A day or two ago, I received a card from Fr Stephen Morrison, of the Premonstratensian house in Chelmsford (within my natal county); I had had the great pleasure of getting to know him at the LMS Latin Summer School at Pantasaph last year (have you booked yet for 2015?). So I was very sorry not to have been at his Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood: but when the invitation to it arrived, I had already accepted an invitation to sing Mass and give a lecture at Brompton for CIEL on the ame morning the festival of S Nicolas. The card had a wonderful photograph of Father's First High Mass, of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. And how that picture sent my memory hurtling back to the first High Mass I witnessed as a schoolby in 1959. I had accidentally strolled into the Church of S Mary 'Mags' in Oxford on the evening of December 8 - I was in Oxford for the Scholarship Examination. The celebrant was the 'legendary' Prebendary R John Hooper; little could I have known that the exquisite liturgy I witnessed was destined to to be 'abolished' within a decade.
The same day that I received Fr Stephen's beautiful card, I watched a video which Fr Ray kindly put on his superb blog: 400 seminarians at the now defunct seminary at Ushaw in 1960. High Mass on that wonderful Last Sunday before Advent ... also within a decade of its extinction. Yes ... I did say 400: 400-plus short-backs-and-sides.
About the same time, an acute reader put this question onto one of my threads: how did it all collapse so quickly? Is there an answer? You may have your answer. Here is my take on it: the very power of that liturgical culture was turned against it by the Evil One. It was so wonderful a rite that one accepted without thought the authority which guaranteed such a system. And when that same authority turned brutally against it ... "Forget all that: this is what the Church tells you to do now" ... there seemed no help for it, no defence.
Or ... with a little help from the convergent teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, Dom Gregory Dix, and Fr Michael Moreton ... a slightly fuller account might go like this.
Throughout Christian history, from the rising of the sun to its setting, the forms of the Liturgy rested on the auctoritas of Tradition; of the centuries which prescribed and graciously sanctified what was being done. That auctoritas was guaranteed, strongly backed up by, the (more transient) human structures of power within the Church, which preserved the Liturgy's integrity and guided its gradual and organic evolution. It was inconceivable that things could be different. Never had it been otherwise. But then, in an evil hour, those same structures did turn against the venerable and stately Roman rite. The inconceivable happened. Tradition, and ecclesiastical authority, seemed, for the very first time in two Catholic millennia, to be set against each other. Bewildered, not knowing where to turn but with great love for the Church and her authority, most of us succumbed, and submitted to one side of this terrible dichotomy.