Thursday, 17 May 2007

The era of experimentation is over.

With the promulgation in 2004 of the decree "Redemptionis Sacramentum" the liturgical reform has reached a great turning point. The era of the Liturgical Movement which found its climax in the Second Vatican Council and the period following has acheived a real degree of maturity. Benedict XVI in his letter "Sacramentum Caritatis", an overarching liturgical teaching which corresponds with Pius XII's "Mediatror Dei", defines with some clarity what the Liturgy is now that so much has taken place because of the Liturgical Movement. Indeed, in the light of these two documents, we can say that the period of liturgical experimentation is over and that we are in a better position to undertake a genuine reform of the Liturgy - a reform of the reform you might say.
"Redemptionis Sacramentum" , unlike "Inestimabile Donum" (1981) which set out to correct litirgical abuses, is a clear statement of the true form of the Liturgy in the post-Conciliar Church. In "Sacramentum Caritatis" the Holy Father sets the current form of the Liturgy within the context of history, the Church and the Life of Grace. In doing so, he has enabled a more genuine development of the Liturgy to take place - that which was envisioned by the Council, but which became a period of experimental liturgy instead. Experimental liturgy is over. What we have is a Church which has experienced the experimental liturgy but which is clearer than it was about the nature of reform. The reform of the reform can now proceed with clear markers. Benedict XVI expresses this in one sentence of his letter:
"Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical developmet of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuites." (Sacramentum Caritatis, 3)
What he is saying is that we need to return to what the Second Vatican Council actually said about the Liturgy and its reform, we have to appreciate what the Liturgy is in itself, we have to understand anew the unreformed Liturgy (Tridentine Liturgy), and we have to enable an organic development of liturgical form to occur (clearly, this is different from liturgical experimentation). We could expect that a reformed reformed rite, one that corresponds more with the intentions of the Second Vatican Council, including the question of the reform of the Tridentine Rite (which has never taken place), could arrive on our shelves within a couple of generations.

8 comments:

Sharon said...

One of our curates told our Liturgy Committee that the provisions of Redemptionis Sacramentum couldn't be implemented until the instructions were incorporated in the new lectionary. Is this correct?

Fr Richard Aladics said...

"Redemptionis Sacramentum" is the universal discipline of the Liturgy. Everything (everyone)is subject to it. Your curate is prevaricating and, if you live in England or Wales, he represents the typical attitude of the Catholic Church here towards the Magisterium: "Oh has Rome just produced some new teaching? It's meant for the other people, we do things differently over here - it's not for us."
When I said that it will be a couple of generations before we have a genuine reformed liturgy - this is one of the reasons why.

Fr Richard Aladics said...

I forgot to say that "Redemptionis Sacramentum" became Universal Law for the Liturgy on 19th March 2004.

Matt Doyle said...

Many people do not want the Tridentine Rite reforming. Many people do not want the Pauline (modern) rite reforming. The fact that there are so many false discontinuities evident in the liturgy makes a 'reform of the reform' very difficult, especially since many are suspicious that the last thing we need is more reforms! A change in attitude is needed, and as long as people are disobedient to instructions from the Holy See, then we cannot expect a unifying effect from the sacrament. Perhaps Vatican II's call to foster different rites will be more fruitful than an attempt at amalgamating them all, or permitting endless freedom in how the one rite is celebrated.

Thanks for an excellent commentary on the Apostolic Exhortation.

Fr Richard Aladics said...

I think that what you say, Matt, is true. However, we cannot deny that there has been a Liturgical movement or a liturgical reform with the appearence of many liturgical forms, some good, some bad, some banal, some wrong. This period of liturgical change is delineated by the two Magisterial Documents "Mediator Dei" and "Sacramentum Caritatis". It has been our lot to live during this period. However, what is unchanging (and infallible) is the Church. The Church cannot but "come up trumps" in terms of the Liturgy. I cannot answer the question about why the Liturgical Movement has influenced the Liturgy is the way that it has done, but we can be confident that all genuine liturgical forms will be preserved and celebrated, precisely because they express the Catholic Faith

anon said...

It is better and when the new translations are finally released...

Matt Doyle said...

A good point Father. I guess it is hard to see beyond our concerns in the present, whereas the Church is timeless and things will right themselves in the end.

Your point about the Tridentine Rite having never been reformed is wrong though: it was reformed in 1965 and 1969. However, because people were so opposed to the extent of the reform, they continued saying the Mass unchanged. Pope Paul II gave explicit provisions for this in 1984, and it is thought that Pope Benedict will declare his finding as Cardinal Ratzinger that it is unlawful to suppress the Tridentine Rite.

This raises many questions about what constitutes a valid reform. Many argue that rewriting a missal is not.

Perhaps the 'New Litugical Movement' which is currently happening in the Church will lead to a stabilisation of the Roman Rite, and a path to return to the Church's living Tradition. Or perhaps not. Only time will tell. I guess Cranmer thought he was correct to reform the Missal, and let us be thankful that we had a saintly Pope in power (Pope St. Pius V) to safeguard the Faithful against such a preposterous notion.

Fr Richard Aladics said...

Yes, the Tridentine Rite was changed (reformed) in the 60's, but the Rite as a whole was not subjected to the principles of reform which "Sacrosanctum Concilium" asked for. In this sense there has not been a reform of the Tridentine Rite, in its structure, calendar, usage etc. And what did happen was that we were given a new Rite instead of a reformed Tridentine Rite (such as is celebrated at Le Barroux Monastery in Provence).
I think that the Church is clear that a historic Rite cannot be suppressed - "Sacrosanctum Concilium" acknowledges this. But what actually happened after the Council - having a new Rite imposed on the Church - was not at all envisaged by the Council, and this event is an anomaly in terms of Liturgical development. As you say, rewriting a missal is not liturgical reform. Benedict XVI is probably the very best person (and Pope) to deal with the liturgical situation as it is. It is the one issue that JPII never dealt with and it is clearly a matter which needs grace-filled attention by many.