Friday, May 26, 2006

The Reform of the Reform: Duc in altum

Discussion and debate about the reform of the reform needs to happen because, as I see it, this fine movement is subtly threatened by a temptation to simply work with the modern Roman missal as we have it, cleaning up its accidents, but never looking at, speaking upon or proposing more substantial reform.

Thus, work is done toward restoring some Latin to the liturgy, in working to improve the English translations, in trying to bring about a revival in the celebration of the Mass ad orientem, in working toward a restoration of Gregorian chant and better sacred music all around.

These are all extremely necessary goals that must be worked towards. And indeed, this is a part of the reform of the reform. But it is only part of it. The reform of the reform is, or at least ought to be, about more than simply cleaning up liturgical abuses and restoration the traditional accidents of the liturgy. These accidents are important and the abuses do need correction. A reform of the reform without this re-inculturation toward a Catholic sense of practice of the liturgy will be lukewarm at best.

At the same time, we mustn't take the easy way out. We must not rest satisfied that doing these things are "good enough". To say as much fails to give weight to the serious problems that our Holy Father brought up as Cardinal; the problems of the rupture in organic development; the problem of fabricated liturgy by committee; the problem of a hermeneutic of rupture rather than continuity. It would fail to take seriously and to heart the substantial critiques which have come from the non-reactionary corners of the classical liturgical movement, and even the Eastern churches.

If indeed the basic premise of the reform of the reform is true (and I daresay it is), and the liturgical reform as it happened went beyond the mandate of the Vatican Council, and if, indeed, the modern Roman liturgy has broken that organic tradition of development and become a fabricated product, then this is something that must be addressed. The substance of the missal itself must be reformed in addition to the accidents of typical liturgical celebration.

With that being said, I had proposed a project a few weeks ago to look at possible organic revisions (with the obvious question arising from that project as to what would constitute organic development) of either the classical Roman liturgy, or the reform of the reform liturgy. I believe this project can have bring about results in trying to take the discussion of the reform of a reform to a deeper level.

But for those who don't wish to pursue that project in that regard, I want to lay out a question to our readers for debate and discussion, and particularly to our priests. If there is to be a reform of the reform -- meaning, a revision of the Missal itself -- from whence do we begin? This fundamental question determines how a reform of the reform is ultimately and strategically approached.

Logic would seem to dictate that we begin at the point of departure and retrace our steps; namely, from the classical Roman Missal. Alternatively, from a pastoral angle, some would say this isn't realistic and we must work backwards starting from the 1970 Missal, aiming back toward either the 1965 Ordo Missae or to the 1962 Missale Romanum.

The question is then, where does the reform of the reform start with regards these more substantial revisions? What are your reasons why, and how do you envision this deeper reform occuring? i.e. If we start from the 1970 Missal, what would be the rubrical and textual changes, deletions, and additions you'd make, and again, how does (or would) organic development apply in the case of a missal which has already, arguably, broken from organic development? Need its revision in reverse be organic or not?

Is starting at the 1962 too radical and contrary to genuine pastoral concerns? Is starting from the 1970 missal too conservative and not dealing with the problem on a deep enough level? Would it be an effective compromise, neither too radical, nor too conservative, to simply re-impose the 1965 Ordo Missae as the normative Missal of the Roman rite (always presuming a place for the 1962 Missale Romanum)?

These discussions need to occur. Some object that there is too much talk and not enough action. That may be the case, but we aren't in a position to personally enact these decisions. The best we can do is work upon the accidents in our local parishes -- and we should do that in the here and now. But that being said, and putting aside the accidents and presuming those things as a given, there is relevance and necessity for these discussions to occur. The substantial reform of the reform must be discussed and debated. It must not continue to be only a vague notion, with little in the way of substantial proposals.

We must indeed look at what we can do in the here and now in implementing a reform of the reform in our parishes with the Missal we have; we need strategies for doing that as well. But that isn't the question I am proposing to you here. What I am asking you to do is to get down to first principles, to look ahead, discuss and debate, where the reform of the reform needs to go in the future, and what its foundation will be.

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