Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Be courageous in working for a return to the true liturgy of the Church

The New Liturgical Movement reports on the 20th general assembly of the FIUV ( Internationalis Una Voce) held this past November 5-6 in Rome, and on December 19th the same issued their written report coming out of that general assembly.It draws particular attention to the contents of a letter which was written by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith - former secretary of the CDW - to the participants of that assembly.

This letter is very supportive of the traditional form of the Roman Rite, calling it "the most fulfilling way in which the mystical and transcendent call to encounter God is experienced" and calls for a return to it "more and more" as a way to what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council actually wanted (presumably as opposed to what we have ended up with). However, the Cardinal also calls for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform in continuity with the traditional forms of the Church's liturgy.

He is certainly correct in saying that one would need to be courageous. From my own experience and from speaking with priests who try to celebrate the Ordinary Form in continuity with the tradition of the Church and in ways that highlight a connection with what we are at the moment calling the Extraordinary Form, it is precisely this that seems to raise so many liberal hackles. In other words, including what the Ordinary Form and in particular the new translation takes for granted is often received as and caricatured as obsolete and old-fashioned. I'm speaking of such things as:

- celebrating ad orientem,
- using the Entrance, Offertory and Communion chants (especially in Latin) instead of hymns
taking up legitimate options (for example, to do with the exchange of the sign of peace),
- the use of any Latin at all
- and a general effort not to become over casual or chatty during the Mass

All these, even with preceding catechesis, can lead a priest to experience great trouble and generate letters to bishops in which these complaints often receive episcopal support. This leaves the priest in a very vulnerable and often depressing position.

All this IN CARRYING OUT ALREADY LEGITIMATE OPTIONS let alone trying to find other legitimate ways of celebrating the Mass in conformity with our historical Catholic culture. When individual instances cannot be directly criticised - for example, if you celebrate ad orientem; this can't be forbidden because it is always a legitimate option but the whole manner in which such a Mass might be celebrated is what causes the offence. Such a manner points to:

- a God-centered instead of a community centered liturgy,
- an acceptance of the divine and supernatural interjecting into human life in the Mass (which
liberal thought presumes is so off-putting to the "world out there"),
- the implication that ALL the Church's teachings on Faith and morals might be held up and
- taught without embarrassment.

It is this, perhaps, that a liturgy connected with our Tradition induces so much fear and anger in the liberal intelligentsia in our parishes and diocese, where they have been courting the liberal intelligentsia in the secular world for so long that agreement with this bankrupt secular culture has become the touchstone of judging what is and is not acceptable within the Church. The parts of the Catholic world, certainly in the West, that are flourishing are those which, like Pope Benedict, are attempting to engage with a full-blooded Catholicism rooted in the strengths of our history and culture, not re-inventing it anew. This includes the new movements and Orders (who are the only ones getting vocations) and the theological, cultural and liturgical debate that spills out on the Internet, which is engaged on the same mission. However, these currents have yet to reach many parts of our moribund dioceses and Orders where those clinging on the failed hopes of the 1970's still hold sway with an aging yet still firm hand.

Archbishop Ranjith is not a man to mince his words and he is a man who has experienced rejection and isolation in his past life at the hands of others in the Church but he is right when he says courage is called for if you want to work towards re-connecting the modern liturgy with its historical and cultural roots down the ages. A liturgy that he sees as the true one.

Here is his letter.

I wish to express first of all, my gratitude to all of you for the zeal and enthusiasm with which you promote the cause of the restoration of the true liturgical traditions of the Church. As you know, it is worship that enhances faith and its heroic realization in life. It is the means with which human beings are lifted up to the level of the transcendent and eternal: the place of a profound encounter between God and man.

Liturgy for this reason can never be what man creates. For if we worship the way we want and fix the rules ourselves, then we run the risk of recreating Aaron's golden calf. We ought to constantly insist on worship as participation in what God Himself does, else we run the risk of engaging in idolatry. Liturgical symbolism helps us to rise above what is human to what is divine. In this, it is my firm conviction that the Vetus Ordo represents to a great extent and in the most fulfilling way that mystical and transcendent call to an encounter with God in the liturgy. Hence the time has come for us to not only renew through radical changes the content of the new Liturgy, but also to encourage more and more a return of the Vetus Ordo, as a way for a true renewal of the Church, which was what the Fathers of the Church seated in the Second Vatican Council so desired.

The careful reading of the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilum shows that the rash changes introduced to the Liturgy later on, were never in the minds of the Fathers of the Council.

Hence the time has come for us to be courageous in working for a true reform of the reform and also a return to the true liturgy of the Church, which had developed over its bi-millenial history in a continuous flow. I wish and pray that, that would happen.

May God bless your efforts with success.

+Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Archbishop of Colombo24/8/2011


Fr Ray Blake said...

Thank God for Cardinal Ranjith.

Jacobi said...


I wonder if you don't take the "liberal intelligensia" too seriously. They are after all, an aging spent force, and if you meet too much opposition you can always consider transferring to a more welcoming order such as FSSP. Given the shortage of priests I'm sure that will sort out any problems!

Archbishop Ranjith's letter, and timing, is first class.

What the Church now needs for the 21st century,(we can write off the 20th), is a proper Reform of the Reform in line with what the Council intended. Personally, I think that "ad orientem" has the first priority within this Reform.

The Pope has said “ I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy"

What more do you need? Press on and God be with you and those like you.

Anthony Radice said...

More power to your elbow! I know from personal experience how it is uncompromising Catholicism which appeals to those outside the Church, not watered down liberalism. If you take the walls down, the whole building collapses, and there's nothing left to convert to.

Sixupman said...

What of the laity who appear to revel in their quasi-ordained status in the parishes. They are going to resist any "reform of the reform" with vigour, which will require strong minded clergy to counter the same.

In the Liverpool 2012 Directory nearly four pages detail the "Permanent Deacons" within the archdiocese, strangely identified as husband and wife. Does the spouse then have a standing above mere mortals in the pew?

There are parishes which appear to be wholly managed by laity, with the clergy merely servants to Confect the Sacrament.

When clergy do create a well balanced parish, the diocesan mafia tend to undermine the incumbent.

And, do not let me get onto the subject of documents which have emanated from Eccleston Square!

TJ said...

You state a reference to the Deacons in the Liverpool Archdiocese. I take your point and agree with the unnecessary refence to the Deacon's wives. Did you not know that the Deacon's wives feel that they are so very important in the parishes?

However, I must state one thing that is clearly obvious in the Liverpool Archdiocese.

The poor RE education in schools was was allowed by the Late Archbishop Derek Warlock has now seen the results.

There will not be too many seminarians from Liverpool for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the ordination of priests will be few and far between.

Liverpool Archdiocese is slowly plumeting into a deep crevice. It cannot see it's own demise.

The laity may be a God send to keep the churches going and to support the overworked and not appreciated (by the Archbishop) priests.

I have heard it said that Archbishop Kelly said last year that he could run his Archdiocese with 13 priests. He said this in Ushaw Seminary.

I don't think he can. His priests don't think he can - and yet His Grace thinks he can.

That is why the Archdiocese relies heavily on the Deacons.

Not impressed.