Chapter Twenty-Three


From our study of a major theologian we now pass to an examination of the factors influencing liturgical change, and their consequences in the fields of belief and practice.

Nowhere more than in the revision of the liturgy have the strands of reform and rebellion been so closely intertwined. I will try to separate them so that each can be seen for what it is. But it is not easy. To no other part of the conciliar enterprise does the image of the six men pushing a car with three of them meaning to push it over a cliff, so well apply (see Turmoil and Truth, p. 34).

Extensive changes in this area were bound to have been disturbing regardless of circumstances, seeing that, for most of the faithful, Sunday Mass and the rites of baptism, marriage, extreme unction and Christian burial are their chief external points of contact with the Church. But it is unlikely they would have been as disturbing as they have been if the changes had been less sudden and numerous and if heterodox reformers had not taken advantage of their implementation in order to try and alter belief. 235 This is why I have postponed any discussion of the liturgy until after I have analysed the ideas and ideologies that have disoriented it. However, I will come to abuses later. To understand the reforms one must have some idea as to how and why the demand for them arose, and of the history of the movement that led up to them.

The Church's Public Worship      

In classical times, the word "liturgy," of Greek origin, meant public service to the state, and it was then adopted by the Church for its official worship. In this century; in his encyclical Mediator Dei (1947), Pius XII gave two definitions: the liturgy is "the public worship which our Redeemer, the Head of the Church, offers to the heavenly Father and which the community of Christ's faithful pays to its Founder and through him to the Eternal Father" (art. 20); and more succinctly, "the common prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church" (art. 4).

There are three main components: the prayers and ceremonies surrounding the Mass; the prayers and ceremonies used in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals; and the "divine office," the daily recitation of psalms and other prayers and readings by individual priests or by monks, nuns and other religious groups in common, for all of whom it is obligatory. Lay people who say the divine office are not obliged to do so. The divine office ensures that the praise of God goes on continuously, day and night. Whatever else changes, this core of the liturgy does not.

But to leave the matter there would give a very inadequate idea of the liturgy's overall significance. Nearly all religions have public worship with prayers and ceremonies of some kind. But the liturgy of the Catholic Church is far more than that. It is the instrument which activates the mystery that the Church herself is. One could say that the final goal of the liturgy is the worship and adoration of the Father, and the antecedent goal is the sanctification of men so that the Father may have true worshippers in "spirit and truth." 236

The Church's first concern, therefore, is that the Mass should be said and the sacraments administered validly. That does not mean that the liturgy or the environment surrounding and activating the mystery is unimportant. But provided the prayers and ceremonies are reverent and appropriate, that is to say provided they convey a sense of the sacredness of what is taking place, and do not contain statements contrary to the Church's belief about the mystery which would prevent it from being realised, they should be seen as subordinate to the mystery itself. 237

Why was it thought necessary to change the liturgy? Over the centuries there had been additions and developments and occasional prunings. But the Latin liturgy had existed in the form that it had down to 1970 with little substantial change for over a thousand years. The bulk of the Church's most devout Catholics would seem to have loved it, and as the fountainhead of great music and art and even as a work of art in itself, it was valued even by cultivated non-believers. 238

Taken together, all the arguments for change and adaptation have had as their starting point Fr Rosmini's complaint of 100 years earlier. In his The Five Wounds of the Church, it will be remembered, the first wound was the excessive separation of clergy and faithful at Mass, leaving the impression, and helping to create it in the minds of the faithful themselves, that they were, if not just spectators, then more or less passive recipients of the benefits of what was occurring. The 20th century reform of the liturgy is closely connected with the return to the more populist and "organic" view of the Church initiated by thinkers like Möhler and Newman.

The need for reform, with at least some element of the vernacular (the local language) in the liturgy, might not have become so urgent had Catholic countries remained Catholic. Where the faith is a constituent part of the surrounding culture and unchallenged from outside, it could be assumed that the Catholic people had a sufficient if implicit knowledge of their role as part of the Christian people. Many liturgists, I believe, have exaggerated their supposedly servile and uncomprehending condition in the past. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. But, once this was no longer so, once Catholics found themselves a minority and their beliefs the subject of questioning if not attack, it became necessary for understanding to be explicit rather than implicit.

