The Liturgical Wilderness

There have been some interesting comments on Gathering a Sense of the Lay of the Liturgical Land : Traditional Catholicism. One comment in particular struck me, sent in by someone who comments here too.

From a practical point of view, I have very little interest left for either one. Any attempt at reconstructing the past is doomed to produce something artificial and lifeless. I’ve been to traditional Latin Masses with the SSPX, FSSP, independent chapels, you name it: I always come away from them with an undeniable feeling both of sterility and self-consciousness. No matter how exact your reproduction of the pre-conciliar liturgical forms, they can never again be celebrated with the pre-conciliar naivete, with the mindset of “just doing what Catholics do.” Traditionalist Catholics are only too aware of the fact that they’re doing something special and extraordinary in going to their TLM. That, oddly enough, is a most un-traditional mindset. However ugly a homunculus Paul VI’s missal is, it’s alive (even if barely so) with the kind of “here comes everybody” Catholicism that has always gotten itself mixed up in the muck and mess of the real world, and it’s “just what Catholics do” on a Sunday. In that sense, it might even be more traditional than the Traditional Mass.

Before I quit my rambling, let me just say that I think more effort would be well spent in trying to make whatever life there is in the Paul VI missal more vigorous and conducive to orienting people toward transcendence. The Lumen Christi project is one such effort I really applaud. More of that would do more for enriching the current liturgical wasteland than either Traditionalism or Traditional Catholicism, as you’ve defined them.

I sent a comment, which still needs to be approved:

This is a theme I comment on in my blog, but my experience of much of the French Novus Ordo scene is not “natural” Catholicism, but a self-conscious “We have restored pristine purity”. Perhaps your experience is different. I have often asked myself the question as to whether the ordo of Paul VI could be celebrated in a “medieval” spirit, like French Benedictine monks, but such a “spirit” is very rare. I have myself celebrated 2 or 3 masses following the Novus Ordo in Latin in the “conservative” way and it left me quite empty feeling. As a Romantic, I don’t discount feeling and intuition from our way of evaluating things. I’m not saying you are wrong, but any future of sacramental Christianity seems to lie elsewhere – or nowhere.

I have often commented on the loss of innocence, the impossibility of putting the genie back into the bottle. Such considerations have brought many priests to give up, some to die and others to melt into secular life. There is the question of the rite. I celebrated the Novus Ordo masses in early 2008 as a TAC priest in the wake of the Portsmouth meeting of October 2007 and the thought of assimilating that rite in addition to asking Rome to accept “Anglican Patrimony”. This process within myself led me to lay aside the Roman rite entirely and celebrate according to Sarum in the most authentic way possible – in the light of the Dominican and Lyons rites. There too was some measure of archaeologism and self-conscious restoration. It seemed to be the best compromise to enable me to live my priestly identity rather than “fall away” myself. I celebrated Sarum in English until the autumn of 2009 and switched to the Latin version of Dickinson.

That being said, and it was a question about what I did in my own chapel and in my own company, there is the question of parish religion. I could not face being a parish priest, at least in the hypothesis that I had applied to the Ordinariate, been accepted and re-ordained and put to service partly as an Anglican-rite priest and a Roman-rite priest in a “normal” diocesan parish. If I ever had a subjective “vocation” to such a kind of ministry, I don’t have one now. This certainly prejudices me, and I am deeply alienated from my former Roman Catholic life. However, I can honestly say that I found nothing “natural” or “normal” in modern parish life, even in the French countryside.

Perhaps the most “natural” kind of Catholicism is in the monasteries. There’s Fontgombault, Triors, Le Barroux and others, but I find their spirit very “military” and influenced by French military and scouting traditions. Monastic life appeals to a defined temperament. That spirit was not systematic in monasteries of only fifty years ago, and certainly not in the nineteenth or the fifteenth century.

We in churches like the ACC and the remnants of the TAC try to keep things going, and I find the spirit of a parish or Synod Mass much less self-conscious than the traditionalists as I have experienced them. That has encouraged me, together with my Bishop allowing me to carry on with Sarum. We do have a duty to carry on and not give up and resign ourselves to darkness and hopelessness.

My most intimate feeling is that sacramental Christianity needs some kind of cultural or social platform which has been totally destroyed in the modern world. Perhaps groups of artists and writers, perhaps alternative “intentional” communities, people with a capacity for reflection and original thought. It is an avenue that needs to be explored by those priests who are of suitable temperaments and know how to switch off the institutional claptrap. Perhaps a future might lie there, and not in the urban rat race or country villages increasingly populated by town people.

I don’t have the right to say that all is lost, but it is hard to see clearly.

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56 Responses to The Liturgical Wilderness

  1. Xryztofer says:

    I regret the overly dogmatic tone of that comment. Everything I write should really end with a question mark, because I’m never as sure of myself as I come across. But I do think the Paul VI missal can allow for authentic Catholic worship in Spirit and in Truth, because I’ve experienced it doing so. I’ve spent some time with the Trappists as well as the Carthusians (yes, I know they have their own rite, but it too has been reformed and is pretty close to the Novus Ordo) and the sense of connectedness with the liturgical tradition was there for me. But again, as you mentioned, these are monastic settings, so maybe the only thing that can save the Church’s liturgical life is a strong injection of monasticism into the parish space. Don’t ask me how that can be accomplished (maybe requiring that seminarians spend 6 months in a monastery before taking up their parish duties … like that would go over well with the progressive crowd!)

    • David says:

      Well, in Dallas we have a Cistercian monastery that does the Pauline rite pretty well (complete with monastic chant).

      Here’s a theory. What if the Tridentine Ordo has gone as far as it can go? What if it has outdone its usefulness except for those people irrevocably attached to it? Perhaps the Pauline liturgy can develop as liturgies did from the 1st to 10th centuries? The bare-bones and primitive nature of the Pauline liturgy certainly makes this a possibility.

      I completely agree with your comment about the Trads. The independents I remember were the most “alive” as far as the communities went. Perhaps it was the lack of an institutional mindset.

      • It’s a nice try, but there are two considerations. The Novus Ordo is an “engineered” rite that was reportedly written over spaghetti and piccata alla milanese working lunches in Rome washed down by ice-cold Frascati. It did not develop anywhere, nor can it develop into anything. Secondly, if liturgies developed in history, they did so in more or less Christian societies. There are no Christian societies. The cultural references of most people (modern “music”, etc.) cannot be assimilated into the liturgy.

        Paul VI is just as irrelevant as Pius V or Cranmer for that matter. Your final consideration is most germane. In the RC Church, everything is smothered and suffocated by institutionalism and bureaucracy, just like ECUSA or the Church of England. It is “genetically modified religion”. On the other side, the lack of institutionalism makes people feel insecure.

        Pope Benedict XVI pinned his hopes on a reform of the reform. With his abdication and the refusal of most churchmen in this matter, the dream is over.

        It is tempting to think that Christianity itself has gone beyond the limit of its shelf life and must be discarded like any other consumer merchandise. It would seem that the future is something like what is portrayed by Orwell or Aldous Huxley, or by many science fiction movies over the last forty years or so. The alternative is a breakdown of our society as happened to Soviet Communism, and then there may be hope at local levels. But perhaps at that stage, Christianity will not be the chosen system of spirituality.

        This way of thinking can go a long way, but it is honest to God

      • Xryztofer says:

        I think you may be a bit unjust in your critique of the Novus Ordo. To my knowledge, it was Eucharistic Prayer II that was written up in the manner you described, not the entire Missal. After all, the Roman Canon is still there. My reading of people like Bouyer and Jungmann tells me that what they were striving for was a Mass that more closely approximated what was being done in the Patristic era, without all those medieval “accretions” (Bouyer himself was explicit that the middle ages were a time of liturgical decadence and represented a departure from authentic liturgical piety). Unfortunately, the Novus Ordo has the problem that anything developed within our lifetime has: we know where it came from, and so it carries with it no “mystique” of coming out of the mists of antiquity. Thus the feeling of “artificiality” that you have with it. On the other hand, I think the liturgical scholars of the last century probably began to think that they had “de-mythologized” the Tridentine Rite enough through their scientific study of its origins that they felt they could in good conscience dissect it as they ended up doing.

