Some new things are coming for the Catholic liturgy--and what that might be is beginning to become clear.
Those attuned to such matters have expected this for some time; but a large number of Catholics, busy about other things, have little or no idea of what is at work. Many of them may be in for quite a shock, as will many of the clergy, for that matter.
I haven't written much about this because too much of it tends toward speculation, and one thing I try to avoid is making predictions -- because I'm lousy at it, and I see no value in either getting folks' hopes up, or getting people's teeth grinding.
But the combination of what is definite, and what seems well attested, but not actually confirmed, seems enough for me to write this post:
1. The U.S. bishops, together with other English-speaking bishops, are preparing a new translation of all the prayers for Mass -- those that are the same, every time, and the prayers that change throughout the year. This will show up in the parish maybe, maybe toward the end of 2007, more likely 2008, and could even be further out.
2. The bishops are also working on a revision of the Lectionary -- I know of no ETA (estimated time of arrival); perhaps a commenter can provide further info.
3. It has been reported that the holy father specifies that the words of consecration pertaining to the Precious Blood be translated, "which will be shed for you and for many" (or some variant) rather than current, "for all."
4. Recently, the U.S. Bishops approved a document that calls for a common repetoire of music for all parishes. This is offered to tighten up on what can and will be used in the liturgy; however, I haven't seen the text of this document, so I don't have much to say about it. If you know where I can find it, let me know...
5. Some time back, the pope--then a cardinal, of course--wrote a book called The Spirit of the Liturgy in which he discussed all these matters, as well as others he considered serious concerns about the liturgy in the life of the Church. No one familiar with the holy father's prior writings on the liturgy is surprised to learn he is gravely concerned about the quality of liturgy, and about a right understanding of its meaning and implementation, under many aspects: how it affects the holiness and faith of individual believers and the Church, how it succeeds or fails in connecting us to our origin and tradition, how it fosters or hinders the unity of Christians, and finally, how it orients us to our true hope.
6. Now comes a report at Catholic News Agency as follows:
Rome, Dec. 15, 2006 (CNA) - Sources close to the Vatican have told Catholic News Agency that the Motu Propio by which Pope Benedict XVI would allow for the universal use of the Missal of St. Pius V may be published after Christmas, while the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist could come in mid-January 2007.
Sources confirmed the recent statements to reporters by Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, who told them after participating in a meeting of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, where the text of the Motu Propio was reviewed, that the document would come soon.
The declaration would allow the Mass of St. Pius V—often called the Tridentine Mass—to be celebrated freely and do away with the current requirement to have the explicit permission of the local bishop. The Motu Propio does not address the canonical status of the Society of St. Pius X, the schismatic organization founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
The Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, according to the same sources, has already been finished by Pope Benedict XVI and is being translated into the different languages in which it will be presented.
The document, which sources say will be issued after January 15, reaffirms the Church’s commitment to a celibate priesthood, encourages the use of Latin in liturgical celebrations, and even requests that seminarians learn the language as part of their formation.
It will also promote the recovery of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphonic music as a replacement to modern music, which would result in a gradual elimination of musical instruments that are “inappropriate” for the solemnity and reverence of the Eucharistic celebration. (Emphasis added.)
There are other indicators, such as the ending of permission for non-clergy to purify vessels, some statements by various higher-ups, and some notable choices made by the pope in the way he has celebrated the liturgy, or had it celebrated. Perhaps commenters will care to specify these; but I've tried to give the major ones, at least as I know them.
Now: what is the sum of all this?
1. As stated--change is coming.
2. I expect more than has been explicated.
This is not a prediction, but: a tantalizing question concerns ad orientem celebration of the liturgy. (Ad orientem is Latin for "toward the East" -- and it refers to the posture of the priest and people during parts of the liturgy, facing the same way. This is polemically described as the priest having "his back to the people." Contrary to common perception, Vatican II did not abolish it; rather, the council opened the door to versus populum -- facing the people -- which has become all but universal.)
Pope Benedict has many times addressed this subject, prior to his election. He believes it's an important issue. I can't believe he isn't reflecting on the question, and what his duty might not be, as Successor to Peter.
3. We all need to re-visit our liturgical education and formation--it's going to be a bumpy ride.
An awful lot of regular folks are under many false impressions, some of which must be blamed on what they've been told, seen practiced or allowed by, the hierarchy and those acting in their name. They think Latin is somehow an "intrusion" into the Mass, that the things we're talking about are somehow "pre Vatican II," and that somehow this is "going backward" (whatever that means).
For my part, I have been encouraging more Latin, more chant, less of the very contemporary-style music; we no longer use texts at the responsory psalm that aren't a proper translation (many in the hymnals are, regrettably, paraphrases); and I've set a somewhat different tone in liturgy. All this has been deliberate, both because of what I believed was coming, but also because all this is clearly called for in the liturgy already!