However, before coming to the movement for liturgical change which led up to the Council's reforms, I would like to look at three considerations of a general kind which can affect people's judgements in matters liturgical.

The first is a simple matter of taste. In art, architecture and music, some people are attracted by simplicity, others by ornament and complexity. These are personal inclinations. They have nothing to do with right or wrong, good or bad. But they are usually the subject of strong feelings, especially when it is a question of what is thought fitting for the worship of God. A striking example of the degree to which these differences of  taste can cause conflict is the famous dispute between St Bernard and Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny in the 12th century. The relative austerity of Cistercian architecture and liturgical style is explained partly by St Bernard's opposition to the elaborate ceremonial of the nearby Benedictine abbey.

My second point is not about how elaborate or ceremonious the liturgy should be, but, granted a particular liturgy is held to need trimming to some degree, about how much trimming there should be. Here what I will call "the interior-decorator syndrome" can come into play. An interior decorator has a natural itch to change things around, whether it is necessary or not. It is a very human weakness. Anyone with expertise or skill of some special kind wants to show it off, whether it is called for or not, and liturgists too, I believe, are not immune from the temptation. With liturgists it takes the form of wanting to revive ancient prayers and practices just because they are ancient and they happen to know about them. Pius XII censured this in his encyclical Mediator Dei. He called it "archaeologisrn." Ancient prayers and practices, he said, should only be revived if they could be shown to be of benefit to the faithful of today. All respectable liturgists accept the principle in theory. But it is difficult to think that all those responsible for the recent reforms have always kept to it in practice.

Finally there is what could be called "the Protestant temptations." They could be summed up as "What is earlier must be better than what is later because it is nearer the 'source,' "and "Everything apart from the essence is superfluous?'

While it is reasonable to suppose that the earliest Christian liturgy was fairly simple, to conclude from this that the simplest form of worship, the one with least ceremony, is the one most pleasing to God, has no warrant in Scripture or anywhere else. The idea that Christian worship is best when simple and unadorned springs from a state of mind that wants to keep the mustard seed of the parable perpetually a mustard seed.

It is also a fact that, as soon as the Church was free to "go public," and hence there exists more concrete evidence about her liturgy; it was already elaborate and ceremonious, and so all Christian worship remained in East and West until the 16th century. Ceremonious worship is also in keeping with the glimpses we get in the Old and New Testaments of the heavenly liturgy, of which the liturgy on earth should fittingly be a reflection.

Remote Beginnings

Coming now to the movement for liturgical reform, its remote origins lie in the great tide of research into the documents of the past which began in the Renaissance, and of which the study of the history of the liturgy soon became a part. However, serious research only began in the 17th century with figures like Cardinals Bona and Tommasi in Italy, and in France with the Benedictines Dom Mabillon and Dom Martène, and the Oratorian père Lebrun. 239

Although all this scholarship did not initially include a demand for change it was only a short time since St Pius V, in conformity with the wishes of the Fathers of the Council of Trent, had legislated a uniform liturgy for the entire Latin Church it was perhaps inevitable that such a demand eventually would be made. The notion of reform was in the air and, by making more people aware that the Latin liturgy, like other liturgies, had not been always the same but had developed over the centuries and to some degree varied from place to place, it was almost bound to suggest, at least to some minds, that adapting the liturgy could be another means of raising the level of the faithful's spiritual life and practice. 240

Among Catholics, the demand for changes first made itself heard in France about the middle of the 17th century, spreading in the following century to Catholic Germany, Austria and Italy. Unfortunately, most of those making the demands were to some degree heterodox and therefore understandably suspect. The demands came in the main from Catholics under Jansenist or Gallican influence.

For the Jansenists, a perfect liturgy would be a reconstruction of what they believed the liturgy to have been like in St Augustine's day. But this was also a way of expressing their hostility to Rome. If the Roman liturgy could be exposed as a mass of liturgical "impurities" or "corruptions," it would suggest that the same could be true of her doctrines. The Gallicans, on the other hand, were for reviving ancient French liturgical practices and prayers, effectively removed by St Pius V's reform, in order to emphasise Gallic distinctness or independence. Some of these "neo-Gallican liturgies" survived until the late 19th century.

