Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cdl. Ranjith (Cong. for Worship) on the Mass

While Cdl. Ranjith comes from Asia to head the Congregation, and in this interview addresses the "Asian" implementation of the "reforms" of the Liturgy, there are some striking commonalities with the American problems.

The use of the vernacular has at times helped in generating a theological vocabulary in the local idiom that eventually could be helpful to evangelization and the presentation of the message of the Gospel to those of non-Christian religious traditions, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the people of Asia.

Some negative aspects have been the quasi total abandonment of the Latin language, tradition and chant; a far too facile interpretation of what could be absorbed from local cultures into the Liturgy; a sense of misunderstanding of the true nature, content and meaning of the Roman rite and its norms and rubrics, which led to an attitude of free experimentation; a certain anti-Roman "feeling," and an uncritical acceptance of all kinds of "novelties" resulting from a secularizing and humanistic theological and liturgical mindset overtaking the West.

...The abandonment of the spheres of the Sacred, the Mystical and the Spiritual, and their replacement by a kind of empiricist horizontalism was most harmful to the spirit of what truly constituted Liturgy.

...As I mentioned, Asia is deeply mystical and conscious of the value of the Sacred in human life, moving a human being to look for the deeper mysteries of religion and spirituality. The tendency to banalise the celebration of the Eucharist through a somewhat horizontal orientation, often visible in modern times. is not consonant with that search.

The Cardinal mentioned that many of these problems were "imported" from the West by native-born priests who studied here, or by Western missionaries who are horrifically ignorant of Asian customs.

I once was listening to a radio talk given by a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka who ridiculed Christians for allowing local drum beating in their churches without knowing that those beats in fact were chants of praise for the Buddha.

In the US, we transmogrified music by imitating Woody Guthrie...or Frank Sinatra...or Mr. Rogers.

Inculturation means deciding on liturgical attire that is dignified and full of respect for the Sacred realities celebrated, not abandoning them.

...So too in Liturgy, instead of concentrating on just a few exterior gestures of cosmetic value, we should focus on the accentuation of the mystical and the spiritual riches conveyed to us, and highlight these more and more even in our dress and behavior. The Universal Church would gain from a Church in Asia that becomes a tangible expression of Christian mysticism in an Asian way.

But by no means is 'mysticism' confined to Asia--

...the love of silence, a contemplative atmosphere, chant and singing reflective of the divine mystery celebrated on the altar, sober and decorous attire, and art and architecture reflective of the nobility of the Sacred places and objects, are all Asian values often reflected in places of worship of other religions and more expressive of a truly Asian outlook on Liturgy.

But this, too, is not "Asian" per se--the concepts of "sacred time, sacred space, sacred language, sacred music" are also pertinent in the West (or at least they used to be so...)

Here's an interesting note (in discussion of whether Latin should be used):

Besides, in Asia some other religions have preserved an official "liturgical" language, like Sanskrit for Hinduism and Pali for Buddhism.

...or like Hebrew for the Jews, Koine Greek for the Greek Orthodox, and Aramaic for the Syriac Rite?

HT: Fr. Z

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