The Rite of Braga

The Report on the Bragan Rite for the Congregation for Divine Worship – Review is quite harrowing but entirely predictable. I know little about the Rite of Braga, a diocese in Portugal, but it is one of the many diocesan rites that continued to exist alongside the “codified” Roman rite of Pius V. There are some similarities with the Sarum and French traditions, but I will let the reader go into the details – if he wishes – from other sources and the article.

It is the old question. Why indeed should we not scrap everything that is old and eccentric and just have something streamlined and modern and which “does the job”? We can only imagine the consequences of such reasoning in other fields of life. For example, every town and city in Europe is to be bulldozed and replaced with modern functional buildings. It is often the same principle in history: come up with something new and destroy the old with a spirit of disdain and intolerance, as I discussed previously about the French Revolution. Strangely, it is only in the twentieth century that we become self-conscious about history and began to want to preserve the old heritage. In the nineteenth century, they had no scruple about demolishing medieval buildings to replace them with something new, or heavily “restore” them.

In the wider context, with the passing of the old century, we leave behind the era of ideologies, of left and right, and all the engineered plans for the future of mankind. I am concerned about the notion of the “end of history” meaning that man will go no further now than liberal capitalism. The writing on the wall indicates that the minority that owns just about all the wealth there is will rapidly fall as money itself no longer represents what made those people rich. I believe the capitalist system will fall and will be replaced, but not by the old dinosaur of Marxist Communism. The future is the great unknown.

Similarly in the Church, the triumphalist thinking behind the Novus Ordo is as dated as liberal democracy and the era of totalitarianism. The presumption behind this mentality is the Counter Reformation, the Industrial Revolution and the “Age of Reason”.

I encounter this mentality when discussing the Use of Sarum with those who are attached to the rite of Pius V. Indeed, the use of any particular rite will not in itself bring people to church, and people would have to get used to anything that differs from what they have known elsewhere like the Prayer Book, the Alternative Services Book (or what they use now in the C of E), the Novus Ordo or the so-called Tridentine rite. Those wanting pre-1965 rites in the RC Church come up against the same criticism. Why not settle for something that “does the job” (is “valid”) and satisfies the person’s Sunday obligation?

I feel “done” with discussing details of liturgies, unless it is at an academic level. However, I am brought to see our period of history as a gateway towards the globalist dystopia with its “aristocracy” of billionaires and corporations, or a breakdown leading to the death of millions of human beings and the dawn of an era in which small groups of survivors would redefine their “social contract” and the community at a tribal level. The question is huge and the answers depend on our awareness and expectations in life.

Many articles predict the breakdown of the hegemonies of this world, including the Roman Catholic Church as a unified institution and all other historical churches. Each time, the individual person is facing a towering and impersonal bureaucracy, and we can either go to sleep in the cave of shadows or contribute in some way to a future uprising as we reclaim our humanity and our souls. This kind of talk is dangerous as people died for less under the regimes of Stalin or Hitler.

What has all this to do with liturgy? More often than not, we consider the liturgy to be a part of man’s artistic and spiritual culture, a heritage from tradition and a sense of being a part of history rather than those who preside over the burial of history, tradition and identity. In terms of religious and sacramental “function”, very little is actually necessary, but form is essential for our human psychology and state of being connected with the world the liturgy is supposed to represent – the “interface” between the life we know and the Kingdom Christ preached and lived.

The question of local and particular rites is moot in an age when the majority of our contemporaries know less about liturgical Christianity than about Zoroastrianism or quantum mechanics. Any liturgical symbolism means nothing to a person who can only relate to electronic technology and the status that money can buy. The Novus Ordo would be no more “relevant” to them than the Syro-Malabar rite or the traditions of the Mandaeans!

Far beyond liturgy, we need to examine whether the Church means authority and clericalism or the community of “children of the Father”, whether it means the offspring of freedom and love – or slavery to a jealous and spiteful deity. The notion of strict and hyper-rational uniformity seems to have more in common with the latter.