We get some idea of the way minds were moving from the innovations of the famous abbé Jubé of Asniere, a village near Paris, in the late 17th century. The abbé insisted first of all, Fr Louis Bouyer tells us, "on the public and collective character of the Mass." He never, for instance, "used the high altar in his church, except on Sundays and feast days when the congregation gathered together. He also restored the old Roman usage (which had endured longer in France than in Rome itself) of placing the linen cloth on the altar only just before Mass and of having no other cross or lights on the altar than the processional cross and tapers which were set in place at the beginning of Mass." He said the psalm Judica and the Confiteor along with the people; sang the Kyrie, Gloria and Credo with them; listened to the Epistle and Gospel sung by assistant ministers; restored the offertory procession "which had never entirely disappeared from French churches" and "had offerings of all kinds ... in this procession which he later blessed ... at the end of the Canon according to the original practice." He never began the Canon until the Sanctus had been sung in full, and "said the Canon loudly enough to be heard by the whole congregation." 241

Clearly the abbé was not only something of a "liturgical specialist," He was ahead of his time in approving of "doing your own thing."

Meanwhile, as the 18th century proceeded, increasing numbers of the higher clergy, scholarly and hierarchical, were being influenced by Enlightenment rationalism. Here we have to distinguish between moderates and extremists: those who wanted to trim what they considered superfluous "extravagances" in order to give "fundamentals" greater prominence, without losing their belief in the essentially mysterious and supernatural character of the faith; and those, like the Emperor Joseph of Austria, and his brother Leopold Grand Duke of Tuscany, who made the "demands of reason," the standard by which they judged what should be kept or discarded. For them, the primary purpose of public worship was moral instruction in order to produce "good citizens."

To begin with, these three bodies of opinion, Jansenist, Gallican and "enlightened," were often at daggers drawn. As long as Louis XIV was alive, most Gallicans were anti-Jansenist, because the king was; while for  "enlightened" people, Jansenist piety was often an object of ridicule. But during the second half of the century, united by their hostility to Rome, these hitherto warring groups were more and more coming to think alike about religious and liturgical reform.

In their combined demands we already see emerging the principles, many of which the Fathers of Vatican II would adopt as the basis for reform in their decree on the liturgy Sacrosanctum Concillium, two hundred years later. The people should play a more active part in worship; the rites should therefore be simplified; they should be as "intelligible" as possible; they should be a vehicle of instruction as well as an act of worship; some parts at least should be in the vernacular; the liturgy should be the foundation and centre of the people's prayer life, and there should be a greater use of Scripture, not only for its own sake, but to facilitate reunion with the Protestants; simplification of the rites would also serve that purpose.

If the Church so long resisted these demands, it was largely because of the circles in which they arose. While the demands were not unreasonable in themselves, the motivation behind them was, as we have seen, often heterodox. A possible "right" or at least tolerable thing was being requested for the wrong reason, a situation which confronts the Church in trying to implement her reforms today.

More specific demands were for concelebration (several priests saying mass together), the temporal cycle to be given priority over the sanctoral cycle (the celebration of feasts of the saints should not obscure the general pattern of the liturgical year), Mass facing the people, more frequent communion, reform of the breviary with the removal of historical errors, the right of local episcopates to alter the liturgy, and permission for parish priests to modify it in so far as doing so would clarify the truths and duties of religion.

We also find among the 18th century protagonists of liturgical reform a prejudice against "popular devotions" (rosary, benediction, eucharistic adoration, devotion to the Sacred Heart; excessive" veneration of saints) similar to that of many of the 20th century's liturgical reformers. Popular devotions were seen as rivals to the liturgy rather than as complementing it. "Private" masses were disapproved of on the grounds that Mass should never be said without a congregation. There should therefore be only one altar  per church. At the same time, the Austrian government was promoting the idea that priests should not be required to say mass daily. Pilgrimages and sodalities or pious associations were other objects of attack, as were statues and images or what was considered an excess of them. For the Emperor Joseph and his like, a religious order devoted to the care of the sick  and wounded like the Brothers of St John of God seemed acceptable, while an order devoted to prayer and contemplation was useless.

