Saturday, February 01, 2014

On Recovering the Roman Canon—Or, Bad Reasons for Preferring Other Anaphoras

A very interesting article by Fr. David Friel, "Comparing Canons," appeared last week at Views from the Choir Loft, the blog of Corpus Christi Watershed.

Readers of NLM are well aware of the problem of the introduction of new anaphoras into the Roman Rite of Mass as part of the Consilium reforms in the late 1960s. The Roman Mass could, in a way, be defined by the very fixity of its noble Canon, which is extremely ancient, having received its definitive form in the era of St. Gregory the Great (hence the term "Gregorian rite" utilized by some). In practice, the introduction of new anaphoras after the Council has virtually displaced the Roman Canon from the celebration in Ordinary Form Masses -- perhaps the most egregious of all examples of the hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity, in sharp contrast to Sacrosanctum Concilium's axiom that "there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing" (SC 23).

As Dom Alcuin Reid has demonstrated in a number of works, a close examination of what the Council Fathers said and did not say, as well as what the liturgical scholars were saying at the time of this Constitution, proves beyond all possible doubt that they took this provision at face value: any innovation in the reform had to come directly out of the existing Roman liturgical tradition (not out of the back pockets of scholars playing with theories of antiquity), it had to be in obvious continuity with what was already being done so that it would not constitute a violent shift or break, and -- most tellingly of all -- it had to be a reform that was not merely defensible, but one whose need was certain.

As we all know, very few things in life are certain, and that is undoubtedly why Sacrosanctum Concilium has overall a predominantly conservative and moderate tone, quite in contrast with the almost endless open playing field for liturgical experimentation imagined by Andrea Grillo. In Grillo's mind, the Council opened the doors to a wholesale revision of rites, but he will never be able to prove that from either Sacrosanctum Concilium, the conciliar deliberations, or the commentaries contemporaneous with this Constitution. It was only later, in the increasingly radicalized atmosphere of the Consilium, that it became even thinkable to violate the explicit principles of this Constitution, not to mention do violence to the entire Roman liturgical tradition.

But getting back to Fr. Friel's article: regardless of where we fall along the spectrum of views, from highly critical of the introduction of new anaphoras to highly appreciative of their availability, I would wager that the vast majority of those who promote a new liturgical movement believe that the re-establishment of the centrality of the venerable Roman Canon is absolutely necessary for the vigor and authenticity of our public prayer and for the long-term goal of rebuilding the fractured continuity of the Roman liturgical tradition.  With this in mind, I strongly recommend reading Fr. Friel's article.  It gives considerable food for thought, particularly with regard to so-called "pastoral reasons" for choosing to use anaphoras OTHER than the Roman Canon.

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