Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Point and Counterpoint

So, this is a rather interesting blog. The guy seems to share my basic medievalist, historically grounded, and Eastward-looking liturgical aesthetics, but takes them to a rather absolutist extreme of idealism.

For example, as much as prefer the Solemn High Mass and dislike the "Low Mass mentality"...I'd never dream of banning the Low. His historical analysis regarding it is absolutely correct, but that doesn't mean we can't have both, that we can't restore the older fullness while also keeping the newer developments.

It doesn't have to be either/or, it can be both/and. Part of my own liturgical maximalism is making room for as much tradition as possible even if, from a purely historical consideration, this means a certain redundancy or keeping two things originally designed to fulfill the same function.

But, there is a certain restorationist logic that would restore things to their original fullness, but then get rid of all the parallel accretions that developed from the (perhaps, admittedly, "unideal") abbreviations and adaptations.

So, for example, he would get rid of Low Mass in favor of concelebration in monasteries and chapter churches, like the oldest practice. I, on the other hand, would indeed restore concelebration of the Conventual Mass (with the abbot as main celebrant) but then would
also have the monks still say their private Low Masses (they certainly couldn't take a separate stipend merely for concelebrating!)

But a strict purism doesn't allow for that sort of thing, and so you'll see things like eucharistic adoration being critiqued by that logic.

I think, however, that the perfect shouldn't be made the enemy of the good. Though we certainly should be careful and have certain safeguards in those situations where the lesser good might become the enemy of the more ideal (as happened with Low Mass which, once allowed, came to be used simply out of laziness instead of High; or where Adoration or the Rosary are emphasized over and above actual Liturgy).

His critique of ultramontanism, support for vernacular liturgy ala the Orthodox, and promotion of restoring public Office to parishes, however, are quite intriguing, and have my full sympathy, of course.

However, Arturo Vasquez at Reditus has critiqued him here, and I can't say I disagree with those critiques either. They are also spot-on.

Fascinating stuff.

Things are happening, people. I'm starting to feel like there really is a non-conformist "movement" of some sort going on within traditionalism, with a vigorous internal dialogue.


sortacatholic said...

I sense ripples in the trad pool as well. Even on NLM there's a growing split between those interested in the philology, history, and theology of the Eucharist and those who fuss about how many jewels are on a mitre.
Now people who prefer a more restrained, less theatrical liturgy are being called "protestant traditionalists". Count me in. A lot of the Masses showcased on NLM are a bit too fruity for me.

This blog is interesting. Does the blogger really think that your average parish ferial Mass will be solemn? There will always be a need for the Low Mass. Parishes should try to celebrate one missa cantata a week. I like a reverently said Low Mass. We all need silence for prayer and reflection.

Blogger's a bit of snot though. He is more than a bit condescending to those who don't read Latin. I read Latin, and there are a heck of a lot of Catholics that don't read Latin and are much more holy than I'll ever be.

Patricius said...

Thanks for your referral. I have added you to my blogroll too.

My feud with Traditionalism (especially Traditionalism of the post-Motu Proprio era) is that it idealises Catholicism of the Counter Reformation period (or, among the less informed kind, Catholicism of the 1950s), which was a period of rapid liturgical decline and decadance. And so Traditionalists favour such things as Low Mass, Benediction, side Altars in churches, and other considerably late accretions and are therefore less interested in the restoration and renewal in parish life of real Liturgy - sung Office and High Mass.

I do hope that you continue to read my blog. I may come across as condescending sometimes but this is usually when I am frustrated with something. A respected reader of my blog counselled me to take a break and carry on with a less passioned and more objective perspective.

A Sinner said...

Yes, I totally agree. That's what "Renegade Trads" is all about. Counter-reformation (or "1950ism") awful, and its authoritarian types have maintained a monopoly for too long on what could be a viable movement (if it weren't so right-wing-crazy).

Email privately, if you'd like, I'd love to talk some more about these things.

Jonathan said...

I disagree with a few of Arturo's critiques:

"Most people who criticize scholasticism, “neo-“ or otherwise, have little idea of what “scholasticism” actually is. Long ago have I stopped listening to those people."

To quote a friend of mine: "It tries to rationalise that which is beyond rationality.It exalts the intellect."

To add my own musings, Arturo is coming from the angle of a very LATIN view of Catholicism. Sad as it is, this is something I mentioned before in one of your entries. As a result of The Schism, Scholasticism came to be viewed as the SOLE language for The Church. The reality is that its a LOCAL LATIN form of speech. Had The Churches stayed in communion, it would have been used for The Latin Church ONLY. We'll HOPEFULLY one day see The Church speaking through a UNIVERSAL speech (ie. Patristics) as she once did. That IS The Lingua Franca of The Church.

"If Communion under both kinds were possible in the Western Church without looking or being ridiculous or irreverent, I would be all for it."

Arturo does realize that intinction is not the sole way of receiving under BOTH species right ?

As taken from Wanton Popery:

"You might also mention the possibility of, yes, "traditional communion on the hand"...which they do in some Anglican churches. The people kneel with their hands under the altar-rail cloth, the priest comes a long and puts a host on them, and the deacon follows, intincts the host, and then puts it on their tongue."

True its not Traditional for The Latin Church, but then again what is T/tradition ?

"Once a tradition is dead, it’s dead. Otherwise, you are just playacting."

Isn't that currently The Traditionalist Movement ?

"“Low Mass” is actually one of the highest forms of art in Western civilization. I say this not just to be contrarian. I think that, when performed by the book, it resembles kabuki theatre or a Japanese tea ceremony. Aside from the aesthetical aspect, however, I think it is stark in its preserving of the ancient ideas of theurgy. It does look very “hocus pocus”, but that is sort of the point, isn’t it?"