The more extreme demands reached their apogee at the Synod of Pistoia, 1786, brainchild of the Jansenist Bishop of Prato in Tuscany and his sovereign the Grand Duke Leopold. PiusVI condemned 86 of the synod's propositions in the Bull Auctorem Fidei (1794). They included a call for a totally vernacular liturgy with only one altar in each church, and the merging of all religious orders into a single giant order with a common habit.

However, at the time we are considering, outside Austria and Italy, these demands and experiments hardly touched the life of the Church as a whole. They remained the concern of a minority of specialists, and in the 19th century they were reduced to a whisper.242 The revolution had made the majority of ecclesiastics more sensitive to the dangers of abruptly altering long-established practices, and the romantic movement brought with it a new appreciation of the importance of beauty in worship and of the liturgical achievements of the Middle Ages.

Immediately following the Napoleonic era, the Bavarian theologian Johann Michael Sailer (1751-1832) pressed for "a modest revision of the missal and breviary, with some reduction of the cultus of the saints in both, and a greater coherence in the choice of biblical readings." But at the same time he could write: "I know it is incomparably better to breathe the letter and spirit of the existing liturgy ... than to give the prize to the arbitrary, mutually contradictory improvement of the liturgy by individuals, which lead finally only to a complete liturgical anarchy and, rather than ameliorate the letter of accidental aspects, destroy the essence and spirit of the whole thing."243

With Sailer, in fact, we see an alternative approach to the liturgical renewal beginning to take shape. Everyone interested in the subject was agreed that the faithful should have a better understanding of what was taking place. But the new school of thought believed that this could best be achieved by teaching the faithful to appreciate the existing liturgy, rather than by drastically altering it, simplifying it or introducing the vernacular.

The first and most successful advocate and practitioner of this new approach was Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875), founder of the restored Benedictine community of Solesmes in north central France. 244

Dom Guéranger, who is perhaps best known for the restoration of Gregorian chant, was not opposed to all change. His initial aim was to remove what he regarded as 17th and 18th century disfigurements mostly artistic from the rites and ceremonies. He would therefore have seen his work as one of purification rather than alteration or adaptation. His ideal was the Roman liturgy of Pius V executed in the style and with the artistic forms of the high Middle Ages the peak, in his eyes, of liturgical development. Once the ideal form had been re-established, all that remained was to make it better understood and loved. 245

This he set about doing through two series of publications, his Institutions liturtgiques and his Années liturgique, which carried his ideas to a wide Catholic reading public and contributed to the new wave of liturgical scholarship which had begun at about the same time. The foundation of a daughter abbey at Beuron in the Rhineland helped to spread his ideas in Germany.

The next step came from the Church's supreme authority. Between 1903 and 1913, St Pius X issued a series of instructions, three of which, modest as they may now seem, directly affected the laity at large. The first aimed at purifying church music and encouraged the use of Gregorian chant at parish level.246 The faithful, hitherto all but completely silent at Mass, were to learn to sing the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei with or without a choir. The second instruction encouraged frequent communion. The third lowered the age at which children could receive communion to seven or thereabouts.

Two further instructions concerned the missal and breviary. The number of feasts, with their own special readings and prayers, which could supplant the regular Sunday readings and prayers, was reduced. In the 18th century, Benedict XIV had considered such a reform but, according to one account, had been put off by the radicalism of the priest he consulted.

The Contemporary Reform Movement: 1909-1947

However, in spite of the work of Dom Guéranger and St Pius X, the beginning of the movement which culminated in the revised liturgy of Paul VI (1970) is attributed to a paper read by Dom Lambert Beauduin, a monk of the Benedictine abbey of Mont César (Louvain, Belgium) at the Malines Congress on the liturgy in 1909. Given the role of the divine office in their life, the Benedictines, not surprisingly, have continued at the forefront of the movement ever since. The subject of the paper was "the participation of the faithful in Christian worship."

