Saturday, November 30, 2019
Shhhhhh. . . Maybe nobody will notice
Could it be that no one wants to remember it? For the traddies in Rome it was a mistake. For the progressives, it was but a first step. For Lutherans the event marked our own plunge into liturgical reform (for the LCMS it was publishing the Worship Supplement that same year). We were already at work on a pan-Lutheran hymnal that never succeeded in its goal of unity but was a profound departure from the gradual reforms of the past. For others it was overshadowed by other religious news from the priest abuse scandal to the emptying of belief and the abandonment of the creedal confessions of the past. In any case, it should not be forgotten.
Novus Ordo was not all bad and neither was the Liturgical Movement that gave it birth but some thing were absolutely tragic. The radical disconnect with what had gone before was felt well beyond the pale of Rome. The liturgical change that moved by leaps and bounds instead of small incremental steps left clergy and laid confused and disoriented. The opportunity to disconnect style from substance gave birth to a whole movement that abandoned the liturgical tradition even in church bodies that once knew it well. The movement to incorporate indigenous culture certainly was made possible by Novus Ordo if not promulgated by it. The loss of a great and historic musical tradition may be largely irreparable. The mass abandonment in the pews was hastened by if not caused by the liturgical tremors that left the faithful wounded. The Novus Ordo participated in, even if it was unwittingly, the move to a personalized and individualized sense of what was meaningful, relevant, and good within worship.
The good things that came out of Novus Ordo were almost accidental rather than deliberate but we should not forget them. The re-connection between what was happening with the priest at the altar with the folks in the pews cannot be overlooked. This is a good thing. The worst of the Latin Mass was the fact that priest and people seemed to operate in different worlds within the same liturgical space and this was unhealthy. The move to re-establish a voice and role for the laity was good. There will be arguments over whether the 3-year or historic lectionary is better but no one can deny it has led to a renewal of preaching even in places like Rome not ordinarily known for preaching. In addition it sparked a renewal and flourishing of hymnody that has produced more modern equivalents to the great and historic hymns of the past than any other age.
So I can see why some would not want to celebrate this anniversary but I cannot understand why we would ignore it. The clock cannot be turned back. Fifty years has passed and for good or for ill this is the liturgical landscape around us. Lutherans, Episcopalians, and others all were affected by what Paul VI invented under the tutelage of Bugnini. So we need to come to turns with it all.