Saturday, December 26, 2015

God Incarnate



Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.
πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν
ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων·
καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.
Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης·
οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι’ αὐτοῦ.
οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλ’ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.
Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω.
εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον.
ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλ’ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν.

While Nativity Season typically brings to mind the accounts of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke, the prologue of the Gospel of John always seems to add a certain profundity that the miraculous births of Luke and Matthew seem to lack. From the very depths of the Deity, God has definitively breached the divide between His eternity and the temporal world.

For the textually inclined, there is a variant reading of verse 13 (see underlined) attested to in the Old Latin and Syriac textual traditions. It reads (paraphrasing for lack of the actual text in front of me) "who not from sin, nor from the will of the flesh, nor from the will of man, but from God was born." Rather than refer to "τοῖς πιστεύουσιν", verse 13 (in these two textual traditions) refers back to the incarnate logos. That this variant appears in two disparate traditions as the Old Latin and the Syriac is somewhat perplexing. It seems random and one is pressed to determine whether or not some exchange took place between one or the other, or whether or not they are both independent holdovers from an alternative Greek text of John that otherwise hasn't been preserved - likely because it had little to no currency in Egypt where a great portion of our extant manuscripts were preserved.

Jerome, in his rather erratic revision of the Old Latin text of the New Testament (truth be told, Jerome really didn't apply his translating prowess outside of the Old Testament), made sure to change verse 13 to what we now call the majority reading and in so doing definitively stamped out the variant from the Latin Church as a consequence of the Vulgate eventually becoming the dominant Latin text. There is a rather eclectic group of scholars and others with a background in the ancient languages that prefer the variant reading. De Vaux preferred the variant reading and famously followed it (and provided accompanying notes) in the text of the La Bible de Jérusalem. This was in keeping with the broader philosophy behind editing of the sacred text in the La Bible de Jérusalem, a scholarly endeavor which sought to communicate as much as possible the subtly of the text and the complexity of the manuscript tradition in a vernacular Bible.

For full disclosure, I prefer the variant reading over the majority text. One of the strengths of de Vaux's work was his determination to demonstrate rich diversity of the manuscript tradition, a quality severely under appreciated by both conservative dogmatics and the liberal propensity for insisting on accessible vernacular editions.

Regardless of the text one chooses to follow, the characteristics Johannine dualism demonstrates itself early and definitively in the prologue. Once thought to be the product of gnostic or platonic influence, the Qumran scrolls have readily demonstrated that John's dualism a stream following from a river of thought running through Second Temple Judaism, especially in Apocalyptic literature and early mystical texts. We can now say with fair confidence that John's dualism is 1) entirely Jewish, 2) was "in the air" Jesus of Nazareth breathed, and 3) is actually pretty diffused in the New Testament.

The idea that there is a divergence between "the World" and God runs throughout the New Testament. John's gospel, however, frames this divergence as a reality that is apocalyptic in nature and demands a response from whosoever has received the unveiling. The coming of the Only Begotten is part of supernatural drama that in theme resembles the ancient chaos myth. The war to establish equilibrium in the universe is no longer fought in the heavens alone - it has poured forth and become part of the created order. As John's prologue readily alludes, we are eventually compelled to choose - God or the World, we can't have both.

With the exception of perhaps the Apocalypse, one can only imagine that were the canon up for re-certification, John's gospel would likely be voted out. John refuses to allow the reader any luxury or indulgence, he does not see the "World" as something to reach compromise with, nor something to which we should "open our windows." We are presented with two contrasts, God and the World/flesh/the will of men. To choose one is to follow a very different path from the other. In this respect, it is hard not to see an ascetic praxis lying beneath John's gospel in addition to an apocalyptic reality. So, consider John's gospel and the Christianity therein and compare it with the re-engineered Christianity that is coming to the foreground in the West, a Christianity that is reducing every ancient principle to socio-political action or psychological models, a Christianity that is determined to subvert moral world of the sacred text and tradition to the indulgences of a post-moral/post-modern West.

There are those who would say that the moment the Edict of Milan came into force, Christianity was compromised. It is a fair argument. The difference between now and then is that rather than "the World" seeking to make peace with Christianity, Christianity is seeking to accommodate itself to "the World." True, we occasionally get to choose between liberal and conservative colors, but the choice is still the same: sacrifice your principles and find comfortable footing in a secular world that essentially rejects them.

John's gospel is the conscience of Christianity, the perpetual memory of Christianity's foundational experience and earliest strata of Theology and praxis, speaking to us with words that will often make us uncomfortable when we consider our own orientation towards God. God became incarnate, to take men and women away from the same mischief many churches are seeking to accommodate in our own day.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Publication Limbo? (Pre-1955 Missale Romanum)

I continue to watch this project with much interest.

Sadly, there does not appear to be much of an update to report. Angelus Press did a fair job at giving people a behind the scenes peek at the publication of their 1962 Missale Romanum. At present, it appears the interest in a Pre-1955 Missale Romanum is too esoteric to warrant such an expose. This state of affairs should be expected. There appears to be almost no room to consider editions of the Roman Missal prior to 1962 - the Traditionalist world just isn't wide enough, apparently.

There are criticisms one can make of the publisher's choices here. There is an argument to be made that the what we could reasonably call the "ancient Roman Rite" was no longer in force by 1950 or so with the changes to the Mass of the Assumption, which up to that point had an established history in addition to thematic affinity to the tradition of the Dormition in the East. This, mind you, is not the only reason for such argumentation. Persons fair more familiar with the subject matter can provide a pretty thorough list.

This being noted, I would like to see the publisher's endeavor take off. The only way to really launch a movement of rediscovery of the pre-modern Roman liturgy is to publish an edition of the Missale Romanum before the reforms of Pius XII. This is not to raise call to displace 1962, or 1970 for that matter. Rather, it is a conviction that the pre-modern Roman liturgy constitutes an accessible avenue for exploring the historic Tradition of the Western Church and, in many areas, reflects an earlier epoch (in thematic affinity if not in actual use) in Christian history. As such, it ought to be preserved, studied, and, God willing, practiced.

Currently, there is no other comparable publication effort for any earlier edition of the Missale Romanum. I suspect that should this effort fail, the next attempt will be a long time coming.

If anyone is interested in the Roman liturgy pre-1962, or pre-1955 for that matter, The Tridentine Rite blog is well worth your time. The author's aim is clear: demonstrate via actual contents what a liturgy according to the liturgical books as promulgate Pius V would look like (when celebrated without the subsequent changes).

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Passing on the Tradition - Notes on Formation

The past few days have afforded to get in touch with some old acquaintances: a now retired auxiliary bishop and a former priest-professor I had while and undergrad.

The Dear Bishop now walks with a cane, plots his movements carefully, his battle word face surveying the landscape in bifocal glasses. 

Fr. Professor responded to an email I sent - just hoping to check in, really. He revealed that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and retired from active teaching over the summer. He presses on withe last of the PhD theses he advises and is gradually clearing out his office.

Both of these men have two things in common.

Both men demonstrated great fidelity to the Latin liturgy as it was revised after the Second Vatican Council. This was not shallow emotive "love" for the liturgy or a celebration of the liturgy as "creative" play. Rather, this was the commitment to the new liturgy in all the contours of is Latin form and firm adherence to its law of prayer as the law of faith. In brief, they were rare examples of men who accepted the Pauline liturgy as a the liturgical tradition to be received, without seeking to amend it in conformance with "particular" interests. Both men devotedly observe the divine office via the Liturgia Horarum and can make even the most ardent critic of the Pauline liturgy appreciate the corpus of hymns.

Both men, and I don't think this is coincidence, are also examples of that last generation or so of priests who may be said to have had a pre-Vatican II formation. They both have a living memory of the Roman Church before Vatican II and their formation before, during, and in the immediate years after the Council was still defined by pre-Vatican II discipline and practice, even though the Roman liturgy was substantially recast. 

The Dear Bishop and Fr. Professor are instances of the journey that generation is making towards the great transitus. There is an enormity to this event that appears when pause if given for consideration. As that generation enters its twilight years, they bring pre-Vatican II formation with them into the sunset of age. 

The influence of Vatican II upon formation in the Roman Church is ubiquitous - there is no corner of said church that does not bear the influence of the Council. Traditionalists may object and point to their own orders. They may also point to the relative youth of their priests (and in some cases bishops). At which point it is reasonable to ask, how many among them have an actual memory of formation before the Council? What percentage of Traditionalists under the Roman umbrella have the real experience of formation before the Council? How much of today's Traditionalist formation is artificial or fabricated and as a consequence ill-reflective of formation prior to the Council? And where does one find a credible conduit for pre-Vatican II formation in the modern world?

Contextually speaking, pre-Vatican II formation is impossible. Vatican II, whatever one thinks of it, was a watershed moment in the Roman Church and perhaps Western culture as whole. There is no facet of Roman Catholicism that has not been formed by this Council. Even the Traditionalist orders that view the Council with suspicion developed their identity, agenda and "charism" in reaction to the Council. As such, even in terms of content it is not a guarantee that Traditionalist Catholicism necessarily provides pre-Vatican II formation in virtue of its content being defined and conveyed under the influence of the Council. 

