Thoughts on Liturgy and “Labels”

Extended from a Facebook post:
I guess I’m what some people would call a “neo-traditionalist,” which basically means, when it comes to liturgy, nobody likes me. My preferred liturgy in the Roman Rite is the “Novus Ordo”/”Ordinary Form” practiced “correctly,” with the options that are more in keeping with Roman and/or Eastern tradition rather than complete novelties, though ultimately I feel most “at home” in the Byzantine Rite. I respect the “Extraordinary Form” in all its “forms” (High/Low/Low with hymns) and would attend it if available, but I don’t think it’s obligatory, and if I had my choice between the two, I would go with the Paul VI Mass over the Tridentine.
as a “movement,” theologically, I have serious problems with the “Charismatic Renewal,” though, as individuals, some of the finest Catholics I’ve known have been “Charismatics” (though, also, some of the most evil Catholics have been Charismatics, as well). Similarly and conversely, I theologically agree with “Traditionalism” but find that “Traditionalists” as individuals tend to the same two extremes. In that vein, I don’t see why “ordinary Catholics” tend to identify all traditionalists with the bad apples but take offense at associating the Charismatic Renewal with its “bad apples” (e.g., the ones who say things like, “You’re sick because you don’t have Faith.”)
I can’t stand “folk” or “contemporary” Masses in general, especially since they almost always involve some sort of abuse, but unless the abuse directly relates to the Consecration or renders the priest heretical, I’ll attend them if I have to. Distractions just force me to do a better job recollecting myself.
I understand the differences between “liturgical,” “artistic” and “personal taste,” and try to handle these discussions accordingly. The fact that I consider something “inappropriate for liturgy” doesn’t *necessarily* mean I don’t “like” it; on the other hand, like many, the more I’ve read on liturgy, the more I’ve come to dislike a lot of songs. My two favorite hymns are “Now We Remain” and “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” (not “our”; “horizontal inclusive language” is OK, but in some areas we should just leave things the way they were written). I don’t see what’s wrong with including “On Eagle’s Wings” or “I Am the Bread of Life” in the Liturgy so long as they’re balanced with chant and “old fashioned” hymns and appropriate to both the tone and theme of the particular liturgy. However, I can’t stand “One Bread, One Body” and others that twist Scripture to promote an agenda. There are other folk/contemporary “hymns” that I don’t think are appropriate for liturgy but I don’t mind in a concert or recorded context. I’m in the “‘Amazing Grace’ seems too Protestant for Mass” camp, but I’m OK with other “traditional” Protestant hymns that don’t touch specifically on areas of theological contention. The recent tendency of “youth masses” to include “contemporary Christian” “praise and worship” music of the “all you have to do is change ‘Jesus’ to ‘baby'” variety is very disturbing.
I recognize the Vatican II call for “organic” development of liturgy, and insist from those who would change the liturgy that the changes, minimally, conform to that standard.
Melodically, as the preface to the original _Grail Psalter_ says, sacred music should emphasize the words, in keeping with the principle that “He who sings prays twice.” The role of liturgical music is to be catechetical. That is no more recognized than by the likes of Marty Haugen, the liberal Lutheran who has used the popularity of his music to push his agenda on the Catholic Church. If something has to be “explained,” it’s not appropriate for Mass. If something qualifies as a “performance,” it’s probably not appropriate for Mass (and that applies on both extremes). Both Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Arinze have said that “If there is applause at Mass, something has gone terribly wrong.” On the other hand, one of the purposes of liturgical music is to provide time for meditation, and there should be points of non-congregational singing to allow for that.
I appreciate the position that we must give our best efforts to God (the “I wish Francis were more like Benedict; a Pope should reflect his office” side of me), but I also appreciate the position that we should reach out to the “common folk” to get them into Church to begin with (the side of me that thinks Francis is on the right track). Yet again, we must be careful that we’re not “bringing people in” under false pretenses, and there should be a timelessness to the Liturgy, which is by definition Timeless, that is not held up by constantly changing to suit the latest “fashions” (which are often themselves several years behind).

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2 responses to “Thoughts on Liturgy and “Labels”

  1. You and I are a lot closer than I’ve previously thought.

    Tomorrow night I get to be on the Liturgical Commission for my rather liberal and heterodox parish, where historically abuses have been the norm, but where we are struggling with a transition to a much more orthodox priest. Pray for me.

  2. Will do!

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