Saturday, July 07, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

Well, its here. I will finally blog about what has become known as "The Motu Proprio." Unlike my fellow bloggers out there, I refused to write anything before now about it because like my fellow bloggers, I had no clue what was going to be in it. That has all changed now. I will not say that I haven't anticipated the document's release since it first was rumored to exist but I simply did not let myself get swept away by something that I knew absolutely nothing about. But enough about me...

The Pope released the document today at noon Rome-time and included with it a cover letter explaining why he chose to take such action. The cover letter basically provides answers that many expected but in many ways I think the letter is just as important if not more so than the actual document itself. The Pope reflects on the past rendings in the church and wonders if they could have been prevented by church leaders. In reflecting on this he states that he wishes to open up doors for unity with the schismatic Pius X Society. However, he doesn't just swing open the doors. He specifically states that priests cannot exclusively say the mass expressed in the missal of John XXIII and that it cannot be said during the sacred triduum. (Which I'm happy about because I prefer the current rites, if they are celebrated fully and completely.) He also states that it cannot be celebrated more than once on a Sunday or feast.

He also looks at the benefits the old expression can offer the new. He reflects at the history since the renewal of the liturgy and sees how many saw the renewal as "authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear." He further reflects on the experience:
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 hope, then, is that the "extraordinary" expression of the one Latin Rite will influence the use of the "ordinary" so that "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." This is not saying that the missal of Paul VI lacks "sacrality," only, that the way it has been prayed has not been what the Council had hoped for.

One thing, which was surprising for me, is that he not only opened up the "old" Mass, he also opened up the older expressions of the other sacraments, "for the good of souls." He did make some qualifications however and said that it was the ordinary of the diocese who could celebrate the previous rite of Confirmation and among the sacraments he did not mention Holy Orders as one that could be celebrated according to the old rite.

The Pope did remind Bishops that they are the governors of the Mass in their diocese and so they are to see to it that only those who can celebrate the Mass "worthily," having proper understanding of the language and rubrics, should do so. He also asked the Bishops to send in a report in three years about the experiences with this new approach so that any "kinks in the chain" may be worked out. (my expression, not the Pope's)

Some interesting notes: The Pope wrote the document in the tone of the Papal "we" which isn't inappropriate but certainly not used as much any more. In addition, the date included in the document is actually today's date 7-7-7, which is very unusual as documents normally bear signing dates weeks and sometimes even months in advance.

This is certainly a fascinating time, especially for those of us preparing for Holy Orders, and it will be interesting to see where the Holy Spirit takes this. I wouldn't expect mass celebrations of this expression of the Latin rite simply because no one knows how to say it. But, as time goes on I think the momentum will grow until it is not strange to see a John XXIII Mass celebrated on Sunday morning in your parish. Only time will tell.

Letter to the Bishops Here

Summorum Pontificum
(the motu proprio) in an unoffical translation because the only official version at this time is, ironically enough, in Latin.


Jeremy Priest said...

Just a note: I worked on one of Pope John Paul II's encyclicals and found that the Latin text used the first person plural or royal "we." I think it has generally been a choice on the part of papal translators to use the singular "I" for most of Pope John Paul's stuff. This probably represents a nod toward "tranditionalists," as they are the target audience.
Also, nice insight on the 7-7-7 date. That is unusual. It might be meant to say, "I didn't sit on this one at all. You got it the day I finished it." Or, something to that effect.

How's your summer going? Come up to Traverse City if you get a chance...lodgings at Hotel Priest are always open.

Saginaw said...

Thanks, yeah, I didn't know what to make of the 7-7-7, at first I thought it might have something as a opposite number sequence to the 6-6-6 of revelation, but I didn't sit on that for more than two seconds 'cause that's just too open to conspiracy theory stuff. I don't know about the "getting it to you right away" idea because, obviously he didn't...

I'm in Omaha right now but a trip to Traverse City will def. have to be in the future!

Brad said...

I didn´t think of the consequences for those men already in formation. I wonder if any seminaries are prepared to include the '62 Missal in their sacraments classes.

Saginaw said...

The way the academic system is set up at the moment, I don't see how it is possible. Currently in many seminaries if latin is offered at all it is not enough to have an understanding of what one is praying in the Mass. But besides the latin issue there also falls the issue of learning alternative forms of all the sacraments, not simply the Mass.