Saturday, September 12, 2015

Healthily Apocalyptic?

Over at Roman Catholic Man, Fr. Richard Heilman has an article which lays the term of "desacralization" at the door of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Father does not criticize the OF as such, but according to the maxim by their fruits you shall know them rather proceeds to contrast the EF of a serious tenor with the OF as generally quite casual, at best, in its approach to the worship of God. He gets sort of ultimate or apocalyptic if you will in quoting the passage from Luke 10:23-28, which concludes with the words of Jesus: “ this and you will live”. He closes with Fr. Z's battle cry: SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD!

I just read the transcript of Peter Kwasniewski's recent lecture at Steubenville entitled “The Old Mass and the New Evangelization: Beyond the Long Winter of Rationalism” . Dr. Kwasniewski also argues from the same by their fruits you shall know them for the promotion of the EF as the surest path to recovery of our liturgical integrity and major health for the Roman Catholic Church.

No doubt my own reflections on the topic (cf. Liturgy Lectures, Intro, Part One, Part Two: here) are indeed those of no more than a dilettante, who has only his personal reading, prayer life and years of reflection on his side. Be that as it may, though arguments from "seriousness" or "beauty" certainly hold their weight and may even win the day and result in that restoration, which would be a sine qua non for healing the rupture and setting forth the organic development of the Roman Rite, I am not to be dissuaded from holding that the principal downfall of the OF is all its options, which continue to impress one with the arbitrary nature of what the "reformers" did or produced following the Second Vatican Council, whether or not at the behest of the Council Fathers themselves with the Pope.

"Beauty" really is in the eye of the beholder and, as I have seen and read elsewhere, one can question the aesthetics of those who reject the cool elegance of Jugendstil or Beuroner art or disdain even Gothic, in favor of the Baroque and Rococo. I remember rather cultured people from my youth, who had no time for our cathedral in Sioux Falls, and people today overwhelmed with emotion, who see it for the first time as restored by Duncan Stroik. Maybe it is me, but overall and for every day and every poor little regular parish, I find the argument for beauty less decisive than Fr. Heilman's appeal to "seriousness". The problem comes with shedding light on the full spectrum of Catholic life and making earnest appeal to the authority of our "little doctor", St. Therese of Lisieux, in defense of kitsch, saying "OK, here but no farther..." Seriousness becomes almost as subjective as beauty and one has to wonder whether some of the young priests who celebrate according to the EF, without experiential knowledge of what was, are serving the cause of "mutual enrichment" and hence the possibility of healing the rupture and setting forth the tradition in all its glory. [I asked an authority once about the restoration and all the kissing of hands, birettas, cruets,etc. which I absolutely cannot recall as an altarboy before the Council. It would seem such was done in Europe, but never made it beyond seminary practice in the U.S. at least not in the upper Midwest]

When it comes to the two great commands of love of God and neighbor, I think the words of Jesus: “ this and you will live” should indeed sound with all their apocalyptic force. But I guess you could say that the "trumpets of the Last Day" just don't sound for me when somebody says that this or that is not serious or not beautiful enough. I'd love to have a hand at Papal Liturgy for the major basilicas of Rome and the stational churches, at eliminating all the options and doing a new 1962 or pre-Holy Week reform missal for the Bishop of Rome. This time it wouldn't be the mendicant friars to carry it to the ends of the earth and prepare a new "Trent", but in our mobile society, perhaps pilgrims, impressed by what they see just might bring home a gift from the Tipografia Vaticana

Seriousness? Yes! Beauty? Well, yes! By their fruits...? Of course! But in all gentleness and humility, let us ask bishops and priests, especially seminary faculty, to stop kicking against the goad and grant space and heart for mutual enrichment! And let the trumpets sound!


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