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes. In the end, this dispute is over arrangements of words (and gestures). The Pauline Mass is one; the others are others. All are man-made constructions. We may find one or the other(s) more pretty or to our taste and understanding, that is all. None of them acts as a warrant for any act of mercy or justice etc, or the obligation to seek to so act, which is where the real challenge of religion appears to lie.

      • ed pacht says:

        I couldn’t disagree much more with the previous two comments. What is missing is the living continuity of the Church and its worship. True, liturgy beyond the bare divinely instituted essentials is a human construct, but it is not the construct of individuals or of a single age. Change in liturgy is inevitable, and even desirable, but such change is and must be built upon the continuous life in worship of a church that is not discontinuous. To mark an era as one of ‘liturgical decadence’ marked by ‘accretions’ that need to be disposed of is precisely to affirm a radical discontinuity – much what the 16th century reformers were doing. These ‘accretions’ have something vital to say to subsequent eras such as ours, and the Anglican experience of the late 19th and early 2oth centuries certainly bears witness to this in that liturgical change among Anglicans was largely devoted to recovering as many of those ‘accretions’ as could be done without marring the continuity of Anglicanism itself. I do not believe the kind of wholesale revision evident in the Novus Ordo and in the late 20th and early 21st century Anglican revisions is healthy or helpful , though, like the Book of Common Prayer itself, time may well grow them into something worthy of the Christian Tradition. Some valiant efforts in that direction are already being made, but a great deal of current-time snobbishness needs to be left behind. Tradition remains continuous and vital to the Christian life.

      • I would summarise things even more succinctly. None of the old liturgies, any of them, were perfect. Whatever pastoral problems there were with old liturgies have not been improved by new rationally engineered rites. Get rid of the bureaucracy and the institutional “monster”, let Christians get together in small communities based on friendship and do what they want in the way of worship.

  2. Xryztofer says:

    “But perhaps at that stage, Christianity will not be the chosen system of spirituality.

    This way of thinking can go a long way, but it is honest to God…”

    And yet taking it seriously means taking seriously the notion that Christ will not be with us always, to the end of the age. Unless by “Christianity” you mean something other than faith in Christ; perhaps instead the external forms in which that faith is practiced. Fr. Tyrrell might have agreed. His view seemed to be that Catholicism is the Roman state religion infused and leavened with the Spirit of Christ: “To the making of Catholicism two great streams of religious tradition have run together … Of these two streams Christianized Judaism is the tributary, and the Graeco-Roman empire-religion the receiver.” (Which, by the way, he thought was a good thing: “what is so often used as a reproach against Catholicism–its various affinities with non-Christian religions, with Judaism, and Graeco-Roman, and Egyptian paganism, and all their tributaries–seems to us one of its principal glories and commendations.” The notion that the Sprit of God should choose to operate in the world through the external forms of a human (pagan) religion is no more shocking than that the Word should take on the nature of a flesh and blood human being). If that’s right, then it’s not altogether inconceivable that a time could come when such external forms are no longer efficacious in communicating that Spirit, in which case a different “system” may be forthcoming. Right or wrong, at least considering the possibility makes for a useful corrective against thinking that Christianity stands or falls with its current institutional expressions. “The Spirit blows where it wills.”

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “No matter how exact your reproduction of the pre-conciliar liturgical forms, they can never again be celebrated with the pre-conciliar naivete, with the mindset of ‘just doing what Catholics do.’ ”

    What about the experience of living continuity of those (of around our host’s age, and conceivably even quite a bit younger, if any were like Charles Williams, who insisted on attending services when he was three!) who consciously experienced the Mass before 1970, and were (for whatever reasons) in a position to go on doing so, thereafter, and of helping introduce others – younger siblings and the next generation, especially, but also perhaps ‘complete strangers’ (of no sort of liturgical experience)? Insofar as they were ‘beleaguered’ (and aware of it), their experience could not have had exactly one of a “pre-conciliar naivete”, yet would presumably still be to a considerable degree one of ‘just doing what Catholics do.’, because it would in fact be that.

    And what of the experiences of less-than-complete strangers of various sorts, pilgrims. immigrants, visitors from other liturgical backgrounds – whose experience would parallel that of people from the first days of the Church and throughout its history – including its missionary history?

    • Xryztofer says:

      I grant that those are some pretty straightforward counter-examples to the claim I made. But the more I think about it, the more the problem seems even deeper, much deeper than just the issue of passing on traditonal liturgical forms. The fact is that those traditions arose within a world in which religion was simply a given. To give just one example: medieval lords would bequeath tremendous sums of money to ensure that masses would be said for their release from purgatory. How many of us today would give so much as 5% of our estate for such a purpose, instead of passing it along to our children?

      What do we *really* believe in? Granted, pretty much every one sitting in a church gives what Newman called “notional” assent to the faith claims we make, but we’re all immersed in a culture of unbelief, in a post-critical world in which Ricoeur’s “hermenutic of suspicion” is always at work in the background. However, the traditional liturgical rites have their origin in a world in which everything they express was the product of “real” assent. The intercession of the saints was as real for them as the effects of gravity are for us. So even if, say, Fr. Gommar de Pauw, who lived through the council and refused to adopt the Novus Ordo, continued to celebrate the “Mass of All Times” and thereby kept “doing what Catholics have always done,” and then passed it along to some young protégé of his, the milieu in which this is happening is just so different from that in which the liturgical rites came into being that I really wonder what’s ultimately being handed on here. Is it really the same as what St Paul received and then handed on? Or St Augustine? Or St Pius V?

      So let me qualify my statement: “Traditionalist Catholics are only too aware of the fact that they’re doing something special and extraordinary in going to their TLM.” While true, I think it’s totally misleading. Every one of us who makes a conscious decision to worship God is doing something “special and extraordinary.” We’re intentionally acting in a way that’s thoroughly at odds with the culture we live in, and that’s an entirely different thing from what our ancestors in the Faith did. Can any of us, today, really consider ourselves “traditional”?

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes, this is a point I have for some time thought myself. It might also be put this way: so long as a person or a community follows a custom (aka “tradition”) without special consciousness, a process of Tradition can be observed (by an outsider); the moment someone becomes specially conscious of it, or thinks the custom serves the Tradition, the value of the custom as a tradition diminishes. Whether a “traditionalist” is trying to bolster the process of Tradition or is trying to conserve or preserve particular customs, there is something in such endeavours that marks it off from the relatively unconscious habitudes of their forebears. It also strikes me that at some point, no matter how long ago, any and all “tradition” began as a novelty or contemporary mode.

        Which may caution equally those who claim they are modernists – for the modernity of any particular mode appears to be very temporary. What a dilemma! Perhaps after all, it is best not to argue about such things and simply go with what one likes, however such like has arisen.

      • I too don’t feel right about that theory either – the “tradition” has to be un-self-conscious or it becomes untraditional or illegitimate for want of a better word. We are self-conscious about everything from “culture” to modern technology. This would mean that we have to have a kind of Christianity that has no tradition, or say that Christianity has no further basis for humans relating to it. It becomes redundant or perhaps even harmful as atheists like Dawkins say. Should we be Quakers or Unitarians, or American fundamentalists?

        Perhaps it is just a matter of personal taste and choice among the options for the individual. That is unless we are going to have a Nazi or Communist (or ISIS for that matter) style totalitarian regime where those who don’t conform get killed. Discussion is certainly sterile, because we all have choices and sensitivities.

      • Stephen K says:

        ……a kind of Christianity that has no tradition, or say that Christianity has no further basis for humans relating to it.

