Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Russian Orthodox Theologian Weighs in on the Liturgical Reform after Vatican II

Carlos Antonio Palad has published a translation of an interesting interview (provided by Una Voce Russia) on Rorate Caeli with Russian Orthodox theologian and archpriest, Maksim Kozlov, professor at the Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy and rector of St. Tatiana Martyr church in the Moscow State University.

The topic of the interview is a consideration of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Archpriest Maksim considers what he sees as both the negative and positive dimensions and the matter of the liturgical reform figures prominently into his considerations -- gaining both his praise and his critique.

Kozlov views positively, for example, the Council's opening up of the liturgy to the possibility of the vernacular, which "was carried out in the spirit of Eastern Christian tradition," but criticizes "the methods by which these, reforms, per se right, were carried out..." noting that "the implementation of the [liturgical] reforms itself can not be numbered among the Council’s positive results."

He continues, explaining his caveat:

In practice, alas, it was not simply permitted to celebrate in national languages, but pre-reform Latin mass virtually prohibited, for it was required to get very many permissions virtually from Vatican itself in order to celebrate it. People who wanted to pray in the old way, especially the clergy, appeared so disloyal and suspicious in the eyes of the predominating trend that Latin worship has virtually ceased to exist.

(The present debates over the use of Old Church Slavonic vs. modern Russian in the Russian liturgy may also help to contextualize Kozlov's understanding of the vernacular it should be noted. Kozlov would appear to be in favour of the use of Old Church Slavonic.)

He continues later with his critique of other aspects of the liturgical reform as it was implemented:
...the secularized understanding of liturgy was one of the reforms’ negative consequences. This manifested in excessive emphasis on the ‘horizontal’ component, i. e. the fellowship of the faithful, to the prejudice of ‘vertical component’, which is the congregation’s aspiration for Heaven. The altars were taken out of the sanctuary into the middle of the churches, the priests were now celebrating facing the people and not what we would call the synthronon, as it was before, there were unrestrained and numerous variants of translations and ordos for celebrating mass. There was a rupture, loss of the liturgy’s identity and sameness.

What makes Kozlov's comments interesting is that they come from the outsider perspective, yet a perspective rooted in the tradition of the other ancient, apostolic churches.

While there is certainly room for some caveats as it pertains to the entirety of Kozlov's thought as seen in the full interview, it also bears noting how proximate many of his positions are to those made by the reform of the reform.

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