Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why was Mary assumed into heaven? And: Reading Klaus Gamber


  • Why was Mary assumed into heaven? Nice Newman post from Fr. Hunwicke, but I think the answer's in the collect to the summer Marian anthem in the office, Salve regina: Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriosæ Virginis Matris Mariæ corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante præparasti... Conceived immaculate because redemption by her son isn't limited by the order of time, she's the dwelling place meet for him. True devotion to Mary is devotion to Jesus. He saves; she prays. Happy feast day.
  • Finally reading Klaus Gamber and liking it very much of course: The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background. Great companion read with Dom Bernard Botte's orthodox but liberal-enthused From Silence to Participation, written around the same time, not long after the Novus Ordo came out. I'm not sure about all his facts but of course the overall message is right: the rewriting of the services was a mistake! I'm don't think the Roman Rite is the oldest liturgy, that the Roman Canon is the oldest Eucharistic consecration prayer. Most say the Nestorians' (no institution narrative!) is the oldest anaphora still in use. He's very sympathetic to the Christian East, comparing the traditional Mass favorably to it and not the Novus Ordo. (He doesn't buy the nonsense that adding a modified Eastern anaphora, a descending epiclesis, and vocational deacons make something more Eastern, and he respects rites so he's against mixing them anyway.) He writes as if there were a new missal in 1965 while I've been told it was just instructions modifying 1962's; anyway he says '65 was supposed to be the extent of the changes as many/most Catholics thought.

    Msgr. Gamber blames the Novus Ordo on several things, including estrangement from the Christian East (but I understand our rites still resemble each other not only because they're all Catholic but because the extinct Gallican Rite that was mixed into the Roman Rite had Eastern influence, I think from the Copts) and the rise of individualistic devotional piety as liturgical piety declined (a common complaint of liturgical-movement priests). Very interesting: liberals, modernizers interested in the common good, have tried to co-opt (own) the church before: during the "Enlightenment"! There were rationalists among Catholics who, like the English and early American leaders (the Anglicans), thought the supernatural stories in the Bible weren't true so religion's main purpose is to keep the proles well-behaved, so you had kings, governments, corrupting the national churches by having priests preach mainly on obeying the state (C.S. Lewis: "Christianity and" social causes is not really Christianity anymore) and even with "liturgical reform," cutting up the services (disobeying Rome) and substituting hymns for the church's actual chants, which have scripture, etc. (Gamber says this happened to the Germans.) So Catholic life took a hit at the "Enlightenment" (not as bad as the Anglicans but similar); Vatican II sort of finished the job.

    The liturgical movement before the council started to go off the rails with Pius Parsch's and others' well-meant poor or nonexistent scholarship based on "pastoral reasons": innovations in the services just because people seemed to like them (Gamber blames Catholic youth Masses even back then, in the '30s) and assuming that versus populum was ancient. (Some churches' altars, such as St. Peter's, Rome, accidentally face the people because they literally face east.)

    The changes weren't necessary and were backfiring, making people leave the church rather than producing fervent, well-taught communities Christianizing the world (the reformers' stated aim), even back in the '70s.

    Papal authority has its limits. Most people don't know that about the church! Can the Pope change or abolish a rite going back to antiquity, even being apostolic in origin? (Not saying I believe St. Peter wrote the beginnings of the Roman Canon.) The perennial approach is that the liturgy is just handed down as something you do. (Studying the liturgy is modern but of course good in itself.) Popes historically have acted as if they can't just rewrite the services. (Blessed Pius IX on adding St. Joseph to a list of saints in the Canon: I can't. I'm only the Pope.) Gamber quotes Suárez on abolishing the traditional rites as an example of a Pope being out of bounds. Years ago a friend observed that before Vatican II nobody assumed that the ordinary practice of the Catholic religion in the services could or would ever just be stopped.

    Is the Novus Ordo a new rite, Latin but not Roman? Gamber seems to argue so. Makes sense. After all, the Ambrosian/Milanese services are considered a separate rite, and that uses the Roman Canon!

    Orthodox Catholics have been preaching the strict-constructionist (as Gamber does here), hermeneutic-of-continuity reading of Vatican II for 50 years (in fact it defined no doctrine: we can and should shelve it) but is that what it really meant? Was it really just orthodox-sounding liberal code? Documents at the time: praise an old practice, then make it optional a few lines down, which church liberals everywhere interpreted as abolishing it.

    Gamber rightly goes after rendering pro multis as "for all"; in the '80s you'd be smacked down for questioning that. It's well known among traditionalists. Pope Benedict acknowledged the problem and fixed it in English. Thanks to him, now you can go anywhere in the English-speaking world and actually hear Catholicism at Mass. Just like in 1965. Not perfect, but a huge improvement. Why he's "the Great," and he's not even really a conservative, just Catholic.

    Of note to Anglo-Catholic alumni (weird; God's funny sometimes: we ended up learning pre-conciliar Catholicism after the council because we were, for the moment, outside the church):
    A reaction to the cold reason brought by the Enlightenment was the Restoration period of the nineteenth century with its Neo-Romanticism and its Neo-Gothic art movement. Typically, the Neo-Romantics saw the spiritual ideas of the Middle Ages as the great model to follow and attempted to graft a new cutting from them onto the devastated old tree of liturgy.
    When this Romanticism (such as the Gothic Revival in England) got together with the old high churchmen's (high and dry; no Romantics they) and Tractarians' "high" claims of authority for the Anglican Church (much like Catholicism's for itself; at first this Anglican movement wasn't about liturgy or art), you had second-generation Anglo-Catholicism. (The third generation split between the new high-church Modernists, like the Episcopalians now, and exactly what the Protestant English feared and hated about A-Cism, would-be Catholics, "papalists.") They claimed their old tree was still alive. (Newman converted when he realized it wasn't.) Like John Wesley (whose Arminianism was a step back Catholicwards, preparatory to this?) and William Booth, standing athwart history trying to win the English back for Christ.

    P.S. A note on the evil of war: before he was a priest, Gamber was a German soldier all during World War II, a supposed "bad guy."

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