If pre-Vatican II formation still exists, it exists in a more piecemeal fashion as opposed to in the well defined contours of an institutional entity. It is found here and there, scattered in the wind, in the living memory of those who experienced it in the original context and offer to impart some this same experience. 

I have seen the ethos of the original liturgical movement conveyed best by priests who lived it, such as the late Fr. Bernard Gilgun, as opposed to those who self-consciously try to recapitulate it. I have seen a total application of lex orandi, lex credenti in persons such as the Dear Bishop and Fr. Professor, as opposed to a number of rank and file men (my age or younger) who never experienced pre-Vatican II Catholicism and are obsessed with a faux scholasticism. I have found Tanquerey's The Spiritual Life implemented as praxis among monasteries that give scarcely a thought to their old liturgical books.

This is not to say the Roman Church is not in a state of crisis or otherwise decline. Like the West as a whole, the Roman Church is waging an internal war between adherence to principles that were once considered immovable and increased secularization. It is to say, however, that if one truly believes the Western Tradition is of importance, merit, and benefit, one must seek it out with utmost honesty, recognizing that there are no easy answers to difficult questions, nor comprehensive cures for complex maladies. 

Formation is everything. Spend enough time with the ancient monastic literature and one sees how that principle is foundational to Christian praxis. The problem of contemporary Christian formation (particularly Vatican II inspired formation) is a known problem. What is less known is whether or not elements of pre-Vatican II formation are capable providing some perspective on account of the issues raised above. Traditionalist Catholicism scarcely recognizes the degree to which it was formed by Vatican II, and how much of its content is largely formed by persons with limited or no experience of pre-Vatican II formation. The window for rediscovering pre-Vatican II formation grows ever more narrow. The best way to find it, is to find the priests an religious that lived it and an coherently impart its content to another generation, however piecemeal the content may be. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blessed Sacrament Church, Seattle.

I know I've mentioned this before, but if you are in the Seattle area, do make sure to attend liturgy at Blessed Sacrament.

The Western Province of Dominicans have done something amazing there, something exceptionally good in a secular city and a model for parish life.

The schola recently performed Handel's Messiah. You can find photos of the event, and parish life, on their Facebook page.

I won't lie to you, I wish I was still there!

Again, if you're in the Seattle area, you'll find a gem in the emerald city. It was a defining experience in my life, sadly unequaled to this day.


Russia, Turkey, and Wars and Rumors of Wars

The news that Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 has predictably raised tensions, if not fears. Rightly or wrongly, the scene of Turkish citizens booing during the moment of silence for the Paris attack victims (and allegedly chanting Allahu Akbar) raises questions about the reliability of Turkey in the region. At the very least, one wonders how a political regime can commit its country to an operation against ISIS is the citizenry seems to sympathize.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the downed Russian jet (both Russia and Turkey offer disputed allegations over where the jet was, what happened leading up, and where and how the fighter jet was shot down), Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet. One pilot waa then allegedly killed in Syria by the Turkmen (one of the US' "approved" rebel groups) as he parachuted to the ground.

Turkey may well have acted in haste. Whether in Turkish airspace or not, there is no indication Russia has planned a military operation on Turkey. If the expectation by Turkey was that they would then draw the rest of NATO into open opposition of Russia, then Turkey may not have been entirely thorough in their "pre-game" analysis. If reports from BBC News are credible, neither Britain or Germany (the two major European players in NATO) are particularly interested in coming to a blistering defense of Turkey - their response is non-committal at best. Thus far, the only response remotely affirmative of Turkey's action is coming from the US. One can speculate as to the reason why. Fear of war with Russia? Or perhaps a growing sense that Russia is a more reliable military partner for Europe in relation to Islamic extremism than the US? Again, reading between the lines, one does have to wonder.

The incident is likely to feed the quietly growing anxiety that this situation creeping closer to getting out of control and lead to a much larger conflagration. Last year, during the the centennial anniversary of World War I, there were numerous commentaries noting how, in almost poetic terms, the situation of the world today bears an eerie similarity to the world as it was just prior to the breakout of the Great War. Historical comparisons always have degrees of inadequacy. Yet, the factual parallels (and whether or not they exist) are often dwarfed by the psychic sense that those parallels indeed do exist or that some greater conflagration looms ominously on the horizon.

There are those who would argue (usually anecdotal) that there is a growing anxiety that the situation in the Middle East will eventually prove to be the impetus of a larger war. The controversy over Iran's nuclear program, the instability in Iraq, the rise of ISIS, the spread of Islamic extremism across the West, and now the gradually gathering of the world's military powers into a concentrated geographic area in the midst of conflict like so many dark storm clouds, all of these contribute to the sense that the situation is about to get out of control. The major players in the game that have averted such massive conflicts since the conclusion of World War II seem to be pushed to the limits of their efficacy - this is make or break time for the post-World War II geo-political order. The system is in the middle of its defining moment and a failure to both avert a major conflict and resolve the issues already at hand will likely lead to considerable questions regarding the efficacy of the system. All of this being considered, is the growing anxiety a portent of something coming?

It is said that Jung's notion of the collective unconscious reached greater maturity in the years leading up to World War II. The story goes that Jung noticed that more his patients were relating dreams of blood, fire, iron and open conflict, leading Jung to privately conclude that all this was pointing to a collective psychic sense that war was coming. Is this story apocryphal? Perhaps, although it poses the question in a most powerful way: is it simple anxiety, or is it predictive? Can the human mind, individually or collectively, connect into some other side of reality and sense the coming of major events? Certainly, the feeling is there. Setting aside questions of church governance, Pope Francis has recently invoked the shadow of a global war, alleging that the world is in the midst of a third worldwide conflict fought in stages. In a instance that recalls some of the speeches of Pius XII, Francis recently juxtaposed the season of Christmas (the second holiest in Christianity, and the most beloved in the secular West) with a world at war, the idea being that the celebration of the birth of God Incarnate (an event that should inspire life) is being eclipsed by the delivery of death. While some Roman Traditionalist have lambasted him for these remarks, the Bishop of Rome is another example of how the sense of foreboding has spread, finding sure footing in our collective psyche.

Whatever comes next, world powers keep congregating in Syria, some of whom are ostensibly on opposing sides in the world political landscape. The events of November 24th, 2015 genuinely did not need to be added to this mix. For now though, we hear of war and fear rumors of wars.

Update from CNN

Update from BBC News - as BCC News presents, the data seems to show the plane was fired upon after entering back into Syria.

Map based on radar image published by Turkish armed forces purportedly showing track Russian Su-24 crossed into Turkish airspace before being shot down on 24 November 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Divine Worship - The Missal

With recent events still fresh in mind, other things have fallen behind. A number of book reviews are delayed, although they should be posted in due time.

I would be nearly negligent if mention was not made of publication of Divine Worship - The Missal. This is the missal featuring the liturgical observance of the Anglican Ordinariate. To say this missal collects the premiere elements English liturgical patrimony may be a stretch. Divine Worship, however, delivers by re-introducing classical liturgy into the Roman Church by way of the vernacular.

I have to state that I am not now nor have ever been involved with any of the controversies surrounding either a) the proper rite of a restored Catholicism in England nor b) the difficulties leading up to the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus.

I confess to have a cursory knowledge of the liturgical patrimony of England and I am often prone to see it through rose colored glasses. I have furthermore never been involved with the Anglican Church outside of attending liturgies here and there in Boston and Providence. My impression then as now was that this should have functioned as some sort of template when the Roman Liturgy was translated (thrice over) into English.

There are controversies on both points and, plainly, this post will not pretend to address any such concerns. This "preview" reflects the perspective of someone who spent the better part of his life in the Roman Church and devoted a tremendous amount of time and effort (some would say undue time and effort) to study it and earn the credentials for having done so.

The immediate concern, therefore, has little grounding in the preservation of the English liturgical patrimony as such, but rather the application of the English liturgical tradition to a larger context. In this respect, the "event" quality of Divine Worship is that it if the first credible offering of a liturgical book in English under the umbrella of the Roman Church. This is from the perspective of the quality of English utilized and the contents of the liturgy itself. While we can quibble with points of the missal's contents, it stands as a break of silver lining in the at times dark clouds of liturgical renewal, most especially at the parish level. This missal is evidence that genuinely elevated English and a classically Western liturgy CAN in fact function under the aegis of Rome in the current climate.

Praise has been coming in from the corners of the web that one would expect:

http://www.chantcafe.com/2015/11/why-divine-worship-missal-is-so.html

http://thineownservice.com/2015/11/10/divine-worship-anglican-patrimony/

The CTS blog has more information and a host of photographs of the volume's interior. CTS knows how books ought to be bound and its liturgical editions have been the best in recent memory.You can get a good look at some of the texts - enough to make anyone familiar with the old liturgy long for the liturgy according to this book. In accordance with the "English" character of this liturgy, contents reflect the Latin liturgical tradition as it developed in England - this is not a mere translation of the so-called Tridentine liturgy.

What the future holds for this missal is any one's guess. The desire of any party to frame this liturgy as proper to Anglican groups only seems self limiting at best, or imposed isolation at worst. There is an argument to made that English speaking Catholicism ought to avail itself to the Ango-Catholic liturgical tradition. Where we hear so much talk of "inculturation," culturally speaking, the Anglo-Catholic tradition set the tone and terms for the liturgical expression of the English language. To that extent, one could argue the liturgy reflected in the contents of the Divine Worship ought to be a normative expression in the English speaking world.