To begin with, the movement's main thrust was to do at parish level what Dom Guéranger had done for the cultivated readers of his Années liturgique: stimulate interest in and appreciation of the existing liturgy. To achieve this, Dom Beauduin and his associates organised liturgical weeks, encouraged the publication of books and periodicals on the liturgy of a popular kind, had missals printed with vernacular translations opposite the Latin and, following St Pius X's instruction, promoted the singing of Gregorian chant. Dom Beauduin's La piété de l'église (1914) has been called "the manifesto of the liturgical movement."

Later, the centre of activity moved to Germany. This was partly because Dom Beauduin's interests became divided between liturgical renewal and ecumenism. In 1925, at the request of Pope Pius XI, he founded a monastery at Amay in Belgium (later moved to Chevetogne), dedicated to promoting understanding between Catholics and Orthodox. Then, in 1928, he fell into disfavour and had to leave Amay because of his "bold views" on the liturgy and ecclesiology. However, he continued active in both fields if no longer in the forefront of the liturgical movement, and a retreat he preached in Paris in 1942 led to the foundation of the influential Centre de Pastorale Liturgique in the French capital.

Germany and Austria in the 1920s and 1930s produced a host of fine writers and teachers dedicated to educating the faithful about the liturgy, of whom the most widely read and effective was probably the Austrian Augustinian canon, Fr Pius Parsch of Klosterneuburg outside Vienna. He called his work a "popular liturgical apostolate." Although a considerable liturgical scholar, his first interests were always pastoral, and his many popular explanations of the liturgy led to his monastery being described as the "liturgical centre of German-speaking lands." He attached equal weight to deepening the faithful's appreciation and understanding of the Bible. Appreciation of the liturgy and appreciation of the Bible, he believed, had to go hand in hand.

Meanwhile, the Benedictine abbey of Maria Laach in the Rhineland was providing the movement with some elevated theological input. Under the leadership of Abbot Ildefons Herwegen (1874-1946), Maria Laach had already become an important centre of liturgical research. But what attracted attention and eventually controversy was the "mystery theology" of Dom Odo Casel (1886-1948). One could say that where Pius Parsch's work was directed to bringing the liturgy as much as possible within the orbit of the ordinary faithful's comprehension, Dom Odo's aim was to raise their comprehension to a higher level.

Dom Odo's theory is not easy to summarise. But I will try to give the gist of it because of its subsequent influence, both negative and positive.

The entire liturgy, according to Dom Odo, including the divine office, is the making present in sacramental form of the Paschal Mystery, which he defines as Christ's passage or transitus through death to eternal life and which includes all his actions from his incarnation to his ascension. By taking part in the liturgy, the faithful are swept up into this single movement from death to life, being transformed in the process. It is as though the liturgy as a whole does for the Paschal Mystery what the words of consecration at Mass do in regard to Christ's Body and Blood. As Christ's Body, Blood and Sacrifice are made present by the words of the officiating priest at Mass, so is the Paschal Mystery made present in its entirety through the liturgy.

To begin with, Dom Odo presented his theory of the Paschal Mystery as the fulfilment of what the "mystery religions" of the ancient world were seeking to achieve, an idea that did not make the theory more acceptable in many quarters, and he eventually played down this aspect of his case. 247 However, he did not modify the theory itself, which Fr Louis Bouyer, an ardent admirer of Dom Odo, claims was canonised by the Council's document  on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.248 This, I think, is an exaggeration. While one can certainly detect traces of Dom Odo's influence there, the theory as such is not explicitly expounded or taught. This seems to be the view of Fr Aidan Nichols OP, who points out nevertheless that a dash of Dom Odo's mystical conception of the liturgy would be a good antidote to today's liturgical functionalism.

But whatever Dom Odo may have meant, did his lofty theological ideas matter all that much? How could they have any practical consequences? The fact is that, as interpreted by some of his admirers, they did. For instance, we find them reproaching the faithful when at Mass for concentrating too much on Our Lord's Passion and being too pre-occupied with the Real Presence. Yet, in the context of Dom Casel's mystery theology, that is quite logical. If the whole of Our Lord's life from conception to ascension was a single undifferentiated process, then no single episode has any more redemptive value than another. 249

With this interpretation of Dom Odo's theory, Pius XII took issue in his encyclical Mediator Dei, on Christian Worship (1947):

"Since His (Christ's) bitter sufferings constitute the principal mystery of our redemption, it is only fitting that the Catholic faith should give it the greatest prominence. This mystery is the very centre of divine worship" (art. 164). And in the preceding article but one he had warned those "who, deceived by the illusion of a higher mysticism, dare to assert that attention should not be paid to the historic Christ, but to a 'pneumatic' or glorified Christ. They do not hesitate to assert that a change has taken place in the piety of the faithful" who "by dethroning the glorified Christ ... have substituted in His place that Christ who lived on earth" (M.D., pt. III). For this reason, the Pope observes, there have been voices asking for the removal of crucifixes from Churches.

