Haste Makes...ConfusionRead Now
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
23. That sound tradition may be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress (,) careful investigation is always to be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised. This investigation should be theological, historical, and pastoral. Also, the general laws governing the structure and meaning of the liturgy must be studied in conjunction with the experience derived from recent liturgical reforms and from the indults conceded to various places. Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.
As far as possible, notable differences between the rites used in adjacent regions must be carefully avoided.
The opening sentence is poorly translated, so I added a comma in parenthesis for better understanding. Section 23 attempts to maintain the tradition strengths of the liturgy of the Mass and other sacraments while not hindering “legitimate” progress. Although Sacrosanctum Concilium was approved overwhelmingly by the Church fathers of the Council, it would be a serious mistake to think that all 2500 bishops stood in perfect agreement on the meanings of “sound tradition” and “legitimate progress.” Not for nothing did the Cardinal Ottaviani coat of arms read “Always the Same.” The spirit of this section was overlooked immediately after the Council. One of the biggest complaints of many Catholics when the new rites of the Mass were gradually promulgated was the degree of change. I knew a Protestant who converted to Catholicism just before the changes, and he lamented that “if I knew that the Catholic Church was turning Protestant, I would never have changed.”
This is an extreme reaction, of course, and probably not the majority reception, but it is worth noting that Section 23 envisioned a rather cautious and lengthy examination of three distinct branches of theology—the theological, the historical, and the pastoral. The “theological” study would address such matters as the Biblical roots of worship, the philosophical meaning of signs, and the various metaphors used for the Mass over the centuries, such as “the unbloody reenactment of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary” or the Church’s offering of the perfect gift—the Eucharist itself—as the perfect offering to God the Father, in that portion of the Mass we still call the Doxology (“through Him, with Him, and in Him….”). To these metaphors of faith can be added the Eucharist as “banquet of the faithful” and/or reenactment of the Last Supper.
The authors of the text make a point to address historical study, in a process known as Ressourcement, “return to the authoritative sources of Christian faith, for the purpose of rediscovering their truth and meaning in order to meet the critical challenges of our time.” There is an immense body of literature on the way the Church has celebrated Eucharist over two millennia, particularly the actual rites themselves and how the Mass varied across the known world. When Pius V established the Tridentine Latin rite of the Mass in the late 1500’s, he did not impose it on diocese/cities/regions whose local rites could be traced back two hundred years or further. The best one-volume English study of the question remains Joseph Martos’ Doors to the Sacred (2014).
Section 23 goes on to speak about the pastoral implications of the liturgy, specifically an assessment of “recent liturgical reforms and from indults granted to various places.” Liturgical reform did not begin with John XXIII and the Council. As early as 1910 Pope Pius X famously changed the order of Confirmation and Eucharist, placing the age of First Communion at the age of reason (or about 7 years old) so that the young ones would be protected from the evils of the world. Pius XII reformed the Holy Week services, beginning in 1951, returning the rites to their proper places in the afternoon or late evening. Under Pius XII parishes were permitted to celebrate an evening Mass on Holy Days, with an easing of the communion fast which had begun at midnight. Wikipedia’s entry on Pius XII’s reforms is rather extensive and interesting. The Council wanted to assess the impact of these changes before moving into something more radical.
One would think that such study would consider a considerable amount of time, and an even greater time for implementation. Moreover, Section 23’s insistence that any new rites have a consistency with the old, or recognizable from the old, was concern for the faith sensitivities of the Catholic public. My impression of the time is that the catechesis or teaching explanations were often piecemeal from the pulpit. I had the good and bad luck to be in several churches when the “Kiss of Peace” was introduced. The Kiss of Peace was a feature of the older Tridentine Mass, exchanged among celebrant, deacon, and sub-deacon, in a solemn high Mass; today’s Kiss of Peace is an extension of an older traditional rite, though catechistically and visually it is hard to make the connection. I don’t recall much catechesis about the Kiss of Peace when it was introduced, and I recall that a number of people in the pews did not offer the greeting.
