Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Liturgy of the Bauhaus and Brutalism

Los Angeles Catholic Cathedral

The past few days I have been having a look at an early eighteenth century missal I found in a bookshop in Lewes a few months ago – yes I know it is not 1962 – but it is substantially the same.

I had a visit from a priest of the Oxford Oratory yesterday. I suggested the present rite of the Mass seemed a little paired down by comparison, I mean the absence of the rather beautiful intercession of the saints, the rather glorious offertory prayers, the rather nice little gobbits of scripture, the prayers at the foot of the altar. I must say I rather like the idea of a one year cycle of scripture, I am a little apprehensive about the continual extension of Sunday readings into weekday ferias though it certainly gives prominence to Lord’s Day. Somehow the present three year Sunday Cycle seems to go over peoples heads, I am not sure that people are any better informed about the Word of God than they were previously.
It was the pairing down of the liturgy itself that really strikes me, it seems so 1960’s, like Brutalist Architecture or “flush doors”. People used to cover panelled Victorian doors with hardboard so they were flush when I was very young, it was about utility and functionalism. Comparing the two Missals seems like comparing a period house in its original fixtures and fittings with one that had been modernised in the 1960. The problem is when you modernise something you have to do it every decade or so in order to stop it becoming passé. I suspect this is one of the reasons why many priests want to add some type of innovation in the Mass, like a musician adding decoration to a stark piece of music. There is a discomfort with what is presented in the Missal. Just the same as a in a modern minimalist Church people seem to want to put out flowers, pot plants and posters.

Fr “B”, my visitor, suggested that the “Ordinary Form” of the Mass wasn’t really a 1960s innovation but something which sprang from the Bauhaus, in Germany and Futurism in Italy in the 1930s. He suggested that already by 1970 it was already out of date. Being in my teenage years in 1970, my friends were wearing embroidered Kaftans whilst the clergy were throwing out embroidered vestments, they were sitting in incense filled rooms whilst thuribles grew cold, chanting OM and meditating whilst Catholic worship became increasingly active, the Liturgy becoming almost a “machine” for worshipping in.
It is too easy to blame the loss of a generation in the European Church on sociological trends. Maybe the Church and the Liturgy have some part to play in it, it would be nonsensical to claim, as some do it had nothing to do with "the changes". Imposing something from a decade that gave rise to Fascism and National Socialism on a generation that had so firmly rejected that would seem bound to cause ruptures and rejection. The 60s was a time of experts, who built functional “machines for living in”, the problem was that those for whom they were designed could not live in them, and they have now been swept away.

If the more ancient usage is supposed to influence the post-Concilliar liturgy then “comparing and contrasting” is going to be one of the features of contemporary debate in the Church. I wouldn’t have said what I have above in public before the issue of the Summorum Pontificum, and maybe not seriously thought it but I suspect these are the questions the Pope wants us to ask and debate.


Anonymous said...

Somehow the present three year Sunday Cycle seems to go over peoples heads, I am not sure that people are any better informed about the Word of God than they were previously.

I agree with you here but surely it is the responsibility of the priest in his homily to unpack the scriptures so that the congregation can understand them and apply their message to their lives.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Of course, but with three readings, one of which is unconnected to the other two and with a long responsorial psalm, which piece of sripture do you unpack? There is so much.

Anonymous said...

Excellent diagnosis, Father. I'd never thought of it quite like that before. The Barry Bucknells of the liturgical world certainly seem to have had a free hand (maybe you're too young to remember him – early TV DIY presenter - 'How to cover up that Victorian fireplace with a lovely piece of Formica'!). But the liturgy isn't supposed to be Zeitgeisted, is it?

Anonymous said...

With the regard to the cycle of readings: sometimes less is more, especially when it comes to emphasising the truths and mysteries of the Faith.

