Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Final Word on Evil Modern Theology

...I doubt it will be the last word, but never mind.

Someone asked me if what I had said contradicted the celebration of the EF Mass. It would seem on the surface of it that the New Mass was designed to have a meaning which was easily accessible, and which could speak to all people, who then, if they need to would be able to look further into it.

I have much sympathy with this view. Contrary to some I am not of the opinion that those who reformed the liturgy had evil motives (some of them had motives which I violently disagree with, and which have, I am sad to say, proved themselves to be destructive to the Church, but that is to mix motives with results and that is just not on). I think that what they wanted to do was actually in accord with what I have outlined. They wanted to produce a pristine liturgy, when the 'noble simplicity' of the signs spoke to people, without commentary.

By the way the phrase 'noble simplicity' now makes me feel more than queasy as it was used in seminary to justify the destruction of anything of beauty or complexity - a rose is beautiful, complex, and has a noble simplicity.

So if this was the intention, what went wrong? Well we all know the problems of archeologism (returning to the past for its own sake) namely:

  • We really have no idea what went on liturgically in the early Church - all that priest-turning-his-back-on-God business proves that.
  • There is a reason liturgy develops.
  • We all want a golden age until we have toothache, and then we want modern anesthesia.
  • Why would we choose 4th century Rome, or Ephesus or any other time or place as the perfect moment? 

etc. etc. So archeologism as an end in itself is not going to work (it can be used in service to a greater whole, such as relearning the ancient chant of the Church, but not if we recreate a historical 'reality').

So if the New Mass does not deliver on 'clarity' then why not? I think it is all to do with... too many words. This is both in readings and in stripping everything away except the spoken word. There is nothing else to look at. You cannot engage in paraliturgical activity. You cannot say the rosary, you cannot read different prayers from those that the priest says. You are a slave to the action of the Priest - you are tied to him, as if by strings. Ironically what was supposed to free the liturgy from being Priest-centred (only the action of the Priest) has tied the people to him. In a world of choice, there is no choice, in a world of freedom, there is no freedom. Stand up, sit down, say this, listen to this. This is passivity dressed up in external action.

I'm not just criticising the New Mass, but rather pointing out areas of unintended consequences. Either you are 'involved' (thus one of the club) or passive. Either you understand the hidden messages in art or scripture of whatever, or you do not.

If you came to Holy Mass from outside, you would experience rites, language and symbolism of a group of people of whom you are not a member, the group is in relationship to each other - you are not a part of it. If you go to an Extraordinary Form Mass, then you experience the rites, language and symbolism of an act of worship which you are in relationship to. You may not have the faintest idea of what is going on, but you and everyone else is in the same boat. You are all in relationship with what is beyond you. You can stand in awe at something which is there, as opposed to standing outside a circle of worshippers.

I can bang on like this for ever, but I'll stop now. It is interesting when you thing of things in this way. It is all a bit counter-intuitive.
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