Saturday, 26 June 2010

Liturgical sense...

In the Year of Our Lord 1284 Durandus wrote in the Rationale:

''Now the priests and prelates of the Church, to whom it is given to know the mysteries, as can be read in Chapter VIII of Saint Luke, and who are the distributors and dispensers of the sacraments, should shine forth with the powers that they represent in order that others, reflecting their insights, might also be enlightened. If such is not the case then it is a matter of the blind leading the blind, or as the words of the prophet put it: ''their eyes are darkened and they cannot see where they are going.'' But (and how sad) in these days many seem to have hardly any understanding of the things they engage in daily pertaining to the practices of the Church, or her divine worship. Nor do they know what they signify or why they were instituted. So much is this the case that the words of this prophet seem to be fulfilled to the letter: ''The priests will be like the common people,'' for they bear the showbreads and mysteries of the Lord's altar without any understanding or respect, such that, beyond any doubt, they will be considered, by the just judgement of God, as beasts of burden who carry the food which provides for the sustenance of others. They will have to render an account of this ignorance on the day of judgement and then, while the very cedars of paradise tremble, what will happen to these reeds in the desert? For it is said of such by the Prophet: ''They have not known my ways, and I will judge them in my anger, and they will not enter into my repose.'' (Emphasis my own).

Is this an early indication of the gradual loss of liturgical sense in the West, which undoubtedly occurred in the second millennium? I often look at the history of Liturgy in the West in the second millennium with a mixture of fascination and regret. There is much good there, real liturgical piety and Tradition, but also much bad - superstition and bad theology. If only I, and many of like disposition, had been there in the days when Low Mass first started to creep into the liturgical life of the Church (nobody knows when); if only to counsel the Schoolmen that the idea was a subtle prompting from the Devil to sift the wheat.

The Latin Mass Society are currently having their '62 Rite Pontifical Mass at Westminster Cathedral. What is this supposed to be exactly? A celebration of Catholic Tradition or liturgical reform? It is by no means ''traditional'' in any meaningful sense, and yet they will undoubtedly have advertised it as a ''traditional Latin Mass.'' Most people involved in it will no doubt think that bare Sacramental validity is all that really matters in the Liturgy - in other words, Christ deigns to come down from on High to the Altar regardless of the way in which the Liturgy is celebrated; to what extent this is the result of an unbalanced cult of the Blessed Sacrament (to the detriment of real Liturgy) in the West I don't know, but this sort of mentality seems contrary to my understanding of Liturgy. Others involved will just think: ''oh, but it's in Latin, ad orientem, and has a lot of outward display of ceremonial - and the '62 Rite isn't that different from the Old Rite anyway, so it makes no difference.'' Boob. Were I completely ignorant of all politics and legal positivism apropos Summorum Pontificum, and I saw ''traditional Pontifical Liturgy'' advertised somewhere, I'd have gone - but expecting Miranda I'd have been greeted by Caliban.

The Catholic Church is full of doctrinally orthodox people (we can all be doctrinally orthodox) but liturgical heterodox people, and most of the time these doctrinally orthodox people (Catholics of the ''neo-conservative'' kind, and lamentably the greater part of the ''Traditionalist'' kind also) form a significant part of the liturgically heterodox. In recent years (since Mediator Dei, but the malaise probably goes much deeper, the Lord only knows the full tale of this lamentable neglect of Liturgy) liturgical orthodoxy has been relegated to the dustbin in favour of formation in Catholic belief based on the teachings of the Magisterium and the cult of the Pope. As a consequence, liturgical complacency is so common among so many Catholics. Doctrinal orthodoxy is important, fundamentally so, but still more is the environment in which we acquire and maintain the orthodoxy - which is the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy - even George Tyrell (condemned as a ''Modernist'' in 1907) understood this!

