What if Liturgical Reform Had Proceeded Differently?

What if Liturgical Reform movements of the 20th century had just translated texts into the the contemporary vernacular using formal equivalence without changing the texts themselves? Attempts to be more inclusive, to accommodate diversity in theological opinion or liturgical practice, or to better reflect the modern experience could be through adding additional (perhaps optional) new prayers to the historical ones rather than replacing the historical ones, editing the historical ones, or relegating the historical ones to a rarely-used optional status?

I'm not sure if what I just wrote was clear. What I mean is, if you are applying this in the RCC and have the Tridentine Rite RCC Mass to begin with, translate it into the vernacular and leave it largely alone but, where change is desired, add prayers to it rather than delete, edit, shorten, or replace anything. The new prayers could be optional, but the original historical prayers should not be optional (ie, the Roman Canon would remain the only Eucharistic Prayer for the RCC's Latin Rite).

The rubrics would largely stay the same, too, except of course to make more of whatever was said sotto voce said out loud and to involve the laity more in readings and prayers (without changing the texts of the prayers). Lectionary reform is probably a topic for another thread, but perhaps more readings could have been added or existing readings could have been lengthened without changing the historical readings.

This might have been more difficult to do in denominations where many congregations had been using non-authorized liturgical texts or using authorized ones but straying very widely for the rubrics for a very long time. It also might have been more difficult in denominations that were trying to give control over liturgy to the church body in each country or region, which might require composing new liturgies to reflect different national identities and in particular non-Western cultures. Therefore, this may have been particularly difficult within Anglicanism. If one tried to do it in Anglicanism, I suppose it would have been starting with the authorized prayers in each jurisdiction prior to the reforms of the mid-twentieth century, except perhaps in newly decolonized areas that would have understandably wanted their own liturgies. However, within the Latin Rite of the RCC, I think this might have been a good way to avoid the liturgy wars and the resultant self-segregation into different liturgical camps that happened in the RCC in the West, in particular in the English-speaking world.

I'm not saying that historical texts should not have been changed at all (the problematic Tridentine prayers for the Jewish people in the Good Friday litany should definitely have been changed). And involving women and LGBTQ+ people more in liturgy, church governance, and even holy orders could also have continued apace in those denominations where that occurred. I just don't see why liturgy had to get so wrapped up in the politics of the culture wars, or at least why that had to happen to the extent that it did. I don't think all the battles about liturgy were really about liturgy and were instead proxy battles for larger cultural and political issues, especially in churches where liturgical reform was proceeding much faster than reform on issues of gender, sexuality, etc., so people projected their conflicts in those other areas onto liturgy.

Maybe I'm just naive and this would have been impossible.

Comments

  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Vernacular was just one of the things that liturgists wanted to change, and not the most fundamental one. Here is what the bishops decided at Vatican 2 -
    For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.
    and
    The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.
    The culture wars (which we in the UK are largely spared) spread across society. Liturgy is just one of the areas they infect. Liturgy has become a weapon in that nastiness, not the cause of it.
  • I would say that liturgy became a victim of the cultural wars. Certainly this was the case among US Episcopalians, where the division between the 1928 and 1979 prayerbooks reflected splits in views of how the church should be dealing with the shifts in US society-- only in a very few cases was the discussion about specific differences in the texts. Much of this, as in Canada, took place in the 1970s before the gender and sexuality wars (if one may so term them) got going-- we were beginning to see the impact of that in Canada when the Plague came. Liturgy, for the time being, is getting to be theoretical rather than practical.

    Having been adjacent to different factions in the past, I see the difference as being between those who feel that liturgy is a part of our response to the world about us, and those who are more inspired by liturgy as arching over it. They might both be right.
  • Liturgy is 'the work of the people', not recitation of texts. In many traditions liturgy had become clericalised and it was seen as something performed (or preached) by a professional on behalf of a passive congregation. The 'Liturgical Movement' had to address this problem and it couldn't be done by tinkering with texts alone.
  • We usually forget that the liturgical movement is no new thing, and had its origins in France in the 1920s; it had a further push after WWII in the perceived failure of traditional church life to respond to the challenges of the 1930s and 1940s. A new generation of post-WWII ordinands looked to it as a way forward from a broken past.
  • angloid wrote: »
    Liturgy is 'the work of the people', not recitation of texts. In many traditions liturgy had become clericalised and it was seen as something performed (or preached) by a professional on behalf of a passive congregation. The 'Liturgical Movement' had to address this problem and it couldn't be done by tinkering with texts alone.

