Monday, April 12, 2010

A Book Worth Reading: Cardinal Antonelli on the Liturgical Reform

When he first announced to the Congregation for the Clergy that 2009 would be a Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI invited all priests and seminarians to re-read the documents of the Second Vatican Council, seeking to interpret them correctly in light of the entire Christian Tradition. The Development of the Liturgical Reform: As Seen by Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli from 1948 to 1970, newly published in English and available through Roman Catholic Books, is a most helpful tool in trying to understand better the Liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and to implement them in light of what has come before. The book recounts the personal notes of Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli, who was involved with the reforms to more or less degrees from 1948 to 1970, and includes some commentary by its author, Nicola Giampietro. While Giampietro is somewhat tacit in his remarks, he allows the reader to draw his own conclusions. What quickly becomes apparent, however, is a strong contrast between the two major Liturgical reforms of the twentieth century.

Within the presentation of Antonelli’s notes, contrast is drawn between the differences in scholarship, procedure, and the theological ability of commission members of the initial reform of the early 1900’s sparked by Pius X and Pius XII that culminated in the 1955 reform of Holy Week, and the application of Sacrosanctum Concilium culminating in the New Rites with their respective praenotanda, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the new General Roman Calendar. While Antonelli certainly held that a more expansive reform was needed and desirable after the reform of Holy Week in 1955 (which he was in large part responsible for), and while he claimed that Sacrosanctum Concilium ultimately was “a success”, his gripe was with the Consilium (the committe entrusted with implemting the reforms of Sacrosanctum Concilium). In Antonelli’s analysis, what began as true, organic, and necessary development quickly turned into decline once this committee was formed. His notes provide a clear understanding of the actual process by which we have the newly revised Rites, Breviary, and Calendar. While expert periti worked on the various commissions studying particular questions, non-expert members who sat on the Consilium voted on their proposals. Further, the Consilium was responsible for drawing up new texts. He ultimately concludes that the Consilium had basically turned into a “continuation of the Council” and notes that many of its members were both theologically incapable as well as progressive in their outlook. In some instances he alludes to their tendencies to “de-sacralize” the Liturgy. Connected to all of this is the larger problem of theological decay in which we can place the Liturgical turbulence that ensued after the Second Vatican Council.

While the success of the 1955 reform owes much of its existence to him, Giampietro points out that Cardinal Antonelli has basically disappeared from the living memory of the world of the Liturgical reform. His historical expertise, pastoral understanding, and love for what came before shaped the reform of the most important week of the Liturgical Year. That first reform was received throughout the Church universal with a serenity undeniably absent after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

While this book is a homage to a man who loved the Church’s Liturgy, worked tirelessly on its behalf, and who was saddened to see it, in his own words “de-sacralized,” it is more than that. It is a tool by which the question of intellectual honesty concerning the implementation of the Liturgical reform can justly be raised.

1 comments:

Reginaldus said...

Thanks Patrick Joseph!

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