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Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Ed Peters

Good review of what looks like a good book. Thx.

I am, I think as young as one can be and still have any living memory of the 1962 Missal in force (my First Communion, etc.) I was raised with the Reform, and suffered, seriously, through the very worst of 1970s. War stories aside, tho, much of the Reform-the-Reform literature seems to be battling foes who have long since departed. Literally. I have not seen a clown presider in 30 years. Anyway, whereas goofy liturgies were forced upon us for decades, now, people who attend them do so cuz they want to. Almost every big metro area has sane, VC2 liturgy, parishes available. In those parishes, the reformed Mass is reverent, uplifting, and so on. If I want goofiness, I can drive a few miles and find it, but the point is, if I want lit. sanity, I can find that now too. I pity those who don't know the difference, but I am no longer forced to show up alongside them in wanton violation of my conscience, not to mention my sense of good taste.

Which brings me to a second point: any serious look at the liturgical catastrophe of the 60s and 70s (and into the early 80s), which look is a necessary part of R-t-R, has to include a full and frank appreciation of how much eccl. leadership left us pew Catholics to suffer on our own for generation. Accepting blame for letting things get so crazy is not something any leadership group likes to do. And that will result in an elephant in living room that no one wants to mention.


EP's point about the abdication of leadership is more dead-on than I can adequately express. This failure is at the core of every single problem the Church is facing (and will face). It seems the operating axiom is the old "When all else fails, do what's right."


I saw this book in a footnote a few months back and decided to pick it up. Glad I did.

On a similar note, there is a new book out that most here would like: The Liturgical Subject, a collection of articles by Laurence Paul Hemming, Robert Barron, Angelo Manuel dos Santos Cardita, László Dobszay, Eduardo J. Echeverria, Bruce E. Harbert, Zsolt Ilyés, Peter A. Kwasniewski, James G. Leachman, O.S.B., Daniel P. McCarthy, O.S.B., Enrico Mazza, Simon Oliver, Denis Robinson, O.S.B.

You can read about the book here:

There should also be greater notice of Peter Kwasniewski's work on a related topic: extasis (ecstasy) in the religious experience, in the liturgy, in eucharistic union, in contemplative prayer. He has articles in a few different journals that this hermeneutic-of-continuity- and Ratzinger-approach-to-the-liturgy loving Catholic found very moving and in line with what Aquinas taught (and lived) as well as some of what Laurence Paul Hemming expresses in his own works. Here is a (dated) link to some of Kwasniewski's works: Though a couple years old, it should give an idea of his work on extasis.


In the article, Fr. Van Hove states:

"Over a lifetime we slowly discover God in and through the liturgy. At least that is what should happen; or that was traditionally the perceived goal. Hemming asserts that the purpose of this book is to emphasize that we do not make or force God to become present in the liturgy. Rather, we listen and wait for God to act and to move us. 'Prayer does not bring God or the divine presence to us.' Even esteemed friends seem not to understand this."

And then he notes a reference to Mgr Robert Sokolowski.

In the above-mentioned chapter 5 (“Understanding Understanding”) of Hemming’s book, he writes, “It is a persistent feature of contemporary liturgical theology to argue that liturgical action makes God present to man. No less august a theologian and philosopher than Mgr Robert Sokolowski maintains this when he says that the Eucharist re-enacts the sacrifice of Calvary.” (57)

Two points:
1. Sokolowski’s points are phenomenological and not speculative nor dogmatic (as he himself points out in the first chapter of his book). Further, his comments should be understood within the stated framework of reflections upon mysteries of the faith and how they appear, how they display themselves. Thus, anything Sokolowski says should not be taken as normative as Hemming implies. Descriptive is key to what Sokolowski is doing.

2. Sokolowski anticipates this concern of Hemming. He (Sokolowski) makes key distinctions to avoid misunderstandings of his points: sacramental reenactment vs. mimetic reenactment; depicting vs. quoting; sacramental quotation vs. regular quotation; quotational gesture vs. dramatic reenactment; and on and on. The point (seemingly against Hemming’s interpretation of Sokolowski): Mgr Sokolowski, himself, says that “it would be wrong to conclude that the priest is involved in a dramatic reenactment of the Lord’s conduct at the first Eucharist. The Mass is not a depiction of the Last Supper. [… ] it reenacts the death and Resurrection of Christ sacramentally and not mimetically.” (86)

Mgr. Sokolowski concludes this section of his book with this final point of clarification: “it might appear that the primary initiative in sacramental action lies in the present moment, with the Church and the local community and the celebrant of the Mass; […]. It is rather the case that the initiative lies with God and Christ […].” “The Mass is celebrated in obedience to Christ’s command […]. Christ elevates the voice and gestures of the celebrant and allows them to re-embody his own words and gestures, thus allowing his redemptive action to be embodied sacramentally in the Eucharist. The priest lends his voice and hand to Christ; he does not order or conjure.” (90)

As Sokolowski concludes this section of his work, I wonder what Hemming makes of Sokolowski’s attempt to evade the precise criticism Hemming made.

Sokolowski: “To ascribe the initiative to the present Church, community, and minister would be to misunderstand who is acting and the kind of action being performed in the Eucharist.”

And lastly: “The Eucharist reflects the economy of Christian salvation, in which God redeems us but also calls us to act in accepting his grace. It is an economy that reflects the being of Christ, in whom both man and God acted to perform one and the same deed.” (90-91)

Whatever one thinks of Mgr Sokolowski’s views, it should be clear that he does not hold the view that liturgical action itself makes God present to man. As he himself said, God is the initiator, not man nor the Church.

That said, I still think Hemming’s book is worth the read and, hopefully, the subject of further discussion.

Catholic Femina

The amazement of the lay committing liturgical abuses is that they committ them with the notion that they are in fact helping. The clergy who allow these manifestations of blunder to occur need to be re-educated. It is hard for sheep to follow a blind shepherd. Pray for all priests in the year for priests!

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