Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : The contemporary context

Forward: I present this as I wrote it. Unfinished and likely to never see any additional development. It is exceedingly difficult to continue writing on a topic I continue to care less and less about.


The Missale Romanum of Paul VI is THE liturgy of the Roman Church. It seemed best to state that right out of the gate so no time is spent belaboring well exhausted and practically irrelevant points about the circumstances surrounding its implementation and the controversies that followed. To reiterate: these points are irrelevant and now excessively documented. Time and ink has been spent on regurgitating the same points, all under the illusion of inaugurating a reform of the reform or a restoration of the old missal. There is nothing to be said against the Missal and Breviary of Paul VI, there is no criticism no matter how intelligent, that was not argued at some point or another in the 1970s. Furthermore, the majority of the contemporary critics have more often than not refused to research the motivations of the members of the Concilium aside from Bugnini, who, rightfully or wrongfully, has functioned as suitable nemesis for certain groups.

Expectations that the liturgy of Paul VI will be abolished or so heavily redacted that its Missal and Breviary resemble the Tridentine models needs to be tempered by several facts that point towards the more-or-less permanent status of the Pauline liturgy.

  • The Pauline liturgy bears the mark of John Paul II. The late bishop of Rome presided over the addition of new feasts and revised Mass formularies from the previous editions and a third typical edition of Missal. Indeed, the Pauline liturgy, in virtue of the restoration of suppressed feasts that apparently had some connection to his own piety (and perhaps mysticism), may be said to reflect, in certain areas, aspects of his spirituality. This is to say nothing of the impact of the man on a whole generation of Roman Catholics whose very idea of Roman Catholicism is intimately entwined with his pontificate.
  • Benedict XVI never intended to displace the Pauline liturgy. Contrary to the proof texting of Traditionalists, a thorough review of Ratzinger's liturgical work does not support a contention that he sought to abolish the Pauline liturgy or in manner rejected it. As a cardinal, Ratzinger was well aware of the difficulty caused by such a sudden overhaul of the Roman Rite and the manner in which it was imposed. Yet, when discussing the Pauline liturgy itself, Ratzinger was, barring minor criticisms, content with the new Missal and, by all available evidence, completely adopted the Liturgia Horarum as his canonical prayer. This is significant; in the context of Roman ecclesiology, the most authoritative voice cited by Traditionalist cannot be either hold or teach their position.
  • The Roman Church's demonstrable growth is occurring outside or a Western context that has little to no cultural memory of the Tridentine liturgy. Denying that such a drastic reform of the Roman liturgy contributed to the decline of the Roman Church in Western Europe and North America is a basic denial of a phenomenon that is demonstrable in recorded history: when religious or cultural rituals of an immemorable quality (meaning that there is no real cogniscance of when the ritual concretely took form and was applied), the previous modes of social, religious and cultural cohesion evaporate. Historically, only a firm exercise of authority, with the ability to exact extreme penalty upon any dissent, is able to act as the cohesive force that reconstitutes those dispersed modes of unity. Paul VI, having instituted such a revolution in the Roman Church, did the natural thing by being so stringent with Traditionalists. This is the normative response of authority to retain cohesion. Yet, such methods were ineffective in a post-modern Western context in which the autonomy of the individual is an intellectual and cultural presumption. Thoroughly recasting the Roman liturgy had the effect that similar ritual reengineering has had thorought history. The better part of Roman Church in the West lost is social, cultural, and religious coherence. For its part, the hierarchy did not have the political leverage to exercise authority in such a way so as to force cohesion. This is not a critic of the theological content or spirituality of the new liturgy. Rather, it is sociological argument drawn from the historical examples we have of such similar ritual recasts. Whereas this was the experience in the West, in Africa and Asia, the sources of Catholicism's growth, the experience was the opposite. The Tridentine liturgy could not be said to have much cultural memory for those continents. If the Tridentine liturgy had any cultural memory in these areas, it was largely associated with colonialism, as the ritual imposition of a conquering power. Again, this is not a theological or spiritual critique; it is a sociological argument. The Pauline liturgy, conversely, is viewed as Africa's liturgy, Asia's liturgy. It has embedded itself as the liturgy of cultural memory in these two areas where Catholicism continues to show the most growth and, in the case of Africa, the most stringent adherence to theological orthodoxy. Furthermore, Africa is leaving its impact on the Roman liturgy. This can be seen in the localization of the Roman Rite for Zaire and the Kenyan edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, a project that is largely considered to be Cardinal Arinze's liturgical legacy.
The above being noted, this is not to say that there are no intellectually valid criticisms of the Novus Ordo - there are. However, the time to raise such criticisms and tenaciously argue for them was when the first Missa normative was demonstrated in 1967. Practically speaking, the valid criticisms of the Novus Ordo have no real relevance. The Roman Church has no real option of going back and undoing what was done or restoring excised elements. Rather, the most feasible option is to work with the framework that was instituted (or imposed, depending on one's point of view) in 1970. This option presents both prospects and challenges that will likely only be resolved through the passage of time.

The vernacular is both a prospect and a challenge. Plainly, it is not going away, but it has raised dilemmas for which a satisfactory response has yet to be posed. Traditionalist arguments for Latin often times ring with tones of superstition. There is no intrinsic quality to Latin, linguistically speaking, that makes it most suitable for liturgical use. This is the science of language speaking, not piety. There is nothing in the key texts of the Missale Romanum (old or new) that cannot be presented in the vernacular. ICEL, of course, defended its medicore translation of the 1970s on the grounds that the Roman Canon was too difficult to translate. Traditionalists ran with the notion. In reality, the Roman Canon has been accurately translated in a variety of languages. As this traditionally most important component of the Roman liturgy, there is little justification for arguments affirming the intrinsic superiority of Latin - linguistically, it just isn't there.

The collections  of euchological texts and hymns prove to be slightly challenging to the above position. In both instances, subtle allusions are made in the Latin text that are not at times captured by the vernacular. This said, the allusions are of such a quality that a) most people with a working knowledge of Latin would not pick up on them and b) it is debatable if they make any appreciable impact on their greater liturgical function and meaning. The hymns are of a particular concern. They have been largely left untranslated in the current English breviaries and there is still little certainty of how well they will function in a vernacular translation and chant setting. With this in mind, it must be admitted that the greatest argument for Latin is its treasury of artistic expression. Some chant settings designed for Latin cannot be adequately reproduced in the vernacular. In such instances, however, it is not the language per se` but the laws of music composition which determine the value of retaining Latin.

Afterward: So there we end it. It does little good to continue with the now tired analysis of the Pauline liturgy of the Roman Church. Years ago I wrestled with this issue. I began by trying to simply make sense of the changes, then argue against then changes, defend the changes, and then simply continue my own private study of the history of the Western liturgy.
It does little use arguing against the liturgy of Paul VI. Rome rarely changes its mind, especially on matters that could cause it to lose face. Additionally, there is the simple matter of historical precedent. Pius X, not Paul VI, got the ball rolling on the deconstruction of the historic liturgy of Latin Christianity. This is the paradox of the current liturgical climate in the Roman Church; the debate centers around 20th century mutations of the Latin tradition that progressively divorced the Roman liturgy from the Latin tradition, the Missal of 1962 included.
This being said, there is a very real matter that must be considered and given due respect. It is this: the majority of the Roman Church, the overwhelming majority, has accepted the liturgy of Paul VI. It is a very simple fact that Traditionalists and historians of the Latin liturgy are both prone to glance over. The mutations of the Roman liturgy that gradually divorced it from the historic Latin tradition have settled and the liturgical form for the Roman Church going forward has largely been defined.
Those fixated on the Missal of 1962 often do not see how it was, in its own time, a considerable departure from the Latin liturgical tradition, nor how the 20th century reforms, beginning with Pius X, were all steps in a thoroughly accepted thesis (even within the papacy) that a comprehensive liturgical reform was desirable. Indeed, the Concilium understandably viewed itself as brining the work of Pius X to completion, so long had the discussion of a comprehensive liturgical reform floated around the halls of the Vatican. Thus, for anyone "in the know", anyone who has access to the streams of historical data or thoroughly lives in the internal Vatican culture that cultivated the prospect of liturgical reform in the 20th century, the liturgy of Paul VI is the consummation of a long process, the end point of a trajectory begun by the first "mega pope" of modern history.
Of course, a constant in this trajectory is the authority of the Roman pontiff in the context of Roman Catholic ecclesiology. The concept of the papacy that emerged in the post-Tridentine period created a figure who was scarcely answerable to anyone; in all matters, the Roman pontiff became the law himself. How the eventual definition of papal infallibility led to such a thorough disregard of the ancient Latin law of prayer remains a scarcely tapped area of research. To my knowledge, only Gregory Hull has really made any efforts in the area, although one may argue Alcuin Reid has alluded to it. Yet, this remains a serious question that Roman Catholics (responsible ones at least) and all persons concerned with the survival of the Latin tradition (or Traditional Catholicism) ought to concern themselves. The answers may well be more difficult than the question, depending upon the role the cultus of the papacy has in one's concept of the Church.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : The Last Years of the Modernized Tridentine Missal

In recent years interest in the so-called Missal of 1965 has surfaced in fits and starts. Most recently, two events spurred renewed, albeit rather minor, interest in re-examining this relatively forgotten piece of contemporary liturgical history.  The two events in question are the publication of a new English translation of the Missal of Paul VI and the election of Pope Francis and the accompanying sea change in Roman liturgics. Standing as the final edition of the modernized Tridentine Missal, it seems reasonable to devote some time and consideration to a liturgy whose full importance has perhaps not been well understood in Roman circles.

