Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Guest Article: Time to Say “No Thanks” to Liturgical Deviations

Today NLM is pleased to present a translation of the response by Monika Rheinschmitt, president of Pro Missa Tridentina, to an article by Fr Engelbert Recktenwald, FSSP, entitled “Time to say ‘Thanks’ ”, which was published on June 28 in Die Tagespost.

Time to Say “No Thanks” to Liturgical Deviations
Monika Rheinschmitt

Together with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, we rejoice over its 30th anniversary and wish God’s blessing upon its current General Chapter.

After Fr. Recktenwald, FSSP in his article from June 28, 2018 (“Time to say ‘Thanks’”) has finished discussing the history of the birth of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and, as a second theme, the mutual trust between Rome and the Fraternity as well as between bishops and members of the Fraternity who care for individual parishes, he busies himself in the last two paragraphs with “the danger of a hyperliturgization [Hyperliturgisierung], especially among traditional laity.”

In response, I would like to offer a few thoughts to ponder. In my work for the lay association “Pro Missa Tridentina,” I have many contacts with about 230 sites of classical Roman tradition in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Not surprisingly, while I encounter a wide variety and certainly a diversity of different views, I cannot confirm the existence of such a tendency. The faithful, who often travel long distances to be able to assist at Holy Masses in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, are well aware of what a great treasure the Catholic Church preserves in this liturgy, and what a unique historic opportunity is the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which ensured that the liturgical books in use in 1962 might continue to be used, and used without restriction. According to the will of Pope Benedict XVI, this treasure of the classical Roman Rite is not intended for a small, elite group, but rather “offered to all of the faithful” (Instruction Universae Ecclesiae).

People find their way to the traditional Roman Rite along many paths: the beauty of the music in the churches, the great painting and architecture, the solemn liturgies, things they read—all that expresses reverence and adoration of the Most High. As in the Gospel parable about the treasure in the field (Mt 13:44-46), they do not want to lose again what they have found, but rather to conserve the beauty of this treasure. They respect and practice forms grown up over the centuries and maintained in the life of the Church—forms that also help Catholics today to pray more devoutly and reverently and to believe more deeply.

It is not “pastoral,” therefore, when priests carry out their own little private liturgical reform and, for example, replace Latin Scripture readings with German ones, or the sung Ordinary of the Mass with Schubert Mass-paraphrases (as Fr. Recktenwald advocates), or allow certain liturgical prayers to be said in German rather than Latin. Especially today in the age of globalization, in which communities of the faithful in places like Frankfurt or Bonn or Stuttgart can easily show a linguistic diversity like that of Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, a common liturgical language and a single worldwide form are of inestimable value for preserving a spiritual homeland.

The desire to remove deviations accumulated over the course of years in order to keep this form visible and available is also expressed in the following papal provisions:

1) The motu proprio Rubricarum instructum of Pope St. John XXIII: As of January 1, 1961, all who belong to the Roman rite must obey the rules set forth in the liturgical books. All conflicting provisions, privileges, exemptions, permissions, and customs of any kind are withdrawn—even if they have existed for centuries or from time immemorial.

2) The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, enacted by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, frees the celebration of the usus antiquior from any laws adopted after 1962 that concern the sacred rites and are incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in force in 1962.

Edifying, perhaps, but not the Mass

Here, the intention of the papal legislators is clear: to eliminate any possible deviations from the rubrics, whether they are matters of custom or are motivated by “pastoral” or “contemporary” adjustments. This ought to receive complete agreement on the part of all traditional believers, clergy as well as laity, and especially members of priestly communities that make an exclusive use of the liturgical books of 1962.

The authentic celebration of the liturgy by no means neglects pastoral care in favor of a self-sufficient aesthetic. As the well-known formula puts it: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi: worship, faith, and concern for the salvation of souls belong together. Prayer, faith, and life are based on the same foundations and are supported by an authentic liturgy that is faithful to its rite.

Accordingly, in the decree of establishment of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, October 18, 1988, it says:
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is dedicated to the sanctification of priests through the exercise of pastoral ministry, principally through the uniformity of their lives with the Eucharistic sacrifice and by observing the liturgical and disciplinary traditions about which the Pope writes in his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei of July 2, 1988.
It may be taken for granted that the statutes of the Priestly Fraternity have meanwhile been conformed to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007 and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae of 2011, but this would not modify anything in the assertion that the statutes of the Priestly Fraternity imply adherence to the liturgical rites.

