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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 7 February 2015

TRADITIONAL LITURGY IN ITS POST-VATICAN II FORM - 6: WHAT WENT WRONG?



                           Liturgy in its post-Vatican II form  iv EP4





my quotations etc from Pope Benedict are largely taken from a talk by Helen Hull Hitchcock
Before we can answer the question, "What went wrong?" we must answer several false accusations against the "new" rite, because many conservatives grasp any rumour that is going, accept any accusation as long as it discredits the post-Vatican II mass. Here are a few false accusations.  

That the post-Vatican II liturgy is Protestant: In the previous articles in this series, I think we have demonstrated how careful the liturgists were in their choice of texts, how anxious they were to open up to Latin Catholics the very best of Catholic Tradition.   There is not a single Protestant word in the whole revision.   They were motivated by fidelity to Tradition, while accepting that the almost world-wide spread of the Latin Rite made it imperative, in the name of Catholic Tradition itself, to make it open to influences from the whole treasury of Catholic Tradition, which is made up of a number of traditions, each every bit as Catholic as the Latin tradition, all of which are of great value because they too are the product of grace


That the liturgy is the work of an interested group that imposed changes not envisaged by the Council which were imposed on a reluctant Church. 

 Stories of dirty tricks abounded during the Council on all sides of the debate.  It is only the "conservatives" that have kept this going to the present day.  It is likely that dirty tricks were employed as each side struggled for advantage to sway the Council in one way or another; but certain things must be borne in mind. 

 I was studying at Fribourg from September 1961 till the end of 1963.  Of course, the Council was matter for lively debate.  The English Benedictines studying at Fribourg started a quarterly journal called "Trident", mainly to get all the press releases from the Vatican; and we used to invite participants who were going to or from the Council to tea in my room, and they normally came.   We discussed all kinds of hot topics.   Here are a few examples.

 There was in the Council a number of sub-commissions on different aspects of liturgical reform.   A member of the sub-commission on concelebration was our Professor Hanggi (with an umlaut) of liturgy who gave us a talk on concelebration, both the history and the present possibilities.  He described how it would eventually look, and he was right in all details.  This was after the second session - very early indeed! 

It was the Melkite bishops who proposed that the liturgy should be in the language of the people.   They also proposed that the eucharistic prayer should contain the epiclesis.  I remember the discussion with liturgists, firstly that the epiclesis should be placed in the Roman Canon; and, this being rejected on the ground that the Roman Canon is complete in itself, and that to inject an epiclesis into the Canon would do violence to it, the prospect of one or more eucharistic prayers containing the epiclesis, was discussed.  I went to the ecumenical monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium where I heard for the first time the need to have more than one eucharistic prayer in order to save for the Church something from the Mozarabic, Gallican and other rites that had been swamped by the relentless advance of the Roman practice.  All this was long before Bugnini headed the Consilium, during the first half of the Council.

 Later, when the Consilium discussed these subjects, they went through an identical process: the results you know. Moreover, according to Archimandrite Robert Taft S.J., the eminent liturgical historian, every change was presented to the world's bishops; and, when the proposed change produced much opposition, it was dropped.

 I even remember discussing the priest presiding from the other side of the altar - we had seen it in the Protestant Communion service in Taize - a Protestant service with a Catholic theology.   The reason given was not that priest and people could look at each other, but that both priest and people would have an unhindered view of the altar, the focal point of the whole action.   All this was during the first half of the Council, and had nothing to do with Bugnini.   These discussions were not between crazy lefties, but responsible people.   What came out at the end of the process was largely faithful to what we heard and talked about early on. There were no surprises.

All these changes were done when Pope Paul VI was ill, too ill to concentrate on what was happening: it was done behind his back. He was co-composer of Eucharistic Prayer III with Dom Cipriano Vagaggini, was responsible for the short sentences - Milan-style - for the Offertory, and involved himself in many a discussion.  Those who are against the changes just don't want to own up to the fact that they are out of step with the Church. 

