19 February 2006

More reflections on "the spirit of Vatican Two"

Lorna commented on a previous post:
this is really interesting. I'm not RC so I'm not sure how to phrase these questions

what was the spirit of vatican II in your opinion

why was it hard to accept the rulings of vatican II for you personally?

why is communion in the hand or standing a problem

what did you (do you) miss from the pre vatican II period

how would you like the mass to be developed under Pope Benedict to meet your needs

I'd be really interseted in your reply.
I think those are excellent questions, and fair ones. If I'm going to mutter darkly about something, I ought to be clear about why!

I'll warn you, though: this is going to be way long. Go get a beverage or something before embarking. ;) (Update: I incorporated a couple more great links, and changed one word ("revision") to the more accurate "translation." And found another great quote.)

What was the spirit of Vatican II in your opinion?

When I use the phrase, "The Spirit of Vatican Two," I mean it sarcastically. The Vatican II council took place during a time of great unrest in Western society, including an open attack against tradition on all fronts, not just that of the church. The changes in the Roman Catholic liturgy which followed were sweeping, sudden, largely unexpected and cruelly enforced. In many cases, the changes have absolutely no basis in the Council, although you'll get ¶'s and ¶'s of spin trying to prove that they were. I think "the spirit of Vatican II" is fuzzyspeak for, "we don't actually find this anywhere in the council's writings, but we think they meant ... "

In a recent interview, Bishops Bruskewitz and Corrada gave some interesting and helpful insights into what happened.

Why was it hard to accept the rulings of Vatican II for you personally?

I have no problem with the Council or its documents. I have serious issues with the way its "intent" has been construed.

To say that the church was wrong for well over a thousand years, and throw out everything - everything - that was Catholic: art, church architecture, sacred music, the habits worn by religious, the liturgy, devotions such as the Rosary, and to do all of it with such dismissive cruelty, could not have been from God. Three centuries would have been barely enough to introduce such sweeping changes. Three decades? Absurd.

The result? One cardinal writes:
I want to warn against an excessive “inculturation” that is destroying our liturgy. In the past generation, we have introduced into the liturgy some practices and attitudes from North American society that have no place there. For example: the hurried pace, the tyranny of the clock, the inattention to the arts, the casual tone of a presider, the “what can I get out of it?” approach of the consumer, the “entertain me” attitude of a nation of television watchers. All these are the wrong sort of inculturation. Their prevalence shows how difficult it is to seek what in the culture offers a true correspondence with the spirit of the liturgy. -- Cardinal Archbishop Roger Mahony
This is bizarre and unintentionally hilarious - "we have introduced into the liturgy some practices and attitudes that have no place there." The cardinal archbishop prides himself on ignoring the clear directives of Rome when celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass. (that last link is from a German site which I machine-translated into English. I think you can get the gist, however.)

Fortunately, three wonderful things have happened: 1.) The religious orders which adopted the new ways are disappearing, because in studying Buddhism and enneagrams and labyrinths and their navels, they have lost their distinctive charisms which attracted young people to surrender their lives entirely to Christ in the community. The hippie priests who set out to destroy the church like crazed rockers in a hotel room are now all gray and long in the tooth and soon to meet their Maker, along with their approving bishops. 2.) The young people in the church are discovering the rich treasury of tradition, art and music. They are flocking to traditional parishes and religious orders. 3.) Pope John Paul II won the respect of the world and the ear of the young; Pope Benedict XVI is a master theologian with great tact and steely determination.

Why is communion in the hand or standing a problem?

In the ideal, it's not. I love the accompanying permission to have communion from the cup, which was entirely impractical before. The problem is the way in which communion in the hand has been adopted in the parishes to which I've gone.

The consecrated host is Jesus. This is the consistent teaching of the Church through the centuries. When Jesus comes into the host, He becomes helpless all over again. He makes himself vulnerable to us to a degree unheard of in mere human experience. He does that so that we can approach him without fear, and take Him fully into ourselves. He cannot be harmed - he is God - but if we truly believe He is in the host, don't we want to show him care, love and respect?

Before the changes in the rite after Vatican II, the instructions for taking communion were:
When the bell rings at the Domine, non sum dignus ("Lord, I am not worthy..."), go up to the Altar-rail, and kneel there, with ungloved and folded hands. Renew with all possible fervor your act of contrition... When the Sacred Host is presented to you, receive It on your tongue lightly resting on the lower lip. Say in your heart the words which the Priest uses: The body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul unto life everlasting. Retire to your place with recollection and modesty, and remain for some time kneeling, in silent communing with your heavenly Guest. Do not be too anxious to use your Prayer-book: it is far better for a while to dwell upon the Sacred Mysteries which you have received. Let not this precious time be wasted, however; should attention flag and distractions arise, have recourse to the following prayers... A Manual of Prayers for the Catholic Laity, copyright 1888, new edition copyright 1930.
For me, the anticipation of receiving Jesus, the quiet walk back to the pew, and the time of silent meditation afterwards ... greeting Him in my soul, telling Him all the very personal things one would tell Jesus if He were inside one for a few moments in such a special way - I converted to the Catholic Church specifically for those moments.

