Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Review: The Development of the Liturgical Reform

Recently, Roman Catholic Books undertook the project of bringing a work by Msgr. Nicola Giampietro into the English language; a work which offers another account of the history of the 20th century liturgical reform, as seen through the eyes of Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli by way of his personal diaries and notes, taken from the period of 1948 to 1970.

I was very pleased to receive a copy of this last week.

This work can be understood as sitting in parallel to Archbishop Annibale Bugnini's (and, by extension, Archbishop Piero Marini's) own account of the 20th century liturgical reform (The Reform of the Liturgy: 1948-1975 and A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975), being a personal account of and response to those particular events, as seen from the eyes of one who was very close to the matter (indeed, directly involved in it) -- and offered from a different perspective.

The publication of this book has been welcomed by many as an important contribution which will help round out this history -- and of particular relevance for the reform of the reform movement.

No less personage than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented, in 2002 and in relation to the original edition, that this book "presents views that raise questions and provide considerable material for discussion about the liturgical reform before and after the Second Vatican Council."

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, on the release of this English edition wrote to Msgr. Giampietro -- himself an official within the same Roman congregation -- noting:

This book is an important contribution to the study of the liturgical reforms of the twentieth century... because it makes available for the first time in English the papers of Father, later Cardinal, Antonelli, who was one of the protagonists of liturgical renewal in this period. Antonelli embarked with considerable enthusiasm on the reform... and continued to participate in this project until 1970, when he felt that his moderate approach to liturgical renewal was abandoned.

In Antonelli's judgement, the lack of sound theological foundations made the Consilium... diverge significantly from the genuine renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council.

Finally, in his preface to the English edition, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, the former Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, comments (in an essay that it is worth reading in its own right) that these writings "[help] us to understand the complex inner workings of the liturgical reform prior to and immediately following the Council." Ranjith continues further:
The penned notes of Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli take on new significance. One of the most eminent and closely involved members of the Consilium which supervised the reform process. Cardinal Antonelli can help us to understand the inner polarizations that influenced the different decisions of the reform and help us to be courageous in improving or changing that which was erroneously introduced and which appears to be incompatible with the true dignity of the liturgy...

Cardinal Antonelli's notes reveal a man of great faith and of the Church struggling to come to terms with some of the inner currents which influenced the work involving the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia. What he wrote in these diaries reveal quite candidly his feelings of joy as well as of sorrow and at times of fear at the way things were being made to move along, the attitudes of some of the key players and the sense of adventurism which had characterized some of the changes that had been introduced...

Above all it is a timely study which would help us to see another side of the otherwise over-euphoric presentations of the conciliar reform by other contemporary authors.

The publication in English of this interesting study would, I am sure, contribute greatly to the ongoing debate on the post-conciliar liturgical reforms.

As is recognized by various parties, Antonelli is a name which many may not yet recognize in association with the liturgical reform, and so the first two chapters by Giampietro, which provide a biography of the Franciscan cardinal, as well as an account of his academic and liturgical formation, are certainly quite welcome and set some of the context for the rest of the book.

After this biographical section, the text gives consideration to the liturgical reforms pursued under Pius XII (including those of Holy Week). These are comprised of the following chapters:

* Preparatory Studies and Partial Attempts at a General Reform of the Liturgy under Pius XII
* The Reform of the Easter Vigil
* The Decree De Solemni Vigilia Paschali Instauranda
* The Liturgical Reform of Holy Week and the Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus

Following these sections, we then move into a consideration of the Conciliar period, with the preparation of Sacrosanctum Concilium:

* The Preparation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1960-1963
* Historical and Pastoral Reasons for the Liturgical Renewal
* From the Consilium ad exesequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia to the Congregation for Divine Worship
* The Instruction Inter Oecumenici (1964)
* Antonelli's Personal Notes on the Development of the Reform (1968-1971)

In each of these chapters we are contextually guided through by the hand of Msgr. Giampietro, and provided with the accounts and reflections of Antonelli as these events were happening.

Noteworthy as well is a substantial appendix, "On the origin of the Pontifical Commission for the Reform of the Sacred Liturgy and on its work from 1948 to 1960" which presents the reader with some detailed accounts of the liturgical work and debates which were occurring in the period prior to the Council, inclusive of propositions tabled and discussions had by the likes not only of Antonelli, but then Msgr. Enrico Dante and the future Cardinal Bea. These minutes provide fascinating insights and an illuminating picture which will certainly be of value and interest to those concerned with the subject of the 20th century liturgical reform, particularly in the period leading up to the Council.

Indeed, the entire work is valuable in this regard generally, for both the pre and post conciliar periods, and is most certainly an important addition to the corpus of available materials on this subject. For those who have an interest in this subject, and particularly for those who have already invested in Bugnini's and Marini's own accounts of these periods, this is certainly a must-have which will help to round out those works.

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To order:

The Development of the Liturgical Reform: As seen by Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli from 1948 - 1970 by Msgr. Nicola Giampietro

Price: $33.75 USD

Published in English by Roman Catholic Books