We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Thursday, February 27, 2014


There has been much heat (but little light) on a variety of related subjects, primarily the so-called "Reform of the Reform." The proponents of the latter -- who have done many good works -- often seem to fixate on the precise moment in which things went wrong. Consequently, there is a concomitant fascination with dates, with mumblings about 1962, 1965, etc. (And this itself touches on the tangential (and rather outré) topics of sedevacantism and sedeprivationism etc., etc.)

Fortunately, students of liturgical reform have begun to suspect that the later "movings" stemmed from much earlier "stirrings." I can't contribute to this polemic, although there is much that is interesting to read and to consider in all of it (including here). After all, what do I really know? All of my personal experience is, perforce, post-1955. But it seems to me that we really haven't gotten much further.

The 1950s stand not as a moment (necessarily) of error but of crisis (in the root sense of the word). Let's turn back to the tenth edition of Ritual Notes (1956):

778. Anglo-catholics are therefore now faced with the question as to their attitude to these changes. First, it should be said that, unless the original adoption of these rites by Anglo-catholics, now some generations ago, was purely an act of private judgment (and so in accordance with protestant rather than catholic principles), it implied that (a) it was permissible to supplement the Prayer Book rites as they stand, and (b) that this should be done from a source which was in its own way authoritative. There seem, therefore, to be two courses open: either to fall back on the Prayer Book as it stands for these days in all its liturgical poverty; or to adopt the roman rites (with or without adaptation*); and this will mean adopting the new rites, for the old now have no place in that Church. What seems impossible is to retain the old ceremonies and times (from which, as has been said, all authority has now been removed), unless the very un-catholic principle of private judgement is invoked; for it is hardly possible to describe these as either the authoritative or "traditional" use of the English Church [my emphases].

779. The changes in the Holy Week rites and times have not been made on grounds of antiquarianism (though they do in fact go back on the whole to the early Christian Holy Week); they have been made out of pastoral care for souls. The ceremonies of the Great Week, which had originally been the central observance of the Christian year, had, for reasons that need not be particularized, become in fact the preserve of the devout (and leisured) few who were not involved in, or who could escape from, the requirements of secular life* [my emphases]. It is of a piece with other changes of recent years in the Roman Communion as a result of the "liturgical movement," such as the modification of the Eucharistic fast and the simplification of rubrics; and indeed goes back to the great movement initiated by Pope Pius X towards frequent and daily Communion.

(Note how this discussion recapitulates many much earlier debates, some stemming as far back as the nineteenth century. I still wonder, after all these years, if the first paragraph poses a false dilemma while, simultaneously, not being at all impervious to the lively considerations of the latter paragraph.)

We still haven't answered these questions (and I don't have any answers, only more questions). Most of what is collected here is not original but gathered from far afield. Consequently, this blog is not an announcement of "allegiances" but only an act of remembrance and of open wonder.

Post scriptum: Father says:

I expect some Catholic readers may feel uneasy about the path I am treading. This is because the Catholic Church, more than most, has a deeply ingrained sense of Law. This makes it easy for Roman Catholics to underestimate of the force of auctoritas (although Benedict XVI nodded towards it when he wrote "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful"). My impression is that Orthodox, on the other hand, are instinctively influenced in liturgical matters much more by the auctoritas of a Liturgy than by the mere fact that it may have, on its title page, some windy claim to have been authorised by such-and-such a hierarch. As, I suspect, was the medieval West before the invention of printing. The Sarum 'Rite' spread in England more because of its auctoritas than because of any legislative enactments.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Remember to remember

The High Church movement was cerebral, scholarly, quiet and calm. In contrast to the extreme Romanists who tried to nudge the Church of England to catch up with contemporary Roman Catholic practice, the High Churchman started with the basic premise that the formulas of the Prayerbook were an adequate, even complete, statement of the Catholic and Apostolic faith of the Church of England, and yet at the same time they were not so prejudiced (as Evangelical Protestant apologists were) as to overlook or dismiss the Medieval Liturgy of Sarum, and the uses of other great Sees, and indeed these Liturgists produced some important scholarship on Liturgy in Medieval England, translating the Sarum Missal and Breviary. These translations allowed for the publication of editions of the Book of Common Prayer printed in parrallel with the Sarum Missal - an exercise that allowed Catholic Anglicans to see quite plainly that whatever Cranmer had intended to do to the English Liturgy, in most cases he had merely paraphrased the Sarum Liturgy in English.

