Monday, February 04, 2008

McBrien is no Liturgical Theologian

McBrien is the reason why my University is routinely referred to as not being a real Catholic college. In his latest view point in Tidings Online, McBrien demonstrates that he is no liturgical theologian. I do find it interesting that he is viewing the liturgy through the lens of ecclesiology, as opposed to the lens of a Liturgical Theologian. Also, it really bothers me when somethings that occur because they are practical are overly spiritualized into something that is not what it is. McBrien is surely smarter than I, but he is also infinitely more arrogant than I -- which is why his comments get him into trouble. Below is a copy of the entire article. [my comments are in red]
Archbishop Piero Marini served as papal master of ceremonies for some 20 years, under both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict recently appointed him president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, a position that is likely to carry with it a cardinal's red hat.

Although it would have been far better if he had succeeded Cardinal Francis Arinze as Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the curial establishment in Rome would have raised a holy ruckus had such an appointment seriously been contemplated.

That in itself tells us something about the state of the Church today. There is a small but powerful and determined group within the Vatican who have never accepted the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI. Their resistance is at root ecclesiological in nature. [Which reforms Professor? I have heard of very few Roman Catholics who have not accepted the liturgical reforms. I have heard of equally less bishops and cardinals who have rejected the reforms. I have however heard of people who are not pleased with how the Vatican II documents have been interpreted which has resulted in puppet masses an other kinds of Liturgical narcissism.]

What they oppose is the de-clericalization of the liturgy. [No McBrian, it is not the de-clericalization that they worry about. They are worry about the maxim 'lex orandi lex credendi'. In other words, they are concerned that the liturgy be celebrated rightly. As it is the case that when the liturgy is done correctly by both the presider and lay the liturgy becomes the vehicle for change in the world -- save the liturgy, save the world. lose the liturgy, lose the world. After all, the last I checked the liturgy was for the sake of the world.] In their minds, the Church is identical with the hierarchy and the priests who serve under the bishops. [The Assembly of God (church) is hierarchical. There is no way around this. But McBrien you fail to miss the point that the lay form the foundation of the hierarchy. Without the lay the hierarchy would not be what it is. They you criticize surely would not fail to mention that the lay are part of the hierarchy for the mere mention would send these power hungry clergy members into extacy at the mere thought of being above another human being. ] The laity, on the other hand, are simply the beneficiaries of the sacramental ministrations of the clergy, in a process ultimately controlled by the Vatican. [Obedience is a free act of the will.]

The problem for the resisters is not so much that the Mass was put into the vernacular, but that the laity could now fully understand it and actively participate in it. [Please, give me a break. I have never heard of such a thing. What priest, bishop, or pope would not want a person to participate in the liturgy? Also professor you should realize that the Vatican II documents actually recommended retaining some of the Latin and Greek in the mass. Lastly, at one point in time, Latin was the vernacular, so putting the mass in another language other than Latin, say Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic or English never was the issue at hand.]

The same applies to the turning around of the altar to face the congregation.[I'm not sure where people ever got this idea that the altar had to face the congregation. I've never seen it in any Vatican II document, nor have I found it in any of my readings on the liturgy.] It was no longer the priest-in-charge reciting the sacred words and performing the sacred rituals on behalf of the laity [Um maybe this was one view, but not the view of the priest hood that I have gathered from readings from Saints and Vatican II documents. The priest did and still does provide a service to the congregation. The mass is still on behalf of the laity. "We lift up our hearts to the Lord." Just in the reform right we can see it more clearly and participate more fully.] , but the laity themselves participating in the Mass along with the priest, making responses, singing various parts, proclaiming the Scripture readings, and even assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion.

And the same applies to the removal of the Communion rail [According to a liturgical history professor, the communion rail was a development from a Roman court house when later some of the early roman liturgies were celebrated. It did act as a practical barrier when court was in session, but served a useful function. Especially if you were trying to make your church building resemble the Jerusalem temple from the information in scripture and show the separation that was present in the temple. Also, the altars were raised to symbolize a mountain, like the mountain on top of which the temple mount was built. The closer you went to the holy of holies the higher up the mountain you went.] and the receiving of Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue, while standing rather than kneeling. Each of these changes signaled again that the laity are not passive observers at Mass, but active participants. [Kneeling and receive on the tongue are equally active forms of participation as standing and receiving in the hand. Passive act would more resemble the congregation not doing anything and just sitting on their duffs when the should be doing something.]