I have to say that when I look at what was changed or omitted in the Missal of Paul VI I sense the hand of early 20th Century didactic utilitarianism: beautiful (and unambiguously sacrificial) prayers hacked out as being "medieval accretions"; the deeply Trinitarian threefold Kyrie being boiled down to an answer and response; the profound at the Incarnatus being replaced with a mere bow; and a desire for the priest to get "straight down to business" and not mess about asking to be made worthy to approach the altar of God.

If I remember correctly, in Evelyn Waugh's correspondence to Cardinal Heenan concerning the liturgical changes in the 1960's he felt that the changes seemed very Teutonic in nature, especially with their promotion of active participation as something largely external.

It doesn't surprise me that those members of the liturgical movement who promulgated this sea change in the liturgy were also largely dismissive of "popular devotions" - they had little understanding of piety of ordinary Catholics. All in all, there was something discomfitingly similar to how the new missal was created and then imposed on the faithful to the modus operandi of political totalitarianism of the 20th Century. A small group of scholars believed that they knew what the people really needed and proceeded to enforced their vision of the "new Church". The real feelings of dismay that Catholics voiced were drowned out by triumphant panegyrics claiming that the changes had been received joyfully by the mass of Catholics. Which just wasn't true.

Anonymous said...

I have never quite believed the idea of Bugnini the freemason but I do believe he was a Facist Italian style NOT German) and connected with Futurism, I suppose there was a whole cabal of them in th papal court at the time.

It explains a lot.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

My goodness, what a huge topic to embark on.
Fr. Ray is very brave to bring it into the forum of public debate.
I think I would first like to see Fr. B. develop his theme somewhat more fully. Could he be persuaded to write a paper ?
Such recent history is not exactly my strong point.
For the time being, could I limit myself to the suggestion that the Cathedral of Los Angeles, along with the British Library (which it rather resembles) be swept away at an early date, please.

Anonymous said...

David ~ superb post. Yes, Evelyn Waugh complained bitterly about the influence of German theologians at Vatican II.

Heenan also observed in his autobiography complaints by Bishops Griffiths (an auxilary of New York and one of the few theologian bishops present from the USA) at the influence of Rahner in particular.

The inertia of the post-War Anglo-Saxon Church was surely a major factor in the chaos caused by the council. I have not read the correspondence between Waugh and Heenan but presumably they reveal that the great English man of letters instinctively understood that Heenan had lost his way in the maelstrom.

It's so easy to blame the Hume and Worlock axis for much of the chaos in the English Catholic Church for example (something Auberon Waugh was fond of doing!) but in reality both men inherited serious problems from the Heenan/Dwyer years.

Evelyn Waugh knew exactly what was happening in the early 60's (as did Heenan as and when it suited him) whereas Worlock-Hume seemed to live in a twilight zone of denial. This denial merely served to compound problems and as a result the rate of lapsation increased dramatically under their watch.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

It's me again.
It occurs to me that before one can make any attempt to "compare and contrast" pre and post conciliar liturgy, one needs to have a good understanding of Vatican II and its aftermath.

Out of the vast amount of literature available (much of it polemical), I would recommend the following sober and unbiased accounts :
The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen (1977)
What Went Wrong With Vatican II by Fr.Ralph M. McInerny (1997).
Those who are already familiar with these works might find it interesting to read :
"The Latin Liturgical Tradition" addressed to The Latin Liturgical Association, Chicago in 2001 by
Mgr. Arthur B. Calkins of the "Ecclesia Dei" commission.

For an explanation of how the Bauhaus and Futurist schools of art and architecture of the 1930s influenced the utilitarianism of the 1960s, and how that in turn contributed to the liturgical functionalism introduced after Vatican II, I am happy to be instructed by someone with more knowledge than I.

Ttony said...

(Fr B) "suggested that already by 1970 it was already out of date. Being in my teenage years in 1970, my friends were wearing embroidered Kaftans whilst the clergy were throwing out embroidered vestments, they were sitting in incense filled rooms whilst thuribles grew cold, chanting OM and meditating whilst Catholic worship became increasingly active, the Liturgy becoming almost a “machine” for worshipping in."

