Ecclesia Orans has completed twenty years of publishing by the professors and alumni of the Pontificai Institute of Liturgy and other liturgical scholars and is entering into its “majority” in the field of academic liturgical studies with the present volume twenty-one. The editor and staff hope the articles and reviews in these issues have been of profit to our readers and the future issues will likewise be so. As in the past we extend a warm welcome to those who would like to submit items to the journal for consideration.
It is now over forty years since the promulgation of the Magna Charta of liturgical renewal, Sacrosanctum Concilium. In the context of this conciliar document the Preside of the PIL considers the question of the language of liturgical reform. He insists on the importance of the theology and language of the Paschal Mystery in the Second Vatican Council and in the revised liturgical books produced consequently.
Despite the recent celebrations of the anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the initial enthusiasm for the reform of the Roman liturgy has on the part of many given way to a certain disinterest or even apathy. This does not seem to be the case with the on-going revision of the Anglican liturgy as can be seen in Professor Leachman’s article in the present number on the Initiation Services and in the previous volume on the Eucharistic Prayers.
Why the difference between people’s reactions to liturgical reform? Why is there a refusal to accept diverse liturgical expressions of the same christian faith? From where does the controversy arise?
The diversity comes in part from the operative idea of the nature and purpose of christian worship. The question has kindled debate from the early days of the Church as can be seen in the study of Sister Kim on Augustine. There has always been the danger to which Augustine reacts of interpreting liturgy through the lens of pagan sacrifice and real or pseudo mystery cults. Thus the Church has insisted on worship “in Spirit and in truth” (Roman Canon), i.e. rites marked by “noble simplicity” and “within the people’s power of comprehension” (SC 34). Elaborate mystic unintelligibility has, to be sure, sometimes been produced within certain historical and cultural contexts, but it was not deliberately intended.
A second source of variance is the underlying ecclesiology of the people involved. There is anintimate and constant interdependence between Church and liturgy as Professor Militello insists in her recent book on the Church, subtitled “The Anointed Body”, that Professor Augé presents to our readers. If one begins with a model of the Church as anointed people of God, it gives a particular focus to the liturgy as action and as language. Other models will produce very different understandings of liturgy, its language and its rites.
Liturgical change, by whatever name one calls it -renewal, revision, reform, aggiornamento, adaptation, inculturation, etc. – has always been operative even in the most static periods. Christian worship will continue to change because it has not reached perfection and never will. The texts and rubrics of the rites celebrated are imperfect human products, though they serve a sacred action that is a synergy of the divine and the human. The efforts of some to clothe liturgical forms and prayers with an inviolability akin to the Sacred Scriptures is misplaced and exaggerated.
Change can be frustrating, and on-going changes even more so. Some have spoken more strongly of disillusionment with the renewed liturgy. It is more a disappointment that new books and the use of the vernacular languages have not miraculously solved the spiritual and moral malaise of individuai believers, of communities and of our world. Liturgy cannot provide conversion and faith; it presupposes them.
If anything produces disillusionment it is the deleterious effect of “ideologies” – liturgical integralism, fundamentalism, even fanaticism – where there should be toleration, pluralism and coexistence. Speaking and writing about liturgical reforms as dangerous and destabilizing, not to say wrong-headed, does create confusion and disillusionment on all sides. The constant repetition of such unjust accusations generates a myth that takes on a new life of its own. Yes, many are disillusioned, but by the sight of members of the Church of various ranks making a battleground of the sacred liturgy. The continual de-legitimization of the efforts of a liturgical renewal carried out by the official organs of the Church breeds a credibility gap on all levels and in ali areas.
Everything can be seen from a multitude of perspectives as Ephrem the Deacon maintains in his Hymn on the Pearl – ali of them partial and none of them definitive. People tend to absolutize things that are not absolute reality and forget the distinction between relative and absolute. This creates illusory absolutes; in reality our perceptions are multiple depending on the knowledge and point of view of the observer. When this inherent relativity of liturgical texts and rites is recognized, it is easier to be tolerant with the natural pluralism that is present. Thus ali may hear and respond to the paschal invitation: “Peace be with you!”.