In brief, this is probably the single liturgical book I would most like to review. I suspect review copies will be scarce to non-existent, which would be a shame. Latin Christianity desperately needs a vernacular liturgical expression of this quality. Realistically speaking, this ought to be the template if not the actual model for moving forward with a sensible vernacular liturgy in English speaking countries. Furthermore, it provides a canonical outlet for Roman Catholics to retrieve pieces of the Latin liturgical tradition from which they have been estranged since the Reformation.

In sum, I would like to see this book succeed on all accounts, both in terms of sales figures and in terms of the number of parishes using it as a legitimate option for liturgical observance.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

War Is Hell

War is Hell. It is absolute Hell. Anyone who tells you anything otherwise is either a liar or simply deluding themselves.

War is Hell.

The situation we have in Middle East is the result of many co-factors. There are the long histories of Christianity-Islam relations and Arab-Jewish relations to be sure.  But in our time, it is the modern history that seems most pivotal to understand. When all is said and done, the Western orchestrated overthrow of the Iranian regime in 1953 probably is the historical beginning of the chain of dominoes that most recently fell in Paris. For the better part of seven decades, the West has pursued policies in the Middle East that were either driven by the ambition for global hegemony or by overly academic abstractions that failed to see the reality on the ground for what it was - the rise of ISIS being the most recent example.

War is Hell and the past is prologue. The West, with the US leading the charge, prosecuted an unprovoked war in Iraq. From the ashes of what was once the fourth largest army in the world (and one of the most efficient killing machines in the upper echelons of the Baath party), rose the entity known as ISIS. Behind the propaganda that lights fires in the minds of men, it seems the hidden power in this same Baath party are ultimately guiding ISIS.

If the press conference in Vienna is any indication, the events of the last two weeks have alarmed Russia and the United States enough to consider setting aside the ideological feud that has been raging the last few years and co-ordinate a response to the events in Syria. The fact that is was explicitly stated that the Syrian government has ostensibly agreed to negotiate with the opposition and that aggressively dismantling ISIS is a top priority seems to suggest that the realization has set in that we cannot expend energy chasing after political agendas. ISIS will in theory be the direct target. Even France has said as much.

Yet the above only serves to re-enforce how hellish war really is; not only hell, war is more often than not the prime example of the most cynical manipulation of people. The constant victims of war are the people who had no say in the matter. The conflict wasn't their choice and they had little to no opportunity to reject it. The images of these victims are almost always fleeting. The girl who was gang raped in the midst of the bedlam. The parent who holds the lifeless mangled body of his son in his arms, crying for the little boy who will never come back. Or the exchange student eating at a restaurant while studying abroad. A musician working the leg of tour for a major American band. A journalist covering the venue. Or a woman who just happened to head for a soccer match.The victims of war, the people whose lives are held accountable by fate, are almost always ordinary people. Even if we factor soldiers in as victims, the story is still the same. The victims are almost always the people who had no say in the matter. The powers that bring us to war are rarely held accountable. True, we may have our Nuremberg moment where we bring surviving heads of a defeated army to trial, but how often to the men whose political maneuverings set the stage for a conflagration find themselves having to give account for what they have done and failed to do? Will Bush or Obama or any of the complicit EU statesmen be brought before some juridical authority to make some atonement for the horribly misguided policies that brought us to this point? Highly unlikely. What will happen should we eventually fight ISIS head on is that the casualties will be massive. The people who had no say in the matter will be the most brutalized by the fighting. We may or may not get our man, but the statesmen who facilitated the situations that lead ordinary people to ruin (with no choice of their own in the matter) will likely never be held accountable. Will the French hold accountable the politicians who advocated for a refugee policy that could not possibly vet all of the incoming flux migrants? Probably not. Meanwhile, the innocent people who had no say in the matter, who couldn't care for global politics, they will continue to be war's victims.

War is Hell. In fact, it is such hell that we had to think of rules for it, less we devolve into a beast of our more violent impulses. There is nothing good or humane about it, though eventually it may always be identified as the only option left. But after the dust has cleared and the enemy defeated, where is the justice for the innocents who had no say in the matter. Where is the justice for the father holding the mangled remains of his son, or the parents of a college student who was gunned down at a Paris cafe`? When do they get to see the political leaders whose action or inaction brought things to this point held accountable for what they have done or failed to do? It is then that one hopes that there is someone who will hold us all accountable on the other side of the eschaton. Maybe that will be the day the powerless who are herded into wars not of their own choosing are finally vindicated.

War is Hell, but it is the evil that must be done when it is the only means of preserving the greater good. After the deed is done, a question emerges that requires an answer and be acted upon with more fervor than war is fought: who will reach out to the victims of war and provide them with a vision of their dignity and restoration?

Update: See Fr. Chadwick's very poignant "What Would We Die For?" In words both elegant and insightful, he provides a window to the complexity and, to be blatant, horror of the situation we find ourselves in.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris: ISIS in the city of lights.

The narrative for the weekend news cycle seemed like it was set by early Friday morning. News outlets reported that US and UK intelligence were reasonably certain that Jihadi John was dead, killed in a hellfire missile drone strike. During the late morning/early afternoon hours in the United States, President Obama declared that ISIS was not decapitated, but "contained." A few hours later, ISIS, possibly in response to the US air strike that killed its PR man, launch an attack on Paris that would suggest those words were ill chosen. Indeed, I suspect if Obama could reply Friday morning and afternoon, he would like a do-over. Simply put, his statements raise serious questions regarding the competency of current Western leadership in the area of global Islamic extremism.

The narrative changed. Despite a massive drone warfare program and intelligence network, the narrative changed. We are not spending the weekend reassuring ourselves of the triumph of the West over ISIS and Islamic extremism nor are we being washed in publicity spots disguised as new reports and intending to cultivate a sense that justice was done and freedom defended. The story of our small victory that should have dominated the weekend news cycle has instead been replaced, and the technological edifice we constructed that was supposed to assure us of our victory was overwhelmed by an attack marked by cunning and almost simplistic savagery. The words of Darth Vader are only too appropriate: "don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed."

The attacks in Paris establish a precedent that is justifiably terrifying. ISIS has demonstrated the ability to engage in same-day retaliation. What is more, they have raised the stakes. The US killed four of their own. They responded with mass civilian casualties, achieved through simple brutality.

President Hollande said this was an act of war on the part of ISIS. When a nation says it was on the receiving end of an act of war, said nation typically intends to declare war on the aggressor. The natural question arises: what will be Hollande's aim? The last Western president to declare and engage in war was thoroughly ridiculed by the majority of the EU nations. His own army used a tactical method that was not designed to "fight a war to win a war," rather, it was designed to suspended the conflict as soon as possible with limited casualties. This method proved unable to cope with the essentially prolonged nature of the conflict in the region and lead to a war weary public pivoting to the opposite ideological spectrum.

After his presidency was completed, Anglo-American and EU powers took a firmly left turn. The US, for its part, followed its committed ideology and pulled back troops and ground operations, trusting future events to local governments and an increasingly expansive drone warfare program. A power vacuum emerged leading to a re-engineered Islamic extremism taking over local governments (the Arab). Out of this, ISIS was born. The West, averse to engage in a ground war, has attempted to play the cards of Arab unrest, trying to separate the acceptable Islamicists from the unacceptable. It has tried reading the tea leaves and taking sides, funneling weapons an eventually supporting those it thinks are the "good" Islamicists. In so doing, it betrayed one of our allies (Egypt) and double crossed a man who only a few years before finally capitulated to Western pressure and decided to "play ball" on our terms (Ghadafi).

So what does Hollande intend behind his comment that this was an act of war? Does he mean to say France will fully engage in the same tactics the US has used for almost 8 years and with which has created no discernible impact, save for building up the mythos of ISIS? Or does he intend to engage a war and fight a war to win it, not merely bring a cessation to conflict?

We are at war with an idea. Truth be told, being at war with an idea puts one against an enemy more fearsome than merely an opposing army. Armies and nations can be conquered and vanquished. Ideas have consequences and often find ways of reproducing themselves. To make war against an idea (or an ideal) one must have a counter idea (or ideal ) of your own, a principle that is capable of arousing the passion of the public to fight for it and persevere until the end. What idea, ideal, or principle does the contemporary Western world have to offer? We have subjected the classic ideas, ideals and principles of the West in favor of political correctness, consumerism, and absolute relativism. Are these three categories strong enough to ignite the fire in the minds and passion in the hearts of men, thereby gritting us for the long haul? Or are these symptoms of a culture whose excess has brought it to the point of exhaustion? Have we indeed primed ourselves for the fall? In an instance of historical irony, France, the country that did so much to set the West on the trajectory to its current state, is now in the position of having to demonstrate what type of response the West is capable of. To put it another way, was the Greatest Generation the last great generation? Is it the case that the generation the fought its way out of a global depression and triumphed over Nazism was the last generation of Westerners with sufficient numbers who had the ingrained ideas, ideals, and principles of the classic Western tradition to combat a fearsome ideology?

