We continue with the second part of Dr Paweł Milcarek’s paper on the history of the Liturgical Reform in the pre-Conciliar period, “Balance instead of Harmony.” Click here to read the first part, which was published early last week. Once again, we are grateful to Dr Milcarek for sharing this important work with our readers.
To examine the existence of those contradictions (which sometimes remain concealed), it is sufficient to compare two leading personages of the Movement: Dom Bernard Capelle on the one hand, and Fr. Josef Jungmann on the other. They can be seen as the symbols of two different guiding ideas, together with two different atmospheres of reform that result from them.
Dom Bernard Capelle (1884-1961), a Benedictine abbot of Mont-César, “an exquisite scholar and monk”, can be rightly considered a patron of the principle of the organic development of the liturgy. He presented it – in an outstandingly clear manner – in 1949 in his annotations to the project of the reform, prepared for the Pian Commission. The whole of this excerpt is worth citing, especially because the text, due to its original confidentiality, is not very well known today. As Dom Capelle stated:
... nothing is to be changed unless it is a case of indispensable necessity. This rule is most wise: for the Liturgy is truly a sacred testament and monument – not so much written but living – of Tradition, which is to be reckoned with as a locus of theology and is a most pure font of piety and of the Christian spirit. Therefore:The reservations emphasized by Dom Capelle should not be regarded as a conservative obstacle set up against any possibility of reform. The Belgian monk was able to see clearly the connection between the Tradition – hence also the liturgy – and the life, hence also the change. His care was to avoid both “a dead rigidity and an evolutionism which is nothing but another name for decomposition”.
1. That which serves [well] at the present time is sufficient unless it is gravely deficient.
2. Only new things that are necessary are to be introduced, and in a way that is consonant with Tradition.
3. Nothing is to be changed unless there is comparatively great gain to be had.
4. Practices that have fallen into disuse are to be restored if their reintroduction would truly render the rites more pure and more intelligible to the minds of the faithful. (Memoria sulla reforma liturgica: Supplemento II – Annotazioni alla “Memoria”, no. 76, Vatican 1950, p. 9 – as cited in Reid, pp. 162ff.)
In the same period, Fr. Josef A. Jungmann (1889-1975), a Jesuit and a professor of pastoral theology from Innsbruck, had just published his monumental, two-volume work Missarum Sollemnia (1948), which almost immediately made him an authority on liturgical matters and allowed him to have an increasing influence over liturgical reforms later in the 1950s. Erudite in historical issues, Fr. Jungmann expressed in his publication the conviction that the greatness of the Roman rite consists in that which is ancient in it. However, this assessment may also have its negative and disquieting aspect; it is easy to conclude that which more recent necessarily diminished the Roman Rite. Fr. Jungmann did indeed accept this as a logic conclusion, as he distinguished the noble core of the primitive rite from the “secondary” additions, especially those of the medieval period or later. In one of his main works, first published in 1958, Fr. Jungmann was gentle, but at the same time explicit on the matter:
The Liturgy of the Catholic Church is an edifice in which we are still living today, and in essentials it is the same building in which Christians were already living ten or fifteen or even eighteen and more centuries ago. In the course of all these centuries, the structure has become more and more complicated, with constant remodellings and additions, and so the plan of the building has been obscured – so much so that we may no longer feel quite at home in it because we no longer understand it. (The Early Liturgy to the Time of Gregory the Great, London 1960, p. 1, as cited in Reid, pp. 167ff.)Fr. Jungmann added, that “if we should have the opportunity to make changes in the structure or to adapt it to the needs of our own people, we will then do so in such a way that, where possible, nothing of the precious heritage of the past is lost...” . We should not be deceived by the promise to act with delicacy, given in this latter sentence: a few years earlier, in 1951, the very same author stated, at a closed conference held in Maria Laach, that those prayers from the Missal which are no older than the Carolingian era “would really all have to vanish”, unless utterly convincing “justifying reasons” for preserving some of them would be given . What Jungmann-as-historian first gave as a simple examination of the “Tridentine” liturgy, distinguishing “the golden age” from later layers of corruption, now becomes a recommendation by Jungmann-the-expert for a ruthless archaelogism, extirpating anything deemed “too recent”. At the same time, he is quite ready to succumb to arguments relating to “the needs of the modern man”.
Fr. Jungmann was certainly too a competent historian not to see and not to admire the phenomenon we called the organic development of the liturgy. The difference between him and Dom Capelle was that he did not consider this natural law of development to be also a principle of the reform – on the contrary, one could say that he regarded the reform as a remedy for this too unconstrained mechanism of growth. Hence on the eve of the Council he openly stated that what we need instead of an “imperceptible growth” is “a jerk – more than a jerk”.
Both Capelle and Jungmann desired the reform of the liturgy, but – as we can see – their opinions even on its principles were simply contradictory. Their concepts of refrom differed not in terms of radicalism, but on a much deeper level, in their very essence. Once we realize this, we are able to foresee real tensions – or even hidden contradictions – which later emerge in the Second Vatican Council’s later constitution on the liturgy of the, since both of them had significant impact on its content.
