Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ears open and attentive


The verse of the Responsorial Psalm for this 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, with its proper psalmody, really inspired me to hope this morning. It is not only faith which comes through hearing. The marvelous interplay of ears and heart, by the grace of God, can indeed melt the frozen, warm the chill. VENI, SANCTE SPIRITUS!

My review of PART II of the Dobszay book on the restoration and renewal of the Roman Rite left me a bit pensive and wondering whether I didn't owe someone something more than a judgment in terms of the merit of his project on the future of Catholic Worship labelled: "PROJECT ON HOLD!" I would not discount Dobszay's work, so shouldn't I offer a suggestion or scenario for its employ? As only fools rush in where angels dare not tread... I should probably leave well enough alone. We are talking about more than just the difficulty of imposing again, as was done in 1970, on the average man or woman in the pews, without appreciation of what is at stake. We're talking about the tip of an iceberg involving a whole array of questions, theological, ecclesiological and even moral. The ongoing commentary and analysis of the state of affairs in efforts toward a rapprochement between the Catholic Church and the SSPX (see latest installment over at RORATE CAELI), at least as I am able to follow it and despite its complexity and the fact that it is also very much emotionally charged, leaves me nonetheless wanting to contribute to untying the Gordian knot and especially now as I am filled with sentiment inspired by the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity just behind us for another year. The SSPX issue is an important piece on the puzzle table of how to go about restoring and renewing the Roman Rite. Liturgical renewal figures centrally in what we are calling the new evangelization.

I disagree with those who claim that when it is all said and done one can characterize "Roman" wariness vis-a-vis the SSPX as an unwillingness "to lose face" in seeking reconciliation and going on with our common history. If that were all there is to the matter, then I'd say, let's pray and study and work hard in the upcoming "Year of Faith" and then come back and look at the matter in November 2013, hoping and praying that we as a Church will be graced truly during this coming year with ears and heart open and ready. What makes this situation different from the old and glorious school fights which pitted the Jesuits against the Dominicans (to give but one example) in titanic battles where despite the heated tone nobody wished to deny anything to the other side except perhaps a sufficiency of understanding of the fullness possessed by the other or a lack of vision on the part of the opponent? These school fights simmered and even boiled on the back-burner and were not always resolved. Why can't we reestablish full communion and be about the fisticuffs in good old Catholic fashion? Not everyone applauded the results of Vatican I, but at some point certain people turned their backs on us forever and others made peace. Why and in what sense is our present dilemma any different?

I think my question is fair, but I'd be a fool if I thought I had an answer to it. I'd be like one of Job's so-called friends, who jumped to conclusions excluding the possibility that it was the Lord Who was there to teach His chosen people another way to understand personal justice and God's favor. Maybe indeed we still have not spent enough time sitting there on the ground and praying with the friend in our midst there upon the dung heap? "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

Summorum Pontificum speaks about "mutual enrichment" as something willed for the two expressions or forms of the Roman Rite. Each day, as more young people of good will get involved, I see new and creative ways found to reintroduce the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite into the life of the Church and especially at the level of parish. What will the outcome of this process of exposure and hopefully enrichment be? Are we apt to see a universal and grassroots movement to pick up the thread and proceed from where we left off in 1962? Will history lead us to a workshop where those responsible sit around and plan our liturgical future with Dobszay's book as an instruction manual or a road-map in hand? I seriously doubt it. Optimal liturgy can only be the keystone of the marvelous edifice of the recovery of the faith. That involves renewed Christian family life and children learning their prayers at home. That involves a more general and profound knowledge of basic catechism.

As I say, I'm terribly hopeful about a positive outcome to the struggle to recover our continuity with a liturgical tradition we never intended to jettison and this for the sake of the proclamation of the Gospel, for the sake of the praise in spirit and in truth of His Holy Name. Although I truly always have been put off by the most strident and mindless manifestations of "new liturgy", I can't say how I was able to overcome my association with the trendy perception that Mass "across the altar" was preferable. To a certain extent this was a gradual process worked out in my own life as a priestly celebrant. My longing for worship ad Orientem whenever and wherever possible seems to be the fruit of "melting the frozen, warming the chill, guiding steps which had gone astray". The Lord's Voice goes forth; His Word will bear fruit in due season.
"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

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