A very good history of what happened after the Council in the Consilium that is responsible for the texts has been given by Dom Cassian Folsom, Prior of the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy.  I am sure that he and I do not see eye-to -eye on many things liturgical, but think his history of the post-conciliar work of this commission is very good and objective.  The fact that his account is very different from mine shows just how big the whole affair was, and that everything depends on where you were and with whom you talked.   I give you the truth;  so does he; but for the whole truth, we will have to wait for the historians.   Nevertheless, I believe he is actually wrong on one point, and I think that Fr Louis Bouyer has demonstrated it.  He writes on the reasons for the new eucharistic prayers:
4. Theological Shift to the "Horizontal": Part of the post-conciliar theological shift was a new stress on this-worldly realities, which often resulted in a style of prayer which was decidedly horizontal and man-centered. The hieratic, sacral and transcendent emphasis of the Roman canon, in contrast, was viewed as out of date and theologically incorrect. This is a fourth reason for the change from one Eucharistic Prayer to many."

The names most associated with the authorship of the new eucharistic prayers are Louis Bouyer and Cyprian Vagaggini.   The first resigned from the Consilium in protest because of the lack of a sense of transcendence, and also wrote a book on Monasticism as a sign of transcendence; while the second finished his days in a Camaldolese hermitage: hardly people who would be guilty of underestimating transcendence!!
I believe Fr Cassian is reading back into the prayers an interpretation of events that belongs to a later date, to the time when the "new Mass" was presented to the world.   It is a true interpretation of what happened when people began to celebrate the "new Mass" "in the spirit of Vatican II;"  but I don't think you will find a single phrase in any of the three new eucharistic prayers to support Fr Cassian's view.  Those who composed them lived in a different world and had totally different motives from both the "liberals" who won the publicity war after the Council and from the "New Liturgical Movement" that Fr Cassian Folsom seems to support. 


Ressourcement theology

To understand Vatican II you need to understand ressourcement theology which was an ad hoc, unplanned reality that formed itself in France after World War II without knowing that this is what they were doing, a group of theologians that were very concerned with the gradual disappearence of religion among the masses, that agreed about the general causes, blamed the inadequacy of current Catholic theology for its inability to cope with this tendency, and looked for its own solutions in Catholic Tradition.   Also, without fully realizing its significance for the history of the Church was their friendship with Russian theologians in exile, living in France, highly critical of theological tendencies in their own Church, identifying their main foe as a certain western scholasticism that had infected the East, and looked for the solution in Tradition.   The two sides, French and Russian, were surprised that they were agreed on the problems, identified the inadequacies of the same western scholasticism with its inability to cope with modern life, and found the solution in Tradition, even though this Tradition looked different from the perspective of each side.  The Orthodox looked to St Gregory Palamas, while the Catholics looked to western Fathers life Ambrose and Augustine, but also looked at the Eastern fathers as well.   Neither side was conscious of having crossed any line, nor even that it was itself a school of thought, neither side represented anybody but themselves, and neither side was trying to unite East and West.  Perhaps, because they wer not trying to do anything in particular, their defences were down, and they had an influence on each other that would not have been the case if their conversations had been more self-conscious.  Vatican II changed all that; and, thanks to them, much Orthodox thinking has entered the mainstream of Catholic theology.

The basic insights of ressourcement I have borrowed from Wiki:
 For the Catholic theologians associated with ressourcement or nouvelle théologie ”Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Yves Congar, and Hans Urs von Balthasar (among others)”the preeminent source for theological reflection is the word of God interpreted within the Church. In a secondary sense, the theologians of the tradition, especially the Fathers of the Church, represent abiding sources for the renewal of Christian theology. 
Accordingly, the project of ressourcement involved translating and interpreting texts from across the entire tradition, with particular attention given to the ever present fruitfulness of patristic exegesis. As de Lubac suggests, this task precluded “any overly preferential attachment to one school, system, or definite age; it demanded more attention to the deep and permanent unity of the faith, to the mysterious relationship (which escapes so many specialized scholars) of all those who invoke the name of Christ.” 
We have seen in the previous articles in this series how the application of the principles has transformed the Roman Rite, because ressourcement theology looks to the whole of Tradition and not just to the Roman strand of it.  Nevertheless, it is just those people mentioned above, the greater part of them, who are dissatisfied with the liturgy as it now is celebrated.   Why

Michael Deem writes about one of the very central and basic insights of ressourcement theology in general and of Henri de Lubac in particular:
In a rarely quoted essay from 1942, de Lubac writes: “Now, basically, this world is not by itself either sacred or secular, for it receives its significance only through man. It can become one or the other according to the way in which man behaves in its regard.”[3]
At the heart of de Lubac’s theology is a concern to re-establish in the consciousness of humanity the Christian principle that the sacred—the presence of God’s saving activity—is not some foreign, invading force in an otherwise mundane, secular world. Rather, nature is always incomplete and unfulfilled without the gratuitous sanctification wrought by grace, and it is peculiar to human nature to release the full splendor of the grace given to it. For de Lubac, as for the Fathers, anthropology and ecclesiology are fully intelligible only in light of one another.

