I recently wrote a rambling and somewhat poorly structured essay exploring some thoughts I have been having regarding "ideal" liturgy and the nature of liturgical tradition. I wanted to get the ideas out, since the ideas are more important than literary quality, but I won't have time in the next few days to really give it a good once-over for editing and coherence. So, I'm not publishing it here, but rather posting it at my own blog.
The basic idea is this: There is no such thing as ideal liturgical praxis, only a lived tradition. This means that rather then theorizing about what is the essential aspect of the ideal (the Proper texts, the original melodies, the Latin language), we rather must live with and live into the received tradition (Gregorian Chant, the Graduale Propers, Sacred Polyphony, etc) before we can even begin to think about what new treasures should find a place in the storehouse.
To speak of an ideal form of the Mass suggests that either there is some original source for the Mass music which we need recover, or that there is some etherworldly quintessential Mass which we must strive (failingly) to emulate, or that the celebration of Liturgy developed to its intended apex at some time in the past and the job of all liturgists since that time should have been the preservation of that climactic style. None of these is acceptable, though that last one seems pretty common among various branches of tradderrie.
The first-source of the Mass, the “ideal” which all celebrations of the Divine Liturgy point to, is the sacrifice of Calvary- a decidedly unmusical event.
Read "Tradition and Ideals" at my (other) blog...
(And if you do read it, feel free to offer any suggestions on tightening up a bit.)