Thursday, January 31, 2013

Contemporary Religious Traditionalism and the Fruits of Modernity.

We live in a most interesting time in terms of religious movements. If there is one common denominator among varieties of religious expression today, it is the burgeoning rejection of modernity and the attempt to re-institute pre-modern ideals. In Christianity, this impulse can be seen in the appeal of Greek or otherwise Orthodox Christianity, the sudden surge of Traditionalism in Roman Catholic circles, even the ideologies among more conservative camps. Of course, the rejection of modernity didn't begin in our own day. The Traditionalist school of the first half of the twentieth century could be credited with having started the trend. In the majority, leading figures of this school of thought, including the likes of Rene Geunon, despaired at the rampant materialism among Western religion. Many of them, like Geunon, were originally Roman Catholics, however, they soon abandoned the notion that Roman Catholicism could curb the tide of materialism - Roman Catholicism seeming to have forgotten its own metaphysical doctrine in favor of legalist nominalism. Traditionalist thinkers, in their rejection of Western modernity, typically utilize Hindu doctrine as a base upon which to reexamine Catholicism. Many Traditionalists utilize Islamic Mysticism as their preferred mode of spirituality, although there is always some residual attachment to the Catholicism of their youth. As one figure in the movement expressed it, there is no doubt that Catholicism works. Traditionalism always seeks to point the person to the transcendent and it dares to attempt a dialogue with the supernatural. The world beyond our own is vibrant in Traditionalist thought and there is no such thing as being content with purely human substitutions for the divine.

It is tempting to think there is connection between  Traditionalism and the "traditionalist" currents in Roman Catholicism or the increased interest in Orthodox Christianity, the opposition to modernity being the link. In Orthodoxy's case, the imposition is simply a consequence of its theological system and its historical development. In the case of Roman Catholic Traditionalism, Modernity represents the ultimate state of humanity's debasement, the lowest point away from rational thinking and intellectual coherence.

Philosophically, I am somewhat sympathetic to the Traditionalist school in so far as I do believe a sever critique of modernity in toto is due and is, in fact, looming overhead. The arc of modernity, to echo Morris Berman, is nearing its collapse as the economic, social and political schemas that rose out of modernity are pressed to their breaking points. It will not be on account of philosophical or theological reasoning that modernity enters its twilight. It will be due to social, political and economic pressures that shake modernity's basic assumptions. From an American perspective, the twenty first century began in earnest with a violent challenge to modernity. Despite a twelve year effort this challenge has not only alluded defeat, it has exerted additional pressure upon modernity's political and economic institutions. I write this as apathetic as possible: we may well have the challenge of living through an epochal change and the challenges to modernity continue to present themselves. Recent news coverage has made it apparently clear that banking institutions are above the reproach of law. Modernity sought to place everyone under the obligations of civil law. That financial institutions exist which can violate law and avoid sever penalties only serves to suggest that a new aristocracy is being birthed in modernity's wake.Theologically, I am even more sympathetic to the Traditionalist school. Modernity has served to largely produce myriads of disconnected religious experiences or movements that are ensnared in their own subjectivity.  No believer accepts context added to his or her religious experience; context, it is thought, is the beginning of the critical examination that threatens to disprove an illusion.

These days, however, the rejection of Modernity is producing a backlash against much valid and valuable scholarship on the grounds that said scholarship does not affirm the religion of the believing community. This can be seen in many areas, although perhaps most notably, from my perspective, is in the area of Biblical Studies. The late John MacKenzie once wrote (though I cannot remember in which volume) that in the aftermath of Vatican II it was not uncommon for bishops to request lectures or workshops led by Catholic Biblical scholars. There was an attempt, it seems, to fully understand the results of critical scholarship (as pertains the origin and meaning of the Bible) and find ways in which said results could be assimilated into the episcopal ministry. Today, critical scholarship is met with a world weary gaze, perhaps reasonably so. The academic industry has produce volume upon volume of ultimately inconsequential monographs and scholars in an effort to justify its payroll and the traditions of the University. The majority of Biblical scholarship is superfluous and of scant intellectual merit, unless of course one's livelihood depends on it. Yet, this doesn't change that critical scholarship produced important work in previous generations and even today the rare commentary comes along with considerable insight and depth. This being said, the majority of Biblical scholarship often comes across to Church authorities as (and indeed is) amateurish attempts at either deconstructive or reconstructive analysis.

