Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"An Interior Reconciliation in the Heart of the Church"

David Sullivan, associate editor of Sacred Music, offers this thoughtful reflection on the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum:

The date July 7, 2007 marks an important anniversary of the liturgy of the Roman Rite, the day when Pope Benedict XVI gave to the Church his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, the long-awaited document that liberated the traditional form of the Mass of the Roman Rite, as embodied in the Missale Romanum of 1962, promulgated by Blessed John XXIII.

On this anniversary, I encourage both those Catholics who love the traditional Roman Mass and those who cherish the work of the Second Vatican Council to give thanks to the Lord and to Pope Benedict for his bold act that allows a greater freedom for the traditional Mass than had been allowed in practice before, and that also highlights for the continuity between the tradition of the Latin Rite within the reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council. On this day, we can offer the prayers Te Deum laudamus and Oremus pro pontifice nostro Benedicto, and encourage those who read this to do so.

For those who love the traditional Mass, the motu proprio gives a greater freedom for priests to offer the traditional form, and for the laity to assist at it. It reassures us that “this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted,” and that “what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too,” as the Holy Father noted in his letter accompanying the motu proprio. What a tremendous change those ideas are from the decades of marginalization we had experienced before!

Likewise, for those who cherish the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the freedom granted by the motu proprio to the traditional, or “extraordinary,” form of Mass, recalls some norms of the Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Consilium that have been observed often in the breach, for example: “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely requires them" (¶23); “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (¶36); “The treasury of sacred music is to preserved and cultivated with great care” (¶114); “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place (in Latin, principem locum, which can well be translated ‘first place’) in liturgical services.” (¶116); “care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those part of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (¶54). In the rush to implement certain aspects of the Council’s teachings—such as active participation and use of the vernacular—the teachings noted here have been widely downplayed, if not ignored. In effect, Summorum Pontificum calls the Church to a more balanced implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter to bishops, Pope Benedict explained his “positive reason” for this motu proprio, “a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church,” and “to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.” In this spirit, I invite all Catholics to offer a prayer for Pope Benedict, the successor of Peter, and for unity in the Church of Christ.
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