Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeping it Real

A quick discussion on one of Pius XII's major liturgical reforms.

Pius XII's reforms to the old Roman Rite remain a point of contention for those with a critical eye towards 20th century liturgical reform in the Roman Church, and consequently, in virtue of its size, the main purveyor of the Latin liturgy.

To many Traditionalists, preference for the pre-Pian Holy Week (or breviary) is splitting hairs - even among Traditionalists, a critical view of liturgical reforms of Pius X and Pius XII often leaves one on the borderlands of acceptability due to the implicit ecclesiological critique, re: il Papa.

This said, a genuine appreciation of liturgical history makes one uneasy in the presence of liturgical reform that is either a) undertaken without solid manuscript evidence pointing to precedence or b) dismissive of a liturgical praxis, prayer, or custom long established.

Truth be told, I've never been too much of stickler over the reform of the Mass of the Presanctified - the reduction of the 12 prophecies to 4 always seemed to be the bigger loss.

Of more interest is the testimonial that various communities are subtly reinstituting the Pre-1955 Holy Week liturgy by increments. The definition of the debate as being between 1962 and 1970 is artificial, and seems based more on the resultant ecclesiology of Vatican I than the sum total of the Latin tradition.

When one looks back at the 20th century liturgical movement (putting aside the somewhat juvenile fixation on Pius X as the figurehead of the "authentic liturgical movement"), the case can be made the movement's golden age (the height of its enthusiasm, energy, movement, intellectual and spiritual powerhouses, and liturgical exposition) was well before 1962 or the Pian reforms in 1955. When we talk about the liturgy of the original liturgical movement, we are (sans the breviary) talking about the pre-modern Roman Rite, untouched by the Pian reforms or the truncate rubrics of John XXIII. That was the liturgy at the heart of the original liturgical movement. As much as one can openly ask whether or not the Missal of 1970 was in fact the liturgy the liturgical movement was working towards during its golden age, we can (and should) apply the same inquiry to the Pian reforms and the Missal of 1962. Someone like Virgil Michel may have seen application of the vernacular to the liturgy as it stood in the 1930s, however, the reconstructions applied between 1955 and 1970 were not conceived.

Of course, one may ask "what about Jungmann and the like?" True, the later figures of the liturgical movement lived and breathed the reforms undertaken between 1955 and 1970. Although, this coincides with the decline from the golden age. In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the liturgical movement was just that. It was real, palpable, and it was vying to make the liturgy equally as real and palpable. It was imminently practical in its approach, discarding piety and devotionalism in favor of making the liturgy the principle source of prayer, contemplation and praxis.

Before liturgy became the speculation of academics and playground of committees, the liturgical movement was at its height. More importantly, the Missale Romanum of the same period was the same principle source of prayer, contemplation and praxis the liturgical movement upheld. This leaves something contemporary Traditionalists would be wise to consider: the Missale Romanum of 1962 was a product of the transition from the liturgy as the principle source of prayer, contemplation and praxis to liturgy as academic speculation and majority vote.

Perhaps that is the way of all things when a bureaucracy finally takes notice.

As mentioned in a previous post, the likelihood that there will ever be full scale revival of the pre-Vatican II liturgy is slim. The likelihood we'll see a revival of the pre-modern Roman liturgy is, well, none. The likely course appears to be the re-appropriation of Latin chant or prayers into the Pauline liturgical template. Perhaps that will prove to be the better solution. At the moment, the re-appropriation is largely "on the ground," resultant from the will of a given community.

Perhaps this is the way things should be.

There is, of course, danger. We live in age during which Christianity is confused over its own principles and the matrix of faith that held together a parish is, in large part, shattered. Yet, it shattered due to poor guidance from larger authority structures.

Perhaps the danger is a worthy risk.

1 comment:

  1. I must beg to differ as the 'restored' service on Good Friday afternoon is a miserable effort in my view with the ministers entering in just albs and stoles and the altar not being used until the solemn prayers when the celebrant wears a cope at the centre of the mensa - all very odd. The the colour change to violet etc. No, the old Mass of the Pre-Sanctified might have had its issues but it was perfect for the day as Adrian Fortescue commented a century or so ago.