Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The "agenda" of the liturgical reform?

(Updated on Feb. 3rd; see below)

Here is an excerpt from a recent address given by Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, in Australia. His overall tone can be gleaned from this question and answer he puts forth near the beginning: "What agenda does [a reform of the postconciliar reform] put forward so that liturgical worship could be more reverent and prayerful?  The agenda is, to all appearance, an attempt to put the clock back to a half century."

I find a bit of inconsistency in the following consecutive sentences of his address:
[T]he study of liturgy should have due regard for its historical, theological, and cultural elements. In this way we will not dismiss too readily the ancient prayers and rites of the liturgy on grounds that they belong to another culture and age. Such an iconoclastic attitude can indeed impoverish the theology of the liturgy. We know that many of these ancient forms are rich in doctrine and spirituality.

A serious study of liturgy will likewise neutralize the liturgical romanticism and allegorism that holds some sectors of the postconciliar Church. The indiscriminate revival of Latin and Gregorian chant, for example, indicates that some people have not followed the historical process. It is true that the Liturgy Constitution (SC 36 and 116), given the peculiar circumstances surrounding the council, claims them as distinctive elements of the Roman liturgy.
This seems duplicitous to me:  first he speaks of the danger of dismissing elements of worship "on grounds that they belong to another culture and age," then he speaks of the "peculiar circumstances surrounding the council" that led to its calling Latin and Gregorian chant normative and proper to the Roman Rite.  In other words, he is speaking dismissively of Latin and Gregorian chant as products of another culture and age which were only given lip service at the Council out of historical necessity.  I'm all for a Catholic faith which embraces the "both/and" (rather than "either/or") approach, but here it seems like Fr. Chupungco is asking too much:  he can't have it both ways here because the two ways are contradictory, not complementary.

He mentions the "indiscriminate revival" of Latin and Gregorian chant.  It should be noted that, had the Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy been more closely adhered to in the years following its promulgation, we would not be experiencing a revival of Latin and Gregorian chant; rather, they would have continued to be part of the normal liturgical life of Catholics.

For example, in article 54 of the Constitution, the same article which addressed in general terms the inclusion of the vernacular in the Mass, we read that "steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."  These parts would include the Kyrie (in Greek, actually), Gloria, Credo (Creed), Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

As for Gregorian chant, article 116 of the Constitution "acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited [proprium = proper] to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place [principem locum = the principal place] in liturgical services."

Next in Fr. Chupungco's address, he says:
It is true that Latin and Gregorian chant still claim their rightful place in the liturgy.
Do they, really?  Where, exactly?  I would expect most Catholics (especially English-speaking ones, or at least American ones) would disagree that Latin and Gregorian chant have (or should have) a "rightful place" in the liturgy.  But I interrupted; continuing:
But to recall them as the ordinary, normal language and song of worship in parishes seems to overlook the conciliar principle of intelligent participation. The Church of Rome might have delayed the use of the vernacular, but it is part of her earlier tradition to adopt contemporary language in order to foster active participation.
I disagree with him here.  First, just because a text is in your vernacular does not mean you understand it immediately; catechesis (and a good translation!) is still required.  Have English-speaking Catholics had both of these for the past forty years?  Second, the Constitution did expect Latin to remain in use in the Mass, despite its allowance of the vernacular; see articles 36 and 54.  Third, Latin is indeed the normal — and normative — language of the Latin Rite; there's no getting around it.

As for intelligent and active participation, it is utterly insulting to insinuate that modern Catholics cannot participate actively and intelligently where Latin is used; it implies that Catholics had not been participating intelligently for the previous centuries!  It is not a matter of learning Latin; it is simply a matter of learning a few Latin phrases and chants, which you'll say week after week — if not more often — and which don't change.

He continues by saying:
To revive Latin as the daily language of the liturgy, regardless of whether or not the presider and the assembly can follow the readings and prayers, disclaims “sound tradition” and obstructs what the Constitution (SC 23) calls “legitimate progress”.
Again this mention of "revival".  While it is historically what we are experiencing now, a look at the Constitution and several post-Conciliar magisterial liturgical documents makes it clear that Latin was not meant to be jettisoned from the liturgy!  On the contrary to his point here, the wholesale removal of Latin and Gregorian chant from the liturgy was neither "sound tradition" nor "legitimate progress".

