Wednesday, August 30, 2006

President of FCS comes out for "ad orientem" liturgy

In the editorial of the latest issues of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly (Fall 2006), Dr. Bernard Dobranski, President of the Society, addresses the topic of "Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Reform of the Liturgy," the theme of the upcoming Society's annual conference in Kansas City (September 22-24, 2006). He suggests that the topic is particularly appropriate as we enter the second year of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy:
The Pope's much heralded efforts to reconcile the Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, is one example of his strong interest in the liturgy and is a welcome sign of his concern for our alienated co-believers. Reports also indicate he possibility of a general indult being granted for all priests to celebrate the traditional Mass, known as the Tridentine Mass, as part of the reconciliation. Although for many -- including this writer -- this permission would be welcome news, it would be naive to think that the celebration of the liturgy as we knew it before 1968 would replace the Novus Ordo (New rite) or even become common.
Given the notorious obstacles that stand in the way of reconciliation between the SSPX and Rome, it may be naive even to suppose that such a general indult will ever be granted. In any case, Dobranski sees a more realistic and palpable approach to correcting the perceived flaws as lying with a "reform of the reform" as expressed in the theme of this year's conference.

Dobranski affirms the "full, conscious, and active participation" that the Fathers of Vatican II called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium (n. 4). However, he says, although physicality and movement are involved in worship, "this active participation does not connote the frenetic activity of the group or community building exercise model of worship now wrongly associated with the Novus Ordo, but rather the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual satisfaction that should come to the worshipper through seeing, knowing, and experiencing the divine beatitude (happiness) that the Sacred Mysteries contain." How can this latter and more Catholic perception of the Mass be recaptured and deepened? He writes:
It is vitally important that the sacrificial aspect of the Mass be foremost in each celebration. Too often, this central aspect of the Mass is obscured by a political statement or a specific agenda. This, in effect, reduces the Mass to a sociological tool which is man-centered and not God-oriented. Therefore, a sine qua non to protect against such abuses, a crucifix should be prominently displayed near the Altar. This serves as a potent reminder that the essence of the Mass is the re-enactment of Christ's redemptive act on our behalf to the Father.

Psychologists inform us of the value of word and symbol in any formal setting. This is especially true for the worship of the Church. It is therefore imperative that the prayer translations from the approved Latin text of The Roman Missal be assiduously adhered to. Clear Catholic theological teaching and religious concepts must be conveyed. To this end, I encourage you to read "Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal" (1970) in The Thomist 67 (2003): 157-95. You will be amazed at how inadequate and misleading the current translation is.

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Also, vital to reform is the reorientation of worship away from the ego-centered community to a more traditional God-focused one. This can be easily achieved by celebrating the liturgy of the Eucharist or second part of the Mass with the priest and congregation together "Ad Orientem," facing toward the liturgical East. This will serve a twofold purpose. It will prevent the idiosyncratic priest from confusing the liturgical act of the Church with the promotion of himself and will also clearly focus the community on God where it belongs.
How far such a "reform of the reform" will get any time soon is anyone's guess. Yet any of these sorts of changes would clearly be a change for the better, a step in the right direction. Amidst the shambles and trenches, we pray.

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