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Friday, 15 June 2012

"The Future of the Liturgy"

Someone was looking for a transcription of the video at Fr Ray Blake's blog of the presentation given by Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, The Future of the Liturgy back in May.
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What I thought I would do with your permission in our time together this evening is, first of all, offer you some rather personal thoughts about this rather provocative topic. And so I'm not speaking really in any official capacity, I'm only speaking for myself
And that would conclude really with a consideration of
two passages which I've taken from two books which have the same title,
The Spirit of the Liturgy, and I think copies of those passages are available to you.

From that point it is my hope that you indeed will have some thoughts to share, some observations and maybe some questions that we can consider together.
That may well be the most interesting and profitable part of our time together this evening


When I was trying to organize my thoughts in relation to the Future of the Liturgy in preparation for this talk I was reminded of an apocalyptic novel by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson,
Lord of the World, written in 1907.

It is sometimes deemed one of the first modern dystopias.
Projecting forward a hundred years, Benson imagines an essentially socialist and humanist world, where religion has been either suppressed or ignored.
People have neither any sense of history nor any hope. As a consequence they often despair and turn to euthanasia which is legal.
There is a One World government, that uses Esperanto for its language, and ultimately becomes a servant of the Antichrist. In brief, the Catholic Church has been suppressed, and the world has turned to a form of self-religion.
Pope John the XXIV has made an agreement with the Italian government; the Catholic Church still has its seat in Rome, while all other churches in Italy are surrendered.
Ireland still remains staunchly Catholic with small enclaves all over the world.
Westminster Cathedral is the only church in London that is still Catholic, the rest have all become masonic temples.
The plot then follows the tale of a priest, Percy Franklin, who goes on to become Pope Sylvester III. and a rather enigmatic figure named Julian Felsenburgh, who is identical in looks to the priest, who as the Antichrist becomes the lord of the world.

The fictional world described in Benson's novel written before the first World War predicts certain innovations such a as high speed motorways, air travel using “volors”, an advanced form of the zeppelin.
England was ruled by a president whose wife was Catholic and the Church in this land was under the protection of a Benedictine cardinal
The novel also assumes the continuation of the British Empire, and that travel was predominantly by train.

Even this brief synopsis illustrates that Monsignor Benson was remarkably accurate in his prophecy of so many aspects of life as they would indeed be by the end of the year 2007.

I would imagine that we might not all agree as to just how much of what Benson foresaw did actually come to pass.

Apart from the wholesale destruction of Irish Catholicism, one further thing he could not foresee in any way, however, was the change... development... destruction, (and your choice of term will obviously indicate your particular view,) of the Sacred Liturgy.

He envisaged that while all else changed, that at least would remain the same.
He could not foresee of a small but influential movement that greatly predates the Second Vatican Council clamoring for liturgical change.

He could not foresee the wholesale revision of the liturgy in the wake of that Council.

But above all he could not foresee that the unifying experience of a Latin liturgy would become entirely alien to most Catholics born in the last third of the twentieth century.

This was a view largely shared by Blessed John Henry Newman, Monsignor Ronald Knox, and until the liturgical reform happened, also by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

The factors which fed into the liturgical reforms of the council were complex, and in some ways not entirely contemporary.
I think we must admit that until relatively recently there has been very little scholarship that is able to accurately identify the sources of the liturgical reform.
I work in an office that houses one of the several archives of the Concilium, the documentation that relates to the meetings of the group responsible for the implementation of the liturgical reform after the Council.
It is increasingly clear to us now that the influence of Jungmann, Bugnini and Bouyer shaped the design of the new rites. In some cases, the scholarly opinions upon which some decisions were based do not stand well the test of time.
In the three years I've been at ICEL only one scholar has consulted that archive.
I hope that in the future we shall see much more scholarship that will give us the detailed study necessary to be able to understand the last fifty years.
Whether or not we have any scholarly insight, many of us have lived in the Church through this period and have thereby accumulated a vast reservoir of experiences which for good or ill shape our perceptions in relation to the liturgy and guide our expectations when we consider what we hope to find when we come to worship God.
While there is a sort of commonality to these observations across a wide spectrum of liturgical preference, it goes without saying that whether something is considered desirable or not will largely depend on your view of what the liturgy is meant to achieve.

