The history of the modern Roman liturgical renewal is complex and often inaccessible to the layman having little to no theological training or backgro...moreThe history of the modern Roman liturgical renewal is complex and often inaccessible to the layman having little to no theological training or background in liturgical study. It often seems as if there are two camps within the Latin Church, the Levebrist-influenced radical traditionalists who claim that the Missal of Paul VI (and the Second Council of the Vatican) was a break with centuries of Latin Catholic tradition to the detriment of sound or even valid liturgy; and the modernist/postermodernist self-acclaimed reformers who tout the Missal of Paul VI (and Vatican II) as license for endless creativity within the Roman liturgy. There are indeed two camps within the Latin Church, but the two aforementioned groups do not singularly comprise them. In fact, the two former groups are in reality one group, with a right and a left wing respectively, which claims that the reforms of the Council were a mad break with Sacred Tradition and the Church's past in favor of some new embezzled future, "postconciliar Church." The corresponding opposite group is one which declares with Pope Benedict XVI that in the history of the liturgy there is no break or fabrication but organic growth and development, of which the Missal of Paul VI is the latest part.
It was Cardinal Ratzinger who once said that the layman would hardly spot the difference between the so-called Tridentine Mass and a properly-celebrated (chanted Latin, following the rubrics) Novus Ordo; it was Benedict XVI who said that the so-called Mass of Paul VI contained within it treasures and beauties which were untapped, but not at all absent. The reasons for the liturgical mayhem following the Council are complicated and variously layered, and the seeds of this mayhem were already present in the decades leading up to the reforms. It is obviously not the fault of Paul VI, who did merely what the Council called for; nor is it the fault of the Council, which pastorally took into account the situation of the Church and, guided by the Holy Spirit, recommended certain remedies. It is obvious, Bishop Aillet says, and was obvious prior to the Council that the Roman rubrics were in need of a noticeable degree of reform. The Council saw this need and Paul VI followed the ideals of the Council. And it must be admitted in truth that the Missal of Paul VI contains much beauty and light, imbued with the Faith in many ways which the Missal of Bl. John XXIII lacks. Bishop Aillet and Benedict XVI cover this far more skillfully in their works than I can here, but suffice to say that the Missal of Paul VI saw these lacks and did much to compensate.
Those who see the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite to be doctrinally problematic do not understand either the rubrics themselves or the Council; those who see the Roman rite as something designed to subvert the Faith of the Church are (hopefully honest) fools. It is in the Missal of Paul VI that the treasures of the Missal of 1962 are caught up and reinvigorated; the reason that this fact has been missed is not because of the former Missal itself but because of ridiculous abuses which have befallen it. In some ways the Missal of Bl. John XXIII was subject to these abuses, if not as obviously as can be seen in a vernacular (and now, thanks to the information age, widely-dispersed) setting. When celebrated according to the rubrics and the spirit of the Roman liturgy, the so-called Mass of Paul VI is the plane for a real and soul-altering encounter with Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. As the chaos of the aftermath of the Council settles (a chaos which finds parallels after practically every Council in the Church's history) and as Catholics learn to celebrate the Missal of Paul VI in the way that it was intended and envisioned, more and more will it be seen just what a vessel of glory has been given to the Church in this latest stage of the Spirit-guided growth of the Roman Mass. This work, "The Old Mass and the New," serves as a fine introduction to this subject and gives a hopeful, though in no way naive, outlook on the new liturgical movement prayed for by Benedict XVI and which is taking shape throughout the world.(less)
“In order to unite, we must first love one another. In order to love one another, we must first get to know one another." So says Cardinal Leo Jozef S...more“In order to unite, we must first love one another. In order to love one another, we must first get to know one another." So says Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens, and so go my reasons for reading this book (besides the usual obsessive religious fanaticism). As a Christian I have always had a very ecumenical mindset, and my assent to the Catholic Church has only intensified this.
