An interesting and by all accounts highly successful conference on the liturgy, Sacra Liturgia, has just finished up in Rome.
The conference was not, of course, just about the Extraordinary Form, but was rather aimed at promoting the importance of the importance of the liturgy in general as the 'source and summit' in the New Evangelisation.
But one of the recurring themes inevitably does seem to have been how to integrate the Extraordinary Form into the mainstream of the Church more effectively.
Sacra Liturgia 2013 - promoting legitimate liturgical diversity
The conference had a star studded lineup of speakers, including Cardinals Burke, Ranjith, Llovera and Brandmuller, as well as notable scholars such as Fr Uwe Lang and Don Nicola Bux. It had a strong Australian presence too among the speakers, in the form of Dom Alcuin Reid (also one of the organisers), Bishop Peter Eliot and Dr Tracey Rowland. You can read highlights from their talks over at the conference's facebook page, and book is forthcoming.
It was organised under the auspices of the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, France, Monsignor Dominique Rey, who in an interview with Vatican Insider in the lead up to the conference argued that we 'don't need to have liturgy wars', but rather should accommodate both forms of the Mass:
"We’ve had liturgical plurality throughout the Church’s history. Perhaps we have been a bit too fixed on vernacular modern liturgy in recent decades and need to remember that our unity in faith in Jesus Christ allows for different forms of liturgical expression. The riches of these traditions are real and valuable to us today, just as modern developments such as the wider use of the vernacular are.
We don’t need to have “liturgy wars”. What we need is to be properly formed and able to encounter Christ in the Church’s liturgy correctly celebrated so that we can witness to Jesus Christ and his truth in the Church and world of the twenty-first century. I hope that Sacra Liturgia 2013 will contribute to that."
Alas, however, the bishop is a rarity amongst the episcopacy.
Under Pope Benedict XVI's leadership, a good number of Australian bishops did say an Extraordinary Form Mass or two, allowed first the indult Mass then the entry of the FSSP, and supported other diocesan level initiatives. One or two (such as Bishop Jarrett of Lismore) have been extremely supportive of the traditionalist movement.
But unfortunately, some of our most recent episcopal appointments (including Newcastle-Maitland and Perth) seem to have resulted in a winding back of legitimate liturgical diversity rather its promotion.
The case for co-existence
The case for a more active promotion of both forms of the Mass was strongly made at the conference though by Tracey Rowland, who said in part:
“I want to argue that the usus antiquior is an antidote to the ruthless attacks on memory and tradition and high culture, typical of the culture of modernity, and that it satisfies the desire of the post-modern generations to be embedded within a coherent, non-fragmented tradition that is open to the transcendent.”
“The project of the 1960s generation was one of transposing a high sacral language into the vernacular of a low mundane culture, with the result that something sacred became more mundane, and when the sacred becomes mundane, it becomes boring.”
“In wrapping the faith in the forms of the contemporary culture and generally correlating the liturgy to the norms of the mass culture, the 1960s generation of pastoral strategists unwittingly fostered a crisis in liturgical theory and practice.”
“[The 1960s generation] dismantled a high Catholic culture by removing its cornerstone and they left subsequent generations of Catholics in a state of cultural poverty, confusion and boredom.”
“A Catholic who is ignorant of [the usus antiquior] is like a student who majors in English literature but is unfamiliar with Shakespeare....
“[Benedict XVI] compared the pastoral strategy of bringing God down to the level of the people with the Hebrew’s worship of the golden calf and he described this practice as nothing less than a form of apostasy.”
“It would be a major advance if those responsible for liturgical decisions could at least get the message that modernity has not been fashionable since the 1960s...
“The whole structure of the usus antiquior engenders a deeper sense that there is a sacrifice, not a mere meal… There is really no greater antidote to secularism and what Pope Francis calls a ‘self-referential Christianity’ than a reflection on martyrdom and the sacrifice of Calvary and the Roman Canon sustains a person’s reflection on this reality.”
In an era when globalisation is regarded as a good thing and governments spend millions of dollars of tax-payers’ money to keep alive the memory of minority languages and pre-modern social practices like Morris dancing, the Church should not be ashamed of her own cultural treasures.”
