Traditional Mass

Friday, October 15, 2010

"To our great surprise and joy we find it again"
Three years ago, Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the traditional Latin liturgy in his 2007motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum." Six weeks ago, an important liturgical convention was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where Malcolm Ranjith, a thoughtful defender of the old rite, is archbishop. Here, an extraordinary talk delivered at the conference, by the German writer Martin Mosebach...

Low Mass celebrated at the Chapel of the Dawn ...Image via Wikipedia

By Robert Moynihanreporting from Rome

"Even the Church's enemies recognized that her strength lay in her untimeliness -- that is, not that she was old-fashioned, but that she and her liturgy were not completely identified with any particular period or culture; she always had one foot outside time in every period of history."
—Martin Mosebach, a leading German Catholic writer, reflecting on the Church's liturgy in a conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in September
"In this axis year, 1968, reform turned into revolution. It began with the liturgy. And here we can see liturgy's central role in the Church: everything else, theology, the person of the priest, the hierarchical constitution of the Church, the everyday prayers of the faithful, the edifice of Catholic culture, missionary work, and ultimately even the core articles of faith, were intimately connected with the liturgy. With the liturgy they all stood or fell."—Ibid.
"We should not allow ourselves to drown in pious routine but seek to rediscover the Church's visible form, learn to love and defend it like a precious treasure that we thought had been lost." —Ibid.

As the Synod Continues...

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - OCTOBER 26: Bishops, c...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

As the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East continues, with 185 bishops and 70 experts and advisors discussing the life and witness of Christians in that region of the world, it is becoming clear that the Christian presence in the Middle East is in danger.
The emigration of large numbers of Christians from the region means that the ancient Christian communities there may be just a memory in 20 or 30 years.
This is perhaps too catastrophic a vision.
Nevertheless, this much is true: tens of thousands of Christians have left the Middle East because of the difficult circumstances of their lives, and this is weakening the ancient Christian communities of the region.
How can this trend change? Ultimately, only by changing the political and social conditions in the region: the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Holy Land, and the post-Allied invasion Sunni-Shiite conflict now troubling Iraq.
In short... by bringing peace to the Middle East.
But bringing peace to the Middle East is not in the power of the Synod, the Pope, or the Church.
Peace is essential because mothers and fathers wish to raise their children in safe places.
Peace is key to this Synod, and to the future of the Christian communities of the region.
Peace, not walls and wars and weeping.
And also freedom -- freedom of individual conscience, freedom to follow one's own religious conviction, freedom to live as a respected member of society, equal in one's humanity to all the others in that society.
With peace in the Middle East, and with respect for human beings as having equal human dignity, it might be possible for more Christians to stay and live in the Holy Land, and Iraq, and throughout the Middle East, rather than leaving and starting a new life somewhere else, anywhere else...
...Reflections on Archbishop Ranjith's gathering of liturgists in Sri Lanka
It is odd, but true, that today some of the most ardent supporters of Catholicism's traditional Latin liturgy are not in Europe, but in Africa and Asia.
The old Roman traditions have been generally abandoned by the Romans and Italians themselves, only to be embraced by far off Africans, Asians, and Americans...
One such far-off supporter of the old traditions is Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, off the coast of southern India, whom I know well.
Ranjith, named to his post in June 2009, was first concerned to help the peace process in his native country, where a multi-decade civil war between the Singhalese majority and the Tamil minority had caused great pain and suffering.
But he was also concerned to renew his diocese liturgically.
So he called a diocesan-wide "Year of the Eucharist," and to prepare his priests to celebrate this year, he gathered them for three days of intensive study in Colombo.
Ranjith invited two important speakers from Rome: Cardinal Antonio CaƱizares Llovera, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship (in charge of liturgical matters), and Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, a member of the same Congregation and an adviser for the office of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations.Sandro Magister is an Italian journalist covering the Vatican. As a young man, he was a seminarian in Milan for a time, some 40 years ago, and some of his fellow seminarians from that time are today in a key spots in the Italian and Vatican hierarchy, so he is well informed. (I saw Magister today in the press office and asked him how he manages to be so right so often about so many things. "I read a lot," he said, laughing.)

Magister has just written a column where he discusses Ranjith's liturgy conference. (Here is a link to the column:'s report mentions, 
Martin Mosebach, a prize-winning German writer -- some claim he is the finest German writer of this generation. (I had a dinner with Mosebach some years ago in Frankfurt.)

"In order to offer more insight to his priests during the three days of study," Magister wrote, "Archbishop Ranjith brought in from Germany a Catholic writer of the first rank, Martin Mosebach, the author of a book that has raised a great deal of discussion: The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (now out in English from Ignatius Press). And he asked him to speak precisely on the Church's disarray in the liturgical field."

The text of Mosebach's talk is long -- perhaps too long for many of you to get through comfortably.

But... it contains a wealth of clear, deep ideas about our liturgical and cultural situation today.
The text is a marvelous exposition of some of the great issues in the Church's liturgy -- in the Church's life -- today.
Since Mosebach is German, his mind is finely attuned to the thought of another German thinker -- Pope Benedict XVI himself. In order to understand, at least in outline, what Pope Benedict feels happened to the Catholic liturgy, this essay is quite a good place to start.
And, because the title refers to "loss and rediscovery," this essay, in some way, seemed related to the "loss and recovery" of the 33 miners in Chile yesterday(!), so I thought it a fitting follow-up to that story of perseverance and triumph over seemingly insuperable difficulties... 

Enhanced by Zemanta