In a half-asleep stupor, I could imagine the Vatican Congregation of Rites in the mid 1960’s, Monsignor Annabile Bugnini in his office answering the phone and hearing knocks at the door as scholars and leprechauns brought their ideas in. Like the cranky gardener who took rusty spanner “dinosaur bones” and plastic dog-chewed doll’s head “fossils” to the Smithsonian Institute, or the eccentric inventor with his infinitely variable gearbox or perpetual motion machine, there must have been hundreds of ideas for the Novus Ordo.
That’s probably not how it worked, and Bugnini pieced together a massive tome about his liturgical work from his arrival in the Vatican in 1948. Here is the bibliographical reference for those who are interested: Annibale Bugnini, La riforma liturgica (1948-1975). Nuova edizione riveduta e arricchita di note e di supplementi per una lettura analitica. Rome 1997 (BEL.S 30) [1st ed. in 1983].
My purpose here is not to knock the RC Church. I am no longer one of its clerics, and I care little for what they do in their churches. It’s their problem, but I mention the example of Bugnini since there were some characteristics in common between his reform of the Roman liturgy and that of the English Reformers four hundred years before. In addition to the idea of producing a restoration of the pristine purity of the liturgy in the ancient Church, Bugnini wanted to acculturate the liturgy to “modern” western mankind of the 1960’s.
Lest I should reinvent the things I have written on this subject, I refer you to an old Anglo-Catholic article on mine, Liturgical Archaeologism and its comments. Since writing that article, I am more critical of the Newmanite development theory, but I cannot deny any notion of “organic” growth whatsoever. None of us knows what the primitive Church was like, but we probably would find it extremely confusing were it possible to go back there in a time machine. I wrote the article when war was on with a certain priest of the Anglican-Catholic Church, who has been ill quite recently and publishes his profound sermons for Sundays and feast days. How things have changed as the bottom fell out of the polemics!
Whatever is done to the liturgy or whatever is not done to the liturgy, we will probably never be satisfied. Something doesn’t seem quite right, so it has to be changed, either to make it right for modern folk or chase after the dream of some obscure rite found in a clay jar near the Pyramids! Once we start messing about, people are angry, and not merely bored as they were with the old status quo. Everything is made that much more suspect when the “new” liturgy is made mandatory and the old cast into the fire in a craze of euphoria.
Make what you want of it all. When I read my old articles, all I can think is how less naïve I am about everything! The subject is hacked to death, but some people might like to reflect a little more. It’s up to you…