Father John O’Malley. S.J., in his What Happened at Vatican II? concludes that the Council made one serious error; “They [the bishops] assumed an easier transition from ideas of the scholars’ study to the social reality of the church than proved to be the case.” [p. 292] If this can be said for the Council, it would be equally true for the lieutenants after the Council in rolling out the finished products. To paraphrase O’Malley, the Council did not recognize what a significant paradigm shift it had put in place. Section of 23 is an attempt, and I say this respectfully, to square a circle. The Kiss of Peace is as good example as any. If there was one profound paradigm for the Tridentine Mass, it was reverence for the sacred host, a profound inner sense that accounted for all the visuals of the Mass—from genuflection to church silence to receiving on the tongue.
Then, out of the blue, a pastor announces that from now on, just before approaching the communion rail to receive the sacred communion host, it is now OK to turn around and shake hands and—Lord help us—talk in church! Before holy communion! You do not need an M.A. in sociology to recognize this drastic change as a paradigm shift—from a Mass of awed silence to a breaking of bread with fellow believers. The Council was asking Catholics to change their orientation to the signal moment of religious identity. As the French would say, “C’est une event psychologique.”
The “rush to rites” after the Council is an issue that needs continued research and certainly better adult catechesis if Catholic unity is to be maintained. For today, in 2017, the divide in paradigms remains as strong as ever: The Mass as sacred act of worship, and the Mass as fellowship. One example is a 2007 statement from Pope Benedict XVI [para. 49] on the current manner of exchanging the Kiss of Peace: “We can thus understand the emotion so often felt during the sign of peace at a liturgical celebration. Even so, during the Synod of Bishops there was discussion about the appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just before the reception of Communion. It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one's immediate neighbours.” [During the bishops’ synod of 2007 a proposal had been made to move the Kiss of Peace to just before the Offertory.]
The authors of section 23 recognized there might be strains in the development of the new rites of the Eucharist; “As far as possible, notable differences between the rites used in adjacent regions must be carefully avoided.” The obvious concern here is confusion. I think this final sentence is the tip of the iceberg in assessing future challenges.
Noble SimplicityRead Now
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
22. (1.) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
(2.) In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
(3.) Therefore, no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
In 2003 Francis Cardinal Arinze (Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) addressed a convention in San Antonio, Texas, and in his own way provides a commentary on Section 22: “At the beginning of Mass the priest can trivialize by amusing the people on the weather, by saying "Good morning everybody" instead of "The Lord be with you" or "The grace of Our Lord... ", which are the proper liturgical opening greetings. He can banalize by an exaggerated autobiographical introduction and trite jokes in his misguided effort to warm the people up for worship!” The Cardinal continues “The Roman liturgy is not a free-for-all experimentation field where each celebrant has the option to tag on his cherished accretions. Repeated and laid-down action is part of ritual. The people are not tired of it, as long as the celebrant is full of faith and devotion and has the proper ars celebrandi (art of how to celebrate).”
Ten years earlier Pope John Paul II lamented “It cannot be tolerated…that certain priests should take upon themselves the right to compose Eucharistic Prayers or to substitute profane readings for texts from Sacred Scripture. Initiatives of this sort, far from being linked with the liturgical reform as such, or with the books which have issued from it, are in direct contradiction to it, disfigure it and deprive the Christian people of the genuine treasures of the liturgy of the Church "
Extremes beget extremes. I do not envy the more thoughtful bishops of Vatican II who understood the necessity of a true reform of Catholic worship to its “noble simplicity”—specifically, the prayerful participation of the faithful—and yet realized that sanctioning the development of a new mindset and new rites would embody a considerable amount of Darwinian species struggle. I leave it to Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Arinze to provide the day’s example of the post-Conciliar liturgical struggles, some of which continue to this day, such as the scourge of banality. Section 22 is the effort of the Council to set some authoritative principles regarding the process of liturgical reform.
The official rites for all liturgical celebrations come from Rome. The rites are promulgated in several ways; each Sacrament, for example, has its official bound ritual. When you attend Mass, the (usually) red prayer book used by the celebrant is the official rite text of the universal Church, with the accompanying Lectionary of assigned readings for the liturgical calendar and special observances. If you wandered into the sacristy you would find a book shelf of much smaller hard cover books, the official rituals for all the other sacraments, though I suspect that only the cathedral has the hard cover ritual for ordinations. (Come to think of it, though, my own diaconate ordination took place in my major seminary/friary chapel, and priest ordination at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, to accommodate family and guests—there were nine of us ordained together in 1974.)