The Communion rail is gone because there should be no barrier between the sanctuary and the worshiping congregation. [The communion rail is gone because the rail itself was never supposed to be there.] Communion is given in the hand because [There is evidence that goes back to the early church fathers that reception in the hand is an acceptable way to receive the sacrament. To paraphrase, I believe, St Ambrose who said that one should receive with one hand on top of the other and make for Christ a throne on which to receive Him]. the laity should feed themselves rather than be fed like infants or very young children. [The priest acts as Christ. Christ is the only one who can feed us. Christ is the bread of life. Not me. All I can do is receive from Christ. Yet, what an act of humility and trust to allow another person to feed you when you yourself are capable of placing the host in your own mouth.]

The communicants stand rather than kneel because they approach the priest as co-equals with him in Baptism [I stand because there is a processional line. Though the lay are encouraged to bow before receiving the sacrament. Oh wait, you mean people kneeled before the sacrament and bow before the sacrament and not to the person administering the sacrament to the congregation. In other words, they knelt because it was Jesus and not for the Priest.], not as serfs coming before their lord and master to express their fealty. [I thought we (the lay) were servants of the Lord, like Paul said so frequently in his letters. LG was a stronger focus on Pauline theology.]

It is this underlying ecclesiology that is rejected [The ecclesiology at had is the question surrounding the role of the laity. The issue is what role does the lay play? Some people think the laity should 'do more' in the liturgy, but fail to realize that doing more does not always mean participating more fully. If you disagree with McBrien, you are immedietly labled a 'resister' even if you have logical points to your arguments.] , and not simply the changes in language and rituals. What the resisters oppose is the very idea that the Church is the whole People of God, laity included, rather than the hierarchy and clergy alone. [Once again, everyone sees the laity as part of the hierarchy (the kingdom of God), if there is a kingdom then it logically follows that there will be a hierarchy, if those power hungry resisters did not recognize the lay as part of the hierarchy than they ultimately would have no power or authority over the laity.]

This is what Archbishop Marini has stood for during all of these post-conciliar years, even as he literally stood at the side of two popes in papal ceremonies in St. Peter's Basilica and around the world. And this is why he has been such a controversial figure in the Vatican, even though the general public never had an inkling of it.

It is sad that this article is a review of Marini's book but McBrien stands on his soap box for 2/3rds of the article before mentioning Marini's book.

With the release of his new book, "A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975," edited by Mark Francis, John Page and Keith Pecklers [I had Pecklers as a professor at Notre Dame one summer. I was unimpressed. Though he has done mounds of research, he fails to connect reason, logic, and scripture with his research on the liturgy. After the first few classes I eventually learned that he was unable to respond to any of my "That doesn't make sense logically" comments or answer any of my "how do we know that" or "this sounds like speculation" so I stopped making comments and went to sleep.] , and published by The Liturgical Press, Archbishop Marini presents the case for the perennial validity of the council's liturgical reforms. He also challenges those who would, some 40 years later, attempt to undermine those reforms, in opposition not only to Vatican II but to the expressed wishes of Pope Paul VI himself.

In 1965, as the council was drawing to a close, Paul VI declared that the "new way of doing things will have to be different; it will have to prevent and shake up the passivity of the people present at Mass.

"Before," he continued, "it was enough to assist; now it is necessary to take part. Before, being there was enough, now attention and activity are required."

And that is the proverbial rub, as Archbishop Marini points out in his new book and in a subsequent interview conducted in December by John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

The resistance, he insists, is not so much against the vernacular or a few ritual changes, but against the ecclesiology on which those changes are based. [In other words, where the lay fit into the liturgy is the issue at hand. I personally don't think it is a issue. After all the liturgy is the work of the people.]

Worship involves the whole Church. The Mass is not something performed by the clergy, but is an action of the entire congregation. Like an orchestra leader, the priest-presider cannot presume to play all of the instruments himself, but must strive to bring them into a general harmony. [Just remember McBrien, there are many different kind of harmony.]

Many theologians would be advised to actually read the primary sources and texts of Vatican II and not just the commentary written after the fact. The primary sources might just shed light on the commentary.


Your host said...

I just love reading rational commentary on the liturgy. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

good job Paul

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