I am realistic enough to know that Sarum, Braga and all other local rites are things of the past, as is all liturgical Christianity insofar as it competes against the new globalism and its aristocracy of billionaires. We face our own deaths and a history of humanity that goes beyond our own limits as those of our forebears.

I wonder if I will ever express the thought: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” Each one of us can only hope so.

Addendum: The Praxis of Christianity is very germane to this discussion. I bristled when I read the link Why Bible Study Isn’t Enough. I immediately recognised the common Augustinian roots between the Roman Catholic monolith and the Protestant take – authority. We have to move away from the authority of the jealous and spiteful God and its correlative obedience to a relationship based on intimate knowledge and love. It’s too deeply anchored in biblical mythology.

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9 Responses to The Rite of Braga

  1. Stephen K says:

    Well, Father, what does this latest post evoke for me? It makes me think immediately of the documentary I saw a little while ago that talked of the “average” life span of species and made me realise that the human species as we know it (and ourselves) will also become extinct, while the planet “live” on. It is egotism to think that we are essential to the universe.

    Then that make me think of an earlier documentary, that reminded us that the entire Christian era – a little over 2,000 years – was still only about half-way through the life span of the Egyptian civilisation of antiquity and its religion. Another sobering thought!

    Both insights have some implication for the way we might view traditional Christian theology. Of course, “faith”, if boiled right down to a trust that God has us all and the Universe in his hands, can survive the extinction of the human species and with it any traditional notion of Christ’s revelation or incarnation. But probably not if we try to maintain faith as the possession of a privileged few or the solution to all problems of the human race – which is how it is mostly cast.

    Although, it makes sense in one sense: Christ is only valid and only God incarnate for humans, and when humans die out, so will Christ and the meaning or significance of the incarnation in traditional terms. But there is no nexus between that and the death of everything else.

    You see, at root, I think a key to understanding the kingdom of heaven Jesus preached is to see the whole thing in a vast sea of humility: we must not be attached to our own sense of permanence, immortality, value, but be constantly seeking to validate and affirm the ‘other’ – i.e. God and neighbour, sparrows-in-the-field etc. We must be nothing, otherwise, God, who truly creates de novo has no material – so to speak – with which to make us something. Only the last shall be first. We must be prepared to embrace the great Void, the nothingness, the Death, and not try to fetter God.

    What matters if we, and the Christ of our dreams, die out? The Universe is greater and older and younger than either. God is that and more. That is why your despair or dismay at the state of things saddens me. We must indeed not be attached to any regime, nor, logically, be despondent about any, because whatever form it takes it amounts to a kind of idolatry. The moral imperatives remain the same for each of us, whether in ancient Egypt, mediaeval England, or today.

    Jesus was a man in time; a true man, thus like each of us. We may see God in him and our lives will be richer for so seeing. But the lot of man is to die, and we must leave the form of resurrection to the wisdom of God.

    • This is indeed a profound reflection as are many that come over from your keyboard! Much of what you say seems to reflect Tony Equale’s materialism. Everything comes into being and comes to its inevitable end leaving nothing. An alternative way of thinking is to deny matter and attribute the illusion of matter to universal consciousness – something like the Pantheistic notion of God. In that perspective, potential consciousness in the form of quanta of energy take on personality and meaning when incarnate, and return to randomness and potentiality after death. I think such a theory exists in Hinduism – that our existence after death is no longer as a person with an identity, but something (spirit rather than matter) from which something is made. I often find these thoughts in my mind, and wonder – without the strictness of method of philosophers or scientists working from a perspective that matter is a product of conscious energy.

