Wednesday, April 12, 2006

a warning to “reformers of the reform”

One of the reasons why the liturgical reforms of 40 years back have not entirely “stuck” is that a younger generation of Catholics, for whom those reforms are a history lesson, cannot see them as a continuation of tradition so much as a radical departure therefrom. In other words, the liturgical reforms of the 60s and 70s are the cultural propriety of their advocates; now, we younger folk look back and say, “how on *earth* could they have thought getting rid of Latin was a good idea?”

We stand now at the threshold of a new reform, one that aims to bring that “reform” more in line with liturgical tradition. Many of us are eager to see the Pope give pronouncements on liturgy - folks over at TNLM are eager to see the Classical Latin rite officially liberated, while those of us who worship, by obligation or by choice, in the 1969 rite are eager to see reforms that put more emphasis on what the Vatican II folks probably had in mind - a mix of Latin and vernacular, liberal use of plainchant, etc.

And yet, we cannot deny the reality of something like “Here I Am, Lord” and the priest facing the people. If the coming reform is too sharp a return to liturgical tradition, we risk its effects being lost 40 or so years hence, in addition to alienating all the people who can’t stand not hearing Fr. Pleasant tell a joke before the end of Mass and who have an attachment to all the ways *he* says Mass. Otherwise, come 2046, someone will start saying, “hey, when my grandparents were kids the priest used to tell jokes - that would be so cool!”

“Here I Am, Lord” will go the way of the slide rule - it eventually will be discarded in favor of a better tool for worship. In the meantime, we must focus on creating those better tools.


At Sunday, April 16, 2006 6:43:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Bring back the sequences!!! ;P

Seriously, I think we neo-reformers need to listen carefully to our predecessors. The old Rite had its own abuses -- Masses with one priest, organist and one server being called a "high Mass" so that the priest could get paid more, for example. We also need to remember that even the pinnacle of the Roman rite high Mass, with its glorious Gregorian chant, was achieved partly at the expense of crushing several local variations of liturgy that had existed for hundreds of years.

What I'm especially worried about is that many of the neo-reformers are calling upon Rome to micro-manage local liturgical decisions by issuing specific proclamations: e.g. banning electric guitars. It's nice to have general liturgical guidelines, but asking the Pope to step in whenever there's a little spat sets up an atmosphere that stifles legitimate local variations, thus encouraging further stompage from on high.


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