Not a solution

My good friend Paul has caused quite a stir with his recent blog post, "Why I've Lost Enthusiasm for Traditionalism". The subject of traditionalism almost inevitably produces strong reactions, but it's something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I finished reading Pope Benedict's wonderful book Salt of the Earth this afternoon, and the Holy Father has some interesting things to say about the Tridentine Rite and liturgical reform. In response to a question about whether restoration of the "old rite" would be a solution to the "demystification" produced by liturgical abuse, he replied:

That alone would not be a solution. I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all who desire it. It's impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won't it proscribe again tomorrow what it prescribes today? But a simple return to the old way would not, as I have said, be a solution. Our culture has changed so radically in the last thirty years that a liturgy celebrated exclusively in Latin would bring with it an experience of foreignness that many could not cope with. What we need is a new liturgical education, especially of priests. It must once again become clear that liturgical scholarship doesn't exist in order to produce constantly new models, though that may be all right for the auto industry. It exists in order to introduce us into feast and celebration, to make man capable of the mystery.

These sentiments echo my thoughts after visiting a Tridentine Mass a while back, that while it is beautiful and reverent, there's no way to bring it back to large-scale use, at least not all at once. But, the Holy Father adds another twist: that another problem is the way priests and others have been educated about the liturgy. One symptom of that deficient education, I would propose, is new schools of architecture that make it much more difficult to even celebrate a reverent liturgy. Take, for example, the "renovations" to the cathedrals in Milwaukee and Rochester. If our "sacred spaces" are constructed to focus in on ourselves, then it makes it even easier to mess with a liturgy that is supposed to center us upon God. When it comes to the purpose of the Mass, some reeducation is absolutely necessary. But, that doesn't mean that we should ditch it all and go back to Latin.


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