Thursday, 8 January 2009

1962 or bust? The case for a little liturgical diversity....**

I'm a little reluctant to keep posting on liturgical issues, since although liturgical issues clearly engage lots of people (myself included!), it is really territory that we ideally shouldn't have to be in!

I tend to agree with Martin Mosebach that we have all forced to become liturgists when ideally we should just be focusing on worshipping. And we could probably all try and relax a little, and stop worrying about things like whether or not the celebrant has incensed the altar 26 times (or whatever it is!)!

However, the time when we can truly stop worrying about the liturgy clearly hasn't arrived just yet, and it is in fact one of the key strategic issues that the traditionalist movement to grapple with over the next few years.

So one more post then I'll move onto other things!

The issue and the two camps

One of the themes coming through in comments both here and on other blogs in recent days has been the issue of to what extent we should regard the 1962 Missal as the gold standard and insist strictly on its use.

In effect there are two schools of thought.

The first says that 1962 is what the Pope has approved, we've had more than our fill of liturgical innovation, so let's let things lie for the next twenty years or so before countenancing any further fiddling. I have to admit I was in this school but I've changed my view.

The second basically says there is nothing magical about 1962 - the wreckovators had already started work at that point and we should fix up the problems in it while we have the chance.

More to the point, the argument goes that we are probably going to have to face up to at least some changes to the Mass given the Pope's endorsement of exploration of this in Summorum Pontificum so we may as well advocate for what changes we do want, lest ones we don't want be imposed on us (though of course the big risk is that will happen anyway)!

The current situation

In reality the current situation is much more complicated than many people realise.

Firstly there is already a lot more diversity around than people think. Although everyone talks about using the 1962 books, in practice both the Fraternity and the Institute use the earlier Easter vigil for example. Some of the traditional monasteries use the old Mass but the modern calendar. Some of them use rubrics from 1964 or even 1967. And of course many in religious orders, such as the Dominicans and the odd Cistercian, are starting to dump the use of the Roman Rite altogether and go back to their traditional rites.

Secondly, although the rubrics for the TLM are a lot stricter than for the NO, there is still quite a lot of leeway for different practices. Some communities, for example, have the readings also read in the vernacular, others don't; some have dialogue masses, others don't. Both of these are permissible variants.

Now some traddies get very upset by these kind of differences: after all, isn't the part of the point of the movement the rejection of the liturgical creativity of Novus Ordodom?!

But I'd like to argue that a bit of diversity, provided it stays within proper bounds, might be a good thing.

Say the black, do the red....

Let me be clear though that I'm not advocating making up your own rubrics, or ignoring those that do exist. Part of the virtue of the TLM is surely that the priest and ministers are subordinate to the demands of the ritual, not vice versa!

But I do think we need to remember that the tight insistence on uniformity of rite and rubrics was in large part a reaction to the Protestant Revolt, a way of differentiating Catholic liturgy from that of heretics. Today, unfortunately, liturgical rigidity is no longer an indicator one way or the other about orthodoxy!

So why allow for some diversity?

I also think there a few reasons why some diversity of practice is desirable.

The first is the needs and circumstances of the particular community. My own preference, for example, is to have the readings only in Latin. But in a migrant or Aboriginal community with poor literacy levels, there may be a case for having them at least repeated in English.

Similarly, some communities have several priests on tap, others don't. The 'semi-solemn' or diaconal mass (ie no sub-deacon), is often dismissed as a '1965' innovation, but in fact was originally an indult for mission territory. It is now used in some of the traditional monasteries for weekday feasts, giving another possible grading of solemnity in a context where the Mass is sung everyday. Personally, I'd be quite happy to have a semi-solemn mass in preference to a mere missa cantata!

Finally, if we are going to have to endure a process of 'mutual enrichment', better that we attempt to set the agenda (rather than allowing it to be about things like concelebration) and do a little discrete experimentation ourselves to test out what works!

So how do we decide what is acceptable and what isn't?

One obvious criterion for such testing is what is within the rules (perhaps loosely interpreted!). Some communities have Churches with particular dedications or devotions attached to them, for example and reflect this with an extra prayer (like the Sub Tuum) or a sacramental of some kind on at the end of mass. That's legitimate (after all mass has ended).

I'm somewhat less comfortable though at the ideas like simplifying the Pontifical Mass in the interest of getting more bishops to say it, for example (discussed recently on NLM in the context of Cardinal Vingt-Trois' latest TLM offering). After all, watering things down is part of the problem with the novus ordo. Surely it is better to agree that bishops can if they must for pragmatic reasons (such as the lack of ministers, lack of knowledge, or lack of voice), say a low mass, or do a mass at the throne. Or maybe we need TLM training courses for bishops!

Another criterion, it seems to me, is that we shouldn't be inventing anything new, just looking at what previously existed and preferably can be accommodated within the rules. One possible example of this might be adding back a few sequences for example - after all, there is scope for the choir to sing other non-liturgical texts at mass, as generally happens at the Offertory for example.

We need to avoid doing our own archaeological raiding sessions however - using now defunct monastic rubrics in a non-monastic context, or looking for goodies from the Sarum Rite (as some have suggested), for example, strike me as of doubtful merit.

Calendar reform

A slightly trickier issue is the calendar. I think it is inevitable that an attempt will be made to update the traditional calendar (and adding in a few new saints would be no bad thing) and bring it more closely into line with the novus ordo.

