Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ten Reasons to Embrace the Liturgical Changes of the Second Vatican Council

Yes, I admit it.  I troll the katholik krazy sites for fun—and just to see what sort of mischief up to which they are.  (How do you like that, Sister Mary Tarcisius who taught us never to end a sentence with a preposition.  Honeychile, I’m no canon lawyer, but some rules are made to be broken—and, as much as I enjoy reading Edwardian prose, some things are just obsolete.  And that pertains to Church too.)  Most of the sights are semi-literate trash—my old friend Janet at Restore DC Catholicism, her evil twin in Boston at the artist blog formerly known as Throw the Bums Out in 2010 (when the Bums got reelected in 2010 and the Bum-in-Chief got reelected in 2012, she changed it to The Tenth Crusade and then it briefly became something like What the Pope Really Means but now it seems to be nameless.  And then there is Rorate Caeli which used to be fairly intelligent reading but now has just devolved into a semi-sedevacantist anti-Francis rave.  But when I want to read something on the extreme right wing that is usually intelligent and always (well, almost always) well researched, I go to New Liturgical Movement.  For the most part they don’t qualify as krazies, though I would still consider them among the effete savants I referred to in my previous post. 
I found New Liturgical Movement somewhat by accident.  A reader tipped me off to it’s having cited me.  I felt deeply honored, even after I read the diatribe.  It seems that Dom Antony Ruff OSB, a  monk of Saint John’s Collegeville and manager of the PrayTell blog, initially referred to What Sister Never Knew and Father Never Told You.  The particular reference had to do with my declaiming about one of my favorite bugaboos—the questionable “offertory rite” in the Missal of Pius V, the rite on which the current usus antiquior (aka Traditonal Latin Mass) is based.  My problem with the rite in question is that it teaches the (false) doctrine that the Mass consists of two sacrifices: the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross at Calvary and a secondary and lesser sacrifice in which the priest offers in sacrifice the bread and the wine which will be used for the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  Now I have no quibble that in the Sacrifice of the Mass the One Eternal Sacrifice of Christ, offered once and for all becomes mystically (i.e. sacramentally) present on the altar.  In the Mass we participate in the One Eternal Sacrifice which Christ offered for the forgiveness of sins.  Agree.  100%   Sorry Martin Luther, sorry John Calvin, sorry Thomas Cranmer but you guys were wrong—but I don’t have to tell you that, you know it, now.  Too bad you didn’t know it back in the day, but frankly too many of your Catholic contemporaries were making such outlandish claims about Christ being sacrificed over and over again each time Mass was offered that I can’t blame you for over-reacting.  But the dust has settled—or in poor Archbishop Cranmer’s case, the ashes have settled, somewhere, and we all need to move on.  But, no there is no sacrifice of bread and wine.  Call it an oblatio all you want, or a hostia, or even refer to the gifts as a sacrificium—but they aren’t, and we shouldn’t say that they are.  That is not the faith of the Church!  Pius V’s faulty rite notwithstanding. 
In any event, this comment on the faux offertory rite of the 1570 rite sent Gregory DiPippo who is the managing editor of New Liturgical Movement into a bustle of research and writing in which he produced an entire series of articles on the various late medieval offertory rites.  (Of course, my objection is precisely this: that this exaggerated rite with its double sacrifice is a late medieval rite and varies from the ancient and patristic sources which would never have obscured the True Sacrifice with the imaginary devotionalisms of some medieval priests, more pious than orthodox, who thrilled at the thought that they were making a sacrifice of their very own with which to gild the solitary True Sacrifice of Christ by which we are redeemed.)   In the event Mr. DiPippo has produced a remarkable study of the various offertory rites of the Mendicant and Monastic Religious Orders as well as of the variant English and French Rites.  I understand that he has yet to finish this magnum opus by looking at the various Iberian Rites and I presume German, Scandinavian, and Western Slavic rites.  And this only covers the usages of the Western Church—which is appropriate as there is little or actually no influence of the Eastern Rites on the Western Liturgy from probably the eighth century until the twentieth.  But I am wandering from my objectives.  As I said, I have great respect—as well as frequent disagreement—with the work of the New Liturgical Movement blog.  My fundamental objection is their agenda of furthering the restoration of the pre-conciliar liturgy, an agenda to which I personally am totally opposed for a variety of historical, theological, and pastoral reasons.   New Liturgical Movement recently published an article by Peter Kwasniewski entitled “Ten Reasons to Attend the Traditional Latin Mass.”  It has led me to articulate my opposition to the revival of the pre-conciliar rite and so I will be doing a series of postings on Ten Reasons Why One Should Embrace the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  Like Mr. Kwasniewski’s article, my series will be not so much a thoroughly thought out manifesto but more a work in process that at times will fall into redundancy and probably even circular argument but it will give me a chance—for my own sake—to investigate why I think the liturgical Reforms of the Second Vatican Council provide the spiritual foundation for the Church in our time to be faithful to its mission.    Here are my ten reasons for embracing the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council.   Any similarity to the reasons posed by Mr. Kwasniewski are co-incidental. 
1.    saints are formed by prayer that draws them into deep participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2.    The most valuable experience in our process of being catechized in the faith is our participation in Liturgical Prayer and thus the prayer must reflect fully the authentic Catholic Faith.  
3.    True prayer comes out of the depth of our graced experience and thus is rooted in the particulars of our own culture.
4.    True and authentic prayer is intelligible
5.    Because of its centrality in conforming us to Christ, the Liturgy must be a clear and unambiguous witness of our Trinitarian and Incarnational faith
6.    The liturgy walks us through the cycle of Christ’s birth, life, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection and sending the Holy Spirit. 
7.    The Liturgy introduces us to the life of discipleship as we follow the saints through the Church year. 
8.    The Liturgy immerses us in the Word of God which is the nourishment of our life of discipleship
9.    The Liturgy reveals to us the Full Mystery of the Body of Christ
10.                  The Liturgy is the means by which we are transformed into Christ and come to share in His Divine Nature.  