As mentioned, two events have contributed to some occasional re-examination of this otherwise ignored Missal. The first re-emergence came from more liberal quarters when it became apparent that there was no turning back from the revised English translation of the Missal of Paul VI. This post from the Pray Tell blog is a good example. The logic behind appealing the Missal of 1965 was simple: the Missal of 1965 was in all essentials in continuity with the Missal of 1962. One could not, therefore, claim discontinuity or rupture with much credibility. Therefore, one could compare the English translation of a "more conservative" liturgy from a "more conservative" time with the new translation of the Novus Ordo, the goal being to demonstrate the flawed theory of translation behind the new edition. Stilted English did not need to be a hallmark of more a more accurate and more orthodox vernacular liturgy. In some places, the later modernized Tridentine Missal, which spanned the years from 1965 - 1968, was actually lauded as having a clear translation that fell into line with the rules of acceptable English. In other places, a cautious approval was given, with predictable preference for the banned 1998 draft translation. The discussion, as is often the case with these Missals, died down.

It was revived again, this time in more conservative and occasionally Traditionalist quarters, after the election of Pope Francis. With early indications that the perceived liturgical agenda of Benedict XVI would come to grinding halt, both devotees of Benedict's liturgical theory (as they understood it) and of the restoration of the Tridentine Mass took some time for soul searching with aim of discovering a) how Benedict's liturgical vision failed to catch on  and b) how to keep this vision of liturgy relevant in the midst of a papacy that seemed, at best, apathetic towards it. The so-called interim Missal made its return for a brief run as a topic of liturgical discussion. The viewpoints ranged from touting this era of the Roman liturgy as the one most in line with the intention of the Council, to viewing it as an inefficient compromise that would threaten the integrity of the so-called Tridentine Missal.

Liberals and Conservatives have seen the later modernizations of the Tridentine Missal as a theoretical corrective to what they have seen as ideological excesses. Traditionalists, meanwhile, see it as something suspect, or, more accurately, something that could compromise the Traditionalist position. Those who are interested in retrieving liturgies of the West's past haven't seemed too interested in commenting on it.

The occasional meme that the Missal of 1965 is what Vatican II intended stretches credibility; Sacrosanctum Concilium gave rather open principles for reform, not specific directives. The task for proscribing directives and interpreting the principles was delegated to Bugnini's concilium. As such, the Council is nearly irrelevant. What is more important is that the modernized Tridentine Missal underwent additional development after 1962. Inter Oecumenici (1964) further streamlined the modernized Tridentine Missal (by the suppression of prayers), opened up additional avenues for the vernacular and congregational singing/chanting, and established a formal rite of communion for the laity. Tres Abhinc Annos (1967) made additional simplifications and permitted total or near total celebration of the old Missal in the vernacular and the use of the nascent Weekday Lectionary. Finally, in 1968 the use of three additional 'Eucharistic Prayers" would be permitted.

This is where the Tridentine Missal, in its final modernized form, stood at the end of the "Tridentine era" and the dawn of Novus Ordo. Inter Oecumenici and Tres Abhinc Annos both spoke of a general reform of the Order of the Mass to follow. What that meant and how it was interpreted in 1964 and again in 1967 is up for debate. Did the phrase "general reform of the order of the Mass" adequately convey the complete reconstruction of the Roman liturgy's euchological corpus was around the corner? Perhaps it did, but perhaps not. Historically, however, the modernized Roman liturgy that has become the banner of Traditionalists reaches the last stage in its development in 1967 or 1968. This indicates just how artificial the insistence upon the exclusive use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 by Traditionalist groups really is.

By the very introductory matter supplied by John XXIII, the Missale Romanum of 1962 was itself intended to be a transitional edition. The Council would address questions of the general liturgical renewal. Until such time, the changes introduced by John XXIII were a stop -gap measure intended to introduce changes thought to be of an immediate necessity. The Council would tackle the problem of more substantial liturgical reform. The reforms presented in 1965 and 1967 are, then, further revisions on the trajectory of the reforms of 1962.

The reformed Missal of 1962's status has always been predicated on the targeted initiative of Rome to keep the schism brought by the SSPX from growing any larger. This was made plain by Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum and its accompanying explanatory letter. There is a very real sense in which it can and should be argued that any discussion on the "traditional" Roman liturgy ought to be centered on the Roman Missal as it stood in either 1965 or 1967, as these were the last editions of the Missal prior to the Roman Mass being thoroughly revised via a comprehensive liturgical reform.

It is perhaps a tad absurd to talk of the later modernized Tridentine Missal as fulfilling the requirements of the Second Vatican Council on account of the very broad language used in Sacrosanctum Concilum. This said, this final editions of the Tridentine era were produced under the principles of reform enunciated by the document. These missals demonstrate that the old Roman liturgy could indeed be adaptable to the standards of modern liturgics upheld by the Council. Today, when the perspective on the Council is coming into increasingly critical focus, would seem to be an opportune time to revisit the Roman Missal as it was revised in light of the Council's constitution of the liturgy, and subsequent documents.

Additionally, the Roman Missal of 1965 ought to provide some well needed perspective on the Missal of 1962. The Missal of 1962 has been the focus of all the post-Conciliar liturgical debate. It has become, rightly or wrongly, the banner of Traditionalists. Yet, it was a product of the modernization of the Roman Rite. We can, with some perspective, stop tying the Roman liturgy as it stood in 1962 as the embodiment of idealization of Tradition, or, worse still, attach to it expectations and assumptions with which it has little relevance. Rather, the Missal and Breviary in force before the Council could be seen in the light of their own context and merits and celebrated on their own terms.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A few notes...

A few housekeeping notes before I try to get back on track with the lay of the land.

Fr. Chadwick has rightly offered some criticism with my rather loose use of Gnosticism in detailing Traditionalist ecclesiology. I will not try to defend my use of the term, as I think his criticism just plainly makes sense. This said, there is an aspect of Traditionalist ecclesiology that alienates the broader ecclesia. At the moment, I am still not entirely sure how to describe it. Fr. Chadwick, however, has, in my estimation, considerably more knowledge of both Traditional Catholicism and Traditionalism than I; he has  serious experience, whereas mine is, I would argue, limited to what one should commonly expect in American culture.

It is important to note that what I have written in this series and will (hopefully) write going forward is not meant to convey my personal judgments on things, let alone imply any sort of moral positioning. I have, as I think anyone who takes such things seriously gone back-and-forth internally and verbally. At a certain point, one reaches equilibrium. One comes to accept what one can and cannot change and learns to work with both. There were things I overtly resisted twelve years ago that, in retrospect, really weren't worth protesting. Institutions go about their way and have their identity. To reference a song, you can spend your time "shouting at the world you'll never change," but "it's what's inside you've got to rearrange." (Score one for the Irish) One can apply that principle to almost any institutional reality. A colleague of mine has a very promising project in Belgium which utilizes Spiritual direction as a module of psychotherapy. I asked him to account for his notable success. He replied, "Kenosis, monastic community, and the hierarchy is totally irrelevant to me." One reaches a point of equilibrium, or perhaps detachment is a better term. One accepts what is and what can be changed, realizing that often the only things that you really have any influence over are the thing most related to yourself.

As such, what I am writing in this series of posts is more an attempt to construct a working narrative that notes the important sign posts on the road ahead. It is an attempt to describe the situation as it is, without gravitating towards any extremity.

In so far as this is an attempt to construct a narrative, it  should be noted that no designation or descriptive is necessarily absolute. Especially on this topic, there are always persons, tendencies, and ideas that defy boundaries and make their presence felt in seemingly contradictory places.

Like any writer, I have my bias and will eventually reveal it. For full disclosure, my biases will always lean in the direction of biblical criticism, pre-Reformation Latin Christianity, and the urgencies of our contemporary context.

Fr. Chadwick also mentioned the reforms of Holy Week and the impact of papal infallibility on the Roman liturgy. With regards to the reforms of Holy Week, many others, with more detailed knowledge than myself, have written about this watershed moment in the modernization of the Roman liturgy much better than I could possibly manage. For my part, I have contributed one small entry into the discussion and, for now, I will leave it at that. As pertains the influence of papal infallibility, I believe I have mentioned that, however, briefly elsewhere and, frankly, it is another area in which I think someone else could to a better job than I. I will only say this, when the Mass and Office of the Conception were changed to fit the definition of dogma, the principle of lex orandi, lex credenti was compromised and a new perception, a very modern perception, of the purpose of the liturgy my estimation, I could be very wrong.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : Traditionalism

Arguably, the Missale Romanum of 1962 serves as the most common introduction to the traditional liturgy. Although, by the time it was introduced, the Roman liturgy had already undergone decades of modernization. Traditionalist, by and large, accept the earlier decades of liturgical modernization as their own. Their praxis is frequently colored by local cultural customs of the early-to-mid twentieth century, such that one's country/culture of origin heavily influence what era one considers to be "traditional." They are, possibly to their own astonishment, the third stream in modern liturgy.

To understand the place Traditionalists occupy in modern liturgy, we have to sketch the process of modernization that formed their liturgy. It begins with possibly the most acclaimed pope in Traditionalist circles. Pius X's reform of the Roman Breviary put in motion the gears of modernization.

