Dialogue between old and new liturgical movements

Fr. Christopher Jamison, OSB, is talking about religious orders – the older (progressive) ones and the newer (conservative) ones, in the April 28th Tablet,The future depends on the possibility of dialogue between the old and new orders” (subscription required). I’ve already over-simplified his nuanced presentation by adding the labels “progressive” and “conservative,” but we all know that’s pretty much the reality. By his own admission, Jamison is offering a “broad-brush analysis.”

Jamison’s topic is religious orders, but I think his analysis applies rather well to liturgical factions also. First, let’s hear Jamison in his own words. Then we’ll do the transfer to the liturgy wars.

Jamison writes of the old religious orders:

The old orders have great liberty of spirit; their members are rooted in the essence of the Gospel, in traditions of deep prayer and in the service of the Church. The problem is that this liberty of spirit can easily become libertarianism, with the Gospel redesigned and the Church marginalized. Religious in older orders often suffer from the vice of pride. They believe that their longevity means they know what the spirit of the religious life is and entitles them to sit lightly to the letter of their order’s tradition – and, in some cases, sit lightly to the Catholic tradition. We know best.

And of the newer religious orders:

Their distinguishing virtue is their dynamic fervor and their complete trust. They are living examples of Our Lord’s insight that “unless you become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” However, being childlike can easily tip into being childish, with an excessive reliance on rules and externals. In this way, gifted founders can keep people in subservience and damage well intentioned new members. New orders can fall into vanity and self-satisfaction. To an outsider, it looks as if they believe that the influx of new members indicates God’s blessing. We may not be old, they seem to say, but we are good.

Jamison also makes this comment about the new orders:

While the Holy See regularly sends apostolic visitations to religious orders to sort out a problem, the number of visitations to new congregations is surprising; while there are no published figures, my hunch is that the ratio is higher among new congregations.

While you’re still pondering Jamison’s analysis of religious life, I’ll go right on to the application of his analysis to the liturgy. By switching out just a few words, Jamison’s comments can be made to apply to liturgical factions in the Catholic Church. Mutatis mutandis, here would be Jamison on liturgical controversies:

The [older liturgical progressives] have great liberty of spirit; [they] are rooted in the essence of the Gospel, in traditions of deep prayer and in the service of the Church. The problem is that this liberty of spirit can easily become libertarianism, with the Gospel redesigned and the Church marginalized. [Progressive scholars, clergy, and lay ministers] often suffer from the vice of pride. They believe that their longevity means they know what the spirit of the [liturgy] is and entitles them to sit lightly to the letter of [the Church’s] tradition – and, in some cases, sit lightly to the Catholic tradition. We know best.

Turning to the [“Reform of the Reform” movement], their distinguishing virtue is their dynamic fervor and their complete trust. They are living examples of Our Lord’s insight that “unless you become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” However, being childlike can easily tip into being childish, with an excessive reliance on rules and externals. In this way, [their worldview] can keep people in subservience and damage well intentioned new [recruits]. [Liturgical traditionalists] can fall into vanity and self-satisfaction. To an outsider, it looks as if they believe that the influx of [young followers] indicates God’s blessing. We may not be old, they seem to say, but we are good.

The re-purposing of his words is forced, but only a bit. Do you think it works?

Are liturgical progressives (I know, I know, they’re not all old people) too libertarian (still) in their redesigning of rituals? Prideful? Overly confident that they know the spirit and essence of the liturgy? Too light-handed with liturgical traditions?

Are liturgical traditionalists (again, they’re not all young) childishly attached to external rituals? Vain and self-satisfied? Overly confident that numerical growth means God is on their side?

awr

4 comments

  1. Thanks, Fr. Ruff. Have an affinity for the Mutatis Mutandis approach.

    Please allow me to make one comment:

    – Religious orders (men and women) have been seriously analyzing and developing transition plans based upon a realization that the original founder’s charism is no longer being lived. Both the leadership groups of men and women have had processes of “ressourcement’ and “aggiornamento” over the past 25+ years trying to evaluate, study, and get back to the original charism via their apostolates, works, and community lifestyle. Ressourcement requires careful study; professional research; and the determination to challenge and change (this uproots some long time commitments; personal lives; etc.)

    The leadership groups actually developed and paid for the research of religious orders by Nygren and Ukeritis. Their study conclusions and recommendations are no different than those articulated by Jamison but they do have much more detail.