Let us take up an example from Fr. Recktenwald’s article: the presentation of the Scripture readings immediately in the vernacular, instead of (as intended for High Mass) first being sung in Latin, and then optionally read out in the vernacular. On this point Rome has expressly spoken. The already-mentioned Instruction Universae Ecclesiae specifies: “As foreseen by article 6 of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.” This means: in all sung Masses on Sundays and Holy Days as well as feasts of the first class such as St. Joseph on March 19, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or SS. Peter and Paul on June 29, or the Assumption on August 15, the Epistle and the Gospel must first be sung in Latin (if the priest is not ill such that he may only read out the text in Latin).

It remains incomprehensible why, after this clear statement in the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, many priests (above all in the sphere of the German language and in France) ignore the latreutic aspect of the Scripture readings and insist, even at High Masses, on reading out the Scripture immediately in the regional language—and then accuse those who “dissent” from this abuse of “rubricism,” and complain about “hyperliturgization.”

In support of his position, Father Recktenwald refers to the Pontifical Mass that was celebrated this year by Cardinal Sarah at the conclusion of the Paris-Chartres pilgrimage. There, after all, the Epistle and Gospel were read aloud immediately in French, and Cardinal Sarah in his homily issued a reminder about how one should celebrate the liturgy: “with noble simplicity, without useless additions, false aestheticism or theatricality, but with a sense of the sacred that first and foremost gives glory to God.”

This quotation seems to me to be torn out of context and not taken in the sense in which Cardinal Sarah meant it. In the same homily, the celebrant refers in a positive way multiple times to the Pontifical Mass just celebrated, with the following words:
Let us take today’s Mass as a model: it brings us to adoration, to a filial and loving fear before the greatness of God. ... Dear brothers and sisters, let us love these liturgies that enable us to taste the silent presence and transcendence of God and turn us toward the Lord. ... What the world expects of the priest is that he proclaim God and the Light of his Word, without ambiguity or falsification. Let us know how to turn together to God in a liturgical celebration full of reverence, a silence that expresses holiness. We invent nothing new in the liturgy; we receive everything from God and His Church. We don’t want to put on a show or seek our own success. The liturgy teaches us: To be a priest is not to do a lot, it means, far more, to be with the Lord upon the Cross. ... Whether in the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, let us always celebrate, as we also do today, according to what the Second Vatican Council teaches: with a noble simplicity, without useless additions, false aestheticism or theatricality, but with a sense of the sacred that first and foremost gives glory to God, and with the true spirit of a son of the Church.
Whether Cardinal Sarah, in a Pontifical Mass for 15,000 international pilgrims, many of whom did not understand French, really endorsed (a) the disregarding of the Roman requirement that the Scripture readings be first given in Latin and (b) the reading of them immediately and exclusively in French, eludes my knowledge, but it appears to me to be questionable.

Presumably, this remark (“useless additions, theatricality”) referred more to other elements of large-scale Mass celebrations that can be witnessed at the Pope’s Masses, and most recently at the Catholic Day [in Germany]: liturgical dance with the Gospel book, guitars, percussion, even drum kits, never-ending Offertory processions in which many people bring all sorts of gifts down the aisle to the altar, a lengthy and excessive Kiss of Peace, and so forth.

Comparable to the prescriptions about the Scripture readings are the provisions concerning church music, especially what is to be sung during Holy Mass. Ever since the motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini (1903) of Pope St Pius X, all the popes as well as the Second Vatican Council have stressed the importance and primacy of the Gregorian chant in the liturgy and have highlighted that, in addition to the cantors (Schola), the others who are assisting at Mass should also learn the Gregorian melodies and sing the parts that pertain to them. All the worshiping communities at locations where Holy Masses in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite are regularly offered make an effort to build up a schola cantorum. This should also be encouraged and appreciated by the celebrants, because the Gregorian chant is a necessary, indispensable part of the liturgy.

For the greater glory of God, believers of all centuries have made the best of what has been available to them in the fields of architecture, painting, fine arts, paraments, goldsmithing, and music. We should continue to do this today, so that the sacraments, especially the Mass, “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven,” may be celebrated as fittingly as possible.
Almighty God,
grant me the grace
to desire ardently all that is pleasing to Thee,
to examine it prudently,
to acknowledge it truthfully,
and to accomplish it perfectly,
for the praise and glory of Thy Name.
Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
[The original German text of this article may be found here.]

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