It is a pity that this essay is rarely quoted because it is a key to so much.   I have only seen references to it, but it illumined many French theological minds at the time, and its echoes are still being heard.  What Henri de Lubach said is that the main reason for the lack of religion in the industrial cities of France and the modern world is the absence of any opportunity  for people in these cities to encounter the sacred. Without this, religion dies.   The liturgy should provide a sense of the sacred, but it is too clerical and in a foreign language: it needs to be reformed so that people can participate and so encounter the Sacred.

This was the motive why these theologians and liturgists were so enthusiastic for reform.   This is why you can see their signature in the Constitution on the Liturgy.   This is why Father Louis Bouyer and others wrote the new eucharistic prayers - Fr Cassian Folsom is totally wrong on this one - and this is the reason why Father Louis Bouyer resigned from the Consilium and why the ressourcement theologians were so bitterly disappointed at the final result.   Everything was going their way, the constitution and the eucharistic prayers, and then, another group with another agenda took over. Perhaps, in order to succeed, the ressourcement theologians needed to die.

The newspapers divided the Council fathers into two, easily distinguished parties, the "conservatives" who opposed change, and the progressives who sought change.   In this they did not do justice to either group, but it sold newspapers.   In the "progressive" group there were two main parties, not noticed at the time, but visible to any one who looked at the scene with a sharp, theological analysis - I confess that I failed that test.  If you look at them in general terms, you could be excused for not noticing the differences between them.

Both groups were very keen on ecumenism, hence both groups sent representatives to the same ecumenical meetings; but, as time went on, differences emerged.  

If you were to ask the ressourcement theologians, who is their ideal ecumenical partner, the answer would have been clear and immediate, the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches.   Firstly, these churches are churches of Tradition, that product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church which has its source in the Eucharistic assembly and in which Truth can be found; and, secondly, because they have preserved liturgies whose sacred character is successfully imparted to those who take part.  Thus, if you were to ask the French ressourcement theologians what living liturgies they would look to in order to help them form form a Latin rite Mass with more participation, then I think the would have looked East.   This means that the modern "monks and nuns of Bethlehem" and the "monastic family of Jerusalem" probably celebrate the liturgy more like Father Bouyer and company originally intended.

However, there are "progressives" for whom Tradition is of secondary importance, and for whom conformity to the modern world is paramount.   For them, their ideal ecumenical partner is the Anglican Church. If they looked at examples of modern liturgy to help them form a Latin rite Mass with greater participation, they tend to look at Anglican and other Protestant models.  I suppose Hans Kung is the most famous example.   We must look at the modern human being, see what makes him tick, what are his chief concerns, and mould our message to his needs.   Their response to the ressourcement theologians is that you cannot drive a car forward while only looking in the back mirror.  

 Modern human beings do not appreciate the "sacred", but they do respond to the challenge of human solidarity.   Therefore, to modernise the liturgy, we take the emphasis away from the "sacred" and put it on celebrating human togetherness in Christ.   And this is what they did.   Much of their support came from the fact that observers did not see the difference between the two groups.

People intent on modernizing the Church were in the majority in the Consilium that produced the new liturgy.   Because they left the writing of the new eucharistic prayers to the professionals, all thing went well, and the prayers were formed according to strict Ressourcement principles.  They tended to outvote the same professionals, so that, not so much the text, but the general presentation of the new liturgy was all about our oneness in Christ, all too human solidarity that forgot that "in Christ" means finding unity with each other on earth by sharing a close relationship with Christ, Our Lady and the saints in heaven.


That part of the Constitution on the Liturgy that says that our participation in the liturgy on earth is a sharing in the heavenly liturgy tended to be forgotten.   Too often, the sense of the sacred, of the mysterium tremendum, went completely out of the window.