        This discussion has been helpful for me in pinpointing what I think is very pertinent to the subject of the widespread abandonment of older Christian forms, dogmas and rites: namely, that it is a mistake to attach oneself to Tradition (as indeed, perhaps, to Modernity). Really, when one comes to think about it, it no longer washes, to do something because it’s always been done. There has to be a reason – is it beautiful? Or, is it useful? Will it help someone for good? The fact that something is old, or ancient, is no reason at all, any more than the fact that something is new means it must be good.

        If we say that Tradition is a source of truth, we are begging the question: the fact that something has been handed down implies the proposition that we should not dare to question or disagree with what others have said for a long time. I mean, how dare we?

        No, I have to conclude it’s a mistake to call oneself a traditionalist unless one thinks that tradition is a sufficient or even valid criterion. We all have the experience, I imagine, of doing something “my grandmother did when she was a little girl” etc. But the point is, grandmother’s recipes are only worth anything if they taste good.

        It might save a lot of angst and dispute if we called ourselves Aestheto-utilitarians or Rational sensibilists: i.e. we only do things if they work, we only believe things if they make sense and do not defy our experience, we only fall in love with the beautiful. The one thing we won’t do is to do what’s always been done because it’s always been done or once was.

        There are still many good deeds being done in the name of faith even while traditional pietistic cultures are being abandoned. It’s not so terrible an idea that Christianity should not be defined by or dependent upon any tradition or set thereof. There may be some traditions (i.e. passed-on customs) in it but they’ll survive or have a place only if they’re still beautiful or useful, which appears to be the only sound basis for it relate to humans. I’d like to suggest that we abandon “Tradition” on any other grounds.

      • One thing I learned when studying the liturgy at the Council of Trent was that the preservation of liturgical rites was a pastoral question. Even such a reactionary council considered the spiritual good of the faithful more than “pure tradition”.

        But everyone knows how much the vestments, lights and the other external things (which are consecrated by a blessing and used in the cult of Mass) move men and turn their minds from commonplace thoughts to [the contemplation of] that divine sacrifice which is being performed. There is indeed an extremely useful and holy symbolism in all these things; whoever understands it knows that they were aptly instituted. The Spirit that induced Christ to institute the sacrifice at the Last Supper taught and instructed the Church to use becoming and religious ceremonies that were well adapted to the times.

        Quantum vero et vestibus et luminaribus et aliis externis rebus, quæ et benedictione consecrantur et ad missæ cultum adhibentur, moveantur homines et animos convertant a rerum profanarum cogitatione ad divinum illud sacrificium, quod agitur: nemo est, qui nesciat, et est quidem utilissima et sanctissima rerum earum omnium significatio, quam qui percipiunt, recte eas institutas fuisse cognoscunt. Atque idem Spiritus, quo ad sacrificium instituendum in cæna Christus adductus est, ecclesiam docuit atque instruxit, ut congruas ac pias pro temporis ratione cæremonias adhiberet.

        The arguments for the twentieth century liturgical movement and the new rites were exactly the same. The problem was making one style of worship compulsory for all in a heavy-handed manner. The “unbroken tradition” argument is very weak. I know people who love the new rites and find their spiritual joy in them. I don’t. Am I any more or less good and meritorious?

        A little less than a year ago, I wrote Stages of Spiritual Life. At higher stages, churches and liturgies probably have little meaning as for people “of the flesh” at the other end of the scale. Once we get away from the aggressive “true church” claims, we find an uncanny degree of freedom and scope for seeking what really matters.

        Come to think of it, what traditionalists are most bothered about is the surrounding culture. Already in the 1930’s, there were experiments with Mass facing the people, using secular music for settings of liturgical texts, a didactic approach in the Gebetsingmesse (Pray-sing Mass). The vernacular was used in many places from the fifteenth century and in places like China. You can easily have a “Tridentine” clown mass if you want it. The reverse is true for the Novus Ordo – for those concerned for the surrounding culture and not the inner symbolism. It is the gut reaction of most lay people I know. Liturgical history, theology and other related disciplines are truly for experts or any of us who have done liturgical studies.

        I argue for diversity and freedom within churches, such as we had in Anglicanism from the time of the Ritualists. Many of the goings-on in “spikey” parishes were absurd and plain stupid, but it was a first step to liturgical freedom. It opens the way to abuses and what some may perceive as scandalous sacrilege. It also opens the way to people of different temperaments and sensitivities not being alienated. However, such a Church would not be in the least bit “politically correct”!

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes, Father, diversity will reflect the diversity of the human experience and understanding (and therefore taste) whilst those desires and elements that are “common” to our natures and thinking will incline forms to be not completely different from each other, I think. I re-read Stages of Spiritual Life, and found it, as I did upon my first reading, a very insightful piece. We sometimes have to use a literal approach to things; sometimes a legalistic one, but if these are all that we recognise or apply in our thinking, our fare is no more than sea-biscuit, and spiritual scurvy is our destiny.

    • Dale says:

      Yes, David, I can only guess that those of us who have never been novus ordo, and only know, and our families have only known the traditional liturgy are all just playing at church according to this joker.

      • Dale says:

        I am sorry, but I do have to apologise for referring to this individual as a “joker.” He is not. I have looked at his blog and much of what he says has real merit; but some of his reactions to Roman Catholic Traditionalist, whilst there is indeed some truth to what he says, are more than over-the-top. With its insistence on the exclusive use of Latin, adoration of Papacy (to which they pretend to disagree), there is a type of disconnect. But to then make the jump to an attack on the western tradition itself is simply not really viable. Often, in my experience as an observer, the novus ordo seems to eventually lead to irreligion and a rather nasty persecution of traditionalists as well as tradition. Although there is much to see that is wrong with Roman Catholic Traditionalism it is perhaps an understandable attempt to not only preserve a living heritage but the Faith itself; one suspects that making fun of a small, and often disliked minority opinion is rather too easy and then to accuse them of playing at make believe is a well known ruse.

      • Dale says:

        I should really not post when I am ill. I thought the whole blog, which I very much like was written by this fellow whom Fr Chadwick quoted. Although he is perhaps not a joker does he really believe that the novus ordo is not sterile and banal? And that those of us who follow a more ancient, and living, tradition are? He may not be a joke, but his contention are very, very close to being so.

      • I think some of us are coming to a new and fresh way of thinking of things. I am brought to think of the new middle ages in the thought of Berdyaev, not like the middle ages, but a long time of spiritual darkness and asceticism. Perhaps the ISIS throat-slitting barbarians might be an instrument of this darkness and martyrdom. Much as the Mystery goes far beyond liturgical rites, it is difficult to embark on a sacramental Christian life without a liturgy that speaks of unction, mystery and stillness before God. The one I quoted needs to be read with subtlety. The RC traditionalist movement has failed, as I see it, to bring out this deep and subtle spirit of things.

        It is a temptation to think that “modern” liturgy would more represent the Church of Christendom than something that is not in “continuous unbroken tradition”. I accept that many are happy with that way of worshipping. My own sister is an Evangelical Anglican turned Baptist, and she and her family really believe that this is the most authentic Christianity. Perhaps it is for them. I used to eschew “indifferentism”, but perhaps that is the way. Some of us prefer certain ways of worship, because for us, beauty is a “sacrament”, an “icon”, of God’s love. I come to believe that if we had greater tolerance for diversity, even for theological and doctrinal disagreements, we might better witness to our faith in the truth that is God’s alone, not ours to appropriate. I will be called a liberal, one step away from women’s ordination and homosexual friendships imitating marriage. In a certain way, I am a liberal, but in the way the Romantics were liberals, not one who promotes “political correct” secular agendas of our own times that are just as intolerant as their “right-wing” nemesis. I abhor the polarisation of our time “You’re for us or against us”. One can be elsewhere. That is all.

        We are the minority of the minority, but we have the duty to express ourselves whilst we can, before someone shuts us up for good! It at least gives a sense of vocation!

      • Xryztofer says:

        I’m not sure if I’m the joker in question (I haven’t written anything on my blog yet), but if I am, then I really regret that what I’ve said has given you those impressions. I’m not in any way trying to attack the western tradition, far from it! As bad as things are in the west right now, I can’t even imagine myself going to the east (I’ve been to a few Byzantine liturgies and each time felt like a fish out of water), and I’m as interested as anyone in trying to revitalize our connection with that tradition. I’m certainly not one who thinks that Catholicism started with Vatican II. I also don’t mean to belittle Traditionalists or accuse them of playing make believe. I actually considered joining the SSPX in the days of yore and I’ve been hovering around the outskirts of the Traditionalist scene for quite some time. My sympathies are far closer to theirs than to the NCR/America/Commonweal types, who I literally can’t stand. I just no longer think that what Traditionalists consider traditional really is so, and my experience of Traditionalist Masses (which isn’t by any stretch of the imagination normative) is one of a kind of strained unnaturalness. Now, I’ll take that over cacophanous guitar Masses any day of the week, but there’s still something not quite right about it, and I’d say not quite traditional either.

      • Xryztofer says:

        “Although he is perhaps not a joker does he really believe that the novus ordo is not sterile and banal?”
        That depends on how it’s celebrated. Far more often than not, it is, but it doesn’t have to be and it isn’t always. I’ve taken part in the novus ordo Mass with the Trappists of St. Jospeh’s Abbey in Spencer, MA, which was the farthest thing from sterile and banal. It was far more alive and deeply traditional and spiritual than, for example, the TLM I was at this Ember Friday at Holy Innocents in NYC, which bordered on the obnoxious.

        “And that those of us who follow a more ancient, and living, tradition are?”
        I never said you are, I only reported my own subjective experiences of Traditionalist Masses. First, I never called them banal, and I only called them sterile because of the sense I have that the effort is to recreate the past instead of live in the present. Now, I have no idea if that’s what’s going through the minds of the other people there, I’m simply describing the impression I’ve had. I don’t usually sense any particularly deep connection with Catholic tradition when I’m there. I did when I celebrated Mass with the Trappists and the Carthusians, despite the fact that they’re using revised Missals.

      • Dear Xryztofer, I see you are someone trying to reflect and come up with something original. For that, you are no “joker” for me. Dale is a good friend and I have been in correspondence with him for a few years. He has got frustrated with many things. We all need to keep a firm hand on our feelings. My experience of the old Roman liturgy with the SSPX left me cold, but it was better in the monasteries and even at the very “baroque” seminary where I went in Italy. I don’t think the problem is one of trying to recreate the past but one of a legalistic and spiritually dry approach. I can understand that a Paul VI liturgy can be very spiritual when celebrated in monasteries. I have appreciated a Baptist prayer service with my sister shortly after my mother died.

        We have every right to express our feelings. This is part of the Romantic outlook on life. Reason and intellectual coherence are important, but being human is even more important. We are all different, have different experiences and have different needs.

        There are many people I would advise to learn sailing, get in a boat and go out to sea for several hours or several days depending on the type of boat. It is another spiritual experience for us to face ourselves in the desert of Soggy Acres! Love nature and spend as much time as possible with it!

      • Dale says:

        Xryztofer, yes it was you, and I do hope that you accept my apology. Actually, your summation of the Society et al. is very close to my own. I used to have quite close contacts with them and have always found them to be rather nasty; also, their fixation on Latin is, at least for me, bizarre. Personally, I much prefer the old rite in a good translation in the vernacular. And you are correct, they are attempting stop time, usually in some supposed golden age, usually in the 50’s. But I have never really considered them to be traditionalist, they are actually simply conservatives; but I do have a certain respect for many of them. You are obviously much younger than I, and I can remember when they were brutally attacked for their positions and demonised. But at the same time, if one wanted the old faith and practice, and you have no idea how bizarre so much of parochial novus ordo Roman Catholicism was during the 70s; it was really quite horrifying and mean as well, so people had no other alternative, or felt that they did not.

        Personally, I found some of the independent chapels in Paris at that time to be very vibrant and living with congregants belting out, usually badly and by memory, the Missa de Angelis, but usually these small, usually store-front communities did not really look to the future, they all believed that the Pope would rectify the situation and the old traditions would return, hence, they made no real provisions for the future. Perhaps in some ways the only real western tradition today is that kept as a living tradition is by Anglo-Catholics, who did leave, and did establish parishes and communities, and although small, have continued. The closest, for me, comparison is with Russian Old Believers.And if you think it is easy for Anglicans to leave the respectability of the establishment, you are mistaken. But then we did not have the fixation on the Pope so evident in Traditional Roman Catholicism. These are people who see nothing wrong with Vatican I and only see the problem with Vatican II; whilst for some Anglo-Catholics it is the reverse.

        The defects of the novus ordo are not tat but deeply theological and no amount of Gregorian, or Latin, or baroque vestments will save it. It is firmly a committee/personal invention that is cut off from the living tradition that even a badly celebrated old Mass cannot aspire to.

      • Xryztofer says:

        No hard feelings. Like I said at the outset, my views are a lot less strident than they come across in the quote that Fr. Chadwick put up. Sometimes I really don’t know what I think about the situation today. So much of my energy over the years that could have been given over to more productive ends has been spent grinding my teeth at the liturgical nightmare we’re living through. Thankfully I was spared the worst of it, having grown up in a parish with an old Irishman for a pastor who kept a lid on the really egregious stuff, so I never witnessed clown masses or hootenany masses when I was young. It’s when he started to lose his grip that things began to head in that direction, so that’s when I began my explorations into Traditionalism. But I’m just not ready to abandon ship yet, despite all the water that she’s taken on, and so there’s a sort of political expediency to my advocacy for the Pauline missal. It’s what we’ve got right now, and I just don’t see any realistic chance of its being replaced by anything more like the pre-conciliar missal. Also, in light of my own experience with it, I never came to utterly reject the Novus Ordo as hopeless. I don’t think it is, and, theoretically, I think there’s enough there that God can work with to rebuild a genuinely traditional Catholic liturgical life in the Church. Just today, Fr. Hunwicke mentioned that the Anglican Ordinariate Rite is modeled somewhat closely upon the Novus Ordo, and their praxis strikes me as profoundly Catholic. And the currently schizophrenic situation that obtains in virtue of Summorum Pontificum just can’t be sustained, with two distinct calendars and cycles of readings in the same rite. One of them has to go, and it’s going to be 1962. So as far as I can tell (and I probably can’t), for those of us still within the institution, the future will involve either coming to grips with the Novus Ordo and putting every effort into making it work, or schism.

      • Dale says:


        To reinforce my contention of living tradition that is not novus ordo, here are two celebrations in the Anglican Church, the first one is indeed simply an artificial recreation of a, for Anglicans, non-living tradition (once again that is only my subjective view, perhaps for many who attend it is a deeply moving spiritual experience); it is in some way a historical reenactment; it is also very baroque, which of itself, is not a bad thing and would be a living tradition amongst a more Latin peoples, but was never a living tradition amongst more Anglo groups; having said that, it is very beautiful. By the way, this is the parish which has now invited a priestess to address the crowd; once again, perhaps liturgy divorced from theology:

        This video, I would venture to say is indeed a very living tradition. It is also very different in feel as well:

        Once again, my own take is that both of these liturgy as still superior, both aesthetically (I know that is something modern Rome hates) as well as spiritually to the banality of post Vatican II liturgical traditions.

      • Here is a York Use Mass, which seems altogether like a real Mass, not some kind of “museum” reproduction. Just do it and it lives again.

      • Xryztofer says:

        Dale and Fr. Chadwick, I entirely agree that what’s seen in those videos is far and away superior to anything that goes on in a typical Novus Ordo parish. In fact, given the choice between attending a liturgy like that vs. one in my local parish, I’d take the former every time. Let me emphasize that I’m not in any way, shape or form a fan of post-V2 liturgics. I really can’t stand it. What I would like to see more of is the Novus Ordo done in the manner of those videos. I don’t see any reason why it can’t be done that way and I think it would be at least as uplifting as a Tridentine Mass.

