Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Rubricism" is not in my dictionary...

Save the Liturgy, Save the World?

For some reason I have the impression that a number of my blogger friends have been upping the ante so to speak during this vacation period. Somebody’s demographic study in Europe has the Second Vatican Council relegated to the dustbin of history in about fifteen years time. It seems “everybody” in my blogosphere is toasting the victory and rattling sabers in hopes of hastening the “I told you so!” day and hour. What may or may not happen in fifteen years in Europe hardly seems relevant to the analysis of what the Council has left the rest of the Church and the World as a patrimony. Were the Council to fail to save the Old World from destruction it hardly seems appropriate to respond with an “I told you so!” The demographics of the restoration cannot promise a Christian or a Catholic Europe in the next less than a generation.

Personally, the whole business leaves me sad, yes, but more than sad, perplexed. When confronted by all the liturgical abuse of the period, it is easy to understand the title to Martin Mosebach’s book “The Heresy of Formlessness”. Chris Gillibrand, guest authoring in Ruth Gledhill’s TimesOnline column, makes an appeal which is more than understandable: “…it is time to close down every liturgical committee in the land, and produce proper rubrics for the new Mass, so that its dignity of celebration can approach that of the Latin Mass.”

Excuse me the caricature but I feel caught in a shouting match across the picket fence involving folk on both sides with bulging neck veins and eyes bloodshot with rage. For the babe-in-the-woods or the average Catholic in the pew, perhaps, assisting at this scene and trying to comprehend the rage on either side would seem to be an exercise in futility. Who can get beyond the entrenched positions without resorting to caprice or another man’s aesthetic preferences? The whole controversy plays into the hands of the regime of relativism against which the Holy Father has been fighting for all his adult life. Where does the truth lie?

Although Fr. Z of WDTPRS is still plugging his “Say the Black, Do the Red” coffee mugs and bumper stickers, I see he has a new slogan on the market: “Save the Liturgy, Save the World”. I congratulate him on the first campaign and am glad to say that there’s no confusion or ambiguity in his rubrics slogan; its meaning is clear and the advice is sound. I cannot say the same about his new product. Rubrics are indeed the route to go; the books are there in black and red. The nihil obstats and the imprimaturs are in place and I can get a handle on what needs to be done and said. Campaign Two is not so eindeutig, as the Germans would say: “Save the Rainforest” takes me nowhere.

On vacation, I read a very well constructed book with a toned-down version of the more serious debate between the defenders of a restoration of the tradition and those of the so-called reform of the post-conciliar liturgical reform. The author also included a number of valuable monographs in his little volume. A first impression to be gleaned from this book and from the literature in general is that reforming the reform is more work than embracing the tradition. I get the distinct impression that embracing the tradition is considered by many to be the easier fix because they are unaware of the rubrics which are present in the liturgical books presently in force.

Be it noted that for us older folk what is touted as embracing the tradition really resembles novelty in many ways. As we assist at the liturgies celebrated in the usus antiquior on EWTN or on the training DVD’s, we are very much aware that this is something new, something we never experienced in our childhood or youth. Both for the manner of the priest celebrant and for the behavior of the faithful assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass it must be said that here too a rupture has taken place or that there has been an evolution with respect to the past. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I guess I’m not quite willing to give up on the rubrics of the Novus Ordo so easily, when in many cases they just haven’t been tried or applied. The daily Mass on EWTN, were it to be celebrated ad Orientem, could become for the English-speaking world an effective catalyst, like the Masses of the London Oratory, for providing the longed-for encounter with the unbloody renewal of the Lord’s Sacrifice on Calvary for our salvation.

“Save the Liturgy, Save the World”? OK, but let’s start with: “Say the Black, Do the Red”.

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