Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Considerations of the Lateran Mass of Cardinal Cañizares

The recent celebration of a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the usus antiquior by the Cardinal Prefect of the Roman congregation which oversees the sacred liturgy, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and this further within the surroundings of the prominent Lateran Archbasilica, the Pope's very own cathedral in the See of Rome, cannot be underestimated. Indeed, it carries with it both historic and symbolic aspects of note.

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the significance of this combination of person and place is something which will surely not go without notice from various sectors within the Church -- and one can hardly expect that this would have not been taken into at least some consideration in the planning and approval of this Mass.

Such an event is indeed rich in its symbolic value for it cannot but be a powerful statement and affirmation of the mainstream place which the usus antiquior now occupies again within the life of the Church. It further emphasizes the papal benediction of the same, which, while not in doubt, is relevant again for the reason of these factors.

Certainly the next question that will be upon the minds of many following from this event will pertain to the future possibility of some sort of papal celebration of these same liturgical rites, be it a public papal Low Mass, the Missa coram Summo Pontifice, the Solemn Papal Mass, or even some development of these in the light of present-day circumstances. While it is interesting subject to speculate upon, the first thing that we must bear clearly in mind is that we must leave this to the judgement of the Pope himself. It is manifestly clear from activities such as those which occurred yesterday within his own Cathedral and by his appointed liturgical prefect no less -- let alone by virtue of the motu proprio itself -- that the Pope firmly supports the usus antiquior as one part of his broad liturgical vision. No one can doubt this, and so no further sign is necessary. This said, while that is true, one cannot deny that such an activity would be of momentous importance -- particularly in the age of visual media -- and so such speculation and desires are manifestly understandable. Of course, various factors come into the consideration of such possibilities for the Pope, including both those which are liturgical and pastoral.

All this said, my intent here is not to speculate as to whether such a papal liturgy will be manifest, and if so, when it might be, or in what form. One can always come up with theories, but they remain just that: theories. What is worth noting however, particularly for those for whom this is a matter of great interest to consider, is that the Lateran Mass of Cardinal Cañizares yesterday can only be understood as helping potentially pave the way toward such a possibility, both in terms of greater liturgical familiarity in the execution of these liturgical books in these places, and also in terms of helping to acclimate those who are perhaps more reticent about the idea better to it.

For this reason and simply for reason for the Mass itself can we be thankful then to the Holy Father and to Cardinal Cañizares for yesterday's Mass in the Lateran Archbasilica.

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