The place of the scientific study of Scripture in Traditionalist and neo-conservative Catholicisms is uncertain as both sides have seemingly moved away from Pius XII's Divino Afflantu Spiritu in their rejection of contemporary excuses for Biblical scholarship - a venture that often seems to be comprised of ever increasing circles of grammatical haranguing and philosophical irrelevance. Yet, even where fine scholarship has taken place, historical critical scholarship is, in many respects, anti-mythic; it leaves little to no room for upholding Christianity's established mythos nor any notions of Christian participation in the "mystery" derived from said mythos. The Orthodox, for their part, largely reject higher criticism, often on the grounds that the approach and its interpretive consequences are the results of Western exclusivity, that is, historical criticism is valid on account of a presupposition among Western scholars that the Western paradigm is preeminently correct over and against all other paradigms. While there is some truth to this (historical criticism in part and parcel of a post-enlightenment paradigm), one cannot deny the success of the method. One cannot deny that it has, for those who wish to engage it, revived the voice of the original author and his intention. True, a conflict with established Christian kergyma is almost unavoidable; even where New Testament documents are concerned, we are often forced to reckon with how much of the dominant Christian interpretation of these texts is based off of the doctrinal formulations of later eras being read into a text that may well have no genuine knowledge of or conviction in later doctrinal developments. Does the New Testament, let alone the Canon as a whole, genuinely reveal the impassible Deity of Platonic philosophy? Historical critical scholarship seriously challenges such a presumption, but one cannot ignore how much the Christian concept of God is based upon a philosophical perspective foreign to the sacred text - the exception being perhaps Hebrews. Even among the most liberal Protestant denominations, one will find, I argue, a resistance to the full assimilation of historical critical scholarship- too much of their kergyma is at stake. In some respects, the rejection of historical critical scholarship is on the rise in every ideological wing of Christianity and this should indicate to what degree such scholarship is considered to be a threat to Christian kergyma. The consequence of this rejection is, it seems to me, a re-establishment of "pre-critical" religion, a growing trend in which the insights of scholarship are ignored in favor of an adulterated, classical kergyma. Again, however, this trend is not without some level of justification.

As a scholar, I would hate to think that this is necessarily the future of things, though it does seem to be the direction in which things are moving. Perhaps, however, Christianity has the right to demand an expulsion of critical scholarship. The principle desire of any religion is adherence and affirmation of its particular "product," it's particular selection of history, sacred text and narrative construction, all of which form a coherent identity for the participants and a tangible religious product that can be acquired and internalized. In so far as the participants of the religion feel they receive a return or service from this product, in so far as they believe they have experienced some benefit from a particular religion that they would otherwise not receive from another, then a religion has the right to demand pre-critical adherence. The religion, for the believer, delivers on the promise of the product. It has, then, fulfilled its part of the bargain. The believer must fulfill his part of the bargain and assent to the confines and constrictions of the resulting product of the kergyma. These restrictions increasingly include the rejection of the consequences of historical critical scholarship - there will be no recasting of text, history and narrative construction. This is, as I said, the right of any religion with regard to the believer. If one does not accept the kergyma, then one must necessarily ask if one is a believer in that particular religion. One must calculate the costs of accepting the consequences of scholarship over the established kergyma and determine what one's association should be with that religious body. This, I suppose, is the underlying concern in all of the discussion around "Catholic Identity" that has occurred in Roman circles. It is not just a matter of external aesthetics and ritual. The concern influencing proponents of "Catholic Identity" is that the credibility of the "product", of Roman Catholicism, be preserved and to do so requires the preservation of the product's integrity through adherence of its contours and confines. If Catholicism gives to any individual all that it promises to give, if it indeed does for the individual what it says it is going to do, then indeed the Catholic Church has the right to demand adherence in doctrine and praxis. This follows for just about any religious body, so long as the doctrine is intellectually sound and the praxis within reason.