I have come to the view that there is very little agreement in this important matter and many people proceed on what is essentially a privatized view of something which is by definition common property.

In the first doctrines to issue from the Second Vatican council the Fathers chose to attempt to define the sacred liturgy and its place in the life of the Church.

The Constitution on the sacred liturgy,
Sacrosanctum Concilium, states, "the liturgy is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed.
At the same time it is the fountain from which all Her powers flow. It is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit."

These seemingly uncontentious definitions immediately thrust us into the heart of the modern dilemma concerning liturgy.
This dilemma contains the ever-present danger of becoming spectators, such a frequent mode in modern life. It is entirely inimical to the spirit of the liturgy
In our catholic understanding of liturgy there can be no spectators, only participators.

For it is the....
leitourgia, the leit ergon, the work of the people in which we must all engage.

The rich signs and symbols of the liturgy, its solemn functions, the beauty of its music are all intended to engage our hearts and minds, and to draw us ever more deeply into experience of the saving mysteries, giving us an instrument with which we can express the drama of mankind and utter supremacy of God by offering Him the very best of our human endeavors

In God's providence, all that is necessary for our salvation is laid before us in the liturgy, and is there for the taking.

When asked about the liturgical reforms that followed the Council most Catholics would tend to say that the Liturgy went into English and the priest faced the people.
The fact that neither of these changes was mandated by the Council usually comes as something of a surprise.
Furthermore, I think it is addressing something of an elephant in the room to maybe say that a vernacular liturgy has not always led to a deeper understanding of the liturgy itself.
In proposing such an observation I would want to be very careful to qualify it - the fact is that the liturgical reform seem to have spawned both positive and negative developments resulting in a situation which is highly complex and beyond the remit of broad generalizations.

To illustrate my point I would like to try to identify some examples of both kinds of development.

Some positive developments of the liturgical reforms in the wake of Vatican Two would be that the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum, largely unknown to previous generations, have now become the liturgical heart of the year for most Catholics.

The Liturgy of the hours, previously largely limited to the clergy has become more genuinely the prayer of the whole Church in the experience of both religious and lay people.
A wider selection of readings in the Mass and all the sacramental rites has strengthened the idea that Scripture is part of the primitive liturgical kerygma.

In those places where the principles of the liturgical movement have been applied to music there is a greater appreciation of the various functions of music in the different elements of the liturgy.

The revised rites of Christian Initiation have led to a greater understanding of Baptism as the foundational fact of our ecclesial identity.

Where provision has been made for individual confession, there has generally been a return to the centrality of this sacrament in the personal journey of conversion.

The renewal of the Rites of the Worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass has facilitated, if not quite inspired, the wide-spread adoption of Eucharistic Adoration as a standard element of parish life, and as an important means of engendering private prayer.

These positive developments are balanced however, I would suggest, by an equally significant list of negative observations.

When we consider that a sense of the communion of the Church has become limited to local communities that are in many ways self-selecting.
Many Catholics have a poor understanding of what it means to belong to the Universal Church, but a very highly developed understanding of what it means to belong to a parish of people like ourselves.

Any notion of the shape of the liturgical year has been greatly lessened by an ironing out of those features which characterize the distinctive seasons of the year.

The transference of solemnities which are Holy Days of Obligation to Sundays destroys the internal dynamics of the liturgical cycle, particularly with the great feasts of the Epiphany and the Ascension.

The frequent tendency to gloss or paraphrase the liturgical text, supplying continuous commentary, has contributed to an improvised or spontaneous character in much liturgical celebration.

The multiplication of liturgical ministries has led to considerable confusion and indeed error concerning the relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of all the baptized.

The liturgy in some places seems to have the quality of a performance with the priest and liturgical ministers cast in the roles of performers, and half of them behaving accordingly.

Consequently, congregations are often expecting to be entertained, rather as spectators might be at a theater.

The manner of the distribution and reception of Holy Communion, including the appropriateness of ones reception of Communion at any particular Mass, has led to a casual disregard for this great sacrament.

