Monday, October 30, 2023

A Defense of Traditional Liturgy from Eastern Catholic Experience and Theology

“Lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them.” (Matt. 2,9)

Much has been written about various aspects of the liturgical crisis and turmoil the Roman Catholic Church has lived through since Vatican II. It is tempting for some to believe that “all was well” before the Second Vatican Council, even if things were a whole lot better than afterwards. Similarly, thanks to a sort of Jesuitical conception of devotion to the principle of visible authority, it is all too easy for faithful Catholics to deny that the Church’s leaders have ever engaged in colossal blunders in their liturgical leadership.

Reclaiming Our Inheritance after Vatican II: Leadership Lessons From Eastern Catholic History and Liturgy puts these views to rest. While scholars such as Alcuin Reid and Ole Martin Stamnestro have drawn attention to the principles and history of the “Liturgical Movement” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, debates over the reforms of the Consilium often overlook and ignore the history and magisterial documents on the Catholic Churches of the East.

Written by a Ukrainian Catholic cleric, Fr. Deacon Christopher, who lives and works amidst the human tragedies experienced by those on the front lines of emergency services today, the present work describes the tragedies—liturgical and otherwise—that Eastern Catholics have lived through over the centuries. The author’s awareness of the daily struggles of people, combined with his knowledge of the history, theology, and liturgy of East (and West), support his ability to present a vision of liturgical reform that anyone can learn from.

It is time for Catholics of the West to embrace their whole Catholic history because the implications are clear: one of the strongest cases for an enduring place for the Roman Church’s traditional liturgy in the West is to be found in the history of, and magisterial documents on, the Eastern Catholic Churches, whose own traditions were once trounced or willingly corrupted but have over time been renewed and are now strongly sustained.

If I have a minor criticism of the work, it would be that it seems to pay little attention to the vast amount of writing in defense of the Roman liturgy that has also frequently made use of comparisons with the East. This comparison was first made, interestingly, in the Ottaviani Intervention, and we saw it given full scope in Geoffrey Hull's The Banished Heart. At NLM, Gregory DiPippo has been notable for his innumerable studies of the Eastern tradition and its parallels or contrasts with the Western (such as his article on the difference between Byzantine concelebration and the Latin novel fabrication). I myself have addressed this topic at NLM and elsewhere over the past ten years (e.g., here; indeed, I have a popular book called Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, which includes some points reminiscent of Fr. Deacon's). It would have been ideal if the author had shown more awareness of the breadth and depth of the discussion in traditionalist circles. Nevertheless, his familiarity with Alcuin Reid goes a long way, and the case he makes, the information he gathers, and the conclusions he draws are still very worthwhile to consider.

The case for restoration in the West should take into account the critical importance of our Eastern brethren and their experiences, positive and negative. A genuine, knowledgeable, and thorough dialogue with the life and experience of the Catholic Churches of the East must become part of our Western conversations about the necessary place of the traditional liturgy in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. Reclaiming Our Inheritance makes this case convincingly, and does so succinctly, in 145 pages.

Available from Eastern Christian Publications, the book is available in print and e-book formats on November 1st. Paperback copies are now on sale for only $15 if pre-ordered by the end of October.

Thank you, Fr Deacon Christopher, for writing this book.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s Substack “Tradition & Sanity”; personal site; composer site; publishing house Os Justi Press and YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify pages.

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