I think he was missing the point there. Its not that The Low Form isn't good enough, its that Traditionalist shouldn't bother calling themselves Traditionalists if their idea of "The Mass of The Ages" "The TLM" etc. is basically a 1 hour commitment,by which they can complain to anyone who'll listen about how they're at THE REAL MASS. I mean its pretty much a smack in the face when its not all that different from a High Mass at a NO. Sure its in Latin, but when there is less of everything you claim TRADITION to be, then please do everyone else a favour and keep your mouth shut (I'm referring to Traddies on crack, not Arturo's responses.). Like I said, I'm not against Low Masses (A Mass is a Mass after all.), but what is frustrating is when people GLORIFY The TLM, but can't commit to a High Mass. The Eastern Churches have NO concept of a Low Mass, nor was there one in the days of The Temple. Typically though, most who favour The Low Mass do so out of an aesthetic preference for memories of yesteryear, they also often has a very negative view of Eastern Liturgies for being "excessive".

Anonymous said...

While the Easterners might not have a formal "Low Mass", certainly you've been to Divine Liturgies without all the bells and whistles. I've been to what amounted to a "Pontifical Low Mass" at the Ukrainian Cathedral in Chicago not to mention multiple DLs at parishes without the full contingency, or anything close to it. They might not have the specific, formalized schemata of "Low Mass" but in practice it is done, and I've seen it.

I'm all for High and Solemn High Mass when its possible, but it takes a lot more people, talent, effort, etc. than even a cathedral can muster for every day or even every Mass on a Sunday. There is much to be said for the Low Mass, and as long as we avoid an unhealthy minimalism that would see the Low Mass as the standard and the higher forms as something decorative tacked on to be used every great once and awhile, its a great liturgy.

sortacatholic said...

Patricius said,

And so Traditionalists favour such things as Low Mass, Benediction, side Altars in churches, and other considerably late accretions and are therefore less interested in the restoration and renewal in parish life of real Liturgy - sung Office and High Mass.

I agree with you and A Sinner that the 1950s were not a golden age. This is particularly true in North America. Both my parents recall that the rushed and mechanical Low Mass was the daily fare. This is certainly no ideal. Both my parents frequently agree that Vatican II was one of the best things that happened to the TLM. And they're right on. The TLM needed its "fall from grace" to regain a semblance of piety and serious celebration.

Benediction was established to combat heresy. As for the restoration of High Mass: I've met few traditional Catholics who think that the Low Mass is the epitome of Latin liturgy.

There are other explanations so-called "liturgical minimalism." Perhaps the preference for Low Mass comes from the early to mid-20th century lay preference for an early Mass (easier to hold to the midnight fast that way.) Also in Ireland, for example, many people heard Low Mass, received, went home to eat breakfast, and then heard a non-communicating High Mass. There are historical-cultural considerations that impact aesthetic liturgical trends.

I admire those that would like to return to an early- to mid-medieval piety (frequent celebration of the sung Mass, concelebration etc.) but we've moved far beyond this point in the last thousand years. Better, then, to accept a wide range of liturgical activities even if they do not fit an ideal mold.

Jonathan said...


I've been to a "Low Liturgy" of sorts when I went for confession during the week at a Melkite Parish I used to go to for confession (I do sometimes wonder why I stopped going there, sigh*). I was the only one there, because I had scheduled confession during the week. He asked if I would stay for Liturgy and so I stayed.

I'm not saying that all the bells and whistles were out, but even what would seem a humble Liturgy had EVERY bit of pizazz that a normal Sunday Liturgy would have. The Priest chanted and all that jazz. But you see its understandable that such would be the case on a WEEKDAY, but on SUNDAY when its meant to be on point and what is done is a Low Mass, then I think theres a problem. I don't have a problem with Low Masses on weekdays, it makes sense, but on a SUNDAY, that is pushing it big time. From my experience, most Latin Catholics can not comprehend the notion of staying at Liturgy/Mass for 2-3 hours, being the normative. Most are content with a Mass being conducted anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a half (and thats a High Mass at an 1 hr 30 mins). Anything longer than that is too much. I wonder how they would feel about not having pews and kneeling on the floor and standing for the remainder of Mass ? I know I'm pushing it, but as sortacatholic mentioned in the post above me, it is more about an aesthetic of what T(t)radition was back in MY day. If people wish to be called TRADITIONALISTS, they better know and accept ALL of TRADITION and not a superficial cafeteria understanding of it.

I remember once a Trad complaining about what he termed "Risefixes" (Christ Crucified as The Risen Lord). He said they were a NO thing and all the Trads were all behind it, but once someone pointed out that they were indeed TRADITIONAL (and had the proof to back it up), everyone got rather quiet and the matter was never spoken of again. That is exactly my point, how much of Tradition is, "I remember it this way." and how much of it is bearing it in its ENTIRETY.

People make Tradition the enemy of tradition. What unites ALL Ritual Churches is their unity in RITUAL (ie how things are done upon The Altar). So a Tridentine Liturgy can be celebrated in Cantonese and as long as EVERY rubric is followed, I would assume EVERY Church regardless of language would thus be united with That Sacrifice upon The Altar.

Jonathan said...

However I must say I'm not all that BIG on the whole Greece and Rome are the best things since sliced bread, rolls eyes and gags* .

Rubricarius said...

A Sinner,

An excellent blog!

Certainly something radical needs to happen in the West. All we are seeing at the moment is a desperate attempt by Rome to restore its nineteenth century Ultramontanist power base as it plays its old game of re-writing history to that end.

The Harlequin King said...

Jonathan, I like how you got something out of my blog. I haven't updated in ages, but I'm glad some people are still finding it useful.