Monday, August 26, 2013

Their Novus Ordo and Ours

Over at NLM today, Gregory DiPippo continues his litany of complaints about the Roman Catholic liturgical revisions of the 20th century in excruciating detail.  We don't usually bother with these, but today's entry, on the "Baptism of the Bells," is worth a  look even for people who have no particular interest in the ceremony.

The practice in question is not, obviously, a baptism.  It is a blessing of bells for church use.  The particular ceremony is said to be 1200 years old, but -- like so much else -- it was extensively revised in the twentieth century.  In this case, it was the 1961 pontifical -- on the eve of Vatican II, but well prior to the creation of the Novus Ordo properly so called.  (Thanks, Mikael, for the correction!)

DiPippo's main point is that the comments of revisers, Annibale Bugnini and Carlo Braga, were either ignorant or deceptive, or perhaps both.  Bugnini and Braga wrote:
The rite has undergone no essential variants. … The seven penitential psalms, which opened the function, have been omitted. The washing of the bells, which was suggested by the medieval concern to structure the consecration of a bell like a baptismal rite, has also been abolished. There remains, on the other hand, the sprinkling of the bells, accompanied by the singing of Psalm 28 [i.e., 29], which is done responsorially.
DiPippo considers virtually every statement in that paragraph to be false.  Only five of the original psalms were actually penitential; the consecration lacked any of the distinctive features of a baptism; the sprinkling does not "remain" because it was added in the new ceremony.  Whether because they do not know or because they do not care, the authors make no mention of why or how Ps. 29 and its antiphon, Vox Domini, are supposed to figure in.  DiPippo adds that, "Unfortunately, the practice of mangling the source materials like this when revising liturgical books would become even more common in future years."

To all of which, a Protestant may answer:  Who cares? 

Honestly, the endless combat within Roman Catholicism regarding the precise details of comparatively obscure ceremonies hardly registers among us.  Our challenges are generally more basic:  to see that the Eucharist is celebrated without making a total hash of it.  To fend off little cups and self-intinction, to be sure the Blood of Christ is not poured into the septic tank, to keep our full-communion partners from feeding the Lord's Body to dogs.  We will get to the matter of anointing the new bells ... well, someday.  Just before Jesus gets back.  If then.

If we listen, however, it is possible that we will hear in DiPippo's lament some things which may be applicable to our own situation.  Along with the other NO dissenters, he argues that Bugnini & Co. were ham-fisted revisers of the traditional liturgy, and that when they discussed their revisions, they were either ignorant or, far more likely, deceptive.

Among Lutherans, it would be hard to make an equivalent case for the revision process that created the 1978 LBW and its blue sister volume, Missouri's LW.  Whether one likes them or not, the dramatic changes to the Lutheran liturgy that occurred in the late 1970s were widely and publicly discussed.  They reflected what then seemed like an emerging ecumenical consensus.  (One problem, of course, is that the consensus had largely been shaped by the prior work of Bugnini and his companions.)

However, the process of "Renewing Worship" which created the ELW was somewhat less transparent, and the results have been considerably less satisfactory.  While Episcopalians retained their Rite I and Roman Catholics, reflecting upon their "new" rites, have chosen to provide a wider range of more traditional worship resources (more Latin, a more literal English), Lutherans have taken the opposite direction.  The shapers of our newest worship book have taken it upon themselves to make deep changes to the shape of the liturgy, while offering little by the way of rationale.

We wonder whether, in the "Renewing Worship" process, anybody actually asked for a paraphrased, inclusivized psalter.  And if they did, were any of the people who might resist it even consulted?  Likewise, did anybody ask to remove the Gloria Patri from the canticles in Daily Prayer?  We wonder, in particular, whose brilliant idea it was to take the Pax from Holy Communion and insert it, almost randomly, into other ceremonies as well?  (As though the post-70s Pax, described by one layman as "a seventh-inning stretch," were not already a significant problem in pastoral liturgics!)

The longer we use ELW, the more deeply we feel betrayed by its creators.  And with that sense of betrayal comes the question at the heart of DiPippo's post about Bugnini and Braga:  when liturgical revisers "mangle the source material," is it because they are ignorant of the traditions, or because they hate them?


Mikael said...

"The particular ceremony is said to be 1200 years old, but -- like so much else -- it was extensively revised in the years after Vatican II."

Gregory DiPippo writes about a revision which happened BEFORE Vatican II, not after.

Father Anonymous said...

Ah, right. 1961.

My bad -- rewrite in progress. Thanks.

Unknown said...

I see the Gloria Patri after the psalmody in Evening Prayer and after the responsory in Compline... or are there other places for them traditionally?

Father Anonymous said...

I'll get to this, and many more questions raised by Mark C., in a day or two ... As soon as time permits. Promise.

Father Anonymous said...

I somehow deleted a thoughful comment from reader Mark Christianson (I was trying to hit "publish" on a smartphone in the dark). Here's the text:

I'm curious about your comment on the sharing of the peace in the ELW. What leads you to say that? A quick survey of the liturgies in the pew edition finds it can be found in Holy Communion, the Liturgy of the Word, the Maundy Thursday liturgy, the service of healing, and the marriage ceremony. Of those, the marriage ceremony is the only one that seems really dropped in at random. There it is suggested in rites without Communion at the service's conclusion, between the Lord's Prayer and the benediction. That really is an odd place for it. I don't understand why it should be placed there, of all places, from either with regard to meaning or the flow of activity. In the case of the Maundy Thursday liturgy and the healing liturgy, it's inclusion seems to be for clarity. The ELW puts the foot washing after the prayer of the day. The peace follows and then the liturgy continues with the offering. The service for healing is meant to be included at just that same point in either Holy Communion or the Service of the Word. The peace follows it's prayers and blessing before continuing with the service at the offering. The inclusion of the peace in the Service of the Word is new to the ELW, so it at least has been inserted. Yet it doesn't appear random to me, being in the same place as it would be found in the liturgy of Holy Communion. I don't find it misplaced there, neither being an odd place for it nor out of place in that service. I think one could more readily quibble with that particular service's retention in the ELW, seeing as it is a innovation introduced by the Lutheran Book of Worship.