Section 22 goes on to say that the authority guiding the sacraments and rites is delegated in certain matters to bishops, and then specifically to “various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.” This is a reference to national bishops’ conferences, such as our USCCB. When Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated in 1963, the Council had not yet finalized the organization and full scope of authority of bishops. In the post-Council years, the immediate responsibility of bishops’ conferences was translations of the released Latin texts. Many English-speaking bishops’ conferences banded together to form the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL. The current U.S. representative is Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, New Jersey. ICEL submits its drafts to the Vatican for approval. Thus, the Vatican owns the Latin rituals, ICEL’s members own the translations.
Rome has liturgical authority over many matters: these are spelled out from time to time by letter to bishops’ conferences from the Vatican, which continues to specify certain liturgical details, such as policy regarding the use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, or the material of chalices (gold, silver). The USCCB, on the other hand, can request or initiate an exception to general liturgical law. The best example is the American practice of kneeling during the entire Eucharistic prayer. The USCCB years ago requested and received an indult or special permission for Catholics to kneel; the ICEL translation states that “the posture of the people during the Eucharistic Prayer is different in various countries and regions; in the United States, the people normally stand until the "Holy, Holy", and then kneel until after the "Great Amen." Mass posture was hotly debated at USCCB meetings years ago, until Bishop Francis O’Keefe of New York famously declared that “our biggest posture problem in the Church is that too many Catholics are reclining on Sunday mornings.”
There is no doubt that in the two decades of so after the Council many priests—this one included—took liberties with the rites. In our defense, our professors had stressed to us that among the primary purposes of Sacrosanctum Concilium was the importance of bringing people back to Church and bringing all Catholics closer to the Eucharistic celebration, figuratively and literally. I would point out, though, that my bishops rarely if ever gave me any grief. If a complaint was made to the chancery, it was brought to my attention but as more of a heads up than anything else. I know that some Catholics went to neighboring parishes because I was too “progressive,” but the reverse was true, too.
Section 22 states that no one, not even a priest, can change the rites of the liturgy. However, the rite of the Mass, for example, during my years in ministry (1974-94) contained multiple options throughout, and actually called for the celebrant to compose his own words at certain points. This is still true in the ICEL 2011 English translation. After the formal greeting at the beginning of Mass, the Missal states: “The priest or another minister may then briefly introduce the Mass of the day, saying something about the readings, the feast, and/or the special occasion being celebrated.” Similarly, the Missal does not provide a strict formula for the Prayer of the Faithful.
In short, there were several generations of young priests ordained to view the Roman Missal as the official text of the universal Church while enjoying a measure of artistic and pastoral responsibility to make local changes as we saw fit.
Looking back from the vantage point of seniority, I can see that there is much to be said for common ritual in terms of Church unity. Moreover, I can honestly say that I am not the artist or liturgist I fancied myself in my 30’s, and I probably subjected my congregations to celebrations that cannot fall under the umbrella of ‘noble simplicity.” Although the Church is more buttoned-down liturgically than in my day, it is regrettable that some of the less helpful innovations of days’ past have become incorporated into the “new normal:” really bad music, banality, and the cult of priestly personality. We have a ways to go to reach noble simplicity.
At the BeachRead Now
Cocoa Beach, to be precise, giving a workshop on the Old Testament to Catholic school teachers and catechist. I hope to have Saturday's sacrament post up tomorrow (Sunday). Thanks for your patience.
The Drama That Is MassRead Now
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
21. In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.
In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.
Section 21 is the introduction to the actual “nuts and bolts” or specific directives of the reform of the Liturgy, many of which are fascinating and relate to our contemporary experiences of worship. By coincidence I just finished reviewing John O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II? (2010) in hard cover, though it is available on Kindle, too. [See yesterday’s Friday post.] One of the “take-aways” of O’Malley’s work is the sheer wonder at the depth of change in the Church, how at least three quarters of the world’s bishops agreed to a sea change of the sort that came to pass. In reading section 21 on the Liturgy I can’t help but compare it to the instruction I received throughout Catholic elementary school, and the Mass I attended and served daily till the end of high school in 1966 when this document [SC] began to take practical force of law.