Think back: we've had some "tightening up" in the liturgy for several years now--it is continuing.
Unfortunately, too much discussion of this is simply off-base: this is not in the slightest contrary to Vatican II! Yet be advised, that is what you will hear, including from many pastors.
Rather, it is contrary to what has been the prevailing view of what Vatican II called for. But you may be in for a shock if you consult the actual documents of the Council, and also what has flowed from the council -- you will find that much of what you were told was "called for" was never called for; and much that was called for is only now being implemented: i.e., keeping Latin in the liturgy and giving Gregorian chant "pride of place"!
So it's really kind of odd -- sad, in many ways -- to hear folks complain against what's happening on the basis of Vatican II! Particularly when you recall that our holy father, and his immediate predecessor, were part of the council and supportive of its mandates! Oh, but they don't know the true "spirit" of the Council? Puh-leeze!
The Latin handbook we use for some of the prayers, at daily Mass at St. Boniface, was issued by Pope Paul VI -- after the Council -- in the name of what the Council called for. How can this booklet's use be contrary to Vatican II? Please explain that one to me...
A number of parishes are going to take this badly -- and I have to point the finger at those who have seen this coming, and resisted it or ignored it. When people tell me, "how come no one told us about this," what am I supposed to say?
If I may send an appeal to those bishops, priests and active laity: no one will be well-served by complaints and hostile characterizations of what this is about. If you poor-mouth these changes, you will only inspire that many more parishioners to be negative as well.
This isn't about who wins or loses. It is about being faithful. At different times, we are sorry to find out that our own judgments were mistaken. That happens to everyone. The test of character comes in how we handle that.
Finally, going all dramatic-catastrophic about this is just too much.
The Barque of Peter zigs and zags, but the Church sails on, nonetheless. If you believe, as I do, that the Holy Spirit was in charge of Vatican II, then why be fearful? The Holy Spirit's purposes in that council will be accomplished; and if the Holy Spirit could act through an ecumenical council, why can you not believe that the same Spirit is at work in Pope Benedict, and those who are collaborating with him?
This is a course-correction. Relax. Trust. Learn.
(I intend to add to this some comments for the more traditional folks. But I have to run just now...)
Update @ 9 pm...
I just got back; when I left off, I had to head to the other parish for a wedding rehearsal. I was unsure if they expected me at the dinner, as I hadn't gotten any word about it. That happens; but usually, they extend an invitation at the rehearsal. Tonight, no such invitation, so I headed back to the other parish, where we have a concert by Tatiana tonight -- it's still going on. I stayed for several songs, but was too tired to stay any longer. I was very impressed, and very pleased to have a crowd of at least 300 show up. Now I'm sitting down to have some Hunan Beef which I ordered a couple nights ago, and a cold beer. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is on...
I want to say more about what seems about to happen in the liturgy. It sure seems to me that the "reform of the reform" -- whatever shape that will take -- is about to unfold. What remains to be seen -- note this -- is how far or how fast it will proceed. Both those whose teeth want to gnash, and those beginning to salivate, should take a few breaths. Remember, Rome -- and, as it happens, God -- never feels compelled to haste, particularly when we expect it.
That said, I think at some point, it will be time for many of those deeming themselves "traditional" to become participants rather than protesters. (Some will say it's past time, but let that pass.) Many of the most emphatic of the self-described traditionalists have loudly protested, criticized, and lamented the liturgical state of affairs -- frequently with justice and received but scorn for it. But many have also been obnoxious about it, and refused to accept any responsibility for that, pointing always to what they endured as justification.
All right then . . . at some point, you stop licking your wounds, remembering your past hurts, and you become a constructive part of the future. That time may be nigh.
But one of the tests will be: whose will do you wish be done? Will you insist that it must be thine? Or will you allow the successor of Peter and the Church, in mysterious cooperation with Divine Providence, to take us forward?
Update, 12/16, 7 pm: I cleaned up some of the above -- some grammatical errors and two duplicative paragraphs. My blog; I get to do that.
Also, I want to be crystal-clear in something. I neither advocate for, nor am resistant to, the celebration of the old rite. I am a Vatican II-baby: I was born during the Council, and I have attended a "Tridentine" liturgy, I think twice. (They were authorized; no way I'd go to a liturgy not celebrated under the bishop's authority. Ecclesiology matters as well as liturgical theology.) I have no idea how to offer the Mass in the old rite, and to be very honest, I am not particularly eager to have anything more to add to my schedule -- such as having to learn how to offer the Pian Rite. On the other hand, I am very committed to the liturgy as currently promulgated, for two reasons: one, it is what I know; two, I can't help recalling Chesterton's great comment about Christianity: it's not that it's been tried and found wanting, but rather, wanted, but not tried.