The proliferation of Communion Services presided over my lay people has resulted in a lessening of the sense of the importance of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

The appalling banality of much liturgical music and the lack of any true liturgical spirit in the use of music has been a primary generating force in an anti-liturgical culture.

With these, rather personal and precise, observations in mind, we can surmise when we try to identify the features of a future liturgy which would effectively express not only the here and now of the community but the whole of salvation history and the eternity which is God Himself.

Obviously I am aware of the fact that another commentator might well reverse all of the categories that I have identified, and see virtues that I cite as vices, and vice versa.

In an attempt to engender an ongoing improvement in the quality of our liturgy, and in the hope that all Catholics will be able to encounter a liturgy that is self-evidently expressive of our rich tradition
and conveys a sense of something larger than the purely local, in a highly personal view, I would identify the following as desirable characteristics of the Liturgy of the future:

Firstly, a sense of reverence for the text. The unity of the Roman Rite is now essentially a textual unity. The Church permits a certain latitude in the interpretations of liturgical norms that govern the celebration of the liturgy, and hence our unity is essentially textual. We use the same prayers, we meditate on the same scriptures. This is more clearly evident now with a single English text for universal use.

Secondly, a greater willingness to heed
Sacrosanctum Concilium rather than a continuous recourse to the rather nebulous concept of the Spirit of the Council which generally attempts to legitimize liturgical abuses, rather than correct them.
Currently, the teachings of
Sacrosanctam Concilium are rather more likely to be evidenced in a well-prepared presentation of the Extraordinary Form than in most ordinary Form celebrations.
That's a great irony.

A re-reading of the encyclical
Mediator Dei of Pope Pius XII, in conjunction with more recent magisterial documents. In this way, the light of tradition might be perceived to shine on all of our liturgical celebrations

The wide-spread cultivation of a dignified and reverent liturgy that evidences careful preparation and respect for its constituent elements in accordance with the liturgical norms.

The re-introduction of
ad orientem celebration, the kneeling for the reception of Holy Communion would be two things that would certainly assist in this regard.

An abandonment of the unofficial notion of the primacy of the ferial lectionary, which would result in Masses for the feast days of saints in which the readings harmonized with the texts of the proper of the mass.

A recovery of the Latin tradition of the Roman Rite that enables us to continue to present elements of our liturgical patrimony from the earliest centuries with understanding
This necessarily requires a far more enthusiastic and wide-spread commitment to the study and learning of Latin in order that the linguistic culture .... interpreting our texts and chants might be more widely experienced, and our patrimony enjoy a wider constituency.

(What would you expect from a former Latin teacher?)

But this point, on which I feel very, very strongly, is essential, regardless of the language of our liturgical celebration; it's still true even if we have vernacular celebrations, we will still continue to need insight into a tradition which is essentially coming to us in Latin texts and chants, even if they are being presented to us in vernacular languages.

I would hope to see the exclusion form the liturgy of music which only expresses secular culture and which is ill-suited to the demands of the liturgy.

A renaissance of interest in an use of chant in both Latin and English, as a recognition that this music should enjoy first place in our liturgy, and all other musical forms are suitable for liturgical use to the extent that they share the characteristics of chant.

A commitment to the celebration ad teaching of the
ars celebrandi, the art of celebration of both forms of the one Roman Rite, so that all our priests perceive more readily how the light of tradition shines on our liturgical life, and how this might be communicated more effectively to all our people.

Thusly, a clearer distinction between devotions and non-liturgical forms of prayer, and the sacred Liturgy.

A lack of any proper liturgical sense has led to a proliferation of devotions as an alternate vehicle for devotional fervor.