   Conservatives, like the blog "Rorate Caeli" and bloggers like "Fr z" still don't see the differencer between the two groups; and when they see people like Pope Benedict reacting against the "new Mass", they believe he is on their side, when, in fact, he is a disappointed ressourcement theologian.  He was very bitter at first and talked about all that he worked for was in ruins, real liturgy, even though it needed reform, being replaced by an artificial construct, the work of intellectuals.   Like Pere Bouyer, one of the main objects of his ire was "Mass facing the people," which became the symbol of togetherness with each other replacing the "sacred", a man-centred liturgy as opposed to a God-centred liturgy. Remember that they put the wholesale loss of faith in industrial towns down to the loss of the "sacred", and they had centred their hopes on a reform of the liturgy that would unlock the "sacred" to be experienced by the masses.   The general falling away from Catholicism of people from western Europe and North America after the changes only re-inforced their conviction.

Pope Benedict dedicated much of his pontificate to try to repair the damage.  Before we look at his contribution, we must be aware of some things:
1)  He is German and not French, so he had not experienced the close relationship with Orthodox that his French colleagues had.   However, he was heir to the rich liturgical traditions of Bavaria which includes wonderful feast day Masses sung to Mozart and other great composers, with full orchestra; and he was heir as well to the liturgical movement inspired by the great German, highly theological Benedictine monasteries and with such names as Dom Odo Casel, the Canon Regular Parsch, and the Jesuit Jungmann.  He was western European, and was satisfied that the Latin rite should make use of its own resources to reform.
2) He is not a liturgist and was not privy to the reasons why the liturgists had done what they did.  During and after the Council, he was occupied in other things.   Thus his criticisms do not show any acquaintance with their motives, and sometimes he attributes motives to them that they did not have.
3) He and Archbishop Wojtyla did join the group of French theologians during the Council and agreed with their basic principles; though, perhaps because of the experience of Humanae Vitae and the enthusiastic acceptance by the bishops of what he considered a flawed liturgy, he ceased to believe in the present practicality of a general decentralization of the Church.   However, in all else, he has remained a ressourcement theologian, even though he adopted these principles, not from the French theologians, but together with Cardinal Frings, whose secretary he was.   He writes of Cardinal Frings:
Frings opposed the emphasis on magisterial sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries .   He expected the perspective of an ecumenical council to be directed toward Scripture itself and the whole of Tradition, including  especially the Greek Fathers.   Here too we see at work his desire for Catholicity without shortcuts.   One might even identify this desire as the distinctive theme characterizing all his influence on the Council.   We shall return again and again to this question of catholicity, in which his life's experience as a bishop is summed up.  Here he did not speak in favour of one trend or tendency, but as a pastor, as one speaking with the actual voice he had used in lifelong service in the Church.  He in fact shunned that positivism based on the magisterium on the most recent manifestations of which Louis Bouyer has recently made some informative remarks.   In connection with the debates with Charles Curran, Bouyer uncovers an absurd positivism in that apparently progressive mentality only to adhere to that in the Church which is defined as infallible.
Thus Cardinal Frings and he advocated catholicity without shortcuts, opposing this catholicity to any attempt to dilute its content whether by "conservatives" who concentrate on statements of the magisterium of the Council of Trent and from 1870 onwards  to decide what is authentically Catholic, or the progressives who wish to limit Catholic teaching to what had been defined infallibly.   Everything must be interpreted in the light of the whole Catholic Tradition, with special authority of the Church Fathers.  It is to Tradition as a whole that our principal loyalty is due, not just a part of it - this is the ressourcement position.  It led to our adopting a number of eucharistic prayers, something he didn't envisage, but is quite logical in the circumstances.

   As he could not accept de-centralisation, he became a Pope, who used Vatican I methods to bring about Vatican II decisions.   This involved, on his part, intense listening to everybody - of all people, he will be remembered as a humble listener - before he decided on his own authority.

  In this, Pope Francis is not very different, even as he moves to decentralize the Church.   Personally, I believe they are two steps in the right direction - but that will need another article.