        Also, I’d like to retract what I said about the impossibility of making the pre-conciliar rites into living liturgical traditions. I now realize that what I was doing there was conflating my thinking about other attempts to reconstruct certain ancient religious practices and applying the same reasoning to the older Catholic liturgical rites. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the various “pagan recontructionist” religions out there, such as Greek Reconstructionism, Norse Reconstructionism or even Canaanite Reconstructionism. What these people are trying to do is somehow resurrect these dead religions and actually practice them today, based solely on what historical research can reveal about how they were practiced in their heyday. That seems to me obviously impossible. Whatever they end up with will be nothing but sham; just the palest imitation that has no vital connection whatsoever to these religions as originally practiced. So based on that I formed a general principle that any attempt to kick-start religious practices that have fallen into disuse is doomed to failure. Of course, I now realize that there’s a world of difference between worshipping according to an older liturgical form within an already existing and living religious tradition (as you’re doing) and trying to revive an entire but long dead religion.

      • You have some good reflections. What do I mean by “good”? Not that they agree with anything I might think is right, but rather that you are exercising your own freedom to think and work things out for yourself. That is one lesson I learned from a university education as contrasted to a seminary. In universities, there is no “orthodoxy”, simply a professor’s judgement as to whether a student is thinking, defending the results of his research and wotking coherently. Ideology has no place, and I try to apply that principle here.

        The question I have often seen is whether the Novus Ordo was intended to be “done” in the “medieval” or “monastic” spirit, or in the spirit of the post-war assumption that the only way to keep the attention of bored congregations was to entertain them like children at the circus or a Saturday afternoon birthday party. I have seen Novus Ordos at the London Oratory, St Etheldreda’s Ely Place, Solesmnes, etc. My question is why bother with the Bugninian rite if you’re going to dress it up as something else. It merely reminds me of Percy Dearmer’s “Sarum” 1662 Communion Service. The “entertainment” model won out. The Tridentine rite was experimented with in some places, but it didn’t catch on generally.

        You don’t have to “retract” anything, but I see you are trying to accommodate different ways of thinking. That is a first stage to being independent, being yourself. I seem to see a whole scale of colours or shades of grey between modern “entertainment” liturgies and reviving old pagan religions or Christian rites of which only fragments survive in libraries. Sarum is very similar to the Dominican rite or the Norman uses, some of which survived into the 1980’s in a few rare places. The general generic tradition of the northern French uses is well documented and even within a few living memories. It is another matter to “restore” the old Gallican liturgy on the basis of a few fragments and “fill in” from the Byzantine liturgy, as seen in some Orthodox jurisdictions. I have attended such liturgies. The chant is rather nice and people undoubtedly pray and are sincere, but it just doesn’t “feel right”. I think there are no hard and fast criteria with defined cut-off points. It is more intuitive than intellectual. That being said, I believe in freedom and diversity, and then fewer errors will be committed. I think there would be fewer aspirations to “restoring” Celtic and Gallican rites if there was more diversity in the later western usages – but there is a “true church” ideology that has been amply discussed in the Orthodox Blow-Out Department.

        The problem with the Bugninian liturgy is that it is not a restoration of the old Roman liturgy, as it is sometimes claimed to be. There are some bits and pieces like the prefaces. There are even some pseudo-medieval things like troped kyries, but the general production is a kind of template for “inculturation” for the kind of people who have the TV on all the time at home, even if they’re not watching it, and have no musical or artistic culture. The problem is Novus Ordo “entertainment” is that it generally lacks the professionalism of real TV entertainers and musicians!

        I am of the opinion that the RC authorities should restore liturgical diversity and relegate the Novus Ordo to being an option for those who want it. That seemed to be something like what Benedict XVI was planning to happen progressively with his “reform of the reform” through mutual influence of the two “uses” of the “unique” Roman rite. That won’t happen now, as the Benedictine movement has been stopped, slightly reversed here and there, and communities just have to soldier on without any support from Rome. I think Benedict XVI didn’t have the right way of doing things, but he must have thought it out in a wider context than I could imagine.

        The best thing now is to lift all restrictions, let an “anything goes” situation come about, and let the chickens come in to roost. It didn’t always work well in Anglicanism from the 1860’s to the 1960’s, but it worked like a dream in those churches where Sarum or Tridentine inspired restoration work was done. I don’t know of anywhere that does a dressed-up 1662 BCP, because, really, it doesn’t work. Those are the reflections that brought me to use Sarum and do it in Latin except when pastoral needs require me to use the language of the people. It isn’t perfect but it works and has a coherent “feel” about it.

      • Xryztofer says:

        One of my deepest regrets about the current liturgical situation is that I can’t simply immerse myself in the liturgy and allow it to form me. Instead, no matter where I go, there’s always something jarring that causes me to become an observer rather than a pray-er. Whether at the Novus Ordo with all the shenanigans or the Tridentine Mass, which has its own problems (e.g., the Ember Friday Mass I recently was at had the same gospel recited three times over: once by the priest at the altar, once by the deacon who chanted it in the most abominable manner, and then again by the priest in the vernacular; 1962 purists will have to forgive me for thinking that this is not how it should be). But even more problematic than the constant nit-picking is the sense that things are always in flux, that there’s always yet another change just around the corner. Even if the changes are great, say the priest wants to try out the Use of Sarum for a while (!) and see how it goes. There’s still this sense of impermanence about it: enjoy it while it lasts but don’t get used to it, because it probably won’t last very long. This is especially a burden for laymen, who are entirely at the mercy of their clergy’s whims, even if those whims are laudable. If things in the diocese turn sour, the priest can always celebrate his preferred rite somewhere else, but the laymen are left behind and forced to deal with whatever different thing will be sent their way, or pick up and go to where things are more to their liking; but that’s not always possible and even where it is, it’s just more of that same unsettledness that pervades everything.

        So perhaps part of my “Novus Ordo Advocacy” campaign is just a plea for stability (oddly enough, I suppose, given all the instability that most people here would see as endemic to the NO). Then again, maybe it was this very stability that the Church tossed aside at Vatican II when it decided to tango with the modern world. And maybe you’re right, maybe the NO was designed to be nothing more than the plaything of “modern man” so he can give expression to the latest fads. It’s all really quite depressing, that the “source and summit of the Christian life” has turned out to be such a cross and burden for so many of us.

      • David says:


        I think I understand what you are saying. It seems you want normalcy, a return to sanity, and no more “politicizing” of liturgy. The idea that liturgy should be celebrated because it is a liturgy… no strings attached.

        Believe me, I understand. As someone who grew up in $$PX-ville, good God do I understand. But what are the options?

        The average Pauline Mass (in the United States anyway) is a goofy show with corny music, the usual “Latin Mass” (outside of monasteries like Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma) is a sterile affair where priests will even announce from the pulpit that the audience- er, I mean- “congregation” should not give responses lest they “disturb” anyone, other Western rites are not even on the radar, and the disease of Americanist thought permeates everywhere.

        Under these conditions and being driven insane by the usual Traddie line (“One day a Pope will ascend who will decide the Novus Ordo experiment is a failure and that we should restore glorious 1962”), Byzantium or the Orient was the only logical choice remaining for me.

        I think the only solution is to release the hold that the bureaucracy and the “authorities” have on liturgy. If a priest wishes to celebrate Sarum in a parish, let him! If a priest wants to introduce Mozarabic, let him! If a priest wishes to celebrate the Roman Rite according to 1570/1910/1911/1948/1955/1962/1965 or 1969, let him! If a diocese wants to improve 1969 and bring forth new liturgical evolution, by all means, allow them to do so!

        The key to liturgical normalcy and sanity is not centralization and standardization, it is freedom coupled with the desire to do liturgy well.

      • Yes, total anarchy, and something can survive!

