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.

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