    My point in the OP is similar to what you are saying. Clericalism, in my opinion, is more a symptom of the way liturgy is prayed, the involvement in the laity in praying it, and the general ecclesial culture in which it is prayed that is one of the texts of the prayers themselves. I think the best way to address clericalism is to change the way the church is governed, the way clergy are chosen and trained, the missional focus of church activities, and the laity's conception of itself. Although the rubrics of the liturgy (especially with regards to lay involvement) are an important part of such reform, and new prayers probably need to be added to old prayers to address current societal concerns, I am not sure that traditional liturgies (in those communions that use them) need to be textually altered to the degree that they were in the mid-twentieth century in order to achieve these ends, and I worry that a lot of theological and spiritual richness that is not above the head of an active and empowered congregation can be lost in such rapid and wholesale editing of historical liturgical texts. The type of editing that concerns me most, as I have said, is the kind that deletes, shortens, or replaces portions of the liturgy rather than adds to it.

    And the unfortunate consequence of the type of liturgical reform that has happened in many communions is the historical liturgical texts themselves, let alone any traditional way of celebrating them, have become politicized and associated with reactionary attitudes to sex and gender and right-wing politics.
  • edited September 12
    It would have had an interesting effect in Refirmed Churches in that liturgical reform would have been far less ecumenical and therefore less attractive. The 'Wet Baby Baptist' era might still be going strong.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited September 12
    Refirmed? Is that a typo or were there once squishy churches that are so no more?
  • It would have had an interesting effect in Refirmed Churches in that liturgical reform would have been far less ecumenical and therefore less attractive. The 'Wet Baby Baptist' era might still be going strong.

    Most of what I know about (and it isn't that much) applies to the Latin Rite of the RCC and to Anglicanism in the US (and, although I know less about it, in England), so it could be that the process and effects of the liturgical reform movement in Reformed Churches (as well as in Methodism) were completely different. Are you saying that you don't think united church bodies like the United Church of Canada would have been formed without liturgical reforms in their founding churches in an ecumenical direction? I acknowledge that creating ecumenical liturgies requires ecumenical discussion which can bring churches closer together, and having liturgies in churches that are similar to the liturgies in other churches makes it easier to visit other churches to worship with fellow Christians, which in turn facilitates ecumenical discussion that could result in church union.

    Do reformed and Methodist churches have a lot more freedom in how they put a service together and whether or not they use prescribed liturgical formulas than RCs, Orthodox, Anglicans, and many Lutherans (I really don't know about the history of Liturgical Reform in Lutheranism so anyone in the know should contribute to the discussion)? Wouldn't this mean that Liturgical Reform in Reformed and Methodist churches, while certain to generate controversy because there will always be people opposed to all kinds of liturgical change or ecumenism, is a bit easier because those traditions are less liturgically prescriptive? Please correct me if I'm getting this completely wrong.
  • Do reformed and Methodist churches have a lot more freedom in how they put a service together and whether or not they use prescribed liturgical formulas than RCs, Orthodox, Anglicans, and many Lutherans (I really don't know about the history of Liturgical Reform in Lutheranism so anyone in the know should contribute to the discussion)?
    For Reformed churches, it varies. Continental Reformed churches, such as the Dutch Reformed and the German Reformed, have tended to have liturgies, particularly for the sacraments, marriages, etc. Historically, though, there has generally been some freedom in the approach to these liturgies. This liturgical approach carried over to the North American descendants of these churches, and the psalters and hymnals of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America still include those churches’ liturgies, along with various confessional documents.

    British Reformed churches, primarily Presbyterians, for various historical reasons rejected set liturgies. In American Presbyterianism, this has meant that rather than liturgies we have Directories for Worship, after the pattern of the Westminster Directory for Worship. Sometimes referred to as “liturgies of only rubrics,” the directories prescribe and proscribe various matters with regard to worship, but with limited exceptions (again, primarily related to the sacraments) do not prescribe specific words, and leave much room for freedom.

    American Presbyterianism has long been suspicious of “set forms.” When the first American Book of Common Worship was published around the turn of the 20th Century, it had to be emphasized on the title page that it was “For Voluntary Use.” The 1970 Worshipbook, however, was a turning point, both in entry into the ecumenical Liturgical Movement and in recovery of a Sunday liturgy centered (in theory if not in practice) on the Eucharist as well as the sermon. The 1993 and 2018 editions of The Book of Common Worship have very much continued that trend, and American Presbyterian Worship, at least in the PC(USA), looks very different now from how it would have looked 100 years ago. But there is still a fair amount of freedom.

    Wouldn't this mean that Liturgical Reform in Reformed and Methodist churches, while certain to generate controversy because there will always be people opposed to all kinds of liturgical change or ecumenism, is a bit easier because those traditions are less liturgically prescriptive? Please correct me if I'm getting this completely wrong.
    I’m not sure “easier” is the right word. The issues and pressure points are different, but can be just as contentious. This is especially so in some more conservative corners of American Presbyterianism, where there is still adherence to the regulative principle, making any liturgical reform suspect.

