Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Iota Unum - Critique of the Liturgical Reform

A passage from Romano Amerio's brilliant work, Iota Unum, in which he critiques the reforms and changes after Vatican II. In this particular passage from chapter thirty-eight, he critiques the principles of the liturgical reform. We can see here how the liturgical reform was in certain ways influenced by Modernism, which seeks to make religion a thing of self-expression.


The motivation underlying the reform combines various significant departures from traditional thinking, all of them connected with an incipient change in doctrine. 

The first change comes from supposing that the liturgy should give expression to the feelings of modern men, when in fact it is designed to express the timeless vision of the Church. Precisely because it is timeless, the Church's vision does include the mentality of contemporary men, but it is not restricted to it; the Church's mentality is not historical, but suprahistorical, and embraces the whole compass of every generation of Christians. According to the classic definition, repeated by the council, the liturgy is the priestly action of Christ and of his mystical body which is the Church: this gives rise to the public worship of God the Father. The priest action of Christ at Mass cannot happen without the action of an ordained priest; the priest given at baptism is utterly incapable of consecrating the Lord's Body which is the centre of the liturgy. This point of faith clearly reiterated in a document entitled Sacerdotium Ministeriale, put out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in September 1983. Without a priest there can be no Eucharist and, in that sense, no public prayer of the Church, but conversely, a priest who celebrates Mass without a congregation is nonetheless fulfilling a "public and social" act. Mass is now coming to be thought of by some people not as an action essentially of the priest in persona Christi, but an action of the community, in the sense that the community not only offers the sacrifice together with the priest who effects it, but that the community co-offers and con-celebrates on an equal footing with the celebrant himself. 

All of this demonstrates that the new rite, as actually celebrated, has been influenced by theological schools of thought that weaken the special ontological status of the ordained priest, that attempt to enlarge the role of the people of God in worship at the expense of the sacred functions of the priest, that make the meeting of the people more important than the act of consecration, and that promote the subjectivization and thus the instability of the whole of Christian worship. In this view, the essence of divine worship is no longer the unchanging sacrament, and a consequently unchanging worship, but rather a changing set of human feelings that demand expression, and that stamp upon the liturgy the mentality and customs of different peoples. Thus the Church no longer aspires to a strict uniformity in rites but instead "looks favorably upon whatever is not strictly connected with superstition, and preserve it intact, if possible, and sometimes even introduces it into the liturgy itself."

The principle of creativity.

The new liturgy is thus psychological rather than ontological, subjective rather than objective, anthropological rather than theological, and expresses not so much a transcendent mystery as the feelings with which the people react to that mystery. The specific function of worship is to stimulate man's sense of the divine rather than to convey the reality of a divine gift; hence the congregation is more important than the eucharistic rite, and the laity more important than the priest.

This change in turn produces another, which might be described as the principle of liturgical creativity. According to this view, the people of God pour their own culture and their own spirit into the Church's rites, and the priest acts as the means of expressing all this in the celebration. The objectivity of the liturgy, which is a reflection of the absolute Object, must retreat before the importance of a human subject seeking self-expression. Sacrosantum Concilium distinguishes between a changeable and an unchangeable part of the liturgy, but without saying what the latter actually includes. If even the words of consecration are changed, it is hard to see just where the immutability of the liturgy lies. Of course, there has been change down the centuries in the changeable elements of the liturgy, but it has occurred cautiously, modestly, and prudently. The recent reform could certainly find antiquate elements in the liturgy, which were in nee of change. One example would be the Ember Days or Quarter Tense, now out of place in a Church that has spread to countries that have only two seasons, or again the prayer pr Christianissimo Imperatore in the liturgy of Good Friday. It was certainly time to abolish the oath taken by a bishop at his consecration not to murder, or conspire to murder, the pope; and this has been duly abolished. But it is one thing to change rites like this in order to accommodate them to conditions which have obviously changed, and quite another to lay down a general principle that the Church's rites ought to be dependent on the psychology, customs, or spirit of particular peoples, or even of private individuals.

The new liturgy legitimates and encourages the idea of creativity, even though creativity is not a legitimate concept even in artistic matters, because underlying all artistic invention there is something uncreated, indeed uncreatable. Firstly, there are hardly any binding rules in the new liturgy; at many points the celebrant is present with a range of options as to what he should say or do, from which he can choose freely. The idea of creativity does away with conditions and limits, and thus tends to remove the very idea of breaking the rules. This optional spirit means that every celebrant can adjust, add or omit, and thus create whatever form he finds most congenial; as if it were a case of expressing himself instead of adoring God, as if he had to give a form to the mystery, rather than conform himself to it. Hence the enormous variety in the celebration of Mass, which ought to be the same throughout the Catholic world....

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