One of the wonderful things about the expression “Reform of the Reform” is its realistic acceptance of the forward motion of history. Where are we now? it asks. Where should we be? How do we get there from here?

One sees this attitude reflected in the inexhaustible liturgical resources provided here and here by the Church Music Association of America. While keeping in mind the heights of glory to which we are called–an earthly liturgy that almost seamlessly unites the People of God with the sublimity and splendor of the heavenly liturgy which it truly joins–these resources are above all practical. They allow parishes to move forward, step by step, into a new and more abundant liturgical life.

Some years ago I heard a bishop who is very much attached to the liturgical reforms of the last century speak in an academic context. His refrain throughout his lecture surprised me very much. He said over and over, “We do not need a reform of the reform!”

I couldn’t help wondering why this particular aspect of the Church’s life–its source and summit, according to the Second Vatican Council–should alone be exempt from the rule Ecclesia semper reformanda est. Is there one particular moment in our swiftly moving time, either in the sixteenth century or the twentieth, at which the Church completes its self-examination and stops growing?

The Lord said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” And this seems to be a good rule of thumb as we move forward in the liturgical reform in the new generation, some of whose young leaders of my acquaintance were barely alive yet in the twentieth century, with all its upheavals and revolutions, and perhaps something of an attitude of self-sufficiency.

What are the liturgical forms that best express the truths of faith and the relationship that the Church has with God? What are the forms of liturgical expression that lead right back into secularism? What forms accurately reflect the relationship that we enjoy with God? What liturgical expressions encourage ecclesial vocations? Is liturgically contemplative prayer possible? Is conversion? What musical atmospheres truly enhance the sacred  texts, so that the living and effective Word of God can be heard afresh by the human heart?

3 Replies to “Forward!”

  1. Very good questions to "ponder in our hearts" as church musicians and, when the time is right, to ask in our particular situations.

  2. Thank you, Ronald, I agree.

    In local situations we sometimes have the same confusion about forms as we sompray.etimes seem to have in the universal Church. The future is not the 60s, not when I first picked up a guitar. The future lies ahead of us and past the lifespan of you and me. And the key question is not whether we are with the times, but whether our young people are learning to pray.

  3. Kathy,

    That is an excellent way to put it – "whether our young people are learning to pray." I was part of the first generation formed in the liturgy (and otherwise) after Vatican II. When I survey the lives of my contemporaries in middle age, noticing how many of them have left the Church and drifted off into a comfortable (and, ironically, tortured) secularism, the answer is a resounding, "No." Many of us, when we were young, were not taught lasting habits of prayer – liturgical or private. Time to try something new, as they say!

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