Sunday, April 20, 2008

Amy Welborn on Benedict's attachment to "tradition" & Vatican II

Et Cum Spiritu Tuo, by Amy Welborn ("A Papal Discussion") - Amy Welborn gives the New York Times a brief lesson on Benedict's understanding of the liturgy and continuity:

The popular way of characterizing Benedict’s support of these elements in liturgy is some rather undefined attachment to “tradition,” leaving the impression that it’s all about taste, aesthetics or a fear of the new.

But that doesn’t even come close to what Benedict’s program is about.

As a Vatican II Baby (born in 1960, totally post-Vatican II formation), I can tell you that the religious sensibility of the time in which I was catechized was totally about the “new.” The Church had dispensed with all the nonsense of most of the past 2,000 years as culturally bound, confining accretions, and it was time to move on. Wasn’t that what Vatican II was all about?


Benedict is all about saying: “Wait. Maybe not.”

The best and briefest synthesis of Benedict’s thinking on this can be found in the letter accompanying his “Motu Proprio” loosening restrictions on the pre-Vatican II Mass (not the “Latin Mass” for the root text of even the post-Vatican II missal is Latin).

In it, he wrote: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

There is a lot more to say about this — for example, practical reasons that every Catholic should be familiar with the Latin text of the Mass — why, in a multicultural church, should mixed congregations either have to be subject to the cultural imperialism of one ethnic group’s language (aka. English) or cut at the symbolism of the unity we share by using a number of different languages? Isn’t it more powerful to have all of praying in a shared, ancient language with a sacred resonance?

As Amy goes on to admit, "although I am very supportive of the Pope’s action “freeing” the Extraordinary Form (pre-Vatican II Mass), that form of the Mass is not something I am entirely comfortable with" -- but the more she reads of Pope Benedict's thought on the liturgy, she is "resting less easy with my dismissal of that form." Being a convert and one solely accustomed to the Novus Ordo ("New Mass"), and only recently discovering the riches of centuries prior, I can relate.