Friday, April 17, 2015

Mozarabic Liturgy in St. Peters and Non-Roman Liturgy

By now, this has made the circuit (among the relevant websites).

I had the pleasure of spending a few hours pouring over the Missal of the Mozarabic liturgy as it was reformed after Vatican II at a local university library. It was then that copious articles and references to this ancient Latin liturgy finally became concrete and I understood why people who study this liturgy tend to become fascinated with it.

It is a cause of great impoverishment for the Western Church that, by and large, the Roman liturgy has displaced or otherwise marginalized the greater portion of the historic liturgies of the West.

It is a shame, and a sign of the rampant liturgical impoverishment in the West, that not a fraction of the effort accorded to various contemporary liturgical controversies has been applied to salvaging the historic liturgies of the West.

Then again, can liturgies that have long since been obsolete, or are well on their way to so being, ever be given a new lease on life? It is hard to find an example of such.

The proscriptions of 1570 and the subsequent politics that applied pressure upon many a diocese to relinquish their local usage (Quo primum may well be as much a liturgical "time bomb" as anything produced by Vatican II) led the Western Church to where it is now. The patrimony of the Latin tradition was, whether intentionally or as an accidental result of the ecclesiology that emerged from Trent, effectively squashed.

Something was lost with Trent and the Counter-Reformation. What is pre-Reformation or pre-Tridentine Catholicism? I'm not sure we really know given that we haven't had it in almost six centuries. The pre-Tridentine and non-Roman litirgies are our only window into it. This is significant. If lex orandi, lex credenti has any veracity, if prayer can shape our conception of things so significantly, then perhaps there is a spiritual necessity to rediscover pre-Tridentine, non-Roman, perhaps even pre-Schism liturgies of the Western tradition.

Perhaps by salvaging non-Roman liturgies, the Western Church can rediscover itself and its Tradition, one that extends past 1962 or 1570. Then again, perhaps it will be nothing more than pristine ceremony brought out for occasional show.

There are those who would argue the West has forgotten the "language" of worship; the West no longer knows how to worship, how speak of worship, and how to think of worship. Every liturgy, every liturgical family, has its language of worship. If the west has forgotten the language of worship, it is partly due to the fact that its language has been so impoverished for so long. It's a lot like Orwellian new-speak, really. At some point the language for the liturgy in the West became so restrictive with its thought and expression, it became gradually more difficult to formulate expansive speech.


  1. Pope "saint" Gregory VII despised the Mozarabic liturgy and tried to have it suppressed by the Spanish feudal lords and the Cluniac monks who flooded northern Spain in the 11th century. Hildebrand saw native liturgies as stumbling blocks to ecclesiastical unity. I think, though I cannot recollect the source for this, that Hildebrand even threatened Alfonso VI of Castile with excommunication if he did not impose the Roman liturgy on the Kingdoms of Leon and Castile. So much for the "organic" development of the Roman Rite in Spain! And papal attitudes towards the other native liturgies, notably the Ambrosian liturgy, were exactly the same, and the Milanese only saved their venerable rite by rioting.

    With regard to the Mozarabs and their rite it's interesting to compare what happened there with the ecclesiastical reforms of Lanfranc in England, or the Norman conquest of Ireland in the 1170's. What happened at Trent four hundred years later was only an accelerated form of what had been going on in the West since, probably, the days of pope Nicholas I.

  2. The Ambrosian liturgy is a great example - even after Trent there was pressure to Romanize a liturgy that has, for all practical purposes, as much history as the Roman.

    Now you're getting out of my league - I have scant, if any, knowledge of the liturgy in England/Ireland, Northern France (the spheres of Norman influence).