19 January, 2010

Reforming the Reform..... Part Two

Emphasis on adoration is the central theme in Mgsr. Guido Marini's entire speech, to which he turns in detail in point 3 of the speech. Then in point 4, he covers "Active Participation" which is explained in terms of adoration, and finally, "Sacred or Liturgical Music."

Background: It all depends on how you view "church."
There is no question that adoration is an essential element in the Eucharistic celebration. The questions are: What do we mean by adoration? How is adoration expressed in words, gestures, postures, and actions during the Eucharistic celebration? Finally, What is the relationship between the Eucharistic action of the Mass and the nature of the Church itself?

When Marini speaks of reforming the reforms made by Vatican II, he speaks of changing peoples' attitudes (especially about the Mass as adoration) and behavior during the Liturgy. Fr. Richard McBrien makes the observation that most of the "two-culture liturgical battles" since Vatican II really spring from two different views of the Church. Although there are many ways to understand the Church (ecclesiologies), McBrien focuses on two with regard to the post-Vatican II "liturgy wars." As he says in his recent book, The Church: the Evolution of Catholicism:
Those who have accepted...the liturgical changes [e.g. vernacular, hand-shake of peace, Communion in the hand standing, audibly responding to the prayers of the priest, and ministry as lectors and Eucharistic ministers, etc.] Those who have opposed... these liturgical reforms have remained attached... to the neo-scholastic ecclesiology of the preconciliar period, which tended to identify the Church with the hierarchy and to regard the laity as essentially passive beneficiaries [clients, customers] of the clergy's sacramental ministrations and teachings. According to this preconciliar ecclesiology, there was a clear line of distinction between the teaching Church... and the learning Church... as well as a clear line of distinction, represented by the Communion rail, separating the laity from the sanctuary and hence the clergy.

Accordingly, the council's insistence to the contrary that the Church consists of the whole People of God has had its most immediate and practical impact on the Church's liturgical and ministerial life, and that is the main reason why the Mass has become the flash point of so much conflict within the Roman Catholic Church. The "liturgy wars" are at root ecclesiology wars." Pages 168-169).

The purpose of the "reform of the reform" and a return to a particular understanding of adoration, is really an attempt to return to the institutional, organizational, clergy-dominated form of the pre-Vatican II church and to downgrade the Vatican II affirmation of the Church as "the People of God," a sacramental reality embracing all of the Baptized.

Adoration, and how we express it.
According to Marini, "Adoration is... the recognition of the infinite might of God... and of His omnipotent and provident Lordship." He continues, "Consequently adoration leads to... the abandonment of the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, to loss of self.... there is nothing left for us but to be left in adoration."

In spite of the softer language he uses in some places, his tone remains hard and he focuses only on the transcendent aspect of the liturgy. There is really no place in his argument for the whole People of God. He explains that, "...everything in the liturgical act, through the nobility, beauty, and harmony of the exterior sign, must be conducive to adoration."  Recent examples of liturgical changes coming from Rome illustrate this: the requirement that gold or other precious metals be used for sacred vessels and that use of glass, pottery,wood, and vessels of other insubstantial materials be discontinued. Another example would be the new requirement to clearly distinguish the sanctuary from the nave so that even Eucharistic Ministers remain outside the "sacred space" until it is time to receive and distribute communion (sacred species). Msgr. Marini supports changes along all of these lines because of,
...the decision of his Holiness, Benedict XVI...who, starting from the feast of Corpus Christi last year, has begun to distribute holy Communion to the kneeling faithful directly on the tongue. By the example of this action, the Holy Father invites us to render the proper attitude of adoration before the greatness of the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. (Emphasis added).
The difficulty here is not that we are to adore God in and through Christ in the Eucharistic celebration; it is the manner in which Msgr. Marini and the Vatican suggest (require?) that we adore. As was argued and settled [at least,we thought] at Vatican II, there is much more to the Mass than adoration, especially as expressed in ways so foreign to contemporary Americans and others. Perhaps an instructive observation is that President Obama does not express the respect due heads of state in medieval forms, but is very respectful of them in his words and gestures. The theme of adoration remains the author's central thrust even when he speaks of "Active Participation" in the liturgy. 

