Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Sacra Liturgia UK: Day 2

Today was the second day of Sacra Liturgia UK, and it was packed full of interesting papers from the speakers, and pleasant conversations among the participants.
The day began with Dom Alcuin Reid and his paper entitled On the Council Floor: The Council Fathers' Debate of the Schema on the Sacred Liturgy, in which the question was posed: what did the Fathers of Vatican II think they were approving in Sacrosanctum Concilium - liturgical evolution or revolution? 
Dom Alcuin began by outlining the hermeneutical principles to be borne in mind:
What happened in the interpretation and implementation of the Constitution is an important and potent area for study, but we shall be unable to do that well if we do not read the Constitution in a manner that is consistent with the minds of the Council Fathers. We must be good historians: understanding the historical context of the principles and measures they laid down is crucial. An a posteriori isogesis of the Constitution, as is fashionable in some circles, is simply bad scholarship.
He then moved to the conciliar discussion of article 37 of the schema, which would later become article 50 of SC, demonstrating the importance of reading the Council Fathers' interventions in their entirety. To take two examples: Cardinal Spellman and Cardinal Ottaviani are often depicted as arch-conservatives, liturgical dinosaurs, resistant to any sort of possible liturgical reform, but this is based on a certain cherry-picking of their interventions regarding the liturgy constitution. If one reads the whole of their speeches, it is clear that they both accepted the need for genuine liturgical reform. The principle of enhancing actual participation in the liturgy "cannot be disputed" (Spellman), and the positive effect of "the pastoral work on the liturgy" (Ottaviani). They, along with other Council Fathers, were concerned that article 37 needed some clarification, but they were not opposed to genuine (one could say organic) progress in the area of liturgical reforms.
Only one bishop, Wilhelm Duschak, made an intervention that was revolutionary, in which he outlined his idea for an ecumenical "Mass of the World". But, as Dom Alcuin mentioned:
If we do read the Fathers’ interventions—all of them—it is simply impossible to assert that revolution (Duschakian or otherwise) was what they intended. Indeed, the debate on article 37 (50) proves the opposite. It shows that the Fathers accepted the principle that, so as to achieve a greater participatio actuosa a moderate reform of the Order of Mass was desirable. 
Dom Alcuin went on to point out that the work of Group 10 of the Consilium, who were responsible for the reform of the Ordo Missae, seems to have gone a long way beyond the intentions of the Council Fathers as expressed at Vatican II - where, almost right at the start of the discussion about the liturgy constitution, Bishop Henry Jenny, a member of the Preparatory and Conciliar Commissions on the Liturgy (and later of the Consilium) said that "The current Ordo Missae, which has grown up in the course of the centuries, certainly is to be retained" (General Congregation XII). Dom Alcuin ended by saying that if, in the post-conciliar liturgical reforms, we have been the victims of a revolution, and if we have jeopardised the noble pastoral goals of the Council Fathers, our liturgical practice has to be urgently reconsidered. 
(As an aside, it is worth pointing out again that all the discussions at Vatican II regarding Sacrosanctum Concilium can be found in the Acta Synodalia, available at the following links: 1st Session, 2nd Session.)
Dom Charbel Pazat de Lys then gave a paper entitled The Public Nature of the Liturgy, in which he examined the practical, sociological, institutional and christological meanings of the word "public". This public nature is based on the natural and supernatural bonds that link and unite Christians in a special way, and cannot be limited (as has often been done in recent times) to a purely practical or sociological sense, important though these senses are.
Dom Charbel spoke of creation, nature and identity with regard to the liturgy. The necessary implication of the fact of creation means that all creation must worship God the Creator, and that He has determined how we ought to pray. For example, God instituted the Sabbath to give mankind one day to rest and render worship to Him. The very nature of our bodies and their "language" is to be respected, something our contemporary culture in the West finds difficult to accept:
If we have trouble today with the understanding of the Church as a Mystical Body, the fact might be that we have trouble with the body in general... It is no longer seen as a coherent whole, but only as a receptacle of more or less organised matter that one can reorganise at will. (Dom Charbel)
The attack on the family is an attack on the liturgy, in part because it is an attack on the innate, intrinsic relationships of the family, which point us towards a Trinitarian model of relationships. When we succumb to the worldly temptation to perceive the liturgy in terms of voluntary relations rather than familial, Trinitarian relations - in other words, to treat the liturgical action as a purely social contract - it is subjectivised and relativised. We must assiduously guard against this!

