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 Café 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.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI