Must the old mass stay frozen in 1962?
Posted: 11 May 2010 @ 00:00
looksat a C of E-ish idea
The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite
T & T Clark £24.99
Church Times Bookshop £22.50
A STEADILY growing body of literature is building up within Roman Catholic circles that claims that the liturgical reforms that have emerged within that Church are not what the Second Vatican Council originally in-tended. It is argued that the Roman Rite had previously always developed “organically”, whereas the new rite represents a complete rupture with that tradition. In this stable László Dobszay’s book firmly belongs.
What is unique about his contribution, however, is that he is not urging a “reform of the reform”, as others tend to do. He does not think “that the content of the postconciliar reform liturgy can really be reformed”. Instead, what he advocates is that existing alongside this modern rite should be “a process of continuous and organic development of the classicalRoman Rite”, whose 1962 form has recently been authorised for use in Latin by Pope Benedict XVI.
The bulk of this substantial book is a series of very detailed proposals for doing this within what the author believes to be the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council, even including a limited use of the ver-nacular. His suggestions are not restricted to the eucharist alone, but also cover the daily office, the calendar and lectionary, Holy Week rites, and — as might be expected from a musicologist — the chants of the mass.
Whatever the specific merits of the particular proposals that he makes here, his is an interesting idea, and not entirely dissimilar to the presence of both modern- and traditional-language rites in the Church of England. It will be fascinating to see what will be the reaction to this of other critics of the current rite, many of whom so far appear to want to keep the 1962 rite frozen in time.
Not only would such a development bring the traditional rite more into line with the values and insights of the Liturgical Movement, and thus perhaps make it more appealing to a wider range of worshippers, but it could well— as Dobszay himself suggests — also have a positive effect on the celebration of the contemporary rite.
There can be little doubt that the liturgical reforms of the past half-century have led to the emergence of some extremely infelicitous trends that go far beyond what the official texts and rubrics themselves mandate, and do therefore give some justification to the complaints that are made against them by conservative critics. But the current situation in which attitudes towards liturgical practices have become polarised is not beneficial to the Church.
The co-existence of two forms of the Roman Rite which were developing in tandem might well bring about a healthy cross-fertilisation. But will it ever be allowed to happen?
The Revd Dr Paul Bradshaw is Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission.
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