Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bishop Slattery Speaks to TAC Students on the Sacred Liturgy and the Hermeneutic of Discontinuity

In the recent October issue of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, we see an address published which was given by Bishop Slattery to the students of Thomas Aquinas College for the opening of their academic year. In this address, Bishop Slattery spoke of the sacred liturgy and the hermeneutic of discontinuity. He commented:

All of this leads me to an important consideration regarding the necessity of receiving the liturgy from the Church, rather than inventing it afresh Sunday after Sunday, or having our liturgy committees cobble it together like industrious shoemakers. I would like to propose that the most important thing we can do to foster and authentic liturgy, the most important thing we can do to implement the vision of the Second Vatican Council, is to return to the notion of a received liturgy, a liturgical that comes to us in place and properly arranged, without the need of our creativity or ingenuity to be successfully celebrated.


In trying to articulate the sense of loss and dislocation that accompanied the abrupt liturgical break that took place in our liturgical celebrations in the '60s, I am drawn to Josef Cardinal Ratzinger's analysis of the situation. Cardinal Ratzinger, now His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, described the principle that legitimized this break in our liturgical tradition as a hermeneutic, or a perspective of discontinuity. Those who accept this -- and their number is still legion -- show an overriding dislike of anything that may have come down to use from past generation.

Accepted by liturgists and seminary professors, and unfortunately fostered by priests, pastors and bishops, this hermeneutic required a complete severing of anything that was not modern or which might be incapable of being recreated in a modern idiom. This was so, even should it require the Church to surrender Her ancient liturgical patrimony and much of Her theological vocabulary.

Thus sacred vessels and vestments were discarded with revolutionary fervor, replaced with new and often shoddy designs. Ancient gestures like genuflections and ritual prayers like grace before and after meals became a source of derision and the occasion of mockery. Though these gestures and prayers had offered generations of Catholics a concrete way to express their faith, the hermeneutic of discontinuity demanded their removal and the marginalization of those who held to the ancient way of doing things. In one area of concern after the another, the rich patrimony of the past was discarded, not because it was incapable of expressing or articulating the Church's teaching, but simply because it was "not new." It had to come tumbling down so that we could make it, re-create it in a modern idiom.

You may read the entire article here.

In next month's edition of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, they note that Bishop Slattery will continue this liturgical theme with a consideration of "how the new Roman Missal offers opportunity for a 'new beginning' of proper liturgical reform."

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