When fighting a war, one must fight it to win it. The West is fond of combat operations that avoid boots on the ground and incurring any casualties. Western press and academics are pre-progammed to lambaste civilian casualties in an conflict. Casualties are a part of war, civilian or between armies. In the current context, a declaration of war is defied by the nebulous nature of the enemy. ISIS has its demarcated territory, but throughout the Middle East and into parts of Africa, you are not dealing with chunks of territory pledged to ISIS. Rather, you dealing with a massive geopolitical area marred by political instability where groups allied to ISIS or other Islamic extremists are vying to destabilize localities and then assume the local governorship. When faced with this, it will be observed that, aside from ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq, it is impossible to declare a war on a precise entity. Engage in a war would necessitate eventual involvement in these other countries that have fallen into instability. The whole scenario eventually brings up the problem of non-combative civilian casualties in the region. Although this is a noble concern, the attacks in Paris and the bombing of the Russian airliner on October 31st reveals a layer to the discussion that the West has failed to appreciate: we are being forced to choose between our own civilians and theirs. While the civilian casualties in Syria or elsewhere may be collateral damage, we must, to a certain extent, be willing to accept the culpability for such actions, otherwise we are willing accept that our own civilians will be subject to casualties by explicitly targeted attacks on our own soil. This is not an ideal scenario, but it is the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

In part, the fixation upon the just war theory has lead us to this point of paralysis, where the West is unable to enact the solemn decision of will and acceptance of grave responsibility for what must done. We are obsessed with finding the good war, the right war, the just war, and being able to say we are blameless in all of our actions. But this is not the case - no one is innocent in war. War is evil, always and on all sides. Sometimes, however, war and all of its evils are the only option left to preserve a greater good. Sometimes it is the only option a state has to protect its citizens. This will never make a war just - it will make it a necessity, or a fact of human existence, never just, never something we should feel especially proud of. We think of all the humane ways of conducting warfare in the abstract. We seldom realize the brutal nature of it, and we are especially averse to accepting that war is never humane or good. War is evil, war is hell, it is sometimes the only option, a necessary part of human existence, evidence of a fallen humanity. Perhaps that is the really reason fighting a war to win a war paralyzes us these days; it questions the integrity of the myth of progress and forces us to re-examine the myth of the Creation and Fall and reflect upon a fallen world.

There will likely be more security measures put in place on both sides of the Atlantic. The fear expressed by most every analyst is that, officially, the game has changed with ISIS. We have any entity that is global in scope, capable of retaliation, and following an ideal. The world has changed. The West must ask itself if it is capable of adapting to this change. A negative answer ensures a prolonged conflict that will span generations. A positive answer, however, poses an unknown risk. After determining the path required by necessity, will we be able to put back into that Pandora's Box whatever it is we released?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Great Expectations

There are such things as reasonable demands one may make upon a parish or religious community. One may demand the parish or religious community of one's association reflects one's theology, offers suitable worship, upholds an acceptable moral code, etc.

Demands become unreasonable when, after having core elements met, one has any expectation that a given parish or religious community will suspend its long standing customs, its traditions, its identity or liturgical praxis to accommodate ones wishes and whims.

For those migrating from the Western Church to the Orthodox Church, there are legitimate expectations one can have. It must not be supposed, however, that the Orthodox Church has a duty to assimilate Western Christian liturgy or observance. Joining any community is a mutual exchange. One seeks ABC and receives ABC. One is expected to observe XYZ as these are the tenets of the community. One should not expect that one will be able to observe EFG, nor, more importantly, that the community will observe EFG. One cannot expect a community to abate its "natural" praxis in favor of adopting something new an eccentric to satiate one's tastes.

The Latin Church has no duty to have its parishes offer the Divine Liturgy or adopt other typically Byzantine modes of prayer or worship. In point of fact, those who argue against such adoption have a valid point; the Roman Church ought to celebrate the Latin tradition if said tradition is to have any integrity. Similarly, there is no such obligation for the Orthodox Church to be a forum for the Western/Latin Tradition. Those who expect that it should will be sorely disappointed.

Further to the above, the Orthodox Church does not bear the responsibility for preserving the Latin Tradition or the Traditional Latin liturgies. One should not expect that such a project will ever be high on the Orthodox priorities. It should not be expected that the Orthodox Church senses the same degree of crisis over the Western Tradition as Catholics or Anglicans nor see how important it is to have outposts for traditional Latin/Western liturgy. This responsibility remains with the Western Patriarchate. If the appropriate Patriarch has been negligent in his duty (for whatever reason), it is not for the other Patriarchs to intervene or otherwise attempt to have some jurisdiction over the Latin liturgical tradition.

Transitioning to the Orthodox Church in the hope of finding an outpost for pre-Vatican II Catholicism sets one up for failure, bitterness and resentment. One is expecting the Orthodox Church to take responsibility for something that regardless of antiquity belongs properly to a particular Patriarchate. The Orthodox Church can, of course, offer much for the road weary Western Christian, but this is done with the expectation that the liturgical praxis of the Orthodox Church will be followed.

Orthodoxy is not Catholicism, and Catholicism is not Orthodoxy. It should not be expected that Orthodoxy will be the last refuge for Traditional Catholicism - Orthodoxy has its own tradition to preserve.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Gold, Silver, and Dross

There is an inter-blog exchange going on between Opus Publicum, Liturgiae Causa and Fr. Anthony Chadwick on the tensions between liturgical idealism and liturgical pragmatism.

Practically speaking, there are obstacles set before any attempt to reintegrate a more or less traditional Latin liturgy. Bias towards anything other than the modern liturgy is often met with suspicion. More often than not, however, there is simply widespread disinterest. The liturgical tradition of the West is simply not a preoccupation of the Western Church. The well diffused adoption of the Pauline liturgy in the Roman Church (including monastic orders and in the developing world) has substantially shifted the paradigm.

Interest in the classical liturgy (again, more or less) is divided among "eccentrics" and more "reactionary" groups. Appreciation of the Roman Liturgy as it was prior to the 20th century reforms is, in this context, nearly an area of esotericism. It is, I would add, a legitimate area of interest and one that ought to have more attention - defining the terms of the discussion as between 1962 and 1970 is grossly inadequate. Yet, practically speaking, there is enough of an uphill battle to re-integrate the missal as it stood in 1962. Whatever its imperfections, the 1962 Missale Romanum has become the flagship for classical liturgical revival.

The problem with this status is that it is accompanied by a fair amount of dishonesty. The missal of 1962 is not the "perfection" of the Western liturgy, nor is it necessarily representative of the ancient tradition. The Holy Week reforms argue against either conclusion; the Latin Holy Week was truly gutted for many of the same reasons that would be used as justification for abandoning the classical Latin tradition in toto.

It has been argued (in this recent exchange and elsewhere) that the changes between the Missale Romanum of, say, 1949 and that of 1955 and then 1962 would hardly be noticed in practice. It is worth considering if such arguments are based off of the often bipolar dichotomy between the Pauline liturgy as it is commonly celebrated and the Missal of 1962 - which, by all accounts, is celebrated with more care than was the norm 40 or 50 years ago. In any event, I am often leery of such arguments; we make them from an arm chair position, not from much real experience. It is up to those remaining people with a living (and vivid) memory of the liturgy prior to the Holy Week reforms to inform us if the changes were slight or severe.

The liturgy of 1962 is the traditional Latin liturgy that most people will encounter. Most of us will not see an earlier variant celebrated, but it is important to have some historical perspective. Whatever the pedigree of its prayers or Mass sets, the Missal of 1962 also bears the marks of modernization, though to a lesser degree than its successor. The more one comes to see the Missal of 1962 as a symptom as opposed to a cure, the more disinterested one becomes in the 62-70 polarity.

Even before the Second Vatican Council or the promulgation of the Pauline Missal, the Roman Church felt the pull of modernity upon its members, cleric or lay. The Holy Week reforms reflect this tension. The abolition of the twelve prophecies in the Easter Vigil reflected a concurrent streamlining of Catholicism's spirituality and conception of the supernatural. This is particularly demonstrated by truncating the readings from Genesis to exclude the Enoch myth and the account of the Nephilim. Although the exact form of the old Holy Week readings may not trace back to the earliest days of the religion, the Enoch myth (including I Enoch) and the account of the Nephilim left their impact on the composition of the New Testament and are frequently referenced into the fifth century. This mythology was, therefore, present in the earliest strata of the Christian worldview, having a foundational role in the early kergyma via providing the mythological backdrop for the "cosmic" significance of the mission of Christ. By the 20th century, the significance of this tradition and its presence in the Easter Vigil was essentially lost; the tradition failed to be passed on and the prevailing worldview in the Roman Church was fairly indifferent to it. Without ignoring the many good things retained in Missal of 1962, we should not ignore that in various places the former missal demonstrates a shifting of Catholicism's worldview into modernity.

The structural problems of the Pauline liturgy are what they are. They were there upon promulgation, such as a terribly denuded offertory. They remain - there is plainly no strong motivation to revise them. There are further controversies surrounding the redaction of liturgical and biblical texts in the Pauline liturgy. Valid criticisms being noted, there is a temptation to default to into a quasi dualistic juxtaposition between 1962 and 1970, the Pauline liturgy being seen as somehow spiritually nefarious. Textual redactions aside, the major issue impacting the Pauline liturgy is the structural reform, particularly the dilution of the rubrics compared with the previous Latin missals. The structure is akin to an "open floor plan" for sacramental liturgy; the rite is mailable to the interests and intentions of the celebrant and the community. Noting the issues with the offertory, one can find, should one seek it, monastic communities that have made the Pauline liturgy a vessel for the Latin tradition. This said, it is also clear that the same liturgy is more often than not celebrated in such a manner so as to move beyond the Latin tradition.

