Saturday, 9 January 2010

Reform of the Reform

From the Blog "Paix Liturgique"

The Reform of the Reform

The increasing availability of Msgr Nicola Bux’s book The Reform of Benedict XVI [1] is an opportunity for us to depart somewhat from our usual focus on the application of the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” and to take stock of the “reform of the reform” that the Holy Pontiff has initiated in liturgy. It is also the occasion to consider what sort of relationship will slowly emerge between the two forms of the Roman liturgy.

The first aim of the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” is clear: to make it possible for the traditional Mass to be celebrated in every parish where it is requested. The MP will only truly be applied when we shall see the ten o’clock Sunday Mass celebrated in the ordinary form and the eleven o’clock Mass in the extraordinary form, or the reverse, in the cathedrals of Dublin or Detroit, as well as in the cathedrals of Boise or Aberdeen. In a word: as far as the MP’s application is concerned, we are still on the starting line.

A – The “Reform of the Reform” Project
The second aim of the MP, though implicit, is nonetheless obvious because of all that Cardinal Ratzinger has said on the subject in the past and because of the wish expressed in the 2007 text: a “mutual enrichment” of the two forms, which from that point coexist officially. Enrichment: everybody knows that the more obviously “rich” form is that which benefits from an uninterrupted, ten-centuries long tradition (or even seventeen-centuries long for its essential part, the canon), and whose doctrinal and ritual value is at least similar to that of the other great Catholic liturgies. In his book, Nicola Bux writes: “Comparative studies demonstrate that the Roman liturgy in its preconciliar form was far closer to the Oriental liturgy than is the current liturgy.” This is so much the case that no one can seriously contemplate denying that the form that needs to be enriched/transformed first and foremost is the liturgy that was hastily contrived forty years ago. Indeed, as Nicola Bux points out, “[one] has to admit that the Mass of Paul VI is far from containing all that is found in the missal of Saint Pius V.”

It has thus become customary to call “reform of the reform” this project of enrichment/transformation of Paul VI’s reform with a view to making it more traditional in content and form. Although it would be an exaggeration to say that the reform of the reform is only on the order of a pious wish, one must nevertheless fully understand that it is only—somewhat like the extraordinary form—at its beginnings.

Two preliminary observations about this future process come to mind:

1. The reform of the reform, as the expression indicates, concerns only the reform of Paul VI. It in no way involves an alleged “parallel” transformation of the traditional form of the rite. There is no comparison between the two forms in their relation to tradition or in their ritual structure. Fiddling with the traditional rite would truly sink it and everyone would come away a loser: the reform of the reform would see its backbone collapse. In any event, Cardinal Ratzinger has already clearly and prudently rejected the idea. [2]

2. Add to this that the reform of the reform does not seek to implement a series of reforms through laws and decrees with a view to establishing a third missal halfway between the Tridentine missal and the new one (not to mention that the latter is much more of an indefinite, diverse and open-ended collection than a “missal” in the traditional sense). Cardinal Ratzinger in the past, Pope Benedict XVI today, is averse to implementing a process of authoritarian and continual reforms akin—though in reverse—to what was done under the reform of Paul VI. The point is rather to undertake a gradual narrowing of the gap, the missal of Paul VI becoming progressively closer to the traditional missal. The new liturgy’s characteristic of being malleable at will allows this to occur effortlessly: its non-normative character paradoxically permits it to be infused with the traditional norm it lacks. One may legitimately wonder whether, at the end of the process, it will preserve any interest besides that of serving as a steppingstone to the traditional liturgy...

B – The book by Nicola Bux
The import of this book’s publication is due first of all to its author’s stature. Msgr Nicola Bux, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology at the Ecumenical-Patristic Institute of Theology of Bari in Italy, is a consultor for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, consultor too for the Bureau of Liturgical Celebrations for the Supreme Pontiff, advisor to the journal Communio, author of many books (notably Il Signore dei Misteri. Eucaristia e relativismo—The Lord of Mysteries: Eucharist and Relativism [Siena: Cantagalli, 2005]) and of many articles (e.g. “À soixante ans de l’encyclique Mediator Dei de Pie XII, débattre sereinement sur la liturgie”—“Sixty Years After Pius XII’s Encyclical Mediator Dei. On the Liturgy: A Debate Without Prejudice,” Osservatore Romano, 18 November 2007). And he is one of the most influential partisans of the reform of Paul VI’s reform.