Myth has an essential place in religion and the mythological narrative is often more expansive than is often thought. In Christianity, for instance, the mythological narrative extends from the sacred text into the historical development of Christianity itself. Myth, it must be noted, does not mean false. Myth is the perennial truth behind a concrete historical event. Myth is the means by which we state with utmost surety that history indeed has meaning, that our existence is not merely a succession of transient accidents. Critical scholarship, admittedly, has the potential to displace long functioning myth if its results are utilized to redefine religious observance. Yet, critical scholarship may equally offer a new possibilities for engaging the mythic world of religion. Roman Catholicism again provides us with a prime example. While Roman Catholicism protects its mythic content, these days with great tenacity, Biblical Studies (the critical scholarship of the Bible) is a fact of Roman Catholic life. Whether or not a majority of the clergy or laity utilize it or even agree with it is irrelevant - Roman Catholicism has formally integrated Biblical Studies into its ecclesiastical composition. In such forms as Pontifical commissions, university posts, written products, symposia and the occasional local study group among adherents, or even personal interest, Biblical Studies has its place in the Roman Church and engagement with such scholarship and its results is a legitimate option. It may not rise to the level of effecting dogma or liturgical observance, however, in Roman Catholicism it is possible to engage in a substantial study of the theology of Isaiah, without  referencing the traditional usage of the book. Indeed, it is sufficient to reference how another sacred author, the author of the Gospel of Matthew, understood the book as part of his own theology. This model of engagement with critical scholarship while retaining one's membership in the religious body is not practiced by the majority. It is a minority approach and will likely remain so - especially if larger religious trends keep developing in a more "pre-critical" direction. Be this as it may, this model does exists and it demonstrates how critical scholarship can exist in the mythic matrix of a religious body, even if engagement of such scholarship is the activity of a certain few.

Can critical scholarship be assimilated into the essential myth of religion? I would examine the matter from this perspective. Myth seeks to understand the perennial significance of a historical event, we must keep this in mind when considering the value of assimilating critical scholarship into a religion. Christianity utilizes a theology derived from but not necessarily synonymous with the contents of the New Testament. The New Testament authors, Matthew for instance, created a theology that utilized a particular understanding of numerous books circulating in Second Temple Judaism. These books themselves, Isaiah for example, contained a theology that was largely written in an attempt to understand an objective event post factum. Leaving aside the discussion of what ancient literature or ideas may or may not be circulating in the books the comprise Christianity's Old Testament, even the books attributed to prophetic figures describe the author's experience of an event post factum. We do not, then, necessarily have the event presented to us in its pristine form or represented as it happened. Even the New Testament does not present Jesus of Nazareth in a literal account of his life as it happened. Rather, it presents subsequent reflection upon the person of Jesus and/or the experience. This is to say that we are always necessarily removed from the event by one degree another. Critical scholarship (and this is readily acknowledged when scholars are honest with themselves) does not reveal or present the Truth itself. Rather, it returns the reader to the original author's context and intention. It does not and cannot point toward the objective event itself. Moses' encounter with Yahweh cannot be defined by critical scholarship. We can establish what narrative techniques were employed, theological intentions and perhaps literary parallels, but critical scholarship cannot define the original event upon which subsequent literary reflection is based. Critical scholarship can make similar findings concerning the New Testament narratives. It cannot, however, define the person of Jesus of Nazareth, a person who has alluded historical biography and has, as a result, managed to transcend his own history.