To begin with, Pius X's decision was based upon two dominant influences. First, there was the basic fact that the rubrics of the old Breviary made weekly recitation of all 150 psalms impossible, or, in all events, excessively rare. Second, I would argue, there was Pius X's perspective as the only pope in recent history to have actually been a pastor. The dramatic recasting of the Roman psalter not only did away with the common occurrence of priests only reciting a portion of the psalter each week, it arguably made the obligation to fulfill the office somewhat easier than it had been, via the reduction of the length of many hours. Yet, one cannot ignore that the dual motivations of reciting 150 psalms in a week and shortening the length of the office suppressed one of the most ancient psalter schemas in Christianity. The psalms were redistributed, sometimes even broken up, entirely new antiphons were composed in places, and ancient customs, such as the laudate psalms, were abolished. These changes led to complimentary changes to the Missale Romanum. Pius X's reform was so drastic that, in the North Eastern United States, many diocesesian clerics applied for an indult for fulfilling the office by reciting the Dominican Breviary - a useful way of preserving an older Western form of the office until the Dominicans revised their breviary to be in better harmony with the breviary of Pius X.

Subsequent changes to the Roman Breviary by Pius XII and John XXIII continued along the same trajectory, largely with the aim of abbreviating the length of the office and removing customs until there was a more basic form of the Roman Breviary. In fact, Pius XII, John XXIII, and the architects of the Liturgia Horarum saw themselves in the same continuum as Pius X's reform. One and all envisioned bringing to completion the reform begun under Pius X.

The modernization of the Roman liturgy continued in the Missale Romanum. Pius XII's reforms of Holy Week were conducted with the explicit intention of restoring the services to their hypothesized original form and function. The subsequent suppression of octaves, commemorations, feast days, liturgical classes and simplification of rubrics all congealed in the Missale Romanum of 1962, by which point the "Tridentine" liturgy was effectively a bridge to the more modernized Missale Romanum of 1970, in so far as certain major watermarks of the revised Roman Missal were by then present.

The position the Missale Romanum of 1962 has as the first exposure to pre-modern liturgy is largely due to incident and accident. It retains enough of the pre-modern liturgy to bridge the gap between modernized and non-modernized liturgy. In its simplifications and streamlined design, it anticipates the shaving off of ceremonial that accompanied the Novus Ordo. In its euchological content and calendar of saints, it functions as a living witness to an older tradition. Largely, though, it occupies its place because it was the Missal Lefebvre settled on for his society and, as a result, became the rallying point for all parties reacting against the imposition of Paul VI's Missal.

Rightly or wrongly, the Missale Romanum of 1962 has defined the Roman liturgy in terms of "pre-modernization." It is one of the two goal posts that set the match and define the boundaries of play. This causes a few quandaries.

In so far as their law of prayer is the liturgical books as the were in 1962, Traditionalists accept the principle of modernization. The dispute regards the degree to which modernization is acceptable. Tied into this question, there is an issue of ecclesiology. Traditionalist ecclesiology implicitly denies absolute infallibility to the Roman Pontiff. Even among those groups that have found communion with Rome, there is still a nagging issue over whether or not the public and definitive exercise of Petrine authority was correct in the case of the imposition of the new Missal, if not the convocation of the Second Vatican Council itself. Among those groups not in full communion with Rome, the denial is more explicit; plainly, the pope's authority is not absolute and there are things to which the pope can be held accountable.

To the degree that Traditionalist cause a crisis of ecclesiastical authority, and to the degree that the Missale Romanum of 1962 has come to be identified with pre-modern liturgy, the old liturgies of the Latin Church, Roman or otherwise, have been vested with something of a taboo quality. Anything that is not totally modern is suspect and discarded.

The crisis of ecclesiastical authority precedes a full ecclesiological crisis. Traditionalism often requires a subtle Gnosticism in that it functions off of the conviction that a large body of believers "have gotten it all wrong" and only they really understand the nature of things. It must be said, it takes some serious guts to tow a line like that. The better part of the Roman Church is subsequently determined to be, in some manner, deficient. This aspect of Traditionalism that seems most implausible due to the sheer numbers it would dismiss as irrelevant.

In the discussion of pre-modern liturgy, Traditionalism, fairly or un fairly, sets the goal post. However, the phenomenon is so loaded that, so long as it exists, it makes it nearly impossible to legitimately discuss the retrieval of liturgy once lost. Conversely, Traditionalism, whether it wants to or not, forces a re-examination of papal infallibility and supreme juridical authority. It does so by proposing there is a tangible limit to the authority of the pontiff. What this will mean in the long run, if anything, depends largely upon how Traditionalism determines its future course.

Next stop, Limbo.

Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : Traditional Catholicism

Increasingly, I am of the opinion that there is a distinct difference between Traditional Catholicism and Traditionalism. Traditional Catholicism concerns itself with reviving defunct practices and liturgies spanning the history of the Western/Latin Christian tradition. Traditionalism, by comparison, seeks to preserve the practices and liturgy of the earlier part of Catholicism's modernization, reconstituting early attempts at modernization as the perennial religion.

This needs to be fleshed out. Lets start with the first of the two, Traditional Catholicism.

Traditional Catholicism has the benefit of historical perspective. Its vision spans a wide swath of Latin Christian history. There is a deep appreciation for the many pre-Tridentine local variants, and typically a considerable knowledge of Western Christian praxis and liturgy before the cycle of Reformation-Counter Reformation. If there is a weakness to it, it is that it is largely academic. Most of the positioning occurs in academic publications, flexing considerable scholarly muscle. It is rarely if ever applied in a real setting, mostly due to the overwhelming indifference of the major denominations. This is despite the fine analysis of many of its proponents.

Laszlo Dobszay was a good example of this. Coming at it from a purely Roman Catholic perspective, Dobszay targeted Pius X's considerable reform of the Roman breviary, often positing that the pre-Pian breviary ought to be given a renewed examination. He reflected an emerging trend in liturgical scholarship, at least the scholarship concerned with daily prayer, that Pius X had effectively suppressed one of the oldest psalter schemas in continuous use. The problem that Dobszay and other scholars have is that their work seems to have little chance of making a practical impact. The Roman Church, for instance, has no intention of revisiting the Roman Breviary as it existed before Pius X. Consequently, Traditional Catholicism is often a private venture (among Roman Catholics) or belongs to smaller religious communities (in the Anglican Church) or monasteries away from the public eye.

Speaking from a scholars background, Traditional Catholicism has a lot to love. In so far as it makes the case to restore long since forgotten liturgies of various local flavors of the Latin tradition, it exemplifies the very best idea of liturgical plurality. But it is this fact that makes it so unappealing to the larger currents in the Latin West. Recovering the obscurities of Latin Christianity has failed to influence the larger liturgical stream; it is an eccentric's task or the lonely research of a scholar. It simply does not press any weight upon the broader Church or the liturgical imagination. Set side-by-side with mainline Catholicism or the Traditionalists, this group cannot help but to be the odd one out. Its work produces intelligent conversation, but the implicit ecclesiology leaves many religious observers slightly uncomfortable.

The liturgical theory behind Traditional Catholicism requires a substantial amount of decentralized authority, the local parish being entrusted with the care and maintenance of its liturgy. Such trust requires the adherence to a common matrix of faith that is equally understood and accepted in the larger confederation of the religion. Conservative leaning persons would be uncomfortable with the prospect of the most tasteless liberal excess running wild. Liberals, on the other hand, would fret at the possibility of pre-modern liturgical forms displacing contemporary theories and patterns of worship.

There is also the simple fact that this position may well be too academic to be viable. Betwixt the rediscovery of ancient forms, there is often a fair amount of reconstruction going on. Fine at the academic level, but hardly a sure basis upon which to rest religious observance.

Yet, the whole discussion is, up to this point, so highly hypothetical so as to be essentially irrelevant. Those who would rediscover the liturgy as it was prior to the Reformation and Counter Reformation are the smallest of minorities. In variably, many of them, for convenience sake, fall in line with the early modern liturgies of the Roman or Anglican pedigree, the acceptable parameters for Traditionalist Catholics or Anglicans.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The tides of time

It is often with disbelief that an older generation has to wrestle with a younger generation reclaiming what it had cast away. Plainly, the majority of the Roman hierarchy does not readily comprehend why the old liturgy fascinates anyone with no living memory of its regular celebration. Indeed, even the bishop of Rome doesn't quite get it.

There are a myriad of reasons why this is the case, most of which do not have any discernable connection.

Part of it is undoubtedly a matter of perspective. Time has allowed, say, my generation, the perspective to review the religious praxis of prior generations with some appreciation.

Yet there is certainly an element of rebellion about it. To embrace Catholicism as it existed before the Council is also to reject the Catholicism of the generation still holding influence. Indeed, it is to reject a whole worldview and its corresponding values.

Oddly enough, it is also to seek a degree of stability. The old liturgy doesn't like surprises and it doesn't allow much room for post-modern creativity. It is what it is and that is what you get.

There are many other reasons. Although I am not entirely sure what makes the old liturgy and its accompanying spirituality appealing, other than the fact that it conveys a perception of reality diametrically opposed to that of contemporary Western culture.

Religion, Christianity in particular, should never be too complacent with the culture. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism, despite the missteps that may be found in its more contemporary applications, provides one with a religion with a purpose. By comparison, post-Vatican II Catholicism can often be filled by most any NGO.

The hubris of an aging hierarchy is exemplified in its unwillingness to seriously ask what the old liturgy and a forgotten spirituality offer that the attempts at modernization seem to have forgotten. I personally don't know what it is, nor can I explain my own preference for it. I would, however, implore the future head of the CDW to ask this question.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Sense of Being

I have known many people who have sought, lost, or confirmed their religious vocation. I have seen two very fine men, better men than I, go on to the priesthood.