Meanwhile, the idea, never completely extinct, that explaining the existing liturgy to the people and teaching them to appreciate it was  not enough, that if it was to have a really transforming effect on their spiritual lives the liturgy itself must be changed, was growing in strength and finding more and more supporters. The period between the two wars in Germany was a time of widespread liturgical experimentation, the majority of it unofficial. Fr Parsch, for instance, had already tried Mass facing the people for the benefit of students on cross-country hikes and in German-speaking countries there was much unauthorised use of the vernacular.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these experiments and the accompanying demands for change, was how closely many of them resembled the demands of the 17th and 18th century liturgical reformers we looked at earlier, even if the motivation behind them was not always the same: where the approach of the Enlightenment reformers was utilitarian the liturgy is primarily for instruction and the moral improvement of the faithful the reformers of the 1920s and '30s still saw the liturgy as primarily the enactment of a mystery directed to the worship of God. 250 However, this situation was not to last. The re-emergence of the Enlightenment's utilitarian approach in the period after World War II and its triumph in the wake of the Council, will, as we shall see, be responsible for most of the misinterpretations of the new liturgy. 251

The controversies roused by the liturgical experiments of the 1930s and '40s were largely responsible for Pius Xll's encyclical.

Mediator Dei was not intended to crush the developing liturgical movement. Rather it was intended to lay down the boundaries within which it could operate. However, it has to be said, that while the liturgical movement is praised for its efforts, there are as many if not more passages devoted to warnings against heterodox ideas and abuses. The elements which will disorient the reform are already present in the movement. Prominent on the Pope's list was the idea that there is no difference between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of the baptised; the priest is merely a delegate of the community. Treating the Mass as just a fraternal meal is also censured.

In spite of this, shortly after the encyclical's appearance, the Pope set up a commission to consider the possibilities of reform, and this in turn led to the already mentioned liturgical changes of the 1950s (restoration of the Easter Vigil and reform of Holy Week services, evening Mass, shorter preliminary fast, etc.)

The Reform Movement: 1947-1970

The figure enjoying the greatest reputation in the post-war period was the Westphalian liturgical scholar Josef Jungmann SJ, who taught pastoral theology, catechetics and liturgy at Innsbruck from 1925 to 1963, and who became world-famous with the publication of his Mass of the Roman Rite, in 1948. He was a peritus at Vatican II, working on the preparatory and conciliar commissions for the liturgy; and afterwards acting as a consultor to the commission which implemented the conciliar decree.

The post-war period also saw two important developments. The first was a new and vigorous French input into the liturgical movement, inspired, says Fr Bouyer, by "some Dominicans and a few seculars," and also, as we have seen, by Dom Beauduin. Its headquarters were the Centre de Pastorale Liturgique in Paris, with Maison Dieu as its house journal.

From this French offshoot would come many of the more radical demands and experiments in the years ahead. Its leaders do not seem to have had much interest in the liturgy itself, its history or its beauty as a vehicle of worship and expression of the Church's faith over two millennia. They seem to have seen it largely as an instrument to be adapted and changed at will for purely missionary ends, the neophytes in view being workers, students, and modern pagans generally. They were little interested in "helping faithful Christians ... rediscover their own treasures." 252 Many were ready to abandon the parish as the normal centre of Christian worship.

