IT is a commonplace today to suggest that the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council are to be regretted. A powerful and vocal minority have considerably damaged the image of Pope John and the work of that Council.
Two aspects are particularly stressed. First, that the Council
made arbitrary liturgical changes without forethought or knowledge and, as it were, from scratch: and, secondly, that the main object was to accommodate the Catholic liturgy to non-Catholics. The latter object is reiterated in speech and writings.
It should be qualified that the liturgical Renaissance in the Catholic Church began many
years before the daWn of the Council, and only culminated in it. Reputable scholars in many countries advocated reform and renewal, supported by international conferences, sem in ars, Liturgical Weeks and literature.
It is certain that the Council Fathers took note of their deliberations, but nowhere did these scholars make references to accommodating non
Catholics. These prelates, priests and nuns had a thorough knowledge of liturgical history and comparative liturgy (sadly lacking in Great Britain), and thus they understood the meaning of pastoral liturgy. Their sole object was to bring liturgical prayer to the people, to encourage their participation and incidentally, to shed the "formula or incantation" approach to liturgical prayer.
They did not shirk to criticise the established form of the Mass as it was practised in their day, and they all advocated renewed Scriptural approach to the theological views of the Mass, with no thought whatsoever of accommodating themselves to non-Catholic doctrine or liturgical formularies.
Space only allows a few names of the pioneers in the Liturgical Renaissance, and it might he worth while for our present liturgical students (if there are any) to read some of their writings, remembering that these scholars were extremely orthodox.
There were Dom Lambert Beauduin, Abbot Ildefons Herwegen, Dom Damasus Winzen, Dom Rousseau and many other Benedictines on the Continent: Fr Pius Parsch, Frs Gunkel, Becker and Tillman of the Oratory; Archbishop Groeber, Fr Jungmann, Si, Ab
Inn Cabrol both in France and here; Fr H. A. Reinhold and Fr Gerald Ellard, SJ, with Dom Virgil Michel of America; and in this country, Canon Pilkington, Canon J. B. O'Connell, Fr Clifford Howell, Si, Mgr IL Francis Davis and many others. There are so many people today who look back beyond Vatican II with rose-coloured spectacles, fondly imagining that, for instance, Low Mass was both audible and a dialogue between celebrant and people, when, in fact it was not.
In many dioceses, even in this country, Dialogue Mass was actually forbidden despite the urgings of St Pius X and Pope Pius XII. In effect Dialogue Mass, which required audibility, had to be fought for and defended, and it should be remembered that very few churches were fitted with microphones in those days, simply because they were not considered necessary!
In many parts of the world the use of a Missal by,:the people was unheard of, and this country was one of the few that insisted on the reading in the vernacular of the Epistle and Gospel on Sundays.
We constantly hear that the Missal of St Pius V (1570) was, and should be, definitive for all time, ignoring the fact, as described by that very "Roman" rubricist-liturgist, Adrian Fortescue, in 1912 that the Missal had been revised by Clement VIII, Urban VIII and Leo XIII, so that the Missal in use in his day was 1884 and not 1570. Subsequent to Fortescue there were further changes, notably that of Holy Week by Pope Pius XII.
Recently some have emotionally attempted to influence others by stating that our English (and Welsh) Martyrs died for the preservation of the Mass, and this is absolute fact which no one would deny, but, the Martyrs did not die for a particular form of the Mass.
Historically, the first time that exiled British priests used the Missal of Pius V was in 1576, and not without a lot of grumbling. Previously the Sarum Use was the norm, and even after that date, through lack of printed Missals, and difficulties of communication in those troubled days, the Sarum continued to be used.
The Martyrs sacrificed themselves for the upholding of the Sacrifice of the Mass (and the Supremacy of the Papacy), and not for a particular liturgy of the Mass.
There are those, including clergy, who cast doubt on the validity of the wording of the liturgy of the Mass as laid down by the present Holy Father, in Latin and in the vernacular. In
the year before the opening of Vatican II, the Mass was celebrated in nine different ways within the Catholic Church and in a variety of languages (without mentioning the variations of the Patriarchal Sees or the religious orders).
In these different ways, or rites, the wording varied enormously even to the Words of Consecration, yet no one doubted their validity (or did they?). Surely the time has come when the idea of the liturgy of the Mass being a formula or incantation requiring one formula of words, and one set of actions to procure a result, should be jettisoned, the liturgy of the Mass being a prayer.
That the Words of Consecration should always be recited in Latin to ensure complete validity and authenticity is often advanced. Thus, why not be even more sure by using Aramaic wording?
In the present liturgy of the Mass, is it possible, taking the Latin text, to pinpoint theological errors in the Ordinary or Eucharistic Prayers? Vague suggestions are so often made, but without precise detail.
The second of the Eucharistic Prayers uses by far the greatest part of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (215). The third Prayer holds the better formularies of the Mozarabic and Gallican traditions, and the fourth is in: spired by the ancient forms of the Apostolic Constitutions, St James and St Basil.
The current selection of readings from Scripture may not be absolutely perfect, but surely they are a great improvement on the older Lectionary which was meagre, repetitious and poverty-stricken, and neglectful as far as the Old I estament was concerned.
May the day soon come when seminarians will study liturgical history and comparative liturgy, including that of the Synagogue, then the air might be cleared leading to a clear appreciation that the new Liturgy of the Mass is prayerful, intelligent and thoroughly Catholic.