  • Unlike the Anglicans and Romans who would hold the liturgy as part of Canon Law and oftentimes dependent on the bishop's preference, Lutherans have long held liturgy is adiaphora, meaning it is neither commanded nor forbidden but has the purpose of proclaiming the Word and celebrating the sacraments. I cannot speak for European Lutherans, but at least in the US, you will find Lutheran worship much more decentralized and more fluid.

    We do follow the basic outline of the Common Mass, and we generally follow the Revised Common Lectionary for our readings.

    I think our strength has long been in our congregational singing, where you will find both traditional and contemporary hymns blended together. The ELCA's new Worship Book has a more international flavor to it than previous Hymnals.

    Of note, the Lutheran Book of Occasional Rites is very similar to the Occasional Rites of the Roman Church--and I presume the Anglican church. Once when I was a patient in an ICU there was an RC priest that came in to give the rite of anointing and healing for a patient next to me. I repeated the whole liturgy along with him. He noted that and came over to speak with me. I told him I was a Lutheran minister and he smiled.

    Seems to me some of the more "non-liturgical" traditions are more rigid in their order of service than liturgical communions. I note a few of them are beginning to print orders of service that are more in line with the common mass as well.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Its worth emphasising that liturgical texts are not sacred scripture. They were not handed down engraved on tablets of stone.
    The churches that created them own them and are at liberty to change them if they no longer serve a useful purpose.
    If people choose to use them as weapons in their culture war the people to blame for that are those who indulge in such things, not those who have custody of the liturgy. Neither should liturgists be looking over their shoulders to make sure they are not offending this or that special interest group with other extra-liturgical agendas.
  • What @Gramps49 describes for Lutherans is close to my understanding of Continental Reformed churches, though I think their liturgies are officially adopted by bodies with authority to do so. And as far as that goes, the Directory for Worship that I described for American Presbyterianism does have the force of our equivalent of canon law.

    Similar to what he describes, the structure of the liturgy commended (but not commanded) in the PC(USA)’s Directory follows the general outline of the Western liturgy/mass, and the flow would be familiar to those from more liturgical traditions—at least it would if the Eucharist is celebrated. That is what our liturgical practice moved to in the mid-20th C.

    In my experience, American Methodist worship is less likely to follow that pattern, though that it purely anecdata on my part.

    Alan29 wrote: »
    Its worth emphasising that liturgical texts are not sacred scripture. They were not handed down engraved on tablets of stone.
    The churches that created them own them and are at liberty to change them if they no longer serve a useful purpose.
    Or to put it another way, the liturgy was made for the people, not the people for the liturgy.

    If people choose to use them as weapons in their culture war the people to blame for that are those who indulge in such things, not those who have custody of the liturgy. Neither should liturgists be looking over their shoulders to make sure they are not offending this or that special interest group with other extra-liturgical agendas.
    I agree to a point. But if the purpose of the liturgy is to enable authentic worship, and if the language of the liturgy gets in the way of that purpose, then the liturgy is not doing what it is intended to do.


  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    What @Gramps49 describes for Lutherans is close to my understanding of Continental Reformed churches, though I think their liturgies are officially adopted by bodies with authority to do so. And as far as that goes, the Directory for Worship that I described for American Presbyterianism does have the force of our equivalent of canon law.

    Similar to what he describes, the structure of the liturgy commended (but not commanded) in the PC(USA)’s Directory follows the general outline of the Western liturgy/mass, and the flow would be familiar to those from more liturgical traditions—at least it would if the Eucharist is celebrated. That is what our liturgical practice moved to in the mid-20th C.

    In my experience, American Methodist worship is less likely to follow that pattern, though that it purely anecdata on my part.

    Alan29 wrote: »
    Its worth emphasising that liturgical texts are not sacred scripture. They were not handed down engraved on tablets of stone.
    The churches that created them own them and are at liberty to change them if they no longer serve a useful purpose.
    Or to put it another way, the liturgy was made for the people, not the people for the liturgy.

    If people choose to use them as weapons in their culture war the people to blame for that are those who indulge in such things, not those who have custody of the liturgy. Neither should liturgists be looking over their shoulders to make sure they are not offending this or that special interest group with other extra-liturgical agendas.
    I agree to a point. But if the purpose of the liturgy is to enable authentic worship, and if the language of the liturgy gets in the way of that purpose, then the liturgy is not doing what it is intended to do.


