Get Your Motu Running....
J. Peter Nixon July 6, 2007 - 1:51am
Yes, its true that the actual publication date of the motuproprio Summorum Pontificum is not untilSaturday, but Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia has obtained an advance copy and has all the details for yourreading pleasure.
As expected, the document will make it easier for priests tocelebrate the Roman Rite according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. That form of the ritewhich the document states wasnever abrogated, is to be understood as an extraordinary form of the RomanRite. No permission is required for apriest to celebrate the extraordinary form privately and the faithful may beadmitted to such celebrations. Inparishes where desire for the extraordinary form exists stably pastors areexhorted to allow formal celebrations of it. For more details, Im going to force you to click over to Rocco. Hes done the reporting; he deserves thetraffic.
Much has been written (this is an understatement!) onthe topic of how removing barriers to the celebration of the 1962 rite wouldhelp reconnect the Church with its liturgical tradition. Fr. Joseph Fesso, S.J., for example, recentlystated that the document would be a major step toward the genuine renewal of theMass, and therefore the genuine renewal of the Church, which the Council soardently desired. Similar themes arestruck by Pope Benedict in his letter of transmittal.It will be interesting to see if this happens, but Illadmit that I remain a bit skeptical. Itsnot as if I dont have concerns about how the liturgy is currentlycelebrated. Sometimes I think that if Ihave to sing the hymn Sing a
Im still not clear, however, on how liberalizing access tothe 1962 rite is going to help solve these problems. Much of the mainstream criticism ofcontemporary liturgy focuses more on how the Roman Rite is celebratedthan the rite itself. If one perusesmany of the books, weblogs and internet sites that critique contemporaryliturgy, one finds that most of the arguments focus on the following issues: 1)music; 2) posture; 3) architecture; 4) language; and 5) vestments. Pope Benedicts book The Spirit of the Liturgy (written while he was still CardinalRatzinger) focused on many of these issues, but did notas far as I can recallspendmuch time comparing the 1962 rite to the current one.One can certainly grant the substance of many of thecriticisms of contemporary liturgy. Butthe current rite can, believe it or not, be celebrated in Latin, usingGregorian Chant, with the celebrant wearing a fiddleback chasuble if he sochooses! What has never been clear to meis what aspects of the 1962 riteas ritethose who favor it would like to seereintroduced into the new. The prayersof Leo XIII at the end of Mass? Thefinal Gospel? The pre-conciliarlectionary? Do they want to do away with the communal penitential rite and havethe Confiteor said exclusively by the celebrant? Do they want to eliminate the three additionalEucharistic prayers?
Pope Benedict, for his part, seems to see the traffic movingin the other direction. He specificallysuggests incorporating some of the new prefacesand even the revisedlectionaryinto the celebration of the extraordinary form, a suggestion thatwill probably not be well received by some traditionalists. As to what the extraordinary form can giveto the ordinary form, it seems that its primary contribution will besacrality rather than specific ritual forms.Its hard not to see this as confirmation of the thesis thatthe core of contemporary liturgical criticismup to and including the criticismpresently issuing from the Holy Seeis not about the reformed rite per se. The issues are things that areharder to quantify: the loss of a senseof mystery and reverence, an emphasis on the horizontal aspect of the mass tothe neglect of the vertical, and a sense that the Mass has become simply onemore thing to be subject to modern techniques of manipulation and control.
There are times when I think what many critics of contemporaryliturgy want is not so much the 1962 rite but the 1962 rubrics. They want an end towhat Cardinal Arinze once termed the do-it-yourself
When he wrote TheSpirit of the Liturgy, Pope Benedict indicated a hope that it might spark anew liturgical movement. Im not surewhether we need a new liturgical movement or merely a recovery of some of theinsights of the old one. We need an adequateunderstanding of active participation that does not reduce it to mereactivity and that sees the goal of such participation as enhanced openness towhat Pius X called the true Christian spirit. We need an understanding of the history of the liturgy that does notfall into the trap of seeing the developments of the second millennium as anarrative of relentless liturgical decline. We need a serious conversation about liturgical aesthetics, particularin the area of music. Finally, we needto figure out how the insights from these various conversations can beimplemented in ordinary parishes with small staffs and competing demands ontheir resources.
While the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum is not keeping me up nights, I remainconvinced that the Mass we are called to celebrate can be found withinthe rite as it exists today. We havewhat we need there to worship God in a way that is right and just. If we havefailed to do that, it is not primarily because the rite is deficient butbecause we have been deficient in excavating and bringing forth itsriches. Whatever the impact of Summorum Pontificum, that task remains.