Returning one again to Professor Tracey Rowland's talk, I do not want to speak about the adolescent outbursts in some quarters that followed her edited interview on Youtube issued by CNS. It was published following her highly praised speech on the Usus Antiquior and the New Evangelisation delivered at the Liturgia Sacra Conference in Rome last month, there is a summary here.
I had hoped that her paper might have been published somewhere by now.
However, six years on it is worth asking whether Summorum Pontificum has added much to the Church and whether it really has much relevance for the Church today and Evangelisation.
Benedict's choice of the date 07/07/07, tripling the mystical number, to publish it seems like a rather gentle Benedictine'joke' to underline its importance. For Benedict, so concerned in his Papacy with reconciliation, saw SP as a way of reconciling the Church's past with its present. At a time when rupture was seen as the dominant interpretation of Vatican his words, "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful", came like gentle balm. That sentence and the de-ghettoisation of the ancient Rite gave a tangible foundation to Benedict's theology of 'the hermeneutic of continuity', no longer can 'Liberal' pastors and theologians speak in terms that suggest the Church had a Pol Pot style 'year zero' sometime in the 1970s.
To think that less than a decade before 07/07/07 Cardinal Noe used to mince around his basilica, he was Archpriest, and would remove the cruets from the credence ledge of any priest celebrating the traditional rite, compare that with Fr Smith's report of St Peter's here of liturgical life early in the morning at St Peter's.
There is something about the 'old Mass' and the 4th Commandment, 'honour you mother and father and you will live long in the land', in broad terms, a connection with the past and belonging results in stability and prosperity. Vatican II's document on Christian Unity said that disunity was a scandal which impeded evangelisation. The scandal of the Church hate its immediate past is hardly healthy, and pre 07/07/07 that seemed to be how the Church presented itself.
The former Abbot of Worth, Fr Christopher Jamison, now the Director for the National Office of Vocation spoke a few months ago about the high proportion of young men who applied to Westminster diocese whose vocational formation was much influenced often heavily by the old Mass. Here, in my parish we had to stop offering E.F. High Mass or even sung Mass because both servers who were capable of being MC both left, one to be a brother of Birmingham Oratory and the other joined an order in France that exclusively celebrates the EF. I estimate a good 30% plus of young priest I know of either celebrate the Traditional Mass as one of their 'first Masses' or learn it within a couple of years of Ordination. Along with the Mass goes a serious interest in the theology and especially the theology and spirituality of the priesthood that flows from it, often, still, to the chagrin of the seminary authorities and their diocesan bishop.
I really do not think Benedict expected every priest in the world to suddenly start celebrating the Traditional Mass, he made a point of not doing so publicly himself but he spoke 'mutual enrichment' and with it gone are the Bugnini days of stressing the rubrics of the old Rite do not (necessarily) apply to the new, indeed Benedict seemed to use the old prayers for incensation, gestures and even liturgical ornaments of the older Rite, on a few occasions he gave the impression of using the older offertory prayers, but most especially he used the older form as the source of his theology. So often the images in his sermons and quotations are from the older Rite. Rhanner and many of the Concilliar and later Jesuit theologians might well have scorned the liturgy as the source of theology but for Benedict the liturgy, as given, is the 'source and summit' of his theology and those he has, and will, influence. It has always be the source and expression of the Church's theology, for Paul VI and JPII whilst the liturgy was in flux this may have been lacking, this was not so with Benedict whose insistence that liturgy is 'fixed' and his own example has returned us to what is theology's bedrock.
For Benedict SP is about preparing the Church to be effective in evangelisation. On the ground he has scattered seeds, they need time to germinate. Some might moan that despite SP they can't get to a Traditional Mass, even in a large city. In many places Mass is still advertised as "Low Mass at 3.45pm on the fifth Sunday of alternative winter months, telephone before coming". No-one expected that all of a sudden bishops would be sending priests brought up to mistrust 'tradition' off on training courses, there are rare exceptions like Bishop Dominique Rey of Toulon Frejus who seems to ordain more priests than the rest France put together, other than the diocese of Paris and a few there are a US bishops who actively encourage the older use, where this has happened vocations seem to be increasingly plentiful, where it has not they are few.
Today, because of SP the liturgy of the Catholic Church is plural, the older Rite belongs to everyone, it is not the preserve of an aesthetic or sartorial elite, which was Professor Rowland's point, even if they try to claim it as their own ghetto, and her most important was that it does not belong to groups like the SSPX or other groups, whose raison d'etre seems increasingly to be to oppose a legitimate Council of Holy Church.
Though one might have a preference for either form, to be solely attached to one or the other, whilst despising the other is totally contrary to the intention of SP and contrary to Catholic sensibility. Professor Rowland in her talk seems to be trying understand why Pope Benedict took the rather risky step (remember the reaction of the French bishops and others who seemed threaten schism over SP) of liberalising the ancient Mass.
“I want to argue that the usus antiquior is an antidote to the ruthless attacks on memory and tradition and high culture, typical of the culture of modernity, and that it satisfies the desire of the post-modern generations to be embedded within a coherent, non-fragmented tradition that is open to the transcendent.”Here in the UK several priests have used the TLM as part of a strategy to evangelise. Richard Collins recently made the wise observation that the TLM was a little like cigarettes or whiskey, a pleasure which at first might be not so pleasant but soon can become addictive, I suspect he had the Missa Lecta more in mind than High or Sung Mass. Here, in my parish, we have used High Mass for various important occasions, my silver jubilee, the 150 Anniversary of the opening of our church and great feasts, with encouraging results, all of these occasions have brought the lapsed or even non-believers in and caused them to wonder. In many ways solemn celebrations of the Traditional Mass are actually more accessible than the Ordinary Form.
The entrance point for the Traditional Mass is simply an openness to beauty, or the transcendent, or even western culture, for the Ordinary Form as usually celebrated it demands at least a comprehension of a vernacular language, some grounding in scripture and the current ecclesiastical culture - by that I mean at its lowest level simply knowing the hymns, a being comfortable with, or lacking a prejudice against a particular musical style. The Novus Ordo as it is currently celebrated either draws people in or repels them, Benedict's insistence on 'correct' translations of the Latin texts, the assertion of the 'giveness' of the Liturgy, was a reminder that the Novus Ordo had like the TLM an objective reality and was not supposed to be subjective as both its more liberal supporters and conservative detractors often claim. Improvisations, along with balloons, ceramic vessels and clowns are an aberration, so too the imposition of an individual celebrants personality, style or preferences.
Even so I would suggest that the TLM, in its solemn forms offers to the unchurched a 'worship experience' which can be more profound and more easily comprehended, it invites the participants into the mysteries of Redemption, by down playing the initial response of intellectual comprehension it allows a much more visceral response. A Jewish friend and former parishioner tells of his conversion beginning with High Mass, Thomas Merton speaks of his conversion too beginning by a chance encounter with the mutter of the Mass, an important part of my own conversion was stumbling into a Paris Church and hearing the singing of Introit whilst the clergy ascended the altar steps to sing Mass amidst a cloud of incense. A Filipino former member of our congregation, arriving in London to work for someone near Harrod's, with no English and as she admitted herself with no education found herself torn between a Filipino charismatic prayer group and the TLM (and the Lady Altar) at the London Oratory. The TLM, which for her like the boys at St Peter's was the 'New Mass' with no cultural baggage at all won out.