Friday, November 30, 2007

Piero Marini in Paris: A Report for the NLM on the launch of 'Cérémoniaire des papes'

[Many thanks to Dom Christopher for putting this together for the NLM and its readers. It seemed like a good opportunity to get a more intimate sense not only of Piero Marini's thought on matters liturgical, but also a general sense both from him and others, on the liturgical landscape as it unfolds in the reign of Benedict XVI -- SRT]

by Dom Christopher Lazowski, OSB

“When we talk about liturgy, in fact we are talking above all about tradition. Without tradition, the liturgy would not exist, any more than the Church. We can live our faith now because God is the God of our fathers and because we have received the faith from others. Tradition implies both transmission and reception. The past and the present are thus linked necessarily to tradition and hence to the liturgy. The link with the present expresses itself above in the act of transmission and reception, the link with the past above all in the reality transmitted and received. ...

Thus, in architecture, in iconography, in music, in the design of sacred objects or of liturgical vestments, we do not start at zero, but from the experience of tradition. When I see, for example, certain chasubles chosen for World Youth Days, in Paris, in Rome, or in Cologne, I say to myself that we should not resort to outlandish [“fantaisistes”] inventions; rather, we should follow mainly the line of tradition and of noble simplicity.”

Those last two words may give a clue as to who is speaking here. Last Wednesday, the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie, which is part of the faculty of theology of the Institut Catholique (Catholic University) of Paris, organised a launch for a book of interviews with Archbishop Piero Marini, entitled “Cérémoniaire des papes: entretiens sur la liturgie avec Vincent Cabanac et Dominique Chivot”. My abbot asked me to attend, and Shawn asked me to send an account of the evening for the NLM.

The evening was very well attended. A number of bishops were present, including the apostolic nuncio and a fellow monk, Archbishop Robert Le Gall of Toulouse. A quick glance around the participants revealed that they were fairly clearly divided into two groups. The older clergy and nuns wore lay clothes and looked cross. The younger priests wore Roman collars, and the younger nuns wore veils and floor-length habits; all of this second group looked happy. A good number of seminarians was also present. We began with Vespers, according to the Liturgy of the Hours, in St. Joseph's Church, which is the chapel of the Institut Catholique. The use of Latin was limited to the Magnificat (according to the Vulgate, rather than the Neo-Vulgate) and the pontifical blessing. A more generous use of Latin and Gregorian chant would have been welcome; however, in all fairness, I should mention that the music for the French texts was much better that the tuneless and un-memorable music that one often has to endure in vernacular liturgies over here, and that the singing was good. The “lectio brevis” (1 Peter 5: 5b-7) was followed by a homily by Archbishop Marini. Although I am not a fan of preaching during the Office, he did preach well. He dwelt in particular on the fact that true humility supposes the patient acceptance of the humiliations that God sends us, an idea that is important in the Rule of St. Benedict. Two thoughts crossed my mind as he spoke. The first was that he may have been speaking from recent experience. The second was that the three criteria that St. Benedict gives for discerning a possible vocation, zeal for the Opus Dei, for obedience, and for humiliations, could also be used for evaluating the quality of a liturgist. One last remark about Vespers. About half-way through, I noticed a lit sanctuary lamp near the high altar, behind the more recent altar. So I presume the Blessed Sacrament was present; however, It was resolutely ignored throughout.

After Vespers, three short speeches, from Archbishop Le Gall, Brother Patrick Prétot, monk of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire and director of the I.S.L., and Father Vincent Cabanac, A.A., introduced the guest of honour. I was glad to note that Archbishop Le Gall concluded his remarks by mentioning the importance of obeying the wishes of the Holy Father by implementing “Summorum Pontificum”; whatever he may have thought before the publication of the Motu Proprio, I have never thought that he would oppose its implementation. Abbots of the Congregation of Solesmes may have their faults, but they generally “get” obedience. On the other hand, Father Cabanac spoke mainly of what he called the importance of “protecting” the post-conciliar liturgical reforms.

Brother Patrick had asked Archbishop Marini to speak about “Liturgy and large gatherings: the impact of pontifical liturgical celebrations on the liturgical life of local churches.” I confess that I was relieved that he did not stick to the subject requested, but rather spoke in a more general way of his experiences as papal master of ceremonies.

He began by pointing out that the influence of the papal liturgy on the rest of the Western Church is not a recent phenomenon. He mentioned the importance of visits by popes north of the Alps in the Middle Ages, the period of the Avignon papacy, as well as the work of Guillaume Durand, who both bishop of Mende and a prelate of the curia. He could have gone further back, as the direct influence of the papal liturgy goes back at least to the reign of Charlemagne and the sending of the Hadrianum, perhaps even earlier. He also mentioned, but in a more general way, the Ordines Romani, drawn up by the “ordinatores”, the predecessors of the later masters of ceremonies. However, he could have mentioned that these documents also influenced liturgy outside Rome. For example, the ceremonial of Cluny in the eleventh and twelfth centuries seems to owe more to deliberate imitation of Ordo I than to the contemporary practice of the local church, the diocese of Macon.