  1. 1. Countless Saints were drawn into deep participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ by the preconciliar liturgy.
    2. Your hang-ups on the ancient and venerable Offertory aside (and recall that Francis' appointee to the CDW has recently called for the return of the Tridentine offertory as an option in the next missal), I'd be fascinated to know in what way the received rites are conducive to error.
    3. That makes an enormous leap. Is grace so limited by "cultural" boundaries, whatever those are? And I wouldn't underestimate the extent to which imposing Gothic edifices and the gentle strains of Gregorian chant are actually now a part of American culture. Cultures are more like the Borg than they are like Daleks. And anyway, none of the parables in the Gospel are part of my culture. Over-inculturation impoverishes the target culture and diminishes the visceral unity of all the local churches that share a particular rite.
    4. Latin is not gobbledegook, nor is ritual integrity necessarily opposed to vernacularization especially of the changeable parts of the Mass. But Vatican II, "concession" or no, did clearly call for the Latin language to be retained. Or may we in this case reject the Council and the papal magisterium of St. John XXIII in Veterum Sapientia?
    5. The intact symbolism of the Sanctuary is a marvellous representation of the Incarnation, and the physical devotion we show towards the sacrament only heightens the emphasis on Christ's self-abasement to become our Food.
    6. Irrespective of rite.
    7. Irrespective of rite.
    8. Irrespective of rite.
    9. Irrespective of rite.
    10. Irrespective of rite.

    1. well, you obviously agree with Mr Kwasniewski's thesis and I obviously don't. That is what makes life interesting, What is even more interesting is what motivates our choices. My concern is not with the rite itself, despite what I see as theological inconsistencies--it well served the Church for four centuries. My concern is that the rite has become a refuge for those whose worldview is contradictory to the course the Church set for itself during and since the Second Vatican Council

    2. And while I certainly agree that there are those for whom your concern is true, I think it's something of a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater to wish the Church rid of the old rite for the sake of being rid of them.

      I'm midway through the old '66 book, "Our Changing Liturgy," and was appalled to see the side-by-side comparison and contrast of the (as it turned out transitional) revised rite with a silent, server-only-gives-the-responses Low Mass of the worst kind. Things that make no sense in a Low Mass, that interrupt the flow of the rite, make perfect sense at High Mass. He put the old rites in the weakest possible light, and although I don't think many dispute that this was almost invited by the poor quality of celebration widespread in the preconciliar Church, I think the ritual reform, although it certainly solved the problems it set out to solve (passive, unengaged participation), also magnified many of the weaknesses of the Low Mass, especially in its straight-through, linear approach, which greatly weakens the role of sacred music in the rites. Cf. the Byzantines, where layering of priest's prayers and congregational song express the Church as a Body of differentiated yet active parts.

      I think immediately of the lost potential of the silent Canon in which the moment of Christ's coming to earth is surrounded by the angelic hymn, perhaps sung vigorously by the whole assembly, rather than amplified, somewhat stylistically wanting, pedestrian English prose.

    3. In fact, to amplify my point about layered activity, this briefly obtained in the West in the mid-60s when the preparatory prayers were retained at the foot of the altar for the priest and ministers, while the people sang an Introit. What a beautiful moment for the congregation to, what does the GIRM say?, "foster the unity of those gathered," while still allowing the priest the personal space he needs to recollect himself at the altar before God and prepare to celebrate the mystery worthily. This sort of thing, I think, reveals more clearly the "full mystery of the Body of Christ," in which we are many parts working together in different roles.

  2. I am delighted to see this series on the liturgy. I check in on Pray Tell and the NLM regularly and for the most part remain unmoved. The former seems to be still arguing about the technology of liturgy, i.e. what and how we should do or not do such and such a thing and generally lacking the necessary theological underpinnings of the liturgy as such. While I agree with you about the "Ordinary Form," I am generally dispirited by its actual celebration in most places and especially when the Notre Dame liturgy crowd is in the local ascendancy. As for NLM, well, the types of articles to which you refer strike me as little more than pedantic archaism and desperate attempts to provide some kind of legitimacy for their peculiar theologies and psychologies -- I have said enough about the latter on this blog.

    As for sacrifice -- leaving aside for the moment the former offertory prayers -- I must take issue. For one thing, the Roman Missal currently in effect is loaded with sacrificial language in the prayers "super oblata." And much of this was (deliberately?) obscured in the ICEL paraphrase to which we were previously subject but is now abundantly clear in the literalist translation under which we currently chafe. So we cannot play the two rites of Pius V and Paul VI against each other on this score and it does indeed seem that a double sacrifice is somehow involved in the liturgical action. It could be simply that the bread and wine are offered as symbols of the overall priestly/sacrificial character of the Christian life (about which there is plenty said in the NT) and which are about to be taken up and transformed, with our lives, into the one perfect sacrifice of the High Priest sacramentally re-presented on the altar. (Kudos by the way for your comments about Luther, Calvin and Cranmer). But I would suggest something more -- the elements of bread and wine are indeed sacrificed in that they "lose themselves" in the mystery, ceasing to be what they were formerly and become something utterly new. While this is continuous with their symbolic import I believe their ontological alteration is more than that and can properly be called an oblation as the Missal repeatedly does. I look forward to more of your liturgical commentary.