Monday, October 19, 2009

In Utroque Usu: "A Deeper Understanding of the Traditions of the Roman Liturgy"

As we have noted here on the NLM before time and again, one of the encouraging developments we have seen in the past couple of years is the continued growth of priests who are learning and celebrating both forms of the Roman liturgy. Clearly this can be understood as one of the first fruits of the Benedictine reform, fruits which will not only help us to recapture a greater sense of our Roman liturgical inheritance, but which further helps lay the groundwork for the deeper aspects of the reform of the reform.

A priest of personal acquaintance, Fr. John Johnson, recently undertook his own steps as part of this Benedictine project, in what must be surely classified as an example of "jumping in with both feet." Namely, he recently celebrated his first Mass in the usus antiquior this past weekend, and that first Mass was not a Low Mass, nor a Missa Cantata, but in fact a Solemn Mass.

This Mass was offered in the beautiful and historic parish church of the Assumption in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, (literally just across from Detroit, Michigan) where Mass in the usus antiquior is hosted each Sunday. By all accounts, it all went very well.

Certainly the photographs testify to what must have been a moving event for all involved, not the least of which Fr. Johnson.

I am always interested to learn how this might affect a priest. No story or experience will be the same of course, but this said, there are some remarkably common themes that come forward in my experience.

Aside from bringing them into contact with the Roman liturgical tradition as it had developed over and through the centuries and prior to the liturgical reforms of recent decades, learning and celebrating the usus antiquior gives a number of these priests other benefits as well it would seem. One hears, for example, of priests gaining a further sense of their own priestly identity and spirituality; a sense of Romanitas; one also hears of how the approach to these rites and ceremonies also helps to inform and guide their approach to the ceremonies of the modern Roman liturgy -- simple things such as gaining guidance in reverence and gravitas in gesture and posture for instance.

Whatever the case, it seems that it is both a reminder and an aid which helps to foster, inculcate or re-emphasize a sense of our Roman liturgical culture -- and that is a thing of broad value.

I asked Fr. Johnson about his own experience of this moment and the training leading up to it; "I believe I'm hooked for life" was his response.

Digging a little deeper, he noted the great deal of prayer and preparation which he made for taking this step, burying himself within the liturgical texts and ceremonies. He continued, "what the study of the EF [Extraordinary Form] of the Holy Roman Liturgy accomplished, was to help me develop a deeper understanding of the traditions of the Roman Liturgy, in general, and to understand more clearly where the Ordinary Form received its development."

So it is that these same echoes and experiences continue to be heard; and so it is as well that the wisdom and the new liturgical movement of Benedict XVI continues to be manifest in what are yet only its earliest days.

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