Saturday, September 29, 2007

Motu Proprio? Great! But where does that leave the Reform of the Reform?

Recently a commenter here noted that much of the news and activity these days is about the classical Roman liturgy -- including on the NLM and other sites. In that vein, they wondered whether the reform of the reform was still important generally. They tied into a piece in the New Oxford Review which has (erroneously I believe) suggested that the Reform of the Reform "is going nowhere".

This question was asked in earnest by one who supports the goals of the reform of the reform. It is an interesting question that I think merits some consideration.

The initial part of an answer is that, evidently with the motu proprio only 2 weeks old, it is only natural that there should be a variety of events surrounding that which will understandably dominate our focus and attention.

As well, we must stop and realize just how significant Summorum Pontificum really is in the life of the Church generally, and as relates to genuine renewal and restoration of the liturgy specifically. This is something that demands some focus, deep consideration and analysis -- and such it has indeed generated, bringing the liturgical question right to the very fore. The motu proprio really has changed the playing field, and concurrently it has also changed some of our old categories and ways of thinking -- or it needs to I would propose.

I believe we now, more than ever, need to move beyond thinking that is in terms of the reform of the reform or classical liturgy being distinct and separate camps and initiatives -- and never the twain shall meet (as the saying goes). They represent two forms of the Roman liturgy that operate within close proximity now, both of which enjoy the associated rights and privileges that go with that. This does not of course devalue the proposed need for a deeper reform of the reform itself ("Phase 2" as it has been referred to here) and the project of post-conciliar liturgical study and critique as pursued by the likes of Fr. U.M. Lang, Fr. Jonathan Robinson, Dr. Alcuin Reid or Dr. Lauren Pristas to name only a few; it intends only to speak of the two sets of Roman liturgical books.

Moreover, I think we need to understand that the motu proprio and its implementation is not just about the classical liturgy. It is indeed about that, but it is also very much about the reform of the reform as well. The Pope referenced this in his document. In many regards, I believe the reform of the reform and the classical liturgy are now much more fundamentally tied together than ever before given that it (the classical liturgy) can now operate more freely (and thus also more likely) in a typical parish context -- the same place where the reform of the reform occurs.

In fact, I will go a little further out on a limb to suggest that I now personally believe that the reform of the reform is particularly driven by Summorum Pontificum and the wider implementation of the classical liturgy in parishes, seminaries, monasteries and so on. This is not to devalue one or the other, but it is simply to suggest a co-relation -- and one that is both natural and desireable.

Consider that the reform of the reform has the (difficult) path of pursuing liturgical reforms (where it can on its own authority, for the deeper reforms are the perogative of the Church itself) in a larger pastoral context that requires greater patience and prudence. Pastors of such parishes must pursue their reforms carefully and the diocesan climate is often such that further hinders them in this precisely because liturgical rupture has been the dominant voice and expression for so long. In contradiction with this, however, it would seem that any reform of the reform best makes sense in relation to the preceding liturgical tradition. Evidently it would be a pastoral disaster (again) to simply go back to the point where we left off and try the liturgical reform again as intellectually sensible as that may be. This presents something of a conundrum -- until Summorum Pontificum that is.

Summorum Pontificum has the power to keep as a living reality the ancient Roman liturgical tradition as it developed down the ages. One of the strokes of brilliance found in the consequences of that document is that precisely because it helps preserve the preceding liturgical tradition in present-day parish and priestly life, it can also help bring forth the priestly and pastoral familiarity and formation with the liturgical tradition that is necessary to help propel the reform of the reform ahead as well -- and in direct relation to the organically-received tradition itself. In that sense, it is radical enough to jolt us out of a liturgical rut while being delicate enough to not upset the proverbial parish apple cart.

As such, for those folks who are focused more directly in their efforts upon the reform of the reform, upon seeing and hearing more about the classical liturgical tradition in the news, in the local parish and otherwise, be aware that such helps everyone liturgically by sheer familiarity and "mainstreaming" of our liturgical tradition and is, by consequence, very much about both the reform of the reform and classical movement.

Indeed, both continue have a place and an importance, and indeed, both will continue to be reported upon and supported here as I am sure they will elsewhere. It's not an either-or, it's not about volume of information on one or the other, and it's not even any longer just about co-existence. It is about their co-relation and how they can mutually help propel us forward to continuity and fitting, proper and solemn worship.

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