Active Participation.
Msgr. Marini rightly says that the Vatican Council linked the call to holiness and active participation in the liturgy. However, the author claims that even when people fulfill their proper roles, increase their understanding of the Word and prayers, and even when they sing, this is not truly participation if it is not accompanied by an attitude of adoration.

He then goes on to say that the real action (actio) of the Mass is not what we do as participants; rather it is the action, (actio) of Christ. He, then quotes Benedict XVI from a book he wrote while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger:
What does this active participation come down to? ... Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action. However, the word 'participation' refers to a principal action in which everyone has a 'part'...By the actio of the liturgy the sources mean the Eucharistic Prayer. The real liturgical action... is the oratio... this oratio -- the Eucharistic Prayer, the 'Canon' -- is really more than speech; it is actio in the highest sense of the word. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, Pp. 171-172, as quoted in Marini's speech).
Certainly in the Eucharistic celebration we are made present to and participate in the Paschal Mystery through the action of Christ as prayed in the entire liturgy, but especially in the Eucharistic Prayer, the Canon. Other than the priest celebrant's recitation of the Canon and our attentiveness in an attitude of adoration, Marini says that all other external actions are secondary, although he admits that they may be important during the Liturgy of the Word.

It seems to me that the good monsignor makes an "either/or" dichotomy out of what should be a "both/and" perspective. Does he (and the pope?) truly believe that most contemporary Catholics do not adore (worship) God at Mass. Does he think that we believe ourselves to be play-acting when we "actively participate?" Remember, that in the old days, the only thing required of the laity was to "hear" Mass, be physically  present for the three principle parts of the Mass and that one "somehow advert" to the action during the consecration. Many, if not most did not go to Communion frequently, and some of those who did snuck out of church immediately after receiving Communion. During Mass in Latin, those who were not well educated, or heroically motivated to "follow along" in a Daily Missal, read from prayer books and/or prayed the Rosary. They were wonderful devout people but they seldom participated in the liturgy the way Msg. Manini suggests we should;  if not all, most Catholics are more  centered and focused on the "sacred action today than before Vatican II.

I do not want to suggest that there have been no "abuses" in the celebration of the liturgy. But what some call abuses may actually be development and growth inspired by the Holy Spirit. What we need is a balance between the views expressed by the Vatican and the actual lived experience of the Catholic faithful (clergy and laity) who walk the streets of the world. And, yes, I believe that the tone of the article could be more pastoral and express confidence in the People of God, so as to foster trust and dialogue.

Sacred or Liturgical Music.
It is interesting, and to me, very positive, that there is no single "official" Catholic hymnal for the Church in the United States. In this way the many musical forms from traditional, folk and other idioms can be inculturated into our liturgy. However this does not mean that the Church has no interest in what music is used during the Mass.

The monsignor demonstrates the Church's interest in music by telling us that the Council of Trent required that liturgical music conform to the sacred text (recently reaffirmed by the Vatican) and limited the type and use of instruments to make a distinction between "sacred" and "profane" music. He continues, saying,
Pope Saint Pius the X, intervened... to remove operatic singing from the liturgy and selecting chant and polyphony from the time of the Catholic Reformation [Counter Reformation in the 16th Century] as the standard for the liturgy.
Again stressing his theme that everything in the Mass must foster "adoration" as he and Pope Benedict XVI understand it, Marini says that the reason the Church places such a strong emphasis on what music is used and how it is rendered, is to foster adoration and this is best done by chant and traditional polyphony because they are holy, good and universal. The implication here is that this special type of music (as distinguished from secular and general religious music) helps us realize, as Benedict says, that "[t]he true liturgy... is cosmic, not made for a group."

The speech concludes with a strong affirmation of  "...a reform of the reform" [of the Vatican II liturgical norms]. In this new reform [i.e, back to 16th-19th  century norms and practices?], "...it is we  priests who are to recover a decisive role.

