jeudi, octobre 18, 2007

Lecture on the Motu Proprio

The diocese of Little Rock (Arkansas) organized a work session for priests. The Fraternity of Saint Peter, which is present in the diocese in North Little Rock, Cherokee Village and Moutain Home, was invited to give some lectures about the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. The session finished this morning with a high Mass celebrated in the chapel of the diocese office, Saint John Catholic center. The Mass was celebrated by Father Terrence Gordon, FSSP and the homely said by Father Joseph Portzer, FSSP in the presence of Msgr. Gaston Hebert, the diocesan Administrator and about 40 priests and deacons from the diocese. Other people working in the Diocesan offices attented this Mass.

Saint John Catholic center, Little Rock

I gave the first lecture Tuesday 16th and Father Portzer others lectures Wednesday 17th.

Here is a summary of the first part of the lecture that I gave.


By July 7th 2007, Pope Benedict XVI had published the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum on the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970.
This document has been commented on by many within and outside the Church and has even been a screamer in many newspapers in America as well as in Europe on a local and national level. Television has also been interested and journalists have gone to many churches for photo shots and coverage. The world acknowledged that the Pope has reestablished the old Mass in Latin. Reactions have been numerous and various. For some – maybe the great majority – it is something new that they did not even think about before. For others, it was the success of a long expectation finally satisfied. For some others, it is a flashback that brings back the Church to a kind of dark period of time. Some think it is a very good thing, others think it is a mistake from the Pope and others simply do not care.

Now, my purpose is not to bring a judgment on the Motu Proprio, even though you may guess in which category I belong, being a priest of the Fraternity of Saint Peter. Whether one rejoices or deplores this pontifical document, one has to recognize that it is not without importance, as the numerous reactions verify.

What will be the effects of the Motu Proprio on the life of the Church? It does not belong to me to give this answer. We can have certain leads of reflection, we can presume certain things, but it is still too early to have certitudes regarding the effects of the liberalization of the traditional liturgy on the long range. And by the way, my purpose is not to try to make any projections for the future – I think Father Portzer will do this – I wish only to present the context or background of the Motu Proprio. So, let us take a look now on the past few decades.

The object of the Document

The Motu Proprio is a document on the liturgy. It permits the celebration of the Roman liturgy according to the liturgical books of 1962 and mainly – but not only – the Missal, traditionally called that of Saint Pius V and more recently called that of Blessed John XXIII since this Pope made some modifications to it.
The liturgy has always been a concern for the Church, which is easily understandable, since the liturgy is her highest and most excellent work, as it is her public and official prayer. It is the prayer of the Head and of the members who compose the Mystical Body. It is the expression of the faith of the Church, the manifestation of her hope, looking toward eternity, and the realization of her charity. You can find many definitions on the liturgy given by many authors. Many Fathers of the Church used to preach and to write about the liturgy. Among them we can mention Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in the IV century, whose catechetical lectures contain beautiful thoughts about the celebration of mysteries, especially, Baptism, Chrism and Communion.

Later, due to the boom and expansion of monks in the Middles Ages, Christendom has always kept an interest for the liturgy, the monasteries being like embassies of heaven on earth. Saint Benedict asked his monks to prefer nothing to the liturgy, which he called the Divine Work. Monasteries were seats of knowledge and culture which really permitted the building of Europe. For this very reason, Saint Benedict has deserved to be named patron Saint of Europe. Yet, he had no other purpose in the world than to live for God and to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In the Middles Ages, the liturgy went past the limits of churches and monasteries into the social, economic, political and artistic life. We can have a glimpse of this through some vestiges which are the liturgical dramas, half sacred and half profane, which took place often in the forecourt of the churches.

More recently, another son of Saint Benedict gratified us with his liturgical science: everybody has heard about Dom Gueranger, founder of the Abbey and Congregation of Solesmes. Dom Gueranger is certainly at the origin of what we call the liturgical movement which began in the late XIX century and spread essentially in Europe, but also for a part in America in the XX century. The liturgical movement brought a real renew of interest for the liturgy and allowed the faithful to have a better understanding of its essence and a better participation to its celebration. To give an example, the International Congress of Gregorian Chant which took place in New York in 1920 shows the impact of the liturgical movement in the United Sates. A choir of 4,000 children sung the Mass. At this time, the number of children practicing Gregorian Chant is estimated to be around 500,000 in the country.

The Roman Pontiffs, throughout the centuries have expressed their concern for the liturgy, as Benedict XVI says in the beginning of the Motu Proprio. He mentions Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Pius V, who sustained by great pastoral and following the exhortations of the Council of Trent, renewed the entire liturgy of the Church, oversaw the publication of liturgical books amended and renewed in accordance with the norms of the Fathers, and provided them for the use of the Latin Church. His name would remain associated to the missal and today we still speak of the Missal of Saint Pius V, even though he was not its creator. Benedict the XVI mentions others of his predecessors, such as Clement VIII, Urban VIII, Saint Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius X, Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII. About Pius XII, it is important to mention his Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei about the Divine Liturgy. It is a portentous document as it expresses the teaching of the Church in liturgical matter.

