Thursday, May 27, 2010

Small movements that may become large

There are a couple of interesting things happening in Western liturgical circles. There is a slow, and currently still small, revival of the other shape of the Mass. We ought to be clear that there has been a steady push for this for quite some time and that it never really completely died out, but it had become quite dim. Books, like ceremonials including Fortescue's essential work, "Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described," became hard to find. Even among Anglicans books like Ritual Notes couldn't be found.  But it is changing. Books are being reprinted--often at great personal cost to individuals simply because of their love. And yet the person most responsible for this renaissance is Pope Benedict XVI. He is remarkable for many reasons, not for this revival only. I for one am extremely thankful for this change. And like all renaissance experiences, there are starts and stops.
    What has been very interesting to many people from the outside (and some on the inside) is that those who are attracted to the old Mass are not those who would have known it personally in their younger years. It is generally those who are younger than 35 years old, often with young families in tow. The soul yearns to worship the transcendent God in a way that is rich and filled with beauty. The folks who are generally 65+ tend to be stuck in the 1960s and 70s. These are the ones who cry that this "New Liturgical Movement" is nothing but a move backwards (what is forwards then… clown Masses?!).
    But there can also creep in a strange sort of formulaic type, that is pretty sterile. I know among those who support the Latin Mass there is a general preference for Low Mass (that which is without music and more simple). I love Low Mass, but for daily use not for Sundays and feasts. There is also a general abhorrence to the use of hymns. Indeed there are some very strict guidelines as to the use of hymns in a Latin Mass.
    In addition to the cool overly historical approach is the archeological one. This approach becomes enraptured about the possibility of recovering forms and uses that have been lost for 500 years. Most notably the Use of Sarum among Anglican types. It can be a beautiful use, and my ancestors certainly knew it years ago in jolly Ol' England. But I can't help but reflect that the use of a Sarum form is not simply about recovering a uniquely "English" approach (something that is not at all helpful in Orthodoxy because the Western Rite is not simply an "English" thing), it is also an absolute rejection of other things. It is a rejection of those nasty Continentals who just don't understand us [the recurring theme of England as an island or England as part of Europe], of the Counter-Reformation, and the list goes on. I can't quite reject the Counter-Reformation though. I read the lives of people like St. Edmund Campion, the Martyrs of Oxford University… These men willfully used the altar missal of Pius V, not that of Sarum. Their mind was filled with the sense of universal unity, not with an isolationist approach.
    But it seems to me that the most hopeful sign in modern Ecclesial life is the possibility that a coming Anglican Ordinariate has. I have spoken with several people who are Anglican Use Roman Catholics now, and with some who are looking at joining such an Ordinariate in near future to see what is in their mind. There will be a Novus Ordo, NO, (the current form of Roman Mass), but there will also be some sort of Extraordinary Form, EF, too. The general thought is that the Ordinariate will be held together by some sort of Prayer Book which will in all likelihood exist only in Elizabethan form. (The argument has been made that those who wish to have contemporary language will be just as comfortable with the current Roman liturgical books. That seems to follow pretty well, especially with the new Roman Missal coming out soon.)
    What will the Extraordinary Form look like? That is the question. Some want to have a sarum-ized form so that it can be particularly English. Others would prefer to have the old Missal form that Anglo-Catholics have known for the last 100 years. This later form absolutely represents the height and healthiest period of Catholic Anglicanism, it is the very group which has been able to persuade the Vatican to offer unity without absorption. It is the group which has people that know that way of worship in their own living memory and hearts. It is what still spurs me on honestly. It is the very spark that moves me to love the Western Rite.
    But let us notice here a couple things about it that would make it very distinctive from the normal, or average, Roman Catholic diocesan parish. First, the EF of Mass would be in an elevated, poetic vernacular. Elizabethan prose is a genuine liturgical English, much like Latin is a magnificent liturgical language. Even if the Mass were an accurate and poetic translation of the old Latin missals, it would have a distinctive lilt because of this form of English. It would automatically hearken to the Book of Common Prayer tradition.
   Secondly, the use of music would be quite different. There is a particular sound of English hymnody. It is not sentimental, but stately and virile. Hymns like "Crown him with many crowns," or "The Church's one Foundation" are exceptional theological works as well as just roaring good hymns to sing. There is not the least bit of heartburn of using a vernacular hymn as part of the Gospel procession in addition to the proper chant. It works marvelously, but it is a uniquely English sort of thing.
   The communal life is also very different. And here there is a more obvious parallel to the average Orthodox parish. Parishes are usually smaller and they are familiar, carry a familial quality. Parishes are families. But they are not usually overly enmeshed because of intermarriages and literal familial ties. The family life is really a re-approximation of the old town mentality of England. There is a real closeness, but also a proper (and healthy) distance too. There is intimacy, but also space to be alone if wanted. It is a unique and difficult balance that comes quite naturally to those of this heritage. It is difficult for these parishes to become large corporations and keep their authenticity--although it does occasionally happen.
   I have written before that one of the characteristics that I loved about my home parish was its daily life. The ability to quietly enter the church and pray, to be able to light a candle, to assist at Mass every day… this is very much a part of the unique quality that a future Ordinariate will have.
   Ceremonially there is a rare ability to be very exacting to the rubrics, but remaining unstuffy and seeming to be almost restrained at the same time. It is a naturalness and a soberness that is found. Ceremonial becomes entirely organic in the life of the parish. It is not something that is added on to make something special, but it simply the way that things are done.
   One of the areas that is most promising for these Ordinariates--as opposed to our little Western Rite--is that its canonical structure and organization is written down clearly. It is established in a legal manner. How wonderful that would be. Are we under the Metropolitan as an authentic Vicariate, are we under the diocesan bishops as diocesan parishes... who really knows because nothing is written down in a formal manner. A little organization goes a long way. Heaven's a little leadership would help for that matter!
    My suspicion is that the Ordinariates will grow steadily and healthily once they are established. I also think that they will begin to give some real, visible fruit pretty quickly too. I am watching them very carefully for many, many reasons.
   As touching our little WR Vicariate, I can't say that I'm particularly optimistic. The clergy are demoralized. Materials are not forthcoming. There are real disagreements about the vision of the Western Rite and while the Vicar General has given a statement, it has not been embraced or followed because of deep willfulness and contrary visions. There has been outside interference and even attacks by sister parishes who don't use or know the Western Rite. It seems the only way to serve the Western Rite joyfully is to be independently wealthy and in a fairly isolated geographic area so you can do as seems right.
    I don't believe it's the form of worship that is the problem. After all, it seems to be coming back now. I still love that Mass, its worship, it way of life… but without a substantial group it would be irresponsible to begin building a community within the Orthodox Church to use that rite. Churches are difficult enough to start, much less if the deck is stacked against them so heavily.
   Nevertheless, small movements can become large ones. We simply need to keep walking and singing. The songs are those of Sion, and we walk to the altar of God, "Introibo ad altare Dei."

Friday, May 21, 2010

A New Blog...

After a lot of thought, I decided I needed to separate from my blog "PadreTex" my observations and thoughts about the Western Rite. I'll make analysis of things going on outside Orthodoxy as well, as sometimes they can give us an insight on our own life. So, here is a new blog but with my general name of PadreTex still attached (I kinda like it) with a little more specific orientation.

My other blog will still be used, and perhaps a little more than it has been lately. It's contents will be more generic about the Christian life and things that can apply to all Orthodox (and all folks really). So, I'll be starting soon.