The High Church liturgists also took a fundamentally different approach to the Romanists. Instead of accepting wholesale the Liturgical culture of contemporary Rome, and updating their liturgies in line with the latest prescriptions from the Vatican, the High Churchmen took a more measured approach, focusing on the good and authentic aspects of the Prayerbook liturgy and living out that Liturgy according to their understanding of the Church's Apostolic history: They made the Eucharist the principle Sunday service, and fiercely defended the daily Office against the proliferation of daily celebrations and evening Masses. They encouraged devout Communion at one principle Sunday service rather than banning it at High Celebrations as the Romanists did. They were keen on continuity with the Medieval Church whilst also proposing that the institution was in need of reform, and they only very cautiously introduced aspects of Medieval Liturgy, and rarely invented new services. The sorts of things they did bring back were authentic and original to the context, and they delighted in their Englishness.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Restoration

The classical liturgical movement finds its greatest strength when it can critically look at the pre-conciliar state of affairs, neither demonizing it, nor canonizing it, giving an honest assessment of those areas where genuine renewal and restoration can occur. If Low Mass was too prevalent, then this we address. If the liturgy had become usurped by private devotions, this we address so as to restore the primacy of liturgical prayer and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If chant, that sung prayer par excellence, was still not yet being practiced with regularity and vigour, so too do we address this. This should not be understood as a critique of the classical liturgy. Far from it. What we are actually saying is that these other extraneous things have shrouded the full beauty and depth of the classical liturgy and we wish to remove that veil so that the fullness of its beauty and depth may shine through. Equally as reasonable should we look at the developments that had occurred in our liturgical vesture, just as we should examine the modern liturgical art and music present today, and critically assess whether it best represents the depth of our liturgical tradition, or whether instead it is more representative of the accidents, even excesses, of a particular era, be that the modern era, or the Enlightenment.

In the case of these styles, one must of course be careful to not dogmatize them. But one can suggest that perhaps this or that style is more representative of our tradition, and thus also a more dignified, solemn and fitting expression, in much the way we can speak of chant as being particularly suited to the character of the liturgy, iconography a particularly venerable form of liturgical art, or the gothic as well suited to our Catholic churches ...

I believe that such restorations, particularly of our most ancient and longstanding of vesture, put hand in hand with the restoration of our chant would manifestly increase the edification of the faithful, and help restore the depth of our liturgical tradition, spirituality and symbolism. Further it may even help regain for men a strong sense of their vocation in the Church, alongside that of women. These things represent amongst the finest periods of our tradition, including the patristic period and the great ages of Faith, the ages of the Cathedrals of Europe. Particularly in an era when many men feel that religion is the domain of women, it is a matter worthy our attention and consideration.

Pointless polemics and fruitless fetishizing are not required.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Priest, Deacon, Acolyte & Lector

Like the deacon, who would wear the dalmatic, the subdeacon could wear the tunic. However, out of a desire for less solemnity, both the deacon and subdeacon could omit the wearing of their traditional outer vestment. This would leave the deacon wearing a transverse stole over the alb and the subdeacon wearing only the alb. With the resulting Ministry of Acolyte in 1972, the vestment proper to this Ministry is now the alb (which is the vestment also common to Instituted Lectors). Any mention of the Tunic has now disappeared from the documents in relation to the OF since 1972, just as any mention of the maniple has not been seen since 1967. This would seem to spell the end of the Tunic for an Instituted Acolyte in the OF, but liturgical law is very interesting.

It is interesting to look at the mind of the Church in regards to the Ministry of Acolyte, does it not have any of the character of the subdeacon? In the apostolic letter Ministeria quædam, we find the following provision. Two ministries, adapted to present-day needs, are to be preserved in the whole Latin Church, namely, those of lector and acolyte. The functions heretofore assigned to the subdeacon are entrusted to the lector and the acolyte; consequently, the major order of subdiaconate no longer exists in the Latin Church. There is, however, no reason why the acolyte cannot be called a subdeacon in some places, at the discretion of the conference of bishops. There seems to be some connection in the mind of the Church.

Building on this we find in the Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 65:

"The vestment common to ministers of every rank is the alb, tied at the waist with the cincture, unless it is made to fit without a cincture. An amice should be be put on first if the alb does not completely cover the minister's street clothing at the neck. A surplice may not be substituted for the alb when the chasuble or dalmatic is to be worn or when a stole is used instead of the chasuble or dalmatic. When a surplice is worn, it must be worn with the cassock.