Others deserve to be named in his company, such as Fr. Alcuin Reid (The Organic Development of the Liturgy [Saint Michael’s Abbey Press, 2004]), Fr. U. Michael Lang (Turning Towards the Lord. Orientation in Liturgical Prayer [Ignatius Press, 2004]), Msgr Nicola Giampietro (who published the memoirs of Cardinal Antonelli, Apoc 2004), Bishop Athanasius Schneider (Dominus est. It Is the Lord [Newman House Press, 2009]), Fr. Aidan Nichols (Looking At the Liturgy : a Critical View Of Its Contemporary Form [Ignatius Press, 1996]), and Dom Mauro Gagliardi (Liturgia, Fonte di Vita [Fede&Cultura, 2009]), not to mention the initiatives promoted by Father Manelli and the Franciscans of the Immaculate and, of course, the daily action of such important prelates as Archbishop Ranjith, Archbishop Burke, Cardinal Cañizares, et al.

Msgr Bux’s book also benefits from three forewords: one by the famous Italian journalist Vittorio Messori (author of the Ratzinger Report, an interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger) for the Italian edition; one by Marc Aillet, bishop of Bayonne, for the French edition; another by the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship himself, Cardinal Cañizares, for the Spanish edition.

For Nicola Bux, the crisis that wounded the Roman liturgy is due to its no longer being centered upon God and his adoration, but on people and the community. “At the beginning is adoration, and therefore that is where God is (...) The Church stems from adoration, from the mission of glorifying God,” Joseph Ratzinger had written on this subject. The crisis in liturgy begins the moment it ceases to be an adoration, when it is reduced to the celebration of a specific community in which priests and bishops, instead of being ministers, that is, servants, become “leaders”. This is why today “people are requesting more and more respect to ensure a private space of silence, with a view to an intimate faith participation in the sacred mysteries.”

The order of the day, then, is once again to teach a clergy wounded in its ritual praxis and consciousness that liturgy is sacred and divine, that it comes down from above as does the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem in the Apocalypse. “In this connection, there ought to be efforts made to find out why, despite appearances, the vernacular is at the end of the day unsuccessful in making the liturgy understandable.” The priest needs to be taught once again how to carry out the holy mysteries in persona Christi, in the Church, as its minister, and not as the coordinator of an assembly that is closed in on itself, which is what he has become.

C – The Reform Of the Reform Project:
Leading By Example Rather Than By Legislative Texts

Despite the seriousness of the conclusion reached by Msgr Bux in particular and by the “Pope’s men” in general—a conclusion that is in keeping with the Holy Father’s thinking in the matter—none of them wants laws and decrees designed to overturn everything in an authoritarian manner, as did those of the Bugnini era. Even though the Church today is quite ill, liturgically speaking, they prefer to act with the sweet medicine of example: the Supreme Pontiff’s example in the first place, then that of those bishops who will be willing to show the example as he does.

And so Benedict XVI multiplies corrective nudges that seem only to affect trifling matters, to be sure; after all, the liturgy is made up only of a collection of details: the very dignified manner of pontifical celebrations; the beauty of the liturgical vestments from St. Peter’s sacristy, which the pontifical master of ceremonies, Msgr Guido Marini, is using once more; the placement of large candlesticks on the altar, which diminish the theatrical effect of facing the people; above all, the distribution of Communion on the tongue, kneeling.

It is up to the bishops to follow suit in their liturgical celebrations. It is a matter of public knowledge that Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, one of Italy’s theologically solid bishops, has recently decided in an April 27, 2009 ruling that “in view of the frequency with which irreverent attitudes are reported in the act of receiving the Eucharist,” he was deciding “that from this day forward, in the metropolitan church of San Pietro, in the basilica of San Petronio and in the shrine of the BVM of San Luca in Bologna, the faithful are to receive the Consecrated Bread only from the hands of a minister directly onto the tongue.”

For their part both Bishop Schneider and Dom Mauro Gagliardi [3] ask for a strong reminder that the “normal” way is that of Communion in the mouth, and that Communion in the hand is only a “tolerated” way, even though it has remained the most widespread way for a good long time. Such an encouragement is very important for the rebirth of faith in the real presence. Respect for the divine and for the holy is expressed through signs of reverence, again according to Msgr Bux.

Yet, other points too are constantly brought up by the partisans of the reform of the reform; to wit:
—1. Encouragement to reduce the number of concelebrants, and even of concelebrations: “When it [concelebration] becomes to frequent, the mediating function of each priest as such is obscured.”
—2. Slow reduction of the manifold optional parts of the Mass (particularly the Eucharistic prayers, some of which present doctrinal problems).
—3. Reintroduction of elements of the extraordinary form that encourage the sense of the sacred and of adoration, such as genuflections, kisses on the altar, the very ancient signs of the cross in the Canon: “The sacred is also expressed in signs of the cross and genuflections” (N. Bux).
—4. And much else besides: a reminder that the kiss of peace is a sacred action and not a manifestation of middle-class civility; the massive reintroduction of the liturgical language that is Latin, etc.

