23 September 2014

Ordinariate Festival (2)

Cardinal Nichols' very fine address took place immediately after lunch on Saturday. It constantly returned to the question: "those who have joined the Ordinariate will ask if they are being truly distinctive enough" (Absolutely! Our Ordinary dealt with exactly that question later in the afternoon: vide infra.). "The balance between distinctiveness and familiarity is still evolving". Things should "not be done as a matter of personal taste, of subjective likes and dislikes". We should strive "not to satisfy [our] own tastes, [our] own personal preferences". "... personal ... subjective taste ...". "Often the experience of many within the Church [is] that I am fashioned more deeply ... by what I do not particularly like ...". The Ordinariate should "not be shaped by the individual preferences of the members, by personal likes and dislikes which are so often contentious".

I think that is highly important advice to which we should pay close attention, and indeed be guided by. This is both because of the obvious importance of anything Cardinal Nichols says (Coetus Episcopalis totius Angliae et Cambriae Praeses perpetuus), and because it spoke accurately and precisely and helpfully to the liturgical situation we have inherited. Perhaps, for those not within our tradition, I might explain a little of our history in this matter.

One of the liturgical problems of the English Ordinariate (things were different in America and Australia) is that our movement, when it entered into Full Communion, had very little that distinguished it from worship within the Catholic Church. Before the Council, we had worshipped with what is now called the Tridentine Rite or the Extraordinary Form, usually in Tudor English and combined to a greater or lesser extent with the Prayer Book. But in the late 1960s, many of us adopted lock, stock, and barrel the new Catholic liturgical formulae which emerged in the post-conciliar period; even the 1970s ICEL translations. So, for more than forty years, most of our congregations worshipped in an almost exclusively Novus Ordo way and with the same flawed (and now most happily superseded) English translations as those used throughout the Anglophone Catholic Church. As our Ordinary said later on Saturday afternoon, "Some of us have tried so hard in the past to be like Roman Catholics that we have sometimes ignored or forgotten the good things from our own tradition that we are invited to bring with us". Exactly. Believing that being Roman was important, when we were told in the 1970s that Rome had abolished the pre-conciliar Tridentine Rite, we discontinued the use of our English Missal (containing the Tridentine Rite in Tudor English and combined with The Book of Common Prayer) and adopted the new rites. But in this we were, I think we should now admit, rather misled. As Benedict XVI was later forcefully to explain when he issued Summorum Pontificum, the old rite was not canonically abolished; indeed, he said that it could not be. With hindsight, we should have kept our nerve, and kept our English Missals working hard upon our altars. But, however that may be, most of our communities in England have, for more than a generation, been accustomed de facto to worship from the same texts as English Roman Catholics; that culture of worship, in the Cardinal's words, has become for many of us our 'personal taste'; our 'subjective like'; our own 'individual preference'.

But now the Ordinariate Rite offers us what we sadly lost in the late 1960s: Cranmer's exquisite liturgical English and many of his de novo compositions, together with the texts and much of the ceremonial of the Tridentine Rite, as in the old English Missal. In other words, something approximating to the way we worshipped from around the beginning of the twentieth century, during those triumphalist days when Corporate Unity seemed possible. So what we have here is not some individual taste but the embodiment of our own tradition evolved 'on the ground' through many decades in countless churches and congregations and now most happily authoritatively sanctioned by the Holy See.

So it is very appropriate that Mgr Newton should say, in his final address, "The liturgy and the way we celebrate it is one particular aspect of that distinctiveness. Mgr Burnham has spoken a little about the Rites which have been provided for us by the Holy See. I do ask those who have not yet done so to consider using them even if it is for an experimental period. If one thing is true about liturgy it is that it must be prayed for some time before one can make judgement about it. Many people who have experienced the Ordinariate liturgy have been moved by the beauty of its language and devotion".

Who am I to lay down the law to brother priests and their congregations? Absolutely nobody at all. But I have spent much of my life since I was about twelve studying liturgy, and I am deeply convinced that our Ordinary is thoroughly right in his call and his advice, and that his words deserve the most respectful consideration (in a day or two I will write succinctly about the Ordinariate Rite). We should be engaged in the active promotion of our Ordinariate Rite of Mass. If it seems initially a little strange or even alien, we should remember the Cardinal's wise and insightful words "Often the experience of many within the Church is that I am fashioned more deeply by what I do not particularly like".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


as far as you are concernd, please celebrate what YOU like, please celebrate simply using the English Missal in combination with the BCO in the way used prior the liturgical revolution.