Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Calm & Collected...

Low and behold, these past 2 1/2 weeks have afforded me the space to catch up on some good spiritual and liturgical reading. I just finished Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics by Fr. John Baldovin, S.J. of Boston College and was quite pleased by both the overview of its structure and the lack of antagonism in its content.

Baldovin employs the work of Msgr. Mannion who diagrammed a five-part classification of various liturgical "camps"and their reactions to the liturgical reforms stemming not just from the Second Vatican Council, but the entire swath of 19th - 20th century scholarship and reforms.

Admittedly, perhaps one reason I appreciate this book very much is that, like myself and Mannion, Baldovin places himself in the fifth category of "Recatholicing the reform" which has as its concern, two. First, a need for deeper appreciation of the aesthetic. Second, a broader appreciation for liturgical history that does not wallow in a sort of antiquarianism but remains vitally connected to the full breadth and length of the Church's litugical treasury.

Baldovin is certainly a well-respected liturgical historian and his descriptions of the various "camps" are endowed with an aire of fairness and manners. Also, any critique he offers is done in a manner I certainly wish more theologians/bloggers/commenters would discuss in - charitable. I did notice, however, that Baldovin often claims various critics of the reform to be "nostalgic" and "romantic" in their analysis of liturigcal history and time periods. "Nostalgic", in my opinion, strikes me as a bit too harshly dismissive.

This book provides a good overview of the current conversations taking place over 40 years after the Second Vatican Council - a helpful overview - needed in a time of "rapid" change and the coexistence of dual "forms" of the Roman Rite. While reading, I was reminded in the section on Klaus Gamber that "a good deal of one's attitude toward the reform of the liturgy is shaped by one's theology of priesthood - and vice versa" (pg 51). This topic intrigues me greatly.

Baldovin later writes blunt observations:
Since well over half (I am being very conservative here) of priests cannot seem to understand how to use the facultative moments of introduction in the liturgy (introduction to the Mass, to the readings, and to the eucharistic prayer), my suggestion would be not to allow any ad lib remarks during the eucharistic liturgy, except of course for the homily, announcements, and prayer of the faithful. Imagine how incongruous one would find it if the priest began the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with 'Good morning. I'm Father George and I want to welcome you here today.' Why is it that we are not quite so astonished when this is done in the Roman Rite (pg 152)?

Also, I want to read more the works of Denis Crouan whom Baldovin describes as someone "much more sympathetic to the reforms inspired by Vatican II's Liturgy Constitution. In fact, his basic position is that the reforms as instituted by the church in the aftermath of the council are laudable. The problem is that they have not been put into practice" (pg 61). I would strongly agree.

Thanks to Baldovin for writing and Liturgical Press for publishing such a helpful work.

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