Tuesday, March 02, 2010

What Liturgy Did Vatican II Desire?

The National Catholic Reporter offers a sweeping broadside against those who believe that the Second Vatican Council should not be interpreted as a rupture in tradition. It is one of those editorials that makes you realize that the proponents of a hermeneutic of continuity are not exaggerating the scale of the problems out there. The piece has lots of boilerplate against "medieval usage" and "liturgical paraphernalia" but what intrigues me most is the sheer sparseness of the positive agenda herein. What precisely does the NCR ethos believe that Sacrosanctum concilium called for? "It wanted a liturgy that the people could easily follow," in the quoted words of Fr. Anscar Chupungco.

To me, this is an interesting agenda. Many things are easy to follow and constructed to be so. I'm thinking of children's books. Sit-coms come to mind. The newspaper. Signs in public spaces. In each of these cases, there is a reason for the goal of extreme simplicity. The child is not mature and requires immediacy. The sit-com must entertain. The newspaper needs to convey the news and provide a template for advertising. Signs need to get people where they are going: to the bus stop, through the airport terminal, to the exit, or whatever.

I don't see what any of this has to do with the high purpose of liturgy. Serious Catholics live constantly in the world of liturgy their entire lives. A liturgical structure that is immediately "easily to follow" is surely one that would grow tiresome day after day, week after week. Not even children will read the same book every day for a year much less decades. And this doesn't even address the dangerous and constructivist assumption that the liturgy belongs to us and can be reinvented in one generation according to what a small number of intellectuals believe amounts to something "easy to follow."

In any case, there is much more to say but I'll stop there.

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