Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy, Reform of the Reform?

Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy, Reform of the Reform?

Paul Russell

Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger
Edited by Alcuin Reid OSB

(Saint Michael's Abbey Press, UK, 2003, 160pp, $29.75.)

Reform of the Reform?
by Fr Thomas Kocik

(Ignatius, 2003, 273pp, $29.95.)

Both available from AD Books

These days it seems that the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass is perhaps as much a point of division as it is a unifying force as the "source and summit" of our faith. Innovations, renovations, restorations; all points on the compass of opinion on this most central of matters define themselves as "true north" - or perhaps, more correctly, true east.

Not every position could possibly be correct; though the likelihood that each orientation, each philosophical argument, might contain any elements worthy of consideration is something that liturgical "hardliners" seem to me unable to grasp.

In my recent travels through Europe, North America and Mexico, I attended Mass in many languages, saw many variations in rubric that seemed legitimate (and some perhaps doubtful) and in orientations both eastwards and facing the people. Yet there was no doubt in my mind that, in spite of the variations, it was the same Mass - the same sacrifice of Calvary.

It gave me cause to reflect on my own "liturgical preference" and how preference can all too easily give way to blind prejudice. For this great debate to move beyond the defence of a particular position and its accompanying rhetoric, we all need to learn to put aside our defensive arguments and concern ourselves with the questions: What is the mind of the Church? What can benefit the long-term health of the Church?

An excellent way to broaden one's thinking on the liturgy would be to read Fr Thomas Kocik's book, Reform of the Reform? This is a significant contribution to the debate. Fr Kocik creates a conversation between an advocate of the Tridentine Mass and an advocate of the Mass of Pope Paul VI. The conversation covers a wide range of questions teasing out responses that aid the reader in understanding both viewpoints.

Reform of the Reform? draws no conclusions and may not change anyone's position. However, it does offer the reader a compendium of arguments that will aid in a fuller understanding of the complexity of liturgical questions and an appreciation of others' views.

Another valuable contribution to the debate is Looking again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, which is a record of the proceedings and papers from eminent liturgists, theologians and laymen, including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

This work is not some sterile analysis of "the problem", nor is it a summary of emotive arguments or a longing for some romanticised notion of a liturgical renaissance. The papers are a practical look at the current situation from a wide variety of perspectives, each with a mind for the Church yet with well-developed, different solutions. Having said that, what is missing from the report is any indication of a way forward.

To try to summarise detailed arguments in a short review is not possible. Suffice it to say that any reader interested in the thinking of some of the world's best liturgists would do well to get a hold of a copy, reading it slowly and prayerfully with a mind for the health of the Church. Those considering an introduction to the subject would do well to read Fr Kocik's work first. Each title is a valuable resource for further debate.

Paul Russell is South Australian President of the National Civic Council.

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