It took a long time in a crowded church, even with several priests administering communion. During that time, the music was perhaps choral at the beginning, then, as the choir came down to take communion, it became solely instrumental, often simple, familiar settings. Gregorian chant is very centering, and those are the moments one wants to be centered. Silence is best, listening to the shuffling of feet and the sounds of people rising and returning to their pews. In the days before air conditioning, the doors of the church would often be left open. Out in the courtyard, the birds would be chirping in the trees (okay, this was in Southern California). :) I could kneel among hundreds of fellow worshippers, listening to Jesus in my soul, listening to the birds, hearing the occasional comment or question of a child or the cry of a baby. It was a time of such deep recollection and meditation, and so very, very meaningful. I felt intimately joined with those around me. Jesus was actually, literally present in our midst, and coming into our souls, one by one, uniting us in our shared communion.

That was then.

This is now: get in line when directed by an usher, go up to the priest or eucharistic minister, bow quickly, get Jesus pressed into the palm of your hand, step aside to put the Host into one's mouth, and go back to the pew. Don't kneel; that would be against "unity." Of course, this highly managed corporate effort has its downside; as the bishops say in the GIRM:
The liturgical assembly of the baptized that comes together for the celebration of the Eucharist is a witness to, a manifestation of, the pilgrim Church. When we move in procession, particularly the procession to receive the body and blood of Christ in Communion, we are a sign, a symbol of that pilgrim Church 'on the way.' For some, however, the experience of the Communion Procession is far more prosaic, analogous perhaps to standing on line in the supermarket or at the motor vehicle bureau. A perception such as this is a dreadfully inaccurate and impoverished understanding of what is a significant religious action.
Before Vatican II, one was not being herded by officious ushers, and could choose to arise and approach the altar when one was ready. It was much more meaningful.

While we stand there after communion, instead of greeting the dear One Whom we've just received, we are to sing. It is apparently very important that the song involve guitars, which are difficult to tune properly in the best of circumstances. The song must be sung by people who are untrained in musicianship, led by a cantor waving and directing the congregation. Preferably the song will have difficult timing and/or melody, so you have to open the music to follow it, and the words will focus on Me and how I feel good being here with Everyone Else in the sacrament of Togetherness. In other words, recollection and reflection are impossible. It appears that the act of communion is being carefully and deliberately desacralized.

The bishops realize the problem. What follows was written recently, not in 1970, at the beginning of the reforms, when those who actually liked to pray in church were horrified at the noise and distraction:
For some, however, the singing of this [communion] hymn is perceived as an intrusion on their own prayer, their private thanksgiving after Communion. In fact, however, this hymn is prayer, the corporate thanksgiving prayer of the members of Christ's Body, united with one another. Over and over again the prayers of the liturgy and the norms of the General Instruction emphasize this fundamental concept of the unity of the baptized, stressing that when we come together to participate in the Eucharistic celebration we come, not as individuals, but as united members of Christ's body. In each of the Eucharistic Prayers, though the petition is worded in slightly different ways, God is asked to send his Holy Spirit to make us one body, one spirit in Christ; the General Instruction admonishes the faithful that they should become one body, whether by hearing the word of God, or joining in prayers and singing ...(GIRM, no. 96) it describes one of the purposes of the opening song of the Mass as to ... intensify the unity of those who have been gathered and says of the Communion Chant that its function is to express outwardly the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, ... and to highlight the communitarian nature of the procession to receive Communion.
After Mass, the congregation applauds the musicians, loud conversations erupt in all corners of the church, and if you kneel in your pew to try to pray, you get annoyed looks from people. (Of course, one can go to traditional Latin Mass, although in a diocese where the bishop is hostile to the TLM, it can be very onerous - drives of two to three hours, one-way, are not unheard-of.)

So ... it's changed. And, as I think I mentioned before, communion in the hand came about because Pope Paul VI caved in to a flagrantly disobedient bishop. That's not simply remembering it differently, by the way; I was a new convert at the time and followed the unfolding of the whole sad scenario in the Catholic press.

There is another very serious problem with communion in the hand, which is that the Host can be carried away and treated in who-knows-what manner. If the priest puts the consecrated host directly into the communicant's mouth, it's much less likely it will be abstracted and show up later on Ebay or be used for something unspeakable.

