Subtitle: The Reception and Implementation of the New Missal
Published by Burns & Oates (Continuum) – UK (ISBN 978-1-4411-0403-8, £10.99); Liturgical Press – USA (ISBN 978-0-8146-6021-8, $19.95)
Five brief chapters and a conclusion in the space of 118 pages may not sound like a big deal, but this book packs a punch far above its size and weight. The author, Professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Professor of Liturgical History at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in Rome, is a well-known writer and speaker; and he has done us all a service with this timely book. It should be required reading for anyone concerned with the forthcoming new Missal, translation for the liturgy, and pastoral dimensions of liturgical change.
The book is a reworking of lectures and talks given to different academic institutions and clergy gatherings around the world, and the tone of the book will be very accessible to the general reader. This is not to say that the book is unscholarly: indeed, it is the fruit of Pecklers’s many years of academicism at the highest level, but distilled and presented in a way that constantly maintains the reader’s interest.
The book’s title is borrowed from Edmund Bishop’s famous 1899 paper of the same name, and the author is inspired by Bishop to penetrate the heart of that somewhat mysterious animal, the Roman Rite.
For the interested student, the book would be worth the purchase price for the first chapter alone. In the space of twenty pages, Pecklers provides a masterly summary of the history of the evolution of the Roman Rite from its beginnings up to the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. Demonstrating how it changed and evolved over the centuries, according to the surrounding culture, practical considerations and pastoral needs, he proves beyond any shadow of doubt that “recent appeals to the unchanging Roman Rite that has been in continuous usage until the Second Vatican Council would appear to be disingenuous. Indeed, while maintaining the ‘substantial unity of the Roman Rite’ as Sacrosanctum Concilium demanded, if we are to remain consistent with those who have gone before us, the Church must continually work quite intentionally at contextualizing and incarnating that Roman Rite within the diverse cultural contexts in which it is lived and celebrated.”
Chapter Two, “Recovering Tradition”, covers the conciliar reforms of Vatican II and the postconciliar liturgical renewal. Pecklers situates Sacrosanctum Concilium in the context of the Liturgical Movement and the papal documents that had preceded it and paved the way for it during the previous hundred years. As well as providing a brief history of the Constitution, he reminds us of the main threads running through it: a consciousness of history and a desire to return to the sources, a recovery of liturgical theology and spirituality, and the pastoral desire to promote the full, conscious and active participation of the laity. He points to the renewed emphasis on scripture, the desire to find a unity between word and sacrament, the striking of a balance between “sound tradition and legitimate progress”, the collegiality of bishops and the responsibilities of bishops’ conferences and local bishops. Next he discusses the implementation of the reforms and the work of the international Consilium, the body responsible for overseeing the implementation. Here, he is extremely balanced, pointing out areas where things did not initially go as well as they might have in the first flush of overenthusiasm, as well as indicating other areas where the reforms were not in fact new at all (how many of us are aware that distributing Communion from the tabernacle was banned as long ago as 1742 by Benedict XIV?). Following this is a section dealing with the Extraordinary Form, giving its history from Paul VI’s charitable indult of 1970 through to Summorum Pontificum and its aftermath. A section entitled “Find a way forward” is once again very balanced about areas where progress has been achieved and others where things have gone off the rails, and he makes the important point that there is far more in common between liturgical scholars on both sides of the argument, certainly concerning liturgical abuses, than those on the traditional wing sometimes realize.
One of the underlying problems is that, because of the speed of change, the required catechesis and formation was simply not done. (I wonder if Pecklers was also thinking of the almost unseemly rush to get a new translation of the Missal into the pews without adequate prior catechesis and formation.) He also acknowledges the tensions that remain in the Church today concerning what exactly the “substantial unity” of the Roman Rite might mean; and he is frank in his recognition of the fact that the Eucharist, which is supposed to be the sacrament of unity par excellence has in fact become the sacrament of disunity, as readers of this blog will be only too well aware.
Chapter Three, on the process of liturgical translation, gives the reader an abbreviated history of the vernacular since Vatican II, including the history of ICEL and its foundation, the genesis of the instruction Comme le prévoit, the work of ICEL during the 1970s thru 1990s, and the remarkable instruction Liturgiam authenticam. Gently but thoroughly, Pecklers takes the reader through how this latter document has been comprehensively demolished by scholars on both sides of the argument, and that its implications for ongoing ecumenical cooperation are grave. His final paragraph of the chapter acknowledges, however, that the new Missal text is what we are going to be given, and the challenge for us will be how to make the best of it.