Here are two views (one pro the address, one con).  Read either at your own leisure and/or risk.

Update:  Fr. Chupungco continued to speak very negatively of the development of the Latin liturgy from its original form(s).  After a worthwhile and enlightening example about the changes perceived in the sacrament of Confirmation, he says:
According to the Liturgy Constitution the study of liturgy has three chief orientations, namely theological, historical, and pastoral. [...] The theology of the liturgy is drawn best from the liturgical books, namely the prayers, readings, and introductory notes. [...] Theologizing about liturgy apart from the liturgical books could become an exercise in theological hallucination. At best, it encourages the allegorical understanding of the liturgy, which incidentally was a favorite pastime of the clergy during the Middle Ages.
Fr. Chupungco seems to be operating from the assumption that all liturgical developments during the Middle Ages (and the Medieval Ages) were "accretions" (see below).  With this mindset, he sees the allegorical interpretation of the liturgy as an effect of "theological hallucination" which surely cannot be good for one's spiritual health.  It is as if each liturgical rite or sign must have a clear-cut and immediately graspable value, and that multi-layered and allegorical signs (e.g. the priestly vestments) are unnecessarily encumbering and distracting, and do not build a person up spiritually.  I disagree entirely:  the wealth of signs in the liturgy is surpassed only by the diversity of meanings of those signs, and this provides more than a lifetime's worth of contemplation on the mysteries contained therein.  (It also gives catechists something to write about!)

Later on, he says:
Students of liturgy should be aware of recent developments, including recent documents from the Congregation for Divine Worship that are becoming increasingly perplexing. Students should be equipped with a critical mind that allows them to weigh the theological, historical, and pastoral value of new norms and directives, though always in the spirit of ecclesial obedience.
It would be nice if he provided some concrete examples of perplexing documents, although I assume he would include the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum on that list.  What is perplexing about that document?  I don't know, Fr. Chupungco doesn't say, but the "student of liturgy" should be aware of it!  At least he tempers his call for critical examination (I would have said discernment) of liturgical norms and directives with a reminder of obedience, although there could be a wide interpretation of just how the "spirit of ecclesial obedience"

Then he says:
Everything in history has its own justification, though not necessarily a lasting and universal value. Not every text in the liturgical books, not every rite and symbol from the past, and not every feast in the calendar has perennial significance for the life of the Church. The reform of the Roman missal wanted by the Constitution (SC 50) eliminated much of the medieval textual and ritual accretions that only served to blur the meaning and purpose of the Mass.
It is clear that the liturgical reform carried out by the Consilium eliminated many medieval developments ("accretions") to the liturgy, but it is certainly debatable whether such elimination was "wanted by the Constitution" itself.  (Fr. Chupungco is clearly stating his stance on that question.)  But I find duplicity here again, a double standard which favors the (ancient) older over the (merely medieval) old.  He says that not everything that has been part of the liturgy has a "perennial significance," but he would probably argue that most of the most ancient parts which were omitted or replaced over time are superior to their replacements, and that most (if not all) of the additions from the Middle Ages onward "only serve to blur the meaning and purpose of the Mass."  I am curious if he is in favor of a diminution of feasts like Corpus Christi which were developed after the "ancient" period of liturgical development.

But he does not provide examples of these accretions and why he feels they bring about blurring.  (How I wish I could see notes on each element of the 1962 Missal that was touched by the Consilium's reforming pen, detailing each element's worth, meaning, and purpose.)  I am also not wholly convinced about certain changes that were made for the purpose of so-called "active participation," such as the change of the formula for distribution of Communion.

Now, it is true that the Constitution speaks of elements removed imprudently or added unhelpfully:  "[T]he rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary." (article 50)  But the Constitution does not say that all elements which were discarded or incorporated after a particular period of time are up for restoration or removal.  It does say that the substance of the rites must be preserved; whether that was always the case is a matter of debate, for example, in the case of the Offertory prayers.

For the record, I am in favor of the Prayer of the Faithful, an example of an element which "suffered injury" and has now been "restored."  There are other changes I'm not so sure about, but, as Fr. Chupungco suggested, my "critical mind" is tempered by "ecclesial obedience."

