Monday, February 20, 2006

Crouan's "History and Future" Reviewed

A friend of mine emailed an about-to-be-published review of the book "The History and the Future of the Roman Liturgy" (published by Ignatius), by Denis Crouan, S.T.D.

Doesn't look like a "must-buy" book, although it's being boomed by the usual suspects.


First, if one is looking for a readable and relatively brief “history of the Roman liturgy,” this offering fills the bill. It is much shorter and more readable than Jungmann’s tome on the topic. Crouan laces the book with quotations from (then-Cardinal) Ratzinger—an excellent source for careful thinking on the liturgy. Crouan offers observations about the present-day situation which are certainly harmonious with those of most thinking Catholics.

But there’s not much “future” prediction made in the book, unless one is to infer from the writings of Ratzinger and the Second Vatican Council what that “future” might bring. And there are some contentions which are not very well supported.

For example, in reference to the rubricism often displayed around the Old Rite:

“Does the fact that a priest scrupulously observes the rubrics given in a missal guarantee the transmission and the preservation of Catholic doctrine? …One can reply that observance of the liturgies that are presented by the Church…assures the validity of the Sacrament as well as the preservation and transmission of Christian doctrine. But this observance does not automatically assure the correct reception of the doctrine by every believer.”(PP 83-84)

This is not an astounding conclusion. In fact, this is a “straw man” argument. Crouan sets up the “Tridentine Rite” as the straw man, and then knocks it down. But reception of the doctrine is a function of the man in the pew, not of the Liturgy, regardless of Rite. It is a weak argument.

There are others, similarly constructed. Unfortunately it seems that Crouan did not carefully examine the "accretions" in the Old Rite Mass--he simply dismissed them wholesale. Not particularly scholarly...

Crouan does provide an excellent short summary of the virtues of Gregorian chant:

“The Church recognizes the didactic value of Gregorian; …she sees that, when it is added to the rites of a celebration, it fosters that openness of heart and soul which enables the faithful to receive the means of living the doctrine that is conveyed by the liturgy. … [It] sets into motion a process of knowing divine realities that passes more through the channel of the senses and experience than along the single path of conceptual thought. The richness of this chant is derived, then, from the fact that it does not open the way solely to a theological (and biblical) content that is accessible to reason alone, but carries the listeners toward a perfect expression of the Faith that is to be lived and transmitted.”

Which to this observer looks a lot like Pius X's formulation: 'lifting the mind AND the heart to God.'

And he does a very good, if not elaborate, job on the topic of "other music":

“[a] type of music that was only beautiful but not ‘fitting’ or ‘just’ would run the risk of being perceived as nothing more than entertainment, as a means of satisfying a desire for estheticism, as an object of amusement and enjoyment—as is the case with musical numbers performed in concert. …the liturgy and liturgical song must steer clear of this dangerous reef, so as to remain ‘icons,’ that is to say, ‘sense-images’ inhabited by a presence, and not by emanations of some human feeling that is part and parcel of a superficial religiosity guided by the subjectivism that characterizes our post-Christian societies.”

Hmmmm. "Eagle's Woks", anyone?

The friend/reviewer noted this passage, which was VERY interesting:

Crouan suspects that certain “modern men” are the larger portion of the difficulty, and in perhaps his most useful and perhaps most controversial insight tells us that “[t]hose who tamper with the liturgy always run the risk of throwing into even greater relief their real character and their true identity: a character and an identity that they may fear or even reject.”

“Let us stop hiding from reality. The crisis ravaging the Church today—which manifests itself as much in the collapse of the liturgy as it does in the popularization of false liturgies resulting from the immature behavior of certain celebrants who are ill at ease—is a crisis of an anthropological sort, first and foremost. It is a basic anthropological imbalance that, in man, no longer allows the development of a proper Eucharistic spirituality.”

The reviewer thinks this passage is explosive. The wording is intriguing, to say the least.

A quote from Cdl. Ratzinger, followed up with insight by Crouan:

“Cult, liturgy in the proper sense, is part of this worship, but so too is life according to the will of God; such a life is an indispensable part of true worship.” Again, the concept that “actuosa participatio” is not merely reciting responses, or singing a ditty—it is “life according to the will of God,” or in Crouan’s words, “carrying the listeners toward a perfect expression of the Faith that is to be lived and transmitted.”

The excerpts here should give you a flavor for the book.

1 comment:

Terrence Berres said...

"Rubicism" can be demonstrated by means of this sklbaism (not to be confused with a syllogism).

- Following the rubrics is necessary.

- What is necessary might not be sufficient.

- What is sufficient should be our goal.

- Therefore, to notice that a priest fails to follow the rubrics is heresy.