Monday, October 01, 2007

Further Reflections upon the Reform of the Reform in the Post-Motu Proprio World; and the Nature of the Reform of the Reform explored in that Context

The question asked by one individual - as to whether the focus presently found in the Catholic blogging world (including the NLM) surrounding the motu proprio constitutes a kind of "abandonment" of the reform of the reform -- provides a good opportunity to flesh out some important issues that need to be considered in a "post-motu-proprio" world.

Life in the Post Motu Proprio World

What first needs to be considered by folks who might feel uncertain or uncomfortable with the sudden prominence of the classical liturgy in the life of the Roman rite is that there is a marked difference between abandoning the reform of the reform and, (a) being interested in the advancement of the classical liturgy in its own right and upon its own merits, and (b) proposing that in a post-MP world some new opportunities have come about that may be understood as providing a great benefit to the reform of the reform. One might disagree whether that is strategically so, but that is a disagreement about means, not principles or ends. Thus, this is far from an abandonment, which is ultimately therefore a mischaracterization and one which can in fact hurt unity in working out the liturgical good by potentially breeding divisions where they do not necessarily exist.

The reform of the reform will ultimately continue; it has to. It's far too important to give up. But post-Summorum Pontificum, there are opportunities and situations that now arise that weren't a consideration previously. These need to be explored and recognized.

I would propose that this understanding of an intimate co-relation between these liturgical initiatives can be clearly seen as being in concert with Benedict's own thinking as seen in his statements and writings.

Sudden prominence, media attention and movement for what had previously been considered an indult and thereby restricted and to some extent upon the fringes of ecclesial life might also make it easy to succumb to a spirit of competitiveness in the light of current events. But we should not turn these matters into one of "sibling rivalry" as regards the two forms. All must avoid this terribly human temptation. Rather, the joy and progress of the one should be the joy and progress of the other -- and that moves both ways.

It is important that we continue to promote both. We must refuse to see either pushed aside, marginalized or to admit to any competition and rivalry between them. We should work only for the good of the liturgy, of our liturgical tradition, and of a hermeneutic of "reform in continuity".

What is the Reform of the Reform?

Perhaps at the root of this as well are the differences in the understanding of the nature of the reform of the reform. As with any movement, there is never utter agreement of ends and goals. The same can be said of the classical liturgical movement. I believe in this case it may also be lending to the differences in perspective as regards the classical liturgy and its role.

There are those who see the reform of the reform in what I would propose to be its original, deeper context (found in the meaning of the very phrase which identifies the movement itself) which relates not simply to the ethos of the modern liturgical form, but also to the very missal itself and its texts and rubrics. On the other hand, there are those for whom "reform of the reform" has come to mean employing particular, existing options with greater frequency -- such as Latin, chant, etc. Worthy and important goals in their own right and not to be underestimated or downplayed.

In this latter context, one might indeed wonder why there should be such a focus on the classical liturgy, and might even understand it as not having particular relevance to a reform of the reform -- though even here, I believe it would be short-sighted to not understand how the ethos of the classical liturgy, brought into greater familiarity for a priest, seminarian, or parish, will not also affect the external character of parish worship and the ars celebrandi in a manifestly positive way -- it certainly won't affect it negatively.

But particularly for those who understand the goal of the "reform of the [liturgical] reform" as also touching upon further matters beyond the ethos, comes to light the importance of the classical liturgy as a living point of reference precisely for that referenced reform (as well as for being an animus to help effect typical parish liturgy in the context of the modern liturgy as well).

None of this is to reject the modern Roman missal, which would go contrary to the Pope's very motu proprio, but it is to engage these deeper issues just as has Ratzinger himself, along with a growing chorus of mainstream scholars and individuals. The work of Reid, Lang, Pristas, Hemming, Robinson, Ratzinger, and so many more who have been recognized by the authorities in the Church, touch into all these areas. Even if one were not to concur, at very least one should hopefully agree that such matters have basis and grounds and are not simply the parlance of an anti-conciliarism or simplistic traditionalism.

The Raison d'Etre of the NLM

So the NLM continues, not on a different way, but rather in the same way it has always trodden, but of course, bearing in mind the present day realties that the motu proprio has brought. It continues to promote both the classical liturgy and the reform of the reform; continues to support those who want to effect greater usage of a traditional ethos in modern parish liturgy, and those who wish to look deeper; continues to support the other Western rites along with the Eastern liturgical rites; continues to try to bring liturgical history, formation, discussions upon sacred architecture and sacred music, not for the goals of one or another movement, but rather in hopes to promote good liturgy in any and every parish in whatever rite or liturgical form used, all for the glory and worship of God and in faithful obedience to His Church.

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