This was a wide-spread criticism of the liturgy before the Second Vatican Council, and we now have to ask ourselves why the same lacuna has been identified in the newer liturgical forms.
having traveled the English-speaking world very widely in preparation for the implementation of the new English translation of the Third Typical Edition of the Missale Romanum, and having experienced the Sacred Liturgy in a wide variety of circumstances and styles, I would conclude that I have genuinely encountered a very great desire for change, although i would also have to admit that this has not always been among those who are directly responsible for the liturgy.
I think we are currently well-placed to respond to this desire, and this is evidenced by the fact that many things which were indicated fifty years ago , such as the singing of the Mass, and more particularly, the singing of the proper texts rather than the endless substitution of songs and hymns are only now being seriously considered and implemented.
it is earnestly to be desired that such developments continue to flourish and that an improved liturgical culture is accessible to everyone in the Church.
Crucial to this peaceful revolution has been the leadership and example of the present Holy Father, who has consistently studied and written about the liturgy in a long life of scholarship which now informs his governance of the Church’s liturgical life.
Much that he commends was already evident in aspects of liturgical scholarship from the early twentieth century onwards.
In our own time, however, it is finally being received with the joy and enthusiasm that it merits.
A new generation of Catholics eagerly awaits a greater experience of the basic truth that the Liturgy is always a gift that we receive from the Church rather than make for ourselves.
In an attempt to show something of the powerful synthesis in this respect, and perhaps as something of a springboard for our discussion, I would like to conclude with two brief quotations which encapsulate much that I have attempted to say, and perhaps help us identify further strategies for the road which lies ahead. (22:46)
The juxtaposition of these two texts which share the same title, written some eighty years apart, does not really offer any definitive conclusions as to how one might resolve some of the challenges we have identified.
Perhaps we still have to find the courage to really face the questions they raise, and the understanding of the Liturgy they propose.
So I believe you have before you quotations from Romano Guardini's
Spirit of the Liturgy in an English translation by Ada Lane, and Joseph Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy in a translation by Father John Sailor?
If you don’t have the texts in front of you, I'm going to read the excerpts to you, and perhaps we can consider them together.

First from Romano Guardini:
"The primary and exclusive aim of the liturgy is not the expression of the individual's reverence and worship for God. It is not even concerned with the awakening, formation, and sanctification of the individual soul as such. Nor does the onus of liturgical action and prayer rest with the individual. It does not even rest with the collective groups, composed of numerous individuals, who periodically achieve a limited and intermittent unity in their capacity as the congregation of a church. The liturgical entity consists rather of the united body of the faithful as such--the Church--a body which infinitely outnumbers the mere congregation. The liturgy is the Church's public and lawful act of worship, and it is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the post--her priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship. It is important that this objective nature of the liturgy should be fully understood. Here the Catholic conception of worship in common sharply differs from the Protestant, which is predominately individualistic. The fact that the individual Catholic, by his absorption into the higher unity, finds liberty and discipline, originates in the twofold nature of man, who is both social and solitary."


It is perhaps easy to see that that that passage is a product of its time, in some of the concepts that it evokes.
But it does contain a very powerful definition the nature of the Liturgy which liberates it from the tyranny of personal taste and direction.
I'll just ask you to hold some of those ideas in your mind as we listen to the Spirit of the Liturgy as expressed by Joseph Ratzinger some eighty years later:

"We should be clearly aware that external actions are quite secondary here; doing really must stop when we come to the heart of the matter, the oratio, or prayer. It must be plainly evident that the oratio is the heart of the matter, but that it is important precisely because it provides a space for the actio or action of God.
Anyone who grasps this will easily see that it is not now a matter of looking at or toward the priest, but of looking together toward the Lord, and going out to meet him.
The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the liturgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point. If the various external actions, (as a matter of fact, there are not in fact very many of them, though they are being artificially multiplied,) become the essential in the liturgy, if the liturgy degenerates into general activity, then we have radically misunderstood the "theo-drama" of the liturgy, and lapsed almost into parody.
True liturgical education cannot consist in learning and experimenting with external activities. Instead one must be lead toward the essential actio that makes the liturgy what it is, toward the transforming power of God, Who wants, through what happens in the Liturgy, to transform us and the world. In this respect, liturgical education, of both priests and laity is deficient to a deplorable extent. Much remains to be done here".
I wish more transcriptions of such things would find their way onto the Interwebs, they are drastically more useful for actual reflection that videos. Youtube Nation? Bah!!!!

(Oh, and kicking myself that I didn't think to find a text file of the two long quotes, THAT would have saved a bit of time...)
(And of course, someone else may have done this weeks ago, but I never look in the right place for anything...)

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