My Reflections.
I believe that the whole tone of the speech is negative, especially in terms of its view of lay members of the Church; it is as if we are superficial, see the liturgy as some kind of game or show, do not adore God "correctly," and do not appreciate what  the liturgy is.

The speech assumes, although it doesn't mention it directly, that the "Church" is the clergy, especially the Vatican bureaucracy; it recommends a return to liturgical practices that indicate a broad separation between the priest celebrant and the laity (who Vatican II said  also are celebrants. Remember, the priest presides, we all celebrate).

Marini's use of "continuity" refers back only to the period of the 16th to 19th centuries and nothing is mentioned of earlier liturgical disagreements in the Church and how they were settled with attention to the cultures, lives and participation of the people involved (E.g. the Council of Jerusalem); as a result, the type of continuity or "universality" offered is based on the belief that the norms and practices of the Catholic Reformation should hold today. This seems more like external uniformity to some idealized past than an affirmation of unity today.

When Pope John XXIII called for Vatican II, he exuded a sense of confidence and hope for the future of the Catholic Church and the World. Otherwise he would not have opened the windows to let the air in. Today there is afoot the notion that modern culture is only a "culture of death," that liturgy is devoid of a sense of transcendence, and that most of us live a profligate life of rank individualism and materialism; this feeling comes through in Msgr. Marini's speech, as does the belief that the Vatican knows the "right" corrections to make, if only the laity (and some of the lower clergy) would become docile again.

Social psychologists have tried to demonstrate that attitudes cause behavior and that changing attitudes causes a change in behavior. They have been somewhat successful and their theories and explanations are quite complex. Social scientists also know that changing one's behavior can change one's attitudes and future behavior. That is why the changes suggested by Marini, or already implemented by the Vatican and most bishops, are significant.

If the Holy Father's practice of distributing communion only on the tongue to those kneeling becomes the norm, children will grow up and wonder why they needed to show respect and adoration through a Medieval, monarchical form of behavior that seems irrelevant to their lives. Already many wonder about other recent changes such as Eucharistic ministers not entering the sanctuary after the kiss of peace and during the Agnus Dei but  having to wait until the priest celebrant has drunk from the chalice. Or the rule that the priest, or sometimes the deacon, must do (at least) the initial purification of the vessels at Mass. Or the new norm to re-establish a very clear separation between priest and people by making a very visible separation between the sanctuary (where the clergy are) and the nave (where the laity are). In each case the Church claims merely to be reemphasizing the way to adore God by doing the liturgy "correctly," and to make sure that vagueness in the role of the laity be clarified lest they pretend they are clergy.

However, changes like these can just as easily be interpreted as signs, symbols, and a means to re-assert an older theology; one that claims that through ordination the priest not only gets a special charism and role in the Church, but that he also assumes a new, higher level of "ontological" existence. This approach can also be interpreted as reducing the meaning of Baptism. At an even more cynical level, these changes might be taken as a re-exertion of power and dominance of the clergy.

What I am really trying to say is that there are multiple reasons for and interpretations of changes coming out of Rome. It would have been helpful had there been dialogue with the laity over these issues. Or don't the perspectives of the laity count? At least in modern societies where people are well-educated, and some even better educated in theology than the clergy, there will never be a return to the old "pray, pay, and obey" Catholic Laity. The laity do not want to take over the Church or usurp the roles of the clergy. The laity insist on being acknowledged as full members of the People of God and to work collegially with the clergy to hasten the coming of the Reign of God.  That's all.

Additional Indicators of the "Reform of the Reform."
Listed here are just a sample of recent events:
Okla Bishop No Longer Faces People During Mass  (Short version with out pictures)
Okla Bishop No Longer Faces People During Mass  (PDF version with pictures -Somewhat slower to load)
Latin Mass Appeal  (Conservative / Traditionalist perspective)
Papal Liturgist Endorses "Reform" of the "Reform."  (Short summary of the speech from the NCR)

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