This is where the veracity of religious narrative is established, where the value appreciates. Critical scholarship has much to offer in so far as the author's original intention opens new theological vistas for our exploration. It cannot, in my estimation, establish the truth of events that allude scientific definition. The religious narrative is one in continuum of interpretation of the original event. It's veracity is underwritten by the religion's ability to do what it says it can or will do. The goal, I believe, is to find some manner in which the interpretation of the original author is a valid and valued quantity in the praxis of the religion. The Roman Church, despite the myriad of obstacles facing it these days, is notable for having achieved such a goal. For critical scholarship to actually have any real value, scholars must see their model as one valid interpretative method among others, the limitations of historical critical inquiry being conceded in the hope that its many strengths might be appreciated.






Friday, January 11, 2013

Roy's Walking Papers

So, Fr. Bourgeois has received his walking papers from Rome.

I am not now nor will I ever in the future engage in that issue here. I have my perspective on it and I will leave it at that. I will however address Roy Bourgeois. I've heard him speak on this issue - he does not present a theological case for his stance and his overly dramatic bouts on this issue. He furthermore does not make much of case on generally intellectual grounds - it is more emotionalism that fits the mood of the supporting crowd.

Bourgeois has made this his drama. He has made every dramatic action available to him in support of an issue for which he has yet to provide any substantial philosophical or theological case. He has, then, much to be accountable for. Bourgeois touts women's ordination in the Catholic Church as a social justice issue. Perhaps further evidence that Bourgeois mind is theologically, philosophically and sociologically confused. THIS, this is it, this is your social justice issue, Roy. Looking around the world, looking at the manifest evidence of the human condition, THIS is what you've chosen for a soapbox? I have to believe, all things just and justice considered, Roy's sense of social justice is just a bit distorted.

My two cents.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity
by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
New York University Press


Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke has a theory, a theory that a certain mythic reconcpetualization of Nazism was diffused after the conclusion of the Second World War and permeates in our contemporary culture. This is not your typical brute skinhead running amok (although they do factor into this book). Rather, this is about the transmutation of Nazism into a form of post-modern mysticism.

Of course all things have roots. Goodrick-Clarke's previous entry in this subject matter, The Occult Roots of Nazism, demonstrated the intersection of occult and esoteric movements and beliefs in the formation of German nationalism and, eventually, the formation of Nazism. This was part of a response to concrete socio-economic challenges or threats that faced Germany in the aftermath of World War I. Similarly, the reconceptualization of Nazism is part of an immediate response to perceived socio-economic threats. Goodrick-Clarke identifies these threats as globalization (bringing with it the migration of people and culture) and the diffusion of democratic and capitalist societies (concrete agents of cultural revision). The response comes from individuals fearing the epoch of change in which we appear to be in the midst of. Watching cultures take on new multi-ethnic identities or the sight of previous social taboos vanishing as the workforce and economic opportunity initiate broader social and political change, or being excluded from new economic opportunities, has ignited an interest among white Americans and Europeans the last front of militant ethnic and multi-cultural resistance in the West. Everything has origins. Goodrick-Clarke identifies the origins of today's mystical Nazism with scholarship of the 19th century. The work of Christian Lassen in 1845 argued, on academic grounds, for the historical proof of Indo-Ayran supremacy and Semetic inferiority. The Indo-Ayran motif turned attention toward India itself. Therein, the early politics of Indian independence from England and early responses to Charles Darwin came into play. Theosophists like Blatavatsky appealed to their understanding of Hinduism while still processing Lassen's work. Meanwhile, Hindu nationalists capitalized on themes of Indo Aryan superiority to foster resistance to England. These currents were popular among continental occultists and even became popular themes. It was this vast cultural theme, a widely known form of racially based esoteric spirituality, that swirled around the rise of the third reich and provided fodder for later day neo-Nazi revisionists.