Chapter Four unpacks the provisions of the 2002 General Instruction on the Roman Missal. Starting with the Council of Trent and proceeding through the liturgical parameters of the Second Vatican Council, Pecklers lays the foundation for a detailed rundown of many of the changes to be found in it. He does not, however, refer to the somewhat checkered history of the development of this document, which was signed off on by Pope John Paul II as early as January 2001 (though dated Holy Week the same year) and was then continually tinkered with (partly to resolve errors and ambiguities in it) until it reached its final Latin form in 2002, and its final English form in 2003 (for the US) but not until 2005 (for the UK – indeed, Pecklers does not allude to the fact that the US, UK and Australia all have their own versions of the document which differ in some significant details). There is a wealth of material in this chapter, both in the details drawn out of GIRM and in the areas that Pecklers suggests would be useful to concentrate on in catchesis. If I were to make a critcism of the book, it would fall in this chapter. The material is somewhat confusingly organized, almost as if two different lectures were conflated and the publisher’s editor did not do a very good job of it. Additionally, Pecklers mentions a number of points as if they were new in the 2002 version when in fact they were already present in GIRM 1969. Once again, he points out the necessity for proper catechesis – catechesis which we did not have the time and the leisure to do in the early 1970s when everything was changing so rapidly.
In Chapter Five, Pecklers looks at the reception and implementation of the new Missal. For those who are not familiar with how these things are done, he begins with an outline of the drafting and approval process for new texts, and the role of bishops’ conferences. From there he moves to some comments on the new translations. Most of these consist of explanations of some of the principles undergirding the improvements to the translation, and they will not be new to most readers of this blog, but he also points out where difficulties in language will make acceptance harder. He looks at the challenges that the ICEL translators have had to confront with the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam now in force, not least the constant interference of the CDWDS and Vox Clara in the process, and notes that Eucharistic Prayer IV is probably the least satisfactory of the major texts in the new Order of Mass (though mercifully an improvement over previous recent drafts). The next section deals with changes in the new Missal and Order of Mass brought in by the editio typica tertia, a useful listing along with a commentary on what will be some of the neuralgic issues (such as pro multis). A section on liturgical catechesis and implementation includes the South African débâcle and notice of the international DVD which is in the course of preparation under the aegis of the “Leeds” Group and which promises to be a very useful formational tool.
An interesting lacuna is that he does not allude to what happens if in fact the new Missal is not “received”. Some would say, of course, that Liturgiam Authenticam has not in practice been received by the Church as a whole, and therefore canonically cannot be said to be in force. It would have been good to have some of his thoughts on what may happen if the new translation is in fact not accepted in the pews (or in sanctuaries, come to that).
In his brief concluding chapter, Pecklers is very clear that the future of our liturgy lies not in its continuing to exist as an abstract object, fossilized in time and space, but in its ability to be inculturated and contextualized in a situation which is already very different from that of Sacrosanctum Concilium only 47 years ago. It needs to speak to those who celebrate it today, not yesterday, or its future is very bleak. As he puts it, the future of liturgy is the future of the Church.
Useful supplementary reading for Chapter Two will be Archbishop Annibale Bugnini’s compendious volume The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975 (Liturgical Press, 1990), which provides all the documentary evidence that anyone could need about how the reforms were accomplished, and Archbishop Piero Marini’s A Challenging Reform (Liturgical Press, 2007), which gives the inside story of what went on – including much on the obstructionist politicking behind the scenes during the period that the Consilium was doing its work as well as details of how and why the Consilium did what it did.
For Chapter Three, Peter Finn, Denis Hurley and James Schellmann (ed.) Shaping English Liturgy (Pastoral Press, 1998) gives a comprehensive history of ICEL and its work.
A further insight into the politicking behind the dismantling and re-establishment of ICEL, and in particular the sidelining of the English translation of the editio typica secunda of the Roman Missal that the world’s English-speaking bishops sent to Rome in 1998, is to be found in the important fifth chapter, “A Cold Wind from Rome”, of It’s the Eucharist, Thank God (Decani, 2009) by Bishop Maurice Taylor, chair of the ICEL Episcopal Board at the time when everything was being turned upside down. It shows just how incredibly bad at communicating, how incapable of dialogue and in fact how downright rude the CDWDS can be when it puts its mind to it – and this to representatives of the world’s hierarchies…. That translation is still lying on a desk somewhere in Rome, but those interested in seeing how it not only does contain all the improvements that are vaunted about the forthcoming text but how it also uses a language that is immeasurably better than the forthcoming text will find some examples in Bishop Taylor’s book – the complete text only exists in the 162MB of PDF files (too large to be sent over the internet) if you know who to ask!
So why is Pecklers’s book so important?
The first two chapters prove quite conclusively, if anyone still needs convincing, that the reforms of Vatican II were organically connected with the multifaceted history of the Roman Rite during the previous two millennia, and that those who criticise those reforms need to remember the lessons of history. It gives an invaluable overview for the general reader of the issues we are now facing, without prejudging any of them. It provides a healthy corrective for those who would maintain that the Extraordinary Form has been with us from near the beginning of Christian history and is therefore the only form that matters. It complements the other books mentioned above, especially (for the general reader) Marini and Taylor. It contains refreshingly few misprints, the most serious of which is on p. 32, lines 7-8, where “translated into Latin” should read “translated into the vernacular”! In sum, it deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelves.