27 November 2007

Liturgical Reform

These are the first and last words I ever plan to write about liturgical reform, inspired by a well-done talk sponsored by the Oxford University Newman Society this evening.

The Extraordinary Form is a beautiful Mass that encourages contemplation and reverence. The Ordinary Form is an accessible Mass that encourages participation and community. Both have strengths and both have weaknesses. And supporters for either side fail to realize that arguments for either are almost always lacking an answer to one pivotal question:

What is the point? Why do we have a Mass?

It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Supporters of the Extraordinary Form would emphasize that it is to glorify God and celebrate the sacrifice. Supporters of the Ordinary Form would emphasize that it is to grow as individual Christians and as a Community through sharing Communion. Neither side would deny that either objective is important, but the question of emphasis is the crux of the argument.

As far as I know, there are currently no liturgies which give due weight to God without sacrificing some of the edification of the congregation--none which properly teach the congregation without sacrificing some of the dignity shown to God in a High Mass. Until both sides can concede that this ambiguity is inherent in the very idea of the Mass, there will be no true, viable, healthy liturgical reform.