Saturday, December 29, 2007

Launching "Onions and Melons," Marini Goes Motu-Mad

As if Archbishop Piero Marini's new treatise on the liturgical reform wasn't already providing enough grist for the chattering circles, the former papal MC upped the ante a bit further in an interview (fulltext) with John Allen running in the current National Catholic Reporter.

NCR : You’ve called on the church to “take up with enthusiasm the liturgical path traced by the council.”
Marini: First of all, it’s important that I spoke about a path, one that I believe is irreversible. I often think about the journey of the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament. It was a difficult journey, and sometimes the people became nostalgic for the past, for the onions and the melons of Egypt and so on. In other words, sometimes they wanted to go back. But the historical journey of the church is one which, by necessity, has to move forward.

We’re in the liturgical season of Advent right now, which tells us that the Lord is in front of us, not behind us. If you want a lesson about the dangers of going back, I’ll limit myself to the woman from the Old Testament who turned around and became a pillar of salt!

What’s the essential content of this path?
We have to keep in mind two fundamental principles. First is the relationship with scripture, because in the liturgy we celebrate what’s contained in the Bible. That’s why the liturgical reform gave so much space to scripture. Second, we have to always be grounded in the church of the Fathers. ... I’m talking about the era of Augustine, Ambrose, the early period of the church.

Then, of course, there are the other elements emphasized by Vatican II. First of all, the priesthood of the faithful is something that we can’t afford to forget. Of course, we know that the Protestants thought they had “discovered” the priesthood of the faithful, because they saw that in the Bible the word “priest” referred only to Christ and to the holy people of God, not to the apostles. For that reason, the church of the Reformation rejected the idea of an institutional priesthood. The Catholic church naturally defended it, and created a liturgy, the Tridentine liturgy, which made a sharp distinction between the priest and the people of God. The liturgy became something priests do.

Vatican II helped us to rediscover the idea of the priesthood as something universal. The faithful don’t receive permission from priests to participate in the Mass. They are members of a priestly people, which means they have the right to participate in offering the sacrifice of the Mass. This was a great discovery, a great emphasis, of the council. We have to keep this in mind, because otherwise we run the risk of confusion about the nature of the liturgy, and for that matter, the church itself.

Your book creates the impression that you’re concerned about the current liturgical direction of the church, warning of a return to a “preconciliar mindset.”
I see a certain nostalgia for the past. What concerns me in particular is that this nostalgia seems especially strong among some young priests. How is it possible to be nostalgic for an era they didn’t experience? I remember this period. From the age of 6 until I was 23, in other words for 18 years, I lived with the Mass of Pius V. I grew up in this rite, and I was formed by it. I saw the necessity of the changes of Vatican II, and personally I don’t have any nostalgia for this older rite, because it was the same rite that had to be adapted to changing times. I don’t see any step backward, any loss. I’m always surprised to see young people who feel this nostalgia for something they never lived with. ‘Nostalgia for what?’ I find myself asking.

How do you explain this nostalgia?
In part, I suppose, because implementation of the liturgy of the council has been difficult. It’s true that many times there were exaggerations, which happened for the most part in a time when we could say there was disorder in the church. This was the period of great debates over new Eucharistic prayers, private adaptations, and so on. The danger today, on the other hand, is a ‘neo-ritualism,’ meaning a sort of exhaustion that one sees in many priests who celebrate the rite almost as if it’s a magical formula rather than a real participation of life. I see, therefore, a certain separation between celebration and life. Obviously, this separation can induce nostalgia for the past, for a time when everything was easier … when we used a language that no one understood, the rites were often incomprehensible, there were signs of the Cross everywhere, and so on. There wasn’t the same expectation that liturgy should speak to life. If one doesn’t insist on the link, it’s easy to see the liturgy more in terms of theatre. I believe this, to some extent, is the basis of the nostalgia we see today.

I also ask myself, what sort of instruction is being given on liturgy in the seminaries? How much time is devoted to it? It ought to be a principal subject, but speaking at least about Italy, including the great seminaries in the largest urban areas, sometimes no more than two hours a week are devoted to the liturgy. It’s impossible to form priests in a deep experience of the liturgy this way.

Would you see Benedict XVI’s motu proprio of July 7, granting wider permission to celebrate the old Mass, as part of this nostalgia?
Look, I don’t really want to get into this subject. I’ll just make two points.

First, the pope said that he was motivated to issue the motu proprio out of a concern for unity. [Note: The reference is to the split following Vatican II involving followers of French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected the new Mass and other reforms.] In that sense, the basis of the motu proprio has a positive aspect. One has to respect the pope, who certainly has to keep this concern for unity close to his heart. Obviously I’m not in his position, and while I might have different ideas, as Catholics we must respect the role he plays.

Second, the pope himself wrote in the letter that accompanied the motu proprio that it takes nothing away from the authority of the Second Vatican Council. In the same way, the pope said that this is no way detracts from the validity of the liturgical reform. From my point of view, therefore, the motu proprio does not change the need to keep moving forward with renewal of the liturgy....

What personal memories have stayed with you from the death of Pope John Paul II?
From a personal point of view, for me these were the sort of moments that all of us live through when we lose someone in our families with whom we’ve been very close for a long time. I remember not only the great public celebrations, the funeral rites, but also much more private moments. For example, I remember the last time I saw the pope. It was the day before his death, Friday. He was in his bed, with the respirator, and he reached out for me, wanting to take my hand in his. He couldn’t speak, but he wanted to make contact.
As previously mentioned, the archbishop's rollout tour to plug A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal hits the States in mid-February.

While the jaunt will also find Marini in Chicago, Boston, and at Notre Dame, its main launch-event will come in New York on the 16th. The archbishop will celebrate a Saturday evening Vigil Mass at the UN's "parish church" -- Holy Family on 47th Street -- followed by a reception and book-signing in the parish hall.

Suffice it to say, leave the salt at home.