I keep saying: THE LITURGICAL BOOKS OF 1962 DO NOT REPRESENT THE TRADITIONAL LITURGY OF THE CHURCH. Just because the '62 Rite looks superficially like the Old Rite is unimportant, and does not negate the fact that it is the inorganic (sorry to whomever coined that term) product of a committee of self-important liturgists. If you're going to do the Old Rite, then at least do it properly - but please don't parade about in the smug delusion that you're in any way superior to the tambourine-waving yokels in a typical Catholic parish if you celebrate liturgical reform (by using the liturgical books of 1962) just as much as they do. The only real difference between you is that you prefer lace cottas to cassock-albs, and Low Mass to concelebration.


  1. The Latin Mass Society are currently having their '62 Rite Pontifical Mass at Westminster Cathedral. What is this supposed to be exactly?

    Would you prefer that they had nothing at all?

    I accept, on the whole, your arguments about the 1962 rites and the opinions of some (but certainly not all!) of the people who frequent them. However, I am unclear as to what you think the proper course of action is for those who would--in theory--prefer a more traditional use, but are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Could you be more explicit about that?

  2. Paul Goings,

    That's a fair question, I guess. There's no easy answer either. In the liturgies we attend we have no choice but to be pragmatic at least to some extent. That would seem so much more tolerable if there was any hope that things might get better, however, I tend to fear that traditional liturgy in the West has been lost forever.

  3. Paul Goings

    It's a fair question indeed. As one who sweated and wept in the mines of Catholic Traditionalism for quarter of a century, seizing on every glimmer, real or illusory, suggestive of resurgence and restoration and justice beginning to be done, I can say that Summorum Pontificum succeeded every expectation when it finally arrived. I resolved to put away every reservation (and I had many) and back it to the hilt. The soul-destroying effort of attempting to inhabit an unrealisable construct - "Traditional Catholicism" - was at last over, the rancour and bitterness of TradWorld would disperse, and a thousand flowers would bloom.

    When the euphoria had subsided, the obvious asserted itself: re-animating the canary doesn't get rid of the gas.

    Catholics who recognise the primary importance of "ortho-doxia" (right-glory) will always be misundeerstood and misrepresented by the vast majority of their co-religionists, who don't; but the goal of recovering a fully integrated life in Christ, in which dogma, liturgy, sacrament, spirituality, holy hunger and love of neighbour constitute a single seamless garment, is the most radical and authentically "Traditional" there is. Whether or not it's achievable so long as the the distortions that corroded it in the first place remain, is another question.

  4. Duh...typing in a hurry - sorry for confusing. Should read:

    "...Summorum Pontificum exceeded every expectation..."

    "...the most radical and authentically "Traditional" vision of Catholicism..."

  5. Moretben: How well said. Much food for thought on this the eve of the vigil of sts Peter and Paul.

  6. Is not every change a change made by someone, and for some reason? Why is it a problem if it was some self-important liturgist or committee that made the change - why is it likely to be any worse than what some Gaul did in the 11th century or something?

  7. so what is traditional? the 1850 missal, 1750? 1587? 1200? the 7th century mass Pope Gregory the Great reformed?

    the mass was different is almost every diocese until the catholic reformation, and before one starts to glorify the Greek Church (to which I belong, Ukrainian version anyway) our Divine Liturgy did not get it's present "appearance" (today's liturgy while similar is not an exact representation of that celebrated in 1550 for example) until well into the middle ages.

    The imperial-cathedral and monastic forms started to merge in I'd say late middle ages, and the liturgy did not start to become "uniform" - it is different everywhere today btw - until after the fall of the empire and the publishers of venice started printing liturgical books, the russians used their "old ritual" until the 17th century)

    Roman-rite is the most ancient, go back in time from 2010 (using the 1962 missal) to 1300 Rome and it's the same thing add or minus a couple of prayers (btw their dry masses were really popular, espiecially on ships), where as if i went back in time from my 2010 ukrainian church to 1300 hagia sophia - it is much different