The Councils also have expressed their concerns regarding the liturgy. The last ecumenical Council known as the Second Vatican Council even has a whole constitution about the liturgy: it is the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, which might be good to read in order to know exactly what it says. It reminds of the importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church. The document says for example that the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.[1]

It is something that we, priests, should keep in our minds. All our works of charity, of preaching, of mercy, all our pastoral zeal should be oriented toward the supreme activity of the Church which is the liturgy. And since it is the summit, it has to be well done. That supposes from our part a sufficient knowledge of the liturgy, which is required by the Church as it is expressed in the conciliar document, paragraph 16: The study of sacred liturgy is to be ranked among the compulsory and major courses in seminaries and religions houses of studies; in theological faculties it is to rank among the principal courses. It is to be taught under its theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects. Moreover, other professors, while striving to expound the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation from the angle proper to each of their own subjects, must nevertheless do so in a way which will clearly bring out the connection between their subjects and the liturgy, as also the unity which underlies all priestly training. This consideration is especially important for professors of dogmatic, spiritual, and pastoral theology and for those of holy scripture.

In addition of the knowledge, we should also take a sufficient time in order to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the liturgy. It is not only a function that we must accomplish because it is a duty, but it should be our spiritual food and the heart of our priesthood. The priest, by his very essence and by the virtue of his ordination, is the man of the liturgy, and especially of the Mass. It has always been the way the Church understands priesthood and she desires that her priests are aware of this. Blessed Karl Leisner said that it was the love for the Mass which led him toward priesthood.

The Council and the Missal of 1969

But let us return to the text of the Council. After considerations about the essence and the need of a restoration of the liturgy, the Council gives certain norms. The first one reminds us of a general principle: Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.[2] The reason is that, as we said, the liturgy is the official and public worship of the Church.

Now the Church, through the Council, asked for a revision of the liturgical books, which is of course legitimate and have been done many times in the past. As you know, every time that modifications occur, there are some people who are pleased and others who are not. And I don’t speak only about liturgy; it is true for every thing. Now, we still have to consider if the reasons for which we are pleased or not are legitimate or not.
In 1969, 4 years after the end of the Council, Pope Paul VI promulgated a new missal, which was something new in the whole history of the Church as the Pope himself said. Let me give you some quotes from Paul VI said during the general audience of November 26th 1969.
- We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new rite of the Mass.
- A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries.
- This novelty is no small thing.

The Pope explained what are some of the great modifications. It is here that the greatest newness is going to be noticed, the newness of language. No longer Latin, but the spoken language will be the principal language of the Mass. The introduction of the vernacular will certainly be a great sacrifice for those who know the beauty, the power and the expressive sacrality of Latin. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance. We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant.

This passage, if you think about it, is really surprising and a little bit unsettling. First, it has to be noticed that the intention of the Pope went far beyond the wishes of the Council.
The Council asked for a revision of liturgical books: The liturgical books are to be revised as soon as possible.[3] But the revision of an old book is not the creation of a new one, which are two different things.

Concerning the language, the Council explicitly says that particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.[4] It gives more liberty for the use of the Latin, but does not abrogate neither prohibit its use. It rather says that steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.[5]

Paragraph 113 is even stronger since it says: As regards the language to be used, the provisions of Art. 36 are to be observed; for the Mass, Art. 54; for the sacraments.

I cannot give now all the references but let us say that according to the Council, the Latin remains the proper language of the liturgy and then, that the use of vernacular languages is permitted for certain parts with the approbation and under the control of the Ordinary. We have another very good example with this paragraph regarding the Divine Office: In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.

The Chapter 6 of Sacrosanctum Concilium concerns the sacred music. About the Gregorian chant, it says: The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
So, here it what the Council says. Then six years later – Sacrosanctum Concilium is dated by December 4th 1963 – Pope Paul VI says the opposite: No longer Latin, but the spoken language will be the principal language of the Mass. Then the Popes expressed some kinds of regrets for what we are about to lose with the introduction of the new missal. We have reason indeed for regret, reason almost for bewilderment. What can we put in the place of that language of the angels? We are giving up something of priceless worth.

But what is more surprising is the reason invoked by the Pope: we shall do well to take into account the motives for this grave change. The first is obedience to the Council. But the decision to give up Latin and Gregorian chant contradicts the Council.
So we are not here to judge Paul VI and his intentions that only God knows. The fact is that the new missal promulgated in 1969 goes beyond the desires of the Council.

[1] S.C. n.10
[2] S.C. 10 / 1
[3] S.C. 25
[4] S.C. 36
[5] S.C. 54

1 commentaire:

Anonyme a dit…

Thank you, Fr. Demets, for all you have done to promote the TLM across the South -- some of which I have accounted in a comment at Fr. Zuhlsdorf's post on the program in Little Rock: