Saturday, January 10, 2009

Roman Professor, Priest and member of Papal Liturgical Office speaks on Benedict's New Liturgical Movement

Recently, the Italian language Zenit ran an interview with Don Mauro Gagliardi, a Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and a recently appointed Consultor for the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff -- at the same time Fr. Uwe Michael Lang was appointed in point of fact. The interview touched upon a book published by Don Nicola Bux on the topic of the liturgy and the debates surrounding it following the Council: La riforma di Benedetto XVI: La liturgia tra innovazione e tradizione. The interview touches upon some important points about the reform of the reform, the usus antiquior and the importance of the sacred liturgy as a school for the faithful.

Here, in an NLM translation, we provide some of the most pertinent excerpts. (The full length Italian piece is available here and was done by Miriam Díez i Bosch.)

The first point of interest is Don Gagliardi's view of the process of the liturgical reform, in which he raises some very pertinent points, particularly with regard to our approach to the Pauline liturgy and reforming the reform. These considerations are tied to his view that the post-conciliar liturgical reform should by no means be considered now as a process that is concluded.

Naturally, such reform is a long and laborious work - do not forget that it began fourty years ago! – which involves an enormous effort and above all enormous patience as well as an awareness of the need to always be vigilant about its proper application, and also to have the humility to be able to review issues - even if universally approved, or even promoted by the current norms -- if these issues were found to be problematic, or improved upon. For on the other hand, who today who believes that the rite of Paul VI has improved upon that of St. Pius V does not also assert, more or less directly, that the [Tridentine liturgical] norms which were previously established and enforced also had to be improved upon? Why, then, should the current legislation concerning the Novus Ordo be regarded as perfect and untouchable? In a liturgical reform what counts is not to assert one's own ideas at all costs, even against all evidence, but to help the Church to always better adore the Holy Trinity. [NLM emphasis]

There is an important point here, regardless of one's particular view on the question of the Pian liturgical books; namely, pointing out the contradiction in holding on the one hand that the pre-conciliar liturgical books were in need of some revision, but then finding it inconceivable or "outside the pale" to hold the same view with regard to the modern liturgical books -- or in other words, to propose a reform of the reform. It goes without saying that there is a great inconsistency in that way of thinking and it is good to see it raised and spoken of openly within a Roman context.

The interview continues to discuss the nature of Bux's book and also points to the Bux's position that being either radically innovationist or immobilist with regard to the liturgy is untenable -- a point that is shared by many within the usus antiquior movement and the reform of the reform movement it is worth noting.

It is in this context that a further point of interest arises. Namely, his critique of the position taken in one review of Bux's work, which was against any "reform of the reform" and rather for leaving the usus recentior as is, but simply without the liturgical abuses:
Faced with the possibility of revising the [liturgical] reform of Paul VI, Augé [one of the reviewers of Bux's book] concludes by asking: "Such a reform of the reform, where would it take its inspiration, from the Missal of 1962 or the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium? Instead of expending a lot of energy on this, would not it be better to spend more on intensely investigating the liturgy of the Church celebrated according to the current books and lived above all as matter of the spiritual order?"

Don Gagliardi proposes the following critique of this position:
At the root of the two questions of Augé, there appear to be two presuppositions: first, that the ‘reform of the reform’ can [only] consist either of a return to the Rite of Pius V, or in following the conciliar decisions. But doesn’t this presupposition rest upon the idea of an incurable discontinuity between the liturgical teaching of Vatican II and what preceded it? Is there no space for a ‘both-and’? The second presupposition is seen in the expression “liturgy of the Church” meaning the post-conciliar forms. Expressing himself in this way, doesn’t Augé affirm indirectly that the Missale of 1962, promulgated by Blessed John XXIII was not the “liturgy of the Church”? Or, if the expression “liturgy of the Church” is interpreted from the texts he cites (taken from Vicesimus quintus annus), is there not the risk of thinking that the pre-conciliar liturgy was not a “matter of the spiritual order”?

This too is quite pertinent, for what it ultimately points to is the fact the usus antiquior is a treasure of the Church and an important part of its patrimony -- and, I might add, a part of its living patrimony.