While speaking about the recent reform of the Roman liturgy, he said something that surprised me. He claimed that this reform, by removing what was specifically Roman, transformed the Roman Rite into a rite more generally suitable for the whole Latin Church. I am not sure what this means. The process of the development of the Roman Rite from that of the local rite of the local Roman church into the common rite of the West began long before the 1960s, and I cannot think offhand of any elements of the older Roman Missal that are eliminated in the new one that are “strictly Roman”. If any readers can correct me, I would be grateful! I am also at a loss as to which “strictly Roman” elements of the Roman rite could possibly constitute obstacles to a spiritually fruitful participation in the liturgy.

Much of what Archbishop Marini had to say about his experiences as master of ceremonies was of great interest. He spoke a lot about inculturation and papal ceremonies. He seemed to confirm the general opinion that Pope John Paul gave him considerable latitude in this domain. He said, “The pope had confidence in me,” and said it in such a way as to imply that Pope Benedict did not. Some of the examples of inculturation that he gave made me cringe, but he also made it clear that he did not have complete control over what happened, particularly during papal visits outside Rome. Some of the more outlandish happenings, in particular liturgical dances, seem to have come as unwelcome surprises to him. But other examples of inculturation that he referred to with approval seemed rather to be manifestations of syncretism. He also evoked the problems of dealing with large numbers of concelebrants and of the distribution of Holy Communion to huge crowds. It was clear that he found none of the attempted solutions to be satisfactory. If I understood correctly, he mentioned in passing that Pope Benedict has recently approved a document that limits the number of concelebrants to as many as can be clearly seen to be in relation to the altar, that is to say, no more than the sanctuary can hold. (I was making a note of something else when he said this, so I may have missed something; he might have been advancing his own opinion.) Some of the expedients adopted for the distribution of Communion were downright weird. At one outdoor Mass, concelebrants were bussed to communicants; at the World Youth Day Mass in Paris, enormous quantities of hosts were consecrated at private Masses celebrated in tents around the edges of the site the day before, and distributed from these “eucharistic tents” during the papal Mass.

One particular problem he evoked is one that has given rise to discussion here over the past few days: the place of the Holy Father during the Liturgy of the Word at Masses in St. Peter's. He said without any ambiguity that placing a chair in front of the altar, and removing it during Mass, is a bad idea, and should not be imitated. His own preferred solution would be to erect a permanent throne in front of the pillar facing the statue of St. Peter towards the west end of the nave of the basilica. However, internal Vatican opposition to this idea has always prevented him from going any further.

The idea of “active participation” came up a number of times. It is clear that Archbishop Marini shares the common misunderstanding of what “participatio actuosa” means. For him, it must involve making a noise, and/or running around. Such a misunderstanding necessarily leads to all sorts of other errors, like the rejection of most of the Church's patrimony of sacred music. But another, and even more serious error came to light near the end of his talk. He was explaining how the liturgy is not a spectacle. I found myself nodding in agreement, as he said, “We must ever remember that the principal actor [“agens”] in the liturgy is...” From what had gone before, I was expecting him to say, “Christ.” So when he said, “the People of God,” I almost fell off my chair. This is not what “Sacrosanctum Concilium” says:

“Proinde omnis liturgica celebratio, utpote opus Christi sacerdotis, eiusque Corporis, quod est Ecclesia, est actio sacra praecellenter, cuius efficacitatem eodem titulo eodemque gradu nulla alia actio Ecclesiae adaequat.”

It is the action of Christ, and the action of the Church inasmuch as she is His mystical body. To say that the principal actor is the People of God makes the liturgy into the work of the headless body, a cadaver.

After a few more short speeches from the archbishop of Lille, the bishop of Saint-Etienne, and Father Pierre Faure, S.J., and a brief time for questions, the bishop of Langres summed up. His concluding remarks echoed those of Father Cabanac; the two together gave me the distinct impression that the liturgical establishment, those who are convinced that the liturgical reform as it really took place reflects what Vatican II really meant by the Constitution on the sacred liturgy, are on the defensive. “We must defend the conciliar reform,” he said. Others might say that we need to implement it.

My general impression of the archbishop, both from his talk and from what I have read of his book so far, is of someone who has only understood half of what the liturgical movement is about. Time and again I found myself agreeing with what he seemed to be saying, only to find myself disagreeing strongly with his conclusion. The whole experience gave a better idea of why the Holy Father has appointed a new master of ceremonies. But to end with something positive, I will finish with another quotation from Archbishop Marini's book, a passage in which he pays tribute to Pope Benedict:

“To me, Benedict XVI is not only an expert in liturgy, but also someone who lives the liturgy, in the knowledge of what it is. I experienced this for myself from the beginning of his pontificate when I travelled with him a number of times. I then witnessed his sense of the liturgy, his understanding of the liturgy. He is the son of great masters, such as Romano Guardini, among others. It is difficult to find in history, since the end of he first millennium, another pope who thus places himself within the mystery of the liturgy.”

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