This may be old hat for many of your readers but I have never seen this devastatingly incisive demolition of what the "Spirit of Vatican II" set out to do before. For this insight alone, many thanks.

Hermione Hollis' comments about Archbishop Worlock either show a tremendous depth of charity, or suggest that she didn't know what he was up to and about. He caused Cardinal Heenan the problems, and when Cardinal Hume was appointed to Westminster, was aggrieved that, in his own words, "the better man" (ie himself) "did not win".

Anonymous said...

ttony ~ I was merely suggesting that the inertia of Bishops across the 60's-70's "ICEL" world, facilitated the emergence of the "Worlock" prelate. It would appear that Mahoney in L.A. is just another Worlock clone. Remember however, that Worlock was not responsible for Liverpool Cathedral (even if Mahoney is responsible for his monstrosity) but inherited this from Cardinal Heenan. It was the this incongruity in Heenan that presumably frustrated Evelyn Waugh.

Anonymous said...

Re the homily question this site may be of help:
A Resource For Priests http://www.epriest.com/

Anonymous said...

I wouldn’t have said what I have above in public before the issue of the Summorum Pontificum...

In the relatively short time that I have been Catholic this has been an aspect of modern Catholic life that has distressed me. When coming into the Church I found myself attracted far more to the traditional liturgy than to the modern liturgy it was immediately made clear that honest debate about the new missal and its fruits were verboten and that to be attached to the traditional liturgy effectively put one beyond the pale. It was like entering into a rather neurotic family where certain things were "just not discussed".

Fr Ray Blake said...

It is dishonest and I think it is very dangerous for the Church, it is one of the reasons for this blog.

Anonymous said...

David ~ welcome to the Church.

I agree with your comments. The refusal to countenance any dialogue (that wonderful Post- Vatican II word) about the true state of the Church continues to bewilder everyone.

I am interested to see that the World of professional cycling seems to be trying to establish some integrity and is being castigated for it. It's hard work being honest. Not easy admitting that you and your community are in a mess. Painful to clear out the filth sometimes in public. Much easier to pretend that nothing is wrong.

You see this when a wife is married to a troublesome husband - say an alcoholic. Such women often get dragged into protecting even covering up for their husbands. Quite extraordinary the level of denial by both the alcoholic and the partner.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Another thought.
Any debate on the minimalism of modern liturgy and the minimalism of modern church buildings will surely resolve itself into the old chicken-and-egg question : which came first ?
Well, look at the dates.
The modern Missal of Paul VI was promulgated in 1970.
The (much quoted and mis-quoted) Vatican II Constitution "Sacrosanctum Consilium" on the liturgy was
promulgated in 1963.
The Council was opened in 1962.
Well before that date, new church buildings were going up.
And they weren't being built to accommodate the new liturgy.
To take only one example, the new Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral was designed by Frederick Gibberd in 1959.
Building work began in 1960, and was completed in 1967.
So, in this instance, the building came first.
Revisionist historians would have you believe otherwise : "The new cathedral is a circular building with a central altar to allow the active participation of the laity in the reformed liturgy of Vatican II," etc., etc.
Not quite true.
And a travesty of what "Sacrosanctum Consilium" actually said.
Re-reading other peoples' comments, I was struck by something david said : "Less is more."
Was he using this quotation consciously ?
It was a favourite saying of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a Director of the Bauhaus school, to describe his own architecture which used the modern materials of concrete, steel and glass to define an enclosed space, with a minimal framework (the so-called "skin and bones" architecture).
Now, Gibberd's work was influenced by (among others) van der Rohe.
And neither man could possibly have read "Sacrosanctum Consilium" which required new works of art and architecture to be "in accordance with faith, piety and traditional law, and thereby be fit for sacred use."
The church building I have mentioned was not untypical of its time.
So, the machinery of the new architectural form (which (arguably) was largely inspired by architectural theories of the early decades of the twentieth century) rolled on.
Up went more modern church buildings whose design was influenced more by functionalism and minimalism than by a sense of the sacred.
And the new liturgy was adapted (more correctly "deformed") to fit the building, rather than the other way round.
Over the years, the "deformed" liturgy has established itself so that we have returned to the old chicken-and-egg question.
We can now look at the new Los Angeles Cathedral and ask :
Was this building designed to be fit for the sacred liturgy , or
has the liturgy been de-sacralised so as to fit buildings like this.