Goodrick-Clarke attempts to document the diffusion of this race based mysticism among Nazi apologists and  contemporary occult movements. He does this remarkably well to a great extent and teases some interesting and typically unconsidered correlations. The chic status of Buddhist and Hindu derived motifs among New Agers, Baby Boomers and others seeking alternative spiritualities ultimately derives from the efforts of Aryan supremacists in the 1800s to define the "Aryan" as a mystical super human race - Christianity having been rejected because it was inherently Semitic and rejected the concept of a mighty warrior god. Consequently, much of the vitriolic rhetoric towards Christianity among subsequent esoteric groups is largely a residual idea from a larger body of material that sought to prove white supremacy and racial inferiority. Goodrick-Clarke provides substantial documentation of the ideological make-up of immediate post World War II Nazi mysticism and the pathological fixation with which writers such as Savitri Devi and Miguel Serrano had with disestablishing Christianity and replacing it with a revived paganism which, in their interpretation, divinized the human impulses towards war and conquest. Goodrick-Clarke demonstrates that the ideal of paganism as most complementary to a modern warrior society (as well as the ambition to institute paganism) was firmly subscribed to by SS head Heinrich Himmler. This ideology surfaces during the occult revival of the 60s and 70s - Nazi aesthetics and occasional Aryan philosophy coming in vogue among various occult groups, including the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set. This ideology develops a popular cultural expression in the form of contemporary "white noise" and Norwegian Black Metal.

On the other side of the spectrum, mystical Nazism eventual meshes with Christian theology, largely in the United States. Early us Nazism starts of as a Christian conservative backlash against the rising ethnic diversity of the country and changing economic fortunes. However, the European model of Nazi mysticism makes it Stateside and American neo-Nazism undergoes some unique transformations as it tries to accommodate the anti-Christian orientation of its old world counterpart. The end result is, suffice it to say, some "interesting" re-interpretations of Christian theology - think Marcionism and Gnostic dualism and you're getting there. Which leads to another teased correlation: today's  cultural interest in Gnosticism, and the empowerment Gnostic Christianity gives on over traditional Catholic or Orthodox Christianity, cannot be divorced from the attempts of Nazi apologists to create a palatable form of Christian theology amicable to theories of Ayran supremacy.

It is impossible to do any just account to the content of Black Sun in this space. It is, to be sure, a rich text. Be that as it may, it is not flawless. Goodrick-Clarke is clear in his terms and rather rigid in his definitions. Modernity (and post-modernity) is synonymous with freedom and the general positive progression of Western Society. Goodrick-Clarke correctly points out the common theme of rejecting the modern world found in "Nazi esotericism." However, he presents any critique of the modern world as somehow synonymous with Nazism or race based mysticism. Any criticism of modernity is rendered impossible unless one secretly subscribes to the philosophical principles of fascism. One is then forced, in Goodrick-Clarke's paradigm, to reject scores of intellectuals who questioned the merits of modernism or capitalism and who could not be confused with any of the ideologues discussed in this book. Perhaps it was an editorial decision to make the title more accessible to an audience who would likely not invest the time to do much background reading. Whatever the case may be, Goodrick-Clarke's somewhat dismissive analysis to the critique of modernity is intellectually dishonest and the reader needs to exercise some caution when the author makes such interpretative brush strokes.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Epiphania Domini

The Solemnity of the Epiphany in the Missale Romanum of Paul VI is a precious example of a complete transfer of euchological texts from the "Tridentine" Missal to modern Roman liturgy. There were many revisions to the orations of the Roman liturgy, be it wholesale excision or heavy redaction. Today's collect is one of fairly ancient use,

Deus, qui hodierna die Unigentium tuum
gentibus stella duce revelasti,
concede propitius, ut, qui iam te ex fide cognovimus,
usque ad contemplandam specium tuae celsitudinis perducamur.

