jan 312010

I Thomas Kociks bok “The Reform of the Reform” (som jeg har nevnt tidligere) er det også essay av andre forfattere, bl.a. Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S., som skriver om ” The Postconciliar Eucharistic Liturgy: Planning ‘a Reform of the Reform'”. Essayet bygger visst på et foredrag fra 1994, og ser ut til å være grunnlaget for ‘reform av reformen’-bevegelsen – selv om Kosics for er fra 2003.

Harrison ser ikke at den gamle liturgien kan være brukbar for framtida, selv om han selv har feira den nokså regelmessig i flere år; han har tanker om at framtidas liturgi må være en slags mellomting mellom ny og gammel form. Men før han foreslår hvordan liturgien kan reformeres, setter han søkelyset på hva Vatikankonsilets dokument Sacrosanctum Concilium virkelig sa (for han mener at den nye liturgien ikke er hva konsilet ønsket), og sier:

Let us now review briefly the fundamental principles laid down by Vatican II. Above all, it will be necessary to keep in the forefront of our minds as an overall guiding principle the conciliar Constitution’s words in article 7:

The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ…. From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.

That is, the liturgy is first and foremost the action of our Lord himself, not simply our action and our invention. It is a sacred mystery that we receive and enter into, rather than something we create for ourselves. It could even be said that neglect of this great truth is the basic source of all the postconciliar liturgical confusion, in which the human continuity and its activity and “creativity” have come to predominate over the divine presence and the divine activity.

In keeping with this overall guiding principle, Sacrosanctum Concilium lays down several “general norms” ” that are to be observed in all liturgical revision, including the following, which has unfortunately been very much neglected:

Innovations are to be admitted only when necessary in order to bring some true and certain benefit to the Church (nisi vera et certa utilitas Ecclesia, id exigat), and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. (no. 23)

After this, there are just nine articles of the Constitution (nos. 50-58) decreeing specific areas in which the eucharistic liturgy is to be revised. I would like now to survey each of these in turn, suggesting ways in which each of them could be implemented without in any way harming the integrity of the traditional Roman rite or opening the way for the abuses with which we are all too familiar.

SC, no. 50: Changes to the Order of Mass

Article 50 is the most important of this group of nine, since it has to do with changes to the “Order” in the sense of the Ordinary of the Mass-the central structural parts that remain more or less the same in every eucharistic celebration. It is worth quoting in full:

The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as well as the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance. Parts which with the passage of time came to be duplicated, or were added with little advantage, are to be omitted. Other parts which suffered loss through accidents of history are to be restored to the vigor they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.

This instruction is in turn to be seen in the light of another more all-encompassing norm laid down earlier (in article 34) for all the sacramental liturgies: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity. They should be clear by virtue of their brevity, and free from useless repetitions.” Keeping in mind that other general norm that no innovation is to be admitted unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires it, and taking as our point of departure the last preconciliar edition of the Roman Missal (that of 1962), how might we envisage an alternate implementation of this particular decree?


It seems to me that the Vatican II decree could be fulfilled in this regard perfectly well without changing a single word of the old Missal. It would be sufficient for the celebrant, after entering and kissing the altar with the appropriate prayers at the beginning of Mass, always to carry out the Liturgy of the Word from the chair and lectern. This practice, with which of course we are now. familiar in the new liturgy, was already standard in more solemn and Pontifical Masses of the traditional rite. It highlights clearly the privileged and central location of the altar as the place of sacrifice, to which our attention is directed after our hearts and minds have been duly prepared by hearing and reflecting on God’s Word. It was only at the old Low Mass that this distinction between Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist was somewhat blurred by the fact that the priest recited everything in both these parts at the altar, never facing the people except during the homily. This, however, was the staple fare Sunday after Sunday for the vast majority of Catholics before Vatican II.

With regard to “simplifying” the rites (while carefully preserving their substance), it seems to me that this would apply mainly to the celebration of Solemn High Mass or a Pontifical Mass, wherein some of the traditional rubrics do indeed seem a little over-meticulous and complex. In regard to the Low Mass, which was by far the most common form of celebrating the traditional rite, there are only half a dozen slight changes that suggest themselves to me, as one who has personally celebrated that rite for several years now.

First, I think the double Confiteor recited at the foot of the altar first by the priest and then by the servers is a little tedious and could perhaps be classed as a “useless repetition”. Having just the one Confiteor recited together by priest, servers, and people, as in the new rite, would I think be an improvement.

Another rather inessential duplication comes just before the Gospel, when the priest recites two prayers, the second of which really adds nothing substantial to the very beautiful and longer one that precedes it and could well be omitted.