From personages who were above all the spokesmen for particular ideas, we must now move to those who also held some “political” authority while working on the reform’s documents, as members of ecclesiastical bodies appointed to prepare the liturgical reform, both in times of Pius XII and during the Second Vatican Council. Without any hesitation I would indicate two such personages: Fr. Ferdinando Antonelli O.F.M. and Fr. Annibale Bugnini C.M.
Fr. Ferdinando Antonelli (1896-1993) was a historian and an expert in Christian archeology, as well as a trusted member of the Historical Section of the Congregation of Rites. It was he who – together with Fr. Josef Löwe – edited the above-mentioned Memoria sulla Riforma Liturgica. Fr. Antonelli brings before us as a guiding idea of the reform a firm option for the liturgical reeducation of the faithful. As someone deeply involved in such modifications of the rite as the reform of the Holy Week services, he of course appreciated such retouchings of the liturgy, and considered them necessary. His main care, however, was to make deep changes within the mentality of the faithful, rather than to transform the structures of the rites. At the Assisi Congress in 1956, he clearly stated, while referring to the recent reform of the Holy Week services:
The liturgical reform does not consist only, or even principally, in a revision of texts and rubrics, the search for worthier and more expressive aesthetic forms. Nor does the reform end with simplifications, abbreviations or emendations. The true aim of the liturgical reform looks much farther, beyond any outward expression, and wants to reach the soul, in order to work in its depths and incite a spiritual renewal in Christ, the High Priest, from whom every liturgical action acquires its value and efficacy. (The Liturgical Reform of the Holy Week: Importance, Realisations, Perspectives, in The Assisi Papers: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy; Assisi-Rome, September 18-22 1956, p. 162; as cited in Reid, p. 246)The emphasis on the necessity of such reeducation presupposed also critical evaluation of the preceding centuries, but Antonelli’s critque – unlike that of Jungmann – concerned not the liturgy’s line of development, but the separation of devotion from liturgy, and the loss of “liturgical compass” within Christian piety. In the very same speech he stated:
The people have been separated, unfortunately, from the true liturgical life. A patient work of re-education, spiritual and technical, is needed to bring them back to an active, enlightened, personal, communitarian participation. This is a work that is not done in a year. It may require generations. But it must begin. (ibid.)The pastoral dimension of the reform was a matter of huge importance also for Fr. Annibale Bugnini C.M. (1912-1982), the first editor-in-chief of the acclaimed “Ephemerides Liturgicae”. But unlike Antonelli, Bugnini was much more deeply convinced that far-reaching changes in the structure of the rite were needed – a conviction he discreetly signaled already from 1948, when in the “Ephemerides”, he called for further revision of the liturgical books, which had been started in 1911 by St. Pius X, but was later interrupted in 1914 due to the lack of necessary critical studies.
As far as the direction of those revisions is concerned, Bugnini was clear in his support for the rule of so-called pastoral expediencies. In his statements from the 1950s we can easily trace a pragmatic admiration for successful “adaptations to life” – even if some of those movements had the fault of breaking with Tradition, he regarded them as an “indication” that showed some “necessity”. Hence, it is crucial to grasp the idea of adaptation to life in order to understand Bugnini’s attitude. Moreover, according to him there is no need to prove that such a necessity exists; “mere pastoral benefit” is enough to justify brave creations, cuts, and shifts within the ritual.
The course of the liturgical reform – both during the Second Vatican Council and, especially, after its closure – shows that it was shaped in practice rather more by Bugnini’s energy and Jungmann’s ideas. Meanwhile, the deep sense of tradition –represented by Capelle – remained rather quiet, warning against possible abuses; Antonelli’s sober enthusiasm found expression in polishing the outcomes of the others’ efforts.
The testimonies found in the texts and confirmed by the behaviour of the reformers seem to suggest that on the eve of Vatican II, it was more or less consciously agreed that the liturgical reform required balance between various opposing forces to keep the liturgy in the right position. At that time, various pairs of counteracting forces could seen: not only the ideological opposition of the “archaelogists” and the “innovators”, but also the tensions between papal absolutism and the increasing power of the experts, the advocates of worship and the advocates of “pastoral reasons”; the supporters of Roman centralism and the supporters the collegiality; and finally, between the conservatives and the progressives. The balance between them was possible as long as each of these forces played its assigned role, inevitably one-sided and therefore exaggerated. But as soon as one of these major forces ceased to be unambiguously “conservative” or “innovative”, the balance of the whole entity was inescapably threatened, if not destroyed.
However, it is worth mentioning that the concept of balance – usually fragile, changeable, negotiable, reminiscent of constant tug-of-war – may have an alternative, namely the concept of harmony. And harmony is an convergence of factors that may differ in their significance, but together constitute an entity in its whole. Of course, the search for harmony – also in liturgical matters and ministry – does not in itself remove the existence of opposing tendencies and does not exempt us from facing them in debate and in “politics”. But it does offer a different and more reliable measure the naive conviction that the truth is always “somewhere in the middle”. “The ultimate human values (beauty, goodness, love etc.) depend on harmony, rather than on balance”. (Gustave Thibon, L’équilibre et l’harmonie, p. 88.)