The collect juxtaposes the account of the vision of magi with contemplative vision. The magi see the incarnate  Deity and thereby come to know him. The collect acknowledges that the human being does not experience such a theophany, that, perhaps, the time of such divine vision has essentially passed. Nevertheless, we have knowledge of God through faith. However, the collect looks towards the contemplative vision of God. In my estimation, this final clause has three possible interpretations. Ad contemplandam specium tuae celsitudinis perducamur can point us towards the contemplative vision of God in the heavenly court, the concept of theoria as defined in ancient monastic literature, or indeed a vision of the divine facilitated by liturgical observance or canonical prayer. The vision of God in the heavenly court would likely be eschatological or in the context of the transitus of the soul. The vision of the Deity resulting from either theoria or liturgical observance, however, is experiential and possible in temporal reality. In the context of the Mass set (Pauline Missal), if we utilize the Preface as a hermeneutical key, the contemplative vision would appear to be either at the soul's transitus or the eschaton. From the Preface,

Quia ipsum in Christo salutis nostrae mysterium
hodie ad lumen gentium revelasti,
et, cum in substantia nostrae mortalitatis apparuit,
nova nos immortalitatis eius gloria reparasti.

In the end, the vision of God in eternity, while possibly discouraging the vision of God through theoria or liturgical observance, offers consolation. Any experiential vision of the divine is subject to some form of mediation and subsequent attempts at interpretation.The eternal utilizes the limitations of the finite to communicate itself. The ontological disparity necessarily prevents a direct vision of the Deity in all of his essence. At the transitus or the eschaton, the limitations of the finite disappear as our properties become closer to that of the Deity and we are God no longer utilizes the finite to mediate himself. In this respect, the vision that is to come transcends every previous theophany.

Not something that would be apparent in English and another reason for "unmediated" experience of the Latin.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jesus' Wife - the Saga Continues...

CNN reports.

So, the most anticipated article to appear in Harvard Theological Review since, well, ever (so far as the general public is concerned) is delayed until further testing is completed. Be forewarned: this round of testing may not resolve the controversy. Harvard and the owner of the fragment are contracting out facilities to test the fragment. Scholars will likely demand a testing facility is chosen by someone outside of the university or the owner if the results come back positive. Not an unreasonable response given the questionable history of the fragment.

I would imagine there is anxiety for both Karen King and Harvard University. Reputations are on the line and academia does not forget monumental errors.

In response to Ron Schmit at NCR

Due to both the timing of the article and its source - I normally do not have the patience to trawl through the NCR - I overlooked this article by Fr. Ron Schmit of California. I must state upfront, NCR has about as much intellectual credibility as the American hierarchy they so often critique. NCR had a field day playing host to numerous baleful Catholics mourning the advent of the new translation of the Pauline Missal. Schmit's article takes the same histrionic posture towards, apparently, the growing use and/or influence of the "Tridentine" liturgy.

As I've noted elsewhere, I do not see an explosive interest or imposition of the old liturgy. I believe many more young priests, religious and seminarians are interested in it. Of course, the SSPX and FSSP are strong enclaves of its use in Roman Catholicism, whatever the canonical status happens to be. For the present, it seems the Pauline Missal is still the normative liturgy in the Roman Church. Although Fr. Schmit is not so much fretting about the present, so much as he is fearful that present trends are indicative of a future reality. Fair enough. Here is a relevant excerpt from the article:
"Liturgy is not about taste or aesthetics. It is how the church defines itself. Those who rejected Vatican II and its liturgy were the first to understand the connection between liturgy and our self-understanding as church.
Pope Paul VI also understood this. The rejection of the Vatican II liturgy is a rejection of its ecclesiology and theology. In his newly published book True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium, Massimo Faggioli narrates Paul's response when his philosopher friend Jean Guitton asked why not concede the 1962 missal to breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers. Paul responded:

