Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tradition and Progress

The Catholic News Agency offers a nice summary of Benedict XVI's remarks at an international liturgical conference in Rome. The Pope once again explained that tradition and progress do not need to be in conflict. "Actually, though, the two concepts are interwoven: tradition is a living reality that, in itself, includes the principle of development, of progress."

Sometimes I wonder if Americans who read these sorts of statements just gloss over them and don't think about the radical implications. If the Pope's words were taken seriously, the prevailing parameters that govern liturgical discourse in the United States would completely fall away. He is saying that tradition need not be frozen in time, and progress cannot be unhinged from its past. Tradition needs development in order to speak to new times, while true progress cannot occur without a firm foundation in what has been. It strikes me that everyone could learn from this approach. If it were taken seriously, we would have a basis for going forward.

If the news story is accurate, the Pope apparently mentioned Latin and Gregorian chant in particular as institutions that provide for the continuing between the past and the future, and he therefore urged more diligence in adhering to the clear wishes of Vatican II in this regard. He goes further to say that the purpose of the Second Vatican Council was to urge a new way of thinking about the liturgy and its purpose; it never set out to be a mandate for wholesale reconstruction and upheaval.