Words to remember

"Never doubt in the darkness what you believed in the light."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bella Liturgica cont.

So the Liturgy Wars are still raging. His Holiness' Apostolic visit to France was the setting for a question on the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and the r eaction to it by the faithful. Fr. Z. has the story on it here. More directly, the text of the question and the Holy Father's answer to it are kindly provided by Le Forum Catholique ici. My translation:
Q: What do you say to those in France who fear that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum marks a return to the past, a turn away from the great intentions of the Second Vatican Council?
His Holiness' Answer: This is an unfounded fear, because this motu proprio is simply an act of tolerance, with a pastoral goal, for those who have been formed in this liturgy, who love it, who know it, and who want to live with this liturgy. This is a small group because it presupposes a formation in Latin, a formation in a certain culture. But it seems to me that this is a normal demand of faith and of pastoral care for a bishop of our Church to have love and tolerance for these persons and to permit them to live with this liturgy. There is no opposition between the liturgy /renewed/ newly made, peut-être?- by the Second Vatican Council and this liturgy. Each day the conciliar fathers celebrated Mass according to the Usus Antiquior and, at the same time, they conceived of a natural development for the liturgy in this century, for the liturgy is a living reality which develops and conserves in this development its identity. There are certainly different accents /features?/ but at the same time a fundamental identity which excludes a contradiction, an opposition between the new liturgy and the old. I think at the same time that there is a possibility for enrichment of both parties. On one hand, the friends of the Usus Antiquior can and must recognize the new saints, the new prefaces of the liturgy etc. On the other hand, the new liturgy highlights /underlines/ more the communal participation, but yet it is not only the assembly of one community but an action of the universal Church, in communion with all the faithful of every age, an act of adoration. In this sense, it seems to me that there is a reciprocal enrichment, and it is clear that the new liturgy is the ordinary liturgy of our time."

Okay, so what does this mean? A few initial observations: the Holy Father is not telling us anything we didn't already know. As much as we might not like to hear it (and as much as some relish to hear it), the friends of the UA or EF or TLM are comparatively small in number. It stings a little to hear it, sure, but the truth does that. Is the Pope belitting that number? No; it's no insult to say that a small group is small. It's also a bit of a needed wake-up call; we love reading stories about how the crowds at a TLM are almost too big for a given church, or that young people are coming to them in increasing numbers. While these are certainly positive developments, they are tentative ones. And at the same time, it should be kept in mind that while His Holiness does appreciate much of what the TLM has to offer, he has made it quite clear that the Novus Ordo is the ordinary form of the Mass, and that it is there that the efforts for liturgical renewal must be concentrated.

It's important to keep in mind the audience Pope Benedict wanted to reach with his response. The French episcopate was riled by Summorum Pontificum. And as much as it may be nice to see some of their more liberal and banal tendencies curbed by the Vicar of Christ, it would be very poor form and indeed poor leadership to infuriate the people working under him. At the same time, he uses language they like: tolerance, toleration, etc. In a sense, he's calling them to account for the principles they tout. Is it truly tolerant to deny people access to the UA? If it is under no canonical disability, why should it be locked away from the faithful? So even while the language is conciliatory, it could also be seen as a subtle challenge.

Out here in the blogosphere, there seems to be a little concern that the Holy Father is rolling back his support for the EF a bit, or trying to distance himself from it. I don't think that's what we're seeing here. We've seen much progress and many hopeful signs for the liturgy in this pontificate, and God willing, we will be permitted to see many more. Rather, what His Holiness seems to be doing is reminding the French bishops and faithful of some important points revolving around the liturgy, its historical forms, and the right relationship between Christian men of good will as it relates to these issues. And at the same time, he is reminding us supporters of the Usus Antiquior of just where the UA stands, and what his liturgical goals really are.

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