This section clarifies that the liturgy consists of both immutable elements and changeable ones. On the matter of changeable elements, the Council states that they ought to be changed with the passage of time, though the precise nature of the reason or the trigger is not as clear as one might like. Such changeable parts would have suffered “the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy.” Of course, what makes this paragraph somewhat harder to decipher is that the inner nature of the Mass itself, our self-understanding of worship as a Church, did change. The immutables are quite simple: our best documentation of early Church liturgies describes a reading of documents dear to the faithful [i.e., the Gospels, Letters of Paul, etc.] and the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. The Council understood the fraternal nature of the sacraments in the post-Apostolic era and legislated accordingly. Thus, a great deal of the “changeable” needed changing.
The “subsection” of section 21, by contrast, is much more concrete. It singles out texts and signs in the liturgy that might be repetitive, unclear, or counterproductive to the very nature of the Mass. A somewhat unimportant but illustrative example is the maniple, a vestment that hung from the left wrist of the priest. The Vatican dropped the requirement to wear this accouterment in about 1967 in view of the general directive of Sacrosanctum Concilium regarding holy simplicity in all vestments and sacramental implements, though many priests stopped wearing maniples before that date, particularly in view of the maniple’s original purpose as a handkerchief. “Pure disobedience, Tommy,” my pastor would rail about those who jumped before the gun. “Pure disobedience.”
To think of the Mass as a collection of elements, though, is to overlook the Mass as a profound human experience, in its totality. Somewhere in my training I was required to read Aristotle’s Poetics, the famous tract of four centuries before Christ, the first analysis of what we would call today drama. Later I came to realize that the Poetics was entirely applicable to the celebration of the Eucharist, for the Mass embodies all the key qualities of great performance art that produces in the audience a catharsis, literally a “washing of the emotions.”
Aristotle writes: “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play, in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper catharsis of these emotions." To capture the Philosopher’s full meaning, consider the plays of his time, such as Oedipus Rex and Antigone. Both plays are of “grave matter,” life and death. Both involve moral dilemmas, in the case of Oedipus his marriage to his own mother; Antigone is buried alive for giving proper burial to her brother against a cruel tyrant.
Aristotle would go on to teach economy of action—every word and action, brimming with style and imagination, must tightly adhere to the unfolding of the plot. No comic relief, as appears in Shakespeare’s plays many centuries later. Once the play has begun, its witnesses and its actors become involved in an engrossing spiral of human drama that, as the saying goes, leaves one limp. Does the Poetics apply to the Christian liturgy? I believe so for multiple reasons: grave subject, a beauty of expression, noble and weak characters (Christ and his sinful flock), an internal unity of action, a climax of moral character or utter failure, an emotional impact that remains with a participant long into the future.
I would guess that many of you attended Mass this weekend. What you experienced was ritual, to be sure. The Scriptures were read, the Creed recited, the Lamb of God proclaimed. Now how did you feel when you left the Church? Were your emotions washed out? Does the poetic narrative, the unity of the drama that is the Mass, remain with you as we approach the supper hour after Mass? I am writing on a Sunday, and I attended Mass earlier today. What I experienced was not catharsis, the drama of my sins forgiven and the promise of life after death, but a string of individual “things” to be checked off—topped off by a semi-Shakespearean comic relief monolog about our upcoming parish picnic next week. By the time the menu had been read by the pastor, the drama of Jesus facing departure from his disciples was long forgotten.
As we roll into the specifics the Liturgy next Saturday, I will work diligently to look at the Vatican II rendering of its own Poetics whenever the Christian assembly gathers to recreate the drama of its own redemption and salvation. Perhaps we may gain insight into what is wrong with the rites—and wrong with us—that our emotions are not drained by the greatest story of all.
Busy SaturdayRead Now
A busy day today with guests and outings. The entry on paragraph 21 of Sacrosanctum Concilium will probably go up on Sunday if the planets line up correctly.