Has the end of the Latin tradition begun, as Fr. Chadwick postulates? Possibly. It is difficult to avoid entertaining the thought. Although it may depend how one defines the Latin tradition. If one is a stickler for the Pre-Pian reforms (breviary included) the end of the Latin tradition has been in progress for sometime. If one defines it more as a certain corpus of prayers and chanting (and less a particular missal or structure of the liturgy), then perhaps one sees outposts here and there where the Latin tradition is cultivated in the context of the liturgical reform. It all depends on how one defines the tradition. Is the Counter-Reformation missal the criterion upon which the definition is based? If so, then one has to contend with the modernizations applied during the twentieth century before the final reform in 1970. Furthermore, one has to acknowledge there is some demarcation between pre-Reformation and post-Reformation liturgy. One could go further to the Gregorian Sacramentary and Ordo Romanus Primus, or still further into the collection making up the Veronese Sacramentary. Plainly, from a certain perspective, there have been a number of eras in the Latin tradition marked by liturgical models that were distinct for the age, only a portion of which was transmitted to subsequent eras. What we commonly think of as the Latin tradition may well be a particular (though very noble) era at the exclusion of its antecedents and descendants. In my observation, this era is normally a confused welding of Medieval and post-Reformation Catholicism, demonstrating a longing for the Medieval if only it had the will.

At this point in my life, I've vexed over the problems of liturgical reform in the West long enough (along with the general decline of the Roman Church) long enough. While in some sense it is "no longer my problem,"  I will not claim that migrating to the Orthodox Church is a cure all. I will say that Orthodox liturgical life has both provided me with some additional perspective on these matters as well as squelched the sense of "crisis" about them. One has a better understanding of what certain figures of the original liturgical movement were after in their proposals. Silent prayers and the use of the vernacular are put into some sober relief. One's attention is gradually drawn away from the Latin liturgy; the Orthodox liturgical tradition overwhelms and demands much of one's attention if one wishes to remain liturgically invested. Whether or not this is good is a matter of dispute. Certainly, it leaves little room to act on the occasional nostalgia one feels for one's former modes of prayer/liturgical observance. One could persist privately and make so doing one's discipline and observance. Yet, belonging as I do to an Orthodox diocese that has a number of Catholics who migrated away from Rome, one finds the only people who make any such determination are single or childless. Liturgical prayer is inherently corporate prayer. Having made the transition to the Orthodox Church, one finds that family life is the single greatest factor determining the degree to which one's observance of Orthodox liturgical forms begins to take one's attention away from classically Catholic observance. Practically speaking, after we've taken account of academic study and intellectual interest and returned to real life, the Catholic tradition (Medieval or modern) has little relevance for my life. For better or worse (only God knows) the Orthodox tradition has displaced it due to pure practicality and genuine relevance. There will always be an academic interest, but, realistically speaking, that interest will rarely correspond to any real circumstance.

Again, I do not claim Orthodoxy is the universal cure all. I will state, however, that the Orthodox Church provides a corporate expression and environment that the Roman Church either cannot or refuses to provide in most instances. For those few (especially in my area of the country) who can find a doctrinally sound and spiritually sane parish community, all the best to you - you deserve it. While there are many reasons (theological, spiritual, or liturgical) that may or may not get one thinking about, the most successful (or happiest) transitions are decided upon due to practical considerations. At the very least, this held true in my own case.






Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review - The Story of Monasticism : Retrieving Ancient Tradition for Contemporary Spirituality

Tracing the contours and defining the meaning of "the new monasticism" is a work in progress. The results, as with all living histories, are somewhat tentative and the whole notion of "new monasticism" cannot seem to shake the stain of artificiality from its back. It is a term applied by observers belonging to a religion with a clearly identifiable monastic tradition (or at least those highly sympathetic to monasticism), but may or may not be rejected by those involved with it depending upon their confessional persuasion.

Greg Peters' The Story of Monasticism : Retrieving Ancient Tradition for Contemporary Spirituality is another foray into "new monasticism" from the perspective of Benedictine oblate and Anglican pastor writing as an observer of the phenomenon for evangelical Christians. Peters was raised Southern Baptist and became attracted to monasticism in college. The personal context of the author is important, providing as it does a glimpse into the sociological factors (e.g., the porousness of religious life in the United States) that have enabled a loosely defined monasticism to exert influence in traditionally non-monastic circles.

Peters' target audience is evangelical Christianity with the intention demonstrating that monasticism's principles are genuinely biblical in origin. Evangelical Christians can, therefore, accept the principles of monasticism, recognizing that some of its historical applications have occasionally strayed from the scriptural ideal. When the biblical principles are upheld, one finds numerous aspects to monasticism that are not only acceptable to evangelical Christians (or Christians in general), but indeed have special relevance for our contemporary context.

His thesis works in parts, however the whole narrative does not always convince as the data seems somewhat skewed from the start.

Monasticism in the context of this book is defined, by and large, by the noble Benedictine tradition. As a consequence, the monasticism described in the book is very much a Western or Latin monasticism, complete with its contemporary nods to the most basic points of Orthodox monasticism. Whether contemporary monasticism or "new monasticism", the whole conversation has become nearly self referential, continuing on a particularly contemporary path without much desire to submit its tenets to the scrutiny of the Orthodox tradition.

The historical narrative presented in the book rests on the presumptions of Reformation Christianity. Even though the author calls evangelicals and other Reformation inspired Christians back to reexamine monasticism, one has to accept the premise that there were historical and theological problems which the Reformation corrected in order to follow the author's narrative without critique. His target audience will likely find this palatable, however, other readers may well disagree with how the other frames Christian history in his discussion.

Much like many contemporary Catholic monastic authors, there is a serious question as to whether or not the author is honest about the relationship between asceticism and monasticism. This becomes especially crystalline when the author discusses Barth's perspective on monasticism and his proposal of a "proper understanding of asceticism," although one could also argue it was manifested earlier on by the comparatively sparse presence of Orthodox sources and the somewhat facile treatment of John Cassian. Again, there is a Reformation hermeneutic at play here, one that has become popular among many Western monastics. This ascetic-lite monasticism proposed by Barth questions the traditional vows of monasticism and understanding of asceticism's purpose in the life of the monk. The notion that the asceticism unfolds the process of physical and spiritual purification leading to the contemplative vision of God. Instead, a concept of monasticism emerges which glosses over the asceticism of its history. This monasticism pivots away from ascetic discipline in favor psychology (have a calm and pleasant demeanor) and engaging in charitable/social work. The  relative devaluation of asceticism (expressed both by Reformation inspired authors and by new monastic movements) both abandons monasticism's tradition and seems incongruous with tenets of contemplation held by many new monastics. Asceticism was traditionally seen as the process by which to prepare oneself for and enable contemplative vision. What is contemplation without asceticism? Neither "new monasticism," nor its proponents have engaged in a rigorous dialogue with the ancient sources  to satisfactorily consider this question, let alone attempt an answer.

Peters highlights what makes the "new monasticism" possible: asceticism has been abandoned in favor of psychology and social justice. When Peters reaches the point of discussing contemporary practitioners or purveyors of the "new monasticism," one finds a monastic vision grounded largely in social justice causes, including fairly specific approaches to the local economy. One wonders where the Catholic Worker movement is in his account of "new monasticism," as every example Peters highlights seems to be operating off of the movement's platform since the death of Dorothy Day.

Peters is convinced that monasticism, presumably by means of the "new monasticism," will persevere and has a future, even among evangelicals. Plainly, Peters sees monasticism as part of Christianity's mission in the post modern world. Whether or not the "new monasticism" the book seems to point towards is that future model remains to be seen. Although Peters does a fine job identifying aspects of early monasticism that could be incorporated into a Reformation based tradition, he does not engage in critical examination of the social, political, and economic mission statements of new monastic movements. The extreme temporality of new monastic movements, a serious long term weakness, is left unaddressed.

Ultimately, The Story of Monasticism is a satisfying read. It is about as comprehensive as one should expect from an expose` of a contemporary religious movement. Although, the author could have set his book apart by offering more of a synthesis and theoretical proposal for greater integration of the new monastic impulse into the broader Christian body.








Monday, September 28, 2015

The Holy Art of the Sacred Book (future Schuyler KJV)

Schuyler has recently posted some preview images of a possible new edition of the KJV via Facebook. They're looking for feedback




I like Schuyler. There are very few publishers of this caliber out there, and the KJV (monument of the English language that it is) merits such a publication effort.

Some initial thoughts.

The red highlights are well done, and appear (to my monitor) to be of a more subtle variety. The art typeface at the beginning of the chapter or psalm is especially nice. I would suggest adding the same red shade to the art lettering. This would give it an iconic look. It's a feature I found in the latest editions of the Italian Bible produced by the CEI. 

The paragraph markers, though conventional for the KJV, distract from an otherwise attractive page layout - I personally would like to see them expunged, or at least a variant edition without them.