Likewise, the recitation of seven verses of Psalm 25 at the Lavabo during the Offertory (also in silence) takes longer than is necessary to accompany the action of washing the hands, and, since the last three verses (in which the psalmist proclaims his own innocence and denounces the wicked who accept bribes) are not in any case dearly linked to that liturgical action, they could well be omitted.

Also, there are several occasions in the Canon of the Mass where the old rubrics call for three signs of the cross in rapid succession over the eucharistic elements. This obliges the celebrant either to slow down the natural pace of the words artificially or else speed up artificially the three signs of the cross in a way that is scarcely reverent. If the three were replaced by just one sign of the cross on each of those occasions, the result would be more flowing and dignified.

… …

The recitation from the altar of the so-called Last Gospel (the prologue of Saint John’s Gospel) at the end of every single Mass, after the final blessing, did seem somewhat excessive and liturgically misplaced. I suspect this sublime reading would be appreciated better if it were heard less frequently, for instance, only during Advent, Christmastide, and on the Feast of the Annunciation, when the liturgical emphasis is precisely on the mystery of the Incarnation. At the end of Mass on those occasions it could be recited in the vernacular by the priest at the foot of the altar, as a brief meditation, together with the other extraliturgical prayers that were added a century ago by Pope Leo XIII.

Finally, article 50 also calls for revisions that further encourage the “devout and active participation by the faithful”. It seems to me that the well-known practice of having “dialogue Masses”, which was introduced in some countries even before Vatican II, would be quite adequate to comply with the Council’s expectations in this regard: the people would for the most part join in reciting or singing the same parts of the Mass as they do now in the new rite. In this context we could also insert into the old rite, straight after the Creed, the ancient and laudable practice of the Offertory procession, in which the faithful participate by bringing the gifts to the foot of the altar. This would be one of the main points the Council Fathers had in mind in calling for the restoration of parts of the Mass that “suffered loss through accidents of history”.

SQ, no. 51: More Extensive Use of Scripture

This article calls for “the treasures of the Bible … to be opened up more lavishly” in the eucharistic liturgy. As we all know, this has been implemented by the two-year cycle for weekday readings and the three-year cycle for Sunday Mass. The scriptural selections in the old Missal were certainly very limited, but in the pastoral experience of many priests-myself included-we have gone from one extreme to the other in regard to the Sunday readings: two in the old rite and now four (first reading, Responsorial Psalm, second reading and Gospel). This is really too much for the vast majority of ordinary parishioners to assimilate in one sitting, and I am afraid most of it tends to go in one ear and out the other. It is very difficult for the preacher to explain adequately such a large selection of readings, especially since the second reading—normally a New Testament Epistle-is seldom related thematically to the other readings. The usual result is that it tends to be ignored in the homily.

Furthermore, as Gamber points out, the old order of Sunday readings was abruptly abolished in the reform. It was not even taken into account, even though it had remained unchanged for nearly thirteen hundred years and had thus come to be, in effect, an integral part of the Roman rite.

I would suggest that the alternate implementation of Vatican II that we are contemplating might well omit one of the four readings on Sundays, retaining just the first reading, Responsorial Psalm (which is an ancient Roman liturgical custom),” and Gospel. Within such a scheme, all the traditional Sunday readings (Epistle and Gospel) could be retained as those for Year A of a different three year cycle, for the sake of maintaining the complete integrity of the ancient Roman rite in both Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. Then, for Years B and C, the most pastorally and catechetically valuable readings from the new rite could be selected and appropriately redistributed, omitting the more obscure texts, such as some of the lesser Old Testament ones whose only real value in a liturgical context lies in some sort of parallel or foreshadowing of the Gospel, which is of course what the preacher will concentrate on anyway. This kind of revision, I believe, would contribute toward a more effective scriptural formation for the faithful, by emphasizing the quality rather thanjust the quantity of the Sunday selections.

SC, no. 52: The Homily

This article needs little or no comment because it simply emphasizes the importance of preaching and insists that the homily not be omitted on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. Nobody, I suspect, would disagree with that.

