Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Hermeneutic of Continuity and Mutual Enrichment

"Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times."
             Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4

"For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal.  The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.  The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal."
              Summorum Pontificum

The Second Vatican Council sought to make the sacred liturgy, namely the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, more perceptible to the members of Christ's Mystical Body, the Church. The norms laid down by the fathers of Vatican II succeeded in this respect, but subsequent instructions on the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, hereafter referred to as SC) did not come to fruition. This is mainly due to many bishops, priests, and lay people who did not have a fundamental understanding of Vatican II implementing the principles of the documents of Vatican II, mainly SC, and interpreting them incorrectly, thus destroying and maiming the original meaning (and intention) of the council fathers and the documents. Because of this, many Catholics who felt disenchanted, or betrayed, by the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council either asked to keep the old liturgical rites (now known as the Extraordinary Form) or left the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church for schismatic societies like the Society of St. Pius X. These schismatic groups, though, often splinter amongst themselves and find no cohesion among their members except for their hatred of the Church's renewed liturgical rites.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote the papal document Summorum Pontificum, given motu proprio (of his own accord) stating that the members of the faithful who feel more attracted to, what he calls the Extraordinary Form, may do so without receiving any special dispensation. Pope Benedict liberalized the permissions necessary for Latin-rite priests to celebrate the "old liturgy" thus enabling them to minister to their flocks in a more pastorally-sensitive manner. Pope Benedict, though, makes it abundantly clear that the renewed liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, the Ordinary Form, is still the norm when celebrating the sacred mysteries of the Latin-rite. He says:

There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.  In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.  What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.  It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.  Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books.  The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness. (Summorum Pontificum)

The rites of the Extraordinary Form cannot replace the rites of the Ordinary Form and vice versa without doing harm to each. Pope Benedict reiterates the liturgy that was renewed after the Second Vatican Council is normative, saying:

In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities.  This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.  Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful (Ibid.).

It would be extremely unpractical to return to an era of the Church where almost all of the liturgy was celebrated in Latin and the liturgy, in many ways, was cut off from the people.

This is not to say that the Extraordinary Form cannot be an avenue for liturgical renewal for the Ordinary Form. Pope Benedict speaks of mutual enrichment between both forms of the Roman Rite. Nowhere in Summorum Pontificum, though, does it speak of "mixing" the rites, i.e.: taking rubrical elements of one form and placing them in another. Pope Paul VI, who oversaw the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, says, "Consequently, absolutely no one else, not even a priest, can on his own initiative add or subtract or change anything in liturgical matters" (Sacram Liturgiam, XI). Pope Benedict never wished to undo his predecessor's work, or for that matter, an issue of Church and liturgical praxis. Some people after Vatican II including bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people, assumed Vatican II did away with liturgical rubrics. They often point to SC itself when trying to justify changing the liturgy to suit their personal desires.

Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.  

It must be mentioned, though, that this quote is slightly ambiguous, when citing who different groups of people are. This paragraph really means those in mission lands, i.e.: Asia, Africa, etc. This was not meant for a group of people in a parish who do not like patriarchal and hierarchical language in the liturgy.

But what does this have to do with our argument? Clearly, the liturgy is still being manipulated by a small group of liturgical "experts" who claim to have their finger on the pulse of the needs of the modern Church. Dare I say, this is hogwash. Many people have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Vatican Council because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what liturgy is. The liturgy is the sacred action of God, embodied in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and carried out by the entire Church (priests and laity) for the glorification of God and the sanctification of the God's people. This is not to say that the laity do not need a priest to celebrate Mass, of course they do! But to deny the laity do not have a part in the liturgy when they offer themselves back to God in heaven would be offensive to man and Jesus Christ's Incarnation and Paschal Mystery. Even before the Second Vatican Council convened, Pope Pius XII wrote:

Moreover, the rites and prayers of the eucharistic sacrifice signify and show no less clearly that the oblation of the Victim is made by the priests in company with the people. For not only does the sacred minister, after the oblation of the bread and wine when he turns to the people, say the significant prayer: "Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty;"[86] but also the prayers by which the divine Victim is offered to God are generally expressed in the plural number: and in these it is indicated more than once that the people also participate in this august sacrifice inasmuch as they offer the same. The following words, for example, are used: "For whom we offer, or who offer up to Thee . . . We therefore beseech thee, O Lord, to be appeased and to receive this offering of our bounded duty, as also of thy whole household. . . We thy servants, as also thy whole people . . . do offer unto thy most excellent majesty, of thine own gifts bestowed upon us, a pure victim, a holy victim, a spotless victim" (Mediator Dei, 87).

The liturgical theology that was prevalent before Vatican II is the same that came after Vatican II and is in force to this day; it is not different, though our explanation of the aforementioned may have matured.

How does all of this relate to the Hermeneutic of Continuity and Mutual Enrichment? The liturgy is something which was given by Christ to His Apostles and thus handed to down to the Church throughout the ages. The liturgy is not the prerogative of the Church, it is the prerogative of Christ that the Church safeguards and, if necessary, reforms and renews for the people to better give glory back to the Father. When the Church prays, it is Christ who is praying through the members of His Mystical Body, thus propitiating the Sacrifice of Christ as an everlasting re-presentation of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross. The liturgy cannot be tampered with by just anyone because tampering with the liturgy is tampering with the will of Christ. That is why the bishops meet together as descendants of the Apostles to makes changes in liturgical matters. 

Therefore, mixing the two forms of the Roman Rite cannot be done because each has its own set of rubrics which would conflict with the other. For example, in the Extraordinary Form, the priest holds his thumb and index finger together after he consecrates the Sacred Host, not separating them until the ablutions after communion. This rubric is nowhere to be found in the revised liturgical rites of Vatican II because it betrays Vatican II's call for "noble simplicity" (Cf. SC, 34). This accretion, which can only be traced back to the Carolingian liturgical reforms of the tenth century, encumber the noble beauty and simplicity of the Vatican II liturgical reforms. The same is true when after the Fraction Rite the priest does not make a sign of the Cross with the Particle over the chalice before the places said Particle in said chalice. Again, before the priest communicates himself, he does not make the sign of the Cross with the Host or Chalice before he receives the Body and Blood of Christ. This does not belong in the Ordinary Form and must stay in the Extraordinary Form to ensure that mixing of forms does not occur.

One of my professors in graduate school once said something to the effect of, "The shirt and tie priest is just as bad as the biretta and maniple priest." What he meant was, changing the liturgy to fit your needs and not submitting to the request of the Church to be humble in liturgical matters, is not just found among priests who wish to celebrate Mass on a coffee table with white bread and Arbor Mist; it is also found among priests who think they know better than the Church and add elements of the Extraordinary Form to the Ordinary Form for the sake of a false "liturgical piety."

The Church asks her members, both clerical and lay, to follow the norms laid down by the Church in her liturgical life. These norms, which now have two expressions in the Roman Rite, the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, are meant to mutually enrich each other, thus enriching the members of the Church who follow one or both. This mutual enrichment, though, does not mean mixing elements of one form into another; this is clearly stated by past popes and Canon Law itself. In order for the members of the Church to be sanctified through the liturgical life of the Church, they first need to be formed properly in either one form or both. This will lead to the glorification of God and the sanctification of the individual. Only then can there be a better appreciation of a Hermeneutic of Continuity in the Church, whereby both rites are seen as two expressions of one timeless liturgy. 

N.B.: I recently graduated with my M.A. in Liturgical Studies. Thank you for all of the support, well-wishes, and prayers.