Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lord or Servant? The Liturgy and the Church

I asked Bishop Kyrillos Katerelos, Professor of theology at Athens University what he understood by the idea of organic development of the liturgy. He said, "Nothing! it is an alien concept in the Orthodox world, the liturgy is a given".

To an Orthodox priest, who I drank far too much Armagnac with, I once said, "We agree on the necessity of the Petrine ministry in the Church of the first millennium, you understand it is was exercised by the Bishop of Rome, so why not be reconciled to Rome".
His response, "How could I be reconciled to a Bishop who thinks he is the Lord of the Church, rather than its servant... to a bishop who with the stroke of a pen, one morning, can sweep away two millennia of liturgical tradition".

One of the reasons I find Pope Benedict so impressive, truly great, is that from the very beginning of his Papacy he has seen himself as a servant orf the Church and its theology, not its "Lord" not its master, and certainly not its inventor.
The following quoted by Fr Z from an article by John Casey who is lecturer in English at the University of Cambridge takes up these thoughts:

I once interviewed the Patriarch of Antioch, in Damascus. I asked His Beatitude whether he, like the Bishop of Rome, believed he had power radically to alter the liturgy. "Oh yes, we have authority in liturgical matters. And in 1,500 years we did once alter a prayer."

Clearly the idea of virtually inventing a new rite had never entered the Patriarch’s head. (The so-called "Tridentine’’ rite was not invented by the Council of Trent, but was a codification of the Roman rite which dated back many centuries.) The question all along was whether pope and bishops really do have such authority. One distinguished Catholic thinker judged that there was no such sweeping power, that liturgy had its own authority based on immemorial tradition, and that the pope’s authority in liturgy "is at the service of Sacred Tradition." The same thinker even dared to describe the new mass as "no re-animation but devastation… fabricated liturgy… banal-on-the-spot product." The man who wrote those words is now Pope Benedict XVI. The Cardinals elected Ratzinger knowing that these were his convictions. It cannot have been done in a fit of absence of mind.


FrGregACCA said...

Yup. As I have often said, one can draw a straight line from Pius IX and Vatican I to Vatican II and Paul VI.

"Peter, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren."

Volpius Leonius said...

Evolution has no place in the Catholic Church whether its in reference to origins or the liturgy.

The Church is not evolving into a ever more perfect earthly society, this is the idea of the modernists, is false and so is destructive as all errors are.

FrGregACCA said...


I'd be interested, then, on your opinion of the idea of "development of doctrine".

PeterHWright said...

I don't want to sound Luddite, but there was in the nineteenth century, in the age of the railways, and the age of the machine, and various new marvels, an unwritten philosophy which might almost be called the heresy of the perfectibility of man.

New inventions and new technologies, unimaginable in previous centuries, seemed to be speeding man towards perfection.

I think the carnage of World War I, followed by the Great Depression, put paid to that philosophy, at least for a while.

But men are as arrogant as ever, perhaps now as never before.

Today, new inventions and new technologies seem to promise Utopia, but I think many people now know that to be a false hope. Man is ever seeking to harness and control forces which can only lead to his destruction.

God is above change, and death and destruction. He is unchanging because he is, was, and always will be, perfect.

It is worth remembering that we worship the Unchanging One before we begin tinkering with the ancient liturgy handed down to us. Down the centuries, the Roman liturgy has evolved, yes, but slowly, wisely, almost imperceptibly. There was no violent, or even revolutionary, disruption : not until the 1960s and 1970s. Men, or in this case, liturgical experts, seemed to forget that we are all servants, God is the Master. The result ? Liturgical anarchy. And it's with us yet.

However, things can, and I believe, will, get better. (But, human nature being what it is, it might take a long time !)

Anagnostis said...

The "Petrine ministry" is itself an evolution.

Papal Supremacy as compared to the undisputed primacy of the Roman Church in the first few centuries is not a "development". It's a different animal.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Moretben: Strengthening the brethen, speaking on their behalf, being the centre of unity, having primacy, it is in the Gospels!

Volpius Leonius said...

Development of doctrine is exactly what the title suggest a development in our understanding of the doctrines we already know.

It does not entail the "evolution" of doctrine into new and previously unknown "species" of doctrine.

This is the Catholic understanding and can be no other way because as the Church teaches "With Christ and the Apostles General Revelation concluded. (sent. certa.)

Pope Pius X rejected the liberal Protestant and Modernistic doctrine of the evolution of religion through "New Revelations." Thus he condemned the proposition that: "The Revelation which is the object of Catholic Faith, was not terminated with the Apostles." (Lamentabili, July 3, 1907)

Volpius Leonius said...

"Yup. As I have often said, one can draw a straight line from Pius IX and Vatican I to Vatican II and Paul VI."

You merely show your ignorance with that comment, no Catholic who knows the history of the Church since Vatican I is going to fall for your schismatic nonsense.

