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.

8 Replies to “Tradition and Progress”

  1. "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."

    Could someone explain or give an example of this "NEW WAY of thinking about the liturgy and its purpose?" (Sorry for the naive request, but it's too vague for me.)

  2. The Council always tried to cover all bases with equivocating and confusing language. It's little wonder the episcopal conferences hijacked the
    liturgical movement from Paul VI, archbishop Bugnini, and cardinals Sira and Ottaviani.

    Benedict XVI can direct, teach, and legislate to his heart's content. The bishops will still give him and his motu proprio and the instructions from the CDW lip service and do precisely as they please. They have since 1969 and I don't see the situation changing in the future. The pope lives in a Twilight Zone of unchallenged papal feudalism, but the reality is the bishops ignore him and go about doing as they wish.

  3. Regarding tradition, Bishops in the United States (and I assume Europe and worldwide) have apparently conspired to thoroughly suppress the Roman Canon (i.e., Euch. Prayer No. 1). Indeed, so much so that one would think that whenever they count, they start with the number "2."

    I recall my days as a choir boy and altar boy, immersed in chant, singing The Reproaches on Good Friday, and hearing the roll-call of the martyrs in the Roman Canon: "we honour Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all the saints. May their merits and prayers gain us your constant help and protection."

    The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Bishops' Conferences should be challenged about restoring the primacy of the Roman Canon.

    For many Bishops, lifting the suppression of The Roman Canon would be "a new way of thinking about the liturgy."

  4. I wrote a letter some months ago to the CDWDS humbly asking that they consider some way of re-introducing the Roman Canon, e.g., by mandating its use on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. This would be a huge step forward. I have not received a reply, though I did not expect to do so.

  5. @ Anonymous 9:30 pm:

    I applaud you for writing the CDWDS. I wonder if there is a way that like-minded people could unify around that and amplify our voices?

  6. Has anyone ever seen a comparative liturgical analysis of Euch Prayer # 1 versus #2 by a traditionally grounded theologian?

  7. The article is, I guess accurate, in saying that Sacrosanctum Concilium "encouraged the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant in parishes," but a bit disingenuous, since the Holy Father did not speak of these things in his talk.

    The talk was on occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute as part of the conference celebrating the occasion. As a doctoral student at the PIL, I was in attendance.

  8. As for what the "new way of thinking of the liturgy" is, it is precisely what has still not happened 40 years after the council. That is, to receive the inner content of the liturgy in all its theological and spiritual force – capable of transforming us.

    His comment that the liturgy has at times been seen as an object to be reformed rather than a subject capable of renewing the Christian life gets to the heart of the matter. That subject is alive in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary forms – it is Christ. Until we see the liturgy as a living force, truly a "font" of the Christian life, the "new way of thinking" will not be realized. In fact, the desire of the council, seen in this way, has still not been realized.

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