Sunday, July 08, 2007

Motu Mania Rages On...

Well, the blogosphere is a buzzin' as folks digest the Holy Father's initiative and begin the inevitable debates about what Summorum does and does not say.

Immediately questions started to pop up as to how this will all play out and the secular media was quick to throw their hand into it as well. The AP and other secular sources from around the world have tried to power play this into a story of Catholic-Jewish relations because of one prayer in the John XXIII Missal which is prayed one time a year on Good Friday.

I have compared the text in question to the present-day prayer for the Jews in the Good Friday Liturgy and, while the John XXIII is a bit more blunt in its language about the Jews (phrases such as: "take the veil from their hearts," "hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people," and a prayer that they be "delivered from their darkness."), the John Paul II Missal prays for their conversion as well, albeit with a bit gentler language (prayers that they "may continue to grow in the love for his name and in faithfulness to his covenant," and "may arrive at the fullness of redemption").

But beyond the expected twisting and distorting we always expect from the secular media, I have been saddened to see the ways in which Catholics themselves have reacted, making this "event" have the opposite effect the Pope had hoped for. The Holy Father stated in his cover letter to the bishops that "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture." The way some individuals are reacting is embarrassing to say the least and I direct this at both "sides" of the issue.

For example, I read in a Reuters article this snippet:
"I can't fight back the tears. This is the saddest moment in my life as a man, priest and bishop," Luca Brandolini, a member of the liturgy commission of the Italian bishops' conference, told Rome daily La Repubblica in an interview on Sunday.

"It's a day of mourning, not just for me but for the many people who worked for the Second Vatican Council. A reform for which many people worked, with great sacrifice and only inspired by the desire to renew the Church, has now been cancelled."
Good gosh, man, get a hold of yourself. "It is a day of mourning"? Vatican II "has now been cancelled"? Jeez, Bishop, the world is not ending. One of the very reasons the Holy Father is doing this is to continue the reform of VII, not blow forty years of work out of the water. Proof:
in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.
The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.
I think it is very important that we use this letter to aid in the implementation of the mandate as well as interpret it. It is of utmost importance to approach this document with the mind of the Holy Father and not see this as throwing away VII but only a living out of the organic development that is part of this Church's history.

However, this is not the only place I have heard/read what, in my opinion, seems to be a poor attitude regarding the "Motu." Those who are welcoming the declaration joyfully are betraying, I think, inner attitudes that need to be purified as well. Now, I'm not referring to those who are simply celebrating (see this blog post), but rather those who use language like, "We've won!" or "Thank God he didn't leave it up to the bishops!" or "Finally, we can have a holy mass again." I have also heard, in many places, talk of people wanting to set up new parishes exclusively for "traditional mass communities" based on article 10 of the Motu. This article is not intended for division but as a special circumstance. Both should exist as one parish family. The Pope's aim here is unity: "the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching." Again, the cover letter is helpful here.

These attitudes do not help to bring about the intent of the Motu Proprio: unity. Instead they help to further break the unity that Pope Benedict is trying create. To these attitudes the Pope says this
Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.
To view the missal of John Paul II as somehow "less" than the missal of John XXIII is to degrade the Mass and not afford it it's beauty, glory, and power. Will the older missal enrich the newer, I think so, but that in no way makes it a "better" missal. It points to the fact that the church grows out of her past into a more glorious future. The newer missal relied on much of the early church's method of worship, hopefully now it can rely on how the church prayed after the Protestant Reformation, a time of saints and heroes in the Church's history.

Beyond all this, I do think some interesting questions are beginning to pop up. These questions mainly revolve around how these two will influence each other because they most certainly will. Will the extraordinary expression allow communion under both species? Will the ordinary expression move the Asperges before the mass? How will the extraordinary adapt to churches with a more "alternative" construction. eg. an altar in the middle of the church? Will the practical use of the ordinary use more Latin?

It is certainly a most historical time for our Church and I pray that people can receive this with proper attitudes. This is a time of joy because the church is worshiping God. It is not a time for wallowing in defeat or celebrating with a victory dance.


Brad said...

I too was wondering about how this would play out in light of architectural changes made in the last 40 years. I haven´t really seen any news or heard much commentary about how this move may affect relations with SSPX or other groups like them. This will all be very interesting.

Jeremy Priest said...

It's not just that some have the altar in the middle. Many parishes are set up in such a way that it is impossible for the priest and the people to face the same direction because the altar stands on the edge of steps or some other such obstruction.

On the 7-7-7 again: I know he waited on releasing the document until it had been fully deliberated. Yet, he didn't sign it 3 months ago and then wait to release it. Still, I'd like to hear some more educated opinions on its dating.

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