Friday, December 15, 2006

Pope Benedict about to make his mark on the liturgy?

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.

17 comments:

Nancy said...

It's all very interesting. I was basically kicked off The Worship Commission at our parish when I mentioned the L word (Latin) and how we were supposed to occasionally use it for the ordinary of the mass. It stared a huge arguement and some said that Spanish would be a more appropriate foreign language to use (even though we have no Spanish speaking families currently in our parish). Little did they know I was a Spanish major in college who also studied French and linguistics and totally disagreed with that sentiment.

I hope that people realize the value in using Latin, not just to retain the rich history and universality of our church, but so that they can hear the beautiful poetry of many of the hymns and gregorian chant that were originally in Latin. They lose the meter, rythmn and flow of the original language in translation to other languages.

There is also a huge educational value in teaching our children some Latin as well. Ask the premier public school in Cincinnati about that. They require all jur high students to study Latin.

Anonymous said...

Our curate said that the brievary is also going to be revised 'the intercessions are out dated'. I hadn't heard this, is it correct?

Anonymous said...

This is mostly a FWIW . . .
Would love to see Latin return. I definitely think ad orientem would be valuable both in the newer round and thrust type churches and the more traditional long aisle places. It emphasizes the equality with which we all approach God rather than the priest above us all.

However, I am bothered by opening up the Tridentine Mass. Why don't we just encourage the Novus Ordo in Latin. We need a NEW order of the Mass that responds to the insights that drove VatII rather than one grounded in the Reformation. Catholics should be once again known by our Latin across the world.

The Church moves through history, it is incarnational. We need music that speaks to the modern experience rather than the Reformation/Early Modern experience, however that doesn't mean we toss off hundreds of years of accumulated work, rather it needs to exist in a sort of dialogs.

A little rambling... It is the Advent season after all.

Tom said...

What an awesome post, Father. I appreciate your insight and how well it is expressed.....

Wow! This is all so interesting and wonderfully exciting. I can't wait for it to all come to pass. Now it looks as if the Holy Father will bring the mass back to where it should have been the whole time.

The question I have is, is there any structure or method by which Rome can enforce such changes on the Bishops? Or for that matter, the local Bishops impose them on each parish?

The fact that the current Mass, "by the book", is drastically different from the actual Sunday Mass at most parishes (including improper procedures by Eucharistic ministers, hand-holding, clapping, interjection of ad-libbed phrases to the prayers, etc.) would seem to indicate an inability (or perhaps unwillingness) of Bishops to keep the parishes in line. That being the case, how on earth are they going to get them to include Latin in their masses? Not to mention the TLM!

Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

On a purely personal preference level I am delighted to hear of the returns of Latin and Gregorian chant. Bring 'em on!
Many thanks, Fr. Fox, for spending the time to bring us this info.
Julia

Anonymous said...

Any transition will only be as "bumpy" as the USCCB wants it to be. The U.S. bishops know very well the significance of these changes. They know, that the Holy Father knows, the great spiritual value contained within the Latin language and the position Ad Orientem.
But do they care? Most want no part of this, history says so. The USCCB is interested in what Rome says only when it pertains to war or capital punishment.
So, expect the changes desired by the Vicar of Christ for the benefit of his flock to be resisted ad infinitum. Again, history says so.
A.M.D.G.

Anonymous said...

thank you fr.fox, please eat healthy, exercise, take vitamins, get your teeth cleaned every six months, have a check-up yearly, we need you to be around for A VERY LONG TIME.

Doug Barber said...

Exactly right. Between the "spirit of Vatican II allows if not requires Priests dressed as Barney to celebrate the Mass" folks, and the "Anything in English is trash" people, lies the liturgical mean. May we swiftly find it, and may we be amenable to help from Rome.

PMcGrath said...

I love what is coming from Rome, but without an enforcement mechanism in the documents, they're worse than useless.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

A couple of weeks ago you had a similar reflection about the liturgical changes coming from Rome. It now appears that there are serious liturgical changes from our Holy Father that may no longer be ignored. Your reflection is measured and balanced.

It is unfortunate that so many allowed a "Spirit of Vatican II" to lead and guide them as opposed to the Holy Spirit that you rightfully allude to. You mention that you are a "vatican II baby." The problem with this minset, through no fault of your own, is that it is presumptious. This mindset would have many believe that the 1,960 years prior to Vatican II are significantly irrelevant. I believe you are an exception to this, but over many years I have heard priest say that after the Council they felt they
had a mandate to reshape the ecclesiology of Church, Sacraments, etc. Obviously they are in profound error. One Bishop in our area personnaly told me he would no longer enroll prospective young priest candidates in a
certain regional major seminary because of this very error. He had seen the end product of this particular Seminary and branded it as "deformed training." He was onto something.

You say you are neither advocate nor resistant to the "Old rite." I would like to think that you could be more definitive (positive?) about this Eucharisitic Celebration for the simple fact that it is a sure form in which your Saviour and mine fulfills His promise "to be with us always until the end of the age." Having said this, I do not know if I will be able to participate in this Eucharistic Celebration. However, because of the great efficacious and meritorious effect it will provide, I am glad of its import to our Lord's Church here on earth.

You are right about the fact that so many of the Lord's faithful (bishops, priest, and laity) have bought into something that was never grounded in actual fact. In this sense it was a "false spirit" of Vatican II that led to the mindset that so much of previous Church history could be ignored and put in the closet. Perhaps this is the "smoke in the sanctuary" that Pope Paul VI purportedly referred to regarding certain interpretations of Council Documments. One can only speculate. What we do know is that the present Pontiff is preparing to do something that, as Vicar of Christ, he feels is very important to Roman Catholic liturgical life.