    I agree, but antennae need to be trained to detect politically motivated faux-outrage.
  • No argument there.
  • So much of the time, the reforms embody clericalism by being done to the standard not of where the people are - if liturgy is the work of the people - but where clerics think they are or think they should be. This leads to a fetishisation of mediocrity, as if clerical formation were necessary for appreciation of any kind of sophisticated liturgy. Lay appreciation may be different from clerical, but shockingly this does not invalidate the former.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    Its worth emphasising that liturgical texts are not sacred scripture. They were not handed down engraved on tablets of stone.
    The churches that created them own them and are at liberty to change them if they no longer serve a useful purpose.

    I'm not sure that is the position of some defenders of the Prayer Book. Many seem to treat the Book of Common Prayer as if it were handed to Cranmer from above, and its survival through the fires of the 16th and 17th centuries to become the 1662 text proof of its divinity. Touching the text then becomes anything from sacrilege to heresy.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    So much of the time, the reforms embody clericalism by being done to the standard not of where the people are - if liturgy is the work of the people - but where clerics think they are or think they should be. This leads to a fetishisation of mediocrity, as if clerical formation were necessary for appreciation of any kind of sophisticated liturgy. Lay appreciation may be different from clerical, but shockingly this does not invalidate the former.

    Clergy are people too. Not all liturgists are clerics.
  • Yes, clergy are people too, and I certainly agree wholeheartedly with your second statement. So much of the time, though, I find clerics have a deeply patronising view of the appetites of laity. Well, that's how it seems to me anyway.
  • What I meant by the tongue- in-cheek expression of "wet-baby Baptist" is the near total domination of the "Word" part of "Minister of Word and Sacrament". Holy.Communion became so infrequent and the theology associated was often within a hairs breadth of Memorialism. The Reformed had gone to an extreme and on further reflection, it had to be corrected.

    The Liturgical Movement had nothing to do with Canadian Church Union, it was a case of three churches who likes hymn sandwiches got together and didn't fuss to much about minutiae. There was a greater hint of ecumencalism.when the first service books were produced, but a the three uniting churches were close enough already that nothing scared the horses.

    The Liturgical Movement did return Holy Communion increased from bare quarterly by law to monthly or better. Eucharistic theology got higher too, Memorialism abated. The Sacrament part got much more emphasis and it showed. It shows in baptism to where greater sacramentalism us present, for instance see the famous French Reformed Baptismal Blessing.
  • It shows in baptism to where greater sacramentalism us present, for instance see the famous French Reformed Baptismal Blessing.
    Or in the case of the PC(USA) and some other American Presbyterian bodies, see the revival of signing with the cross and anointing in baptism. Given that just 50+ years ago, both actions were explicitly forbidden, the fact that they are not only permitted now but are, at least in many places, commonly practiced, is noteworthy and is a direct result of the a Liturgical Movement.

  • In Orthodoxy "liturgical movement" means the deacon doesn't chant too slowly.
  • I thought.it was when the thurible hit the priest in the behind....
  • The strangely warmed of Methodism.
  • No, that's when you put hot sauce in the wee cuppies.
  • Much of the Liturgy draws from Scripture. The canticles come from scripture. I remember reading a paper some time ago that argued the outline of the Revelation of John is based on a liturgical order.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    From my own point of view, if they had given me the 1662 BCP and the Series 1 HC and Marriage services in modern English I might have found liturgical reform palatable. But they didn't and I didn't.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I remember reading a paper some time ago that argued the outline of the Revelation of John is based on a liturgical order.
    A Bible study in my Antiochian parish in Sydney made this point. I seem to recall a Russian priest in Newcastle (New South Wales) saying it too to me at some point. I could, and can still, see it.
  • Anglican BratAnglican Brat Shipmate
    edited October 13
    Within Anglicanism, there is typically a debate between those liturgical conservatives who seem to think that Cranmer's BCP was sent from heaven in 1552, and those liturgical movement people who think Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy was sent from heaven in 1920.

    I jest because I have seen blank faces on Prayerbook Society types who huff and puff about the purity and magnificence of the BCP when I tell them that the BCP Order of Holy Communion was not in all likelihood the Order followed by the Early Church.

    On the other hand, the problematic assumption by Liturgical Movement people that I question is the notion that our 21st century liturgy must be absolutely based on the order prescribed in the early church. The issue is of course, whatever we deem as the liturgy of the early church is at best an imperfect historical reconstruction. The notion for example, that the four fold pattern of "take, bless, break and distribute" is universal in the early church has been discredited.

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    "absolutely based" is a little strong, but the sacred drama of the early church had a doxological and psychological shape (see what I accidentally did there?) that was gloriously and creatively heavenward. I'm afraid, while I love many of his word choices ("dost vouchsafe to feed us") I find Cranmer and Cronies to be miserable gits wallowing around in the company of a decidedly distasteful god.

    Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy was sent from heaven long before 1920. It just took seekers a while to trace the footsteps of the holy grail.
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