Thursday, September 4, 2014

Almost 10 Years Make a Difference

Mass And Modernity.
Robinson, Fr. Jonathan. 
Ignatius Press, 2005. 
Kindle Edition (2010-11-19).

"This book is about the reform of the worship of the Catholic Church undertaken after the Second Vatican Council. The fruits of that reform have often been apathy, bitterness, and triviality. It may be true that apathy, bitterness, and triviality are not the whole story, but they are indisputably prominent and help to create a situation whose gravity, it seems to me, is not sufficiently understood. The present liturgical situation matters. It matters not only for the internal or domestic health of the Church, but also for the effectiveness of her mission in the modern world." (Kindle Locations 98-101)

I added the Ignatius Press copyright year to the heading as it explains much about the author's attitude toward the usus antiquior. That being said, I think the first two parts of the book make an important contribution to the whole discussion of where we are and where we should be in matters liturgical. Novus Ordo liturgy as practiced sadly does constitute a capitulation to the non-spirit of the times, as Fr. Robinson eloquently articulates.
"Modernity itself, however, is a mind-set and not an all-encompassing environment. There is nothing, or should be nothing, in the Christian’s concern for the modern world that requires accepting this mind-set. Yet many in the Church have accepted modernity in their effort to speak to the modern world, and I argue here that not nearly enough attention has been given to trying to disentangle the complex of ideas and half-formulated convictions that constitute this mindset, which is in fact inimical to Christianity. The result of trying to adapt the liturgy to meet the perceived needs of the world from the perspective of modernity weakens, not strengthens, the Church."  (Kindle Locations 104-108).
No doubt I would do Fr. Robinson a disservice if I were to attempt to summarize the first two parts of his book. I recommend them highly even if the significance of trotting out Flannery O'Connor as his banner for Part One and Iris Murdoch for Part Two, well, it escapes me altogether. I think there is enough material without them for pronouncing the Enlightenment conspiracy against God and Catholic Faith as toxic, dead and thoroughly burialable.
Back to my observation about the 2005 copyright! I would hope that in the intervening ten years that Fr. Robinson has not stopped learning and growing. His arguments against a restoration of the Mass of the Ages have been significantly undermined by the mutual enrichment which has been going on and continues. Read Part Three, if you will, as terribly dated. Reforming the OF with EF tweaks really runs contrary to Father's principles and seems to be a desperate choice born out of his own capitulation to the "mindset". Enough solid authors out there point out that this would not be the first restoration of the liturgy, even if it must be the most radical on record. I really cannot see, from Fr. Robinson's premises, how he can justify simply reforming the reformed liturgy. Choosing a reset point and getting busy about setting forth the organic development of the liturgy is urgently required.
That being said, I like most everything Father says in favor of restoring worship ad Orientem. His thoughts on the lectionary (liturgical readings vs. lectio divina) carry significant weight and argue for a return to the 1962 lectionary.
Seeing the progress made on the path of mutual enrichment over these ten years since Fr. Robinson wrote, I would encourage men and women of good will to live in hope of soon seeing the essential restoration of the Roman Rite. At the same time I would lovingly encourage the faint-hearted and foot-draggers to get on board.
If I could quote me from my Summer School lecture in France on July 8:
"While at this point in time placing a deadline for the restoration might be unreasonable and thus putting an end to the mutual enrichment chapter, I think we should avoid the terminology “weeds and wheat growing together until the harvest”. The advances made over the last years give me reason to hope that the mutual enrichment chapter will sooner and not later bear abundant fruit.
(Another little aside on my part!) In line with more ancient models of the liturgical development of the Roman Rite within the chorus of the various rites of the Western Church, I would love to be able to convince the Holy Father and his closest collaborators to produce and implement a full Roman Ritual for St. Peter’s and the Stational Churches of the Eternal City. Adding to the printed edition of these books the necessary provisos for how these same rites might be celebrated in Latin outside of Rome, there could very well be a trickledown effect from bishops on ad Limina visit taking the books home for their cathedrals. In terms of mutual enrichment, this is one of my fervent prayers: that the Pope would promulgate for the City of Rome, for the Cappella Papale, a much more antiquior, if you will, novus ordo."

One more quote from "Mass and Modernity" to close:

"At this point the supporters of the new arrangements usually introduce the idea of secularization and say that the falling off of attendance at Mass has little if anything to do with the liturgical changes but everything to do with the fact that we live in a world in which religious language and religious symbols have become largely meaningless. It follows from this, although it is not often explicitly said, that the dramatic drop in the numbers of those practicing their faith would have happened anyway.
"It is hard to refute arguments about contra-factual conditionals. That is, if someone wants to say that if the liturgical changes had not taken place, then the situation today would be the same, it is difficult to know what sort of argument could possibly lead him to change his mind." (Kindle Locations 304-310). 
In English when we sing Veni, Sancte Spiritus, we use the expression "melt the frozen, warm the chill..." Yes, we live in hope and we pray!

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