Monday, October 6, 2008

On Long Blog Posts About Both Forms of the Roman Liturgy

I wrote this a few weeks ago but never posted it:

It's so tempting for a trad like me to just run from the mediocrity, strange music, abuses, and lack of reverence often found in the Ordinary Form (OF) of the Mass and take refuge in the ethereal quality, dependable structure, and vertical focus usually found in the Extraordinary Form (EF) - but is that really a good reason to switch forms? Is it really a virtuous thing to run from the normal and mediocre that causes you pain and instead hide away in the special, where you're mostly protected from ever having to prayerfully interact with those who do not share this particular part of your worldview? Or is it okay to seclude yourself from the chaff in the world and be refreshed in a place where you know you can trust the spiritual food that's being given to you, where you can just relax into prayer as opposed to keeping your defenses up?

Come to think of it, switching from your territorial parish to the local EF parish is really little different than switching to the local charismatic parish or the local Franciscan parish. We're different parts of the same Body, with different strengths and weaknesses. Each spirituality has its own incredible blessings and heresies to watch out for. Does a liturgically traditional spirituality carry with it obligations much different from those of the rest of the Church?

But let's think evangelization here. Every Christian shares in the baptismal call to evangelize. Again, we're different parts of the same body, and a foot obviously can't evangelize in the same way an ear does. Still, when the foot and the ear get together, it's very easy for them to try and bring each other around to see things their way - for the foot to chide the ear on its stumbly walking, and the ear to chide the foot on its bad listening skills. In most cases, the foot and the ear can't very effectively judge how well each other is doing things. But the ear can tell that something's not quite right with the foot if, for instance, its skin is rotting (since the ear has skin, too).

Pardon my affinity for analogies and extended metaphors. The challenge for traditionalists is that because we have such a deep, often intellectual understanding of the Liturgy, and a knowledge that the treasures of the Church's tradition are meant for all, it's very difficult for us to accept that other parishes have accepted less of these beautiful traditions that are so fruitful to us.

Sure, I see the subjective and objective value in sacred, contemplative, oriented traditional Liturgy, but if Joe and Suzie down the block are spiritually fed by the Liturgical Dance-A-Thon at Mary, Mother of the Earth parish downtown, who am I to judge? (I am exaggerating.) Sure, I know that Rome and the Liturgical documents are on my side, but how am I to convince them that the "dispensations for pastoral reasons" probably shouldn't be given in every possible case?

It's certainly not my job, as a lay woman, to be the Liturgical Police. It's probably not even my job to convince Joe and Suzie down the block that their parish's Liturgy could probably be more God-centered. But I know that it's my job not to disown Joe and Suzie. I know that it's my job not to hole myself up in a small, possibly elitist community. We are all called to evangelization. Maybe my job is not to speak but to love.

But I still need to take care of my own soul.

Since these musings, I have effectively switched parishes. I mostly consider my local Institute of Christ the King apostolate my parish. But more and more, I'm feeling two tensions: the question of generalization (i.e., this is clearly best for me. Is it best for everyone?), and the divergence of calendars. These I will address now.

As mentioned above, it seems clear to me that, theologically speaking, the EF is superior to the OF. Not that it's perfect, mind you (the Second Vatican Council did produce a Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy for a reason), but that it's objectively superior to the OF. I tend to judge liturgical appropriateness in part by the laughability factor: If an outsider were watching this, would they laugh? In the EF, it is very clear that the Liturgy is about God Himself coming down to mankind. Still, there is some validity to the fact that many are not reached by the EF who are reached by the more pastorally-friendly attitude with which the OF is often celebrated (by "pastorally-friendly" here I mean reaching out to meet people where they're at; I don't mean to imply that the EF is not pastoral). This then begs the question: is a greater amount of tradition and ritualism important for the arm of the Church in which I reside, or is it for the Church as a whole? And if it's for the whole Church, how much?

I'm sure part of my dilemma here comes from my background. I've been involved in Liturgical ministry (mostly singing, but others more recently) since I was ten. My last two years at Franciscan, I was on Liturgy Committee, a group of people who were chiefly responsible for the Liturgies on campus - keeping them in union with the desires of the Church, reaching the campus spirituality, and drawing our fellow students ever deeper into communion with the God of the universe. So it was partly my job to see these beautiful traditions and to bring them to my peers by way of the whole campus. But now I'm back in the real world. My Liturgical ministry is at an all-time low (about once per month), I've only just found a parish where I can truly pray (and where I'm not just running away from abuses), and I meet few who are dissatisfied with the Liturgies at their own parishes, which are mediocre at best (in my opinion). How much of my feeling that what I've been given is for the Church at large is the natural experience of projecting my needs and desires onto others, of thinking they'd be so much better off if they just did things the way I do?

This leads into my second point. I fight feeling cut off from the rest of the Catholic world because of the dichotomy in calendar. Generally speaking, I attend the EF on Sundays and the OF on weekdays, and I pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the OF. So I celebrated the feast of Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux on Wed, Oct 1, with the knowledge that my parish would celebrate her feast two days later, on Fri the 3rd. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but I have an extremely Liturgical spirituality. My penances and indulgences center around the solemnity of a given day (in gradations, ranging from a Lenten feria to an Easter solemnity), and even my devotions are somewhat cyclical, based upon the traditional devotions of the day. In this way, I know that I am in union with the Church universal (or at least clergy and religious), and I know that my religious observances are not just a private thing but are one drop in a vast bucket of Christians giving honor and glory to God, and petitioning Him on behalf of their fellow humans.

But the calendars are different. Some awesome feasts have been suppressed; some equally incredible feasts have been added. Celebrations have been moved - some far, some near. How can I live in the Liturgical heart of the Church if she is divided? Do I celebrate St. Monica in August or in March? Do I invite others to fast on Ember Days? Do I go to a more solemn Liturgy on Low Sunday, knowing that I desire to pray the propers for the Feast of the Divine Mercy?

I trust our holy father, especially on Liturgical issues. And I know that any process of change, especially one of healing, is painful. Well, I hurt. May it be for God's greater glory and for the salvation of souls. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. It is a tough situation. For the calendar, I say why not celebrate both dates depending on what you are praying. It is a little confusing, but in some ways almost necessary for the two forms to be resolved at some point. We still have a long way to go. lyb!


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