Friday, February 13, 2015

Liturgist of the renewal: translation changes the form, which changes the rite

Fr. Joseph Gelineua, S.J. was described by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the chief architect of the New Mass, as “one of the great masters of the international liturgical world” in his The Reform of the Liturgy: 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), p. 221. It is interesting, and telling, to go back and read what was being written back in those days. Here is an excerpt from a book by Joseph Gelineau, S.J., The Liturgy: Today and Tomorrow, tr. by Dinah Livingstone (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), p. 11 (emphasis mine):
Let's make no mistake: translating does not mean saying the same thing in equivalent words. It changes the form. And liturgy is not information or teaching, whose only importance is its content. It is also symbolic action by means of significant 'forms'. If the forms change, the rite changes. If one element changes the total meaning changes. Think back, if you remember it, to the Latin sung High mass with Gregorian chant. Compare it with the modern post-Vatican II mass. It is not only the words, but also the tunes and even certain actions that are different. In fact it is a different liturgy of the mass. We must say it plainly: the Roman rite as we knew it exists no more. It has gone. Some walls of the structure have fallen, others have been altered; we can look at it as a ruin or as the partial foundation of a new building.

We must not weep over ruins or dream of an historical reconstruction. The liturgical renewal is a sign of the church's will to live -- just as the missionary and biblical renewals are. When the poor are dying of hunger because no one breaks the bread of the Word for them, something must be done. When we know what treasures of hope are contained in the liturgy but find that the 'key of knowledge' has been taken away and 'those who were entering hindered' (Lk. 11:52), we must open new ways to the sources of life, or we shall be condemned as Jesus condemned the Pharisees. But it would not be right to identify this liturgical renewal with the reform of rites decided on by Vatican II. This reform goes back much further and forward beyond the conciliar prescriptions. The liturgy is a permanent workshop.
One thing is abundantly clear: some of the liberals in the liturgical movement understood the radical revisionist implications of the movement far more clearly than many of the conservatives.


c matt said...

When the poor are dying of hunger because no one breaks the bread of the Word for them, something must be done.

Except from all available data, they were much better fed compared to today.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Well, at least the acolytes of Joseph Schumpeter's notion of creative destruction could trumpet nearly believable claims of capitalist progress realised concretely as shorter work weeks, higher salaries, higher living standards (all illusory though) etc but the creative destruction of the Roman Rite has resulted in shorter and crummier Masses and more sanctuary work for the laity but it has not noticeably delivered an increase in elevated spirituality.

Like Christo wrapping Star Jones' butt in Day Glo Yellow (he didn't do that did he?) the result of the creative destruction of the Roman Rite is a garish and off putting product and seeing as how the purpose of the Mass is to be remembered by the acronym PARTs - Petition, Adoration, Reparation, Thanksgiving, how can any man in his right mind think that the creative destruction of the reformers gave us a product worthy of the worship of our Triune God?

Anonymous said...

"The liturgy is a permanent workshop." I actually love when these rhetorical flourishes are perfect summaries of the reality at hand. Workshop ... which is why Mass seems almost closer to an episode of "Property Brothers" than even an Anglican worship service, despite Paul VI's ecumenical intentions. Populist to the Nth degree in experience even if what's on the page is arguably A.OK.

Charles said...

When the poor are dying of hunger because no one breaks the bread of the Word for them, something must be done.

C Matt, you're absolutely right. That bit, plus the thing about the "key of knowledge" being taken away, are such PROTESTANT sorts of protests to raise against the big bad pre-V2 Church which is so tied up in the empty formalism of its traditionalist liturgy and its pharisaical legalism that it can't get at the simple "Gospel" of "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved."

Trouble is, the same Jesus who says that also says that he who hears his apostles hears HIM and his apostles tell us to hold fast to the traditions past down to us, which includes liturgical traditions. Jesus is finally never found except through the Church.

Brennan said...

The Chairman of the Latin Mass Society in England and Wales, Joseph Shaw, has an excellent series of articles on why trying to find a "compromise" between the traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo is so difficult:

"I have in the past pointed out the practical, pastoral problem of the RotR [Reform of the Reform]: far from it being, as its proponents ceaselessly claim, easier to foist on a parish than the Traditional Mass, it is harder. The argument is simple: if a priest gets rid of the Altar girls, moves the Altar round to celebrate facing East, and introduces some Latin, in the typical parish Novus Ordo, he will create a civil war in the parish which he will almost certainly lose. If he introduces a Traditional Mass in a new time-slot, he may blot his copy-book with a hostile Dean and Bishop, but he will very probably get away with it in the short and medium term. (In the long term, of course, he may be moved.) This has been confirmed over and over again. Many of the commentators over on the NLM need to free themselves from their illusions on this. RotR is not the easy option.

But I want to introduce another idea. While I am in favour of Latin, worship ad orientem and pretty well everything the RotR promotes, it is clear to me that the difficulty of imposing them on the Novus Ordo is not just a matter of parochial habits. The problem with the texts and ceremonies, in terms of bringing them closer to the Traditional Mass, is not just a matter of how many changes you would need to make. The problem is that the Novus Ordo has its own ethos, rationale and spirituality. It encapsulates its own distinct understanding of what liturgical participation is. It is to promote this kind of participation that its various texts and ceremonies have been done as they are. If you put it in Latin, ad orientem, and especially if you start having things not currently allowed, like the silent Canon, then you undermine the kind of participation for which the Novus Ordo was designed.

This means that there is a danger, in promoting something which amounts to a compromise between the two Missals, of falling between two stools."

The 5 part series is a must read (read from bottom to top).

Pertinacious Papist said...


Thanks for the link and your illuminating remarks. Most welcome.

Brennan said...

You're welcome. The illuminating remarks are courtesy of Joseph Shaw, but I'm more than happy to spread them around.

His series of articles I linked to above was very eye opening for me.