Monsignor Peter J. Elliott skriver om “reform av liturgireformen”

Helt til slutt i Thomas Kociks bok «The Reform of the Reform?» (som jeg har skrevet om flere ganger før: HER, HER, HER, HER og HER), står det en artikkel av msgr. Peter J. Elliott (biskop i Melbourne fra 2007, les om ham HER) – som jeg kjenner godt fra boka: Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite (Ignatius Press, 1995), som jeg kjøpte og leste grundig for ti år siden. Det er ei bok som grundig går gjennom bestemmelser om hvordan messen skal feires etter Novus ordo.

Elliot er i utgangspunktet ikke i det hele tatt enig med tradisjonalistene i deres syn på den gamle og den nye messen. Han skriver f.eks. at det var godt at man kom bort fra den stille messens (som dominerte i søndagsmesser og svært mange steder) tablå-aktige messefeiring (der prest og ministranter stod nokså fjernt og feiret messen). Likevel er han kritisk til måten den nye messen ofte feires på; på upresise rubrikker, på friheter mange prester tar seg osv. Her er altså en ekte representant for «reform av reformen»-liturgene, og her er et lite utdrag fra hans kapittel:

Some have criticized the transition as exchanging the role of a eucharistic celebrant for that of a eucharistic preacher, hence a move toward a Protestant style of worship. Certainly, in not a few churches we now find a rather didactic or homiletic style of celebrating Mass, so that the altar becomes a pulpit. But it would be more accurate to perceive the influence of mass media communication in the transition. A speaker on television seeks to create an impression of intimacy and dialogue. Again, decades of expanding television create a historical context that is an important factor to bear in mind.
… …

It is obvious that the role of the people changed from silent participation to active involvement, although this had been pioneered well before the Council in the Latin dialogue Mass. The opening out of the ceremonial action as it affected the laity was more evident in the emerging lay ministries … …

I do not criticize this steady transition from the liturgical tableau of Low Mass to the open action of the Missa normativa. In fact I endorse it in my own attempts to interpret it in a classical way, that is, within the «continuity of our tradition». Once we perceive how much of the transition emerged from the existing ceremonial of the preconciliar Roman rite, we should recognize that it is rooted in a continuous liturgical tradition. This is why I believe that it is unfair, even ignorant, to parody postconciliar worship as «pseudopatristic» or to allege that it proceeds from radical Reformation traditions. Nor can the reform be dismissed always as a simplification of what preceded it. In various ways, the open ceremonial of a parish Mass today is more elaborate than the simple tableau of the Low Mass of 1962.

Perhaps the best way to see this continuity with tradition is to link the ceremonial transition to the liturgies of the Christian East.

Moving from a tableau to an open action has had the effect of bringing the Western liturgy closer to the liturgies of the East, especially the Byzantine family of rites. Elements in the open ceremonial action of various Eastern rites may now be found in a standard Roman rite Mass: a series of processions (entrance, Gospel, gifts, Communion, recessional), readings at an ambo, intercessions in the form of a litany, music as a normal component of worship, a credence table functioning like the table of prothesis, wider scope for Communion under both species, more frequent use of incense, processional candles, cross, and so on, even at simple celebrations.

The Roman liturgical space is now closer to the plan of a Byzantine sanctuary. While it lacks an iconastasis, the Roman sanctuary now has a freestanding altar, often shorter than previous altars, a presiding chair, often directly behind the altar, an ambo and a credence table placed to the left, like the table of prothesis. As with a Byzantine sanctuary, usually there are fewer steps near the altar, to allow space for concelebration. The postconciliar Roman rite sanctuary is easily adapted for a Byzantine liturgy. This struck me while visiting a new church in Slovakia where a large side chapel, without iconastasis, had been built for Catholics of the Byzantine rite. Apart from an array of icons, it was not much different from the sanctuary in the main church.