      • ed pacht says:

        Yes, Xryztofer, I sympathize entirely. There was a time when I was a champion of maximum variety in liturgy and backed all the fads of liturgical experimentation. The problem with that is that the worshiper’s time is taken up with attempting to follow all the surprises. The nuts and bolts become more obvious than the content. I’ve come to the point where I value sameness and routine, the kind of predictability that leaves me free to encounter the Living God on His own terms, and I think that is at the heart of a liturgical approach — not conformity to some ‘universal’ ideal, but expression of a continuing routine structure on a local level. Liturgical change is inevitable, but needs to be quietly progressive, with an ongoing air of dependability. That is just what was lacking in the ‘transition’ from 1962 to NO, or in my own American Episcopal Church from BCP1928 to 1979. Such major changes amount, for many, to a tearing out of the gut, and to something not much like real worship.
        I’m in a Continuing Anglican fellowship that is committed to the previous book and am very pleased that that is the case.

        When Fr. Chadwick advocates ‘let them do as they will’ for a general rule,
        I think there is a danger in it — a potential pandering to the contemporary thirst for novelty, for new experience and new doctrine, and the general inability (as it seems to me) to assimilate the truth and experience that one receives and let it simmer over time in the mind and soul. Frequent change can be destructive. I’m experiencing some of that at the moment, even though the same Prayer Book is in use. Our rector has been called elsewhere. His very traditional but matter-of-fact conduct of the Prayer Book Mass on Sunday and of the American Missal form on weekdays gave structure to my prayer life. An interim arrived — a good man, one I am prepared to like deeply, but if an immensely different style, even using the 1928 book. I never know what to expect and am never quite comfortable in prayer. There is a certain uneasiness. There is not an essential ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in such matters, but liturgy ‘works’ only if and when it succeeds in leading the people deeply into the presence of God, and it is truly liturgy when it does so regularly, as a matter of course.

        In short, liturgy expresses both continuity with the past and engagement with the present age, and thus requires stability and gradual growth. I hope the NO will grow into something better than it is and will take back into itself much of the past that it rejected. It can’t be the same as the Tridentine, but it does need to learn what made the old rite ‘work’ so very well for so very long.

      • You and I belong to liturgically conservative Churches, so the question isn’t the same as in the RC Church. I don’t think the Bugninian rite will grow into anything. Churches of the future will be mega-churches doing the same thing as the Baptists, or they will be redundant and closed. Also, outside the USA and the “third world”, percentages of baptised RC’s still going to church are, like in France, in single figures.

        Freedom is dangerous. Indeed that idea is the oldest one in the book. We have to wake up and see that almost nobody goes to church!

      • Xryztofer says:

        ed pacht said: “I hope the NO will grow into something better than it is and will take back into itself much of the past that it rejected. It can’t be the same as the Tridentine, but it does need to learn what made the old rite ‘work’ so very well for so very long.”

        That’s my hope too, and when Fr. Chadwick mentioned the Brompton Oratory, I had a look to see how things are done there and found this:

        I don’t see why there can’t be more of that done with the NO. Instead, what one hears among trads is that the only possible solution is a complete repudiation of the Pauline missal and a return to the Tridentine missal. I find that sort of thinking, which is really just a kind of low-key apocalypticism, to be really frustrating.

      • I don’t see why there can’t be more of that done with the NO. I can tell you why. The bishops oppose it.

      • Xryztofer says:

        “The bishops oppose it.” Only too true, and serves your point that the liturgy needs to be gotten out from under the institutional thumb.

        Your other point about belonging to liturgically conservative churches, I have to say I’ve given serious thought (some would say entertained the temptation) to cuttting ties with the RCC and exploring other, apparently saner liturgical landscapes. (As an aside, when I was a novice during my first stab at religious life, my fellow novice and I would sneak out and make our way to the Cowley Fathers monastery in Cambridge, MA. We were that desperate for decent liturgy and we didn’t care if it was with the Anglicans. In fact, we saw it as a kind of “in your face” response to the garbage we were having to put up with.) But one thing that I have a hard time getting past is the issue of culture and ethnicity. I’m of Polish/French-Canadian stock and as far as I can tell, my family’s roots on both sides have always been firmly planted in Latin Rite soil. What business would someone like me have in a church of the Anglican tradition? Or one of the Oriental traditions? I went to a Divine Liturgy just the other week at a local Byzantine Church, and felt like I was crashing someone else’s party, and they’re in union with Rome. This is a genuine question: is there room, for example, in the Continuing Anglican tradition for someone who has no historical ties to England whatsoever?

      • It is true that Anglicanism is ethnical, but in a different way from people who are habitually Orthodox coming from countries with a much stronger ethnical identity. I began this blog with a certain emphasis on “northern European” identity. I think the French part of your identity is most compatible with the “Sarum-Rouen” tradition, since many of those who emigrated to Canada were Norman and Breton, or from the Vendée.

        We in the Continuing Anglican Churches are not very ethnical or confined to cultures or nationalities formerly associated with the erstwhile British Empire. We have some non-English people attending our parishes in England, and they seem to be happy. I think you would feel much less “foreign” in a Continuing Anglican parish than with the Byzantines. Also, you are American, and adapted to the “melting pot”.

        The best thing is to see if there is a Continuing Anglican parish near you, and just turn up on a Sunday morning and see how you get on. The TAC, ACC, APCK and others have their websites and lists of parishes with addresses, phone numbers and websites. Let us know how you get on.

      • Dale says:

        Ed, once again, and excellent posting.

        You stated the following:
        “An interim arrived — a good man, one I am prepared to like deeply, but if an immensely different style, even using the 1928 book.”

        Perhaps this is why, for myself, when I celebrat[ed] (I no longer have a parish), I simply followed the rubrics. Ether directly from the 1570 version of the Latin Rite, or the Anglican Missal with the 1928 BCP canon. I never made anything, at the altar, personal. Period. I never put any personal emphasis during the chanting of the Preface or Epistle or Gospel, I followed the rubrics.

        For too many clergy, the liturgy has become their moment, especially on Sundays, to shine. It has become not too much more than a personal opinion; and hence, it changes according to individual clergy. This is not catholic practice.

        The man in the pew whilst attending Mass should not really be able to distinguish who is at the altar (although we have to face the reality that some clergy are much, much better at singing than others…I have often winced at the musical abilities of some).

        This is not an issue of liturgical conformity; if the parish is Sarum, or Tridentine, the priest should follow the established rubrics of those traditions whilst celebrating in any given tradition.

      • ed pacht says:

        Dale, I mostly agree, but not entirely. I don’t believe in a centralization of liturgy, in a requirement that every church do it the same way. For all my high regard for tradition, I don’t believe that traditional ways are unchangeable, but rather that they are living, and therefore must be changing. Were I a priest (I wanted to be, but…) I would feel it important to find out what local usage prevailed in a church I celebrated in, and to conform as closely as I could to that local use. To impose a “correct” way of doing on a congregation unused to it is, in effect, innovation, and will be perceived as such. If I believed changes in that local use to be necessary (whether toward or away from “correctness”) that would need to be done gradually and with teaching.

        I do believe it is a good thing that individual Anglican parishes vary greatly in the details of liturgy. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I do not believe the eccentricities of a particular church or priest should be imposed on other congregations. Ultimately your observation that the identity of the priest should be unimportant is a good one.

      • ed pacht says:

        Just for interest, my last name and that of my rector and our archdeacon are German, our retired bishop is of Swedish background. In the ACA diocese of the Northeast we have a Hispanic congregation in NJ, a predominately West Indian parish in Brooklyn, two priests from Africa, clergy named Cupoli, Dumond, LaMarre, Gallagher, Mahoney, Ihde, Koshgarian, and laypeople from a wide assortment of ethnicities.

      • Dale says:

        Hi Ed, I think that you misunderstood some of my post. I have never been a supporter of liturgical uniformity; but there are several received traditions, at least in Anglicanism, but they are indeed received and rubricated traditions. The point I was making, or trying to, was that regardless of the tradition, the priest does not really have the right to make liturgy his personal plaything.

