(by Fr. Christopher Smith, S.T.D., pastor of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, SC)
All over the English speaking world, priests are receiving copies of Divine Worship: The Missal, produced in a handsome volume by CTS in England. The most recent edition of the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, Antiphon, is dedicated entirely to the new Missal, and offers very useful commentary for those who want to know why the text is what it is. It is very much worth a read.
But why is this event so important?
1. Divine Worship: The Missal is the first original missal to come out of the Catholic Church in the Latin Rite since the introduction of the Missale Romanum of Paul VI. It has been 45 years since a liturgical project of this magnitude has been seen in the West, even though there have been significant revisions in some of the Eastern rite books during that time.
2. The Catholic Church has much experience with the integration of liturgical rites and the spirituality of Eastern communities that have been reintegrated into the obedience of the Apostolic See. The liturgy of the Personal Ordinariates is the first time the Church has seen the integration of liturgical rites and the spirituality of an ecclesial community that rose as a result of the Protestant Reformation. It is a significant milestone for ecumenism, and the process by which the juridical structure and the liturgy of groups of Anglicans seeking union with the Holy See can be a template for other reconciliations within the Body of Christ.
3. As a result of continual use within the tradition of the Anglican missals and wider Anglican liturgical tradition in Anglican use, Divine Worship: The Missal, the ordinariate use of the Roman Mass, recovers certain elements of pre-Tridentine liturgy, as well as of the liturgy outside of the use of the Roman Curia. It demonstrates the possibility of recovery of liturgical notions from before the centralization of Pius V’s Quo primum, restoring within the Western Church a greater plurality of uses than has been had since 1570.
4. The liturgical reform after Vatican II took place in the days of heady optimism and ferment of the 1960s. This liturgical project takes place with some distance from that reform. Those who have been involved in the process know all too well the positive and negative effects of the mid-century liturgical reform, and it seems that they have been taken into consideration here.
5. The new Missal is a powerful exercise in the hermeneutic of continuity. Although the primary purpose is to preserve the Anglican patrimony, it does integrate elements of the modern Roman Rite. It is incorrect to say that this new liturgy is a throwback to something previous. But it also recovers elements from the pre-reformed Western ritual tradition in a harmonious way. It integrates things that will be familiar to Catholics who worship according to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but also insofar as those things are complemented by pre-Tridentine aspects as well as those which made their way into Anglican sources like the English Missal tradition. The new book finds itself drawing from the previous tradition in ways which are not contradictory to the general outline and principles of the modern Roman Rite.
6. Divine Worship: The Missal is clearly the fruit of Pope Benedict XVI’s liturgical, ecclesiological and ecumenical vision to preserve the Anglican patrimony. In this respect, prescinding from the obvious integration of classically Anglican texts into the Ordinary of the Mass, it could provide a template for a Reform of the Roman Rite in continuity with the tradition which goes beyond aesthetics and ceremonial details all the way to officially approved liturgical texts.
I think for these six reasons alone, the publication and implementation of Divine Worship: The Missal should be interesting to all liturgically minded folk, and should be positively celebrated by those of us who have made the Benedictine liturgical vision the cornerstone of our pastoral practice and ecclesial spirituality.
At the same time though, I do have some considerations about what else needs to be done, and what the potential pitfalls might be with this new Missal.
1. There will be a massive need for liturgical formation of the faithful and clergy, not only of the Personal Ordinariates, but within the Roman Rite as well, of the reasoning behind the choices made which resulted in the book as it is. The careful process of discernment that resulted in the book has been admirable. That process has to now be accessible to those who will worship according to it. It is devoutly to be wished that a critical edition of the Missal outlining the sources for each prayer, rubric and document be made available to scholars and congregants alike. There will be a great need for a beautifully produced hand missal that can provide a profound, accessible and succinct catechesis to accompany the introduction of the Rite.
2. There is not a highly developed ceremonial accompanying the book, reflecting perhaps a similar lack in the modern Roman Rite. Will a version of The Parson’s Handbook, Ritual Notes, or Anglican Services follow the publication of the Missal? Even if it is in no way prescriptive, access to such a document would help to unify the sometimes bewilderingly diverse practices across Ordinariate communities and create a more unified sense of style that will in turn help form a cohesive identity. The ceremonial presupposes rubrics in a traditional direction, whilst also admitting, for pastoral reasons within a given community, the possibility of celebration in a manner more closely conformed to the present iteration of General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
3. It is clear that Divine Worship: The Missal is the liturgy proper to the Ordinariates. One must ask the question whether the continued use of the modern Roman Rite in the communities of the Personal Ordinariates makes sense, since there is no need for a separate community to celebrate the Roman Mass with non-textual elements of the Anglican patrimony, which can be done anyway. On the other hand, if priests of the Roman Rite can celebrate the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite for those who request it, will this new Missal be restricted to the communities of the Ordinariate, and if so, why? Could it not profitably find a home even in other places in the Catholic Church, thus giving the Anglican patrimony a home in the heart of the Church and not exclusively in small communities circumscribed by the Anglican tradition?
4. Could greater access to the Anglican Ordinariate use even outside the communities established for that reason not be a boon for mutual enrichment? Should the modern Roman Rite be forced into a position where another form of the Rite cannot influence it at all?
I say this because I see ample opportunity for growth outside of the confines of the Personal Ordinariate, although it is clear that the new liturgy is proper to it. To make a parallel, the communities answerable to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei have the right to exclusive use of the 1962 Missal. But, as we know, the Extraordinary Form is alive and well outside those communities, who have not suffered because of its availability elsewhere, and the two forms of the Roman Mass can coexist peacefully even in the same parish. I even have been told that there are parishes which have the three forms of the Roman Rite. Why should there not be more, where there is a desire on the part of the faithful or for the spiritual good of the priest celebrant to have it?
The Church has made a careful and beautiful discernment of what parts of the Anglican patrimony can be united without being absorbed into the Catholic Church and in her Roman liturgical tradition. Can we safely assume that the Spirit who worked to bring this marvel about could also work wonders unthought of if this patrimony is unleashed in the heart of the Church?