Later on, he describes "Vatican II's liturgical principles" as including "active participation with all this implies (use of the vernacular, congregational singing, lay ministry)."  While I recognize that the participation of the faithful at Mass is possible in a new way when the vernacular is used, the vernacular is not strictly necessary for active participation.  Regarding congregational singing, that need not mean injecting hymns into the liturgy, but could be fulfilled by singing the Ordinary (and perhaps also part of the Gradual or the Responsorial Psalm, part of the Alleluia, and maybe even the antiphon of the Communion chant); hymns, whether in Latin or the vernacular, can be wonderful, but it is unfair to the integrity of the liturgy to replace (to the point of near extinction) the Propers of the Mass with hymns chosen on a local whim.

On the topic of inculturation, he says:
Inculturation by definition uses dynamic equivalence to re-translate the liturgical books in the historical, socio-cultural, and religious context of the local Church.
That might be his working definition of inculturation, but is it the definition the Church uses?  To close this post, I will provide some references from magisterial texts addressing the matter of inculturation in the liturgy:

Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 37, Vatican II, 1963)

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. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 38, Vatican II, 1963)

Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 39, Vatican II, 1963)

In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore: 1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced. 2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose. 3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 40, Vatican II, 1963)

The norm established by the Second Vatican Council — that in the liturgical reform there should be no innovations unless required in order to bring a genuine and certain benefit to the Church, and taking care that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing — must also be applied to efforts at the inculturation of the same Roman Rite. Inculturation, moreover, requires a necessary length of time, lest the authentic liturgical tradition suffer contamination due to haste and a lack of caution. Finally, the purpose of pursuing inculturation is not in any way the creation of new families of rites, but aims rather at meeting the needs of a particular culture in such a way that adaptations introduced either in the Missal or in combination with other liturgical books are not at variance with the distinctive character of the Roman Rite. (GIRM 398, 2000)

In preparing all translations of the liturgical books, the greatest care is to be taken to maintain the identity and unitary expression of the Roman Rite, not as a sort of historical monument, but rather as a manifestation of the theological realities of ecclesial communion and unity. The work of inculturation, of which the translation into vernacular languages is a part, is not therefore to be considered an avenue for the creation of new varieties or families of rites; on the contrary, it should be recognized that any adaptations introduced out of cultural or pastoral necessity thereby become part of the Roman Rite, and are to be inserted into it in a harmonious way.  Ever since the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the work of the translation of the liturgical texts into vernacular languages, as promoted by the Apostolic See, has involved the publication of norms and the communication to the Bishops of advice on the matter. Nevertheless, it has been noted that translations of liturgical texts in various localities stand in need of improvement through correction or through a new draft. The omissions or errors which affect certain existing vernacular translations – especially in the case of certain languages – have impeded the progress of the inculturation that actually should have taken place. Consequently, the Church has been prevented from laying the foundation for a fuller, healthier and more authentic renewal. (Liturgiam Authenticam 5-6, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 2001)

The development of sacred art and liturgical discipline which took place in lands of ancient Christian heritage is also taking place on continents where Christianity is younger. This was precisely the approach supported by the Second Vatican Council on the need for sound and proper "inculturation". (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 51, Pope John Paul II, 2003)

As early as the year 1970, the Apostolic See announced the cessation of all experimentation as regards the celebration of Holy Mass and reiterated the same in 1988. [...] As regards projects of inculturation in liturgical matters, the particular norms that have been established are strictly and comprehensively to be observed. (Redemptionis Sacramentum 27, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 2004)

A more effective participation of the faithful in the holy mysteries will thus benefit from the continued inculturation of the eucharistic celebration, with due regard for the possibilities for adaptation provided in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, interpreted in the light of the criteria laid down by the Fourth Instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Varietates Legitimae of 25 January 1994 and the directives expressed by Pope John Paul II in the Post-Synodal Exhortations Ecclesia in Africa, Ecclesia in America, Ecclesia in Asia, Ecclesia in Oceania and Ecclesia in Europa. To this end, I encourage Episcopal Conferences to strive to maintain a proper balance between the criteria and directives already issued and new adaptations, always in accord with the Apostolic See. (Sacramentum Caritatis 54, Pope Benedict XVI, 2007)

And, of course, the whole 2004 instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Varietate Legitimae.

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