Acolytes, readers, and other ministers may wear other lawfully approved vesture in place of the vestments already mentioned."

The last provision is very interesting. It is for the Bishop to approve other vesture. Other vesture has often come to mean, street clothes, but this need not be limited to it. Could not the Bishop approve the use of a Tunic for an Instituted Acolyte?

Or they could just wear nicely apparelled amices and albs,
as these Dominicans once did.

Father says

At two other liturgical blogs there is a great debate going on between two liturgists of different perspectives, each claiming infallibility at it concerns the current day liturgical landscape.

The progressive thinks that the reformed Mass of Pope Paul VI is far superior to the Mass celebrated during Vatican II and before.

The traditionalist thinks that the Mass celebrated during Vatican II and before is the better format for the Mass.

I won't go into the details because some of it is like trying to count the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

Let me just say that the major principles of Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium and to a certain extent the other documents of Vatican II apply to the whole Church and the liturgy in terms of whatever form is chosen.

That's the change all of us must accept. Today the Church in the Latin Rite has up to three variations from official policy. The Ordinary Form, the Extraordinary Form and the Anglican Use. Get use to it!

The theology that the Church, Head and members gathers for the liturgy applies to all the liturgies there are in the Church both east and west. That's the way it is. That's our ecclesiology, each doing what is prescribe for each in the liturgy, bishop, priest, deacon, acolyte, lector, choir member, laity.

All liturgies of the Church are communal, bar none!

All liturgies of the Church make visible the Church (Militant, Suffering and Triumphant) in the various visible gatherings of the Church wherever that gathering is!

All Liturgies of the Church contain the Word of God, some have more, some have less. The EF has more, the OF has a broader lectionary but less Scripture per Mass than the EF!

BOTTOM LINE: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass make present in an unbloody, sacramental way, the Passion of Our Lord, broadly understood as the Paschal Mystery. And the Sacrificial Banquet is shared in the Rite of Holy Communion in the worthy reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord at the Priest's communion and the Communion of the laity.

Full, conscious and actual participation is required in all forms of the liturgy, the three official ones now in the Latin Rite and of course in all the different forms of the Divine Liturgy in the East. This is required no matter the language used, with Latin preeminent common, neutral sacral language in the Latin Rite.

All liturgies when prayed as prescribed, with attention to detail, art, movement, beauty and with scrupulous attention to the full, conscious and active participation of both the clergy and laity are equal in majesty, doctrine, dogma, ecclesiology and finally the most important, the salvation of souls!

We have many forms on the one Latin Rite and more forms in the Eastern Rite! Get use to it and get over it!


As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

  • protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;
  • recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;
  • the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

These principles are not truths of faith, even though they receive further light and confirmation from faith; they are inscribed in human nature itself and therefore they are common to all humanity. The Church’s action in promoting them is therefore not confessional in character, but is addressed to all people, prescinding from any religious affiliation they may have. On the contrary, such action is all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, because this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, a grave wound inflicted onto justice itself.

The real divide

The “radical” school rejects the view that Catholicism and liberal democracy are fundamentally compatible. Rather, liberalism cannot be understood to be merely neutral and ultimately tolerant toward (and even potentially benefitting from) Catholicism. Rather, liberalism is premised on a contrary view of human nature (and even a competing theology) to Catholicism. Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

Because of these positions, the “radical” position—while similarly committed to the pro-life, pro-marriage teachings of the Church—is deeply critical of contemporary arrangements of market capitalism, is deeply suspicious of America’s imperial ambitions, and wary of the basic premises of liberal government. It is comfortable with neither party, and holds that the basic political division in America merely represents two iterations of liberalism—the pursuit of individual autonomy in either the social/personal sphere (liberalism) or the economic realm (“conservatism”—better designated as market liberalism). Because America was founded as a liberal nation, “radical” Catholicism tends to view America as a deeply flawed project, and fears that the anthropological falsehood at the heart of the American founding is leading inexorably to civilizational catastrophe. It wavers between a defensive posture, encouraging the creation of small moral communities that exist apart from society—what Rod Dreher, following Alasdair MacIntyre, has dubbed “the Benedict Option”—and, occasionally, a more proactive posture that hopes for the conversion of the nation to a fundamentally different and truer philosophy and theology.

Essays on Ceremonial (1904)