BY JOHN M. Toon Culture and Liturgy, by Brian Wicker (Shoed and Ward, Its, 6d).
THE author of this brilliant analysis and prescription is concerned primarily with England, and he deserves a welcome
from all who struggle with the Church's mission.
His chapter headings read : The Contemporary Image of the Church, The Church and History, The Church and Culture, The Idea of the Liturgy, Liturgy and Literature, The Church and Industrial Society. Ultimately he is concerned with that problem which has in effect defeated the missionaries, the Church, in all five continents -the problem of 'adaptation', in the most radical sense.
Mr. Wicker gets down to a very wide ranging, well-informed and pentrating analysis of our society one thinks immediately of a similar analysis implicit in Professor Cameron's The Nigh( Battle from which he quotes.
At each analytical climax he points (he Christian way : For Christians then, the task is to continue the protesting tradition, not by trying to reverse history. but by trying themselves to create a generally acceptable body of cultural work' in literature, art, and, above all. in the Liturgy which would offer to society the kind of consistent symbolization it needs. Only Christians can do this. for only they stand in the "ideal order" which God has given to mankind. This is the crucial role of a Catholic culture in an industrial society; not to create a culture apart from the rest of society, nor a culture which is merely disguised propaganda for the Catholic faith; but to continue, creatively and progressively, the 'ideal order' of the Christian tradition in culture.
What about the detail? Mr. Wicker sees three needs: (1) A large-scale academically respectable system of adult education at parish or inter-parish level both in theological subjects and in other subjects which bear particularly closely upon the quality of a modem culture. (2) A re-discovery of the Semitic mode of thought, the creative process of liturgical understanding. (3) A more unified social structure and communal life. Nearly all of this remains on the level of generality. One hopes Mr. Wicker will dare to try, in some future work, to bridge the ghastly and enormous gap between what is Catholic parochial and Diocesan life today and what it ought to be.
No doubt his own University work involves something of this. No doubt a 'programme' is always liable to abuse. But the seminarian, the parish priest, the Knight of St. Columba, the 'Catholic Mother' will need to take some 'first steps' before they can grasp what Mr. Wicker is after, and indeed the author recognises this in the first of his desiderata.
An able and inspiring book this, much of whose special interest over a wide range of literature and its theological and Christian social relevance I have no space to mention.