Monday, August 27, 2007

Dobszay and the most underrated book on liturgy of our times

Like many readers of this blog, I love books on liturgy, particularly those dealing forthrightly with the problems of the 1970 Missal, its relationship to the older Missal, and the problems of the transition back or forward to an integrated liturgical tradition.

When I first read Laszlo Dobszay's remarkable work The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (Church Music Associates, 2003) I was stunned and thrilled: finally a work that seemed to exhibit a comprehensive understanding of both the details and the big picture. I was just blown away by it completely, and marvel at how much time and investigative energy I might have saved had I read this book when it first came out. It is beyond me why it hasn't received more attention.

Dobszay, both a liturgical scholar and a brilliant musician, points out that many of the problems in the liturgy today come down to matters of music, or rather, it is not likely that a full understanding of the problem of today's liturgy can be acquired without an understanding of the issue of music. He discusses how the reform was undertaken without due regard for the treasures of inestimable value, and the missteps ended up unleashing every manner of profane art into the heart of the Catholic experience. His treatise is not merely a screed against this fact: it deals in details with role of the propers, the place of the Psalms, the effects of music on the liturgical structure, the relationship between the old and new Missals, the practical problems of co-exist, and the prospects for the future.

What I like most about this book is the stable, truth-telling, non-evasive, scholarly approach. The author is not taking up space merely trying to convince you of an agenda. Rather, he wants the reader to come to understand a new perspective on the reform. Nor does he avoid hot button issues: holy week, the Divine Office, the impact of the high/low cultural split on liturgy, and the endless confusion created by permission for the "Alius cantus aptus." The honesty of his whole treatment leaves you both pleased and realistically optimistic about the prospects for reform.

In any case, there is a persistent problem is actually getting the book, as many readers know. Thus do I bring very good news. Fr. Robert Skeris has the last remaining 80 copies in his office. He is pleased to send them to people at $20 per book, and that includes postage. So if you want this book, and I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in Catholic liturgy to do so, send him cash or a check for $20 for each copy. Ask for the Dobszay book:

Rev. Dr. Robert Skeris
Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Ave., N.E.
Washington, DC 20064

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: