Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tridentine Observations, Part II: The Rites and Blessings.

Let me beginning this installment of Tridentine Observations with a meta-observation. An appreciation of traditional liturgy and measured criticism of the ordinary form does not mean that one dislikes, rejects, or ignores the Second Vatican Council. Far from it! A true traditionalist embraces all that the Church teaches whether it was 10, 50, 100, or 1000 years ago. An Ecumenical Council must be accepted and embraced. What can and must be rejected is a view of Vatican II as an uber-council that represents a rupture with the past rather than a continuation and a deepening. I was speaking with a priest friend today and he rightly pointed out that people may have seen my old banner as a rejection of Vatican II, hence the new and improved banner. (Thanks Vincenzo!)

Now, about the rites and blessings. One of the lesser known benefits of the Motu Proprio allowing the free celebration of the Mass of Blessed John XXIII was that it also allow the use of the older rites for the sacraments and the Rituale Romanum. So far, I have done 3 baptisms, 1 extreme unction,1 confession, and 1 burial according to the extraordinary form. To say that it is eye-opening is an understatement. I had assumed that the changes in the rites were mainly cosmetic. While the central rite of the sacraments remain the same, the attendant rites were significantly altered and not only by the addition of a liturgy of the word and intercessions to just about everything.

Let's focus on Baptism. The extra-ordinary form of Baptism focus' significantly more on the breaking of the power of sin and Satan over the person baptized. There are multiple and explicit minor exorcisms with very powerful verbal images. Also, there are minimal explanations of the rites. They are allowed to speak for themselves. The Concilium seems to have felt the overwhelming need to explain everything in detail and ad nauseum. The new rite has readings from Sacred Scripture and allows a homily. While I have found the readings from Sacred Scripture very useful, I have never found a homily to be needed or appropriate. (On the other hand, I have no use for the readings during the rite of anointing.) The new rite takes about half the time and that is not counting the ritual for the blessing of baptismal water. (I do appreciate the new rite's strong encouragement of blessing new water for each baptism.) The new rite seems, well, too bare bones. Noble simplicity is not bare Bauhaus.

In general, I find that the old rites have better imagery and seem to be more willing to allow God's action to be mysterious. Also, it seems to me a better option to have the scripture integrated into the rite rather than as an obvious and clumsy 'liturgy of the word'. Like the calendar, some changes and tweaking were required, but I think a wholesale revision was a mistake, particularly the watering down of the minor exorcisms in baptism. (The worst of these being the new liturgy for confession, which as I have said before is practically unworkable in the parish setting.) Also, it is my opinion that, with the exception of Matrimony and Holy Orders, the Sacraments should not be celebrated in the context of the Mass. What is the purpose of trying to put everything in the Mass? (I particularly dislike baptisms during Mass.)

Now as regards the blessings, give me the Rituale over the Book of Blessings any day. I actually want to bless things.
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