Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fr Longenecker Satirizes the Post-Conciliar Reform

I’m sure that by now, a good many of our readers have seen the recent article by Fr Dwight Longenecker entitled “Twelve Things I Like About the Novus Ordo Mass”, as well as Peter Kwasniewski’s response to it, and his follow-up. A few days ago, Fr Longenecker published his own follow-up to the discussion, entitled “Twelve Things I Like About the Latin Mass”, which contains one of the cleverer bits of satire to appear on the Catholic web in a while.

“As in most everything in my life, I’m a dilettante, a poetaster, a Sunday afternoon painter, an amateur. However, I do respect those who are more disciplined than I am. I like the fact that they do the research and beaver away at it all with a passion. I respect their attention to detail, their ability to hone an argument and pay attention to rubrics with all the concentration of a heart surgeon or a chimpanzee trapping an ant with a stick.

Me? I’m afraid I do not have much interest in whether or not the anaclesis from the Syro Malabar Rite of the fifth declension features a Greek preface or not. I am glad some people dig deeply into the mysteries of whether the bishops of the Petrine revision of the Mozaribian liturgy in sixth century Anatolia wore the camelaucum or whether it was leather or embroidered felt. Such things are clearly very important and those who write books on them are to be congratulated because it means when busy priests need the answers they will know where to turn.”

Now at first blush, Father may seem here to be ever-so-gently poking fun at those who have taken issue with his first article, since he compares the serious study of liturgy to the activity of an ape, and extols as “very important” the study of various things that have never existed. One might be forgiven for seeing in this an implication that “busy priests” have much better things to think seriously about than the public prayer of the Church. However, I am sure that this is not his intent at all.

Of the points outlined in the second article, the twelve things he likes about the (traditional) Latin Mass, fully ten are not actually specific to it: Latin, Reverence, Altar Boys (i.e., well-trained and well-behaved ones), Ad Orientem, Music (i.e. good music), Vestments (i.e. nice ones), Incense, Mother Mary (because “(t)he Latin Mass often ends with a hymn to the Mother of God.”), Beauty and Altar Rails. To be sure, contrary to the will of the Fathers at Vatican II and all good sense, these things are much less common than they should be in the post-Conciliar liturgy, and are indeed to be found rather more frequently and consistently at the Extraordinary Form. This is a lamentable state of affairs, but that does not change the fact that none of these things is per se distinctive of the traditional Latin Mass, as opposed to a well-done celebration of the Ordinary Form.

The remaining two, Tradition and Example (“The Latin Mass offers a kind of gold standard for the celebration of the Mass.”), can arguably also apply to the new rite. There is a good deal of leeway, for the most part unused, but present nonetheless, to incorporate any number of traditional practices into the celebration of the Ordinary Form. And likewise, I can honestly say that I have attended a small number of genuinely awful traditional Masses, and an equally small number of new Masses which were genuinely exemplary, at churches like the London Oratory and St Agnes in Minneapolis-St Paul.

This leads me to the conviction that Father’s true intent, like that of every good satirist, lies elsewhere.

Go back and read the list of topics that he is afraid he has no interest in, but which are nevertheless “very important”, topics which liturgists generously study and write about on behalf of “busy” priests. Does it not read like a parody of the activities of the Consilium ad exsequendam, the committee appointed to reform the liturgy after Vatican II? Of course, there is no such thing as an “anaclesis”, “fifth declension” is a term of art in grammar, not liturgy, and the “Mozarabic” (not “Mozaribian”) liturgy is Spanish and not Anatolian. But the members of the Consilium actually did invent an epiclesis for the new canons which they added to the Missal, on the basis of a completely erroneous history of both the Roman Rite and of the epiclesis. They actually did decide that the Roman Missal was desperately lacking for a series of Mozarabic prayers for the dead, all of which had to have their conclusions changed in accordance with another erroneous history.

The camelaucum was a kind of headdress worn in the Byzantine court; I do not know if it was worn by “bishops of the Petrine revision … in sixth-century Anatolia” but a descendant of it, the triple tiara, was worn for a very long time by the bishop who holds the Petrine ministry. (How subtly the threads of this exquisite satire are woven!) Headgear does not seem to have interested the Consilium itself very much; eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia, those responsible for the reform of the Papal liturgy actually did suppress it, along with the rest of the Pope’s proper vestments, making him the only prelate in the Catholic Church who routinely and licitly celebrates Mass wearing nothing distinctive of his own rank.

Exceptions are occasionally made.
And they actually did a whole bunch of other things that only dilettantes, poetasters and amateurs would do and think they were doing well. They cobbled together a preface for Advent from pieces of three different prefaces for the Ascension, none of which had been used in well over 1000 years. (And they repeated this silly procedure countless times.) They put the anaphora of St Basil and the pseudo-canon of pseudo-Hippolytus into a paper shredder, and cobbled together new Eucharistic prayers out of the pieces, carefully selected so as not to offend the sensibilities of Modern Man™. They removed almost every distinctively Roman feature from the temporal cycle of the Roman Rite, adducing as their excuse exactly the kind of liturgese that Father so wittily skewers: “It’s not found in such-and-such a recension of the Ambrosian sacramentaries”, etc.

An astonishing number of similar examples could be cited, but there is no need to belabor the point. In the meantime, our kudos to the author, who has shown that the rapier of the satirist can do just as much for liturgical reform as the blade of his proverbial heart surgeon.

A second part of this article will examine in detail the history of sixth-century Anatolian embroidered felt camelauca.

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