Rubricarius said...

Of course 'Organic development' ended for the Roman rite with the establishment of a professional class of bureaucrat-clergy to manage the liturgy in minute detail called the Sacred Congregation of Rites established by Sixtus V in 1588.

From then on instead of liturgical praxis being regulated by the bishop matters of ridiculous pettiness were referred to Rome. Sometimes the Congregation would make a decision (often wrong as can be cited in numerous examples) or more often they would decree 'let the rubrics be followed' when they could think of no more coherent answer to a question.

Was it 'organic' for Pius X to establish a commission to overhaul the breviary and in so doing destroy ancient features of the Roman rite like the Laudate psalms and four-psalm Compline?

Was it 'organic' for the SRC to debate between 1920-1924 to discuss whether or not in Votive Masses last Gospels should be proper?

Was it 'organic' to completely for the SCR to overhaul all the texts for where popes were mentioned in 1942 and impose the Si diligis me texts completely wiping out ancient texts such as the gradual Juravit that was unique for the feast of St. Gregory (March 12th) and other similiar texts?

Was it 'organic' for Pius XII to appoint members to a Commission for General Liturgical Restoration in 1947 (writing of which in the Catholic Times poor Mgr. Lofthouse is being pilliored for)?

Was it 'organic' to suppress all those octaves and vigils in 1955? Was it 'organic' to suppress the ancient prayers of the season?

Was it 'organic' to re-write Holy Week on the putative idea of 'restoring' services to a supposedly 'correct' time? [Clue: Look at the ancient Sacramentaries: when there were multiple Masses on Maundy Thursday the Eucharist was reserved from the first, morning, celebration]

Father Ray, I complimented you this morning on posting the fascinating YouTubes of the Armenian consecration of Holy Muron. Please apply the same principles to your own rite.

Anagnostis said...

Strengthening the brethen, speaking on their behalf, being the centre of unity, having primacy, it is in the Gospels!

Father, no-one disputes the primacy of the Roman Church in the first centuries - that's not what's at issue, but whether reading Unam Sanctam or Pastor Aeternus to St Irenaeus or St Athanasius would elicit vigorous head-nodding or jaw-dropping incredulity.

St Irenaeus is often cited as an early apologist for the Roman primacy. So he is: according to his account, Rome's particular prestige is conferred by the martyrdom of SS Peter AND Paul there, and the foundation of the Roman Church by BOTH apostles (together with it being at the centre of the Empire). There is no mention whatsoever of a "Petrine Office",to which the Bishop of Rome succeeds in any kind of ontological sense, far less to a charism of personal infallibility or rights of "full and immediate jurisdiction" over every diocese in the world.

It boils down to this: was the Roman Church from around the time of Charlemagne especially, fearlessly defending the Apostolic Tradition as received "always and everywhere", or attempting to impose grotesquely inflated claims (and other innovations) which the East had every reason to consider alien and inimical?

When, on the evidence (and in consideration of the fruits), one begins to suspect the latter, the entire subsequent history of the Western Church, through the Great Schism and Reformation up to and including "post-Conciliar Crisis" itself becomes transparently explicable.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I look to Pope Benedict to clarify some of those "inflated claims" and to express them in a coherent theology. This is the importance of serious east/west dialogue.

Chateaubriand said...

The orthodox priest said a great thing.

Anagnostis said...

It's certainly true that Cardinal Ratzinger expressed some very surprising and interesting views on the subject (notably that the East cannot be held to second-millenium Roman dogmatic statements) which, like his understanding of the relationship of authority to the Liturgy, seem to have come in under the radar of a surprising number of people; or perhaps they simply thought that, like his liturgical "opinions", such odd notions would be quietly dropped as Pope. One still hears "denialists" insisting that one shouldn't look to Ratzinger on the Liturgy in order to understand Benedict's liturgical reform.

He does seem genuinely to understand and appreciate Orthodoxy - a consequence, no doubt, of being so deep in the Fathers.

PeterHWright said...

Rubricarius raises a most interesting point about the role of the Congregation of Rites in the development of the Roman liturgy.

What seems very clear to me is that the Pius X reform of the breviary was an innovation, a quite radical change, even a disruption, which cannot, I think, persuasively be explained as "organic development".

After the liturgical experts successfully hijacked the liturgical movement, (and I have seen it suggested that the liturgical movement itself was not an "organic development") the 1955 reforms of Pius XII were the first major rumblings of the liturgical upheaval that was to follow in the 1960s. There was certainly nothing "organic" about the imposition in 1955 of the new Easter vigil rite. It was a liturgical innovation.

If indeed, as they said at the time, this was done in order to return to an ancient form, then why did they suppress the ancient Octaves ?

Did "organic development" end in 1588 ? This is a fascinating question. It certainly seemed to end in 1955.