I've also seen men and women that genuinely seemed to have a vocation either not pursue it or be ultimately discouraged from pursuing.

And I've also seen those who probably should not pursue religious life do everything in their damnedest to make sure they get to live their fantasy and find their reprieve. In all cases, these are all people of my generation.

Somewhere in southern New England there is a man who was drawn to rather unstable religious communities largely due to the internal war he was waging with his orientation. He eventually became involved with such a toxic community that he was, whether justly or not, tainted with their reputation in his local diocese. His hopes were so focused on being a priest he joined the Old Catholic Church to receive ordination.

There is a woman elsewhere who has bounced from Dominicans, to Cistercians, and now to the Benedictines. Her story has actually been featured in some PR material, leaving out the tangled web and serious problems with stability. She was prone to an almost fanatic mysticism that often suspended logic and reason in favor of the pseudo mysticism that flowered in wake of Vatican II, most especially during John Paul II's papacy.

There is a man recently ordained to the priesthood for a major New England dioceses. The first time we met, it was during a marriage preparation retreat. I bumped into him a few weeks later - he had flowers for his bride-to-be. I last saw him at a local monastery shop. When I approached him, he said we must have met during a priesthood discernment weekend. He vehemently denied having been engaged to be married until my wife came up and recognized him too. Whatever happened, he wears the scars and tenaciously clings to his new identity as a priest.

We all have our stories. We have all been shaped by things we largely have no control over. I have known two very good men who truly had a vocation and pursued it. Many more, however, have been caught in mire. Some watched their vocations fade away. Some clung to vocations they may not have had for reasons only they know.

Is this the failure of processes designed to assist with discernment? Is this declining state of religious order? Or is the desperation to find some sense of being at all cost? Only God really knows.

Kenyan revision of the Liturgy of the Hours

Recently, a very thorough review on the Kenyan Liturgy of the Hours was published online. It is another one in a continuum of positive press this edition of the post-Vatican II breviary, previous ones being here, here, here, and here.

Frankly, I will likely not be purchasing a copy - it is just out of budget for me. Although, it appears that everyone who has purchased a copy has been essentially satisfied.

Things to note:

- The revised Grail psalms by Conception Abbey are an improvement over the old Grail version. This said, if you have background with the Hebrew or Greek text, or familiarity with the Latin, you will always have some minor criticisms. For a contemporary English translation, however, it gets the job done well enough.

- With the exception of newly added feasts, the collects appear to be that of the old ICEL version. Make of this what you will. From a Latinist's perspective, the new translation is a mixed bag; it conveys more of the original Latin, however, I am of the opinion it could have been done a little more smoothly. If this is something that "grinds your gears," you may want to stay away. I suspect, however, most people will focus their efforts on trying to assimilate the revised Grail psalter, in which case the collects will be of less concern.

- The corpus of Latin hymns in the Liturgia Horarum are largely missing from this edition, much like its American counter-part.

Allegedly, the new American edition of the Liturgy of the Hours will include a translation of the full corpus of Latin hymns. A big plus if this effort seriously gets of the ground and the books are published. The five year timeline projected in 2012 is, I think, too optimistic and it is possible the project will be derailed if there is a change of perspective in the USCCB. In which case, the Kenyan edition is the only reliable way to have an English edition of the editio altera of the Liturgia Horarum, including new feasts. And lets face it, the Latin edition is immorally overpriced, pious arguments about the invaluable treasury of prayer aside.

All things considered, if you can afford the purchase (which I can't, but you may be able to), it seems this is the most reasonable option. You can find more information, including contact instructions, here.

Experience as the arbiter of truth

I've written briefly on this topic before, and I will touch upon it here again with still more brevity.

Experience is the arbiter of truth. No matter how rational the argument, well reasoned the proposition, or objective the facts, experience has the final say, however subtle it may be.  For anyone to pretend otherwise, to make any claim to absolute knowledge that definitively encapsulates every circumstance and situation, borders on megalomania, neurosis at worst if one is of a religious persuasion.

So it is that Anthony Ruff, a liturgical scholar of some depth, a Benedictine of some serious imprudence and impudence, writes so condescendingly,

"After such a beautiful and dignified reformed liturgy, why would anyone hanker after the unreformed preconciliar one?? This celebration was so coherent, so rooted in tradition and yet so carefully renewed and improved."
Experience is the arbiter of truth, Tony. You experienced and I would presume regularly experience a liturgy that confirms the wisdom of the liturgical reform to you. Perhaps also in your life this liturgy has been thoroughly internalized. The melody and rhythm of the sacred are aptly heard in its cadences.

For others, this is not so. Moreover, not only is it not so, the encounter with God has another wellspring entirely.

Sometime ago in a previous post I counter the asinine editorializing of a writer over at the NCR who took to lambasting the Tridentine liturgy and those attached to it. I proposed a question then that I think is equally apt to pose to Tony of Collegeville, have you genuinely experienced the liturgy you so openly deride? I don't mean occasionally checking in on a Tridentine Mass. I mean immersing yourself in that liturgy, Mass and Office, for at least a year? Make that your rule of canonical prayer. Dare I say it, engage with members of the community with whom you will likely have more education and, at the very least, understand their hopes, fears, aspirations, sadness, and joys, even if the piety is repugnant. On this point, I write with some considerable experience.

I have lived both forms of the Roman liturgy as my rule of prayer; I gravitated naturally to the Tridentine liturgy and forced myself to adopt the liturgy promulgated by Paul VI. I am aware of the faults and foibles of both, as well as the numerous points at which there are glimpses of so much potential. As time has gone on, I've become convinced that a via media should have been pursued; perhaps it is time priests start dusting off the Roman Missal as it stood in 1965.

Tony, if you're going to continue to deride in a most arrogant manner the old liturgy, either out of megalomania or neurosis, then have the decency to admit you might need a good therapist or a line of meds. Otherwise, get off your duff Ruff and experience it in the manner I suggested above, then come back and reflect upon it.

Is that too much to ask? I suppose it is.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fr. Dominic Rodighiero, C.S, Nella tua misericordia, Signore, dona lo la pace

I recently learned that Fr. Dominic Rodighiero, C.S., pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Everett, Massachusetts passed away last summer. He died of complications from prostate cancer in his native Italy.

This sad event came to light when trying to make arrangements to reconnect with him. Fr. Dominic had been my pastor as we had lived in the area some years back and frequently attended the Italian Mass.

Fr. Dominic was happy to have "two theologians", as he referred to my wife and I, in his parish. He was especially happy to learn of my background in Italian and Latin. He proudly showed me his Italian breviary in the course of one of our conversations and suggested we should pray some parts of the office in Italian if I had time.

We eventually moved away from the area. During that time, there were occasional plans to swing by the parish and meet up with Fr. Dominic, however, the mode and obligations of daily life often proved irreconcilable to such designs.

Fr. Dominic was one of those rare priest and after you have met him and heard his story, you understand why Vatican II, its documents, reforms, and the liturgy promulgated in its name have such staunch defenders, especially in the Italian church. Dominic's orthodoxy never waivered in or out of the pulpit. He never toyed with the Missal of Paul VI, sticking to the text, and never paid heed to the half-baked attempts at displacing the reformed liturgy of the hours with fashionable post-modern Western imitations. He never lost the flame of missionary zeal and could comfortably, and credibly, speak of doctrine, theological and social.

One conversation with him summarized the perspective of many educated Italian clergy regarding Catholicism. Holding up the breviary (the Italian edition) he said, "I see all these people who come into church, light a candles and rub the feet of a statue and that is their religion. That might be there religion, but it is not my religion. (Waiving the breviary) This, this is where you can find my religion, not at the feet of statues."

Fr. Dominic was one of those exemplars of Vatican II priests who make you realize if the Roman Church could have had a generation composed largely of men of their caliber, its recent history, or our at least our recent experience of it, could have been different.

The man was a fine pastor and is truly missed, especially by those of us who, in retrospect, kept missing the opportunity to say goodbye.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Anthony Ruff celebrates Mass in Latin

Good for him. Although, it is somewhat bizarre that Latin should border on being taboo in the Pauline liturgy, provisions in canon law being what they are.

The vernacular may be here to stay, but nothing but good can come from having celebrations according to the Pauline Missal in Latin.

The account brings me back to my undergrad days. it seems a life time away, but I remember those pushes we would make with priests we knew had the command of Latin to celebrate in the language of the Roman Church. More often then not, it required a good deal of pleading and arm twisting. It was an exciting time, spanning the promulgation and eventual publication of the third typical edition of the Pauline Missal. Those were years under JP II's pontificate in which anything seemed possible, and there was an expectation, call it naivety, that John Paul II's stamp on the Missale Romanum would herald greater things to come.

After several subsequent graduate degrees and the decision to segue out of academia, I still look back at that time fondly. There was an excitement then; even in the midst of the at times horrid college liturgy that typifies Jesuit campuses, there was something about being in an environment that was overflowing with theology, symbolic imagery, and sometimes obscure Latin editions, something so full of life and wonder. I hope those students and Fr. Ruff had their own share of that same excitement.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A topic so old, it's new again

The topic of the Bea psalter is going to remain a perennial point of least among those who like to discuss such Latin, textual studies and translation issues. Fr. Hunwicke has given it a go in his unique way.