The psalms have been confirmed to be single column. Deo gratias! The single column format is absolutely preferred for the Psalms and profoundly complementary for prayer or worship.

We'll see how this shapes up - hopefully, this is just a proposal. The KJV has a wide base, including the Orthodox Church for liturgical use. There should be a fairly large audience for this when it drops.

Speaking of which, the 2nd edition of the Quentel ESV is in stock. You can order it here. The Quentel ESV took the market by storm earlier this year - you'll be hard pressed to find a negative word about it.

Finally, the Caxton NLT is nearly here - the shipment is close to arriving at Schuyler's facility. 

The Offer You Can't Refuse (the Secular World)

Every so often Christians of various stripes laud the virtues of Christianity in contrast to the secular world. This is not exclusive to conservative types; it is a tendency as well placed among liberals as conservatives, even among those left leaning in the Roman Church.

There is no escaping it. When the opportunity arises, Christianity will invariably go on the attach against secularism, even when such offensive voices are normally the first in line to propose jettisoning Tradition.

This is especially true when the defense is not so much Christianity itself, but the Church in particular. In these instances, the line of reasoning is particularly Manichean. The secular world is portrayed as cruel and abusive, fixated upon class and hierarchy, where people are valued only for the most shallow criteria or based on worldly merits. The Church, even among liberals, is a bastion of equality, where people are valued for their intrinsic worth (in virtue of being made in the image and likeness of God), and there is no competition, and everyone lives in a society built not upon a systems of wants, law, and punishment, but upon God's love.

The saccharine undertones of this reasoning ought to tell you something is up. Invariably, there is, not the least of which is the anachronism of reading ideas that came out of the enlightenment and the birth of the secular world into the New Testament and subsequent Christian history. No doubt, Christianity espouses some such principals, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking these principles were clearly enunciated from Christianity's origins.

The tendency to ignore how much the secular world has bequeathed its values to the Church, such that some of these values are taken as "a given," demonstrates a sort of willful ignorance on the part of the church-affiliated persons. In place of sobering fact which suggests the Church is not a virtuous alternative to the secular world, certain persons would rather carry on with a post-modern quasi-religious myth in which the Church perpetually alleviates the pain put upon the human family at the hands of secularism.

This notion is not only false, but it is a truly inadequate response to the challenges posed by increased, and unyielding, secularization. While such a (self deceptive) narrative may bolster the camaraderie and commitment among religious adherents, it does not enable the Church to begin to adequately comprehend why (in the Western World) the secular experiment has been so successful in capturing the imagination of masses and defining their world view.

I believe it was Charles Taylor who suggested that this current system did not necessarily have to be. There was nothing about previous eras that concluded this current course was the only possible development. Nevertheless, this is the system we have and there is no real indication that it is going away. True , the non-Western world is growing more pronounced in its resistance, however, in the West, secularism is the presumptive interpretive lens coloring most every one's worldview.

Christianity, particularly any group claiming to be "the Church" needs to propose and honestly investigate two questions if it ever hopes to wrap its mind around secularism in the West. First, what does secularism offer that "the Church" or church association fails to offer? What, if any, need in the human psyche does secularism address that established churches fail to do? Second, and intimately related to the first, what can "the Church" offer that secularism does not? Can it indeed offer something capable of displacing the dominant cultural paradigm?

The quality of the answers will range from very concrete to entirely nebulous. Such would be quite appropriate. When one discusses the dominance of cultural paradigms, one invariably begins to touch upon the more intangible qualities of human life; there are reasons for accepting or rejecting a cultural paradigm that exceed the limits of quantitative analysis. Yet, the intangible elements do not pose the primary difficulty established churches will face when attempting to answer either question. In large part, the primary difficulty is one of perspective. It is difficult, but not impossible, to extract oneself from a paradigm one has received as one's own, whether consciously or unconsciously. The degree that mainline churches read secularism's values into the Christian narrative reflects the degree to which they are enmeshed into the very secularism for which they often struggle to offer a counter-proposal. This is further complicated when the secular world trumps "the Church" in following through on some of these same values.

Proposing a comprehensive solution is not something that will done here. There are however a few points worth reflecting upon.

Any proposal must consider the types of spiritualities and religious movements exerting "pull" in the West. Traditionally non-Western religions, new age/occultism, contemporary analytical and Jungian psychology, and a general popular paganism are all movements vying for a place in the spiritual market. Notable features among all these categories include more precisely defined precepts for observance and a blunt mysticism, relatively untamed by contemporary cultural attitudes.

Perhaps more relevant for established churches is the diffusion of evangelical churches. Evangelical Christianity has literally picked up the remnants left behind by the established churches, entering into the areas abandoned by the established churches and picking up numerous converts among the disaffected members of these churches. Evangelical Christianity often offers its members an intense mystical experience built upon the firmly situated belief in the radical access to God. The extremely high mystical experience is complemented by tight community bonds forged by the experience of adopting a religion that deliberately chooses an open counter-cultural stance on a host of cultural issues.

Undoubtedly, there are other issues that negatively impact the established churches, however, an unfettered mysticism and strong community bonds among coreligionists appear as two major traits defining the various religious movements gaining traction in the West. These are not the only traits, they are however two that make themselves readily apparent. Furthermore, this does not take into account the situation of Orthodox Christianity in traditionally non-Orthodox lands, something that appears to vary between the Americas and Europe. Yet, these two issues remain a good starting point for consideration.

The problem is that community and spirituality/mysticism have been under consideration in established churches for the better part of the last forty or fifty years and the results have been negligible. There is no room to go into all of the details. It suffices to say that there are numerous publications and workshops and even concrete action plans dedicated to these areas, yet somehow there appears to be little in the way of tangible results. Far from demonstrating that either element is inconsequential, the failure to yield sufficient returns demonstrates the problem with the whole approach undertaken by established churches.

Community has been pursued by a range of "welcome initiatives" and socialization events. More often than not, the liturgy functions as the play ground for such theories. From assigned greeters to community building exercises held in the midst of the liturgy itself, there is a dominant assumption that the liturgy is the venue during which community building should in fact take place. Furthermore, there is a presumption that community is build through words and gestures proscribed by an authority in said community. Such approaches, however, are hindered by the sheer artificiality compared to how we actually establish relationships in the "real world," and the direct correspondence to similar exercises in the workplace or education environment. The end result is a "community" devoid of genuine socialization and relationship building and bearing the same connotations of such associations as work and academy.

The risk should be readily apparent. If religion evokes the same connotations as one's associations for employment or education, it will be treated similarly. The church community itself becomes functional only, lacking the intimate associations we would normally see among family or friends. Indeed, that is the main issue. A religion only survives and is propagated to another generation if the intimacy and, dare we say, intensity of the relationship mirrors that of family and friends. These are relationships that can be variously instinctual or born through a long, gradual, and typically uncontrolled process. The relationships built in the church community require a similar quality. In the case of evangelicals, the impetus for such quality is provided by the concrete decision to pursue a church community that is at various points contrary to both established churches and the dominant culture. There is a sense of "we're all in this together" propelling the establishment of fellowship and bonding. The contrary stance is the pointed mission of the community and the mission serves to reinforce the community's identity and complement it with a sense of urgency. This is not a tame "to love the Lord and be a faithful Catholic Christian community through the Eucharist" parish mission statement.

There something all too suburban and sedated in the average parish mission, something all too easy to brush off. Conversely, evangelicals have a mission resounding in gravitas that demands a response. The mission often extends to concrete support systems among members, typically helping other members fulfill open needs. Jehovah's Witnesses have made strides among the Latino community in the US by supplying immigrants with cars and employment. This is achieved by their community allocating all of its genuinely human resources together to help the individual - this is not the prosperity gospel. In truth, the Catholic Church used to excel in this area, constructing an entirely alternative community for its people to meet their needs. This structure was hit hard soon after Rome opened up the possibility of assimilating modernity and the modern socio-political state.

The intense mysticism or spirituality equates to unmediated access to God within evangelical Christianity. There are some unique aspects of this that need appreciation. Spirituality or mysticism is treated as a living fact or phenomenon, as something entirely active. It is not relegated to academic study or confined to theoretical treatises. It is a very real experience and, more importantly in our age when self realization and Jungian psychology are themselves major areas of "secular spirituality", thoroughly transformative. This is perhaps the most allusive aspect of evangelical Christianity that established churches often struggle to assimilate. Evangelical Christianity bases itself not the only the concept, but indeed the real action of transformative experience as a result from direct access to the Christian God. It is a religious phenomenon among evangelical circles, one that is both cultivated by the community association and profoundly interior and independent of traditional Christian sacramentalism. It is not a passive study of Mystical texts from the patristic or Medieval eras, nor is it filtered through contemporary psychology to the point of irrelevance. It is a lived experience believed to produce tangible results in one's way of life, mental and emotional states, and worldview. To the degree that it succeeds effects change, it is a phenomenon that as elusive as it is to established churches is one that many would wish to have among their members with some modification. If indeed it is true, if in fact there is a genuine transformation of the person, it fulfills one of the most ancient promises made by religion to the believer.

