It’s an old quip: the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist. You can negotiate with a terrorist – unless he cuts your throat with a knife or blows you up with a bomb shouting the middle-eastern equivalent of Heil Hitler! What is a liturgist?
I read Fr Hunwicke’s article Trained Liturgists I have met. I too had my training in the subject at Fribourg with Fr Jakob Baumgartner, a Swiss-German priest belonging to a missionary congregation (only slightly less numerous than the number of women’s orders). I worked under his supervision as I produced the basis of what ended up being published as a chapter in Fr Alcuin Reid’s T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy. I avoided much of the pastoral mish-mash by showing an interest in liturgical history, and liturgical theology as I read it from the point of view of Dom Odo Casel or many eastern Orthodox authors. I never saw Fr Baumgartner celebrate Mass, but I was told at the time that it was just fumble and playing about. The chasm between theory and practice, in contact with some liturgical scholars, just blew my mind!
I admire Fr Alcuin as he labours to beat the liturgists at their own game, debunking ideologies and outdated theories of old men (we all get old one day if we don’t die first). We have to remember that the idea of the old dinosaur being replaced by young conservatives is a misleading myth. Christianity is dying in the west and being transformed into a kind of Evangelical cult in Africa, Asia and South America. It remains only to be seen whether Orthodoxy will go the same way. Benedictine monasteries are wonderful places, but relevant only to the monks and the twenty or so lay people who travel long distances to attend their Offices on a Sunday or during a retreat. For all Fr Alcuin’s energy and devotion, to which I have contributed in a small way, it is only relevant to bookworms and intellectuals in libraries. One can only hope that Fr Alcuin and his age-group will live longer than the fossils still claiming that Mass facing the people was the practice of the primitive church, perhaps like the phantom women priests.
It’s all being discussed, but presently it is cujus rex ejus religio. Pope Francis will kick the bucket one day and the spiritual equivalent of the National Front might get in having beaten the Champagne Socialists in the election. That’s what it really seems to come down to.
In good King Charles’ golden time, when loyalty no harm meant,
A zealous high churchman was I, and so I gained preferment.
To teach my flock, I never missed: Kings are by God appointed
And damned are those who dare resist or touch the Lord’s annointed.
And this be law, that I’ll maintain until my dying day, sir
That whatsoever king may reign, Still I’ll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.
When royal James possessed the crown, and popery came in fashion,
The penal laws I hooted down, and read the Declaration.
The Church of Rome, I found, did fit full well my constitution
And I had been a Jesuit, but for the Revolution.
When William was our King declared, to ease the nation’s grievance,
With this new wind about I steered, and swore to him allegiance.
Old principles I did revoke; Set conscience at a distance,
Passive obedience was a joke, a jest was non-resistance.
When Royal Anne became our queen, the Church of England’s glory,
Another face of things was seen, and I became a Tory.
Occasional conformists base; I blamed their moderation;
And thought the Church in danger was from such prevarication.
When George in pudding time came o’er, and moderate men looked big, sir
My principles I changed once more, and I became a Whig, sir.
And thus preferment I procured From our new Faith’s Defender,
And almost every day abjured the Pope and the Pretender.
The illustrious house of Hanover and Protestant succession
To these I do allegiance swear — while they can hold possession.
For in my faith and loyalty I never more will falter,
And George my lawful king shall be — until the times do alter.