Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quo Vadis?: The New Liturgical Movement Post-Benedict XVI

The announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was understandably met with great surprise and shock throughout not only the Catholic world, but the world generally. Speaking liturgically, Pope Benedict's resignation brings the temptation to speculate on questions such as these:

"What will the future of the new liturgical movement be under the next pope?"

"Will the next pope continue the liturgical direction of Pope Benedict XVI, fostering liturgical continuity and giving an important witness and voice to a new liturgical movement?"


These questions are understandable given both recent history and given the great emphasis this particular pope has given to the sacred liturgy in both word and deed -- indeed, I have commented before that I believe Pope Benedict XVI could be rightly called "the father of the new liturgical movement" and in that regard (as well as others) his presence 'at the helm' will certainly be missed by many.

Such questions have been raised over and over since the pope's election and have often attended each and every positive liturgical development we have seen over the course of that time (which have indeed been many). However, my intent here is not to give any real consideration to such questions insofar as they are specifically tied to the person of the future pope -- for, until we know who that pope is, it seems to me rather pointless to speculate about such things.

However, what surely isn't pointless is to give voice to our hopes as we look toward the future of the new liturgical movement. Where should our efforts be focused and what do we hope to see from the Pope on down as we move forward?

Here are just a few of my own thoughts which I have quickly cobbled together -- and which are by no means comprehensive.

1. Liturgical Orientation - I would propose that we need to see a continued and, ideally, increased emphasis on this matter of liturgical orientation as the new liturgical movement moves forward in future years; we should hope to see this manifest through the continuation of the "Benedictine arrangement" and also through an ever widening practice of ad orientem liturgicum. These thoughts are general, but with specific regard to papal liturgical practice, this is manifest most visibly as it is within the context of the Roman basilicas, which means we should hope to see the continued use of the traditional cross and candlestick arrangement on those altars. Outside of these architectural contexts, we should certainly hope to see the "Benedictine arrangement" used, as well as "ad orientem liturgicum."

2. Orienting the Liturgy through the Proper Chants of the Mass - The use of chanted propers, particularly with regard to the introit and offertory, as I have commented before, also has an "orienting" affect and provides the further and enriching benefit of the liturgical texts themselves. I would not care to suggest there is no place for hymns whatsoever within a liturgical context, however I would like to suggest that these propers most certainly need to be more normative than they presently are. While by no means an easy thing, this needs to somehow be concretely effected. This too would be important to see reflected in future papal liturgies, and that is certainly my own hope.

3. The Ancient Liturgical Usages - The gains of Summorum Pontificum should continue to be actively fostered both for its own merits as well as a sort 'continuity point' and 'continuity reference' for the broader Church. With regard the ancient Roman liturgical books, it would appear that Pope Benedict XVI determined the time was not prudent for him to publicly celebrate Mass according to the usus antiquior. I think this decision should be respected and if we are honest, I think it is entirely understandable given the climate that we know can yet exist. That said, it would be my hope that at some point within the next pontificate this witness might finally be able to be manifest by way of a Missa coram Summo Pontifice which could be a particularly important and valuable gesture.

4. Liturgical Language - With regard to the Western liturgical books, we should hope to see the continued expression of the place that Latin has within a modern liturgical context, particularly where it relates to the great treasury of sacred music. This too we should hope to see continued on within the context of the papal liturgies. As regards the vernacular, there should be a continued re-approach to this question to ensure that wherever vernacular is employed within the liturgy, that it should be a faithful translation and within a hieratic form. In addition, a better approach to vernacular forms of liturgical music (namely as expressed in polyphonic and chant modes) desperately to be actively promoted and fostered.

5. Liturgical Arts - We should hope to see a continued promotion of the liturgical arts in general, inclusive of sacred art, architecture and music. This revival should promote quality of craftsmanship, beauty, continuity with tradition, shunning neither traditional expressions nor an appropriate form of modern (or in other words, the 'other modern'). Pope Benedict XVI put in place some initiatives specific to these areas, which I would hope to see furthered by future pontiffs.

6. Liturgical Catechesis - As Cardinal Canizares has often pointed out, there is a great lacking in liturgical catechesis that needs to be addressed within the Church. We should certainly hope to see these areas addressed by future popes in their own catecheses, as well as by way of other official teaching organs of the Church.

As I have noted already, this list is by no means comprehensive and excludes some other very important areas, but I offer them as a beginning set of considerations, proposals and hopes.

I'd invite readers to share their own thoughts in the comments.