      However, in our incarnate experience, our perception is one of matter and its mortality. Programmed obsolescence – No, the machine cannot be repaired. That is how it is designed. You have to scrap it and buy a new one. The writing on the wall suggests the extinction of humanity and the transformation of Earth into something like Mars. Sometimes, such a thought brings relief given the worst of human nature. The legends of Prometheus and the Titans, the Demiurge and the Archons, go back to ancient Greece, Egypt, what is now Irak and far beyond Jewish and Christian revelation.

      I am inclined to believe in the theory of “multiverses”. Our own universe is like a single frequency of radio waves. A radio can listen to one frequency at a time, but all the other frequencies are there at the same time. Each universe, infinite in number, would contain different causes and effects of “what if”. Spirit and consciousness alone would have the possibility of moving between the different “scenarios”. I don’t understand the “technical stuff” of quantum theory, but it supports a view of what we know that isn’t materialist and nihilistic. It is appealing even if not “objectively” “true”.

      I suspect that what we face is not nothingness and the void after the dissolution of our bodies, but a progressive shedding of our personality and ego, either to form the energy and consciousness that produces another personality or to be a part of the universal consciousness, to become God who subsists in each and all. If the materialistic explanation is the one, then we should end it all right now – invent a disease or chemical substance that destroys all DNA and release it. Good night! There has to be some reason, logos and meaning, some continuity.

      What will help us is to read about other spiritual traditions, those that continue to exist in the east like Buddhism and Hinduism and the ones nearer home that were persecuted and stamped out by the Catholic Church. There is a constant human aspiration to something beyond authority, terror, punishment and obedience – mostly in art and music, and also in philosophy and our modern emancipation from totalitarianism. The cloak of lead re-descends upon us but the light shines beyond it, even if only within ourselves.

      • Stephen K says:

        I suspect that what we face is not nothingness and the void after the dissolution of our bodies, but a progressive shedding of our personality and ego, either to form the energy and consciousness that produces another personality or to be a part of the universal consciousness, to become God who subsists in each and all.

        Yes, that is my inclination also. Not that I know, of course, but it seems to resolve for me best how things appear to be. Hence your salutary reminder for us to be open to and tap into the spiritual traditions in east and west that give expression to this refreshing version of hope.

        We should not worry about the unknowns of Death and its aftermath – if it has one. While we live, we should occupy ourselves with living. That’s quite Buddhist, I believe, but also, considered carefully, quite in keeping with many of the things Jesus himself said or did.

    • J.V. says:

      Regarding twentieth century liturgical reform – At this stage, I am relatively resigned to the fact that we will likely not see wholesale revivals of the pre-modern Latin liturgies. As there was no going back from the Franko-Gallic infusion into the Roman liturgy (which one can argue became the template of the Roman liturgy until the 20th century), it would seem the modernized reforms will remain the template henceforth.

      Which is not to say the loss of these pre-modern liturgies is not lamentable. It is. However, whatever retrieval the Western liturgy eventually has will come from infusing older elements into the Pauline form.

      Again, this is just the perspective I’ve resigned myself to.

      So far as the link from Crossway goes – it is not perfect, but it demonstrates that there is some nebulous understanding that Christianity requires praxis. Yes, the reasoning and justification behind it may not be fully formed. However, it indicates an awareness that, for the most part, religion is often “in the head.” So long as Christianity is an internal affair, so long as Christianity does not attempt to propose something concretely counter to the dominant, and increasingly distant, culture, it will be vulnerable – it won’t have much credibility. True, there are issues to iron out, but it indicates movement.

      • You may well be right for the dwindling numbers who still adhere to that Church. The rest of us will do what we can in our little corners wherever we may be, and most will try to make out with no liturgy, priesthood or any institution. Their “success” will depend on how honest they are with themselves and their fundamental philosophy of life between materialism, authoritarianism or the ultimate knowledge of self and all.

        You are right in that Christianity does need context and praxis, which is well nigh impossible in the modern corporate world like in the USA and Europe. Religion and culture? I have long knocked myself over the head and I see no solution: assimilate Christianity to our modern panem et circenses or jump through hoops looking for a right-wing dictator to enforce traditionalist Catholic ideas. Perhaps the future is the abolition of dioceses and parishes and the concentration of everything in monasteries, and people can find inspiration in the worship and life of the monks in their own day to day lives – and just appear like ordinary people to others. I tend to think in very radical terms, but that’s about what it comes to.

        Counter cultural? It depends how. Politics? Forget it. Torching abortion clinics and cinemas showing smutty or blasphemous films? Going on and on about homosexuality and so-called “gay marriage”? In the end, let the world wake up and groan under the weight of Big Brother – with the monasteries in the catacombs!

        Just to give some idea about reality, I only see committed Christian people when I go to England for ACC meetings and attend my Bishop’s Mass. Here in France, every single person (apart from the odd bourgeois “cultural” Catholic) I meet is agnostic, hard atheist or least can’t be bothered with church! I myself feel very much the same way as the priests in France after World War II – after they became disillusioned with Marxist Communism.

  2. A note about “jealousy”: This is the “jealousy” of the spouse whose wife (or husband) is all too prone to seek the sort of relationship appropriate only to marriage with persons other than that of the spouse. Thus, it seeks to prevent the beloved from committing adultery.

    We have largely lost the erotic dimension of Divine Love for humanity and vice-versa. Yet this is really at the heart of the divine tragicomedy and even has a book of the Bible devoted to it, the Song of Songs.

    • One way to reason this one would be considering our attitude in regard to God. From Galatians 4:

      Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

  3. J.D. says:

    “Perhaps the future is the abolition of dioceses and parishes and the concentration of everything in monasteries, and people can find inspiration in the worship and life of the monks in their own day to day lives – and just appear like ordinary people to others.”

    As I think about all this I’m inclined to be sympathetic to this view you speak of, Father Chadwick. I’m thinking that anymore dioceses in many cases have become faceless corporate entities with no connection to anything but keeping the status quo. The more I think of the direction things are going the more I see that the whole issue of who belongs to what Church is going to become irrelevant.

    I feel that most of us traditional minded Christians will have to come together,at least in spirit, even if we do not belong to the same Church. Christianity will become smaller, more isolated from the outside culture and yet intimate in the hearts and lives of small bands of believers. We will be like the small leaven in the vast dough of the world.

    For me it’s the Divine Office, the Little Office of Our Lady and the Jesus Prayer that keeps me connected. Sometimes I think about the communion of saints and the bond that we have as baptized Christians with one another, but also with all the saints,Angels and our ancestors in the Faith. There is loneliness and despair sometimes but there is also peace on a certain level in feeling on some intuitive level this connection.

    These days I’m inclined to think that one of the greatest things that our Lord ever said was ” where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them”. Somehow across confessional boundaries, nay, across time and space,we are connected as children of the Father and we will survive but it might be a catacomb existence and we will have to learn to put aside our differences.

    Truth be told I’m dying for an end to the diocesan juggernaut and the legalistic appeals to obedience even when those calling for it are responsible for so much falsehood, compromise and the destruction of our patrimony.

    • This would be a question of re-living the pre-Constantinian Church, not returning to the past but being aware that a long era is past and gone and something else is asked of Christians. Of course, many churches and cathedrals will be lost or converted into secular buildings. So be it.

      The early Church was very divided between Montanists, Arians, Monophysites, Gnostics and all sorts. The one orthodoxy could only be enforced by political means and killing “heretics”. Before then Christians were against each other or together in spite of differences. This will happen, or is happening, with the only alternative of Christianity coming to an end, at least in places like where I live.

      We do need to ask ourselves whether unity can only be achieved by doctrinal conformity or if it is possible in some other way. Unfortunately, the Christian ideal is tainted by association with hundreds of years of abuse by power-hungry clerics. If we little Churches can survive, perhaps it will be possible to give something to which a few people can relate.

      There are things I could suggest, but which I don’t have the right to suggest as a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church.

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