The second development affected the mainstream of the movement, still a largely German and Austrian affair. "The decisive epoch of the liturgical movement," Fr Nichols writes "was ... what we may call its 'political phase,' when it set out to be a force on the stage of the world Church from 1945 onwards." By this, the author does not mean that liturgical scholars mounted the pulpits or took to the streets, in order to stir up the masses. The term refers rather to the gradual formation within the movement of a party, in the sense of an organised group of like-minded men with a programme of practical goals. They were not without allies in Rome. Chief among them was the secretary of Pius XII's liturgical reform commission, Msgr Annibale Bugnini. But the Congregation of Rites, the department of papal government responsible for the liturgy, was not sympathetic to their aims. They therefore advanced their cause by preparing private measures of reform and "gaining the ear of well-disposed national Episcopal hierarchies." Much of the preparatory work was done at a series of international conferences of liturgists beginning in 1951, "the brainchildren of the Centre de Pastorale Liturgique and the Liturgical Institute of Trier."

"The extraordinary thing about these meetings," writes Fr Nichols,"was that with few exceptions they were held behind closed doors, by invitation only, and ... even in the case of the exceptions, the sessions to which a wider public had entry were always preceded by what (Dorn Bernard) Botte calls a réunion de techniciens." Dom Bernard, himself one of these techniciens, for whom "practical revision of the external form of the liturgy was exceedingly important," will become one of "the principal authors of the revised liturgy" "Considerable continuity," Fr Nichols goes on, "links these reunions of the 1950s to the composition of the consultative body set up to draft the (Council's) schema on the Liturgy, and, after that ... to the post-conciliar Consilium" (the commission which implemented it).

We have here, I think, the first of the weak spots in the reform process. The old liturgy was in a true sense a "community project," the result of multiple small contributions from different times and places over a period of 2000 years. Its 20's century reform was almost exclusively the product of experts, with some of the consequences foreseen over a hundred years earlier by Sailer. "With all its advantages," writes Cardinal Ratzinger, "the new Missal was published as if it were a book put together by professors, not a phase in a continual growth process. Such a thing has never happened before. It is absolutely contrary to the laws of liturgical growth." 253 In a similar vein, Fr Nichols describes it as a "revolution by technicians that acquired a general stamp of approval from papacy and episcopate."

However necessary reform may have been and praiseworthy the aims of the reformers, it is difficult to see how this method of proceeding can be reconciled with the Council's injunction that "any new forms should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. "254


235. The revision of the Russian Orthodox liturgical books by the Patriarch Nikon in the 17th century provoked opposition even though there was no attempt to change doctrine. The schism of the "Old Believers," who rejected the changes, persists to this day.

236. See Louis Bouyer, The Liturgy Revived, p. 44, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1965. This is the best short account known to the author of what the orthodox reformers wished to achieve.

237. I have drawn this distinction between the liturgy and what it enshrines, because of the way Catholics who have developed an allergy to the liturgy of Paul VI usually speak about it as "the new Mass." There can be no such thing as a "new Mass." When a priest stands before the altar, either the mystery is enacted or it is not, depending on whether he is validly ordained, says the right words, uses the right matter, and does not deliberately form an intention contrary to that of the Church. If these conditions are fulfilled, then what takes place beyond the range of human sight and touch is incomparably more wonderful than the most beautiful liturgy.

238. The London Times for 6 July 1971 carried a letter signed by a mixed group of writers, artists and critics appealing to the Holy See to preserve the old liturgy.

239. It is now more or less agreed that Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin and Crammer knew little about the history of the liturgy. If they had, it would have been much more difficult for them to justify the changes they introduced.

240. Pius V's reform was not a reform in the 20th century sense: it was more a tidying up. Before Trent, the Latin liturgy had been basically the same everywhere, but there were many minor variations. These, unless they were over 200 years old, were suppressed, mainly to avoid doctrinal deviations. The Reformation was at its height. It is even possible that "reform" is the wrong word for the 20th century changes, since "reform" suggests there is a moment when a liturgy reaches a point of perfection to which it is always necessary to return. "Revision" would perhaps be more accurate.