From the perspective of someone with a background in Latin, Greek, and especially Hebrew, the Bea psalter, objectively speaking, deserves high compliments. It is an intelligent Latin that aptly handles the Hebrew text. 

Of course, the level of Latinity and utilizing the Hebrew text as the basis of the translation is a contentious issue. The common critique is that the Pian Psalter (more ecclesiastical sounding, don't you think?) necessarily discarded with ancient Latin phraseology, similar to Urban VIII's revision of the hymns in the breviary, and created no small amount of dissonance between the antiphons of the Roman breviary and the psalter. True enough, but where ancient antiphons or the Vulgate psalter were, linguistically speaking, bordering on awkward, if not absurd, it hardly seems Pius XII's psalter should be reprimanded for providing textual clarity where there was none.

The above objection actually leads into the second objection: it was audacious and entirely anti-Traditional to base the translation off of the Hebrew psalter. Even in Roman circles, you will find protectionist impulse around the Septuagint as you do in Orthodox circles. There is a belief among certain Traditionalists or overly pious Catholics that somehow, somehow, the Hebrew text compromises doctrine and dogma. Again, it shares all of the absurdity that the Orthodox typically demonstrate around the topic. The Septuagint, it is true, deserves a better reputation among Old Testament scholars and scholars of pre-Christian Judaism. No one can seriously dispute that the original text is Hebrew and Masoretic text of psalter has been substantially confirmed by Qumran. It just makes sense to utilize the Hebrew text as the basis of a translation. And, frankly, I think the Hebrew adds a bit of a punch to the Latin.

Hunwicke's new injection into the debate is citing the "scholarship" of Christine Morhman. I've gone off about her work before, but it needs repeating, apart from certain Catholic circles that refuse to engage any of the major classics and Latin scholars, preferring instead some sort of intellectual ghetto, there is no one, not a one, who finds any supporting documentation for Morhman's theories. Rather, then the topic has come up, the notable flaws of Morhman's methodology are clearly outlined. Morhman had a theory of wide-ranging impact if true. Unfortunately, she chose a very narrow selection of texts to prove this theory; indeed, it seems she chose texts that could support her theory without wrestling with the numerous texts that disprove it. In other words, there is no credible evidence of a special Christian Latinity; rather, the Latinity of any Christian text, including liturgical texts, merely reflects the abilities of its author. Linguistically, there was little to defend the Vulgate psalter.

The promulgation of the Bea psalter was no small matter in its day. Truth be told, it did cause a fair amount of controversy, especially among older priests. Sacrosanctum Concilium even seemed to mildly rebuke it. Nevertheless, the Bea psalter has been substantially vindicated; the psalter in the Nova Vulgata did not so much dismiss the Bea psalter as it revised it. If one frequents the Latin typical editions of the new books, one cannot help but notice that the Bea psalter's presence is readily detectable.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tell me, how does the "new liturgical movement" hold a candle to the original liturgical movement?

This just seems like a waste of creative energy. That people flock to such shallow proposals is perhaps the reason I became so disgusted with the liturgical fetishism that erupted during Ratzinger's pontificate. Really lost the plot here, guys.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are you experienced?

Experience is, for all practical purposes, the ultimate source of authority or truth. The more cerebral types among us like it or not, experience will always be the standard to which any proposition, no matter how cogently argued, will be measured. Again, practically speaking.

There are times when it becomes readily apparent how crucial experience is. Experience may lead us one way, and someone else another way; doubtless, its deep impact upon our conscious and unconscious thought governs our perception and assimilation of the world around us, perhaps more than we would often like to admit.

The above holds true in matters of liturgy, prayer and spirituality as much as it does in any other aspect of life.

There is a certain author of the perennialist school with whom I often find much sympathy. In a rather well respected work of his on prayer he discusses canonical prayer and spirituality at some length. After extolling the virtues of canonical prayer, its ability to transpose us into the mind of God through hallowed tradition, he turns to the subjects of contemplative prayer and prayer of the heart (broadly speaking). It is at this point that the author comes to grips with his own experience, one which convinced him of the perennial truths of Catholicism, but also led him to abandon his Catholicism under the pretext that Catholicism had forfeited sound metaphysics and mysticism in favor of a materialist nominalism.

How could I not sympathize with this man?! Someone who, more elegantly than I, could express my experience. Of course, this author died some time in the late 90's. He watched the changes brought to Catholicism and its liturgy. Truth be told, the astounding popularity of his perennialism may well have contributed to those changes in so far as it seems to have exercised a profound influence on certain types of theologians. This author no longer recognized the Catholicism he cherished, although, to be sure, he already gone on to develop his own praxis. The nature of the attachment he had with Catholicism to so sternly criticize the changes made in wake of Vatican II was never really explained by the author. By the time the Council began he had already moved on to "his own thing." The author did not have any real experience of Catholicism during or after Vatican II, a bit of irony from a modern mystic, in the most noble sense of the phrase, who so often taught on the experiential aspect of metaphysical knowledge. Yet, if one has experienced the wrong end of the post-Vatican II stick, it is relatively easy to bypass this critique and quickly sympathize with the author.

If this author, who shall remain anonymous, had experience of Catholicism after Vatican II, if he had tended to the adoption of the post-conciliar canonical prayer as much as he did the pre-conciliar liturgy of his youth, before he went on to do his own thing, would he had written anything different? Would he have been able to turn his prowess to canonical prayer of the Roman Church as it emerged in the later decades of the twentieth century and found some deep metaphysical truth? It's hard to say, really, but it is always something to keep in mind.

As much as we can rightfully speak of the decline of Latin Christianity, and note how new religions or spiritualities seem to be filling in the vacuum, we must also acknowledge there are those whose experience of Catholicism after Vatican II, most especially in its liturgy is in stark contrast with decline. We should not go so far as to drop our critical senses and affirm a "new Pentecost," at every turn. That would delusional. We must acknowledge, however, that there are experiences that have invested the new liturgy with a certain authority.

Without setting ourselves up for disappointment, one must consider that for Africa and Asia, the reformed Roman liturgy is the liturgy; in its Mass and Office, it is the liturgy that coincides with the expansion of Catholicism in those parts of the world. One must also consider those who attend the new liturgy with the same fervent devotion that is often associated with memories of old liturgy. For such people, there has not been a rupture to speak of. Then there are those monastic houses that celebrate the Roman liturgy with dutiful monastic observance. One such abbey is a drive away from me in Spencer, Massachusetts. I have written about their liturgy before; these guys are proof that the new missal is fully capable of conveying the depth of the Tradition if the community responsible for celebrating the liturgy so wishes it. Furthermore, this can be done without restoring any elements of the old missal.

Experience has a way of establishing authority, truth, and authenticity. When it comes to the reform of the Roman liturgy, any criticism needs to be mindful of this. Any criticism of the liturgy promulgated by Paul VI eventually must reckon with the fact that, regardless of the historical and cultural arguments against a reform on such a massive scale, there are those whose experience of the new liturgy is not fraught with decline and deformation. It would be presumptuous, as I am often reminded, to simply discount or dismiss these experiences as either ill-informed or under educated. Doing so poses an inherent risk of quasi-Gnosticism.

I have studied the revised liturgy in its typical editions. I have slogged through the numerous, and at times obscure, scholarly literature documenting the project of the liturgical reform itself, and I am, even if begrudgingly so, well aware of those communities which did not seem to suffer liturgical decadence in the wake of the reform. Whatever my criticisms of the reform, where the liturgy promulgated by Paul VI is coupled with the determination that it will be an authentic expression of the Latin tradition, it becomes as much. In this respect, these experiences, in my estimation, provide the new liturgy with some level of authenticity, difficult though they may be to come by.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Holy Trinity, Boston, MA - Consummatum Est

For Holy Trinity in South Boston, it is done, according to the Boston Catholic Insider.

It is nice to see this story finally getting some additional legs on the web, although it is sadly after the tipping point.

I have written about the almost obscene manner in which this parish was closed by the Archdiocese of Boston on this blog before. As such, there is no need to rehash the details of its closure and subsequent fall out. I will only say, in that regard, that its closure was not the result of dwindling financials but rather the utterly incompetent leadership of the incredibly imploding Archdiocese of Boston, with responsibility being placed in the lap of the man at the very top - the same man who the current bishop of Rome thought good to place on his council of "elite" cardinals to help him govern the Roman Church. Good job - may the Church of Rome soon come to mirror the church in Boston.

I am, as you can undoubtedly tell, still passionate about the closing of a parish that I had been able to effectively call my own and that played such a crucial role in my formation....and whose closure taught me that there was no genuinely place for me in the Roman Church, at least in my immediate locality.

It seems appropriate to spell out how important this now defunct parish was for me. Many, many years ago, I was living in the Pacific Northwest. This was one of the most fruitful times of my life. It was during this time that I began to seriously engage the religion I had been born and baptized into. This was begun, naturally, for me at least, in the religion section of a used bookstore. I voraciously devoured everything I could get my hands on, especially these seemingly strange things called missals. They had such titles as "The New Marian Missal" and the "Maryknoll Missal." It took a bit, but I soon enough deduced their purpose and the meaning of their contents - not too shabby for someone whose family never made a habit of darkening the door of church, save for a wedding or a funeral.

After roughly six months of study, I finally decided I was ready to attend Mass. I still remember the profound sense of disorientation as I tried to wade my way through what can best be described as a train wreck involving aged folk groups and failed pop-psychologists. The question that kept repeating itself: "what happened? what happened to this thing of poetic beauty? what the hell is this abomination?" It was apparent I had more study to do. So I did. And the justifications for those changes are still absent.

