29 July 2018

Hemming again (2)

Continues from the last post.
Hemming sees the fly in the ointment as being actuosa participatio, as the phrase is understood in 'Enlightenment' liturgical fashions ... that is, by the liturgical apparatchiks who still act as the guardians of what they see as the Pure Spirit of Vatican II; the same jokers who for decades sneered so nastily at Joseph Ratzinger's contributions to liturgical rethinking on the grounds that 'he is not an expert'.

The idea (writes Hemming) that a single self can consummate in itself the entire meaning of every particular liturgical act as it is enacted ... is foreign and indeed corrosive to the interior character of a complex and centuries-long symbolic language which uses the differentiatedness of place, of time, and of the different vocations and stations of all humanity, to mediate the full range of the drama of our salvation. ... The idea - well known in the East* - that the entire liturgy must be fulfilled, but that it is impossible for any one person to fulfil it alone - was superseded in the West by the idea that every priest must complete the Office and Mass daily and in full ... (he concludes by describing liturgy as:) something which the whole local church - monastic house, convent, diocese, and so forth - has to distribute across its membership and life for the sake of the distributed body of Christ as it manifests itself in particular places.

You see his point. Frantically determined that every priest should say the whole Office, the West has repeatedly slashed and reduced that Office to make the aim attainable ... and, by so doing, has lamentably ravaged its traditional Office. The alternative would be to keep (or to restore) the great integrity of the historical Office while limiting the amount of it that each individual is required to fulfill.
Hemming's principle represents exactly what happened in the medieval cathedrals of England, such as (the one I have studied in most detail) Exeter, codified by its great reforming bishop John Grandisson in his Ordinale. The Lady Chapel, for example, had its own complete and distinct establishment to ensure the fulfilment each day of an entire round of Office and Mass in honour of our Lady, which duplicated the worship at the High Altar. There survives in the Chapter library just one sheet of a Marian Missal, corrected in Grandisson's own hand, for use either in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral or in that of his Collegiate establishment at Ottery. The weekly Mass and Office of our Lady in Sabbato, as we have them in the Tridentine books, are but a pale remnant of all that. Our massive cathedrals, which now so embarrassingly struggle to demonstrate to the tourists (and to the parishes) their 'relevance', were built quite simply to house those majestic structures of worship; a massive round of daily sacrifice and praise performed in full, not necessarily by each individual, but by a large differentiated community.

In this context, I would also commend the writings of Laszlo Dobszay.


E sapelion said...

I very much agree with the idea of different lengths and complexites of the Office for different conditions of life. What we have, in progressively reduced form, is the ancient monastic Office. Monks are I understand still permitted to use the ancient form. What Cranmer produced seems much better adapted to Parish use, even if you and I would start afresh to achieve that end. To my mind reduction to the Angelus is overdoing the simplification, although the goal of regular prayer through the day for busy laity is a worthy target.

Little Black Sambo said...

Very interesting. The misunderstanding of this "distribution" is also shown in the hostility of reformers to allowing several things going on simultaneously in the liturgy: we must listen to or watch this, then this, then this, in a wearisome sequence, for ever being recalled to pay attention or follow something in print. Nothing can be out of earshot or out of sight; one thing at a time means we can't be distracted; relentless visibility and audibility means we can't let any part of it wash over or past us or allow our thoughts free rein. There is no escape. At certain moments we are grabbed for audience participation, as in the Hobbesian Peace of all against all. Dreadful!

Victor said...

@E sapelion: respectfully, I think you misunderstood the point. Hemming (and Fr. Hunwicke) do not argue in favour of different versions of the Divine Office for different groups of Christians. Rather (as far as I understood) they say that not everyone has to recite the office in its entirety; it suffices if the whole office is recited in a particular group (parish; abbey; chantry...). If I may use the analogy, when the creed is sung during mass, the choir and the people sing only parts of it; nevertheless the whole creed is being recited.