Sunday, August 18, 2013

The polemics of the liturgical wars

I know it is difficult to avoid bias in writing, but sometimes I'm amazed at the subtle rhetorical "stabs" taken by people who present themselves as "magisterial," yet are really presenting a polemic for an often quite speculative ore even dubious position.

I was browsing through From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist, by Edward Foley (2nd ed., Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008). Ostensibly a textbook on liturgical history, complete with lots of quotations, illustrations, floor plans, and music, it is really a 405 page salvo in the liturgical wars.

Foley clearly thinks the altar should be a wooden table in the nave so that the people can gather around it, because that was the norm until the Franks messed things up with their Germanic-Gallican "magical" thinking.

For example, when talking about 20th century liturgical reform he opposes the old way and the glorious, more authentic new "symbolic" sensitivity that came about because of Suzanne Langer, Paul Ricouer, and Edward Schillebeeckx.

Note the rhetorical stab in this passage:
Vatican II affirmed such [symbolic] thinking in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy...., which has also become part of the ecumenical consensus on worship since the council.... This symbolic movement has not been without its critics, however. In some ways the movement away from more symbolic or "dynamic" translations to a more literal approach by symptomatic of this critique.[the ellipses are citation]. 
Where does one begin? What I want to focus on, though, is the use of the word "symptomatic."  What is the connotation of the word?  Illness. So, the return to a more literal translation indicates an illness on the part of "Rome."

Also, note this hilarious passage:
The move toward more authentic symbols also effected a change in the materials for the eucharistic vessels during the late twentieth century. Although gold and silver continued to be employed, precious metals were often replaced by glass, pottery, and wood.  Even wicker baskets, reminiscent of primitive Christian worship, were used again in some places to hold the eucharistic bread.
The rest of the paragraph notes that Bad Old Rome quashed this new "symbolic" use of wicker in 2004 by decreeing "that earthenware, glass, and clay as well as any vessels that break easily were now 'reprobated.'"

Like, gold and precious metals aren't symbolic?

I'm not even going to mention the use of the phrase "eucharistic bread."

This post is magisterial.

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