The reality is that the differences between the two are causing tension, and are no easy to juggle in the increasing number of parishes using both forms of the Mass (something we want to encourage!).

I do also think that the 1962 calendar is very problematic in places. Take this week, for example, what would have been the Octave of Epiphany. In the monastic breviary at least it still looks awfully like an Octave - with special antiphons for the Benedictus and Magnificat each day for example - even though it isn't called as such. By contrast those three bizarre days between January 2-5 just had out of place looking filler texts to make up for the old octave days...


In any case, let me make it clear that I'm not advocating mass experiementation: just a little more tolerance for the diversity already out there and permissible (subject to its careful and continuing assessment), and some thoughtful consideration and assessment of the problems inherent in the 1962 missal.

The problem is that, sensitised by novus ordo experimentation, we've all (myself included) come to apply a 'hermeneutic of suspicion' to anything we haven't seen before in a TLM as well. But in reality, there is a big difference between the 'make it up on the spot' or archeological explorations endemic to the Novus Ordo, and the kind of minor rubrical and custom variants that sometimes occur in a TLM context.

And in terms of more substantive changes, such as tweaking to the calendar, for example, the tactical question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not it is really going to be feasible to hold the line on changes whatsoever to the 1962 missal for the foreseeable future given the type of approach that the PCED has been taking. But there are risks in being open to limited potential changes, and these need to be assessed too.


John L said...

One problem is that the Congregation for Divine Worship (formerly the Congregation of Rites), the normal body that should be addressing all these questions, refuses, as I gather, to take any responsibility for the old rite, and refers any queries to the Ecclesia Dei commission. There they get handed to Msgr. Perl - who with the best will in the world cannot adequately be the sole reference for questions about the entire Roman Rite. It is part of the incoherence of the current ecclesiastical situation, which is probably going to take a while to sort out.

IS said...

And of course many religious orders, such as the Dominicans and the odd Cistercian, are starting to dump the use of the Roman Rite altogether and go back to their traditional rites.

Ah, slightly wrong. The OP Rite at least was formally abolished by the order as the Roman Rite was being often used in OP parishes even before 1962. You still require the permission of the Provincial to celebrate Mass according to the Dominican Rite - albeit some Provincials have given a general permission.

"Dump" is certainly not the word to use... especially as maybe 2% of OPs have ever celebrated an OP Rite Mass.

I think you are getting yourself into a deep hole here Terra

Terra said...

IS - I'll admit I was perhaps a little over the top in my language, but I don't think I'm actually altogether wrong about this.

First, if you are right on the 2% figure (what is it based on?), that's pretty much in line with the proportion of priests in Roman Rite who celebrate the TLM. I do actually suspect however that it is a rather higher proportion of Australian Dominicans(I was actually confirmed in the course of a Dom Rite mass many years ago...), but there are shapr divides in the Order on this topic as in the wider Church.

And the same thing is happening amongst the Dominicans as everyone else since SP, more active interest in looking at it, witnessed by the upcoming Dominican Rite Conference currently being advertised on NLM.

In terms of that rite's canonical status, many orders and others went through a process of anticipating VII, and dropping or modifiying their rites before 1970.
The Dominicans were no different, but those who moved to the Roman Rite pre-1969, were according to Fr Augustine Thompson OP's excellent essay on the subject, generally acting without permission!

According to Fr Augustine, the Dominican Rite was modified heavily in the early 1960s, but never technically suppressed altogether, as the 1969 decree included a provision that the Master General or a Provincinal Prior could give permission for it to be said.

Salvatore said...

Two quick points.

Diversity. I agree in principle with your plea for diversity. However, in practice, here in Australia the Traditional Movement is so small that this doesn’t really work, because one never really has a choice of which Mass to attend. And frankly, I can’t see the point in driving all the way across town only to be subjected to some well-meaning clergyman’s Liturgical enthusiasms and innovations – I can go ‘round the corner for that.

Mutual Enrichment. The principle that “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them” (SC 23) would seem pretty important to me. Indeed (to digress slightly) this strikes me as the foundational principle of any kind of tradition; allowing it to development in response to changing external conditions over time, whilst still retaining maximum continuity and integrity.

Terra said...

Salvatore, your Sc quote is indeed a useful one!

I'm certainly not advocating a mass breakout in experimentation. But firstly tolerance of the range of diversity that we do have even if some of it could possibly do with reassessment in the light of where we are now), and secondly allownace for a little more as the range of options expands.

You are right that generally there isn't a choice about where to go - but that is changing at least in our larger cities, at least some days of the week.

IS said...

2% is an educated guess given there are 5000 dominicans int he world.

In the late 1990s it was believed that Australia had the highest number of Dominican Rite celebrating priests in the world... 3...

Anonymous said...

"Ah, slightly wrong. The OP Rite at least was formally abolished by the order as the Roman Rite was being often used in OP parishes even before 1962."

As said, explained above, this is wrong as to the first part. Now see also this:

Terra said...

According to their website, currently 20 in the Australian Province - so more like an upper limit of around 15% pre-SP?

David said...

I went to the Easter Vigil at Lewisham last year, and they used the 1962 books (4 prophecies et al).

In Adelaide (IIRC - and it's always been Diocesan here) we use the 1962 books, but don't make use of the permission for vernacular renewal of baptismal promises.

So who in the FSSP (in this country at least) uses the pre-Pian Vigil?