Monday, September 29, 2014

Classics of the Liturgical Movement - A New Series on NLM

Just over a year ago on this blog, I published an article, “Carrying Forward the Noble Work of the Liturgical Movement,” praising the noble intentions of the members of the original Liturgical Movement and how these intentions were distorted and betrayed in the radicalized phase that increasingly dominated the fifties and sixties. At the time, I realized that many of the best authors on the sacred liturgy—either men from that original period or their later disciples and emulators—are not sufficiently well known among Catholics today, and that we ought to do something more to spread awareness of those authors who are the most integrally Catholic and the most insightful, and who, consequently, still have a lot to teach us today.

Accordingly, I have decided to start a new series here, introducing readers to older and newer authors who have a valid claim to be considered representatives of that authentic Liturgical Movement to which this blog has been contributing for years, and of which Pope Benedict XVI is the greatest living exponent. My plan is nothing fancy or detailed: an occasional post on a given author, with a few quotations from his writings. If people like what they read, they can purchase a new or used copy from the usual sellers out there, and add further thoughts in the combox, If they dislike what they read, again, the combox is ready to hand!

I cannot hope to mention, let alone quote from, every classic book worth reading on the Sacrifice of the Mass or the Holy Eucharist or the Liturgy taken generally—this goes far beyond my own knowledge of the territory and far beyond my own library. What I can do, however, is bring to the attention of NLM readers some particularly fine writing from the old and new Liturgical Movements to help ensure that work of great merit will be remembered (or, as the case may be, rediscovered) and valued today as it deserves to be valued, and also that work published more recently does not fall into oblivion now that we may be entering a wintry and more difficult phase of our work.

Let me be clear up front about what this series will NOT be.  I won’t be giving a biography of the authors, or an overview of their life’s work, or entering into questions of possible controversial views they may have had (particularly since almost every author in the Liturgical Movement had some occasionally odd ideas that either fortunately perished without issue or unfortunately got translated into the postconciliar reforms). In that sense, my inclusion of a book or author MUST NOT be construed as an endorsement of everything he argues in that book or any other work. (One thinks of Romano Guardini in this connection—a magnificent theologian in so many books or passages of his books, but quite out to lunch, if not to Mars, in others.)

What is my positive goal? Simply to share with readers a taste of the riches that can be found in these authors and to encourage a re-reading of them. They have so much to offer us in wisdom, insight, guidance, encouragement, the reappropriation of the great sources, the deepening of the spiritual life. It seems to me that we are, in fact, in an ideal position to re-read them, because we have seen fifty years of experimentation, novelty, scandal, and abuse in the liturgical realm, we have witnessed what happens when strange theories are translated into practice, and so we will not be as tempted as the original readers of these authors to wander astray when we hit their peculiar pet ideas.  We are more likely to resonate with the profound truths for the dissemination of which the Lord, in His Providence, raised up these men, who were animated by a most profound love for and devotion to the sacred liturgy.

Like most series at NLM, this one will appear at indeterminate intervals, when and as I have occasion to prepare posts that pertain to it. I am also very open to suggestions from readers—particularly if they will send me excerpts of writings they would like to see included in a post!

We will commence next week with a rather obscure item, Canon G. A. Simon’s Commentary for Benedictine Oblates on the Rule of Saint Benedict (1947), which exemplifies the kind of rich spiritual doctrine that was once commonplace in Catholic writing—and which, happily, is back in print for the edification of Catholics today.

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