Father Christopher Smith posted an outstanding article on the development of liturgy over at the Chant Café. It’s a balanced and scholarly look at the history of the liturgical movement, as well as the unfortunate tensions and misunderstandings that we experience to this day when it comes to liturgical leanings and schools of thought. Most interesting is Fr. Smith’s comparison between what he calls the “Benedictine liturgical model” and the “Jesuit liturgical model.” (He is actually developing a bit further an idea put forward in an article by Peter Kwasniewski that appeared at the Chant Café’s sister site, the New Liturgical Movement. Both sites are managed by a savvy group of liturgical scholars and trained musicians, and are among my top sources for liturgical insights.) Here is just a short passage from Fr. Smith’s liturgical study, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety.
Under the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, and to a lesser degree, St. John Paul II, Rome expressed a clear predilection of teaching based on the intuition of the first school that the liturgy was the source and summit of Christian life and is something received by the Church. That teaching did not entirely exclude aspects of the other two schools. The fact that Summorum pontificum was not an express repudiation of the liturgical reform is evidence of influence of the second school, of a pastoral orientation to the liturgy which recognizes the possibility of change. The fact that even the liturgical experimentation of groups such as the Neocatechumenal Way were not entirely quashed is evidence of the influence of the third school. The “Benedictine” model of liturgy, re-elaborated in our time by Benedict XVI, was a call to the essential insight of Vatican II that the liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life. That this model was not imposed by legislative fiat was a recognition that this vision has not reached every cell of the Church’s life, and that the liturgical battles had to come to an end before this model could be peacefully received. It was a sign of hope that the renewal of the Church promised by Vatican II, the new Pentecost, would be a fruit of the Spirit, and not merely the fruit of another papal document.
His explanation of the liturgical approach of the current (Jesuit) Holy Father is quite insightful and balanced.
And while we’re on a liturgical theme here, I came across another first-rate, back-to-basics article from 2009 that appeared in First Things entitled, True Development of the Liturgy by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.
Cardinal Ratzinger explains how “one shudders at the lackluster face of the postconciliar liturgy as it has become, or one is bored with its banality and its lack of artistic standards.” This is not to lay the responsibility for what happened solely on the members of the Consilium. But some of their approaches were weak. There indeed was a general spirit of uncritical giving in on certain matters to the rabble-rousing spirit of the era, even within the Church (most visibly in some sectors and geographic regions). Some of those in authority at the level of the Sacred Congregation of Rites also showed signs of weakness in this matter. Too many indults were given on certain requirements of the norms.
So grab your tablet, find a local café, pull up these great articles and enjoy the afternoon!