Sunday, August 24, 2014

Among the "Secondary Missions of the Sacred Liturgy"

Liturgy in the Life of the Church.
Lambert Beauduin OSB.
translated by Virgil Michel OSB.
3rd edition. St. Michael's Abbey Press. 2002

On the rebound, as it were, I want to repeat my thanks to Dom Alcuin Reid and Co. and for a specific aspect of this year's summer course in liturgy in the south of France (La Garde-Freinet) and namely for the 2 books suggested for reading and discussion in the " Reading course in the 20th century liturgical movement", with as its basic texts:
- Lambert Beauduin OSB, Liturgy: The Life of the Church, 1st & 2nd eds., Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1926 & 1929; 3rd ed., St Michael’s Abbey Press, Farnborough 2002.
-  Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy (Milestones in Catholic Theology).

Although my scarce five days there did not permit participation in the reading course, I could reread Guardini before attending the summer school and picked up the little Beauduin book while there and started reading. Just today I could finish it after my holiday interruption. The French original came out exactly a century ago and strikes me as brighter and fresher than most anything one can pick up and read today. Both books serve to debunk many of the legends surrounding the 20th century liturgical movement, putting today's reader in direct contact and in not much more than pamphlet format (easy reads, both of them) with some of the best material to be read on one of that movement's principal goals, faithful to a priority established by Pope St. Pius X for the restoration of the Liturgy, one repeated by his successors to the cathedra of St. Peter and also enshrined in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, and namely, active participation in the liturgy.

Sadly, Beauduin's book still isn't available on Kindle (Guardini is!), so you may have to order it somewhere or take a trip to the south of France to get hold of it, but I would highly encourage the extra effort if not the trip.

I will leave the reader to discover the book's Part One: The Restoration of the Sacred Liturgy. Because of some of my other reading this summer, permit me a few words on Part Two: The Secondary Missions of the Sacred Liturgy, or better on two of them as listed by Fr. Beauduin: Chapter VII: The Liturgy and Prayer; Chapter VIII: The Liturgy and Preaching.

For the latter topic, let me share his definition of preaching from p. 81:

1. The teaching of Christian doctrine to the faithful by a consecrated minister in virtue of the hierarchical power, which he possesses over them either in his own right or by delegation, is called preaching. It is essentially the exercise of a spiritual power. The preacher has the right to instruct the faithful; the latter have the duty to learn from his word. 

Let it suffice to say that ignorance of this long-standing definition or denial of this tradition-anchored concept has cost us dearly in many ways more than I will take the time to recount in this blog post. Elsewhere in the book, Beauduin points out some of the evils which Pope St. Pius X sought to remedy through liturgical restoration: individualism, abandonment of prayer, deviations of piety, the secular spirit and lack of hierarchical life. This last one is linked in no small fashion to ignorance of the proper nature of preaching; it says much about the abuses which have crept into Liturgy and stubbornly perdure a hundred years after Beauduin published his book: lay preaching at Sunday Mass and the misguided notion that a certain fluency and a theology or philosophy diploma alone are license enough to preach and put "Father" in the front or back pew as he may prefer. Restoring to Church life the fullness of Catholic culture and teaching may be a daunting task, but it is still one which deserves our whole-hearted engagement. Renewed recognition of hierarchical authority in the Church and its role, as expressed in and through the Liturgy, seems to go without saying.

To shift to Chapter VII for a moment, Beauduin clearly enunciates much of what the tradition teaches about meditation and contemplation in the life of the baptized, referring (and rightly so I believe) to mental prayer simply as prayer. He quotes from Dom Festugiere, Essai du synthese:

"There are very pious men who do not draw any spiritual nourishment from this Liturgy, to which the precept of the Church constrains them, and they exclusively seek elsewhere for the food of their souls. The attitude may even become part of a veritable system of spirituality, adopted with deliberation and in all good faith. The divorce between 'social' prayer and 'individual' prayer is pronounced without appeal. The spiritual life is cut in two by a rigid separation. Evidently such a dualism places the religious experience of the persons succumbing to it in conditions that are quite different from those which a state of homogeneous spirituality would have produced." (pp. 73-74)

To my way of thinking, what Beauduin explained in reference to the Mass of the Ages ends up in our day being a major downfall of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, at least as it is celebrated today. Too often as it is carried through in an almost exclusively discursive fashion, giving the didactic an absolute priority, not only does Festugiere's "social"-"individual" dichotomy remain in play, but the Liturgy becomes less identifiable as prayer, in the classic, Catholic sense of the term. 

May many more bishops and priests be moved to examine how they celebrate the OF and come to amend their ways in conformity with the rubrics and a genuine spirit of prayer! Let the Liturgy more effectively nourish the people's meditation and contemplation of God's Face!


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