Friday, September 26, 2014

Models of Liturgy in the Church

Continuing liturgy blogging, though this is really no more than just a reference to an excellent post by Fr. Chris Smith (from just up the road on I-85, in South Carolina) at Chant Cafe.

He gives a brief sketch of liturgical piety as it evolved from the medieval ages, through the Reformation and Trent, and the 19th century Benedictine revival and the Jesuit-Benedictine battles of the Liturgical Movement of the early 20th century. He then identifies three moments or approaches or schools of thought when it comes to the liturgy, and the influence they had on the mid-20th century liturgical reform, and how they played out after the reform, during the Papacy of Benedict XVI and now Francis.
What are those currents of thought?  1. The centrality of the liturgy praised by the classical monastic sources of the liturgical movement, 2. the pastoral orientation of a second moment of that movement which sought out the change of exterior forms of the liturgy for supposed greater accessibility by the laity, 3. as well as an Ignatian predilection for the individual, devotional and subjective.
That first current of thought seems to be the motivating principle behind most of the liturgical Magisterium of the Church in the 20th century and today, whether we are talking about Tra le sollecitudini, Mediator Dei, Sacrosanctum concilium, or Redemptionis sacramentum.  But that lives in tension, and some might say, opposition, to the way the second current of thought prevailed in the production of the Novus Ordo Missae and how the third current of thought conditioned the reception of the reformed liturgy.
Fr. Smith's point is that identifying which school of thought someone identifies with helps to explain how they will react to proposals or perspectives grounded in the other approaches. His hope is one that I share. The liturgy wars are ugly and anti-evangelical. We need to really pray for a way out.
Benedict XVI had hope that the celebration of the two forms of the Roman Rite would lead to mutual enrichment, and a corresponding renewal in the life of the Church.  Much ink has been spilled on promoting or proscribing one form or another of the rite.  I am beginning to wonder whether we need to examine, not which form is better or worse, but what lines of thought are driving the way we think about and execute the sacred liturgy, and whether, if they are allowed peacefully to coexist along side each other, that a true synthesis may emerge, one not forced by the work of human hands, but by the action of the Holy Spirit.        

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