However, the major difference with the East is that now the Roman Mass is almost universally celebrated facing the people. This is not envisaged in the Eastern rites, although there have been attempts to «romanize» some Eastern rites in this way. A significant Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (1996) required eastward celebration in Eastern rites. Regrettably, this Instruction is largely ignored in a certain Eastern rite prone to much «romanization» in the past.


While the ceremonial transition in the Roman rite can be shown to arise from sound traditions, it was not accompanied by precise rubrics to cover the details that in fact pass on a liturgical tradition. This is a major weakness that we need to understand and remedy.

People often ask why we do not find precise rubrics in the earlier editions of General Instruction of the Roman Missal (first published in 1969). The style of the General Instruction is best explained in the light of the mood and intent of the reform at that time. The goal was not only to open out the action of the Roman liturgy, but to move beyond the legalism of the rubricians, … …

The underlying weakness of the new approach was a swing from legalism to unrealistic idealism. Here we enter a fantastic realm, let us call it «Liturgyland», where every priest or deacon is a keen creative liturgist, where parish clergy have hours of free time to create beautiful liturgies, where they have only to blink and expert cantors and choirs will break into song. In Liturgyland a few broad indications suffice, and joyful celebrations naturally unfold before our eyes. … …

The other weakness was a naive assumption about liturgical skills that underlies the General Instruction. It could be described as, «There is no need to spell it all out because they know that anyway.» Apparently, in Liturgyland traditional skills and practices are passed on by some magical intuitive process. … …

It is also instructive to note the parallel with developments in religious education in the sixties and seventies. Effective catechetics was virtually destroyed by the same naive assumption that the details of a tradition can be passed on when they are no longer explicitly taught. This disaster was based on an erroneous intuitive theology of Revelation, also beset with naiveté, and it occurred in the same years as the liturgical reform.


While a healthy reaction against the mood of that era is obvious today, we still face a situation where the ceremonial of the venerable Roman rite often descends to banality and confusion. In not a few places, what is «slipshod liturgy» precisely because it is casual or confused! This is supposed to be creative ”spontanaity” or ”informality”.

The Roman liturgy has thus become prey to predators with their own obsessions. A few proponents of liturgical Maoism are still promoting further simplification of the rubrics, such as the dreary proposals sent to Rome several years ago by some German liturgists describing a crudely abbreviated «weekday Mass». …

If we need to diminish the verbosity of the current rite in favor of emphasizing visible ritual actions, this involves not only making more space for silence but a new emphasis on ceremonial. … … We also need a clear directive to assure priests that celebrating Mass facing the people is not compulsory, as many imagine. This should extend to avoiding the confrontational arrangement of some churches, whereby concelebrants, even servers and lectors, face the people for the whole celebration of Mass.

Moving to finer details, I would envisage more signs of the cross to be made both by the celebrant and the people. For example, to enhance the Eucharistic Prayer and take emphasis off a monologue, more gestures should be prescribed for the celebrant, including genuflections and inclinations of the body. Precise directions concerning the use of the voice would help eliminate the distracting ugliness associated with a loud monologue. Moreover, clear counsel even as to where the celebrant directs his eyes would greatly improve the quality of eucharistic celebration facing the people.


Some Conclusions

It is only too easy to continue to cite cases and enter into interesting details. But the priority at this stage is to set out certain general conclusions as a strategy to improve Catholic ceremonial and its setting.

I believe a «reform of the reform» of the ceremonial of the Roman rite requires:

* more precise rubrics to govern the ceremonial of the Roman rite for the celebrant, deacon, servers, lectors, and so on;

* clear and strong counsel on reverence and dignified movement for all involved in liturgical ministries, because good rubrics by themselves will not transform everything;

* some significant changes in the current rubrics, but always in the direction of enrichment and addition, not simplification;

* a clear distinction between the solemn and simple forms of eucharistic celebration, while allowing for a workable Missa normativa;

* tighter control over the planning and renovation of churches so that they offer a worthy and workable setting for the celebration of the liturgy;

* elimination of the ambiguity from «noble simplicity», to promote beauty, splendor, and excellence, not forgetting the great heritage offered by the Christian East.

