Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Face of Liturgy

"Thus to ask what is 'suitable' must always be the same as asking what is 'worthy': it must constantly challenge us to seek what is worthy of the Church's worship."
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "On the Theological Basis of Music," The Feast of Faith
True. And a good word to all liturgical directors. But Ratzinger still let's us off too easily here, for what does it say about the Church if her liturgy, after 2000 years, is still something we need to "liturgically direct" at all, "suitably" and "worthily" or not? That, I think, is an underlying pustule in Catholic liturgics, one which erupted this week into a heated dispute between loyal Catholics over the music selected for the Nationals Stadium Mass. Ratzinger implicitly concedes that liturgy is a product of human design, subject to tinkering semper reformanda ad nauseam, in pursuit of some ideal set of theological-aesthetic rules or standards. So we bicker and fight over those standards and meanwhile continue to tinker and advance our agendas, occasionally getting some liturgical fiat that resolves some issues, but invariably creating others. This seems to be the "other" liturgical cycle governing Catholic worship, especially since Vatican II.

So I wonder if the West needs to recover what is implicit in the East -- that sense of liturgy as acheiropoieta.