3)  As a ressourcement theologian, Pope Benedict sees the papacy as a guardian of Tradition, and not its master.   This Tradition required renewal and change:
 We are gradually becoming aware today of how meaningless it was, in fact, of how unworthy and dishonest it was, when the priest prayed before the Gospel that God might purify his heart and lips… so that he might worthily and in a becoming manner proclaim the Word of God, when he knew very well that he was about to murmur this Word of God softly to himself just as he had done with the prayer, without any thought of proclaiming it… The word has lost its meaning and had become an empty ritual, and what the liturgical reform has done here was simply to restore meaning and validity to the word and to the Church’s worship which was enshrined in it.

Against those who claimed that there could be no deviation from the Missal of Pius Vth, he wrote:
“We must say to the ‘Tridentines’ that the Church’s liturgy is alive, like the Church herself, and is always involved in a process of maturing.… The Missal can no more be mummified than the Church herself”
Also: 
But he also remarked that the “old liturgy” was flawed. In particular, he notes that “the celebration of the old liturgy had slipped too much into the domain of the individual and the private, and that the communion between priests and faithful was insufficient” -- that people privately recited prayers from their prayer books during most of the Mass. He suggests that these factors probably accounted for the indifference of most Catholics when the old liturgical books disappeared: “People had never been in contact with the liturgy itself”

Nevertheless, the Church's post-Vatican II liturgy does need to reform, even though the "new liturgy" has been received by the Catholic episcopate and has been handed down, in continuity with what has been handed down since the Apostles. 

The first change to be changed was "Mass facing the people."  But there are examples in Tradition of the celebrant facing across the altar, notable in St Peter's itself!  This is what Pope Benedict said in "The Spirit of the Liturgy":
The ordering of St. Peter’s was then copied, so it would seem, in many other stational churches in Rome. For the purposes of this discussion, we do not need to go into the disputed details of this process. The controversy in our own century was triggered by another innovation. Because of topographical circumstances, it turned out that St. Peter’s faced west. Thus, if the celebrating priest wanted – as the Christian tradition of prayer demands – to face east, he had to stand behind the people and look – this is the logical conclusion – towards the people. For whatever reason it was done, one can also see this arrangement in a whole series of church buildings within St. Peter’s direct sphere of influence.
The liturgical renewal in our own century took up this alleged model and developed from it a new idea for the form of the liturgy. The Eucharist – so it was said – had to be celebrated versus populum (towards the people). The altar – as can be seen in the normative model of St. Peter’s – had to be positioned in such a way that priest and people looked at each other and formed together the circle of the celebrating community. This alone – so it was said – was compatible with the meaning of the Christian liturgy, with the requirement of active participation. This alone conformed to the primordial model of the Last Supper.

It must be said that this explanation is only true if facing east is as important to Catholic Tradition as those who oppose the change say it is - it is a reading back into history of our own liturgical concerns.   Pere Bouyer suggested that both priest and people prayed looking East, so that priest and altar were behind the community in a church like St Peter's that faced West, anything but the modern arrangement!! But there is absolutely no evidence for this: it is an invention of Pere Bouyer, mortally disappointed that togetherness had replaced sanctity in the ceremonial.  Pope Benedict chose a better solution, one that, in fact, solves the problem and allows both practices, facing the altar and facing the people.   Tradition dictates that all face East; but, because some churches faced West, then the altar became liturgical East, was counted as East within the drama of the liturgy.   It follows that whatever way the priest is facing, both priest and people are facing the altar. Even when the priest is looking towards the people, the true focal point is not the people, but the altar.   In fact, what the hermeneutic of continuity dictates is what those who originally suggested the change wanted, long before the modernizers came on the scene, that everything be centred on the altar.   