The last proposal illuminates the best approach to the «reform of the reform». Our problem is not so much a false start as an aimless diversion from the journey. But the New Jerusalem above still shines forth. Its light beckons Christians always to move forward, and that light is the radiant glory of the heavenly worship of the triune God. This is what we should strive to reflect and anticipate whenever we celebrate the sacred liturgy of Christ our Priest here on earth.

3 hendelser på “Monsignor Peter J. Elliott skriver om “reform av liturgireformen””

  1. «…..godt at man kom bort fra den stille messens (som dominerte i søndagsmesser og svært mange steder) tablå-aktige messefeiring.»
    Dette er akkurat det jeg/vi har som hovedinnvendig mot TLM-messen. TLM-med sin stive og rituelle form vil fungere dårlig som menighetsmesse i dag. Men messen må feires verdig. Her kan mange prester lære av TLM. sin «Ritus Servandus.» Novus Ordo-messen kan gjerne feires på latin (kunne kanskje vært en fordel så menigheten ikke ble splittet i så mange nasjonagrupper) og det er full anledning til liturgisk utfoldelse.

  2. Tips til dem som oppfatter den stille messen som «tablå-aktig»: Løft blikket og kontempler/se mot krusifikset sammen med presten – som når en general med hæren bak sin rygg taler til kongen – eller flytt blikket litt ned og la bønnene i messeboken lede tankene i en from retning. Eller bare lukk øynene – det er den enkleste måten å være «aktivt deltagende» på, for da slipper man å bli forstyrret av syn man ikke liker og man kan konsentrere seg bedre i sin bønn. Det siste kan også anvendes under Novus Ordo.

    Jeg forstår ikke helt at det skal ha noen betydning hvordan menigheten oppfatter det den ser ved alteret, men mistenker at denne forventningen kommer av versus populum-feiringen, hvor folk er vant til å observere presten ved alteret – noe som gjør versus populum mer tablå-aktig enn ved versus Deum, der det ikke er meningen at menigheten skal observere noe eller forvente visuell variasjon. Avstanden mellom alteret og menigheten i en stille TLM-messe har ikke noe å si for en menighet som deltar gjennom tilstedeværelse og individuell bønn (f.eks ved å følge prestens bønner i messeboken).
    Latinen forener katolikker fra hele verden og motbygger nasjonalgruppenes isolering – som vi ser f.eks på messene i St. Joseph. Både latinen og den «stive, rituelle form» er noe som katolske menigheter aldri har trengt mer enn nå, når den sekulære verden er så anti-høytidelig og desakralisert at den forsøker å frarøve oss mystikken også fra liturgien. Tenk bare på hvor stort inntrykk Harry Potter eller Ringenes Herre har gjort, særlig blant ungdom – en magisk virkelighet full av overnaturlige krefter og mystiske, latinske ritualer og formler.

  3. Nå er det nok slik, Hans, at en messen der presten gjør sitt oppe ved alteret, mens menigheten gjør litt andre ting i kirkerommet, ikke er idealet Kirken ønsker for messen (heller ikke TLM) – og har ikke vært det siden Pius X. Det ser likevel ut til at noen katolikker får mye ut av denne meditative formen, og for en liten og stille ukemesse kan det fungere svært godt.

    Men når og om søndagsmesser med mange flere menensker til stede blir mer vanlige, regner jeg med at det ikke blir stille messer der menigheten synger salmer ved siden av, men heller missa cantata (eller om mulig missa solemnis/levittmesse), der messens proprium og ordinarium synges av prest, kor og menigheten sammen, slik at alle i større grad feirer messen i fellesskap, samtidig som det er viss mulighet til egen bønn og meditasjon, først og fremst under den stille kanonbønna og under/etter kommunion.

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