Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some Thoughts on Mutual Enrichment

The recent statement by His Emminence Cardinal Castillon Hoyos to the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has caused considerable comment these past few days. On the one hand, his statements bode very well for the traditionalists… that Pope Benedict desires that the Extraordinary Form Mass be offered in every parish is in itself an incredible revelation to be made public by a highly placed official in the Vatican. This alone has given energy and hope to the many who would like to see the Church move towards this type of reform.

What has caused some consternation, on the other hand, is the continued position expressed that there should be mutual enrichment of the two forms of the liturgy. What does this mean exactly? The Cardinal’s exact words in regard to this issue:

This brings me to my third point. You are rightly convinced that the usus antiquior is not a museum piece, but a living expression of Catholic worship. If it is living, we must also expect it to develop. Our Holy Father is also of this conviction. As you know, he chose motu proprio – that is on his own initiative – to alter the text of the prayer pro Iudæis in the Good Friday liturgy. The intention of the prayer was in no way weakened, but a formulation was provided which respected sensitivities.

Likewise, as you also know, Summorum Pontificum has also provided for the Liturgy of the Word to be proclaimed in the vernacular without being first read by the celebrant in Latin. Today’s Pontifical Mass, of course, will have the readings solemnly chanted in Latin, but for less solemn celebrations the Liturgy of the Word may be proclaimed directly in the language of the people. This is already a concrete instance of what our Holy Father wrote in his letter accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum:

"the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard."

Naturally we will be happy for your input in this important matter. I simply ask you not to be opposed in principle to the necessary adaptation which our Holy Father has called for.

This brings me to another important point. I am aware that the response of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” with regard to the observance of Holy Days of obligation has caused a certain amount of disturbance in some circles. It should be noted that the dates of these Holy Days remain the same in both the Missal of 1962 and the Missal of 1970. When the Holy See has given the Episcopal Conference of a given country permission to move certain Holy Days to the following Sunday, this should be observed by all Catholics in that country. Nothing prevents the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension, for example, on the prior Thursday, but it should be clear that this is not a Mass of obligation and that the Mass of the Ascension should also be celebrated on the following Sunday. This is a sacrifice which I ask you to make with joy as a sign of your unity with the Catholic Church in your country.

Ok…. If we agree that there will need to be some compromise and mutual enrichment for the two forms of the Roman Rite to co-exist in a living worship environment, and that should be agreed upon, then there isn’t much to argue about in the Cardinal’s statement. But where is the mutual in this mutual enrichment?

A popular radio personality has repeatedly noted that in the political arena, when we talk about “reaching across the aisle”, such reaching almost always goes one-way, and that to liberals, compromise consists of the conservative position caving in to the demands of the liberal position. So far, the same can be observed in our situation (N.B- I am not suggesting here that the OF is a “liberal” liturgy and the EF is a “conservative” liturgy, only that the same principle applies as regards compromise).

For instance, in the above passage from the Cardinal’s address he outlines a number of ways in which the Extraordinary Form will need to adopt the practices of the Ordinary Form liturgy, including proclaiming the Liturgy of the Word in the vernacular, accepting the changes to the prayer pro Iudæis in the Good Friday Liturgy, and transferring the Holy Day obligations to the following Sunday when this is the applicable law in the diocese. So far, it’s all going one-way…

What about bringing some aspects of the Extraordinary Form into the Ordinary Form? There are some very obvious and meaningful ways that would not even require any actual changes in the law regarding the Novus Ordo. The issue of ad orientem would be the most logical starting point, followed by perhaps the reception of communion on the tongue. These are both issues that have been in the forefront lately, and it seems that Pope Benedict supports both of these practices becoming the norm in the Novus Ordo. Requiring both of these practices in the OF would be a sign of actual compromise, and meaningful mutual enrichment.

The problem I see is that, while it is mandated that the EF must use the new Good Friday Prayer, and it is mandated that the Holy Day obligation has to be transferred to the following Sunday, it is only suggested (and not even in writing) that ad orientem is permitted in the Novus Ordo, and it is encouraged, but only by example, that communion may be given on the tongue. Why not take the same position with these issues as with the Holy Day obligation issue and just mandate that Mass will be said ad orientem in the Ordinary Form, and mandate that communion will be distributed on the tongue? This would go a long way towards bringing the two forms closer, and would eliminate the confusion about the status of these practices in both forms. If these are only going to be suggested in the Ordinary Form, then it should be only suggested that the new Good Friday Prayer be used, and only encouraged that the Holy Day Obligation be moved to the following Sunday in the Extraordinary Form.

If there are truly going to be two forms of the same rite, then these forms need to be treated equally. Until real mutual enrichment begins to take place, and I do believe that we will begin to see some required changes in the NO, then there will continue to be suspicion among traditionalists that they are being asked to give- give- give, while the NO is allowed to continue unchanged. If allowed to build, such suspicion will only further divide us into separate camps, and discourage any further willingness to “reach across the aisle”…


Mary Jane said...

I think the argument for "mutual enrichment" is an excellent one and you bring up some good "transfer points."

I've often wondered what would happen in a priest in my diocese simply walked out and said the Novus Ordo ad orientam. Notice I'm not even speculating on Latin. There's no need for the bishop's permission, for the Liturgy Committee to meet, for a special letter from Rome. As one friend of mine put it, "Why not just stop the 'cooking show'?"

These prospects soothe me while I'm preparing (if that's at all possible) for a Sunday Mass featuring "Jesus in the Morning" as the Offertory. Perhaps we could offer this work to the Extraordinary Form? Just kidding.

Dad29 said...


Realize, Chironomo, that what you propose requires a lot of education of both priests AND laity. That is--while the average EF celebrant and attendee is reasonably well-educated in liturgical principles, the average OF celebrant/attendee is NOT.

Similarly, while the average EF person is inclined to obedience, the average OF person is NOT so inclined.

So there's a larger mountain to climb when instituting reforms in the OF...

Chironomo said...

This is true, however I believe that there will eventually be some changes in the OF of the same magnitude. If there were not going to be, I can't find any good reason why B16 would be so anxious to implement changes to the EF and continue speaking about mutual enrichment so forcefully.