Never. This Mass ... becomes the symbol of the condemnation of the council. I will not accept, under any circumstances, the condemnation of the council through a symbol. Should this exception to the liturgy of Vatican II have its way, the entire council would be shaken. And, as a consequence, the apostolic authority of the council would be shaken.
Paul knew that permitting the old form would be not only divisive but would call the whole council into doubt, and that would be a sin against the Holy Spirit. Now we are experiencing the unfortunate fruit of the recent permission to celebrate the extraordinary form."
There is no shortage of apocryphal stories of Paul VI, especially as concerns liturgy and ecclesiology. His quote from Paul VI hardly supports his point: the ultimate concern of Paul VI seems to be obeisance to "apostolic" authority - not surprising for a pontif who found his authority questioned on all sides. Nevertheless, Schmit sees a fearful development on the horizon. Namely, the "Tridentine" liturgy threatens to dethrone a conceptualization of the Church in vogue in certain sectors the past forty or so years.
Schmit goes on to cite an example of the tired (and perhaps expiring) liturgical theology that has dominated English speaking liturgics:
"In her article "Summorum Pontificum and the Unmaking of the Lay Church" (Worship, July 2012), scholar Georgia Masters Keightley identifies those elements recovered by the council from the ancient church. These express the active exercise of the priestly people of God: the prayer of the faithful, the offertory procession and the kiss of peace. These were visible signs that expressed the church's priesthood. These signs incarnate for the priesthood of all believers the task to proclaim the Gospel and to make intercession for the world and all people.
Over time, these elements were lost or obscured. By the time we get to the Council of Trent (1545-63), new prayers and rites had replaced the ancient rites. Keightley writes:
These made no room for the laity's intercessions for the world and its people. Gone was any visible sign of the sacrificial offering of self that takes form in those daily efforts to welcome the stranger, care for the poor, and steward the earth's resources. Neither was there allowance for that sincere expression of the fellowship and communion the Church claims to celebrate and witness. With their disappearance, an important dimension of the liturgy also receded, i.e., the primitive Church's appreciation of the Eucharist as a sacrificium laudis (sacrifice of praise)."  
When I began studying the Patristic texts that supposedly inform us as to how the earliest liturgies were celebrated, I was shocked, positively shocked, at the apparent suspension of all critical faculties on the part of liturgists. Let's be clear: even when one finds phrases that could be translated as "bringing of the gifts," "kiss of peace" or "intercessions of/for the faithful" the reference on the part of the ancient author (even in many supposed ancient ordos) lacks context. We are left without an explicit description of the machanics of these elements. Furthermore,  I am left to wonder Keightley (the scholar cited by Schmit) has any familiarity with the liturgy that has put her in such a tizzy. No sign of "sacrifical offering of self" or "welcoming the stranger" or "care for the poor"? Excuse me, have you simply ignored the flowering of Medieval spirituality and, in turn, Catholic mysticism? I must suppose she has, as it is very difficult to study such material and not notice the pervasive liturgical reference and influences. But how about something more contemporary. How about Peter Maurin, Virgil Michel or Dorothy Day? Three figures who found in the "Tridentine" liturgy the impetus and inspiration to welcome the stranger and care for the poor. Perhaps there is simply no excuse. Perhaps it is just a matter of sloppy or ideological scholarship. Moving on...

Schmit defines the "Tridentine" liturgy as the private ritual of the priest. By comparison, the Pauline liturgy represents "the risen Christ working through the whole people of God (lay and ordained)." Really, when was the last time I alone, or any other laymen, successfully celebrated Mass, including concentration. The Pauline Mass, much like the "Tridentine" lives or dies based on the presence of a priest. Furthermore, the 1962 Missale Romanum made provision many of the same roles taken up by laity in Pauline Mass. The deference being the "Tridentine" liturgy's rubrics expect a better trained body. Giving the dog a bone doesn't mean you've liberated the laity, Ron.

