Thursday, April 4, 2013

On the Spirit of the Liturgy


Defending the papacy of Benedict XVI vs. the New York Times (!), Randall B. Smith has written:

Like his predecessor before him, Benedict effectively carried on the authentic reforms of the Second Vatican Council, as opposed to the false “reforms” that so often led the Church astray in the post-conciliar period.  A cardinal archbishop told an audience recently that the liturgy was so abused in the early seventies when he was in seminary that the faithful seminarians would say about the ersatz masses being done by their elders: “Everything in them changes but the bread and wine.” Benedict, by contrast, did a great deal to help realize the original intentions of the liturgical reformers.  Given that the lex orandi (the law of praying) is intimately intertwined with the lex credendi (the law of believing)—which is another way of saying that what we pray is what we believe—reforming the liturgy has always been an absolutely essential way of helping re-form the Church (in the sense of renewing its essence) and helping to re-inform the faithful who are its “living stones.”

In my fourth chapter I discuss Benedict on "the original intention of the liturgical reformers," which substantiates Professor Smith's defense:


Cardinal Ratzinger, in his memoirs, recalled both joy at the promulgation of this now binding missal after a time of liturgical experimentation (1965-70) which had denigrated the Mass, and dismay at the complete prohibition of the 1962 Missal, an unprecedented event in the history of the liturgy. Recall that the Roman Missal had been reworked by Pius V in 1570 in response to the Reformation; subsequent papal reworkings (as in 1962) had been carried out without opposing the reworking to its predecessor in a “continual process of growth and purification in which continuity was never destroyed.” In her history, there had never been a prohibition of a previous edition of a missal that had been approved by the apostolic authority as valid — until Paul VI’s promulgation of “The Missal of 1970” as it came to be known. Now the forbidding of the organically grown 1962 missal began a discontinuity in the history of the liturgy that has proven tragic. The Cardinal’s assessment is telling:

….the old building was demolished, and another was built, to be sure largely using materials from the previous one and even using the old building plans. There is no doubt that this new missal in many respects brought with it a real improvement and en­richment; but setting it as a new construction over against what had grown historically, forbidding the results of this historical growth, thereby makes the liturgy appear to be no longer a living development but the product of erudite work and juridical authority; this has caused us enormous harm. For then the impression had to emerge that liturgy is some­thing "made", not something given in advance but something lying within our own power of decision. From this it also follows that we are not to recognize the scholars and the central authority alone as decision makers, but that in the end each and every "community" must provide itself with its own liturgy. When liturgy is self-made, however, then it can no longer give us what its proper gift should be: the encounter with the mystery that is not our own product but rather our origin and the source of our life. A renewal of liturgical awareness, a liturgical reconciliation that again rec­ognizes the unity of the history of the liturgy and that understands Vatican II, not as a breach, but as a stage of development: these things are urgently needed for the life of the Church. I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur ( “as though there were no God”): in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not he speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the worldwide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds—partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council[emphasis added].


How could such a Pope do anything less than carry on "the authentic reforms of the Second Vatican Council, a self-proclaimed mission of this Pope and his predecessor?"