SC, no. 53: The “Prayer of the Faithful”

Here the Council mandates the restoration of these “common prayers” on Sundays and Holy Days. This was an ancient part of the Roman rite that fell into disuse, and, provided it is done well, I do not see why any reasonable Catholic should object to this reform.’9

SC, no. 54: Use of the Vernacular

This article must be read in the light of the earlier general norm applying to all the liturgical rites (not just the Mass), which states that “The use of the Latin language … is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” 10 This is now rather famous for having become, in pastoral practice, the most flagrantly neglected-or even violated!-instruction in the entire Constitution on the Liturgy. Article 54 applies that general norm to the proposed revision of the eucharistic liturgy by stating that “a suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular… especially in the readings and the ‘common prayer,’ and also, as local conditions may warrant, in those parts [of the Mass] which pertain to the people.” (The “parts” referred to here would, I think, be the Confiteor and Creed in particular.) There is clearly not one word here to justify the translation of the whole Mass into the vernacular.

An alternate reform, I suggest, might well use the following criterion: Latin could be retained for all those parts that are recited in a low voice by the priest-that is, the whole of the Offertory and the Canon-and also for most of the unchanging (or relatively unchanging) parts of the Mass that are recited or sung out loud: that is, the various common invocations and the final blessing, the Kyrie, Gloria, Preface, Pater Noster, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. (Article 54 actually specifies that the faithful should be able to sing or recite many of those parts in Latin.) ” This would leave for translation into the vernacular those publicly audible parts of the Mass that, because they change every day, would be most unfamiliar and unintelligible to the faithful if they remained in Latin: the opening Introit, antiphon, and Collect; the Scripture readings, Prayer of the Faithful, the Offertory and Communion antiphons, and the postcommunion prayer. I suggest that such a distribution of languages would provide very much the kind of balance that most Council Fathers probably had in mind.

SC, no. 55: Reception of Holy Communion

This article makes the uncontroversial point that it is preferable to distribute Hosts consecrated during the current celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice rather than those previously reserved in the tabernacle. It also states that in particular cases decided by the Apostolic See, Communion under both species may be given to the faithful, provided the Council of Trent’s teaching on that matter is duly respected. Again, this is not likely to prove very controversial if, indeed, Communion under both species is restricted to particular cases and does not become the norm.

SQ, no. 56: Early Arrival at Mass

Only very lazy Catholics could object to this article! It simply emphasizes the importance of the Liturgy of the Word, which forms one unified act of worship together with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Council here instructs pastors to urge the faithful to take part in the entire celebration, from start to finish.

SC, nos. 57-58: Concelebration

These last two decrees concerning changes in the rite of Mass simply extend the conditions under which the ancient Eastern and Western practice of concelebrating Mass is to be permitted and stipulate that a rite for concelebration is to be drawn up and inserted into the liturgical books. Since the right of each priest to celebrate individually if he so desires is also reasserted here,” these decrees should not disturb anyone except the most intransigent traditionalists.

This completes our survey of the Vatican II decrees specifically dedicated to changes in the eucharistic liturgy. There remain only certain points that apply to the sacred liturgy in general: that is, including the Divine Office and other sacraments as well as the Mass.

Several of these concern a revision of the liturgical year or calendar. Chapter 5 of Sacrosanctum Concilium calls for an adjustment to modern conditions of the “traditional customs and discipline of the sacred seasons”, so as to emphasize more clearly their specific character. This is to be done particularly in regard to Lent, wherein the ancient emphasis on penance and preparation for baptism is to be restored more fully.

If anything, the existing postconciliar reform has given less emphasis than ever to penance during Lent by its unnecessary changes in the prayers and by reducing the minimum time of the eucharistic fast practically to the vanishing point. The proper implementation of these conciliar dispositions would not require any great changes in the rites and would consist mainly in different emphases in preaching and catechesis, which article iog itself mentions.

This chapter of the Liturgy Constitution also calls for greater attention to the feasts of the Lord, and the Proper of the Time in each season, so that feasts of the saints do not detract from those great mysteries of salvation that are being emphasized. With that end in view, it also calls for the removal from the universal calendar of some minor saints whose feasts would be better celebrated only in those local areas or religious communities for whom they are more important.” These instructions have of course been implemented vigorously in the postconciliar reform-some would say rather too vigorously. But it is undeniable that the preconciliar calendar did contain many minor feasts of very obscure saints. An alternate and somewhat less drastic implementation of what the Council calls for should not be too problematical.

Finally, chapter 6 of Sacrosanctum Condlium concerns sacred music and, as is well known, calls for great care in preserving and cultivating the existing “treasury of sacred music”, insisting that, other things being equal, Gregorian chant should be given “pride of place” in liturgical celebrations, with the participation of the people, where possible.” These decrees have of course been notoriously neglected, and, indeed, even before Vatican II it seems that a neglect of this sublime and uplifting music was quite common at the grass-roots level: the majority of Catholics apparently had little opportunity to hear it on a regular basis at their local parish church.

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