Friday, June 05, 2015

Sacra Liturgia Neo-Eboracus - Recapitulatio

Happy second day within the Octave of Corpus Christi! Having assisted at a most awesome Pontifical Mass followed by an outdoor procession encompassing five city blocks and three churches last night for the feast we now recapitulate daily, I have now returned home from the Sacra Liturgia Conference and wish to proffer a few, but in no way exhaustive, thoughts and reactions to the four-day conference just held in my dirty and hell-bound yet still beloved and native city of New York. My aim is to focus on the content of the some of the speakers and not on the Liturgies other than to remark that if one wishes to see a Traditional Pontifical Mass by an auxiliary bishop celebrated correctly according to rubrics (as opposed to the Rite of Econe's embellishments), have Dom Alcuin Reid as your MC (he is feared in the sacristy as some say!).

In no particular order, either chronologically or substantively:

My first reaction is that the conference overall revealed the disparate viewpoints of its respective speakers; these viewpoints, when amalgamated together, often can and did, in fact, add up to an inconclusive overall focus and offered contradictory conclusions for the participants to take away. However, this wasn't apparent from the beginning, but I'll admit to ignorance on my own part before the conference began concerning the positions of many of the speakers. At the onset, the man of honor was Cardinal Burke, whom I was able to meet briefly in person,  and I think his presence cast a rather definitive "Pro-Benedict/Anti-Francis" ethos, for lack of a better or more suitable description; or we can say, a more strongly Traditionalist bent/feel to the gathering, both in its sum and its parts.

The second day, the conference began in earnest with Fr. Thomas Kocik's further elaboration on his newer stance concerning the "Reform of the Reform". There was no new revelation on his part, but I think he tempered some of what he said (I'll get back to this in a moment); however, in speaking with him privately over a Sabrett hot dog the next day, I am convinced that he is a definitive ally in the cause for a true liturgical restoration. We agreed that restoring the Holy Week rites was essential.

As the conference wore on, I began to sense a certain pattern - all of the speakers who were clergy were very sure to make copious references to Vatican II in general and Sacrosanctum Concilium in particular to defend or base their arguments for any matter or manner of liturgical reform. The same document or council was construed to any of the following: The restoration of the "EF", the redo or remake of the "OF" or even the continuance of the "OF" (just with a better ars celebrandi) to the exclusion of the "EF" as a permanent fixture. One speaker, a Benedictine from Latrobe, even had the audacity to say that Summorum Pontificum only but allows (licet celebrari) the "EF" as an exception to existing law and to satisfy certain people's sensitivities. It soon became obvious to me that the aim of this conference, then, was perhaps to make direct appeals to Pope Francis and/or other high ranking ecclesiastics in the Curia to make the Novus Ordo "reality" in continuity with the ethos of the TLM.  I sensed that certain winds from Rome had affected the mood or the stance(s) priests were willing to take. Hence, the speakers whom I have known to be or be near to true liturgical restorationism, all, without exception, tempered their points (often good ones) with the aforesaid references. But what this also revealed is just how non-monolithic this gathering really was.

Moving on to more particular reactions, I was underwhelmed by Dom Alcuin Reid's talk about the reforms (sic) of Holy Week. He had intended to revisit both the Pian and the Pauline changes, but as time only allowed, he had barely made it to 1962 before he ended. This was the talk I was most interested in hearing and is probably of particular interest to many of my readers, so I will give a brief summary of his points:
1. Bugnini is not the boogeyman of the 1950's revisions; his infamy only lies in his rehabilitation by Paul VI and work with the Consilium after that.
2. Some of the changes in the 1955/56 rites were good and should be kept even if the old rites are practiced; these include, the so-called Veritas Horarum, the disappearance of folded chasubles (I have no idea what his deal is with them), the distribution of Communion to the faithful on Good Friday, and the Celebrant no longer reading the lessons simultaneously while they're sung by a cantor or sacred minister.
3. Dom Reid favors a "facultative permission" to use the old rites but with the aforementioned "improvements, but he explicitly stated that he was speaking off the record when stating so. However, for the record, he played the obedience card when considering the question of the liceity of simply using the old rites under current law. Fr. Cipolla (we'll return to him), as moderator, quipped that his MC had asked him to procure folded chasubles for next year, and Fr. C remarked that he was not going to tell Reid what his answer was to his MC!
4. The Liturgy is not frozen in amber and one cannot glorify a certain year or cut-off point for pristine Liturgy. I can both appreciate and be suspect of this point because the same principle can be construed both to restore and to suppress the old (but extant) rites. His tone and context seemed to go in the latter direction.

I was underwhelmed because he seemed to backpedal from his lucid understanding of organic development of Liturgy and to throw in the towel to some manner of liturgical innovations based on their pastoral worth. In question time, a fellow MC probed Reid's assertion of Veritas Horarum by stating that the Paschal Vigil would be properly vesperal. Reid not only rejected this claim but defended the Midnight Vigil and Mass as being in continuity with original, ancient practice and thought that ending with Lauds instead of Vespers was befitting! So, there we have a liturgical scholar implying that the omission of Paschal Mattins was a good thing! Reid is much more a liturgical positivist than I once thought.

