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The primary purpose of the newly promulgated liturgical texts for the personal ordinariates is ‘to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared’ (AC III). It is clear that, from their use by the clergy and lay faithful of the ordinariates, these texts provide the primary way in which the Anglican patrimony is transmitted within the Catholic Church. How, then, might the desire of the Apostolic Constitution for these texts to be ‘a treasure to be shared’ be made manifest?

In his comments on the recent celebration of the new Ordo Missae in this week’s Catholic Herald, Dr Joseph Shaw says, ‘The newly unveiled liturgy of the ordinariate is to be welcomed both because it affirms the important principle of liturgical pluralism in the West, and because it represents a move forward in official thinking about the reform of the liturgy. Like the use in the ordinariate’s Calendar of Septuagesima (pre-Lent), the appearance (at least as an option) of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel restore much-loved elements of the ancient Catholic Mass which were stripped away following the Second Vatican Council. The arguments against these, that they were strictly unnecessary and confused the sequence of events in the rite, have been overtaken by a new sense that the Mass should introduce worshippers into the liturgy of heaven where, as Pope Francis recently remarked of the Eastern liturgy, “time does not count. The centre is God”. In short, this represents a decisive rejection of a reductionist and functionalist understanding of the liturgy’ (Catholic Herald, 18 Oct 2013).

Likewise, in his recent address to the Church Music Association of America, Dom Alcuin Reid OSB commented that the ordinariate’s liturgical texts affirm ‘the legitimate diversity possible of Western Catholic liturgy, preserving its substantial unity and, in this instance welcoming treasures developed outside of (although deriving from) the broader Western liturgical tradition’. Further, he proposes that the introduction of liturgical texts proper to the personal ordinariates enables a renewed ‘promotion of the riches and breadth of Western liturgical tradition’.

The restoration, within the liturgical provision for the ordinariates, of elements of the Roman Rite which did not find their way into the 1969 Missale Romanum, is significant not only for those groups of Anglicans who are now united to the Holy See, but for all those who work toward a renewed sense of the sacred within the western Church’s liturgical life. In a certain sense, an unexpected fruit of this provision is the opportunity to consider again some of the revisions of the 1962 Missale Romanum, including even elements that were lost in the 1965 and 1967 missals (such as the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel, both of which appear as options in the liturgical provision for the ordinariates). This opportunity to reflect, coming during the Year of Faith and as we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the council, taking the chance to read (again or for the first time) the actual texts that mandated the liturgical reform, from before, during, and after the council itself.

The extent to which the ordinariate’s liturgical provision might become a via media in what has become known as ‘the reform of the reform’, and even a potential influence on the principal forms of the Roman Rite, is an open question. To a certain degree it will depend on the commitment of the ordinariates to the intention of the Apostolic Constitution that such a ‘cross-fertilisation’ might take place, as much as an openness to a renewed dialogue in the wider Latin Church. What is certainly the case, though, is that such a conversation was present in the mind of Pope Benedict XVI in his promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus, and in the mind of Pope Francis in his promulgation of the Ordo Missae for the personal ordinariates earlier this year.

Of course, as Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson rightly points out on his new blog, the principal liturgical task of the ordinariates is ‘the reception and integration of organic Anglican traditions that have nourished the faithful these past five centuries’. This means that, necessarily, the vast majority of ordinariate celebrations will need to make explicit use of our own liturgical texts, in their fullness, to allow what the Church has discerned as legitimate liturgical patrimony to be integrated. As the Apostolic Constitution makes clear, it is not simply an Anglican (nor Anglo-Catholic) ‘sense’ or ‘style’ or even ceremonial, but ‘the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See’ (AC III; my emphasis) that form the backbone of the ordinariate’s authentic liturgical life, even if the two principal forms of the Roman Rite are not excluded from the canonical faculties of her clergy. A happy (even, intended) result of this specific work, though, is a contribution to the wider and more general liturgical reform, which will necessarily involve both principal forms of the Roman Rite.

How all this takes place, and the extent of the ordinariate liturgy’s influence, remains to be seen. That said, both the renewed use of certain elements of the Roman Rite that have fallen by the wayside, and the experience of half a millennium of vernacular liturgy, is far from insignificant. Although there are few who would hope to see the integration of particular Anglican elements (the Collect for Purity or the Prayer of Humble Access, for example) into the Roman Rite proper, the preservation and reintegration of Roman liturgical patrimony by means of the ordinariate texts, is surely a very considerable opportunity to reflect, not only on the fruits of the pre and post-conciliar liturgical reform, but also those areas of ancient use and tradition, which might once more find themselves on the lips of the faithful of the Latin Church.