13 January, 2010

Reforming the Reform: It's out and growing- Part One.

Another clear and "official" indication that the Vatican is disassembling much of Vatican II, appears in a speech given by Msgr. Guido Marini, the pope's Master of Ceremonies, in Rome 6 January 2010. (Click hereand page down for full text. )

General Observations.

For some time now we have seen changes in worship and theology that  indicate a restoration of "pre-Vatican II" forms. Now Msgr. Marini says that we are, in fact, in the midst of a "reform of the reform." [see my post "Retreat from Vatican II", dated 10-18-09 for a few examples].

In tone, the speech is generally harsh in discussing "abuses" and those who engage in them. He says, for example, "...some individuals have managed to upset the liturgy... under the pretext of a wrongly devised creativity, thus appropriating the right to remove from, add to or modify the liturgical rite in pursuit of subjective and emotional ends." [Emphasis added]. Marini, also builds and destroys many "straw men," described, in vague extremist terms. He provides no specific examples.

Marini places emphasis on the past and present; nothing is said about the future. The speaker rationalizes the need for and type of changes he (the Vatican) supports  by appealing to, "...an urgent need to reaffirm the 'authentic' spirit of the liturgy.. in the uninterrupted tradition of the church, and attested, in continuity with the past..." Benedict, has, "made continuity the authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the Church. Unfortunately, the "past" here seems only to go back to the 16th Century and the "Catholic Reformation."

"Church" here seems to refer to the Vatican; there is no positive mention of bishops or priests who allow or foster inauthentic changes. By the end of the speech, there is one "positive" statement that, "...in this new liturgical renewal...we priests ...are to recover a decisive role."
The substance of Monsignor's speech is divided into five sections. I will make a few comments on each of them and then draw some conclusions.

1. The Sacred Liturgy, God's great gift to the Church.

The emphasis in this section is that the liturgy is God's gift to the Church and this means that only the "Church" can determine what it is and whether and how to change it. Therefore the Church cannot allow changes by the "arbitrary will of man," or allow people, "to treat the liturgy as if it were an object open to manipulation...where liturgical groups stitch together the Sunday liturgy on their own authority."

2. The orientation of Liturgical prayer

Guido Mariani then turns to a discourse of the ancient tradition of facing east to pray. This was part of our early tradition based on the idea that Christ, the Son, would return from the East just as the Sun rises from the East. Admitting that church buildings, in fact, were not always oriented toward the east, "...the Church had recourse to the Crucifix [a Medieval innovation] placed upon the altar, on which everyone could focus." Marini quotes Benedict XVI who reaffirmed his earlier proposal, "...to place the Crucifix on the center of the altar, in order that all, during the celebration of the the Liturgy, may concretely face and look upon the Lord." On the other hand, it seems to me that the Lord is present to "look at" (experience?) all around us during the Liturgy: in the presider and the People, in the proclaimed Word and in his special presence, especially during the Canon of the Mass.  So, what is the need of a crucifix here?

There is another reason for looking at the Crucifix during Mass, as stated by the Holy Father, "The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity [emphasis added]... The priest and people most certainly do not pray to one another, but to the one Lord" [emphasis added]. Personally, I wonder what parish Mass the Holy Father celebrated when he and the People starred at each other or how often Catholics have said that they pray to the priest during Mass.

Perhaps there is  another reason for all the emphasis on facing East or a Crucifix and it might be related to the fact that, "...it is still possible to celebrate the Holy Mass upon the old altars, as the pope does in the, "Sistine Chapel on the feast of the baptism of the Lord" and as many cardinals and bishops do. Perhaps the "Church" wishes to turn the celebrant's back to the People so he can quietly address the prayers to God without distraction.

I wholeheartedly agree that "celebrating facing the people" is a modern innovation (adaptation?) in relationship to the"monastic" celebration of the liturgy as we knew it for over 400 years. But as Louis Bouyer, under whom I studied, has shown, in the earliest churches all present celebrated the Eucharistic Prayer "circumstantes" around the altar having moved there from the place in which the Liturgy of the Word was celebrated. I am also very willing to admit that there is great value and power in the presider and People facing the same direction during orations. However,there must be more creative ways to deal with these "issues" and with more forthrightness, as we attempt to conduct our worship inculturated into the great cultural traditions of the world in our own time. I always try to remember that, "the Sacraments were made for men (sic); men were not made for the Sacraments."

[NOTE: My next post will be an update on the situation in Uganda, followed by part 3, Adoration and union with God" of Masgr. Marini's speech.

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