joseph Shaw of Oxford and of the Latin Mass Society.
Prof. Shaw wrote a piece called “Why Cardinal Sarah’s liturgical ‘reconciliation’ plan won’t work“. HERE
Firstly, Shaw recaps what Card. Sarah suggested for the mutual enrichment of the two forms. For example, Sarah proposes introduction – no – re-introduction into the OF: reception of Communion on the tongue while kneeling (which should be the norm anyway), the reintroduction of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, options for using the old Offertory prayers, quiet canon, and the so-called ‘canonical digits’. Into the EF he would see not so much re-introductions but rather a wholesale change to the traditional Rite, that is, adoption of the Novus Ordo Lectionary (as Fr. de Souza praised) and what I consider a less problematic closer alignment of the calendars, so long as this is restricted to the addition of modern saints, etc.
Shaw tackles the issue of the Lectionary:
The new lectionary is sometimes held up as obviously superior to the old, but not everyone committed to the reformed Mass agrees. The Toronto Oratorian Fr Jonathan Robinson wrote (The Mass and Modernity, 2005, p332):
I think the diversity, rather than enriching people, tends to confuse them… This may be because the selections, as has been noted by others, were drawn up more to satisfy the sensibilities of liturgical scholars than on traditional liturgical principles. [My old boss at “Ecclesia Dei” remarked that the addition of a third reading on Sundays lent an undesirable element of “didacticism” to Mass. And if there is greater variety of Scripture readings in the Novus Ordo, the yearly repetition of the same readings on Sunday and Feasts ensured that the faithful came to know them well. Today, ask people what the readings were as they walk out of Mass.]
However, another question is raised by Cardinal Sarah’s proposal: can the lectionaries of the two Forms simply by swapped over?
The short answer is ‘no’. To take the most obvious problem, the 1969 Lectionary has no readings for the season of Septuagesima, because that season does not exist in the 1969 calendar. Were the ‘Ordinary Time’ cycle simply extended to this period of three Sundays before Lent, its penitential orations would conflict with readings which can be used after Pentecost as well as before Lent. [How about the reintroduction of the pre-Lent to the Ordinay Form? How’s that as the step to mutual enrichment?]
Variations on this problem arise throughout the Church’s year. Many of the EF’s proper texts of feast days, and a good many Sundays, refer to the readings. The choice of readings in the Ordinary Form is so different from those in the Extraordinary Form that the discordance would be particularly jarring. [Moreover, there is often a strong resonance between the readings and the antiphons in Mass formularies that would be disrupted, as it has been in the Novus Ordo with it’s three year Sunday cycle.]
Shaw has more on the issue of the Lectionary.
Then, however, Shaw make a strong argument, which I endorse.
Above all I would like to suggest that the Church has nothing to fear from a varied liturgical landscape: a landscape becoming more varied as Eastern Rite Catholics flee to the West. Vatican II reassured us on this point (Unitatis redintegratio 17):
…from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting.
This, surely, is the direction from which ‘liturgical reconciliation’ should come.
The Church even in the West has had a varied and rich liturgical tradition of Rites. Pius V acknowledge and supported this by “grandfathering” in regional Rites to exist along side the Roman Rite which became the universal Rite for the Latin Church. Over time, the Roman Rite became stronger even in those places which had its own Rite… over time. With the sudden and brutal imposition of an artifically crafted Novus Ordo Missae in 1969, came the heart-breaking suppression of what was “sacred and great”.
I have argued for decades, ever since an article in Catholic World Report in 1992 (I think), that we have nothing to fear from side by side celebrations of Holy Mass in the traditional form and in the Novus Ordo. Card. Ratzinger wanted that contact to help jump start the organic development of liturgy which, as the freezing of mustum halts its fermentation into wine, interrupted the centuries long evolution of our liturgical prayer.
Sound liturgical changes take time… a lot of time. Impatience and imprudent imposition broke hearts and ruptured our Catholic identity, so enervating the Church that we are now experiencing crises in virtually every sphere of her global mission.
Back in the early 90’s I was already arguing that we shouldn’t be afraid of side by side Missals. Over time, we would see the results. Eventually, however, there would emerge a tertium quid – as I was used to call it then – from the dialogue between the rites. This I got straight from Card. Ratzinger in chats and from reading his work.
One thing that the Extraordinary Form has already benefited from comes mainly from the ars celebrandi of priests who have had an experience of the Novus Ordo: there is a greater awareness of the presence of and role of the congregation now than ever before. I think that factor alone, if nothing else, has already produced great benefits for the EF. That’s not a change to the Rite itself. That’s a change within the mind and the heart of the priest celebrant. Benedict XVI spoke eloquently of a priest’s ars celebrandi in his Sacramentum caritatis 38 ff., as the best way to foster the (properly understood) “active participation” of the congregation in the way that the Council Fathers hoped for in Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Who says that we can’t have unity in diversity? In this Shaw agrees with another great churchman on another 10th annversary.
Back in 26 October 1998, St John Paul II, addressed members of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter who had come to Rome for the 10th anniversary of the his Motu Proprio “Ecclesia Dei adflicta” (which was superseded… or rather brought to fruition… by Summorum Pontificum). John Paul said:
In order to safeguard the treasure which Jesus has entrusted to her, and resolutely turned towards the future, it is the Church’s duty to reflect constantly on her link with the Tradition that comes to us from the Lord through the Apostles, as it has been built up throughout history. According to the spirit of conversion in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (nn. 14, 32, 34, 50), [to which Card. Sarah could appeal] I urge all Catholics to perform acts of unity and to renew their loyalty to the Church, so that their legitimate diversity and different sensitivities, which deserve respect, will not divide them but spur them to proclaim the Gospel together; thus, moved by the Spirit who makes all charisms work towards unity, they can all glorify the Lord, and salvation will be proclaimed to all nations.
There is true unity in legitimate diversity.
I say, we need a long period of stability of the two forms side by side.
We must work to establish more and more celebrations of the older, traditional form so that there is a greater opportunity for, not only mutual enrichment, but also the healing of a deeply wounded Church.
We are our rites.
The rupture of our rites made the wound in our identity.
It was the abrupt tinkering with our rites that made the wound in the first place.
Moreover, there is so much illegitimate diversity in the way that the Novus Ordo is celebrated, with odd variations and liturgical abuses, that a great deal of work is needed on that side of the Roman Rite before the reconciliation and mutual enrichment desired by everyone can get off the ground and pick up speed!
Let’s learn from our mistakes.
We must take the prudent path of growth and stability for the Extraordinary Form and of first stabilizing the Ordinary Form and then letting it be what it is according to the desires of the principles enunciated by the Council Fathers.
Meanwhile, to further Card. Sarah’s call for reconciliation, keep in mind the old but true chestnut, often but wrongly attributed to St. Augustine:
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.
Let us have unity in necessary things, liberty in doubtful things, and in all things charity.