And speaking of liturgical positivism, this is where I make my third and last point of review of the conference. There was definitely a tension between this and some of the lay speakers' more explicit willingness to question the NO and to promote a return to the TLM. In all of it, as a participant, I felt like I was being told to value and to condemn liturgical positivism at the same time, even at times by the same speaker. Enter Fr. Cipolla. He was the only speaker to explicitly and forthrightly cut to shreds (his voice was raised and animated) the very principle of ultramontanism and legal positivism in the Liturgy. Until we move beyond this positivism, we will not achieve liturgical restoration to paraphrase Cipolla. He was the only speaker I think who made any real attempt to escape the 1962 vs. 1970 box of debate.

This last point (1962 or 1970 or something between the two and all cast in terms of faithfulness or lack thereof to THE COUNCIL) is my greatest complaint of the whole conference. To recap, the overall tone was to keep the discussion inside a very tight window of allowable debate from which very few escaped and attempted to get to the root problems facing our liturgical life. This is where I believe the conference fails. Either there was a strong caution at play not to offend certain ears in the Curia or the leadership really can't see beyond Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium or both.

That said, the fact that anyone or any such gathering is having discussions or formal symposia to cast light on the problems facing the Liturgy and offer solutions to its recovery is both laudable and commendable. I do not believe this was a waste of time, by any means. Even if the content or focus was lacking, there is something of immeasurable value to be said of the ability to meet and network with fellow liturgical elite. Anecdotally, the audience was much more willing to move beyond and ditch the Council than a good portion of the speakers or the official tone in general. If anything, some of us have been strengthened by the good salient points made within the talks (e.g. that the Ecclesia Orans needs once again to gain dominance over and give direction to the Ecclesia Docens rather than continue its 500-year Jesuit induced divorce which pits Liturgy as secondary) and encouraged to continue the work of liturgical restoration at our respective parishes.


Konstantin said...

Reading your recap I can only say I'm not surprised. That's why I was never really interested in these SL conferences even when they were held in Rome in relative proximity to home. And it shows the main problem that we have in the Church: the majority of the clergy refuses to see the elephant in the room -- be it liturgical or theological. It is interesting that Dom Reid, who once praised some of Fr. Cekada's books, would suggest altering the old Holy Week rites that way.

They can continue to hold such conferences for a thousand years and it will hardly amount to anything because they are so confined to the post Vatican II mindset. Theologians and liturgists were very open-minded in the 50's and 60's, but don't you dare think outside the box today! People should rather read decent liturgical blogs like yours than attend these conferences. I think I would have left after a day due to intense stomach pains. Thanks for soldiering through it.

John R said...

Like I said, I was ignorant of the positions/views of many of the speakers, so I admit to not doing adequate research about them ahead of time. However, I knew who Kocik, Cipolla, and Reid were, and to listen to them alone would have been enough reason to attend the conference. The first two were as I expected and worth the trip, though tempered by the aforementioned overemphases on the council; the last was a disappointment considering his respect paid to Fr. Cekada (whose SV position I vehemently reject, but whose liturgical views are mostly spot on and demand consideration as Reid once said). It wasn't until the afternoon of the third day that the conference seem to fall apart and any figurative stomach pains began to manifest; the first two days were solid even if tempered.

After another consideration and revisiting the Sacra Liturgia's website, it seems that the primary focus of this conference was to "Evangelize with Beauty". And, for that aim, I would concede it did well. My problem with that is that it is too broad, and hence lead to multifaceted attempts to present such an aim, and even more varied solutions. If there was one good take-away (there were a few) that needs to be made a primary focus in ipso, it is the restoration of the Ecclesia Orans (which Fr. Smith's talk addressed) to govern and give direction to the Ecclesia Docens; hence, the restoration of the Liturgy as the first and absolutely necessary source of catechesis rather than being some side consideration as it has been since Trent.

All that said, my primary motivation to attend was to meet and network with like-minded liturgists and soak in the experience of being at a liturgical summit of sorts. This proved to be a most excellent medium to do so and did not disappoint. Being that it was held in my city of birth and which is but 90 miles away from where I presently live, I could't pass up the opportunity. However, I have no intention to attend any future Sacra Liturgia conferences, but I would seek out more pointedly Traditionalist or specifically liturgical gatherings, ones which would hopefully involve more doing (e.g. copious Divine Office services) than theorizing, and ones that would stop trying to extend (the long past expired, if ever usefulness of) Vatican II.

The Rad Trad said...

I knew Fr. Cipolla's MC.... He's a good man.

Paul said...

I know that I have joined a little late here on this post, but I just wanted to let you know Reid's positions aren't surprising, considering his book "The Organic Development of the Liturgy" goes into what he felt were positive things about the 1955 reforms of Holy Week and the simplification of the rubrics.