What did you (do you) miss from the pre Vatican II period?

• I miss the sense of being special - being Roman Catholic. Now it's just another confused, drifting, church-like organization, distinguished mainly in the world's eyes by randy priests, indifferent bishops, and execrable translations. It's odd when the Episcopal and Lutheran liturgies are more reverent, orderly and instructive than the Roman Catholic.

• I keenly miss being able to participate fully in worship. Besides being always on edge, distracted, and distressed the entire time one is at Mass (I strongly dislike being touched by strangers, and there's getting to be way too much of that going on at the peace and Our Father; it's upsetting when the priest doesn't know or won't follow the norms; etc.), the sense of community is impaired. You are with people who speak [whatever language the Mass is in] and it's so limiting. One used to be able to celebrate Mass anywhere in the world, praying understandably with people from whom, outside church, one couldn't ask for a drink of water without making signs. It is a cozy, warm feeling. Jews have always used Hebrew in worship. Muslims can worship together anywhere using Arabic. Shared worship forges a very strong bond and makes you feel like family, even when you're far away from home. It is astonishing to hear bishops fretting about how their parishes have splintered along ethnic lines when they imposed those divisions themselves by using the vernacular! (What's the Latin for duh?)

The objection that people can't understand Latin is gravely insulting. Virtually everybody can learn some parts of a new language, particularly when it's presented side-by-side with their native language in a missal. The real reason to abandon Latin has nothing to do with that, anyway.

Latin is a dead language; it doesn't change, so the meaning of the words remains the same. The vernacular changes daily. Texts constantly need updating. If one wants to make changes in belief, the obvious place to start is in the liturgy, with seemingly small changes worked in during the process of translation. Little bits of change can be, and are, made. However, that doesn't allow the changes to happen fast enough for some people, which leads me to...

• I miss the days when bishops and priests would strive to outdo one another in saying Mass beautifully, meaningfully and reverently. Now they're always trying to sneak past the rubrics to do their own thing, like naughty boys. It's pathetic and cowardly. Roger Mahony is a prime example, insisting on celebrating Mass in which he does the kinds of things Redemptionis Sacramentum was written specifically to correct.

How would you like the mass to be developed under Pope Benedict to meet your needs?

To this I would reply gently that the Mass is not something one can "develop."

Q. Pope Benedict XVI has addressed this very issue in his writings on the liturgy. Liturgy is something that is supposed to be given by, and received from, our fathers in the faith, rather than something we create or innovate.

Bishop Bruskewitz: Absolutely. It is not created.

And furthermore, the laity has a right to a proper liturgy. Pope Paul VI emphasized this. It is not the priest's arbitrary bestowal upon the people, but it is the people who have a right to the Church's liturgy as it is supposed to be done. That certainly deserves emphasis.

Brian Mershon at RenewAmerica.us.
The Mass was not a creation of man alone. In its original form it is a kind of living tradition handed down through the centuries. It changed and grew organically into different forms and rites, but since earliest times it has always been said in Latin and always had certain prayers and parts. Protestant services either draw from or repudiate it. The translation of the whole of it into the vernacular was, in my opinion, a serious mistake, because it implied the Mass could be changed to fit the whim of the local ordinary - which is, of course, what has happened.

I am grateful that Pope Benedict is acting to stop the more egregious errors. I would like to see him correct the grave injustice which has been done to those who safeguarded the Mass through the centuries, as well as those who love it today, by enforcing the indult his predecessor supplied.

The most common canard about the Latin Mass is that it keeps the people from participating and stifles their spirituality or some such thing. What rubbish. For centuries the Mass nourished the faith, teaching, and thought of musicians, artists, philosophers and saints. The current version with its insipid music, always-changing vernacular texts, and careless behavior is not the same act of worship. While I accept the Novus Ordo (new order [of Mass]) when it is done with reverence and according to the published rubrics, I cannot help but suspect that the emphatic suppression of the traditional Latin Mass has nothing to do with pastoral concerns, and everything to do with how banal and ugly the new rite often is in comparison.

...but I'm not biased, or anything. ;)

I'm not alone. There's a particularly excellent post over at Pontifications about this. The comments are interesting and along the same lines as what I've written here ... if markedly more succinct! ;)

Finally, in full personal disclosure, I must qualify my strong reaction to The Spirit of Vatican Two by acknowledging that it is because the "reform" followed the same (and simultaneous) scenario as in my family life when my mother lapsed into severe alcoholism. She was a brilliantly intelligent, capable, enormously talented woman. She was eminently persuasive and forceful. She explained her use of alcohol as necessary for self-medication. She lauded its properties. It caused her to rescind some previously absolute requirements or bans. When I protested, she told me that I was disloyal and ungrateful. When I longed for the days when there was some predictability to life, she reproached me for feeling that way.