The next quote is astounding in its hubris:
"The attempt to resurrect and popularize the 1962 pre-Vatican II Mass has serious ramifications. Will we be a church that looks narrowly inward -- where God is found only in piety and private devotion, or will we be a church as Vatican II defined it -- a Spirit-filled people on fire with an urgent sense of mission?"
What? Really? Does Fr. Schmit provide any such evidence that the "Tridentine" liturgy intrinsically fosters only narrow inwardness? Or that "Tridentine" communities do so? Why no, he doesn't. But he is one of those  "powerful" members of the clergy, telling his (largely passive) lay audience it is so - irony of ironies.  Virgil Michel and the liturgical movement in general (I'm thinking Guaridini, Parsch, et al.) would beg to differ with Fr. Schmit's opinion. So too would the people to attend the old liturgy. If there was one lesson that should have been learned from the greatest theologians of the liturgical movement (but, sadly, was not), it is that the "Tridetine" liturgy in of itself was the source of inspiration for some of the broader goals that began to attach to the movement around the 1930s. Virgil Michel often found the "Tridentine" liturgy to be theoria upon which social praxis, praxis often at odds with the values of contemporary capitalist society, was oriented. Then again, and with all due respect, Virgil Michel had probably forgotten more theology than many contemporary authors are capable of remembering. There is a popular account (possibly apocryphal) that Dorothy Day had the "Tridentine" Missal and Breviary always at her bedside. If we cannot see the correlation between social praxis and the Tridentine liturgy as both the source and goal of said praxis as a long since passed generation did, then it is our own poor formation that is to blame. Perhaps this will prove to be a good thing. We don't have much magnum mysterium left in the West. Perhaps the mystery of how the old liturgy was both the impetus and ultimate goal of radical social praxis is just what we need to for a return to mystery. Wishful thinking, I know.

I am often left wondering how many people who act with such drama over a renewed interest in the "Tridentine" liturgy have actually experienced it. I don't mean reading books about it or even a copy of the 1962 Missale Romanum. I mean genuinely experiencing it. Not just on one bout of religious tourism, but indeed establishing it as one's canonical prayer. Unless one does (and this entails devoting significant time to do so) one's observations are shallow, drawn more from a neurotic response than from an experiential critique of any substance. Fr. Schmit's article is redolent with a liturgical dualism that denudes the old liturgy of its rich history and upholds an artificial separation between it and the living experience of divine dynamism. The old Roman liturgy has been on a long journey. The "Tridentine" liturgy, at its "core" was defined by Gregory the Great. Among its euchological corpus, we find prayers and Mass sets of antiquity. But we also find the marks of successive ages. The "Tridentine" Missal is itself largely a the Roman liturgy of the Mass as it existed circa 1100. As such, the spirituality of the Medieval period joins some very ancient elements from the Italian pennisula. When studying the euchological corpus of the old liturgy, one finds (typically in the propers of the saints) that every successive age left its mark on the liturgy and informed its concept of the divine and the human person. Therefore, I would not be surprised when (not if) the Vatican releases an updated version of the "Tridentine" Missal incorporating new feasts in the Sanctoral and perhaps updating the proper texts of certain feasts that were taken from the commons. I also would not be surprised to find High Mass becoming the new norm of celebration of the old liturgy. Every age has left its mark on the old Roman liturgy. If the "Tridentine" liturgy is slowly coming to the fore, then this age too will engage in sacred exchange of ideas, being formed by the liturgy and in turn leaving the mark of its experience in history of the Missal. Any attempt at isolating the "Tridentine" liturgy to any particular age or ecclesiolgy does not acknowledge its complex history and the manner in which successive ages added their particular contribution to its contents.

Schmit is correct, however, in stating that liturgy potentially defines perception. As much as we would do well to rediscover the correlation between the "Tridentine" liturgy and the Roman Church's long subsided golden age of social doctrine, we would do equally well if we rediscovered the old liturgy's sense of the Deity, humanity and interconnectivity between the natural and the supernatural. This would mean more than reading a few books or hanging on to the "wisdom" of a generation of acontextual liturgical theology whose ideas are long since past their shelf life. Once again, I'm aware so much amounts to wishful thinking.