Monday, February 11, 2008

Review by Dr. Alcuin Reid of "The Mass of All Time" by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

Dr. Alcuin Reid recently reviewed The Mass of All Time, a compilation of source material from the SSPX's founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which provides some spiritual commentary upon the usus antiquior and, more signficantly, provides some of Lefebvre's thoughts upon the question of liturgical reform.

It should go without saying that making note of this book should not in any way be construed as "benediction" of anything and everything Marcel Lefebvre or the SSPX has pursued. That said, as with Piero Marini's book on the liturgical reform, one can see and understand the value of such texts even if one might not always agree with all the positions of the author.

As a document it adds one more piece to the liturgical-reform-puzzle, this time giving some insights into the thought of the bishop who led the traditionalist response.

Here is the review by Dr. Alcuin Reid:

"Archbishop Lefebvre has been the great 'persona non grata' of the modern Catholic Church. Now that in the pontificate of Benedict XVI we are more or less 'speaking again' as it were, it may well be time to look anew at what the Archbishop had to say in that tumultuous period of the Church's recent history which was the late twentieth century.

"Angelus Press has published a compilation of the writings and discourses of Archbishop Lefebrve on the theology and spirituality of the Mass and on the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council. The former has value as a compilation of classical spirituality. The latter - of particular interest personally - puts together the Archbishop's observations on the liturgical reform. How many people know that he was in favour of the vernacular for the readings at Mass, and indeed for most of the first part of the Mass called the Mass of Catechumens? And how many know how and when he began to react against the implementation of the reform enacted in the name of the Council, of which he was a Father?

"One regret is that the editor has compiled the second part of the book thematically and not chronologically: it would, in my opinion, be more useful as historical material in the latter format for, thematically arranged, it is too easy to read on without noticing that at times the footnotes indicate a jump of many years back and forth.

"The Archbishop speaks forthrightly. Indeed, there is language here that is clearly polemical and perhaps even reactionary: the years in which he raised his voice were extraordinary times and we may well find that we do not agree with the words he chose or the decisions he took. We may even quibble with his recollection of events or debate his understanding of theology. Yet, in days when honest dialogue and reappraisal of the events following the Council are now permissible, it is instructive to have Archbishop Lefebvre's words to hand.

"Unfortunately Archbishop Lefebvre never lived to see Pope Benedict's liberation of the more ancient form of the Mass in July 2007. But as the usus antiquior gradually claims its rightful place in the Church of today and of tomorrow we would do well to consider that - humanly and historically speaking at least - it may not be able to do so today were it not for the reaction of the Archbishop and of his disciples then. For the Providence of Almighty God we may be thankful."

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