A Plan for Mutual Enrichment

By Smith, Christopher | Sacred Music, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview
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A Plan for Mutual Enrichment

Smith, Christopher, Sacred Music

One of the things I think is wrong with the liturgy wars is that most people seem to start the discussion from their answer to the question: What do I think the liturgy should look like? Yet, the liturgy is not about us, it's about God. And the Popular-Mechanics approach to liturgy which has made everyone an expert in rites means that anyone who has ever come into contact with the Mass has an opinion. So generally I avoid like the plague pontificating on how I think the liturgy should be celebrated and try to actually live the liturgy instead.

Yet the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, has called for the mutual enrichment of the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite and has also suggested that the time has come for a reform of the reform of the rites after the Second Vatican Council. He has also reiterated that there should be mutual respect of both forms and no "ritual mixing." And so many voices are out there calling for a reform of the modern Roman Rite, it's hard to know what such a reform should look like. There are some who are determined to make sure that the extraordinary form never has any influence on the ordinary form, and, if they had their way, they would obliterate its memory from the face of the earth in the most radical damnatio memoriae known to human history. For them there is no question of mutual enrichment; rather, they advance a platform of constant liturgical anarchy. Then there are those for whom mutual enrichment sounds like a plot to infect the venerable classical worship of the church with the theological and spiritual rot that has affected the ephemeral postmodern gathering of the new community sung into being.

As a parish priest who habitually celebrates both forms, I am left scratching my head wondering how the two forms are supposed to enrich each other organically if I can't mix the rites. Pope Benedict XVI has given us a rich teaching on the liturgy as Cardinal Ratzinger, and he has also given the church quite an example of how to celebrate the liturgy. But I am sure I am not alone in desperately wishing for some more practical guidance as to how exactly this is supposed to be done and what I can and cannot do to help bring about the organic restoration of the sacred.

In the final analysis, I wait for the church's instructions on how to go about this. But I do wonder if there could not be three possible stages to the mutual enrichment and reform of the reform, and so I outline here what these might look like. I offer no timeline to this little fantasy. But here it is.


In this first stage, there are many things that can be done now with no mixing of or change to the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite as currently found in the liturgical books.

I also envision some guidance from the magisterium to point this mutual enrichment in the right direction so as to avoid arbitrariness and to support those priests who respond to the call to mutual enrichment.

Enrichment of the Ordinary Form by the Extraordinary Form

--Bishops in cathedrals and pastors in their churches organically adopting the ad orientem position at Mass as implicit in the ordinary form after sustained catechesis of the faithful,

--Reconstruction of altar rails in churches and the spontaneous use of the communion rail as a place from which to distribute Holy Communion,

--Catechesis from the pulpit about the church's preference for Holy Communion on the tongue and under one species,

--Move towards singing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin at ordinary-form Masses,

--Priests, on their own, choosing the options of the ordinary form which are analogous to the extraordinary form, and leaving aside those which are not,

--The spontaneous and consistent use by the clergy of the maniple, biretta, and amice,

--Singing the propers according to the Graduale Romanum at sung Masses, and

--Enforcement of the ecclesiastical discipline on extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

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A Plan for Mutual Enrichment


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