Anonymous said...

It's as crazy to say that the Novus Ordo grew from the Bauhaus and Italian Futurism as to say, as Mgr Alfred Gilbey did, that it grew from the Nuremburg rallies and the Hitler Youth Movement. The Bauhaus was an architectural movement that had its roots in the catastrophe of the First World War; Marinetti and the Futurists date back to 1910 and were an anarchic art movement that shared with the Bauhaus a desire for a clean break with the past. The hippy quest for embroidered clothes, drugs and joss sticks in the late 1960s and 70s grew from the influence of India and the discovery of Indian mysticism and had nothing to do with Christianity in any form. If anything, the Novus Ordo developed from scientific historical enquiry based on documents rather than custom, antiquarianism and the desire to recover a patristic ideal of worship. In other words it was based on history, whereas the movements that you and Fr "B" identify as causes were a-historical and hippyism was a recrudescence of romanticism. When Pope Paul VI promulgated the Novus Ordo he did so in the name of tradition, decreed that it had returned to the most authentic Christian sources and declared that no period of Church history had disfigured them more than the Counter-Reformation. What the Pope and the liturgists wanted was purity rather than decadence and a return to authentic sources. The same principle of ressourcement underlies the Augustinian theology of Pope Benedict XVI and the most creative theologians of the mid-c20, notably Cardinal Congar, Cardinal de Lubac and Pere Chenu , all of whom had a positive influence on the Second Vatican Council, all of whom deplored the misinterpretation of the aims of the Council in its aftermath. Benedict XVI is the only theologian left who represents their methodology and vindicates their position. His liturgical mentor, Romano Guardini, was prominently involved in applying liturgical purism to modern life. Klaus Gamber was rooted in patristic theology and scientific historical research. That is where the Pope is coming from and why the Roman Missal of 1962 is insisted upon as the extraordinary rite. The Novus Ordo remains the ordinary Roman Rite and has not been superseded. What is needed is the application of the right way to celebrate it.

Anonymous said...

anon ~ "Pope Benedict XVI (Fr Ratzinger at the time) and the most creative theologians of the mid-c20, notably Cardinal Congar, Cardinal de Lubac and Pere Chenu" can and do mistakes. "Resourcement" is a personal interpretation of how the Church should continue to develop. Remember, John XXIII placed emphasis on "aggiornamento" at the council and not resourcement - an example of how interpretations can differ. Such is the life of the Church.

The argument that we shall one day find "the right way to celebrate it (the Novus Ordo)" sounds painfully Orwellian. When is this day going to arrive? We have been waiting 40 years and the "ordinary" and the "extraordinary" Testaments both agree that this is a 'long time'.

There is already a right way to celebrate the Mass - it's called the extraordinary and Benedict is pointing us to it. Where have you been for the last 40 days?

Where have you been for the last 40 years?

Phil said...

So that's what the infamouse 'Taj Mahony' looks like.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

An Afterthought :

Have people read the book :
No Place for God : the Denial of The Transcendental in Modern Architecture, by Moyra Doorly, Ignatius Press, 2007.

Compared with E.A. Sovik's infamous work : Architecture for Worship, and in the context of the comments posted above, it makes fascinating reading.

In this regard, it would be good to re-read The Spirit of The Liturgy by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger.

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