So my first step must logically be to find out as much as I can about what the catechism calls my "separated brothers and sisters," and why, when I am able to partake of the Eucharist, I cannot yet partake with them. As such, I have the responsibility to learn the vantage points of all my brethren so as to better understand and relate to them, and work toward that unity which Christ prayed for before His crucifixion. All Christians have this vocation. In fact, this is one of His Holiness Bartholomew's major points.
The book begins with a very good foreword from the Most Reverend Dr. Kallistos Ware, with whom I am familiar and of whom I am an immense fan. The foreword goes a long way toward preparing the reader for the material covered by the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the details added by Bishop Ware go a great length in highlighting and explaining key points in Bartholomew I's understanding of the Orthodox Catholic Church. Dr. John Chryssavigis's biographical note does much to elucidate His Holiness's background and some of the events in his life which shaped his theology. The material is long, but it is thorough. It may be skipped without any harm to Bartholomew's text, but the information contained in the first two sections does enhance it.
Bartholomew begins by giving a historical perspective of the Orthodox faith, where it has been and where it is today. He gives important parts of its history and its self-perception. He outlines the basic Church hierarchy (with a few subtle, almost playful swipes at the papacy) and how this hierarchy has developed before and after the Great Schism of 1054, viewed by many as the definitive moment when East and West were separated (though there were many intersections and agreements, especially up until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans). His Holiness explains that Orthodox theology is not based in theory or philosophy but in experience, the experience of the Church in the lives of the saints through history.
In his next chapter, Patriarch Bartholomew gives reasoning for iconography (among the most beautiful aspects of Orthodox tradition), historical Orthodox architecture and above all, the Liturgy. He explains that all three tie together to bring Heaven to Earth in the celebration of the Eucharist, and that none is effective without the other two.
The good Patriarch goes on to discuss theology, especially apophatic theology (that is, describing God by talking about what He is not as opposed to what He is, which is something no one can truly grasp). He explains Eastern theology as something developed in the experience of the Church as a whole. He details monasticism and its purpose, as well as its benefits for the whole family of God. But Bartholomew's work begins to really shine in his explanation of the sacraments, prayer and spirituality. He explains that fasting is not only a form of self-control but an embrace of freedom, and he tells how the Jesus Prayer is at the heart and soul of Orthodoxy. Finally, he makes clear that the entire world is in itself sacramental.
His Holiness gives his view of human rights and the environmental crisis. This is possibly his weakest and the more problematic section. Bartholomew discusses human rights problems from "birth to death," but this oddly leaves out the unborn and the issue of abortion (I hope, unintentionally). He does not address the issues of homosexuality or marriage, both of which are incredibly pertinent in a Western context. Moreover, his solutions for the environmental crisis are of a more speculative or propositional nature than they are specified individual solutions. This last point is forgivable, as it can hardly be expected that the Patriarch would be able to detail solutions to problems outside his area of expertise (though he may have cited relevant experts as he did in other areas). But the former two are certainly troubling and troublesome. It is difficult to see how these can be left out of a book meant not only to explain Orthodoxy to the world but also explain Orthodox solutions to modern problems.
Bartholomew does rightly address one of the biggest issues of our time, poverty, and he justly condemns the excesses of Western civilization. He does well in making clear that these practices cannot continue. Amen, I say! We have the ability to stop such widespread hunger and need. Though the poor we always have with us, poverty need not be so widespread! His Holiness goes on to address fundamentalism's flaws and failures, and gives his vision for how to relate to other world religions (especially Islam). He declares that peace is a goal of the three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and he states clearly that "violence in the name of religion is violence against religion." Here I can, as a hopeful man and a Catholic, heartily agree. My views on social justice largely line up with those of the Patriarch, and there is much common ground between Christians (and other religious folk) on these issues.
His All Holiness concludes by saying that the hope we have lies within us, in what Christ is doing and accomplishing in us. All Christians can agree. Our vision for the world must be wide in scope and deep in God. We must not abandon ourselves to despair. Perhaps we will do much more good than we had thought possible, by the grace and power of God, to the glory and honor of God.(less)