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The Liturgical Reform That Should Have Been

06/05/2014 Comments (45)

It is easy to look at Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy, and look at the mass we have now and know that something got lost in translation.   We frequently see people criticizing liturgical abuse and pointing out the obvious defects of the modern liturgy.  This is, I suppose, necessary and proper.  It is also common to hear the sentiment expressed that the mass promulgated in 1969 and certainly what it has morphed into now is not what the fathers of the Council envisioned and not the type of reform for which the documents of Vatican II called.

I have a great fondness for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  As I have said before, that one only need attend a few low masses in the Vetus Ordo to understand how the liturgical movement was born and one need only attend one high mass to understand we threw the baby out with the bathwater.

But this got me to thinking, it is easy to point out all that went wrong and I like to do that as much as the next guy.  But what would right have looked like?  That is a tougher question.  

What if reform true to the spirit of the liturgy had occurred in the 1960's?  What if the reform of the liturgy had been done with with faithfulness and restraint "and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing." What if Annibale Bugnini had been shipped off to Iran with the rest of his team a decade earlier and I had been magically transported back in time to take his place?  What would I have done?  

What would the reformed liturgy have looked like if that had happened? (Leaving, of course, the Vetus Ordo alone.)

I think this is an interesting thought exercise.  I am of the mind that not many things should have changed from the liturgy of 1962.  In my unqualified opinion, some things that might have changed:

The variable parts of the mass, those parts that are different every day, could be read in the vernacular, but everything else should have stayed in Latin.  The emphasis should have been on teaching people about the mass.

In the low mass with the faithful present, the faithful could make some of the responses after proper instruction.

Perhaps some prayers of the priest, where proper, could have been made more audible.  Perhaps the priest could use a microphone, yet the inaudible prayers could remain inaudible.  We see that today.

All in all, I think the properly reformed liturgy (meaning reformed by me!), the liturgy envisioned by the Council Fathers would have been very similar to what already existed.

Of course, some things that should never change.  

The Roman Canon.
Altar BOYS.
Reception while kneeling and on the tongue.
Ad orientem.
Gregorian Chant.

So what do you think?  If the reform of the liturgy had occurred according to Sacrosanctum Concilium, with restraint and care for organic growth, what is the reformed liturgy that should have been?

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About Pat Archbold

Pat Archbold
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Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.