When Can Mutual Enrichment Begin? Gregory DiPippo

New Liturgical Movement

If this goes into effect, I can no longer go to the diocese Latin Mass. They need to leave it alone. Look at the fruits of their meddling. – littlepaddle

Friday, July 21, 2017

When Can Mutual Enrichment Begin?

Gregory DiPippo

Card. Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, recently had an article in the French magazine La Nef; in it, he discusses among other things the mutual enrichment of the two Forms of the Roman Rite which Pope Benedict proposed in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The text has not yet been made available on their website, but someone provided Fr Zuhlsdorf with an English translation, which he reads (with an introduction) in a podcast posted here.

Yesterday, the Catholic Herald published a commentary on the La Nef article by Fr Raymond de Souza, “Cardinal Sarah’s challenge to traditionalists.”

(Quoting the Cardinal) “ ‘Reform of the reform’ has become synonymous with dominance of one clan over the other, … This expression may then become
inappropriate, so I prefer to speak of liturgical reconciliation. In the Church, the Christian has no opponent!”

Reconciliation means movement from both “clans”, as it were. That is likely to encounter opposition from some, perhaps many, traditionalist quarters.

Sarah proposes that efforts be made to have a shared calendar and a shared lectionary, so that both the EF and OF would celebrate more feasts together and have the same Scripture readings at Mass.

That poses a twofold challenge. First, it requires the EF community to acknowledge that some aspects of the OF, particularly its reformed calendar and its lectionary – which includes far more Scripture than the EF one – are actual improvements and possible enrichments for the EF.

But others, not an insignificant part, consider the entire OF to be an impoverishment with little, if anything, enriching to offer. …

For example, EF devotees often speak about the simplified OF calendar as being too banal – “Ordinary Time” instead of Sundays after Pentecost – and consider it a mistake to have abandoned Passiontide and the octave of Pentecost. They are right about that, but thinning out the number of feast days of obscure saints and incorporating the more recently canonised is more controversial.

A shared lectionary would require a shared Sunday calendar at least, which could not be achieved without significant changes in both the current EF and OF calendars. And while there is wide consensus that the OF lectionary is superior, it is not universal, and any move towards it would encounter stiff opposition. Sarah knows of such positions, and warns us against treating the EF as a “museum object” locked forever in 1962.

The gist of this, therefore, is that the much of the discussion of “mutual enrichment” has really been about unilateral enrichment, the idea that the customs of the EF can obviously enrich the OF in a variety of ways, (he specifically cites ad orientem celebration, greater use of Latin, and more silence, a subject near and dear to His Eminence’s heart) but that the OF brings little or nothing to the table for enrichment of the EF. The challenge to traditionalists would therefore be to accept certain aspects of the OF that can indeed enrich the EF.

Today, Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society published, also on the Catholic Herald, a reply, “Why Cardinal Sarah’s liturgical ‘reconciliation’ plan won’t work.” Painful as this is to write, I cannot help but agree with Shaw when he say

(Card. Sarah’s) reasons are confusing, but his proposals are unworkable. … (he) explains: ‘ “Reform of the reform” has become synonymous with dominance of one clan over the other.’ He prefers the phrase ‘liturgical reconciliation’.

The ‘Reform of the Reform’ is a movement among practitioners of the Ordinary Form, who argue over Latin, chant, the direction of worship, altar girls, and so on. It is one of the advantages of the Extraordinary Form that we don’t have to get into these battles. Cardinal Sarah, however, seems to want to solve the endless squabbling by bringing the older Mass into the equation as well.

I would to add some observations of my own to what Dr Shaw goes on to say about the very real practical difficulties of “reconciling” the two features to which His Eminence and Fr de Souza refer. First, I must add that I wholeheartedly concur with him when he concludes by saying that “(a)bove all I would like to suggest that the Church has nothing to fear from a varied liturgical landscape … Vatican II reassured us on this point (Unitatis redintegratio 17): ‘…from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting.’

In consideration of the calendar, an important distinction must first be made, one which Fr de Souza blurs in talking about the octave of Pentecost and “obscure Saints” at the same time. Both Forms of the Roman Rite have within them two calendars, the Temporal and the Sanctoral. The difference between the two calendars of Saints is far less important than the difference between the two Temporal cycles. The Church has always had varying calendars of the Saints; as I noted in this article from 2011, after Pope St Pius X’s Breviary reform, which also affected local calendars in many regards, St Peter’s Basilica still kept almost sixty feasts which were not on the General Calendar of the Roman Rite.

The Temporal cycle, on the other hand, was one of the stablest parts of the Roman Rite throughout its long and varied history. There are few notable differences between the features of it attested in the oldest Roman lectionaries and sacramentaries in the seventh and eighth centuries, and that of the Missal of St Pius V; those which do exist consist almost entirely of the addition of feasts such as Corpus Christi. It hardly needs repeating that the fathers of Vatican II did not in any way ask for or envision the drastic mutilation of the Temporal perpetrated by the post-Conciliar reformers.
This brings us to the second point, regarding the lectionary. Since very few feasts are allowed precedence over a Sunday, the average Sunday Mass goer encounters the Temporal part of it much more than the Sanctoral part. Joseph Shaw is also absolutely correct to note that because the two lectionaries are based on two different Temporal cycles, they are therefore incompatible. The integration of either one into the other is simply impossible without damaging it beyond repair; I cannot imagine that those who truly love either Form of the Roman Rite want that to happen. (This does not even begin to address the equally important questions of the number of readings and the three-year vs. one-year cycle.)

I also cannot imagine why Fr de Souza writes that “there is wide consensus that the OF lectionary is superior,” when almost every feature of it has been argued against and contested from every point of view. The new lectionary’s creators were thoroughly convinced that they were restoring an ancient custom of the Roman Rite when they introduced the three-reading system for Sundays and solemnities; this is now known to be completely untenable. Many years ago, I attended a lecture by the grand doyen of liberal Biblical scholars, Fr Raymond Brown, on the Epistles of St Paul. He pointed out that in Ordinary Time, the first reading is chosen in relation to the Gospel, while the Epistles run between them in broadly canonical order, and are not chosen in reference to them; the new lectionary therefore almost guarantees that priests will rarely preach on the writings of St Paul.

Even if one regards the new calendar and lectionary as unmitigated triumphs in every way, we simply cannot dismiss as mere partisanship the question of why the phrase “Reform of the Reform” came into existence in the first place. Pope Benedict XVI himself famously described the current state of the liturgy as a “sad ruin,” compared both to what it had been before the Council, and what the most recent ecumenical Council wanted it to be. A great deal of progress has been made to improving the liturgy, but much of it by way of eliminating abuses which ought never to have been inflicted on the faithful in the first place, much less tolerated for a single day. Exemplary celebrations of the OF Mass, such as those of St Agnes in Minneapolis-St Paul or the London Oratory, are extremely rare. It is pointless to deny that many bishops and religious superiors would not tolerate attempts by their clergy to emulate the practices of such churches. Whole nations remain untouched by this progress; model celebrations of the Ordinary Form of the Mass remain vanishingly rare in Italy, for example.

Fortunately, when Pope Benedict called for “mutual enrichment” of the two Forms, he established no criteria for determining the conditions under which it might take place. I hazard to suggest two such conditions. One would be to put the OF house in order by purging out its many scholarly falsehoods, and deleterious practices like allowing the celebrant to choose the Eucharistic prayer. The other would be to clock in a couple of centuries in which even a substantial minority of the faithful can attend a Mass celebrated according to the mind of the Fathers of Vatican II.

Get AQ Email Updates

Leave a Reply