"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Is this Ordinary Form 'the Traditional Mass'?



Elizabeth Harrington

Elizabeth Harrington, Education Officer at the Diocese of Brisbane, shot to (in)famea short while ago by demanding that Communion on the Tongue be banned, because it is unhygenic and, er, emphasises Christ's divinity. She is an EMHC, it appears, and hadn't been taught how to distribute on the tongue properly. (Where does one start?)

Now she recounts, with evident self-satisfaction, the extremely rude response she made when asked, on the phone, where the 'Traditional Mass' was celebrated in the diocese. (She says 'I couldn’t help myself'. Are we supposed to giggle indulgently?) Instead of giving the poor man the information he wanted, she decided to make fun of him, and is so proud of the job she did she's published it on the 'Liturgy Brisbane' website. Her response consists of a series of contentious or downright absurd claims which deserve far more ridicule than the use of a well-established term like 'the Traditional Mass'.

Here's the central argument.

The current Order of Mass incorporates a far richer array of traditional worship texts than the Missal of 1962. For example, Eucharistic Prayer II, which is included in the current Missal but not in the Tridentine rite, is based on a model prayer for bishops presiding at Mass composed by Hippolytus in 215. Apart from some changes made to adapt it for use in the Roman rite today, the second Eucharistic Prayer in the current Missal is the one used by Hippolytus nearly 1800 years ago. Very many of the Prefaces added to the Missal after Vatican II were also drawn from the early tradition of the Roman Church. I call that “traditional”!

First off, Harrington appears to think that 'traditional worship texts' are texts used at some point in the past in the Church's worship. But there is a problem with that idea, which goes by the name of 'Archaeologism'. Pope Pius XII condemned this in his great 1947 encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei:

Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.

Lifting some liturgical fossil out of dusty tomes not opened for more than a millenium may be justified from time to time, but the systematic policy of preferring what is preserved in those tomes to what has been handed on to us by the previous generation is not 'tradition', it is archaeologism. Tradition means 'handing on': what father teaches son, and son hands on, with care and reverence, to grandson. As St Paul says, echoing the language of the rabbinic tradition of which he was the product, 'What I have received, I have passed on.' (see I Cor 11.23 and 15.3). The spirit which says 'I'll pass on to others what I, in my great wisdom, have fished out of a vast pool of texts and practices plucked from any moment in the history of the Church, plus some I made up myself', is the polar opposite of a traditional spirit.

Now that is what Harrington says the Ordinary Form is like, but the example she gives, of the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer) of Hippolytus really fails her. I just love this caveat:

'Apart from some changes made to adapt it for use in the Roman rite today.'

Right. So we are talking about some minor tweaks, are we? No. But don't take my word for it: as I have blogged before, you can read the words of the architect of the reform, the man himself, Annibale Bugnini:

'The aim was to produce an anaphora that is short and very simple in its ideas. The anaphora of Hippolytus was therefore taken as a model. But, although many thoughts and expressions are derived from Hippolytus, Eucharistic Prayer II is not, as it were, a new edition of his prayer. It was not possible to retain the structure of his anaphora because it does not have aSanctus or a consecratory epiclesis before the account of institution or a commemoration of the saints or intercessions. All these developed after Hippolytus and could not now be omitted in a Roman anaphora. In addition, various ideas and expressions in the anaphora of Hippolytus are archaic or difficult to understand and could not be taken over into a contemporary anaphora.'

In reality, Eucharistic Prayer II derives more of its text from the Roman Canon than it does from anything supposedly written by Hippolytus. Perhaps we should be grateful, because since the 1960s increasing doubts have been expressed about this text: as Fr Hunwicke remarks

'But, everyone now agrees, it is not by Hippolytus, nor was it a very early liturgy of the Roman Church. And Professor Paul Bradshaw has shown good reason the think that it is not nearly as early as had been assumed.'

To be fair, Fr Hunwicke offers some concession to critics of this hasty summary of the state of scholarly play here, but the point is that the overwhelming scholarly consensus, that this anaphora was the most exciting and authentic Latin Eucharistic Prayer ever, no longer exists.

Harrington's other example of archaeologism in the Ordinary Form - which, remember, she thinks is a good thing - is the Prefaces. Again, however, there is a lot less to this than meets the eye. The vast majority of the Prefaces found in the 1970 Missal are either new compositions or heavily re-written. There is, in fact, a strong tendency to take inspiration from the Greek liturgical tradition over the Latin one, despite the vast number of ancient Latin Prefaces which can be found in dusty old volumes. All this is explained in the FIUV Position Paper on Prefaces.

Other things which have been claimed, historically, to represent a more 'traditional' / archaeological aspect in the Ordinary Form over the Extraordinary form have also been addressed in these papers, notably:

Celebration 'facing the people'

Reception of Communion 'in the hand'

You can see the whole set of papers here, and buy the first dozen hard copy from Lulu from the link in the sidebar.

A priest learning the EF under the guidance of Fr Thomas Crean OP (left)

The point of these papers, and of this post, is not to attack the Ordinary Form, but to defend the Extraordinary Form against attacks like those of Elizabeth Harrington. The OF is what it is: whether we like it or not, it was created by a committee, taking inspiration from a wide range of sources, but always willing to compose afresh or radically to change older texts. It makes perfect sense to call the Extraordinary Form 'the Traditional Mass', because that is what it is: for us in the West, it is what our predecessors handed on to us, and it is essentially what their predecessors handed on to them, the changes to it for the most part incidental, even unintended, but subtly adapting it to the needs of the time as the centuries (not days or weeks) passed. This tradition can be criticised, but it is senseless to say it wasn't a tradition.

As a footnote, I'd draw attention again to my correspondence on calling the EF the 'Traditional Masss' in the Catholic Herald.

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