  However, he would say that authentic liturgy does not exist in the mind of liturgists, but in the celebrations of the Church.  It takes concrete celebration to discern what is needed, and we are now in a time of adaptation, of what he called "liturgical growth." He wrote:
“We might say that …[before] the liturgy was rather like a fresco [in the early 20th century]. It had been preserved from damage, but it had been almost completely overlaid with whitewash by later generations. In the Missal from which the priest celebrated, the form of the liturgy that had grown from its earliest beginnings was still present, but, as far as the faithful were concerned, it was largely concealed beneath instructions for and forms of private prayer. The fresco was laid bare by the Liturgical Movement and, in a definitive way, by the Second Vatican Council. For a moment its colors and figures fascinated us. But since then the fresco has been endangered by climatic conditions as well as by various restorations and reconstructions. In fact, it is threatened with destruction, if the necessary steps are not taken to stop these damaging influences. Of course, there must be no question of its being covered with whitewash again, but what is imperative is a new reverence in the way we treat it, a new understanding of its message and its reality, so that rediscovery does not become the first stage of irreparable loss.”
As a cardinal, he called for changes in the way the liturgy was going.   He wrote: 
“It must be clearly stated that a real reform of the Church presupposes an unequivocal turning away from the erroneous paths whose catastrophic consequences are already incontestable”. But he also stressed (ten years later, in the book-length interview with Vittorio Messori, published as The Ratzinger Report) that “Vatican II in its official promulgations, in its authentic documents, cannot be held responsible for this development which, on the contrary, radically contradicts both the letter and the spirit of the Council Fathers”; further, he said, “I am convinced that the damage that we have incurred in these twenty years is due, not to the ‘true’ Council, but to the unleashing within the Church of latent polemical and centrifugal forces; and outside the Church it is due to the confrontation with a cultural revolution in the West … with its liberal-radical ideology of individualistic, rationalistic and hedonistic stamp”  
 He was calling for the return of the "sacred", the loss of which was a main reason, he believed, for the apostasy of western Europe.   However, he was not calling for a return to the situation before the Council, in favour of the "old Mass" as it used to be, nor was he against the Missal of Paul VI.


Concerning the “so-called Tridentine liturgy”, he writes, there is “no such thing. The Council of Trent did not ‘make’ a liturgy”, he points out. The 1570 Missal is a revised version of the Roman Missal of about 100 years earlier, and differed only in tiny details. Pope Pius V promoted the exclusive use of the Missal to “help get rid of the uncertainties which had arisen in the confusion of liturgical movements in the Reformation period”, Cardinal Ratzinger writes, noting that an exception was made at that time for liturgies that were 200 or more years old, which were permitted to co-exist with the “new” revised Missal.
“We must say to the ‘Tridentines’ that the Church’s liturgy is alive, like the Church herself, and is always involved in a process of maturing.… The Missal can no more be mummified than the Church herself”, he writes.

However, Pope Benedict is the pope who has allowed the "old Mass", some would say, the "mummified Mass", to be celebrated at will, and he urged bishops to provide opportunities for those who want the old Mass to be able to attend.   Although he denied any basic difference between the new and the old, he knew that, for many, they are distinct liturgical experiences.  This act of his is a very good example of a ressourcement  theologian with full Vatican I papal authority.   To do this successfully, without doing violence to his theology, he had to be a humble listener, because in eucharistic ecclesiology the local eucharistic assembly is the source of Tradition, and it is the function of the Pope to guard and protect Tradition: neither he nor the bishops are masters of Tradition that springs from the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.   Hence, although he sees the need for reform, he has retained reverence for the old Mass.   If it is a tradition that is still alive, he would be failing in his duty to simply forbid it.   Of course, accepting that Tradition is fed by eucharistic assemblies all over the world, in a plethora of rites and styles, does argue for a radical de-centralisation; but Pope Benedict felt unable to do that.   Instead, he humbly listened and then acted on his own authority in response to what he heard. 
 act


The  who first suggested the idea that the altar is "liturgical East" said that the attention of priest and people was not originally on the altar but on the figure of Christ Pantokrator in the apse: they were looking up at heaven.   Pope Benedict suggested that it would be too disturbing for the people to turn  the altar round to its traditional position again; but that a crucifix be placed at the centre of the altar to be the centre of attention for the priest.  

Personally, I have always concentrated on the altar's surface and heavenwards, and I only look at the people when I am addressing them.  Looking at the people when I am praying to God has always struck me as silly and distracting.

So, What went wrong?  Basically, the loss of the sacred.   Not always, not everywhere, but in a sufficient number of cases to cause concern..  In fact, things went a bit wild, with lots of liturgical experimentation, liturgical abuses etc.  

Before the changes, liturgy was not a favourite course in seminaries: too much interest in lace and funny hats led to comment.  Getting down to the nitty gritty with casuist Moral Theology was useful; concentrating on liturgy looked too much like self-indulgence.   Hence, your average priest knew little and cared less about liturgy: they just followed the rubrics, while   nuns said their rosaries. Then, all of a sudden, everybody became an expert, and much of the experimentation was in pure ignorance, and some was a crime calling to heaven for vengeance!!  