The Council of Vatican II was one thing; the swarm of eager progressives who exploited its apparent loopholes, something else entirely. Drunk with their vision of liturgy, they leveraged the Roman Catholic laity's devotion to their Church by forcing the changes through, saying how wonderful everything was, when it clearly wasn't. Absolute requirements (fish on Friday, for example) and bans (the laity handling the consecrated Host) were waved away. When the laity expressed distress and shock, they were told they were being disloyal; that they were clinging to the old ways... that they were wrong to feel that way. After years of recovery, I know that, when someone tells you "don't feel that way," you are dealing with a bully and your boundaries are under siege.

The laity behaved like any family will when a parent lapses into chronic drunkenness: some leave, never to return; others show up only at Christmas and Easter and stay well away the rest of the year; still others hang in there, trying to cope with the changes while being faithful to the family unit and finding a balance between healthy detachment and concerned involvement. Some accept everything the drunk tells them, covering for the drunk, explaining away the embarrassing episodes, and trying to keep the home together. Finally, there are those who are outspokenly in the drunk's corner, mixing the drinks and snarling at anyone who would suggest that something's obviously wrong. And, through it all, the drunk is saying, "I'm perfectly fine. Why don't you accept that I'm fine? I've never been better. You're the one with the problem, not me." The home gets untidy and disorganized, marked by strife and factions, and missing some of its members who did not so much leave, as were driven out.

I am not the only one to see the parallel. And then there's this from an article by Fr. Vincent Capuano, S.J. which appeared in the Adoremus Bulletin:
Many religious accept liturgical abuse in a manner similar to how a wife will often accept spousal abuse -- from a false sense of charity and tolerance. It is not that the perpetrator of abuse is completely evil, he often possesses many virtues and admirable qualities. The victim of liturgical abuse, like the victim of spousal abuse, wants to be forgiving, wants to practice tolerance, wants to be charitable. The abuser takes advantage of such desires and sentiments and continues to abuse. --Quoted in Catholic World News "Off the Record"
I believe that Benedict XVI has been sent by God to administer the long-awaited intervention. May he be blessed in his role as he steadies and guides the Church.


Fidei Defensor said...

Great post, I'm going to link to it.

Hope said...

This was a very interesting post to read. I have only been Catholic for over a year and have been greatly distressed that people are in a hurry to leave church once they have received the Eucharist. It is my favourite part - the most intimate encounter and I long to be able to kneel and pray for however long I feel the need to. Thankfully in our church we kneel after communion as well as at consecration. I have been in Catholic Churches where there were no kneelers....I found that very difficult. Also our priest will give the host to those who still want to receive it on the tongue. Although the little congregation I go to has about 10 people present at Mass we still have a communion song. I ignore it and pray. No one seems offended. Well, everyone kneels to pray and the only one singing usually is the pianist.

I converted to the Catholic Church specifically for those moments. Those are my thoughts exactly. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

Lorna said...

Thanks for taking time to explain all this. I found it very interesting

I apologise for my inappropriate use of the word develop concerning the mass. No offense was intended.

It is interesting that there is a return to reverence and awe in many Protestant churches. Also a longing to celelbrate the Eucharist more often.

I realise that RC/Orthodox/Anglican have a different understanding of what happens to the bread and wine - but to be really honest your fear stated here "There is another very serious problem with communion in the hand, which is that the Host can be carried away and treated in who-knows-what manner. If the priest puts the consecrated host directly into the communicant's mouth, it's much less likely it will be abstracted and show up later on Ebay or be used for something unspeakable." was the impetus to restrict the Eucharist to laity in the first place. I am of the belief that to do that is wrong.

For me when I take the host /bread in my hand. I take time to look at it - then break it into two saying in my heart ' His body, broken for me' I take time to chew it. I take time to drink the wine. It is meaningful and should not be hurried.

I've been glad of ushers otherwise you have such a long queue and people in the queue start talking (!)which is a horrible distraction wther you have already received or not. (It's why I often prefer the Eucharist in a small church)

But overall I've noticed I can only take care of MY attitude to it all. I can choose to get irritated by the behaviour of others, or I can focus more on God.

At the point of communion I choose not to hurry or be hurried. If that's a problem for another - well - I'm sorry but my needs are important too.

I think it's good to have many communion points if the congregation is large - but it does take time and should take time.

and there ends my thoughts from a very different perspective.

PS (laughing) In Finland according to the website they offer mass in Latin in Hki. Maybe you can come visit :)
Be blessed!