Finally, Dom Charbel offered a couple of practical suggestions: that Rome produce an official Ceremonial for parishes so their public liturgical action can be more representative of the universal Church, and that liturgical formation in the Church ought to be greatly improved. He spoke particularly of the offertory, where the faithful should be taught to offer themselves alongside Christ in the host and chalice as a personal spiritual sacrifice (cf. SC 48).

Prof. Peter Stephan's paper was entitled The Vicissitudes of Liturgy and Architecture Shown at the Example of Berlin's Cathedral of St Hedwig, in which he explored the "anti-liturgical modification" of historical churches. St Hedwig's was conceived of as an improved version of the Pantheon, with (among other things) its columns representing the twelve Apostles and the dome being connected to Pentecost. Unfortunately, it was gutted by fire in 1943, and ultimately rebuilt in an exceptionally odd modernist style. Gregory DiPippo has posted on St Hedwig's previously at NLM, so I will not duplicate here the pictures of how the cathedral looks currently - suffice it to say that the upper and lower sanctuaries and altars look dated and, frankly, utterly bizarre.

In the course of his paper, Prof. Stephan discussed how architecture must conform to the liturgy, and not the other way around, and guided us through his proposal for a more authentically Catholic reordering of St Hedwig's.

After lunch, Dr Jennifer Donelson (of NLM) gave her paper, Origins and Effects of the Missa Lecta: Priestly Musical Formation in a Low Mass Culture. She began with an examination of solemnity, noting that the reference and norm in Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Solemn Mass (cf. SC 112-113). However, these sorts of Masses were rare before the Second Vatican Council, and are rare today. The general experience today is effectively that of a Low Mass with hymns replacing the Propers, and perhaps some singing of the Ordinary. The notion of solemnity is informed more by civic considerations than by liturgical ones - more people, more flowers, more applause sometimes seem to be what makes liturgical celebrations "solemn".

The Low Mass, however, cannot be understood properly without reference to the Solemn Mass:
Both Sacrosanctum Concilium and those engaged in liturgical renewal are right to place the Solemn Mass at the forefront of the Catholic liturgical experience, because it is the Solemn Mass which provides the clearest link to the history of the Roman rite as well as to the Oriental rites. It is the Solemn Mass, with its gratuitous singing and ceremonial that points to the freedom and joy of heavenly worship. And it is the Solemn Mass which affords a framework in which the Low Mass makes sense. (Dr Donelson)
Dr Donelson went on to look at the history of the relationship between speaking and singing in the liturgy. Up until roughly the end of the first millennium, liturgical texts were either spoken in near silence (as the Roman Canon is in the EF), or sung aloud. The number of texts spoken in a quiet voice increased between the 9th-11th centuries - for example, the prayers at the foot of the altar - and by the 12th century the rise of the missa lecta for various reasons had caused a rupture between text and music in the Western Church.

Why did this rupture persist? Low Mass made daily Mass possible, and an increased devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was thus also nourished, enabling more frequent reception of Holy Communion. Considerations of validity/liceity also contributed to the increasing neglect of music in the Roman Rite, resulting ultimately in minimalistic celebrations and a mechanistic, overly-rubrical approach to the liturgy:
It is in this way that one comes to think of the sacred liturgy in terms of power and control rather than in humble reception of what has been handed on. (Dr Donelson)
Dr Donelson argued passionately against what she termed "liturgical sloth", the idea that if it takes 1 hour 15 minutes to sing a Solemn Mass, but 45 minutes to say a Low Mass, then why bother singing? Such an attitude is damaging and corrosive, as well as lacking in love. When one is in love, one lingers with the beloved - why then would we not want to linger with God in our worship of Him? The Solemn Mass needs to become a regular feature of parish and seminary life, in order that the liturgy is made more attractive and effective as a means of formation.

A panel discussion on Sacred Music followed, which included Prof. William Mahrt, the publisher of NLM. There were lively discussions and exchanges regarding the best ways to introduce into a parish the singing of the propers and the resources available to help with this, along with other topics.

The day ended with Solemn Mass in the usus recentior, celebrated by Robert Cardinal Sarah, with the London Oratory School Schola Cantorum providing the music. All in all, a fascinating day!

(More photos and extracts from the talks can be found at the Sacra Liturgia Facebook page.)

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