Monday, May 26, 2008

Further Thoughts on the two Forms

This is a topic that I come to time and time again, I must be getting obsessive. but it really relates to how the undercurrents of various philosophies in the Church interrelate. This on the surface is reflected in how the various forms of the liturgy in the Western Church interrelate.

The sacred liturgy can only be seen through the lens of the cross. The Extraordinary Form has that emphasis on "verticality" which is seen in the hierarchy of the assembled people of God and their Ministers. Christ, particularly when the priest consecrates and elevates the sacred Host/Chalice is at the apex. This is like the verticality of the cross. The bottom of the post sits in the soil and rock where we are in this mortal life and points us to heaven.

The Ordinary Form has that sense of "horizontality". The Altar and the Ambo are often at the same level, and there is more physical interaction between the sacred Ministers and the assembled community. The horizontality is the beam of the cross where Jesus stretches out his arms and "draws all men to himself".

In the 21st century Latin Church, the Ordinary and the Extraordinary forms fit together to form a whole cross. Without one or the other the cross is incomplete. This is truely where we have moved on from the 20th century where there was one form of liturgy, which led to wholesale revisions, and then there was another form of liturgy. The two were seen as mutually exclusive. We have now come to a more fuller understanding and can draw from the riches of both.

Now remember that the horizontal beam of the cross is at the top of the cross, not at the bottom. This means that although the OF Mass may have more emphasis on horizontality than the EF Mass, this horizontality has to be exalted. Many liturgies in the OF are like putting the beam down at ground level, in the dirt. To take an extreme case this is where the "smoke of satan" enters into the church because making the liturgy at the lowest level actually makes the cross upside-down.

This concept of "exalted horizontality" should inform where an authentic reform movement should go.

It should be kept in mind that both forms should have elements of and be informed by the other. For instance the EF can be informed by elements and theology of Sacramentum Consilium as a valid instance of organic growth. Conversely, the OF can be informed by the traditions of the EF, without trying to "Tridentinise" the OF. (This is my chief criticism of the reform-of-the-reform movement - if you want to tridentinise something why not do it properly and just celebrate the EF Mass thus enhancing the EF as a part of living tradition).

I hope this generates some comment and discussion here.


Terra said...

The two arms of the cross is a nice idea worth thinking about.

But I'm not convinced!

Part of the problem I think is that we mostly experience the EF as a low mass said at the high altar of the Church. Yet the norm is supposed to be a sung mass, with low masses said at side altars much closer to the people.

In the sung TLM, there are several things that do emphasize the horizontal element that you see as missing - think for example of the asperges, where all of the people are sprinkled with holy water in preparation to celebrate the holy mysteries; the singing of the responses; the incensing of the people at the offertory, etc. There were even more in the late medieval mass (see Duffy's Stripping of the Altars).

So I'd argue that it is a myth that the EF doesn't have much sense of the community worshipping as a group in it.

It is certainly true though that it does make it clear that the primary orientation is of all of the community facing God, not ourselves.

And that is my problem with the OF - it so easily becomes a celebration of us - the look at me, I'm the priest phenomemon, or even worse, the look at us laity, we are so great and so important.

Just my two cents worth!

Stephen said...

What I have spoken about here is ideals. Both forms have elements of "verticality" and "horizontality". The EF has a greater degree of verticality whilst the OF has a greater degree of horizontality. The EF when celebrated properly in a way that effectively ensures actual participation of the people in prayer responses and gestures is probably closest to the ideal, as it presents a good balance between the two themes.

The OF does have its problems in that its greater emphasis on horizontality combined with poor directions as to its worthy celebration; has led to the problems that you have mentioned.

Its only when the OF is seen in its rightful context of "turning towards the Lord" whether just in the disposition of the priest and the people or taken further with a phyusical turning (eg ad orientem) can we realise the ideal of "exalted horizontality" whihc addresses the vertical nature of the liturgy as well.

Terra said...

What are the elements that you would label and verticzal, and which horizontal?

I don't think personally see participation in the external actions of the mass as expressions of 'horizontality' - whether done properly in the OF or EF they are surely supposed to be outward expressions of inward dispositions of worship rather than gesture of solidarity with each other?