Lastly, and above all, one mustn’t overlook the encouragement given to the priest to celebrate facing the Lord, at least during the offertory and the Eucharistic prayer. “The most visible indicator of the liturgical reform,” says Msgr Bux, “was the change in the priest’s position with respect to the people.” In light of these words, one can legitimately reckon the beginning of the reform of the reform from the time when the Pope and the bishops will commonly celebrate towards the Lord.

D – The Spearhead of the Reform of the Reform Project
In his book, Nicola Bux notes that the key of the new liturgy as it left the offices of Bugnini—the author of the liturgical reform—is adaptation to the world. This is the point on which Bux’s thinking, in unison with that of the reform of the reform partisans, is at its most radical: the essence of Catholic liturgy is to be “as a permanent critique that the Church addresses to the world, while the world continually seeks to convince her to belong to it.” Therefore one must bear in mind that revolution is not reform: “the reform cannot be understood as a reconstruction attempt according to the tastes of a specific time.”

That is why Msgr Bux quotes at length, and comments on, the “Ottaviani Intervention” published soon after the Council by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci. “They deplored,” he recalls in approval of the two Italian cardinals, “the absence of the normal finality of the Mass, that is to say, propitiatory sacrifice.” Indeed it would take a blind man not to notice that the new rite of the Mass has a de facto effect of immanentizing the Christian message: the doctrine of propitiatory sacrifice, the adoration of the Real Presence of Christ, the specificity of the hierarchical priesthood and generally the sacred character of the Eucharistic celebration are expressed in a far less tangible way than in the traditional rite. That is why attempts to reintroduce the prayers that best express its sacrificial value (see, e.g., the book amounting to a manifesto along these lines by Fr. Paul Tirot, OSB: Histoire des prières d’offertoire dans la liturgie romaine du VIIe au XVIe siècle—History of the Offertory Prayers in the Roman Liturgy From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century [Edizione Liturgiche, 1985]) into the new Missal are on the rise today.

If, therefore, there is a point on which one can expect legislation to promote the reform of the reform project, it is certainly this: the possibility of introducing the traditional Roman Offertory prayers into the ordinary celebration.

In sum, if this plan were truly to take shape, the inverse situation to what happened between 1965 and 1969 might eventually develop: to that time of brutal transformation when everything changed in a ‘progressive’ direction might correspond a period of slow evolution during which everything would change in a resacralizing direction.

Such an implementation of the reform of the reform would thus be truly reformative, in the traditional (and quite demanding!) sense of the term ‘reform’. It would proceed by ‘contamination’, to use a term familiar to historians of the liturgy when they mean to speak of one liturgy’s influence over another. In this case, it would be that of the traditional liturgy on the new.

In fact, one might even claim that the extraordinary form is perhaps the only chance to save the ordinary form in the long term, precisely by enabling it to become less and less ordinary. It might then become a step by which to reach the extraordinary liturgy. In any event, it would in no way compete with the extraordinary form, but would rather provide it with a far more favorable environment for its dissemination and its affirmation as the official form of reference.

[1] Until an English version is published, Msgr Bux’s book is available in its original version from its Italian publisher, Piemme.

[2] During the 2001 liturgical days of Fontgombault, Cardinal Ratzinger had stated that there was no question, doubtless for a long time, of touching the Tridentine missal, essentially because its presence and life today could serve as a goad to an evolution of the new missal. This “line” is today clearly that of the Congregation for Divine Worship and of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, which hold that the introduction of the new lectionary into the traditional rite is impossible, for example. The only adjustment of the traditional rite that can be envisioned, according to the Roman liturgists, might be the introduction of a few new prefaces.

[3] Interview granted to on December 21, 2009.

1 comment:

Pascendi said...


Excellent post.

As I see it, there are three three strains: 1) the "Tridentine" Liturgy; 2) the Benedictine Reform (we see it being demonstrated in Rome); and 3) the Novus Ordo (e.g. the recent episcopal consecration in London, Ont - which can be viewed on S + L).

Having just viewed the latter, the differences between it and Benedictine Reform really are quite staggering. A comparison need only be made between this consecration and the consecration of new bishops late last Fall by the Cardinal, Secretary of State.

The lack of distribution of Holy Communion in the Traditional manner was saddening. A strange non-traditional Litany of the Saints was sung. The laity's bringing up of the new bishop's mitre and Staff was bizarre. Are we to imply from this some sort of lay "approval" ? Granted, they were conferred by the consecrating bishop, but the subtle hints remain as to possible (desired) significance.

Musically, one should expect much more from a university town. Is the diocese unable to put together a solid 20 voice choir ?

Barring the few jewels that we all know and love, Canada has a long way to go before she even
approaches the wishes of Pope Benedict.