Yes, Father Fox, the Holy Spirit is going to tie a rope around His mystical Bride on earth and take Her to liturgical places that some members would rather not go. I look forward to this gift from the Holy Spirit; a gift of Heavely nourishement for those who enjoy working in Christ vineyards.

I, too, amplify what others above said--your thoughts are well ordered on this topic. It now appears that you and your fellow priest will have some work to do. In this we will pray for you.

Ohevin

Father Martin Fox said...

Ohevin:

Thanks for your generous comments.

My reason for calling myself a "Vatican II baby" was hardly to suggest what lies before was "irrelevant." Rather, my point was simply to point out I am not "nostalgic," and I am not complaining about the lack of the prior rite.

Too many folks approach this subject with a high degree of partisanship, and folks are expected to take sides: either for Vatican II and the current rite, as usually celebrated; or you are for Tradition, the old rite, and you want to be rid of the current rite.

Well, guess what? I'm not a partisan on this matter, and I refuse to become one. I am very put off by those (you find them at various sites) equate being pro-Tradition with rejecting the Vatican II reform of the liturgy.

(And, I might add, such an approach may prove to be very counterproductive, if not destructive.)

It shouldn't be necessary to say this, but alas, perhaps it is: I fully embrace Vatican II.

I agree with the holy father's "hermeneutic of continuity" which -- if I may say so -- I was arguing in the seminary (although I didn't come up with the pithy name): "Two churches ("pre-" and "post-Vatican II") equals no Church." I consider it presumptuous to challenge the Council's judgment in calling for reforms.

That said -- the task of authentically implementing the mandates of the Council remains far from complete. That is not terribly surprising -- it's only been 40 years.

Anonymous said...

Father,

Well said.

May our Beloved Lord fill you with many blessings this week.

Ohevin

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Thanks for the advance news Father. I'll be very curious to see how (whether) these changes are implemented in my parish.

Looking forward to it!

Nancy H said...

Great post, Father.

I often wonder that if the issue had been the Mass and nothing but the Mass, that the indult could have easily have been granted a long time ago. It's the other nonsense that has gone along with the discussion on the Mass that has held things up.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard about a revision of the lectionary. Are they revising the translation or revising the selections?

Marie

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

You did a marvelous job.

David wonders why we just cannot celebrate the mass of Paul VI in Latin. Certainly the current mass in Latin with both the people and the priest facing God together would be a vast improvement over much current liturgical practice.

The Pian or Tridentine mass is not "one grounded in the Reformation." Pius V modestly and respectfully pared back to basics a 1,000+ year old rite. There was no break with the past. There was a break in 1969. That break violated the rights of the faithful guaranteed by Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium to having the old rite preserved.

This is the problem that Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger pointed to. The liturgy has always been reformed through continuity. Genuine development was interrupted by the Missal of 1969. The Missal issued in 1965 right after the Council already met the requirements of the Council. One can legitimately ask whether Pope Paul VI exceeded his authority when he changed the liturgy as he did with the 1969 Missal. However one answers that question, the pope believes the availability of the old rite is necessary for the organic growth of the liturgy envisioned by the liturgical movement and the Council.

Chant is sneaking back into the mass. Chant is singing so that we in the pews can join in. Today (Fourth Sunday of Advent) in our parish (Blessed Sacrament, Wichita) we did the sung parts to the tune of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (a 9th century chant) in a setting done by Richard Proulx. No one knew they were singing chant, so no one complained. The communion hymn was also a ninth century chant (“Creator of the stars of night”) sung in English.

Chant like the Roman Rite is a cultural link back to the Jewish Christianity of Peter and John. Its undying quality is the oral embodiment of church’s timeless existence.

-Malcolm Harris (Fr. Fox,

You did a marvelous job.

David wonders why we just cannot celebrate the mass of Paul VI in Latin. Certainly the current mass in Latin with both the people and the priest facing God together would be a vast improvement over much current liturgical practice.

The Pian or Tridentine mass is not "one grounded in the Reformation." Pius V modestly and respectfully pared back to basics a 1,000+ year old rite. There was no break with the past. There was a break in 1969. That break violated the rights of the faithful guaranteed by Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium to having the old rite preserved.

This is the problem that Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger pointed to. The liturgy has always been reformed through continuity. Genuine development was interrupted by the Missal of 1969. The Missal issued in 1965 right after the Council already met the requirements of the Council. One can legitimately ask whether Pope Paul VI exceeded his authority when he changed the liturgy as he did with the 1969 Missal. However one answers that question, the pope believes the availability of the old rite is necessary for the organic growth of the liturgy envisioned by the liturgical movement and the Council.

Chant is sneaking back into the mass. Chant is singing so that we in the pews can join in. Today (Fourth Sunday of Advent) in our parish (Blessed Sacrament, Wichita) we did the sung parts to the tune of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (a 9th century chant) in a setting done by Richard Proulx. No one knew they were singing chant, so no one complained. The communion hymn was also a ninth century chant (“Creator of the stars of night”) sung in English.

Chant like the Roman Rite is a cultural link back to the Jewish Christianity of Peter and John. Its undying quality is the oral embodiment of church’s timeless existence.

-Malcolm Harris
http://ex-corde-ecclesiae.blogspot.com/

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