        My own personal preference is for the English Missal of the Roman rite following the Tridentine rubrics (well to be completely honest, I prefer the rite in Latin); but I often, many years ago, had to service a mission that used the 1928 Canon and the Anglican Missal with a far more Sarum flavour, and when I was there I followed the accepted tradition of the parish; but even in that instance, the parish’s Anglican Missal Tradition was firmly based upon a strict adherence to the rubrics in the missal and not some personal concoction.

        In this respect, at least on paper, I have much respect for the early work done in the Antiochian western rite Vicariate, they have two liturgies, the Roman and the Anglican with full rubrics; but unfortunately, the reality has been a strong personal flavour of many of their clerics to adopt more and more Byzantinizations, even if not found in their official books; and these introductions are not supported by the rubrics, hence, they are personal and the result is that each of their parishes has become a personal clerical liturgical tradition unto itself.

      • ed pacht says:

        I pretty much agree. Liturgy is not a personal plaything. I think I was clear that a priest shouldn’t carry his preferences willy-nilly into a parish. I think we would disagree, however, in our attitude toward the right of a parish or community to determine what use it may make of the liturgies that come down to it. I’m quite convinced that the differences that exist from one church to the next constitute a positive strength of Anglicanism. Within limits local usage trumps the formal written rubrics, and a strict rubricist coming into a church with eccentricities is out of place insisting on the rubrics. In our freer structure that itself becomes an expression of personal priestly preference. Frankly, for me, that includes toleration for a degree of Byzantinization that you find annoying. There are some of those features that, if I were to be a long-term rector, I might find worth introducing gently and gradually. You and I would differ here, I am sure, but, yes, on central matters, we are pretty well agreed.

      • Dale says:

        Yes, Ed, I think that we are indeed in agreement on most of this, but prehaps not all.

        In one parish it was insisted that during the Comfortable Words, following the rather eccentric tradition introduced by a former rector, that I was to throw open my hands at the words “Come unto me all that travail or are heavy laden…”; my response was to inquire where in the rubrics this was to be found. It appeared, to me, that the former rector had been making himself the center of attention at that point instead of a humble voice calling to repentance, it made the whole action theatrical and slightly disagreeable. I refused. He had also introduced the very odd tradition of holding his hands up above his head during the canon of the Mass, and these had become the “parish tradition” as well; I refused.

        Perhaps it is my Orthodox theological training, but I can assure you that in a Byzantine Orthodox parish, if a priest were to introduce, on a personal whim, Roman or Anglican traditions he would be promptly shown the door. Every eventuality of our tradition is already covered by our own rubrics which conform to our liturgical practice. I do not see the need to introduce exoticism. And that cuts both ways.

      • Dale says:

        Ed, perhaps I should also add that in an Orthodox seminary we are thought that the liturgy of the Church belongs to the Church, not to an individual, or parish but to the whole Church. Hence, private or personal devotions, on the part of the priest or liturgical aberrations from either the official text or rubrics are simply not allowed. Hours and hours were invested in learning the rubrics; the thought was that all priests would celebrate the same, that we stood in place of Christ at the altar and that the liturgy was not our personal opinion but expressed the faith and practice of the whole Church. At the same time a certain amount of leeway in specific traditional practices between diocese and ethnic groups was understood; when in an Ukrainian Church one should celebrate according to their ustav (Rubrics), the same would apply or should apply to an Orthodox western rite ustav as well, but then even ethnic and liturgical differences were enshrined in tradition, not personalities.

        Now I must also admit that my training was in a very, very Russian Orthodox seminary, and the Slavic tradition is far more constrained by rubrics than say the Greeks or Arabs; but when one considers the liturgical anarchy and the theological and faith confusion that willy-nilly and personal liturgy evinces, I personally believe on this issue the Russians are correct.

      • Xryztofer says:

        Interesting discussion between Ed and Dale. If I ever do make it to the altar as an RC priest, one thing I often envision myself doing is incorporating various elements from the Tridentine rubrics into the NO: genuflections both before and after the elevation, three signs of the cross at the “haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata,” and so forth. And yet I question how advisable that would be, since I do criticize those priests who introduce their own theatrics into the Mass and force their personality onto it, and onto the poor laity who have to suffer through such antics. I suppose I can rationalize it by noting that I would only be re-incorporating things that were once present and unfortunately dropped, so their not “mine.” But it still would have the effect of “Fr. So-and-so does X, Y, and Z in his Mass and I like/hate that,” instead of simply “Fr. So-and-so says the Mass.” Unfortunately the NO, said strictly according to the rubrics, can be kind of blah.

      • That is the problem with the Novus Ordo. It needs improvement and no amount of improvement is enough. The problem is about the same as “repairing” the Prayer Book rites. This is a part of the reasoning that led me to Sarum. It is a complete rite, as imperfect as any other human creation, but it needs no modifications. With the bureaucracy in control, it is truly square pegs and round holes. If you become an RC priest, unless you join one of the 1962 groups, your Mass will be standard Novus Ordo, facing the people, etc., etc.

        You will also suffer for any eccentricity. Don’t forget that you would have no autonomy as a priest, and you would only get your own parish when you are found to be in complete compliance with the way things are done in the diocese.

      • Xryztofer says:

        I appreciate your candor. It’s really sad that considering a vocation to the priesthood these days requires this kind of scheming and strategizing, instead of just reflecting on how best to serve God. I really can’t help but wonder if the institution is best left to decay and die, as it seems bent on doing. One keeps hearing the refrain of “non praevalebunt” in response to everything that’s going on, but our Lord never gave any guarantee as to what form the Church that remains steadfast would take. Maybe it will be (if it isn’t already) in those quiet, little-known groups of “two or three” gathering in His name.

      • One thing I noticed about the RC Church in the 1980’s after my teen-age years as an Anglican involved in music, choirs, the organ, etc. – was that the system is designed for you not to feel “at home”. This is undoubtedly because of the “pilgrim church” idea and that Christian asceticism requires us to be free from all earthly attachments. In the absolute, yes, but it is a form of “puritanism” like the Jansenists of old.

        What does one do when one does not feel at home? One simply leaves the house. All that is left is a kind of puritanical elite pretending to be liberal. It is the reaction of any imploding entity.

        One thing I love about our Church (ACC) is that you can feel at home, know your Bishop, know your faithful, know the other priests – all of them as human persons with warts and all. It is human, not bureaucratic or abstract, earthly, something you can sense with the five senses.

  4. Rdr. James Morgan says:

    Fr. Anthony: “It is tempting to think that Christianity itself has gone beyond the limit of its shelf life and must be discarded like any other consumer merchandise.”

    Me: I think there is a difference between ‘Christendom’ and ‘Christianity’, which to me means faith in Christ and the ancient dogmas of the councils. And yes, its liturgical expression can take many different forms. But unless we live by faith in Christ, what is the point?

  5. ed pacht says:

    Liturgy is ultimately timeless, as is the Faith of Christ. The God to whom it is directed is the Creator of time itself and is beyond time, the God who is and was and shall be. The destiny of Christians is likewise beyond time, reaching into the incomprehensible reality of eternity.

    The Incarnation, like creation itself, is the expression of the timeless within the flow of time, while worship in general, and liturgy in particular, is the reaching of the time-bound toward that which is outside time. In this dual flowing lies a great mystery that we can talk about, but never comprehend.

    Liturgy, then, cannot be time-bound in its essence, but has to express the time-transcending nature of religion itself. It has to embody that tension between timelessness and the flowing of the time we inhabit. Liturgy needs to be highly respectful of the past, of both Tradition and traditions. To throw out what is past merely because it is old or ‘outdated’, or because we don’t quite understand it, is to cut ourselves loose from this flow of time and, just perhaps, to some degree from the timeless verities toward which the tradition was reaching. However, to hold on to the past in such a way as to reject communication (both speaking and listening) with the time in which one lives is inevitably sterile, since it stops the flow of time at a given point and thus rejects all that comes after. Balance is essential, the kind of balance that lives within the tradition, reaches out to its own time, while learning from it , and resting, as all true worship must, on incomprehensible promises and intimations of time to come and of eternity.

