I hope that the January issue of Worship is in your hands by now. I know that some of our overseas readers might not yet have received it. This issue is the liturgist’s version of an action-packed Hollywood movie.
The issue starts out with a bang. Robert Taft, S.J. in “‘Communion’ from the Tabernacle – A Liturgico-Theological Oxymoron” writes a scathing critique of the practice of distributing communion from the tabernacle. Taft’s wit is on full display as he begins his article saying:
In an unjustifiably sanguine bout of optimism I had initially subtitled this study ‘The Last Liturgico-Theological Oxymoron?’ But the ongoing exaggerations in eucharistic devotion that the neocon restorationists of the newly contentious and divisive Roman Catholic West continue to invent or rediscover and reprise convinced me that such optimism was currently misplaced. Still, the liturgical practice of Bishop of Rome Francesco is encouraging, so maybe it is till too early to repeat the old saw: ‘East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet.
Taft’s critique, or more properly condemnation, of communion from the tabernacle revolves around 4 key points: “1. It reflects a patent ignorance of Eucharistic theology. 2. Its origins and history are questionable. 3. It ignores the authentic tradition still observed by the Orthodox East. 4. It is a practice condemned and proscribed by the supreme authority of the Catholic Church in which it is being practiced despite these strictures.” Taft’s article then sets out to unpack each of these accusations. He does so with an eye to general differences in Eastern and Western Eucharistic piety. Taft’s article is a fun read thanks in part to his classic wit and genius.
Bruce Morrill, S.J. in “Lay Liturgical Leadership in the US Catholic Church: Popular Advances, Official Retreat,” focuses on the tension between the faithful’s desire for community and the Vatican’s concerns about the centrality of the priest and the Eucharist celebrated in its fullness. Morrill’s article begins with a plethora of interesting, and at times depressing, statistics about the frequency and practical effects of parish closures. These statistics are intermingled with personal anecdotes from Morrill’s own ministry. Morrill’s article then provides an interesting look at lay-led liturgies, such as Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest. He highlights the tension between the need for more lay involvement and the official viewpoint, which often sees lay leadership as a threat to holy orders.
In looking at Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest, Morrill notes the hierarchy’s “delicate” approach to this ritual. (From my perspective such delicacy is understandable, however, I often wonder what drives this delicate approach, a concern about lay ministry or a concern about the declining importance of the Eucharistic prayer?) The reception of communion, as it is described in Morrill’s article, appears to be more important for the faithful than the Eucharist celebrated in its fullness. In this way, Morrill’s article seems to be a logical extension of Taft’s. Morrill even writes that:
Put bluntly, the people do not miss the Eucharistic prayer. They have so little affective or intellectual appropriation of it as not to be disturbed by its absence or, therefore, to be persuaded by the hierarchy’s exhortations about the value of the ‘full Eucharist’ (their neologism for the Mass, as distinct from a communion service).
As the number of priests declines, parishes close, bishops continue to restrict the usage of Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest, and the faithful further disassociate themselves from the Eucharistic prayer as a whole, the Church is left broken and with very few avenues for healing that are theologically acceptable and practically realistic, let alone find support amongst both the faithful and her clergy. I am left wondering: “What can be done?”
William Smith in “Who Sang What?” provides a bit of a change in pace. Smith’s article is a look at psalmody from ancient Judaism to the early Church. Smith’s article requires a rethink of the way we approach psalmody. It begins with a series of questions:
- Are psalms songs to be sung?
- Were some psalms not sung?
- Was the psalter a hymnbook?
- Was the psalter “The Hymnbook of the Second Temple”?
Smith answers these questions before going into the early Church’s usage of song. Smith looks at the usage of psalmody in the early Church and its relationship to Jewish practices of psalmody. Smith also looks at the development of hymnody or new songs that were specific to the Christian tradition.
Smith concludes that the first evidence of psalmody in Christian worship dates to around 200 AD, and that new songs were more common before this period. Smith also sees “(1) freely composed hymns and (2) selected psalms and other lyrical material from the Bible” as the heart of the Church’ repertory.
Michael Joncas in “English-Language Roman Rite Liturgical Music since Sacrosanctum Concilium: Some Reflections” provides a survey of English music since the Second Vatican Council and reflects on those developments in light of Sacrosanctum Concilium. His article begins by showing that the Council called for a shift from priest centered to assembly centered vocal engagement. The voice of the assembly was to be heard. This was a new model of engagement. Another key shift has been in the texts to be sung. Here the Council opened up the doors. Gone are the days when the all of the texts of the liturgy were more or less prescribed (at least in the missa in cantu/missa solemnis). The allowance for greater usage of music in the vernacular was also a produce of this textual shift.
The Council also allowed for a change in instrumentation. While the organ is still given pride of place, just like Latin and chant, any instrument in theory is allowed in the liturgy as long as it meets a few basic criteria. A radical shift in genre has also occurred. Gregorian chant is given pride of place, but any genre of sacred music which is “in accord with the spirit of the liturgical action” is allowed. Liturgical music has also become inculturated.
Joncas concludes that “it is still too early to tell how the Council fathers’ teaching in SC will ultimately be received by the Church as a whole.” Joncas also contends that there is a debate about the “ministerial function” of liturgical music. This, in my opinion, is central to the reception of SC’s teachings on sacred music.
Phyllis Zagano’s “Women in the Diaconate” wraps up this issue with a zinger. Zagano begins by referencing Cipriano Vagaggini’s article L’ordinazione delle diaconesse nella tradizione greca e bizantina in OCP (Orientalia christiana periodica). Vagaggini was responding to Pope Paul VI’s wonderings about the possibility of admitting women to the diaconate, to which “Vagaggini responded in the affirmative.” Zagano then provides a translation of Vagaggini’s intervention at the 1987 Synod of Bishops on the Laity in which he address the possbility of women in the diaconate.
Vagaggini’s intervention is based on the ordination of deaconesses in the Byzantine Tradition. His intervention revolves around 4 arguments: 1) the rite of ordination of deaconesses in the Byzantine Tradition within the sanctuary, 2) the significance of the location for the ordination, 3) the duties their ordination allowed, and 4) modern needs.
Zagano’s translation of Vagaggini’s intervention provides a brief and compelling argument for why discussion about the admission of women to the deaconate should be opened up once again.
- John F. Baldovin, SJ reviews Toward a Trinitarian Theology of Liturgical Participation. By R. Gabriel Pivarnik. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press. Pages, xxiii + 259. Paper, $39.95.
- Thomas P. Rausch, SJ reviews In the Name of the Church: Vocation and Authorization of Lay Ecclesial Ministry. Edited by William J. Cahoy. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012. Pages, 221. Paper, $19.95.
- Rev. Damian J. Ference reviews Personal Jesus: How Popular Music Shapes Our Souls. By Clive Marsh and Vaughn S. Roberts. Foreword by Tom Beaudoin. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012. Pages, 234. Paperback, $22.99.
- Michael Daniel Findikyan reviews The Origins of Feasts, Fasts, and Seasons in Early Christianity. By Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson. Alcuin Club Collections 86. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011. Pages, xvi + 222. Paper, $29.95.
- Maxwell Johnson reviews Liturgy and Interpretation. By Kenneth Stevenson. SCM Studies in Worship and Liturgy. London: SCM Press, 2011. Pages, xiv + 257. £55.00.
- Kilian McDonnell, OSB reviews Ever Ancient, Ever New: Structures of Communion in the Church. By Archbishop John R. Quinn. New York: Paulist Press, 2013. Pages, vi + 57. Paper, $9.95.
- Kyle T. Kramer reviews Ecological Footprints: An Essential Franciscan Guide for Faith and Sustainable Living. By Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012. Pages, 353. Paper, $39.95.
- Gregory J. Polan, OSB reviews Key to Galatians: Collected Essays. By Jerome Murphy-O’Connor. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012. Pages, 194. Paper, $24.95.
- Timothy O’Malley reviews Faith in the Public Square. By Rowan Williams. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. Pages, 344. Hardcover, $29.95.
- Rev. James Donohue, CR reviews Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death. By Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith. Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2012. Pages, 220. Paper, $19.99.