“The usus antiquior should be a standard element of the cultural capital of all Latin Rite Catholics since is so effectively resists secularism and satisfies the post-modern hunger for coherent order, beauty and an experience of self-transcendence.”
To evangelise post-modern people [the Christian narrative] has to appear to be something starkly different from the secular culture they imbibe which is a culture parasitic upon the Christian tradition but completely decadent.”
Has the Extraordinary Form become too politicised?
Dr Rowland, though, went on to argue that traditionalists 'have been their own worst enemies'. I'd take issue with her on this, for if traditionalists have been radicalised, its mostly because they have had to fight hard for the right to even have an EF Mass (my comments in red):
“I believe that the proponents of the usus antiquior are often their own worst enemies and foster practices and attitudes [OK the reference to the nutty fringe I get, but what practices are we talking about here? Women wearing headcoverings perhaps? Yet this is an entirely traditional practice that was universal until the 1960s revolution?] which deter many Catholics from attending Masses according to this Form. [If we are talking about things like head coverings, I can't see it as a real deterrent given that half the women in my own community at least don't actually wear one!]”
“The obsession with dissecting every minute detail of the event is a symptom of what Joseph Ratzinger called the problem of aestheticism...” [Someone help me out here, because I'm not sure I understand what she is referring to here at least as far as Australia goes (though perhaps those photo galleries do lend themselves to that interpretation?). The FSSP seem to me on the whole to be more at the 'worker/artisan priest' end of the spectrum, not the aesthete, and as far as I have ever observed most of the other religious and diocesan priests (with a few notable exceptions) seem pretty much in the same camp. Personally, I'd like to see an orchestral Mass or two (I loved the OF ones in Christchurch which I visited on a number of occasions when I was growing up in NZ), more solemn masses (I can't remember the last one we had in Canberra) for they too are part of the tradition.]
“Ordinary Catholics do not want to feel as though in attending the usus antiquior they are making a political stand against the Second Vatican Council.”[Who makes them feel that? Not traditionalists in the main, I would suggest, but rather those bishops and other priests who fail to have the EF Mass said in their Cathedrals and churches, or even attempt to outright suppress it. By doing so they radicalise the fringe...]
“The more [ordinary] people feel as though a whole raft of theo-political baggage comes with attendance at the usus antiquior Masses, the less likely they are to avail themselves of the opportunity to attend them.” [It is true that one strikes the occasionally nutty sermon promoting a broader set of baggage (my all time favourite remains the sermon railing against trouser wearing women). But the solution is in the power of the bishops, who could form and ordain their own priests dedicated to the Extraordinary Form, and ensure all their priests know how to say it. At the moment those who are desperate enough for decent liturgy will be prepared to put up with the baggage up to a point...]
Saying the Black doing the Red
One of the tweets that came out of the conference was that 'Liturgy is richer than ‘doing the red and saying the black’.
True enough. I went to an OF Mass last night that was perfectly well said and done - but totally undermined in promoting any sense of the sacred by loud (and poor) guitar twanging (overwhelming a perfectly good organ!) in the quest of giving the kiddies 'something to do'.
But it is telling that Bishop Eliot's talk lamented the fact that most priests had never actually read the General Instructions on the Liturgy, let alone followed them:
“We cannot expect an ars celebrandi from clergy who do not know, or have never read, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Yet this is a widespread problem today.”
The publication of a more accurate and richer English translation of the Mass is having salutary effects in the Anglophone world.
Celebrating Mass and the Sacraments is an “art”, which requires what all artists need: experience, discipline and practice open to a willingness to develop and refine skills.
The ‘art of proper celebration’ should never become too specialized, that is, an elite exercise for only a few people, which is the case with so much ‘art’ in Western societies. I prefer to understand the art of celebrating in terms of “craft”, something accessible to all of us, whether we think we are ‘liturgically minded’ or not.
My ideal is that the priest should be a good liturgical craftsman, an artisan of the worship of God..."
It is up to our bishops to act to fix these problem. Those few laity still left on the pews rather than having been driven out by the mundane and boring nature of what passes for liturgy in most places fall mostly into three camps: the disempowered who heroically endure; those ignorant of the real possibilities; and the self-indulgent and self-important lay stars of the 'show'.