Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dom Alcuin Reid on “Elements of the New Liturgical Movement”

Let me state first that in this paper, which Dom Alcuin delivered in June at St Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Conn., and at Holy Innocents in New York City, his title refers not to us, but to “the many different initiatives throughout the world taking their inspiration from the call of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his seminal book The Spirit of the Liturgy for ‘a movement toward the Liturgy and toward the right way of celebrating the Liturgy, inwardly and outwardly.’ ” The talk contains a number of very interesting observations on the current state of the liturgical reform as implemented after Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium, and prospects for future reform, which I am very sure our readers will find interesting. Here are some excerpts, and you can read the full text by clicking on this link: Elements of the New Liturgical Movement, by Dom Alcuin Reid. (Also here via

There are plenty of people around who would say that such concern about the liturgy is too introspective, if not introverted, in an age where the Church has so much to do and so many problems to face. “What need have we of ‘sacristy-rats’ or of ‘candle-counting thurible-swingers?’ ” they might retort.

But let us be clear: Christianity is not humanitarian activism, it is a faith —faith in the person of God the Son incarnate, who suffered and died for our salvation and who established a Church to continue His saving ministry to the end of time. This the Church does through the Sacred Liturgy. If we think about it: original and actual sin are remitted and we are joined to the Body of Christ through the sacrament of Baptism, we are given the Gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in the rite of Confirmation, our Christian initiation is completed and we are continually nourished for Christian life through the Holy Eucharist, we are healed when we fall into sin through the Sacrament of Penance, and are healed when we are sick through the Sacrament of Anointing. We are given specific graces for our particular vocations in the sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders. We celebrate salvation history and the triumphs of the saints in the liturgical year, in times of grief we take our beloved dead to the altar, and we continually beg God’s blessing on ourselves, our homes and other created things that we use through liturgical rites.
All of this is liturgical. And it is right that we give it priority. For it is here that we encounter Christ living and acting in His Church today. For without the Sacred Liturgy we have no ecclesial connection with Christ. And without this Christianity is at risk of becoming an ideology rather than a faith—hopefully benevolent ideology, but an ideology nevertheless—and the works of its followers, mere activism.  ...

Elements of the New Liturgical Movement

... I should like to articulate five possible elements of this movement. To be sure, there may be more and they could possibly be delineated more clearly. But as I said at the beginning, they are intended to prompt further thought and as a stimulus for discussion.

1. An authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s mandate for liturgical reform.

Perhaps the best way to explore this element is through a series of pithy statements that accurately reflect the content of Sacrosanctum Concilium and then to reflect on what in fact we have today. I leave the reflection to you—or perhaps to our discussion later.

i. Active participation means actual participation not activist participation.

ii. Widespread formation and immersion in the Church’s liturgical life and tradition is an essential pre-requisite to actual participation and is a far greater priority than ritual reform.

iii. 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” means exactly that.

iv. Giving a suitable place to the vernacular does not mean totally vernacularising the liturgy to the exclusion of Latin.

v. That the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites suggests that Latin should be something with which all our congregations are familiar from regular use.

vi. Allowing the extended use of concelebration is not about forming generations of priests who do not know how or even why one would celebrate Mass privately, let alone how to behave as concelebrants.

vii. Judging that Holy Communion may be administered under both species on certain occasions does not mandate the creation of legions of extraordinary ministers, unworthy vessels for the Precious Blood or questionable if not downright sacrilegious practices in respect to their purification.
viii. Providing a richer fare for the faithful at the table of God's word does not mean destroying a truly ancient order or readings, nor does it authorise the excising of uncomfortable portions of Sacred Scripture from the lectionary.

ix. Singing the liturgy, not singing at the liturgy, is what is required.

x. Noble simplicity does not mandate simplicity being ignobly visited upon the liturgy.

xi. Revising the liturgical books does not authorise the wholesale recasting of their calendars, the ideological purging of their proper prayers, or the insertion of liturgical texts reconstructed according to insufficiently tested scholarly fashions. ...

An ongoing consideration of the value of a possible reform of the reform.

The idea of a “reform of the reform” arose in a period when the older rites were more or less proscribed and out of a desire to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully. In a post-Summorum Pontificum and post-the pontificate of Benedict XVI world, some have decreed or celebrated the death of the “reform of the reform”. History will tell us whether this is in fact the case; nevertheless, at this point, I would offer two considerations.

The reformed liturgical rites—the usus recentior—are here to stay. That is a reality and an important pastoral one which the new liturgical movement cannot ignore. If we can assert—as I think serious scholarship allows us to—that the rites promulgated following the Council are not what the Council intended and that there are substantial innovations in more than questionable continuity with the Church’s received liturgical tradition, then these reformed rites are lacking in some important areas, even if we can assert that there are at the same time some good developments (perhaps the richness of some of the new prefaces, for example). That is all to say that as the usus recentior is not going away any time soon, we should, for the sake of the large numbers who have recourse to it, work for it to be enriched and corrected where indeed it is lacking.

How this will happen is at this time difficult to see. But then, only a few years before Summorum Pontificum few if any could predict that it would appear or what it would bring about. Patience, prayer and work are our task at this time. We shall see what Almighty God’s Providence brings.

The second consideration I would offer in respect of the reform of the reform is that it is nothing less than a matter of justice to the Council and to liturgical Tradition itself. This is not a question of mere academic speculation, but a cry for the correction of an ecclesial, liturgical and pastoral “divergence” that is simply too great.

Where to start with a reform of the reform? Do we take the modern books and correct them, or do we re- start, as it were, and get the Council’s reform right starting over from scratch? I recommend Father Thomas Kocik’s article on this question which was posted on the New Liturgical Movement site in February 2014. His observation that the modern liturgical books contain too much intrinsic discontinuity with received tradition to be corrected is a powerful one indeed.

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