In any event, when I returned to Boston, months of inquiry led me to Holy Trinity - the parish still hadn't developed a significant online presence and, frankly, the community didn't seem to do much to promote itself. The old liturgical books I was so fond of finally had a "real" use; it was possible to experience their contents and provide a real context to a liturgy I had previously been forced to imagine into existence.

Three things made an impression at Holy Trinity.

1) For reasons that remain unclear to me, it seems the parish never really promoted itself in way most parishes do. That there was a Tridentine liturgy in the Archdiocese of Boston came to me via word-of-mouth from a priest at St. Paul's in Cambridge. The parish itself didn't seem to be out there trying to get people to come on board.

2) Contrary to pronouncements of those who seem to think interest in the Tridentine liturgy is a passing moment among liturgical hipsters or overly affluent conservative whites who despise the poor, the majority of attendees at the Tridentine liturgy were poor-working class. Yes, there were wealthy people there as well, but one would have to be the most unyielding of ideologues to not noticed who made up the bulk of the attendees at a given Latin Mass. To say otherwise is to be in absolute denial. This Mass, chanted in a dead language, facilitated the prayers of the poor and working class. The very people overly affluent contemporary liturgists, with too much time and money on their hands, claim they serve with their banal product. One can't help but think of Cardinal Heenan's warning to the Concilium upon viewing the proposed revision of the Roman Mass.

3) The preaching was of a quality totally distinct from the normative model in the Boston diocese. Almost always delivered by priests old enough to know the Tridentine rite, the sermons were clearly marked by an unambiguous sense of the supernatural. This sense of the supernatural was the complement to masterful erudition and a distinct lack of ultra-Montanism. These men didn't waste their sermons citing pontiff after pontiff. Rather, they had a patristic and medieval library at their fingertips and the only time a pope was mentioned was if he could be classified as a titan in either respective era.

I eventually realized these priests were not the norm. The norm for the Boston diocese was a man of largely secular mindset, perhaps having some good grounding in literature and art, but fairly nominalist in the worldview he could muster in his sermons. They were so because they reflected the makeup of the Archdiocese of Boston, a church that is better defined by a general humanism than anything else. The priests at Holy Trinity were a different breed, in large part because they came from a much different Catholicism, a Catholicism that, in large part, was left behind. As a result, I learned that it wasn't only comprehensive change in the liturgy I had to reckon with, it was a spiritual edifice that had been razed until nothing was left but the footprint of its foundation.

Holy Trinity afforded the opportunity to experience a variety of Catholicism that has increasingly disappeared in favor of its post-modern variety. It was, all told, a brief glimpse into the "Catholic moment", that time when it seemed the Roman Church was going from strength to strength and nothing could stop it...except, as it turns out, its own hierarchy. There was very much a sense of living among the last vestiges of a time bygone. One could only wonder what could have been if these priests and the Catholicism they reflect had the opportunity to produce a suitable heir.

On some level, the news that Holy Trinity officially went up for sale offers some closure to anyone wounded by the unjust actions of this diocese. There is a finality to it; there is no going back and no way to pine over innumerable what if scenarios of retrieving the irretrievable. It is done. For everyone who feels some sense of loss over this closure, I hope it brings some sobering understanding of the estimation this hierarchy holds you in and the realization that there is no room to protest the unjust actions of  hierarchy that only senses self-criticism when something turns into a PR nightmare.

But, to quote the Gallagher brothers, "don't look back in anger."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In a blinding bout of nerd rage

At one point in time, the Fantastic Four was one of the most respected comics in the history of the medium. Until that day, that fateful day, when, seemingly in 80s, the stories became lackluster and the title quickly degenerated into one of Marvel's fourth tier features. History and Stan Lee kept the title alive, but everyone knew the title was, overall, getting well past its peak.

So it was that during Hollywood's tepid dance with comic book movies in the 90's, there was a filmed but never released version of the Fantastic Four. By all accounts, it was a quick dodge job done to retain movie rights, with no intention of distribution. Most impressions are that the movie was abysmal and it was probably a very good thing it never saw theatrical release.

Fast forward to the 2000s. The popularity of the X-Men films and Spiderman inspire another run at the Fantastic Four. Two movies were produced, and, generally, they were crushing failures. The first of the two leaned a little to heavily on camp value. Although, Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer was most egregious. Featuring key aspects of the comic book's mythology and basing itself off of two well crafted story arcs from the Silver Age, it was an astounding failure to achieve cinematic promise that had been so thoroughly laid out forty or so years before.

Now we have this - leaked images of Dr. Doom from the pending Fantastic Four reboot. Not a good sign going forward. Hopefully the shots are being leaked to gauge some sort of public reaction.

We'll have to see the movie to know how this actually pans out. I'd image there will be a thick overlay of cgi on this, but who knows. Until then, the comic geek in me is planning a protest.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Found in Transliteration: Scripture and the probelm of harmonizing with Christian Theology

Years ago I saw a Bible published shortly after Vatican II. What made this edition stand out, and made me regret not having picked up a copy when I had the chance, was that it opted to transliterate a number of Hebrew terms, as opposed to following conventional vernacular translation. The most notable being its use of the multiple divine names in the Old Testament (Elohim, Yahweh, El Shaddai, etc.), a characteristic it shared in common with the New Jerusalem Bible, if memory serves.

The decision to reduce the divine names to God or Lord, following the tradition set in the Septuagint, though enacted out of necessity, had negative consequences on Christianity, which neither East or West is immune from. The conventional translation imposes a block in the Christian's access to the text. Concepts in the theology of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible are denied expression to the Christian reader - and this has been the case since, at least, the second century.

Contemporary Bibles, such as the RSV and NRSV, try to get around the gap of centuries by providing numerous explanatory notes that detail Hebrew terms or the Jewish background. The success depends upon the accuracy of the notes, the tendency of the reader to engage the notes, and whether or not the reader has any background in Biblical languages. In an ideal world, the reader would have such a sufficient knowledge of the original languages that he or she could make his or her own determinations.

It is often asked, and typically with some degree of either paranoia or derision, what significance an understanding of Hebrew has for understanding Jesus of Nazareth, the New Testament, and Christianity. When it comes to Biblical translations and theology, the insinuation behind the question is that proponents of such a perspective imply that somehow, someway, the Church "missed something;" the canons and decrees which came to define Christian orthodoxy are, in some manner, deficient, the result of men who could not bridge the cultural-linguistic gap between late antiquity and its corresponding Neo-Platonism and the multi-layered, often times to the point of obscurity, mythological worldview of an fundamentally Semitic religious movement. They are correct in their insinuations.

By the time Nicaea meets and the first plans to define normative Christian doctrine are set in motion, Christianity has already been approximately three centuries removed from its point of origin, its original linguistic and cultural milieu. During this time, Hebrew and Aramaic have been replaced by Greek and other languages, such as Latin and Coptic, are beginning become the favored means of linguistic expression in their population centers. Although respect for tradition retained memory of the earlier Jewish expression, it increasingly became apparent that the original "language" of religion born from the movement and memory of Jesus of Nazareth was increasingly indecipherable to the Church that professed faith in him. As an example, the angel of Yahweh and panim Yahweh motifs that seem to underlie the theology of the fourth gospel are displaced in favor of an imposed logos theology sprung from the well springs of a Platonic revival. Plainly, a new and culturally relevant language was needed to interpret texts that had become ever more alien to the Church that transmitted them. Yet, there was a trade off; the original theology, doctrine, mysticism, et al., of movement that encircled Jesus of Nazareth's activity, the original Hebrew/Aramaic context, was lost.

There are times I am tempted to go so far to say that the legends of an original Hebrew copy of Matthew that circulated until at least the time of Jerome are evidence that the New Testament itself, in virtue of being written in Greek, was an example of bartering the original cultural and linguistic matrix for a new and more relevant mode of expression. After the New Testament had become relatively prevalent, perhaps by the time of Papias, the memory of the original context was preserved in legends of an original textual source for the New Testament "in the Hebrew tongue."

The idea that there is an original "Hebrew" theology behind the New Testament that was obscured as Christianity became an increasingly gentile  religion is nothing new in scholarly research. Margaret Baker has written a handful of otherwise well received books detailing the survival of particular form of Judaism in the New Testament. For those wishing to study the Apocalypse of John, it is now nearly impossible to do so without considering the book as one part of the continuum of proto-merkavah mysticism. The scholarly evidence is there and for those with a command of the languages the evidence is considerable.

If the above is true, then, well so what? Hasn't Christianity gotten along well enough with the theological system that gradually came into being and was eventually solidified during the great ecumenical counsels? Well, yes and no. A new language of interpretation was needed, but in the process of finding a new interpretive lens there was a very real loss of much of the tradition, as it was rendered unintelligible. If, for instance, the point and purpose of John's Apocalypse is mystical experience and revelation of arcane knowledge, then the eschatological obsession over the book is possibly misplaced. If this is the case of a book that seems to have come out of the Christian matrix, what of those books that are decidedly pre-Christian? How much has the Old Testament been misread? Additionally, one wonders how much an amnesia around Christian origins has contributed to the "one true Church" mentality; if Christianity really did undergo a revolution whereby its original interpretive lens was displaced in favor of something more palatable with Greco-Roman culture, then the claims of any one church to have preserved the faith of the apostles would have to be taken with a grain of salt. Moreover, it is worth asking whether or not the orthodoxy that displaced the original strata has exhausted itself and if anything of the original Jewish strata could be retrieved and reapplied in our contemporary context.