241. Bouyer, Life and liturgy, London, Sheed and Ward, 1956, p. 53. Fr Aldan Nichols OP in his Looking at the Liturgy, (Ignatius. 1996) refers to Jubé as a Jansenist. Fr Bouyer, who admires Jubé as a courageous forerunner of the 20th-century reforms, says that "he can only be reproached for having signed the appeal against the papal bull Unigenitus, which condemned the main Jansenist propositions,"

242. It is true that Rosmini's already-mentioned call for ending the separation of clergy and people at mass can hardly be described as a whisper. It was an anguished cri de coeur and briefly caused a sensation, but in obedience to the Holy See he withdrew the first edition of the book and the revised edition was not published until after his death. The modest first edition "for a few friends," which was widely pirated, contained what sounded like a call for the vernacular. The revised edition retained the passages seeming to favour a vernacular liturgy, but included additional passages arguing the case for the retention of Latin.

243.  Quoted in Nichols, op cit., p. 39.

244. To appreciate Dom Guéranger 's achievement, it is worth recalling what Montalembert tells us in the 22nd chapter of his Les Moines de l'Occident. So effectively had the revolution wiped out the religious orders in France that the author grew up without the slightest idea what a monk was and without ever having seen one.

245. After World War II it became customary in liturgical circles to talk condescendingly about Dom Guéranger. He was represented as a romantic aesthete with little appeal beyond the pious and cultivated readers of his Années liturgiques. Recent studies have shown this to be untrue. His concerns were as much social and pastoral as those of any 20th century reformer. (See Nichols, op cit., p. 41.)

246. Much prevailing church music was quite inappropriate.The Italians sang hymns to tunes from Puccini and Verdi operas not that we are now in any position to look down on them.

247. The earliest mystery religions of the ancient world were vegetation rites. By re­enacting the death and return to life of a god, the revival of nature in spring was assured. In the mystery religions flourishing at the time of Christ, this element had largely disappeared. Those joining in the rite hoped thereby to ensure their survival after death. It was this latter kind that Dom Odo saw as a providential foreshadowing of Christianity.  Confusion about which he had in mind may have caused the misunderstanding.

248. Bouyer, The liturgy Revived, p. 31.

249. This seems to be the view of Fr. Ambrosius Verheul, in his Einfuhrung in die Liturgie, (Herder. 1964: Eng. trans., Introduction to the Liturgy, Anthony Clarke, 1972, p. 166), where the faithful, and the Church of recent times, are reproached for "dividing" the Paschal Mystery by treating the Passion and Resurrection as separate events of different significance. We are not to think of the Cross except as Christ's kingly throne and a sign of victory. For Jungmann's critique of Casel, op. cit. p. 161. "You cannot for instance say at Christmas, when Hodie Christus natus est is sung: the birth of Christ is made present ... Similarly at Easter, the resurrection of Christ is not in any true sense realised anew."

250. The similarity of the goals of the Enlightenment reformers and the 20th-century reformers only came fully to light with the republication in 1979 of a book by a Fr Waldemar Trapp, first published in Regensburg in 1940. Until its republication it seems to have been little known even in its country of origin. A liturgical scholar and reformer. Fr Trapp appears to have been not a little disconcerted by his discoveries. The details are in Fr Nichols' book, to which I am deeply indebted. Its 126 pages throw more light on why the reforms have been partly derailed than any other book I have come across.

251. No one understood the dangers to the liturgy of the utilitarian approach better than Fr Romano Guardini, a supporter of liturgical reform and leader of the Catholic renewal in Germany in the 1920s and '30s. In his famous little book The Spirit of the Liturgy, he explains that while the liturgy has meaning (the glorification of God) the attempt to give it a directly pragmatic purpose destroys it.

"Only those who are not scandalised by this understand what the liturgy means. From the very first, every type of rationalism has turned against it." Sheed & Ward, 1930, pp. 105.

252. Bouyer, Life and liturgy, p. 67.

253. Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, Ignatius, 1986. p. 86.

254. The Catechism of the Catholic Church published nearly 30 years later adds: "Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy" (art. 1125). In contrast. here is a technicien's view: "The Church has always been conscious of the power she holds from Christ for the regulation of the cultural celebration of the mystery of Christ, a power that according to contemporary theologians goes much further than had previously been supposed (Verheul, op cit., p. 135). However, Fr Verheul is on the side of the angels in other respects. "Liturgy is in the last resort honouring, praising and worshipping God" (op cit. 32).

Copyright © Philip Trower 2006, 2011, 2018

Version:  16th February 2021

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