In any case, the liturgy does not belong to those men who arrogantly hijacked it, and it must be reclaimed from them. This, I presume, is the purpose of the Benedictine reform.

Rubricarius said...

I would heartily endorse peterhwright's comment about the liturgy not belonging to those in the liturgial movement who 'hijacked' it. In truth the liturgy belongs to the whole church and not particular individuals including the pope.

Pre-Trent and the SRC the liturgy was the treasured possession of the local worshipping community of faithful. Regional variations had developed due to a combination of the rarity of books as up until barely a century before Trent they had to be copied out by hand leading to minor variations where scribes made errors. Variations also developed along regional and provincial boundaries. In those days I think it could be argued that organic developement was possible.

The weakness of the 1570 missal and the other books is that they were imposed by a central authority with a strong agenda for uniformity (c.f. Quod a nobis) that set the precedent for 'liturgy by decree'. With the establishment of the equivalent of a goverment department to regulate liturgical matters I think it is very hard, with the notable exception of praeter legem custom, to maintain organic development continued.

The reform of the hymns by Urban VIII can hardly be described as organic and was a disaster. Can anyone take 'Alto ex Olympi vertice' seriously? One of the good things about Paul VI was the restoration of the authentic hymns (and their tones - I recently bough a copy of Liber Hymnarius and am delighted with it).

I think it could be argued that, in effect, a sort of organic development ran parallel with the central authority as the latter didn't do that much for several centuries. Benedict XIV appointed members to a commission to look at reform of the Office but dismissed them when they suggested re-arrangement of the Psalter (O that Pius X had been of the same mind!). Again Pius IX did the same and was considering a two-year cycle to cope with the number of feast days - that never happened but if it had done it would not have been organic development.

Dr. Wright mentions the revolutionary character of the 1911-13 reform. That Commission was put together very quickly and did their work of destruciton rapidly too under the patronage of Cardinal Rampolla. Pius X certainly had other plans in mind (c.f. Duos abninc annos, 1913) but death stopped him implementing them.

Pius XI created a special sub-division of the SRC the Sectio historica and they were given the specific brief of monitoring the editions of the liturgical books. It was from this structure two members of the 1948-Bugnini Commission came.

The first reform of the Easter Vigil was actually not in 1955 but 1951. This per experimentem rite was just used for that year but a second, slightly modified, form was published in 1952. The most noticeable difference between these forms and 1955 was the ancient Roman use of planetis plicatis was preserved in the first two forms and they were optional.

Some aspects of the reform were done on the basis of history, other aspects were supposedly pastoral. As Dr. Wright pointed out why abolish ancient octaves e.g. SS Peter and Paul or the folded chasubles if the idea was to return to more ancient practice? None of the reforms had a consistent methodology. Of course when they were made then the 'rubber stamp' of papal authority comes in to make them 'living tradition' to be dutifully followed.

Fr. Ray, please do ask Bishop Kyrillos to explain how liturgy does change in Orthodoxy because it most certainly does. We know, and should certainly take lessons from, the anger and disruption caused by the seventeenth century reforms of Patriarch Nikon in Holy Russia. The Patriarchate basically imposed the contemporary Greek books on the church wrongly believing their own Slavoic books had been corrupted. Compare today the liturgy in a Russian Church with a Greek Chruch - they are different. The Greek parishes are supposed to be using the late nineteeth century Violakis typicon but have moved on from that. The Liturgy of St. James was, in living memory, used once a year in about two places, but now is actually quite common. I was present at its celebration by the late Bishop Timotheus a decade or so ago at a Greek Church in North London. I would, however, argue that this is an example of organic development as it has not been imposed but has grown out of interest of the people.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think his answer will be development happens in Orthodoxy in the same way it happened before the reformation, gradually and by tiny increments, and for good cause.
But the default position is "Change? What is change?".

A recent development seems to be preaching before distribution of Holy Communion.

Fr Ray Blake said...

O, and development amongst the Copts, the use of devotional music during the liturgy, with women singing and electronic organs.

And a cctv camera on the east side of the altar with a monitor in the nave.

PeterHWright said...

Another fascinating and most
insightful comment by Rubricarius.

I have to say I had not fully considered the insidious effect a centralised bureaucracy, as established by Sixtus V in 1588, could have on the liturgy. After all, the Congregation of Rites doesn't seem to have done very much for centuries !

I have to confess I had only looked at the downward trajectory of the Liturgical Movement in the twentieth century, as it denied its origins and abandoned its principles in a way which surely would have appalled Gueranger, until it fell into the hands of Bugnini et al who established themselves in the ominously named Commission for Reform of the Liturgy founded by Pius XII in 1948.

I think this part of the story is quite well told by Fr. Bonneterre in his book "The Liturgical Movement : Gueranger - Beauduin - Bugnini", but I see I will have to go and do a great deal more reading, and thinking, to gain a wider understanding of the situation as it developed from the reforms of the counter-Reformation.

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