Sunday, 1 December 2019

The Novus Ordo at 50...

So the "apostolic" constitution Missale Romanum reached a milestone anniversary yesterday. We've seen the tradunculi all over the Internet marking the anniversary with predictable contempt (see Peter Kwasniewski here, and Fr John Hunwicke here). I'm not going to discuss the hypocrisy of their entire position, which I have discussed at length in the past and about which I profess total carelessness now. I'll let Fr H.A. Reinhold do that for me:



These are cold facts, presented in black and white for anybody interested in a more or less non-partisan liturgical history. Incidentally, Reinhold's book is dedicated to Pius XII as renewer ("instauratori") of the sacred liturgy. From my perspective, that's like dedicating a study of the Irish Confederacy to Oliver Cromwell as renewer of Anglo-Irish relations!

We know that Pius XII, in his position, not as senex infirmans but as sacrae liturgiae instaurator, was kept well-informed about the progress of the liturgical conferences and took an interest in the conclusions thereof. We also know that many, if not most, of the participants took some part in the comprehensive reforms that took place in the 1960's. What am I saying? I'm long past making points but I suppose this is a dig at the position that there was no reform before Vatican II and that Sacrosanctum Concilium was hijacked by a bunch of German reprobates. My position is therefore non-partisan and intellectual. The reforms that culminated in the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, whether they were good or bad (I think many of them were good!), took place in the way that they did for a variety of interpenetrating historical, cultural, linguistic, theological, pastoral and, let's face it, political reasons. Some of the reforms were intelligible. Latin obviously had to go. I know it's touching reading how the ploughman learned his Pater Noster but except in Italy or Spain, where Latin has the position of a hieratic language (akin to Church Slavonic in Russia), Latin is incomprehensible to most people, especially in these primitive days in which Latin is no longer taught in most schools. The argument that Latin, being the universal language of the Church, is a unifying principle is an indefensible one and akin to the story of Babel.

What else? Provision for High Mass without a Subdeacon was also a wise reform. We've all seen this:


Looks rather grandiose, doesn't it. All those assistant bishops, Uniate deacons, the various mitres and tiaras on the altar; Enrico Dante (the papal Master of Ceremonies) kneeling at the north end (remember the papal basilicas face west), &c. But Sunday Mass in a typical parish was pretty humdrum and a missa cantata at best. Perhaps things were different in Italy but certainly in Britain low Mass was the norm. Now, low Mass is an unquestionable liturgical abuse. That has been my unswerving position for many years and it is the official position of the Orthodox Church, in which the phenomenon is entirely unknown and in which the ancient custom of concelebration (so sneered at by the tradunculi) is maintained. Low Mass came about by a combination of theological debate, monastic decadence (too many priests), and was never intended to be a public celebration. The Missal of Pius V was the first to contain precise rubrics for the celebration of low Mass, presumably because the custom had got out of hand and wasn't seen as all that bad anyway (or at any rate as the least offensive of the mediaeval attenuations reconcilable to the contemporary Roman position on the Eucharist). In tandem with this is the view of the Roman Communion of the Subdiaconate as a major order, rather than a minor order. If bishops had simply ordained dedicated, pious men as Subdeacons things might have turned out differently in a lot of parishes. But I'm forgetting my O'Connell. His view was that Deacons and Subdeacons simply enhanced the dignity of a celebration of Mass, not that those ancient, apostolic orders had an integral part of their own to play independent of the celebrating priest.

I could go on. If you'd like me to expand on these hastily-written thoughts, please let me know in the comments. I'll conclude this bald post by making the observation that liturgical reform in the Roman Rite by 1962 was badly needed. A sure indication that things had gone awry in the first place. There is no pinpoint year. Gregory II's abolition of the aliturgical days in Lent is the first recognisable departure from the erstwhile Orthodox liturgical position. But the tradunculi blame everything on the Council. My position is that the Council was a modifying and beneficial influence and that had the popes had their way the present state of the Roman Rite would be much worse. What do you think?

I am grateful to an old friend for sending me the appendices for Reinhold. He needn't have done so, as I own the book, but we were discussing it over a very pleasant lunch on Thursday and his sending them rekindled my burnt-out interest in Latin liturgical reform. I was also reading the Eclogues on Saturday. I haven't done any strenuous Latin for a long time so it was nice to dust off my Lewis & Short and sit down with a pen and paper.

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