Sunday, July 7, 2013

Oriented Towards the Goal

This year's anniversary for Summorum Pontificum has generated an awful lot of what is upbeat sentiment or commentary in a serene and, for the first time generally, non-defiant kind of way. I am terribly happy about this sensation which is abroad, because it offers hope that, when the time comes, we might avoid sinking into a liturgy war in reprisal for the iconoclastic violence suffered at times over the last half century. Pope Benedict's thesis about mutual enrichment of the two forms of the one rite, can, has, and will bear fruit unto reconciliation and growth (and sooner, I am confident, than later).

While some might be miffed at my choice of words, my point is that these blogposts seem, more than in years before, to radiate confidence and a well-founded expectancy concerning the future; they simply marvel at the fact that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (especially as a daily Low Mass) has come out of the catacombs and done so, at least in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, in such a natural fashion. As one example, Father Christopher Smith of The Chant CafĂ© waxes quite "European" (less than pragmatic) and analytic in reflecting upon what has happened or where we are today: his 2 July Article is more descriptive and the 5 July Article more "European" if you will. Neither ascribes to the thesis of an elderly friend of mine from Paris who, at some point in our countless and heated discussions, would always dismiss me with the quip that the EF was just the last bastion of the monarchist crowd (not my thesis obviously).

More to the point than my desire to laud the efforts of Fr. Smith would be my concern to foster the cause of mutual enrichment and maybe defend Pope Benedict from the accusation of liturgical pluralism, as intending something quite different from my pre-Conciliar altarboy anxieties at seeing a visiting Dominican in the sacristy waiting to celebrate Mass with that preparation of the chalice at the beginning which would invariably keep me off-balance right through the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. For as long as it takes, there can be no other goal but the recovery of the continuity of our Liturgical Tradition as the sine qua non for the organic development of living liturgy, as it has been always and everywhere.

Despite the rosiness of this scene, however, I must admit that I am plagued by the urgency of moving beyond or faster (without violence) than what Fr. Z. has wisely promoted on many fronts as a "brick by brick" recovery. Only the recovery (always and everywhere) of "orientation", of our liturgical east, will enable us to set forward the process of mutual enrichment. Fully aware as I am that the Ordinary Form of the Mass can be legitimately celebrated with the celebrant on one side of the altar and the people on the other, I can see the wisdom of nudging a few priests and bishops to move beyond "licit" to what is better and recover that which was from the beginning and which has never ceased to be in the Byzantine tradition. Ad Orientem: we pray together facing Christ, the Dawn from on High, Who comes to save us.

My own blogging record would have to read as an option for "try it you'll like it". I've generally cringed at restoring proper orientation by legislative fiat, but I am beginning to see that the orientation question may be for many priests and bishops a harder nut to crack than fostering truly sacred music or adding decorum to the Communion procession by restoring the Communion rail. I do not understand why there is so much resistance, but there is. Perhaps it would be as simple as offering a presbyterate a concrete workshop on the ars celebrandi and giving men the reassurance that while the Toastmaster's Club is right to foster eye contact in public speaking, it is not part of prayer, at least not of the Canon of the Mass and the preparation to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. 

The pushing impatience of the 20th Century liturgical movement has done us untold harm; the error is not to be repeated even for the sake of righting a wrong. Maybe we need just to continue to live in hope, confident in the power for enrichment of good example. Let us entrust this challenge too to the Lord and ask His powerful intervention in fostering proper orientation of priests and bishops when it comes to lifting their hearts to the Lord together with their people.



  1. I think I'm right about the facility of restoring decorum to the Communion procession:
    Fr. Thomas Kocik says:
    9 June 2013 at 11:12 am
    A few weeks ago, I had a Saturday afternoon wedding and decided not to remove the kneelers that had been placed at the head of the center aisle for the nuptial Mass. Just before the Saturday evening Mass, I informed the congregation that I wanted to leave the kneelers there for the convenience of those who prefer to receive Holy Communion kneeling. To my delight, nearly half the communicants did so. The kneelers will stay put… until I can restore the rail.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. It is more difficult to do that in parishes with large congregations - and therefore several EMHCs.

  3. I agree that workshops or something need to be done on ars celebrandi for ad orientem celebration; while the rubrics provide all that we need to know, it's such a big change for most that it helps to have live demonstrations and someone guiding the learning process.

    Also I wonder if there isn't a sort of mental block -- perhaps it could be called a "versus populum codependency" -- that needs to be gotten over for some. A priest friend of mine wrote this article for America Magazine after beginning to celebrate the EF following Summorum Pontificum, in which he talks about the "intense loneliness" and "solitude" that he experienced in celebrating ad orientem with a congregation for the first time.

    1. Very good! I know a lot of men who by nature need more direction and I guess workshops in the ars celebrandi would be of help. The issue is a fundamental hesitation and unwillingness, as far as the NO is concerned, to make some very simple adjustments and to follow the very clear and complete rubrics: liturgy of the word from the chair, Eucharistic Liturgy from the altar, turning 3 times to the congregation, post-communion prayer and blessing from the chair.

      I remember reading the America article you mention and not identifying at all with his sensation of "intense loneliness" or "solitude". The powerful silence of the TLM Low Mass is a culture shock after 40+ years of back and forth, but perhaps he should have started with the NO ad Orientem and properly celebrated. I really do think that Pope Benedict's option for mutual enrichment is born of wisdom and insight.

      I think I will try and post on these issues.
      God bless!

  4. If I might add something concerning the value of workshops:

    Since there are lacunae in the Novus Ordo rubrics, such a workshop would also be helpful for teaching certain gestures and postures in continuity with tradition -- the mutual enrichment of which you speak, I think. For example, there are the times in the EF when one does a full 360° turn instead of a 180°-and-back, etc. There is nothing that I can see preventing these details from being brought into one's ars celebrandi for the OF (ad orientem), except for the ignorance which is widespread in these matters since most of us were born after the OF was introduced and few of us have been trained in the EF.

    1. Mutual enrichment will have its impact on the OF as more people are exposed to the EF, both solemn and sung and Low Mass.

      I notice that many younger priests, exposed to the EF, have introduced in the OF some of the rubrical fine points gained from this healthy exposure.

      For now, the two are worlds apart and I would move gradually with daily Mass and depend upon well-trained masters of ceremony for Cathedral Liturgy.


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