Thursday, June 9, 2011
What people want...
Immediately there was an outcry from those who do not like Novus Ordo and who are in favor of the restoration of the Extraordinary Form to more ordinary practice. One commentator, with whom I have much sympathy, sarcastically asked if it was really true that "I guess we have to take his word on that. There are no requests from any of the people of God for the older Mass there. Not a single priest is interested in it either. And there better not be any interest, either. This is 'settled practice'."
I know from whence he speaks and certainly I would resonate with the need for the reigns to be pulled in on the abuses of Novus Ordo. What I take issue with is the the idea that one form or another depends upon the interest or desire from the people. Whether people want Latin or the vernacular should not be the primary impetus for liturgical change. What people want is a tyranny just as baneful as the tyranny of a particular archbishop or local priest. "What we want" is not on the list of reasons for liturgical change or not.
If people want to clap to the sound of a vacuous song accompanied by an inept praise band or if people want to have a choir that sings the ordinary in Latin while they kneel and pray, should not determine what we do on Sunday morning. I am not liturgical because I like it. Personal preference is not the guiding principle. Lutherans are liturgical because our Confessions expect, assume, and insist this is reflective of our faith and identity as Lutherans. We do not vote to have the Mass or not, whether to sing/chant or not -- the list could go on and on -- we do these things because that is who we are as Lutheran Christians. When we or Rome give in and allow personal preference to dictate practice, then the liturgical life of a parish will become a smorgasbord of options to fit everyone's preference or taste. In this way the liturgy becomes the great divider instead of the place where we are united and our community identity as the Church/Body of Christ trumps our individual identities as Christians.
We as Lutherans have not had the history of a rigid uniformity like the one imposed by Trent and sustained for more than 450 years. Maybe we should. That is a discussion for another day. The point is that our diversity is not simply the domain of taste or preference but reflective of the varying resources available to us (musicians, language, education, etc.). Even when people want the liturgy and prefer it to something else, this is a weak argument and lasts only as long as the taste of the folks does not change. Our liturgical identity on Sunday morning is rooted not in personal taste but in faithfulness to Scripture, tradition (consult how St. Paul uses that word), the means of grace, and our Confession.