Friday, August 19, 2005

Ratzinger: the organic development of the classical liturgy

This is one of those topics which always stirs up a certain amount of controversy, at least amongst a certain crowd. It pertains to the continued organic development of the 1962 Missal. I find the controversy is not so much that some find it unacceptable to think of any change, but the question of what and when is the problem is the heart of the controversy and concern. It seems that much of this is rooted in an understandable mistrust of the intent and scope of such change, particularly when those who love and worship in the classical rite find themselves marginalized and their liturgy attacked by many.

I've just finished reading Looking again at the Question of the Liturgy and Cardinal Ratzinger lays out in his concluding thoughts his vision of the classical Roman liturgy. Indeed, I share these thoughts and I believe they represent the direction things must and will go with regards it:

"I am very much aware of the feelings of the faithful who love this [classical Roman] liturgy; moreover, it is my own sentiment. And accordingly, I fully understand what Professor Spaemann asserted: if one does not understand the meaning of change, however miniscule it might appear, and if one is to assume that it is only a stage toward a more complete revolution, that worries the faithful. Accordingly, one should be very prudent regarding any eventual changes. However, he also said, and I underline it: it would be fatal if the old liturgy found itself in a refrigerator, rather like a national park, protected for a certain species of persons, to whom one would leave these relics of the past... With such a reduction of the past, one would not conserve this treasure for the Church of today and tomorrow. This [classical Roman liturgy] should also be a liturgy of the Church, and under the authority of the Church. And only in this ecclesiology, in this fundamental link with the authority of the Church, can it offer all it has to offer.

" the future, we need to think, it seems to me, about enriching the missal of 1962 by introducing new saints. There are now important new figures: I think, for example, of Saints Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, the Spanish Martyrs, the Ukrainian Martyrs and many others. There are many truly beautiful figures that are necessary for us. Therefore opening the calendar of the old Missal for the new saints, in making a well thought out choice, seems to me an opportune thing that would not destroy the makeup of the liturgy. One could also think of the prefaces that come from the treasure of the Fathers of the Church, for example, for Advent, and others: why not insert these prefaces in the old missal?

"Therefore, with the greatest feeling, great understanding for the preoccupations and fears, in union with those responsible, one should understand that this missal is also a missal of the Church, under the authority of the Church; that it is not something of the past to be protected, but a living reality of the Church, much respected in its identity and in its historical greatness. All the liturgy of the Church is always a living thing, a reality which is above us, not subject to our wills or arbitrary wishes.”

(The translation is not the same as in the book, but the essence is the same.)

Fr. Ethan spoke of the pastoral considerations which apply to a reform of the reformed liturgy. Clearly we can see in terms of the classical Roman liturgy, similar pastoral considerations apply.

Moreover, what I find deeply compelling is that (then) Cardinal Ratzinger has stated his own love for the classical Roman liturgy.

This is a beautiful thing, for it will hopefully help people to see that this liturgy is indeed legitimate and continues to have legitimacy. It is my hope that under Benedict, we might see him publically celebrate this classical liturgy at some opportunity for these communities -- even better, within the bosom of St. Peter's Basilica itself. I'm not suggesting he does this in replacement of the modern rite, but rather, "now and again" as a sign of its legitimate place in ecclesial life.

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