Fr. Gagliardi also gives a consideration of the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, and its intent and scope, addressing those that would wish to limit it:
Don Bux believes [the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum] represents an obvious sign of a plan for liturgical renewal and growth of the sacred liturgy, that without a doubt, is certainly dear to the Pope. The Pope's decision [was reduced by many] to a strictly ecumenical gesture, as a concession "to Lefebvrists"... For the author, [the motu proprio] has a much wider significance and tends in the direction of an “overcoming of the breach which occurred in the process of the liturgical reform, contrasting the new rite with the old” (p.45). It seems to me that Don Bux sees correctly: the Holy Father himself has declared, in the apostolic letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, that the purpose of his decision was to "reach an internal reconciliation within the Church."

The next point is more controversial; a point to follow:
Therefore the weak point of the post-conciliar reform must be seen, as Don Bux does, not so much in the reform itself (which does show, as every human thing does, aspects which could be bettered, and other things to be revised), but in having presented the Novus Ordo not simply as new, but as opposed to the more ancient.

By his own qualifications, Gagliardi is not suggesting there are no issues to be resolved in the reform itself; this much is clear when he speaks of "other things to be revised". Accordingly, I don't think this should be dwelt upon too much. But it should be noted that how much of an issue the reform itself is, is a matter of reasonable and legitimate debate both amongst scholars as well as amongst proponents of the usus antiquior and reform of the reform. This said, it must also be noted that the principle of reform to the sacred liturgy is not itself outside the pale. Clearly the liturgy is not immobile. It is rather the "how" and "what" of liturgical reform that is an issue, and here the questions of continuity versus rupture enter in as well. In point of fact, this may be all Don Gagliardi intends to suggest, and certainly one can agree that the attitude of rupture and discontinuity is a problem as well.

This friendly caveat aside, Gagliardi continues with these thoughts:
It is this rupture in the continuity of tradition that has caused and continues to cause misunderstandings, polemics and suffering. The post-conciliar reform must be understood as reform in continuity: only this will allow it to be brought to its conclusion. Yes, because - I repeat - it is far from concluded.


But it remains certain that a book like this is destined, in the present moment, to be a sign of contradiction exactly because it tries to favour – in a particular way between experts in this field, but also between the contradictory ‘factions’ of supporters of only one of the two forms of the Roman Rite – humility, understanding, tolerance and intellectual openness (c.f. p.87), objectives which coincided with those of Benedict XVI.

Clearly what is being sought after here then is some spirit of collaboration which intends to promote continuity and tradition.

Also of interest and worthy of mention are Don Gagliardi's thoughts on the place of the liturgy as a teacher of the faithful outside purely academic types of formation. This is pertinent as well, given that this a debate which also rages today:
I want to take a clear stand with the author: I am convinced that the [academic] liturgical formation of the people of God - while necessary and recommended at least by the Council of Trent onwards - is not alone sufficient to foster the true liturgical spirit and proper form of adoration [to be characterized] in Christian worship. The Council of Trent taught that human nature is such that it can not easily rise to the meditation of divine things without external aids, and for this reason the Church as a loving mother has established certain rituals [...] to make more evident the majesty of a sacrifice so great and bring the minds of the faithful, with these visible signs of religion and piety, to the sublime contemplation of reality "(DS 1746). This means that the mind rises to God not only through formation, but also and above all through the sacred and the visible signs of divine worship, which are set by the Church. Don Bux may therefore welcome the fact that "a new liturgical movement is emerging which watches the liturgies of Benedict XVI; the instructions prepared by experts are not enough, exemplary liturgies are that which bring us to God" (p. 123).

At times, the outer aspects of the liturgy and lived liturgical life are treated by some as subjective and unimportant. Even putting them forth as considerations is sometimes a point of suspicion and derision. But to take this view is not see and understand the liturgy in harmony with the mind of the Church, which, by contrast, understands the paramount and central importance of the liturgy in all its aspects as a school for Christian life and formation. On that level, it was particularly refreshing to see this perspective brought forward.

As noted, there might indeed be some areas where nuanced disagreements on various particulars could be found in this interview, but overall, I think it is encouraging, particularly given the placement of this priest and bodes well again for a new liturgical movement. After all, what we see here is an understanding of the broader implications of the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, of the place and importance of the liturgy, and an openness to the deeper layers of the reform of the reform.

(The NLM discovered the original Italian Zenit piece through the Italian blog, Rinascimento Sacro)

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