Thursday, November 29, 2007

Custom and Dogma in Liturgy

Long article, worth reading here, reporting on a talk by Fr. J. Saward, an Oxford scholar (ex-Episcopalian priest)

An excerpt or two:

It is not just the propositional statements of the Church which, when they have the appropriate degree of authority, can be relied upon as guided and guaranteed by the Holy Ghost, but the customs of the Church. What is practised for long ages by the most universally revered authorities cannot suddenly be said to be defective. This is exactly the point made repeatedly by Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger in his books, and which is repeated clearly by Papa Ratzinger in his Letter to Bishops accompanying the MP. What was holy yesterday cannot be harmful today; indeed, the denial of this principle ‘calls the very existence of the Church into question’ (Feast of Faith). It is for this reason that it must be understood that the previous liturgical tradition was never abrogated. This is a dogmatic matter, and in making this dogmatic point the Holy Father is doing what he always does in the exercise of his office, which is guarding the Faith.

A problem encountered in the Pauline Use is discussed:

...many of the orations of the 1962 Missal are addressed to the Second Person of the Trinity, and two prayers, the Suscipe, sancta Trinitas at the Offertory and the Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitase are addressed to the whole Trinity, despite the fact that the majority of the orations and other prayers use the familiar form of addressing the Father through the Son in the Holy Ghost. This twofold pattern of liturgical prayer reflects and makes manifest the Catholic dogma of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. The 1970 Missal removes almost all of the orations addressed to the incarnate Son and both of the prayers addressed to the whole Trinity. These amputations from the liturgy open the way to misunderstanding. Participants in the liturgy are no longer reminded of the co-equality and consubstantiality of the Persons of the Trinity. This is not a merely theoretical point since a whole series of Trinitarian and Christological errors, tending to the denial of Christ’s Divine nature and co-equality with the Father, have been condemned or censured by the Holy See in recent decades (cf the cases of Edward Schillebeeckx OP and, more recently, of Roger Haight SJ).

...A fourth example is the ceremonial of the Mass, such as the signs of the cross, so many of which have been suppressed in the 1970 Missal. These actions had in the past given rise to a whole genre of spiritual commentaries on the Mass, which assigned dogmatic meanings to the rituals with great consistency. Many saints, including St Thomas Aquinas, contributed to this literature, and took these signs extremely seriously. With the 1970 Missal, not only are these books rendered obsolete, but the signs themselves are no longer there to communicate their dogmatic significance to the onlooker.

Fr. Saward then comments on Ratzinger/B-16's commentary on 'ad orientem' and the 'non-silent' mode of the Pauline Use:

...we turn to the remarkably strongly-worded critique of misleading or unhelpful aspects of the 1970 Missal found in Ratzinger’s works. In The Spirit of the Liturgy Ratzinger made an extremely strong critique of Mass facing the people, warning that such Masses could and in some times and places had become a ‘closed circle’, where attention which should be fixed on God became fixed on Man; he even likened such ‘self-initiated’ and ‘self-seeking’ liturgy to the worship of the Golden Calf: the ultimate substitution of a human artifact for God as the object of worship. In that book and elsewhere, Ratzinger noted the problem of silence in the New Mass, since for the most part periods of silence in the course of Mass were only possible by bringing the liturgy to a temporary halt. On the contrary, Ratzinger argued, to be fruitful silence needs to be an integral part of the liturgy, what he calls ‘filled silence’, and not merely an artificial pause. In these and in other ways the reformed liturgy actually militates against effective participation.

More than just lousy English and sappy songs...


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