    Don’t know how many weeks if not years have been spent by some folks to look at apostolates (one reason for CARA); to look at community structures. Studies indicate that religious communities have gotten into apostolates by chance; by a charismatic leader; by invitation of the institutional church; etc. These, at times, have remarkedly demonstrated the original charism – “intended consequences”. But, too often, over time apostolates/community life as put on accretions that have had “unintended” consequences. Now, both men/women groups have seriously and significantly challenged themselves and are changing. (Unfortunately, the problem of aging and lack of new recruits has broght a whole other dynamic to this project).

    It is not easy for a community to acknowledge that their charism is calling them to leave an apostolate; to leave folks that they have served for centuries; to call their members to a more structured community life. But, they are doing that.

    In terms of liturgy and the “reform of the reform”. Would suggest that Vatican II studied, ressourced, and changed liturgy carefully and based upon decades of expert and professional study. It was an effort to “return” to the early centuries; to take the core and essential elements; and to develop/change to best express the lived liturgical experience of the Body of Christ. This process took a number of years. In terms of comparison to Jamison’s comments, would suggest that the ROTR, at times, seems to take one papal announcement and indult as if it is codified forever and they run with it. Yet, would suggest that the indult & announcement really did not lay out directives; choices; or even any type of specific details about “mutual enrichment”. Would suggest that we are seeing “unintended consequences” (which is why most bishops were not in favor of the indult); folks feel they have permission to insert “accretions”; rubrics (long past) are restored. Yet, there is no careful study; little to no research; little to no expert liturgical input.

    Like the religious communities, the difficult work of living out a charism or of developing a good liturgical experience is based upon study, research, and careful analysis.

    To quote Fr. Ruff: “I suppose some will say that it’s not expressly forbidden so nothing prevents adding it back in. I’m sure some will say that it is the “mutual enrichment” desired by Pope Benedict XVI if our stripped down reformed rites are gradually loaded back up with the accretions they acquired over the course of the centuries.

    In this season we’re in of “re-Catholicizing” and “reforming the reform,” I think it’s more important than ever to celebrate the reformed rites as they appear in the liturgical books. Thing were omitted for a reason, and that should be respected.”

    Would suggest that my personal experience with some religious orders is that the original charism was compromised by decisions that “reformed the reform” and were thought to be “mutually enriching” (example – doing what the local bishop said rather than remaining true to the charism). What resulted were unintended consequences; personal pain/hurt; lives uprooted and changed.

  2. Fr. Christopher Jamison [Fr. Ruff’s emendations in brackets]: “However, being childlike can easily tip into being childish, with an excessive reliance on rules and externals. In this way, [their worldview] can keep people in subservience and damage well intentioned new [recruits].

    Another possible emendation:

    However, {liturgical retrospection} can easily tip into {cynicism}, with an excessive reliance on rules and externals. In this way, [their worldview] can keep people in subservience and damage well intentioned new [recruits].” {my emendations in braces}

    Liturgical formation in the “reform of the reform” (ROTR) and Catholic traditionalism could be considered “childish”. In these movements, a person often first learns liturgy not through academic liturgical study and scholarship, but rather through an immersion in pre-Second Vatican conciliar liturgical customs, pious culture, and rubrics. This immersion is not unlike a child’s growth in language proficiency and social mores through the holistic observation and imitation of existing linguistic and sociocultural behavior. ROTR/trad Catholic heuristics always considers the total of Roman liturgical history until the present day and not primarily patristic ressourcement. The ROTR/trad insistence that all contemporary liturgical development must follow from not only late antique but also medieval and early modern liturgical antecedents sometimes results in cynicism about liturgical developments in the now-dominant patristic ressourcement or “postconciliar” liturgical school.

    For some traditional Catholics, the postconciliar paradigm has become an irredeemably corrupted Goliath and not an equally valid and viable tradition whose aspirations must be respected. A traditional Catholic’s apprehensions about progressive liturgy can sometimes lead to intellectual isolation and a lack of charity towards progressive brothers and sisters.

  3. There are two sides to the issue: Older and Younger or Liberal and Conservative. More clearly, to get to the dynamics involved let us say Older versus Younger, and Liberal versus Conservative. Now then, should one or the other win, what will have been won? Are any of the participants interested in what the Lord wants for his Church and ours, the Liturgy, and our prayer with Jesus ascended before the Father? We need a search for prayerful meaning when we pray. I don’t think anyone prays in the way the New Missal makes us pray. The New Missal guy (whoever) bankrolled the printers while we end up with a liturgy bankrupt of English speaking prayer. Discernment? Not a chance. Prayer? There are two sides of the coin, and they are praying at each other!

    1. I pray “in the way the New Missal makes us pray.” I have for years. I do not find the liturgy “bankrupt of English speaking prayer”, and I’m a native English speaker.

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