These are brief considerations. Any thorough analysis of secularism and its impact on established churches in the West would be, by necessity, substantially longer. It should however be enough to begin illustrating the point: there are ways in which religion or the more uncommitted spiritualities can in fact gain traction and experience growth in the secular world. To do so requires an honest assessment of secularism and what it offers. It also requires established churches to honestly admit how enmeshed mainline Christianity is in the secular world - which may well prove to be the most challenging task at hand.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Spectacle

It was nearly impossible to avoid being caught up in the coverage of Pope Francis landing in Washington, DC. The media swarmed to the event. The glamour and seeming adoration that flanked John Paul II during the peak of his years (and somehow avoided Benedict XVI through the duration of his papacy) flanked every step of Papa Francesco as he limped (bad hip!) in the company of the President of the United States.

The pundits who must have grown up on images of John Paul II greeted Francis with a familiar appellation, "the people's pope." Did it strike them that something was missing? It was hard not to think back of those now iconic images of the same John Paul II kneeling to kiss the ground of every country he landed on.

One sees the stark images of those white robes against the backdrop of Western dress fit for dignitaries and heads of state, one hears the cheers of the crowd and the undertones of adoration in the press coverage (one anchor referred to him as "His Holiness"), and it becomes impossible to find one's way out of the spectacle of papal pageantry. There are even a few moments at which the thought may pass, either conscious or unconscious, that regardless how far the West goes away from its roots, this man, this office, remains the conscience of the West. This man, this office, remains the embodiment of whatever is left of the West's religious soul. The papacy has that much weight in the Western world.

Francis is another pope of spectacle and splendor. Perhaps not the geopolitical titan like John Paul II, and equally not the nearly universal focus of adulation and identity as Pius XII. Nevertheless, he is reviving the modern papacy's potency as a political power-broker and personality cult. Francis puts Benedict's papacy in sweet relief; Josef Ratzinger was quite content to let the papacy fade from view in favor of Catholicism itself, focusing primarily on bringing liturgy and doctrine to the foreground. In a media saturated society, this approach proved to engender hostility, the magnetism of a charismatic figure being preferred to the precepts of a religion itself.

The upcoming general Synod and all of his political and ecclesiastical maneuvers remain in the background of the live footage of Francis walking upon US soil. For the time being, there they will remain. Watching the man in action, one has little doubt of the genuine nature of his empathy and the sincerity of his convictions surrounding his role and his place at this particular moment in time. His charisma resides in his very human quality (as opposed to the larger than life personality of John Paul II and the ascetic, almost mystical, aura which Pius XII cultivated for himself).

Francis' humanity is his gift- this is how he plays to the crowd and why the crowd loves to respond. He is not a conniving iconoclast dead set on razing what is left of Catholicism's edifice. He very much believes in the themes that have come to mark his papacy. The man must be understood in his context. He is very much the product of the theology, ecclesiology and spirituality that took root in the Roman Church after Vatican II. He reflects, then, what is arguably the archetypal fulfillment of everything that council produced. For well or ill, it is a reduction of 2000 years of theology and the study of the soul and spirit into social service and an overuse of the word "love" as a synonym for "God," such that both words have lost the force of their meaning.

If one wondered whether Vatican II would ever fade from view, one need only view the spectacle of this papacy. For the time being, this council and the paradigm shift it brought remains the new orthodoxy and now as it was then, it is nearly impossible to breakout of that paradigm and retain any relevance to the larger Roman body. Any appeal to pre-modern thought garners perplexed glances at best, thorough suspicion at worst.

Francis' popularity highlights how daunting it will be for anyone who rejects this particular manifestation of Catholicism to refuse and resist. Practically speaking, where does one turn? The satisfaction with the spectacle is so diffused, one will find it impossible to find many sympathetic ears. One's rejection of it will be seen as a deficiency and whatever legitimacy is present will be largely ignored.

This is where the Western Tradition has come to rest, with the will of one man who, through either an accident of history or series of ecclesiological blunders in the 19th century, has come to wield previously unknown influence over it.

Ratzinger's papacy wasn't popular. It was, however, one of the more healthy exercises of said office - he was only a ubiquitous presence to those who had an unhealthy obsession with him.

For now, this is the spectacle.  In the midst of all the splendor, one wonders how much substance is lost.

Ildefonso Schuster, Virgil Michel, and Modernity

I seldom find much worth noting on a once considerable e-hub for liturgical discussion, however this quote from Ildefonso Schuster is well worth noting,

"Chiudo gli occhi, e mentre le labbra mormorano le parole del breviario che conosco a memoria, io abbandono il loro significato letterale, per sentirmi nella landa sterminata per dove passa la Chiesa pellegrina e militante, in cammino verso la patria promessa. Respiro con la Chiesa nella stessa sua luce, di giorno, nelle sue stesse tenebre, di notte; scorgo da ogni parte le schiere del male che l'insidiano o l'assaltano; mi trovo in mezzo alle sue battaglie e alle sue vittorie, alle sue preghiere d'angoscia e ai suoi canti trionfali, all'oppressione dei prigionieri, ai gemiti dei moribondi, alle esultanze degli eserciti e dei capitani vittoriosi. Mi trovo in mezzo: ma non come spettatore passivo, bensì come attore la cui vigilanza, destrezza, forza e coraggio possono avere un peso decisivo sulle sorti della lotta tra il bene e il male e sui destini eterni dei singoli e della moltitudine.”
I am not entirely confident about framing this as a "commentary" on the effect of praying the office itself. In all truth, without factoring in his biographical context nor the literary context, the Breviary is more the McGuffin - life in the Church is more the plot point.

Anytime a figure from the liturgical movement is mentioned, one necessarily has to wonder how many of the dominant personas envisioned the reform of the Roman liturgy promulgated in 1970 and the sweeping consequences it would have across Latin Christianity. Without falling into the trap of trying to separate out an authentic or "real" liturgical movement or, worse yet, papal approved (weren't they all?) from an imposture, one cannot ignore that the movement eventually found itself facilitating every sort of deconstructionist tendency in late modernity.

In liturgical studies, as with other facets of theology and other areas of intellectual life, there were numerous subtle currents heading in the direction of deconstructionism worthy of Derreda. Ultimately, Vatican II's attempt at reconciling with modernity proved to facilitate the near total absorption of such tendencies. As such, it is impossible to avoid the sharp contrasts in worldview and liturgical theory between someone like Schuster or Virgil Michel and their successors, someone along the lines of Jungmann or Bugnini. Whatever points of departure Schuster or Michel had from Catholicism's classic medieval worldview and corresponding (rich) spirituality, neither man lived to see the total assimilation of modernity or live and breathe in such a context.

Perhaps it is disparaging to the legacy of both men to suggest as much. Yet, both men (among others) are roundly considered foundational pillars of a school of modern liturgics that avoids coherence with the Latin Tradition and prefers keeping pace with current sociological trends. Perhaps they are considered outdated or even quaint, subject to self-imposed limitations, but they are invariably considered part of the modern canon.

Yet, labeling either man as "modern" may well be overreaching. Both men clearly broke away from stale "Tridentine" liturgics and, so far as I've been able to determine, advocated for a liturgical praxis (not necessarily a re-ordering of the Missale Romanum) that called to mind earlier periods of liturgical celebration.

So where does someone like Schuster fit? A modern? Perhaps, but can we really see a contemporary liturgist speaking in such terms? A pre-modern Traditionalist? Perhaps, but his liturgical vision was substantially richer than much of what came about as a legacy of Trent.

The allure of someone like Schuster is that one can only conclude, if one is honest, that his vision was a blessed accident of history. His intellectual prowess provided the means of communicating a liturgical theology (maybe even spirituality) that outshone the manualist tendencies borne from neo-scholasticism. He was, thankfully, spared from exercising such prowess during the great compromise with modernity - God only know what his theory would have turned into had this not been the case.

It remains to be seen when and if his vision can be retrieved from the annals of history and if its reality can ever be rediscovered.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Allusive Quality of the Sacred


What I would give to find a church or a monastery chanting this introit at the beginning of Advent!

Yes, it is still some time away, but the Advent period contains some of the most notable liturgical pieces in the Latin liturgy, past or present.

Ad te levavi animam meam has a nearly perennial status. It is hard to imagine another set of words capable of beginning the liturgical year. There is a certain indescribable quality that makes this piece, whether chanted or spoken, suitable for the place enshrined for it by the Tradition. As a testament to its hallowed status, even the liturgical reform dared not remove it.

The words, whether chanted or spoken, evoke the longing for the supernatural, the eternal. If one is in the Western context (or northern latitudes) the words acquire additional poignancy, chanted as they are in the midst of the darkest weeks of the year. There is almost a sense of one's soul reaching out beyond the darkness surrounding it towards divine eternity.

There is a quality to the sacred that defies every mode of theological, philosophical, and (dare we say) scientific inquiry. Indeed, Pseudo Dionysius explicated it best - there is a point at which the divine defies every form of affirmative description, every manner of quantifiable and qualifiable demand. There is something so primordial in Ad te levavi, perhaps because it points one towards a journey (that of the soul to God) which dwarfs the span of natural life and the boundaries of physical existence. Perhaps because these are words at the beginning of the eternal magnum mysterium.

Monday, September 14, 2015

ORDO CANTUS OFFICII

The Ordo Cantus Officii is here.

ORDO CANTUS OFFICII0001


Pray Tell had a quick write up about the release, as well as the complex back story behind its publication. 

The office ought to be chanted and any resources that potentially facilitate such a development are always welcome, regardless of the breviary one prefers.

Like most of the Latin editions out there (of either the modern Roman rite or Monastic sources), this will likely be a rare sight "in the wild," property to a small group of liturgically concerned parties.

Truth be told, chanting of the office rides heavily on the successful publication of a new Antiphonale Romanum, a project that has been backlogged for a while now. Volume II of the Antiphonale saw publication in 2010. The reviews have been consistently positive - indeed, it looks like a wonderful edition

This particular volume covers chants for Vespers on Sundays and Feasts. 

Antiphonale Romanum Vol II

You can order your copy here

Friday, September 11, 2015

Salt of the Earth

Fr. Chadwick does me the honor of writing a post in response to my previous entry. I always appreciate Fr. Chadwick's blog - there is an erudition, depth of thought, and genuine human sensitivity one doesn't find often in the open exchange of ideas.

One observation genuinely resonated with me:

When Pope Francis goes the way of all of us, who knows?Cardinal Burke for Pope! I don’t think so. What the Church needs is not conservatism but vision. Benedict XVI had it, but he was unable to translate it into terms that would be understood by ordinary folk and priests brought up on slops since the 1970’s and earlier in some places.

I am part of that group that spent roughly the last decade of John Pail II's pontificate hoping one day Ratzinger would walk out on that balcony of St. Peters to the words "habemus papam!"

That day came and by the mid point of his papacy it seemed everything happened that ought not to have happened. As Fr. Chadwick notes, Ratzinger was not and is not a conservative. He is a German Romantic with a theological, liturgical, ecclesiological and cultural vision. The vision proved too complex for his mass conservative fan base and liberal detractors to understand, marked as it was with intellectual rigor, precision, and subtlety. Needless to say, it never translated well in age where mass communication necessitates compressing content into readily accessible messaging and messaging is more often than not used to manipulate public opinion.

At the time, it was tempting to accuse Ratzinger of banal restorationism. I am roundly guilty of having done this. Amid the throng of conservatives presenting Ratzinger as their ideology finally come to power, it was easy to forget the content of his vision.

There remains speculation as to why Benedict resigned. Whatever the reason, his supporters and detractors failed to understand the vision he had for the Roman Church and the content was translated into a torrid parody of the real thing. Is it because Ratzinger himself wasn't able to aptly communicate it to a mass religion? Perhaps, or perhaps more accurately he failed to understand that mass religions are scarcely the forum for complexity or subtlety, prone as most humans are to immediately bifurcated thinking.

This is part of the reason his pontificate failed. Another factor was his insistence in calling crisis of belief and culture for what it is. Ratzinger was never a proponent of the forced optimism of Vatican II and I'm not sure he was particularly keen on a new springtime of the faith or new Pentecost. For those who could comprehend his mind, Ratzinger's vision did not suffer delusional optimism well.

Further to the above, his vision of a leaner but more committed Catholicism positively terrified much of his hierarchy. It frankly did not translate well for people who cannot conceive of a Christianity that survives by working around the system, not as part of the system. Those same persons have found tremendous comfort in recent years.

Under the present pontificate, the Roman Church has a crowd pleaser and everyone can ignore both the decline of their religion and the radical opposition of their host culture to it. Those who accused Ratzinger of pessimism can rekindle their fantasy of Church once again relevant to the West, and throw up their hands in befuddlement when the march of secularization continues to eviscerate their religion despite whatever compromises may or may not come.

Ultimately, Ratzinger's idea of a leaner Roman Church, unencumbered by the institutional girth so much of the episcopacy is grasping to retain, will be a reality. The difference is, with Ratzinger it would have been a proactive decision. The current trend increasingly makes the likely future a consequence of events, rather than an exercise of reason and will.

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit. --- Alcuin of Tours

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Brief (Very Brief) History of Practical Liturgics

Note: What you are about to read is an unfinished post. I began this and frankly found myself disinterested in following it to its conclusions. Having hammered out a good chunk of it, it seemed best to publish it rather than let it sit in draft form perpetually.

Liturgical studies is a curious field with a myriad of manifestations. You have your mainline academic scholarship with its increasing reliance on sociology, cultural anthropology, gender theory, etc. You have, typically in Europe (and more than a few times buried in the halls of the Vatican), a subset devoted to amassing an almost encyclopedic knowledge of some of the most arcane pieces of liturgical history. Sometimes this group crawls out of the shadows and discusses how a particular piece found its way into the modern Roman liturgy. You have your ecclesiastical liturgists, those concerned largely with liturgy in its ritual setting. Then you have the area of practical liturgical studies, that is, the subversion of all of the aforementioned into allegedly immediate concerns. It is this group that has made its presence felt on the Internet and, for the most part, takes up the majority of the space in the open commerce of ideas.

More accessible to the layman and better suited to get boisterous discussion going, the practical or popular liturgical studies movement has made its mark. It was this movement that put some wheels on the "reform of the reform," made Josef Ratzinger's liturgical writings an unavoidable reference point, and ultimately galvanized a series of publishing projects one wouldn't have thought possible only 20 years ago.

And then things kind of stopped. A hard, sudden stop. And there doesn't seem to be much sense of direction.

Sometimes it easier to have a focus when you initially get off the ground. Practical or popular liturgical studies initially had very manifest goals. Starting with the late Helen Hitchcock's Adoremus Bulletin, the field set its sights on some immediate targets: adherence to liturgical norms, translation issues, restoration of sacred music, etc. Among a younger generation, it eventually incorporated Reform of the Reform ideas and a restoration of the 1962 Missal.

Results were achieved (or perhaps merely witnessed), though somewhat mixed. A new translation was published. There has been more press concerning sacred music, in particular chant, and perhaps even more overall interest - although this may have had as much to do with the succession of chant themed music releases over the last decade and a half. And of course, Summorum Pontificum.

Popular Liturgiology or practical liturgics (whatever you wish to call it) has wandered aimlessly after living to see some major events. It seems the field is tired and cliche`, lacking the excitement of the mid-late 90s and the sense of purpose of the early 2000s.

Part of the problem was the shift that occurred as the 2000s has worn on. What began as movement invested in curbing the mediocre celebration of the modern Latin liturgy and diving headlong into said liturgy became sidetracked by the Missal of 1962. The Missale Romanum of 1962 became a totem object, fetishized as the height of liturgical expression in the Latin Church. In the process of this festishization, there was a concerted attempt to "revive" what was imagined to be the Catholic culture of the 1950s and 1960s (forgetting that the 1920s, 30s, and 40s were far more interesting). It soon became a mess of things taken totally out of context, selective readings, and a growing arrogance towards anyone who failed to see the necessity of restoring the former missal and its trappings.

The arrogance had little to do with sound scholarship (as if that would make it acceptable) and more to do with the particular religious imagination of a subset of people being drawn to the topic. Thus, the debatable work of Christine Morhmann took on pride of place along with those of other scholars who fed their religious imagination. Works of the same scholars that did not feed the beast were typically ignored. Even their beloved Pope Ratzinger was heavily edited until he sounded exactly like one of them.

The end result was the popular liturgics had become a narcissistic little liturgy cult, so self referential that anything that could not be used to feed the imagination and further their particular narrative was discarded.

Sound linguistics on the nature of the Latin language was ignored in favor of a contrived tale of the origins of Christian Latin. Impeccable research on the history of the Latin liturgy or studies into the modern Latin liturgy (so few spent time with Johnson and Ward's work) was practically non-existent in their reference libraries. And somehow, somehow, many of them missed the point of Hull's The Banished Heart.

One can only wonder what comes next. This is a question of pivotal interest as the future of the Latin tradition rests in its answer. Practical liturgics has run along side the liturgical and ecclesiological currents in the Latin Church. From its origins in the effort to see a new translation of the Missale Romanum promulgated and see a line-by-line celebration of the liturgy missal to the present, this at times unconventional subset of liturgical studies has variously depend liturgical appreciation and ecclesiological divide.

Post script: There was a time when what I call practical liturgics had a certain creative energy, a sense of purpose, and indeed a sense of fun. Despite my bias for the old liturgy, this was during the period where most efforts were geared towards re-translating the modern Roman Rite and/or re-integrating the Latin language into the liturgical setting. When the focus eventually shifted on restoring the missal of 1962 and the Church they (a generation that hadn't even been born at the time) imagined existed, the whole thing simply devolved. When the paradigm shifted from recovering the sacred via the enforce liturgical books, to pretensions of a "new liturgical movement", the whole thing became a self referential narcissistic liturgy club. Great scholarship was ignored in favor of filling an ideological narrative and the only opinion permitted was that which supported their little dictatorships.

The old liturgy (whatever version of it you prefer) was done a tremendous disservice by such a clumsy attempt at restoration. I am willing to state publicly what more than a few readers have communicated to me privately, this grotesque parody of the Western tradition made the modern Latin liturgy a far more attractive option than it had been previously.

So perhaps it is only fitting that things seem to be coming full circle. There is more discussion about restoring chant in the modern Roman Rite and increasing interest in the present day liturgical practice (and books) of the monastic orders. Perhaps practical liturgics is returning to form and leaving the charade of restorationism behind. Unfortunately, the classical Latin liturgy will be undesirable casualty of this - it will be herculean task to salvage the old Latin liturgy from self referential ecclesiology and shoddy historical perspective.