    An entirely comprehensible and rational liturgy fails, as does a traditional form done merely because it ought to be done that way. Perhaps this is a time when real worship will be something sought after by a small minority and nurtured out of sight until the wider church is once again ready to receive it. Perhaps.

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    If I may go back to Xryztofer and StephenK on Michaelmas at 4:13 and 11:12 a.m., respectively:

    I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s point that the contemporary west is very different from both now living and especially antique ‘paganism(s)’, and that Christianity is in various ways closer to them than to it, though, again, radically different from them, too. So, I think “Every one of us who makes a conscious decision to worship God is doing something ‘special and extraordinary.’ We’re intentionally acting in a way that’s thoroughly at odds with the culture we live in, and that’s an entirely different thing from what our ancestors in the Faith did” is very true, and yet also that it is not ” an entirely different thing”: we are confronted (also as temptation, also ‘within’) by (dangers of) loving and enjoying and ‘worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator’, in different ways, but comparable ways.

    ” It also strikes me that at some point, no matter how long ago, any and all ‘tradition’ began as a novelty or contemporary mode.” I think this is very true, too.

    This discussion had got me wondering how much of similar sorts of thinking implicitly informed Dom Gregory Dix’s approach in writing The Shape of the Liturgy. He is so variously conscious of change – an early Pope criticizing an Italian bishop for changing things, where Dix thinks the Roman form at that point had in fact incorporated changes which the other had not; or the apparent development of the liturgical year in East and West by imitation of innovations in Jerusalem; or the Patriarch of Antioch succcessfully dissuading the Patriarch of Alexandria from celebrating his traditional Liturgy in Constantinople and getting him to yield (as he had) to the local Liturgy, instead. And his attention to variety – of style, for instance, here sober and succinct, there florid. elaborate, repetitive. Yet also attending to the continuity, even identity, of ‘shape’. Including how it can be seen in Cramnerian rearrangement, and in Puritan combination of stripping down and verbal proliferation.

    And later in the day (11:02 p..m.) Fr. Anthony said, “I come to believe that if we had greater tolerance for diversity, even for theological and doctrinal disagreements, we might better witness to our faith in the truth that is God’s alone, not ours to appropriate.” This seem very true of diverse liturgies that all share the ‘shape’, as well.

    People can ‘make liturgies their own’ without exhausting them, and without analyzing them, but I am grateful to Dix for helping me to notice deep similarities or identities between very different forms of liturgy that are really there, but also not always readily evident, so striking are various differences.

    I wonder how much impact the combination of immigration, union with Rome, and visiting different liturgies within that union and those practical opportunities, has had on many peoples’s sense and perception of liturgy, including ‘their own’ familiar liturgy, in the course of the past century?

  7. Stephen K says:

    This has been an interesting discussion thread. I’ve been reflecting on the various comments and the title “Liturgical Wilderness”. I started asking myself, what does that mean? A wilderness is a place where you don’t have control: it can throw up the unexpected or the dangerous. It can be like a jungle, where you can’t see your way clear to get out and back “home” (i.e. where you feel comfortable); or it can be like a desert, where nothing grow or sustains you, and you feel you might go mad with hunger and thirst. There seems to be so many people who cannot enjoy their religious worship. A priest might just go ahead and say Mass or celebrate the Office in the way he wants but a layperson depends upon a priest to say Mass. Although he or she could certainly celebrate an office liturgy of their preference or even compose and choreograph one of their own. Whatever the case, there are tears or frustrations when you can’t do or attend what you like.

    But there may be another undercurrent behind the idea or perception of wilderness that seems to me to be misplaced. Understandable – because we are generally formed and enculturated to a notion of conformity rather than to freedom – but misplaced. What is that? Why, it is the discontent and unhappiness that people generally are not doing what we ourselves like. It is the impatience that “the Church” is not doing what we ourselves want. So I find myself asking, why, oh why, are we so insistent that the Church do what we want? What should it matter if 9 million people prefer or attend or celebrate hootenanny liturgies (or solemn pontificals) and only you and your 3 friends prefer the other?

    Can we liberate ourselves from this urge to have everyone agree with us? And, if one finds oneself totally alone – liturgically speaking – why not simply be happy doing it alone? I think this could provide spiritual and psychological progress for many of us.

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    StephenK’s pondering the senses of “wilderness” suddenly brought to mind Charles Williams’s lines “in the third heaven / the stones of the waste glimmered like summer stars” and “through the reach of Logres / the stones of the waste glimmred like summer stars, / as if the king’s poet’s household of stars / shone in a visible glory”. I also think of the communal, shared element in the ‘leit-‘ part of the etymology of ‘liturgy’ (and related words). The priest-hermit, in the depth of the wilderness, sole celebrant of liturgies there and then, is alone, and not alone: creaturely “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”, with the Ekklesia.

    I have also, in the course of this discussion, been thinking of Williams’s novel, War in Heaven, where the Graal Mass is differently preceived, liturgically, by different members of the congregation. And where, when Barbara Rackstraw, asked by her four-year-old if he can “go to church”, says, blushing, to Prester John, who will prove to be the celebrant, “I’m afraid that we don’t go as regularly as we should”, he replies – surprisingly – “It is a means, one of the means. But perhaps the best for most, and for some almost the only one. I do not say that it matters greatly, but the means cannot both be and not be. If you do not use it, it is a pity to bother about it; if you do, it is a pity not to use it.”

  9. Dale says:

    In case anyone is interested, a full mass according to the new Anglican use (with the offertory section deleted, so one cannot know if there are indeed offertory prayers or simply the actions) has been posted here:

    It does, in effect, appear to be the novus ordo with Tridentine rubrics and some traditional Anglican bits but all in traditional English (the older form used both old and new in the same Mass). The whole of the Mass of the Catechumens is celebrated, according the novus ordo, from the chair and not from the altar (actually, there appears to quite a bit of sitting down on the part of the clergy). The Collect is based upon the BCP one, but changed. the readings are not from the old BCP, perhaps the 1979 American? The canon is the modern form of the Gregorian with interpolations. It is very pretty.

    It is interesting to note, for those of us who study rubrics, that the celebrating priest delivers the sermon from the pulpit vested in both chasuble and maniple.

  10. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    A further thought occurred to me, in the context of the Graal Mass in Williams’s novel, War in Heaven. C.S. Lewis, in discussing possible ” ‘sources’ for medieval story” about the Grail in a letter of 17 December 1955 to Fr. Peter Milward notes among “facts I’d try to hold onto”, The resemblance of the Grail to Manna (see, I think, Wisdom […])”. I’m sure he was right in this reference to The Wisdom of Solomon 16:20-29. (Note especially vv. 20-21, 25-26 [here, Challoner Douay-Rheims]: “Instead of which things thou didst feed thy people with the food of angels, and gavest them bread from heaven prepared without labour; having in it all that is delicious, and the sweetness of every taste. For thy sustenance shewed thy sweetness to thy children, and serving every man’ s will, it was turned to what every man liked. Therefore even then it was transformed into all things, and was obedient to thy grace that nourisheth all, according to the will of them that desired it of thee. That thy children, O Lord, whom thou lovedst, might know that it is not the growing of fruits that nourisheth men, but thy word preserveth them that believe in thee”.)

    But what struck me now, was to wonder in how far the experience of those present of the Mass in terms of various different familiar liturgies was intended as an example of this “sweetness of every taste..serving every man’ s will,… turned to what every man liked….obedient to thy grace that nourisheth all, according to the will of them that desired it of thee”? Various forms and manifestations of the one ‘liturgy’, lovingly made by human art and endeared through use, “That thy children, O Lord, whom thou lovedst, might know that it is not the growing of fruits that nourisheth men, but thy word preserveth them that believe in thee”.

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