The Burden of the Homily

RECENTLY A PRIEST—not a fellow monk—lamented how hard he was finding it to “get anything” for a homily from this Sunday’s readings. The first reading covers an attempt to kill the prophet Jeremiah, the epistle is from Hebrews reminding us of the cloud of witnesses who urge us on in the race of Christian living, and the gospel shows Jesus revealing he has come to bring fire to the earth and division to society, an awkward gospel for purveyors of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

The priestly lament is a reminder of how much a burden the homily has become to many a hearer, and perhaps even more to many a preacher, in the celebration of the ordinary form of the Mass. This is almost invariably the fruit of a misunderstanding of the homily that has taken on almost dogmatic status: the homily must always and only be about the readings of the day. Continue reading “The Burden of the Homily”

The Mass: Meal, Sacrifice and Errors Corrected

One of the brethren pointed out to me an article in the May-June 2017 edition of Doctrine & Life. The article is by the Irish Dominican Liam Walsh. I am assuming this is the same Fr Liam Walsh OP who contributed to the fascinating book Vatican II: The Liturgy Constitution (1964) edited by Fr Austin Flannery OP. He refers to “a Benedictine monk” his correspondence in The Tablet last year regarding the Mass as meal. His discretion is no doubt because he takes issue with what the monk wrote in his brief letters. That monk was I. Here is the relevant page from Fr Walsh’s article: Continue reading “The Mass: Meal, Sacrifice and Errors Corrected”

The Tyranny of Options

Having been an active advocate of the revised English translation of the Roman Missal, which will soon be five years old, it is cheering to see how well established it has become. It is not perfect, but its imperfections are far fewer than those of the translation it replaced, and at least errs on the side of assuming that the faithful are more intelligent, as opposed to the previous translation’s implicit assumption that we were all a little thick and needed things served up in small sentences and easy words. There are still the grey and disgruntled who clamour for its abolition, though even they, or most of them, do not seek the return of the previous translation, advocating instead the ill-fated 1998 translation. That translation was indeed a marked improvement on the previous, but it was marked by contemporary ideology. The virtue of a more literal translation is that passing ideology gets less room to play.

However, the new translation, being merely that—a translation—and not a new missal per se, keeps the structural, liturgical and theological defects of the post-conciliar Roman Missal. Continue reading “The Tyranny of Options”

Why Benedictines are liturgical; and why Jesuits should be too

The title above is crude, but it is designed to remind all those in the Benedictine familia of one of our foundational and essential charisms; and to alert the Church universal to the fact that this Benedictine charism is in fact a catholic one, a charism that is shared by the whole Church. The debates on the liturgy—often illuminating and uplifting, often frustrating and disheartening—will never bear fruit without a sound understanding of the foundation and essential character of liturgy.

Continue reading “Why Benedictines are liturgical; and why Jesuits should be too”

A Telling Letter in The Tablet

In the latest issue of The Tablet (22 August) there is a letter from the composer and former director of music for Portsmouth diocese. Here it is:

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Melanie had suggested that children be taught more traditional Eucharistic hymns because of their (undeniably) fuller theological content and catechetical utility. Mr Inwood is clearly not impressed, perhaps because if all parishes switched to traditional hymns there would be little work for him to do.

Continue reading “A Telling Letter in The Tablet”

Lazarus-like he rises, to rant

No plaintive excuses, no unconvincing avowals of “I would have if I could have”. It has been busy here, in a disconcertingly unspectacular way. So blogging by your correspondent has been passive not active.

One topic in the past few weeks that has grabbed my attention is the matter of the bidding prayers at Mass. My eye settled first on a post at the New Liturgical Movement (NLM), and then more recently on a pastor’s heartfelt reflection by Fr Ray Blake in Brighton.

At NLM, Dr Kwasniewski rightly laments the general standard of bidding prayers/prayers of the faithful/general intercessions/universal prayer – call it what you will. He urges that they should be solidly founded theologically, well and aptly written, and that they should be sung (after all, if the bidding prayers have any real liturgical pedigree, it is to be found in the litany form).

Continue reading “Lazarus-like he rises, to rant”

A sane voice

Reading this piece on Corpus Christi Watershed on the possibility of bad liturgy, in the sense of its manner of celebration, in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite of the Mass, I was struck by its sanity and reasonableness. What is more, its author, layman Andrew Motyka, articulated superbly my position at this point in time, a position in which I feel confident I do not stand alone:

As someone who grew up with the Ordinary Form, it is my preference. It is what I’ve always known and am most comfortable praying. However, I am grateful for whatever liturgy Holy Mother Church gives me, and I do not resent the EF in any way. Two forms, one liturgy. My greatest preference would be to celebrate the Ordinary Form with a priest who loves the Extraordinary. I believe this to truly be the “mutual enrichment” of which Pope Benedict spoke, and I hope that that enrichment carries into the future to the benefit of both forms.

To be honest, I am finding it very difficult to continue with my abortive attempts to learn the EF of the Mass. Not just practical difficulties are involved, but conceptual and psychological ones. It is still too alien to me. Not that I have any animus towards it, and in fact I cheered as loudly as any when Pope Benedict XVI liberated the old Mass in 2007. After all, just because I have not learned to love it does not mean I think others should be deprived of it. It is a liturgy of the most ancient pedigree, and the vast majority of the saints of the Western Church would have worshipped in and through that Mass. It needs no new apologia; the saints are its apologists.

That said, this concept of mutual enrichment is one that really does engage me psychologically. Perhaps that is partly why I am keen on the Mass forms that appeared in the wake of the Council and before 1970; in them it is possible to discern the old Mass being reformed in light of the express will of the Council. The Missal published in 1965 is a case in point. (Of course, the closer to 1970 we got the more was the Mass tinkered with, or rather, substantially reconstructed.) I can happily strive to be that priest who celebrates the Ordinary Form but loves the Extraordinary. That, for this priest at least, is a more compelling reason to learn the intricacies of the ancient Mass.

We can be sure the heavenly liturgy will not be subject to such debate and contention. With Christ as the unveiled, unmediated celebrant, how it could it be anything other than perfect.

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