Monday, 16 March 2015

At the Closing of the Council: Organic Developments the Concilium Should Have Implemented

The most important aim of the early Liturgical Movement was not the reform of the Liturgy to suit the people, but of the people to suit the Liturgy. This would mean, as St Paul exhorts the Romans, to "not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind," (Romans 12:2) and is therefore not a task to be treated lightly. As the Liturgical Movement grew and evolved, only then did the aims shift towards a more substantial reform of the liturgy itself.

I contend, together with Dom Reid in his book The Organic Development of the Liturgy which I have been reading, that the ideology that had captured the mind of prominent liturgists in the lead up to the Second Vatican Council and that held vogue during the Concilium which produced the Missal of Pope VI, now the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, was an unhealthy mix of antiquarianism and twisted pastoral concern. What I consider to have happened is this: a new rite of Mass was produced to suit the perceived needs of contemporary society by piecing together forms which were considered ancient enough, usually from the Patristic era, both Eastern and Western. The artificial collage of liturgical elements produced is a break from the received liturgical Tradition, and in my opinion has been liturgically disastrous since its introduction.

I will not try and defend here the fundamental premise that the only suitable reforms and developments of the Liturgy are those which follow organically from the objective liturgical Tradition, but I will briefly enunciate what that means. As Cardinal Ratzinger noted in his review of Reid's work:

"Between [...] the radical reformers and their radical opponents, the voices of those people who regard the Liturgy as something living, and thus as growing and renewing itself both in its reception and in its finished form, are often lost. These latter, however, basing this on the same argument, insist that growth is not possible unless the Liturgy's identity is preserved, and further emphasize that proper development is only possible if careful attention is paid to the inner structural logic of this "organism": Just as a gardener cares for a living plant as it develops, with due attention to the power of growth and life within the plant, and the rules it obeys, so the Church ought to give reverent care to the Liturgy through the ages, distinguishing actions that are helpful and healing from those that are violent and destructive."

So an organic development is one which is in line with the Liturgy's identity, authentically preserving its character, which will sometimes mean altering the Liturgy but never in an overly dramatic way. Any complete overhaul of the Liturgy cannot be considered organic and is consequently to be rejected. Whether one thinks it is the best change since Christ first changed the bread into his own Body at the Last Supper or a catastrophic change, the Missal of Paul VI is undeniably not an organic development.

I think an interesting question to consider is what would count as organic development in light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Liturgy. The Dogmatic Constitution on Sacred Liturgy produced by the Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, certainly gave mandate to make some reforms to the Liturgy. What would reforms true to the nature of the Liturgy have been? Taking the Mass as it stood in 1962, I consider the following modest proposals to cover the requisite bases:

1. Reform of the Church's liturgical calendar such that the temporal or seasonal calendar has marked pre-eminence over the sanctoral (saints) calendar. This would not mean a complete overhaul of the liturgical calendar, but mainly a reform of the rubrics which specify how the two calendars would interact.

2. The participation of the faithful in the responses normally said only by the altar servers during the fore-Mass and Mass. I think an abbreviation of the prayers at the foot of the altar by having only one Confiteor said by the celebrant, altar servers and faithful is appropriate, although it is more important that the congregation have a Confiteor than that there only be one. This is in part a development covered by the emergence of the Missa dialogata.

3. Removing the need of the priest to repeat the sections of the Mass sung or said by the faithful, particularly the Ordinary (Kyrie, Credo, Gloria, Agnus Dei...) and readings, if done by a lector.

4. The Propers of a Mass should have the option of being prayed in the vernacular, particularly at a Missa lecta. These are the Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, Offertory, Secrets, Communion verse and Postcommunion. This restores them to them to their intended place, particularly consonant with the fact that all these (except the Secret, which can remain in Latin) are said aloud precisely so that they are intelligible to the faithful. The introduction of the vernacular for these is an authentic development of liturgical Tradition as it is a reform that restores these parts to their original intelligibility. The problem of adapting the vernacular to chant means that it is likely that a Missa cantata or Missa solemnis will retain the chanted Latin propers, but the option should remain of making some adaptation as is required.

5. The fore-Mass (Liturgy of the Word, Mass of the Catachumens) should be celebrated from the chair, as in pontifical Masses. This is a return to the fore-Mass's original place, which had been changed because of how the low Mass was developed for private Masses.

6. The more extensive use and preaching of Scripture, which would mean a slight amplification of the fore-Mass, but more importantly a re-structuring of the reading cycle, which I am unsure of how to do in an organic manner, given the venerable antiquity of the Roman lectionary.

7. Some rites lost in history could be returned in a reverent manner, including the Prayer of the Faithful and the Offertory procession.

8. Though I am weary of touching an artifact so old and venerable as the Roman canon, I am inclined to agree with Fr Brian Harrison when he said:

"I would suggest two changes to emphasise the role of the Holy Spirit at those key moments of the Eucharistic Prayer, the epiclesis, or invocation of the Spirit over the gifts, and the doxology. First, the words Spiritus Sancti virtute (“by the power of the Holy Spirit”) could well be inserted into the epiclesis prayer which begins Quam oblationem after the word quaesumus; and secondly, the entire doxology (which begins, “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit”) could be given greater emphasis by saying or singing it aloud, as in the new rite, while elevating the chalice and paten, as an invitation for the people to respond with the final “Amen.” The contrast between this moment and the preceding silence of the rest of the Canon would provide a beautiful and dramatic consummation to the majesty of the Eucharistic Prayer." (Address to the St. Thomas Aquinas Society Eucharistic Conference, Colorado Springs, March 26, 1995)

9. Restoring the Ite, missa est to its place at the end of the Mass, and the abolition of the Leonine prayers in public Masses as well as the Last Gospel being either brought before the Ite or returned to private recitation by the priest.

If we are to include what I consider to be duplicated or excessive sections, I would mention the sentence added at the end of the Munda cor meum (the prayer before the proclamation of the Gospel) as one that could be removed as a repetition of what has just been prayed for, or the irrelevant later verses of the Lavabo psalm (Ps. 25) during the Offertory, which goes for longer than is required anyway. It may be possible to re-introduce some of the prefaces which were suppressed in history. But these would be relatively minor changes to the prayers of the Mass.


It is clear that some of these changes were made with the introduction of the Missal of Paul VI. Yet, whilst I have listed a number of changes, what this might cloud is how much would remain the same: almost everything. Using a one of the common booklet of the 1962 missal for usage of the faithful in this reformed Mass would be fairly straightforward. Latin has been retained for almost everything except the changing parts of the Mass. The Canon is still silent. Mass is ad orientum. The prayers are the same.

Not only do I consider these changes essentially the sum of what Sacrosanctum Concilium called for, I consider that these reforms would be all that was required to bridge the gap between priest and congregation which had so much been decried. The task would then continue to be what it has always been: for the entire People of God to be elevated and transformed in conformity to the Divine Liturgy, and ultimately, to God himself.