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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Essays in Liturgical Theory and Practice

Creative Minority Report has an unaccustomedly neither funny nor ironic post about a book that sounds very well worth looking into, Monsignor (ooooh!) Francis Mannion's "Masterworks of God: Essays in Liturgical Theory and Practice," in which the author
provide[s] a framework for understanding things done in the sacred liturgy. ...
We've all heard complaints over the years that "Father did such and such" or "the music director did so and so." Usually we have a sense that something was wrong, but don't often know what. Usually these things aren't so much matters of overt heresy as they are of imbalance. Lay people try to do things that are reserved for the ordained, the priest tries to appear approachable to the congregation and departs from the rite, the musicians want "high music" at the expense of participation, or they want "low" music at the expense of the rite itself.

Monsignor Mannion's helpful triangle, .... can come in handy in determining the nature of the problem.

His basic argument is that in the earthly dimension of liturgy, there are three different irreducible parts: the rite (texts, vestments, art, music, architecture, etc.), the ordained minster (priest or deacon) and the congregation (everyone else). These are intended to be in proper balance, and if they get out of balance, some other aspect of the liturgy tends to suffer.
If the rite so dominates the priest and the people -- turning the Mass into a fashion show of vestments and incense or a concert of sacred music -- we see the appearance of ritualism. If the people become the center of the worship to such a degree that they disregard the proper role of the priest, the texts of the Mass, or liturgical art, we see congregationalism at work. If the priest decides that the ritual book is his alone (either by denying the people their proper role or by making unauthorized changes) one gets clericalism.
I have to admit, in my experience only, I see not so much either clericalism or congregationalism as committeeism, or middle managementism, or DREism - an overemphasis on the creativity and preferences of a small group or even in individual, with scant knowledge, who have, for whatever reason, attained inappropriate authority in liturgical matters. (The demi-clerics, I have read them called, and it seems an apt appellation.)

My sins in this area would tend incline me toward ritualism, I think, but I believe with all my heart that this inclination is a necessary corrective to The Way Things Are Now.
I have never experienced the ACTUAL "rite so dominating the priest and the people"
And as to the claim that in "turning the Mass into ... a concert of sacred music -- we see the appearance of ritualism," again, in my experience only, these performances, this entertainment model of the Liturgy is the polar opposite of ritualism.

I've seldom encountered this with "high" music, and I have frequently been subjected to it with the lowest of the low, a revving up of "the crowd," and an atmosphere and aesthetic that caters to those more at home in a stadium than a church.
The music at these Masses, seems chosen and performed without reference to any prescribed ritual, (at least, not to any ritual prescribed by the Church.)

"Ritualism" is the accusation that seems to be dragged out by some bloggers NOT in response to the way anyone is conducting liturgy, but in response to objections to the way others conduct the Liturgy. They defend the (often indefensible) disregard of rubrics by pretending that those of us who urge fidelity to them think that following the rubrics is sufficient, when we actually think them, though essential, to be only a beginning.

Oh, interesting and charitable stuff in the comments at CMR.


Dad29 said...

It IS true that the Mass is not sub-text to a concert--whether Mozart or HaugenHaas.

But it's very hard to persuade musicians of that.

Scelata said...

I had a dear friend, fine musician, devout Catholic, who quit a church gig because he was unconvinced by a priest who tried to explain why the music director would NOT be allowed to arrange lighting effects to "enhance the mood" during the performance (and that's the word,) of the Eucharistic Acclamations.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)