Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summary of the Budapest Liturgical Conference

I am hoping to give a more detailed presentation of the recent liturgical conference in Budapest, Hungary, inclusive of photo posts of some of the liturgies not yet spoken of, and summaries of the papers given, but first, a general summary of the event seems worthwhile.

Prelatial Presence

The conference was opened by His Eminence, László Cardinal Paskai, Archbishop emeritus of Esztergom-Budapest while the opening address was given by the Apostolic Nuncio to Hungary, Archbishop Juliusz Janusz. The conference was also closed by the Apostolic Nuncio to Austria, Archbishop Edmond Farhat.

(The opening addresses)

What can be seen within this prelatial presence is the fact that liturgical conferences proposing a reform of the reform, or which look at the value of the usus antiquior, have become quite mainstream events in ecclesial life. Indeed, it seems not a stretch to suggest that they are very much in the heart and centre of the present pontificate. In that sense, one can rightly say that this activity is actively fostered and encouraged by the Church as represented by the thought of the Roman pontiff.

(The Final Mass, offered by Archbishop Farhat)

Some interesting comments came during the opening address from Archbishop Julius Janusz, who commented upon the celebration of opening vespers according to the 1962 Breviarium Romanum, which was done in Latin, chant and polyphony. He noted how impressed he was with them and how familiar this was to him. He particularly noted how impressed he was with the number of youth involved in the vespers that evening and their involvement in the singing of the chants. This spurred a recollection on his part on how he recalled simple people in Africa who likewise made the chant their own -- further contradicting the notion that chant is somehow elitist or Eurocentric. He concluded by noting his gratitude to the Holy Father for granting freedom to the ancient liturgy and noted his own personal appreciation for the Holy Father's testimony on the importance of dignity within liturgical worship.

Papers Delivered

The conference included a number of speakers that are quite familiar to the liturgical conference circuit, such as Dr. Lauren Pristas, Dr. Alcuin Reid, and so forth. We will look more at their work in a future article. Additionally however, there were a number of new, young and upcoming scholars, particularly one's from Hungary of course, who presented some quite intriguing papers, including Dr. Zoltán Rihmer, who looked at the aspect of liturgical law in his paper Law and liturgy: The perils and prospects of a difficult relationship and Dr. Miklós István Földváry who spoke upon the topic of The variants of the Roman rite: Their legitimacy and revival.

Overall, the quality of the papers were excellent and considered so by all that I spoke with. In short, it was a significant liturgical conference.

(As a footnote, the core venue for the papers was also of some significance, being located in the same building as, and right beside, the rooms of the classical composer, Franz Liszt.)

(The Round Table portion of the Conference)

Conference Liturgies

The conference included both the ancient and modern uses of the Roman liturgy as part of its program. Both Mass and the public celebration of Vespers formed a part of the day to day liturgical life of the conference and its participants.

(Mass in the Modern Roman Use, celebrated with the "Benedictine Arrangement" in place, by His Excellency, Bishop Nándor Bosák, bishop of Debrecen-Nyíregyháza. This was made more signficant for the Church in Hungary by the fact that this same bishop is the Chairman of the Liturgy Committee of the Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference)

(A Missa Cantata in the Ancient Form of the Roman Liturgy, offered in the parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Fr. Ervin Kovács)

(Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Ancient Use of the Roman rite at the parish church of St. Teresa of Avila)

A notable feature of these liturgies was the sacred music and the excellence and fullness to which it was done. Part of this was of course because of the excellent work of the Schola Hungarica and Church Music Association of Hungary, but it was also in part due to the exuberance with which the Hungarian people have embraced the chant in both its Latin form and in a Hungarian form which I am told fits quite well linguistically into the Gregorian pattern.

Another notable aspect was the presence of many young Hungarians, particularly in their teenage years and early 20's who where noticeably involved in spirit and prayer in the sacred mysteries going on around them. Neither these, nor the faithful generally, were half-willing or lukewarm participants.

Moreover, history was made with the final Solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated by the Nuncio to Austria, which was generally thought to be the first Pontifical Mass according to the ancient use since the conciliar times. There was a palpable sense of excitement from the Hungarians about this.

The New Liturgical Movement in Hungary

It must be said that between the devotion of the Hungarian people, and particularly the youth, their ardent interest in the Church's treasury of sacred music, their evident love of tradition, and with new young liturgical scholars now on the rise, the new liturgical movement in Hungary is quite likely to become a force to be watched in the next decade if they continue on this course.

Many of the English-speaking participants came away with a palpable sense of what these events meant for the life of the new liturgical movement within Hungary and perhaps central and Eastern Europe generally. In many regards, it was not only an excellent liturgical conference, it was also a historic and ground-breaking event for the new liturgical movement in this part of the world.

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