Sunday, September 21, 2014

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.

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