In Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2012), Massimo Faggioli contrasts two major interpretations of Vatican II: the “neo-Augustinian” and the “post-Vatican II [neo-] Thomist.” He quotes Ormund Rush in describing the neo-Augustinian school as “wanting to set the church and world in a situation of rivals; it sees the world in a negative light; evil and sin so abound in the world that the church should be always suspicious and distrustful of it. Any openness to the world would be ‘naïve optimism.’” Theologians associated with this perspective would be Henri de Lubac, Jean Danielou, Han Urs von Balthasar, Louis Bouyer, and Joseph Ratzinger. In contrast, Rush identifies “a new ‘progressive’ group wanting to retrieve a re-interpreted Thomism, and counseling openness to the world” and, in Faggioli’s words, “that twentieth century theology should do with modern philosophy and social sciences what Thomas [Aquinas] had done with Aristotle in the thirteenth century, but now based on a new view of the relationship between faith and history….” This group included Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, and Bernard Lonergan.
I have found this categorization helpful as I’ve reflected on the various stances toward liturgical reform and renewal evident over the past fifty years and marking the contributions of this blog and others concerned with Catholic worship. “Neo-Augustinian” approaches to the liturgy tend to view it in Platonic terms, the heavenly worship offered to the Father by the Son in the unity of the Spirit, joined in by the angels and saints, in which those on earth are privileged to gain some share by grace. “Post Vatican II Thomist” approaches to the liturgy would tend to view it in Aristotelian terms, a “complexus of sensible signs” to use the initial words of Cyprian Vagaggini’s definition, an earthly disclosure through culturally and historically conditioned semiotic systems of the graced condition of the world.
I would pose two questions for our discussion. 1) Does this categorization of two tendencies in the reception of Vatican II shed some light on the underlying assumptions brought to our conversation on liturgical reform and renewal by various partners? 2) If these foundational positions are dialectically related, is the way forward by showing how one position is correct and the other is to be repudiated, how one position subsumes another, or how another position can be generated that capitalizes on the insights of both while avoiding their weaknesses?