25 April 2010

ORDO complexities

Some readers might have been fascinated and intrigued by my last two posts. I remember, as a little boy, being myself fascinated by the complexities within the Altar Missal - The English Missal - used in my church. Others will very naturally have felt that this is just the sort of thing from which the reforms under Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI mercifully delivered us. There are arguments each side. On the one hand, those complexities are the result of natural organic growth and hold within them the wisdom of our ancestors and of the tradition in which we stand. On the other hand, 'Enlightenment' approaches to Liturgy see it as didactic, and seek within it clear, strong lines which will instruct and edify clergy and people alike.

I am less sure, forty years after the post-conciliar reforms, that Enlightenment didacticism really has led to a better instructed clergy and laity. Take something fairly basic which really was mandated by Vatican II: that a richer table of Scripture should be made available to God's people. I wonder if - both in the RCC and the C of E - they really do know Scripture better than they did a generation ago. I am unsure that the wonder of the Sacrifice of the Mass really is better understood and loved than it was.

As Liturgy grows by accretion, there have continually been times when it has been necessary to prune it back. Dr Cranmer appealed to this sense when he claimed that "the number and hardness of the Rules called the Pie and the manifold changings of the Service, was the cause, that to turn the Book only was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out". And , dishonestly implying that he was merely simplifying the burdensome complexities of liturgical life, he claimed that he was merely providing that "from henceforth all the whole Realm shall have but one use".

It is clear, of course, that his main motive was to smuggle in a theological revolution under the guise of simplification. What is more relevant today is that the same is true of our own time. Scholarly studies increasingly have revealed the doctrinal and sometimes revolutionary agenda behind the Bugnini reforms.

Never has it been more clear that liturgical pruning and reconstruction should be gradual and organic and only touch what is necessary to reform.

3 comments:

Malcolm Kemp said...

One of the best bits of fun in the English Missal is the Proper for a votive Mass "For the Emperor, if he be not yet crowned", or words similar.

Rubricarius said...

OK I admit it, I am biased and should not be commenting on post that refer directly or indirectly to the Ordo I am responsible for compiling...

However, I really don't think the Roman rite prior to the 'modern' rounds of reform was that complicated. It certainly became more complicated after the 1911-13 reforms and the minutiae of 1920-1924. However, compared with the Byzantine rite, the only rite I even have the faintest understanding of after the Roman, it is still rather straightforward. I can never understand the rules for the sticheri at Vespers and Mattins and the troparia and kontakia. To me those are complicated but perhaps it is about familiarity...

Patricius said...

Rubricarius, while I agree that the Roman Rite is not as complex as some (and I have many sycophantic and ignorant Traddies in mind) might think, the ''minutiae'' still take getting used to.

For example: I can't think of a single priest who uses, or would use, the Kalendar in the Missal to determine what Mass to say...