The Report on the Bragan Rite for the Congregation for Divine Worship – Review is quite harrowing but entirely predictable. I know little about the Rite of Braga, a diocese in Portugal, but it is one of the many diocesan rites that continued to exist alongside the “codified” Roman rite of Pius V. There are some similarities with the Sarum and French traditions, but I will let the reader go into the details – if he wishes – from other sources and the article.
It is the old question. Why indeed should we not scrap everything that is old and eccentric and just have something streamlined and modern and which “does the job”? We can only imagine the consequences of such reasoning in other fields of life. For example, every town and city in Europe is to be bulldozed and replaced with modern functional buildings. It is often the same principle in history: come up with something new and destroy the old with a spirit of disdain and intolerance, as I discussed previously about the French Revolution. Strangely, it is only in the twentieth century that we become self-conscious about history and began to want to preserve the old heritage. In the nineteenth century, they had no scruple about demolishing medieval buildings to replace them with something new, or heavily “restore” them.
In the wider context, with the passing of the old century, we leave behind the era of ideologies, of left and right, and all the engineered plans for the future of mankind. I am concerned about the notion of the “end of history” meaning that man will go no further now than liberal capitalism. The writing on the wall indicates that the minority that owns just about all the wealth there is will rapidly fall as money itself no longer represents what made those people rich. I believe the capitalist system will fall and will be replaced, but not by the old dinosaur of Marxist Communism. The future is the great unknown.
Similarly in the Church, the triumphalist thinking behind the Novus Ordo is as dated as liberal democracy and the era of totalitarianism. The presumption behind this mentality is the Counter Reformation, the Industrial Revolution and the “Age of Reason”.
I encounter this mentality when discussing the Use of Sarum with those who are attached to the rite of Pius V. Indeed, the use of any particular rite will not in itself bring people to church, and people would have to get used to anything that differs from what they have known elsewhere like the Prayer Book, the Alternative Services Book (or what they use now in the C of E), the Novus Ordo or the so-called Tridentine rite. Those wanting pre-1965 rites in the RC Church come up against the same criticism. Why not settle for something that “does the job” (is “valid”) and satisfies the person’s Sunday obligation?
I feel “done” with discussing details of liturgies, unless it is at an academic level. However, I am brought to see our period of history as a gateway towards the globalist dystopia with its “aristocracy” of billionaires and corporations, or a breakdown leading to the death of millions of human beings and the dawn of an era in which small groups of survivors would redefine their “social contract” and the community at a tribal level. The question is huge and the answers depend on our awareness and expectations in life.
Many articles predict the breakdown of the hegemonies of this world, including the Roman Catholic Church as a unified institution and all other historical churches. Each time, the individual person is facing a towering and impersonal bureaucracy, and we can either go to sleep in the cave of shadows or contribute in some way to a future uprising as we reclaim our humanity and our souls. This kind of talk is dangerous as people died for less under the regimes of Stalin or Hitler.
What has all this to do with liturgy? More often than not, we consider the liturgy to be a part of man’s artistic and spiritual culture, a heritage from tradition and a sense of being a part of history rather than those who preside over the burial of history, tradition and identity. In terms of religious and sacramental “function”, very little is actually necessary, but form is essential for our human psychology and state of being connected with the world the liturgy is supposed to represent – the “interface” between the life we know and the Kingdom Christ preached and lived.
The question of local and particular rites is moot in an age when the majority of our contemporaries know less about liturgical Christianity than about Zoroastrianism or quantum mechanics. Any liturgical symbolism means nothing to a person who can only relate to electronic technology and the status that money can buy. The Novus Ordo would be no more “relevant” to them than the Syro-Malabar rite or the traditions of the Mandaeans!
Far beyond liturgy, we need to examine whether the Church means authority and clericalism or the community of “children of the Father”, whether it means the offspring of freedom and love – or slavery to a jealous and spiteful deity. The notion of strict and hyper-rational uniformity seems to have more in common with the latter.
I am realistic enough to know that Sarum, Braga and all other local rites are things of the past, as is all liturgical Christianity insofar as it competes against the new globalism and its aristocracy of billionaires. We face our own deaths and a history of humanity that goes beyond our own limits as those of our forebears.
I wonder if I will ever express the thought: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” Each one of us can only hope so.
Addendum: The Praxis of Christianity is very germane to this discussion. I bristled when I read the link Why Bible Study Isn’t Enough. I immediately recognised the common Augustinian roots between the Roman Catholic monolith and the Protestant take – authority. We have to move away from the authority of the jealous and spiteful God and its correlative obedience to a relationship based on intimate knowledge and love. It’s too deeply anchored in biblical mythology.