As a student of Fr. Chupungco’s and a graduate of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at S. Anselmo, I must confess my bias toward the positions he takes. The core of his great contribution to Roman Rite liturgical life after the Second Vatican Council is the seriousness with which he treats articles 37-40 of Sacrosanctum Concilium (manifest in his Cultural Adaptation of the Liturgy) and his consistent recourse to these texts as he analyzes the liturgical books, implementation documents, and processes of liturgical renewal issuing from the Congregation for Divine Worship and from local territorial bishops’ conferences. I think his present address should be read in the context of his earlier work.
Although Fr. Anthony asked for a short posting in response to Fr. Anscar’s address, I want to comment at some length on Fr. Anscar’s claim that some proposals (and proponents?) of the so-called “reform of the reform” movement demonstrate an “inability to fuse together…sound tradition and legitimate progress” for on-going liturgical renewal in the Roman Catholic Church. I would claim that this “fusion” of sound tradition and legitimate progress functions more as a desideratum, a guiding principle, or an asymptote than a fixed achievement at any point in history. This fusion is negotiated over and over again in the concrete choices made in celebrating particular liturgies. (As I understand it, this process is part of the way in which liturgical custom is established.) On occasion, when those with the authority to set boundaries for these concrete choices exercise their right to do so (e.g., in new editions of liturgical books, new translations of liturgical texts, new sets of rubrics, warnings, decrees of excommunication, etc.) we can assess from multiple perspectives how that fusion is being re-negotiated, just as we might assess how that fusion is negotiated in the particular liturgy we attend.
I would like to give a concrete example of what I mean from an area of liturgical renewal that might not inflame as many passions as the present debates over, e,g, the new English translations of the Order of Mass: the Order of Celebrating Marriage.
Among other things mandated for the revision of the marriage rite found in the Roman Ritual so that it “be revised and enriched so that it will more clearly signify the grace of the sacrament and will emphasize the spouses’ duties” (77), Sacrosanctum Concilium decreed that the “prayer for the bride, duly emended to remind both spouses of their equal obligation of mutual fidelity, may be said in the vernacular (78).”
In 1969 the editio typica of a new Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium appeared in response to SC’s directives. Comparing the “prayer for the bride” in the Missale Romanum in use at the time of Vatican II with that found in OCM 1969, it is clear that the revisers transformed the earlier prayer by omitting some words and phrases, changing others, and adding yet others. Most importantly, elements of the prayer that had been addressed only to the bride in the singular were now addressed to both spouses in the plural. Many could easily see this transformation of the text as a fusion of “sound tradition” (since this text could be traced back to the venerable Gregorian Sacramentary and before that [with some different words, but the same structure] to the “nuptial veiling” prayer found in the Verona collection of libelli missarum and the Old Gelasian Sacramentary) with “legitimate progress” (since both cultural customs [e.g., veiling the bride with an orange-red flammeum] and theology [e.g., understanding marriage in Christ as convenant in addition to contract] associated with marriage had developed over time). Nonetheless there would be some who would hold that any change in the received text of the “prayer for the bride” by definition could not represent “sound tradition”; they would set themselves not only against the new liturgical texts, but against the authority of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council to authorize such a change. Not least of their objections would be allowing this text to be spoken in the vernacular (to which others might point out that when the text was originally composed it was in the vernacular of Latin-speaking Roman Rite worshipers).
Perhaps surprisingly OCM 1969 also provided two alternative nuptial blessings (120, 121) whose texts are without any precedent in the Roman Rite. I suspect that some might argue that the inclusion and use of these new texts represent a “rupture” with “sound tradition” since the Roman Rite had for more than a millennium only a single nuptial blessing. They might further argue that these texts don’t represent “legitimate progress” since the values they convey about matrimony might be more grounded in then-contemporary cultural understandings of spousal roles than in biblical texts and pre-Vatican II teaching on marriage. Others would argue that, though SC did not explicitly call for the creation of new nuptial blessings, it did not forbid their creation and that the additional prayer texts conform to what SC called for in the revision of the “prayer for the bride”; thus they represent an “enrichment” of “sound tradition.” These might further argue that, since the Sacred Congregation of Rites by a decree signed on 19 March 1969 by Benno Cardinal Gut, prefect of that congregation and president of the “Consilium”, promulgated the OCM 1969, these texts cannot be considered “illegitimate” (i.e., illegal), although debate might continue about whether or not this legal act represents genuine liturgical “progress.”
Once these texts appeared in an officially approved English vernacular translation and began to be used to solemnize Roman Rite marriages, further debates about the fusion of “sound traditon” and “legitimate progress” appear. How “accurate” was the English translation to the underlying Latin text? Did allowing the “prayer for the bride” to be spoken in the vernacular “disrupt sound tradition” by diminishing its mystery or “further legitimate progress” by making the text intelligible to the participants? Which of the texts of the “prayer for the bride” was employed most frequently in practice and were any of the texts rarely or never employed? If the text least or never employed was the first form based on the ancient nuptial blessing, is this a “rupture” of “sound tradition” by improperly refusing to offer the faithful one of the gems of their liturgical heritage or a manifestation of “legitimate progress,” properly judging that the received prayer does not effectively embody “sound tradition” for contemporary worshipers, although the text itself is venerable?
These questions concern the texts themselves. Similar questions could be raised about the para-linguistic performance of the prayer (Presuming it should be rendered aloud, should it be spoken, chanted a capella, or sung with accompaniment?) and its ritual embellishment (How should the person conveying the text position himself and gesture vis-à-vis the spouses? How should they be positioned vis-à-vis the assembly? Why, when marriage is celebrated during Mass, does this text appear as an embolism of the Lord’s Prayer and could it be more effectively positioned elsewhere in the rite? In addition to the “Amen” concluding the prayer, are there any congregational verbal or gestural interventions that might be appropriate?).
Further complexity arises from the fact that an editio typica altera of the OCM appeared in 1991. Not only did this revision modify the texts of all three of the nuptial blessings appearing in OCM 1969, but it provides a blessing never appearing before in the Roman Rite intended to be led by a lay officiant in marriages between two Christians. This text consists of: 1) an invitation by the lay officiant; 2) silent prayer by the congregation; 3) three exclamations of praise addressed to the Divine Persons with an invariant congregational acclamation; and 4) a concluding prayer by the lay officiant (two alternatives provided), finished with a congregational “Amen.” I think it should be clear that the debates sketched above concerning the new nuptial blessing texts appearing in OCM 1969 would only become more intense with this new prayer in OCM 1991, since some might be hard pressed to see in this text any connection, verbally or structurally to the “sound tradition” of nuptial blessing in the Roman Rite. A more profound question moves beyond liturgical studies proper to ask whether extending presidency of Roman Rite marriage services to lay officiants is a “fusion of sound tradition and legitimate progress” or not? Under what conditions is such a change, though without historical precedent, appropriate?
Although OCM 1991 is the officially approved text for the Order of Celebrating Marriage for the Roman Rite when the service is conducted in Latin today, no officially approved English version of OCM 1991 has yet appeared (nearly 20 years after it was promulgated). Thus at least at this stage we cannot yet raise questions about how the new vernacular version might represent a “fusion of sound tradition and legitimate progress” in practice.
I hope this lengthy intervention at least gives us a hint of how complex it is to discuss irenically “sound tradition” and “legitimate progress” in Roman Rite liturgical renewal.