Saturday, July 21, 2007

Toward a Culture of Leisure, Liturgy and Life

My recent mention of Josef Pieper here raised the interest of a few readers, and I know in the past such mention has likewise received similar expression of interest. This is a great delight for me, because Pieper's thought, both as relates to the liturgy and more generally, is of intense interest to me and has been for many years.

Thinking back on my own interest and that of others, I was put in mind of a paper written by one of our readers here who I knew long before blogs existed. Written some 10 years ago as part of his post-graduate studies, before he became a professor of theology, Mr. Adam Deville wrote, Toward a Culture of Leisure, Liturgy and Life: Prolegomena to Reconstructing the Eucharistic Foundations of Western Technocratic Civilization.

(The fact that it was 10 years ago is important to note because of course, people's thoughts may shift or become more nuanced during the intervening period of time. As well, it cannot take into consideration the developments of the past 10 years. If you are responding to the paper in the comments do take such into consideration. I am certain Adam would very much enjoy discussing this paper however, as time permits him to.)

This paper draws in a variety of themes and figures which I am sure many of you will find of interest, including the likes of Josef Pieper, Stanley Hauerwas and Catherine Pickstock, to name only a few, and directly ties into the theme of the sacred liturgy.

Given the interest that continues to be expressed in such themes, it put me in mind to see if I could share it here with the NLM readership, in an effort to continue to draw out such sorts of discussions, which can only be interesting, envigorating and profitable.

In fact, it has been awhile since I have myself read the paper, so I look forward to re-considering it myself some 10 years later. Perhaps a socratic exercise in not living an unexamined life.

An excerpt from the text:

"Pieper’s argument, in sum, is that leisure and liturgy dialectically interact with one another as leisure gives rise to liturgy, which in turn both undergirds and also gives rise to further leisure in a hermeneutic circle of on-going cultural transformation. It is not a simple movement of leisure to liturgy--or liturgy to leisure--but an on- going, dialectical process of transformation in which culture and cult interact. Understood thus, we realize that the answer to the problems which Rifkin has sketched out is in two parts, neither of them separable from the other. If we wish to overcome our chronic lack of time and our perpetual busyness, leisure and liturgy must both begin at the same time to be restored to our culture. We cannot recover a leisure-based culture without the liturgy which undergirds and sustains that culture; but neither can we restore sense to the Church’s liturgical order without looking at the broader culture in which that liturgy is celebrated.

"The question which I wish to raise at this point is what form of the liturgical sacrifice and sacrament best enables that attitude and process of cultural transformation and transcendence to happen. It is a question which has been answered in the last fifteen years especially with an increasingly strong consensus against what is commonly called the Novus Ordo Mass which Pope Paul VI commissioned and promulgated in 1969 following the Second Vatican Council. None have voiced this critique with as much authority or as much accuracy as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger himself. In what surely ranks as the most damning liturgical critique to date, and from the most highly placed authority in the Church after the Holy Father himself, Ratzinger has said that the damage to, and decline in, the Church since the Second Vatican Council was due in no small part to the destruction and banning of the Traditional Mass: this act was the source of "extremely serious damage for us." "I was dismayed by the banning of the old Missal[...]seeing that a similar thing had never happened in the entire history of the liturgy.” Ratzinger goes on to note that:

'the promulgation of the banning of the Missal that had been developed in the course of centuries, starting from the time of the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, has brought with it a break in the history of the liturgy whose consequences could be tragic.[...] But the fact that [the liturgy] was presented as a new structure, set up against what had been formed in the course of history and was now prohibited, and that the liturgy was made to appear in some ways no longer as a living process but as a product of specialized knowledge and juridical competence, has brought with it some extremely serious damage for us.'

"This is a critique which Cardinal Ratzinger has given authoritative utterance to, but it has been growing for some time now in a variety of places.2 It has recently been given its most intellectually rigorous expression in the recent and brilliant work of the Cambridge theologian Catherine Pickstock. Summarizing and critiquing the most important liturgical scholarship of our day, Pickstock gives us the clearest understanding to date of why the contemporary liturgy has been so problematic and how it is the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite which will once again help restore a culture of leisure which Pieper rightly saw as so necessary in our technological civilization. Put briefly, Pickstock notes that it is this Mass especially which offers a “redemptive critique of secular time, and its concomitant epistemological assumptions.” 3 The contemporary Mass, which is to say the Novus Ordo, is not only incapable of this critique but it has, in fact, disturbingly participated to a large degree in “the modern colonization of time by a lateral and abstract space[...]predicated on a violence which promotes the divisions of outside and inside, subject and object, active and passive” and, to be sure, public and private as well as culture and cult.4 I turn now to the unfolding of Pickstock's thesis in some detail both to build on and answer the question about appropriate liturgical form with which we left Pieper and also to respond in some detail to the diagnosis which Rifkin gave us in the first part."

To read the entire paper: Toward a Culture of Leisure, Liturgy and Life: Prolegomena to Reconstructing the Eucharistic Foundations of Western Technocratic Civilization

Do enjoy, and, indeed, do discuss.

[Speaking of leisure, liturgy and life, permit me this digression: Very nice and to be recommended]

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