Let us remember what Pere Bouyer said about the reform:
These prefaces have brought back into use, with at times some modifications and adaptations, everything that is most substantial in the treasury of the old sacramentaries. And possibly the new compositions that have been added will not appear unworthy beside their ancient neighbours.....If we add to this necessary reform the new (or ancient!) Communicantes and Hanc Igiturs which will re-establish in the Roman canon, along with the fulness of the commemoration of the magnalia Dei, a newly diversified expression of the Church presenting to the Father the unique sacrifice of the eternal Son, there is reason to hope that we shall again grasp all of the imperishable beauty of the jewel of the eucharistic tradition of the West that is the Roman Canon.   Moreover, alongside this restoration of the Roman canon, we must rejoice in the intention to enrich the modern Latin liturgy with complementary examples from the riches of Catholic Tradition.   At the same time, the goal has been to revive among the faithful the plenary sense of the eucharist, by proposing to them  formularies that are as explicit and as directly accessible as possible in their structure and their language.
On the three new anaphoras he wrote:
The most radical, and at first sight most unusual novelty of the new texts is that they follow up to a certain point the remodelling of the most ancient eucharistic schemes worked out by the West Syrian liturgy, while retaining the ancient and more primitive distinction between the two epicleses as in both the Egyptian and Roman traditions.   This is a point which may possibly be not merely of pedagogical interest, in order to permit Christians familiar with this latter tradition to come to know the complememtary riches of the Eastern tradition.


I think it is fairly obvious that it is necessary to back up the new liturgy with a new catechesis, both for the priests and religious, and for the people.   In fact, a liturgical reform needs a catechetical reform to immerse people in the new vocabulary, spirituality and the ideas behind the new liturgy.   Unfortunately, after the Council, old ways of teaching were given up, without any clear idea of what would replace them, and whole generations of kids who went through Catholic schooling received a very muddled formation.   Without a proper liturgical formation themselves, the teachers couldn't really acquaint their pupils with what they needed to know to appreciate what had been given them.   Really, one of the chief functions of catechesis is to prepare people to take part in the liturgy of the Church.   Until this is done, then just listening and taking part will not unlock the treasures of the Roman Canon or any of the other eucharistic prayers. Part of the problem was lack of preparation.

 We live at a time of "liturgical growth", to use Pope Benedict's words, where the post-Vatican II form of the Liturgy is becoming more and more part of the life of the Church; and, thanks to the Catholic faith of those who participate, the influence of Pope Benedict, and much good example from those who celebrate the now not so new Mass with reverence and dignity, and thanks to new music and much deep piety, the Mass is becoming more and more like it was intended to be.  You only have to look at the photo that introduces this article to see that the Mass is as beautiful as any that were celebrated before the changes, with the added advantage that we all know and understand and participate.

Of course, there are the fanatics among the bloggers who show hatred for the ordinary version and make comparisons between quite eccentric celebrations of the normal Mass and beautiful celebrations of the old Mass, but never between beautiful celebrations of the new Mass and beautiful celebrations of the old.  Fairness in presentation of their point of view is not one of their strong points.

Back in the seventies, I taught VIth Form Divinity, and a very bright group argued in favour of the old Mass, which they had never actually seen.   God sent us, as a monastic guest, an old Irish Franciscan priest.   The combination of "old", "Irish" and "Franciscan" was too good to miss.  I asked him if he would be willing to celebrate the old Mass for a group of boys.   He was willing, and so they attended it.  I met the boys afterwards.  "Priests didn't really celebrate Mass like that did they, Father!" exclaimed one boy, "He gabbled through the Latin!" "He rushed through it!" I said, "You compare a modern parish Mass with one sung in Latin by monks of Solesmes, and of course the monks of Solesmes win.   Now you can compare your normal parish Mass with what you have attended today: it is more realistic!"

(To the right of this blog there is a row of flipboard magazines.  One of them has the same title as this series, "Traditional liturgy in its post-Vatican II Form," and contains the whole series, plus a number of articles and documents that can help you to go further into this subject.)

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