Saturday, September 18, 2021

The triggers of dissent.. . .

Rome has been awash in rumor and upset over the usus antiquior (the Latin Mass for those outside Rome).  It seems that the enemies of the Extraordinary Form (another Roman term for the Latin Mass) seem poised to rein in the freedom to celebrate it largely on the initiative of priest and people granted by Pope Benedict  XVIin Summorum Pontificum.  Certainly Pope Francis has made no secret of his disdain for rigid traddies.  Since he is pope, he has a great deal of control over how the legacy of Benedict.  As I have written before, the situation is ripe for conflict and even perhaps division. 

We live in a peculiar age when those who seek continuity with the past are often characterized as radical while those who more fully embrace change and innovation are lauded as the saviors of a moribund and dying church.  This is certainly true in Rome but it is not only true there.  Lutherans face the same scrutiny and concerns are more often expressed of those clergy practicing a fuller ceremonial than those who practice less or even none at all.  

It was Lucien Deiss who captured the wonder of the early life of the liturgy in his 1979 volume Springtime of the Liturgy.  Ever since, the liturgical movement has been dominated by those who seek to return to the early life of the liturgy and whose goal seems to be to live in a time of experimentation and change.  There are those who are committed to changes and for whom the rites and ecclesiastical reforms have become the starting place for constant reinvention.  A new springtime has established itself against the dead rites of the past and not only among liturgiologists but also among the various ecclesiastical supervisors.  

The reality is that nearly everywhere bishops and superintendents and district presidents are more supportive of those who press the boundaries of change than they are those who reach back into the past to reclaim what was once normative.  In Rome this means that Latin Mass crowd is barely tolerated or its use is not allowed at all by bishops.  In Lutheranism this means that those who advocate for incense, for example, are treated as rebels and radicals.  Roman priests who are true believers and practitioners are regularly cancelled by their bishops.  Lutheran pastors who are true believers and practitioners are regularly suspected of Roman tendencies.  If you don't believe me, read the comments in any blog post here that suggests incense or look back at the stir created when the celebrant at a convention Eucharist had the nerve to genuflect!

Why is it that tradition is a bigger trigger of dissent than innovation and creativity (even when it is gone askew!)?  Why are we as churches more comfortable with those who test the boundaries of propriety on Sunday morning but are decidedly uncomfortable with those whose invention is restoration?  As I have said before, the radicals today are the traditionalists who insist that the saints who went before are teachers for the present.  The most dangerous people in the Church today are true believers, those who value the hermeneutic of continuity, and those who would rather be faithful than creative.  At least that is how it appears from the way these folks are treated by the powers that be.

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