This is interesting – A “Sarum Use” church plant and why it wouldn’t work. In the perspective of “all-or-nothing” in which he presents it, he is probably right. If however the Sarum Use were celebrated in the same spirit as some contemporary Dominicans celebrate their liturgy, it would be different. One could also argue that the Tridentine liturgy could not be celebrated in churches that have been reordered for the Novus Ordo.
My argument has always been that using Sarum is no different from using the 1570 Roman liturgy in its various editions up to 1962, one you admit that not everything has to be “authentic” and purist. Pre- liturgical movement Tridentine can be somewhat “irrelevant” to most ordinary people!
In any case, the problem is not the rite but the whole question of parishes in the modern world. We arrive at a situation in which nothing can “work” in the modern world other than, perhaps, Orthodoxy outside the western world. It is difficult for me to get any objectivity about it, since I am alone most of the time. Try to popularise anything and it gets sucked down to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps what has “saved” Sarum is exactly being obsolete for the past 450 years.
In all due respect and without intention to insult the author (see the context What Is Classic Christianity? and Why Classic Christianity? which are very thoughtful in their content), I do detect the use of a double standard from the point of view of “pastoralism”: the use of the vernacular, congregational singing, visibility of the altar, etc. He willingly describes his “Protestant sentiments” and therefore a particular way of considering the role and purpose of public worship. For example, you can have books and leaflets for the laity to help them follow the service – but not for the Sarum liturgy, because it introduces an anachronism. Hand missals only existed from about the mid eighteenth century, and then much of the Ordinary of the Mass was left in Latin and not translated. This innovation only really began to come in in the nineteenth century with Dom Guéranger and L’Annéé Liturgique. He does not make the same criticism of Roman Catholic traditionalists.
The material requisites for a Sarum Mass are the same as for a pre-1962 Roman celebration. French-style fiddlebacks were occasionally found in early sixteenth-century England – as was the Ambrosian Rite in the parish of Telford. Things were loose then. Why not now? I use a baroque French chalice from about 1830, my ordination chalice bought at the Marché aux Puces in Paris. It’s just as good as any other style of chalice. You would only have to go to any expense if there was nothing in the church in question previously. The objection seems to me something of a fallacy.
Naturally, who would not prefer the church to be in English perpendicular or late decorated? Any church with a classical narthex / nave / choir / sanctuary plan can be used. It could be done just as well in the London Oratory or St Paul’s Cathedral as at Salisbury or Durham. I have appointed my own chapel in simplified English style, but I still use the vestments I wore when I used the Roman rite.
The pastoral arguments carry more weight. The Mass can be said in English, but there is a question of the style of the translation. The style of the two existing complete translations is inspired by the Anglican Prayer Book. Then, there is the question of the choir screen, which can be “see-through” and made of wood. The choir screen is not essential, but I would not do away with an existing one. There is nothing wrong with having Merbecke and hymns like with an Anglican Missal or Prayer Book celebration. The argument of inauthenticity or anachronism cannot be made to apply to one rite and not all others. The lectionary of the Sarum missal is much more complete than the 1570 Roman rite. There are weekday readings in the ferial weekdays, albeit Wednesdays and Fridays, like in the various diocesan uses in France.
Like this author, I am at sixes and sevens about parish worship. In the ACC, our parishes are tiny and consist of committed people. If they don’t like what we provide (generally the Anglican Missal), they have a choice of other churches. In “ordinary” Anglican and Roman Catholic parishes, it is another question. The old liturgical life is reduced to Mass and devotions, or informal non-liturgical prayer. Sarum would certainly be alien in such a setting. There is also a vast difference between country and city parishes. I would not attempt it in “ordinary” parish life, except as something “special” for young urban men, like the pre 1962 Roman rite.
Can we transplant mediaeval liturgy into the modern world and touch modern souls in the same way?
It’s a good question. What is suited to the modern world? Praise bands, flashing LED lights and overhead projectors like in Evangelical parishes in England and America? It is the old question. It is assumed that our cultural references are the same, but they are not.
The liturgical practice of the Middle Ages was part of a much bigger spirituality that a single parish could not recreate today.
Oh yes, dead right. But, this is an admission that Christianity has to adapt to the masses rather than be lived in small groups of those whom Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI and others would call the salt of the earth. Christianity cannot adapt to the masses. Could it in the middle-ages? That is a good question and the subject of historical study insofar as that is possible. Christian civilisation is dead. The real question is how the salt of the earth should worship. My answer would be – as they want… Then why not Sarum, or anything else?