Thursday, 9 October 2008

Liturgical thoughts

I had a couple of hours this afternoon to catch up on my liturgical reading. Here at Sevenoaks it is a glorious sunny day and although siesta tempted me many times I have been good and resisted this temptation.
I am re-reading some writings of Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, a Cardinal Archbishop of the See of Milan. Schuster died in 1954. Cardinal Schuster apart from being a holy Benedictine monk from the Monastery of St Paul outside the Walls in Rome was also an accomplished liturgist. He was beatified in 1996.
I am dipping into one of his three volume commentaries on the Holy Mass. Although the rubrics of the extraordinary form of the Mass (known as the Mass of St Pius V or the Tridentine Mass) are over complicated, Cardinal Schuster lifts them up, as it were, to reveal the freshness of the eternal spring behind them. The whole liturgical movement, blessed by the encouragement not only of Schuster but also of Pius XII (see previous posts), wanted to simplify these rubrics in order to make this fresh spring readily available.
After Vatican II, rubrics were simplified. However, possessed by the spirit of the age (yes again), liturgy was distorted. At first lone voices were lifted which quickly developed into a steady stream and by now are a whole torrent. These prophetic voices argue that the reform of the liturgy went too far and sometimes verged on the banal. An organic development of the liturgy was swept aside to be replaced by simplistic folk expressions and songs, where the emphasis is on “me” rather than Christ the Eternal High Priest whose sacrifice once offered reconciles us to the Father, whose only sacrifice we can offer.
One of the major exponents of this movement for reclaiming the liturgy is the present Holy Father. His book “The Spirit of the Liturgy” is already a liturgical classic.
Those few who want the ancient liturgy are allowed to celebrate it. The rest have to be honoured by dignified and sensible Christocentric worship. Although the Holy Father is accused of trying to move the clock backwards this accusation is generally levelled by those who do not have a tuppence worth of liturgical knowledge. The Holy Father silently and by example rather than decrees is showing us the way forward. The Ordinary form of the Mass (known as the Novus Ordo, or the Mass of Paul VI) is a noble achievement which has been disfigured by horrible practices in name of modernism. Some celebrate liturgy in which the focus is the assembled community and the priest presiding over it. Real liturgy has Christ at its heart in his redemptive action to the Father through the Holy Spirit.
The days of egocentric liturgy with folk and cosy songs are over. The way forward is the dignity of the Ordinary form and the Holy Father is a tireless leader of this way. The term “Benedictine reform” has already been coined and many parishes are being refreshed by it.
This reform of the reform enables the disciples of Christ to discover the eternal spring beneath liturgy – Christ himself. This is what Blessed Schuster was trying to achieve, this is what this new liturgical movement is pointing at, it is indeed an organic development of the changing rubrics that are channels to discover our changeless Lord, the spring of living waters.

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