Reading the Old Testament as it was meant to be read is a start, and it is perhaps inevitable. Simple things such as transliterating terms that are often translated by glosses, or by faithfully translating the anthropomorphism in the Hebrew text, have the effect of orientating the reader more in the direction of the original author's intention and potentially re-discovering a perception of reality that has been lost.

Is any of this possible on a Church-wide level? Probably not. There is a very real way in which one can see a survival of Marcion's thought in the definition of classical Christian theology, in so far as it is by and large a theology that is admittedly foreign to the thought of Scripture. Certain elements of classical Christian theology can be read into the New Testament only with much presupposition. With regards to the Old Testament, Christian theology, as it has come to define orthodox belief, is often times only possible by either ignoring the theology of the Old Testament, claiming it has been superseded by Church tradition, or seriously mutilating the thought of the books.

At this point, it is common to bring up Tradition and, in Catholic or Orthodox circles, observe that the religion does not abide by sola scriptura. True enough. On the level of pure religion, Christian theology and the gap that sometimes exists between it and the earliest documents related to the tradition is almost irrelevant. A religion either works or it doesn't; if it fails to communicate certain perennial truths about our condition, our reality, our cosmos, and our destiny, then it simply collapses. More importantly, the Tradition, both Catholic and Orthodox, has succeeded in cultivating religious experience. People are able to experience religion and, in this manner, attest to its veracity. Faith makes reality....but, this does not eliminate the evidence demonstrating that when the cultural and linguistic milieu shifted, a profound alteration of paradigm took place, one which Christianity has not reconciled with. From this perspective, there is crucial chapter in Christianity's past that the Church has not come to terms with and it is uncertain if such is possible on a religion-wide scale.

As one trained in historical criticism, I am, of course, biased towards the perspective that, most sacred above all is not necessarily the theology or interpretation hallowed by the Tradition, but, ultimately, the original thought and intention of the ancient author. On an individual level, recapturing the original theology of the ancient author is indeed possible, and, I would argue, ought to be done. Religion, however, requires a myriad of other considerations that must be met and these considerations may well exclude the thought of the ancient author. Although the book of Job may well follow the traditional concept in Semitic theologies that one may justifiably raise a charge against the Deity for unfaithfulness to his covenant, such thought does address the theological or practical concerns of religion, which may be better served by expounding Job as an exemplar of patience in suffering or following a Christological interpretation. Neither Christian piety or theology allow for the possibility that God could unjustifiably be unfaithful to his end of the covenant, although Job intends to provide the vocabulary to raise such a charge and demonstrate that the Deity can be called into account before man.

This is the paradox we face. There is a certain integrity to the Christian theological tradition; no serious scholar would dispute this. Yet, one cannot ignore that a notable points of disagreement exist between what appears to have been in place during Jesus of Nazareth's life to the close of first century, and the Christian tradition that begins to come into its own. No one is entirely sure, aside from individual assimilation, the data of the first century ought to be applied to the Christian context, or if it even can be applied. Nevertheless, it is there, it exists. For some, it is the result of the machinations of faithless secularists who want nothing more than to dismantle Christianity. For others, it is part of the quest to encounter God on the most unadulterated manner possible.

In Jewish thought, reflected in both the Old and, incidentally, the New Testament, there is notion of name theology. To learn the name of the Deity is to discover its essence and power. The various names of God transmitted in the Hebrew text reveal aspects of the Deity. We find this name theology transmitted into the New Testament - "Who do you say I am?", "the name above every other name," etc. It is impossible to fully integrate the significance of the name theology in the New Testament without understanding how and what the names of God reveal. To this point, transliteration and a rediscovery of the first century are integral.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Another one enters the great beyond.

From Sacramentum Futuri.

Carlo Braga passes. Yet another one of the names that spearheaded liturgical reform in the Roman Church has embarked upon the great transitus.

Reading the article, coupled with the autumnal temperatures in my region of the country, I could not help but be taken back to some now distant October, working well late into the night on one of my (in retrospect) one too many degrees in Theology. I spent a considerable time of my life studying the depths of the liturgical reform in the Roman Church, such that a tinge of loss was the first reaction I had to reading of Carlo Braga's death.

Putting aside conspiracy theories and whatever one makes of the Novus Ordo and Liturgia Horarum, Fr. Braga, much like Bugnini, was a liturgical scholar of some notoriety in his time. Although Vaggiani was the only Italian to achieve must reputation in English speaking circles, Braga, like Bugnini, had a reputation among scholarly European Catholics. True, he did not gain the level of notoriety of, say, Jungmann. However, he was enmeshed in the project of liturgical reform in Italy.

It is impossible not to think of the numerous articles by Braga and other obscure but influential figures in the reform of the Roman liturgy. It is easy enough, and horribly common, to demonize these men, although such a Manichean worldview hardly does justice to them. The end result of their efforts may be questionable, and was even questioned by notable persons of their rank, but if one takes them time to read those obscure journal articles that floated about in Italy and the rest of the continent, one sees men whose enthusiasm for the liturgy was palpable. They lived and breathed the liturgy, really. They fed off the waves of excitement that came from rediscovering liturgical texts that never made it into the Roman Rite as it came down to us, the new horizons that were borne from comparative liturgy, and the noticeable results achieved by popularizing the vernacular with the copious hand missals in circulation.

Whether or not all of the above mentioned really should have funneled into a vision of reforming the order of the Roman Mass is debatable. However, you cannot deny the love for the liturgy that inspired such a fateful decision. Which is why, in my estimation, scholars like Ward and Johnson continue to defend the reform of the Roman Rite and go great efforts to reveal the sources of the liturgical reform. It only takes a few moments of reading these articles (published before, during and after the Council) until one has caught their excitement.

Braga goes forth to his eternal reward; at the end of the day, I think it unlikely that God condemns him. With his passing, one wonders how many figures are left from those decades of liturgical reform.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How long until I can have this on a bumper sticker?

Domi suae in urbe R'lyeh Chtulhu et somniat et exspectat.

The coat of arms for the high priest of old ones.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Because it would have been too much to do anything in defence of the Christians that were persecuted in Iraq.

At least the persecution of one group is recognized by the White House.

I don't have a dog in Democrat vs. Republican fight. Although, I have to wonder if the president's foreign policy flubs will come back to bite his party in the ass. How is it that this administration cannot acknowledge that ISIS has been executing Christians when even the secular media has covered the story?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ecclesiastical New Coke

An excellent snippet of Cardinal Heenan's observations of the Second Vatican Council as it was in session.

I think, perhaps, the most insightful intervention (so far as I've read) at Vatican II came from Cardinal Brown, the head of the Dominicans at the time.

The refusal to hear the criticisms of men like Heenan and Brown back then is mirrored by the refusal to tolerate anything less than an appreciative disposition towards the Council now. This is also why a fair number among the episcopacy wanted Ratzinger out; anything that raises even the smallest question against that Council's wisdom threatens to dismantle the entire rotten edifice that was built up around it.

Perhaps "rotten" is too strong of a word..."incompetent" might be best.

Vatican II has become the litmus test for one's Catholicism in the Roman Church. A strange position given that practical self destruction of the religion in its wake.

It reminds me of a lesson one learns early on in the real world; corporations that fail are the ones that cannot break out of their corporate culture to see their business failing.

Best case scenario for Rome: Vatican is consciously referred to as ecclesiastical new Coke.

Likelihood of this happening: next to none.

Ecclesiastical Provincialism

If there is one area at which the Orthodox and Roman Catholics can seem to agree, it's that reality should be defined by extreme ecclesiastical provincialism. Various Traditionalist Catholic sites treat the plight of Middle Eastern Christians as concerning only the assortment of churches in communion with Rome. The Orthodox, meanwhile, often refuse to acknowledge there is any Catholic presence.

At times like these I simply pray: Ineffable God, save me from your Church.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Office of Heiligen Kreuz (Cistercian), or the Dude Abides.

I agree, the book looks magnificent. Although, it is nothing without the contents. This Cistercian abbey signed off on a general reform of its office after Vatican II and adopted a two week cycle. My impression, based on looking at the psalter schema, is that it offers an office still reflecting the monastic ethos in terms of its spirituality. Simply put, this looks like a more fulfilling office than the modern Roman breviary (Liturgia Horarum).

Looking through this window into the office of Heiligen Kreuz stirs a lot of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, it is truly frustrating that this office is unavailable outside of the abbey in Austria. On the other, there is something somewhat comforting about knowing there was an abbey that kept a balanced view of liturgical reform and prays from these books.

If Roman Catholicism, or Catholicism in general, is going to survive in a form that resembles its classical expression, it will be at the hand of communities, monastic or otherwise, who have the expressed intention of providing an oasis in midst of West's spiritual aridity.

It's just good to know this office, this abbey, is out there. It reminds of the Big Lebowski in a way,

"The Dude abides. I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all of us sinners."

Excising the Sons of God: the decline of an ancient mythology and liturgical development.

The prospect of seeing another edition of the Missale Romanum back in print stirs the hope that it will, even if coming from more extreme elements, facilitate a real discussion of the twentieth century liturgical reforms in the Latin Church. How much depth the discussion will have is anyone's guess. Nevertheless, the hope is there that perhaps some additional perspective can be provided. Much as I agree with the observations that the Missale Romanum of Paul VI is a liturgy clearly distinct from the traditional Roman liturgy, I must also agree that the Missale Romanum of Paul VI did not emerge from a vacuum. It was the largest step in a series of previously tepid steps towards reforming the Roman liturgy in the light of criticism drawn by modern historical research, theology, and society.

So it seems that Pius XII reforms of Holy Week are often considered a crucial moment in the twentieth century's liturgical reform. It seems as though this was the moment confirming that a recasting of the Roman liturgy was not only possible, but indeed it would happen.

The arguments discussing the merits or lack thereof of Pius XII's reforms range over a variety of concerns. My concern is a particularly narrow one. It seems to me that the greatest casualty of the reform of Holy Week was the abridgment of the twelve prophecies to four. Now, the Holy Week reforms of Pius XII are not a major issue for me; I do not mark them as the beginning of the Roman liturgy's decline and I do not consider the pre-Pian form to be a indicator of sure orthodoxy. Among the Holy Week reforms, only the reduction of the prophecies strikes me as a loss, although it is not a be all and end all issue for the traditional Roman liturgy.

Truth be told, it is the elimination of only one of the twelve prophecies that concerns me. This would be the text of the second prophecy, which was comprised of Genesis 5-8, the narrative of Noah and the flood.  In particular, my concern is with one segment of this narrative, Genesis 6, the account of the sons of God and the daughters of man and the Nephilim.

Anyone with a background in Biblical Studies should immediately note that the account of Genesis 6 intersects with I Enoch. The relationship between these texts is still, in higher critical circles, considered somewhat muddy. We presume that I Enoch is an expansion of Genesis 6, although J.T. Milik, one of the original scholars to work on the text of I Enoch recovered from Qumran, championed the opposite view. It should be noted that Milik's position is not as off base as it might seem at first; many scholars of Genesis believe the account of Genesis 6 is a truncated version of a longer narrative. However, there is no consensus that I Enoch is the longer narrative.

In any event, the sons of God myth, be it through the text of Genesis or the Book of Enoch, played a major role in the formative years of Christianity, well into the end of Ante-Nicene period. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, to name a few, all accepted the sons of God myth of Genesis 6 as authentic and held to a literal interpretation of the text. An important example can be found in Irenaeus' Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. Some, such as Origen and Tertullian, if I recall correctly, cite the Book of Enoch as authentic. Of course, contemporary textual studies have highlighted the influence of the myth and the text of I Enoch on the composition of the New Testament, the most blatant example being found in the clear citation of the text in the Epistle of Jude and II Peter, wherein both authors treat the text as, in our parlance, canonical. Additionally, it seems as though Paul makes a very veiled allusion to it in his prescriptions for the head covering of women in II Corinthians.

Only the Ethiopian Orthodox Church retained the Book of Enoch in its canon. It appears as though the book fell off the radar in the West and the East rather soon after Nicaea. The sons of God myth, however, took a different route as the rise of platonic and neo-platonic philosophy in Christian theology struggled to find an acceptable interpretation. Augustine finds a way around it by demythologizing the passage in the City of God. Ascetic authors, such as John Cassian, aptly applied the four senses of scripture to the passage and offered an anagogical interpretation.

I have, alas, forgotten much the history of the development of the old Roman lectionary (as it came to us in the traditional Missale Romanum). The oldest manuscripts of the Roman lectionary date to approximately the 7th century, if I recall correctly, and it has been some time since I last studied up on the contents. As such, I will not try to argue a train of historical continuity between the Ante Nicene Church and the Missale Romanum as it stood in the 1940s. I would argue that whatever the circumstances of its composition, the second prophecy, whether by intention or accident, offered us a connection to the formative decades of Christianity. The sons of God myth stretched through the centuries to the early cosmology of Christian Church. In that mythological context we encountered the mythological frame work that underlined the greater cosmology of Christianity's earliest years. Based upon our studies of the literature that heavily circulated at the time of second temple and left its imprint on the New Testament, this mythological narrative may well have been the background for the worldview of Jesus himself. It is a strange and utterly alien worldview for us.

Indeed, it was alien by the time we reached the debate between Alexander and Arius that served as an impetus for the Council of Nicaea. Perhaps that is why even before the Second Vatican Council and the complete reform of the Roman liturgy, it did not survive. My wife and I had a discussion about this very topic. As I waxed on and on about the profound significance of this reading and the sons of God myth, she remarked, "Well, evidently it wasn't really passed on, otherwise they wouldn't have put it on the chopping block before Vatican II." I couldn't reply with anything other than, "true."

It was perhaps many centuries before 1950 that the second prophecy of the old Holy Saturday liturgy had become wrapped in obscurity. It preserved a kernel of the earliest Christian mythological framework that had otherwise failed to be passed on. One need only study a hand full of the obscure liturgical texts out there to realize that this is a recurring pattern in the history of the Western liturgy (I cannot speak with any knowledge concerning the Eastern liturgy). There is an elucidating article by Ward in my files. It focuses on the Ravenna Rotolus and how the text was incorporated into the collects of Paul VI's Missale Romanum. At one point, he highlights an oration not included in the reform of the Roman liturgy because the theology expressed therein was too alien. Yet, the prayer was clearly of a Roman type and is part of a collection of prayers used during the Advent/Christmas cycle, some of which were present in old Missale Romanum. Plainly, it is true; through the course of history some texts suffer a loss of meaning and Bugnini's generation was not the first one to drop a text whose relevance seemed utterly obscure.

Of course, the passage of time is a funny thing. Recent decades have seen a reemergence of the son of God myth's among scholars and more discussion of its influence on early Christianity. On a more practical level, the myth is having a renewed impact on more evangelical leaning Protestants who have grown disaffected with certain tendencies in mainline Protestantism. Yet, I have no delusions about this impacting Western Christianity as a whole, most especially mainline Catholic Christianity, especially those of a Roman variety.

As distant as Roman Catholics were from the second prophecy prior to the Pian reform, the distance has only grown and the worldview reflected in that text is yet more obscure. This should offer us something to reflect on. Much as proponents of Paul VI's liturgical reform like to chime in about going to earlier forms and earlier theology (disputable points to be sure!), the interest is really half-hearted. If one was interested in returning to an earlier theology, one would advocate for this text's re-introduction into the Roman liturgy. Similarly, those groups advocating the pre-Pian Holy Week scantly mention the significance of reducing the number of prophecies and the historical importance of the sons of God myth to Christianity.

The distance between Roman Catholicism and the old second prophecy of Holy Saturday is perhaps unbridgeable. This reading is perhaps a clear example of how liturgical texts can become obscure through the centuries, to the point where its relevance will only be appreciated by specialist or a few odd fellows. In the modern Roman liturgy, the application of Genesis 6 is careful to leave out verses 1-4, the truncated account of the sons of God myth. In this case, appears to be a deliberate editorial decision by the editors of Paul VI's Missal to eliminate the relevant verses. This, of course, leads us to the controversial topic of the new lectionary's redaction of scripture, which is another matter entirely.

There is an unavoidable question that comes up when discussing defunct liturgical texts: Is it possible to retrieve them and reapply them? In the instance of the Missale Romanum prior to the Pian reforms, the sons of God myth more specifically, it seems relatively easy. There is a contingent in Catholicism (be it Roman, Anglican, or even Western Rite Orthodox) that do not necessarily need to follow every pontifical directive on the liturgy and have proceeded to use prior editions of the Roman Missal, if not other branches of the Latin liturgy. In the instance of the reform of the Roman liturgy, the text were retrieved and reapplied in a selective if not ideological way, modified where the text did not reflect the editors' goals for the reformed Roman liturgy. It is the second instance which concerns us most. The majority of Catholics will likely not be part of a parish that uses the pre-Pian Holy Week liturgy, rather, they will be part of a parish that has either removed or severely redacted the text pertaining to the sons of God. How one answers the question of whether or not the text can be restored to the liturgy in those settings reflects how one conceives the liturgy. Is the liturgy something we create, or something we receive?

Without getting into a "pissing match" (as we call it in the real world) about who changed what first and when, the form and text of the pre-Pian reform, post-Pian reform, and Pauline reform missals is essentially fixed in place. Indeed, I think one can make the case that the pre-Pian will come into its own as a third option the vexed climate of the Roman liturgy (although, I still maintain the pre-Pian and post-PianMissale Romanum of Paul VI as a received liturgy and have done so by maximizing the usage of Latin in the celebration. If this continues and succeeds, whether using Latin or the vernacular, it is a crucial step towards establishing the Pauline liturgy as something received and, in turn, re-inducing a sense of perennial into the greater part of Catholicism. Once this happens to a liturgy, it is to a religious body's detriment if substantial changes are introduced, which a revision of the Easter readings would certainly be.

The wonderfully arcane text of Genesis 6:1-4 may well be lost in perpetual obscurity. We can discuss the revisions of Holy Week all we want, it does not change the fact that the significance of the text was not passed on. It was a prime candidate for elimination when Roman circles got that revision bug. Yet, it hardly seems as though the groups that would utilize the Roman Missal as it was before Pius XII's revision would know what to do with it. It would be read or chanted as proscribed by the rubrics, but it still lacks any poignant relevance.

Christianity long ago grew uncomfortable with a myth that had an influential role in its conception of reality, It tried various ways around the problem. The second prophecy of the pre-Pian Missal was, in a poetic way, a lingering reminder of the religion's original nexus, something that could not be shaken until the executive decision was made to excise it. Rightly or wrongly, the Church, both Eastern and Western really, has long since wandered from the ancient mythology represented in that text.