On my morning rounds, I found “Good, or ancient, or Catholic” quoted from J. Wickham Legg. The exact source is not given, but a search on Google reveals his paper read before St Paul’s Ecclesiological Society on 27th October 1887, as published in Essays on Ceremonial in 1904.
Now the earlier ecclesiologists thought they might gain some knowledge of the customs of the middle ages by a study of modern Roman practices, receiving the assertion that Rome never alters with a too confiding generosity; and accordingly they proceeded to change some of the inherited medieval customs in accordance with the dictates of modern Rome. But from modern Rome we can learn next to nothing of the practices of the middle ages. A very little study soon convinces us of the deep division there is between the practice of modern Rome and of medieval England, and that modern Rome will only lead us astray if we trust to its liturgical decisions. Because a practice is Roman, it is not therefore of necessity good, or ancient, or Catholic. In the first place, the liturgy of modern Rome is the liturgy of the Franciscan Friars, while that of the national medieval Churches is the old Liturgy which was used in the parish churches of Rome before the days of Nicholas III. Theologians often tell us of the mischief which these Friars have caused in their science, and to philosophy; and the harm they have done in ecclesiology is certain. They are credited with the introduction of the Stations of the Cross, which even Mrs. Jameson can see set forth unworthy ideas. Further, how little of antiquity remains in practice in the Roman Communion may soon be gathered by those who will attend a few popular functions. Liturgical services, with the exception of the Mass, have well-nigh disappeared; and the seasons of the Christian year, which we prize so much, are but little thought of. Lent has given way to the month of Joseph; Easter and Whitsuntide are swallowed up in the month of Mary and the Sacred Heart.
I give the same emphasis as in the blog article, which has given no commentary of its own.
I have had the greatest admiration for Wickham Legg’s erudition in matters of liturgical history from his historical period of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have also noticed this difference between the post-Tridentine Roman liturgy and medieval local traditions in the dioceses. He was one of my important sources for my university work on the Tridentine codification of the liturgy, which I resumed in a published book: Alcuin Reid (ed.), T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy, London 2016, pp. 107-131.
Though the Pius V liturgy is substantially the Editio Princeps of 1474 with a considerable amount of material removed from the proper of the saints, and with many of the sequences taken out, I’m sure that Pius V’s commission intended to streamline something intended to present a “noble simplicity” for a Church similarly streamlined to withstand attacks from Protestants and have credibility in the modernity of the Renaissance. Paul VI was not far off target when he compared his own Novus Ordo with the 1570 reform for the same reasons: “noble simplicity” and adaptation to the times. When I was at university, I was still trying to defend the traditionalist position Michael Davies style, and sang the praises of the “codified” (as opposed to “reformed”) liturgy of Pius V. Count Neri Capponi, a Roman canonist, made much ado about this distinction of words – but it didn’t convince me for long. Since then, I have seen a great deal of cohesion between the reform movement in the sixteenth century, and the “pastoral” reforms of Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI: authority trumps Tradition!
This is the essential difference between the Anglican Catholic and Roman Catholic understanding of things. Whilst the ordinary of the Pius V Mass (and the breviary) is identical to the old Use of the Roman Curia based on thirteenth-century Franciscan customs, the proper was radically changed. Pius XII did the same thing in the 1950’s with a brand new Holy Week and the use of a special proper for Popes rather than the older way of treating Popes simply as confessor and martyr bishops. Finally, Paul VI changed the order of Mass and the entire system of the proper and the lectionary.
Wickham Legg, like other Anglican historians and researchers in his time, noticed the ever-increasing gap between the medieval customs and the “dynamic” progress of Papal authority and centralism. The uses of medieval England, like those in France before the various “neo-Gallican” missals of the early eighteenth century, sprang and evolved from different sources. Our English customs since the Norman Conquest were decidedly French, something I can easily accept since French culture was so easily accepted in England, at least before the Hundred Years war, and to a great extent after it.
I do believe that we in the Anglican tradition, particularly in the Continuing Churches, should study this issue in greater depth. We have done well to take a critical position in regard to the “Anglo-Papalism” that inspired and created the Ordinariate under Pope Benedict XVI. I do believe that our diversity is healthy between more Prayer Book expressions, the English and Anglican missals, and the Use of Sarum I have adopted since 2008 instead of the post-Tridentine Roman rite I had been trained with as a seminarian. We need very much to continue to base our piety and prayer on the Mass and the Office, not only the clergy but also the laity. The use of classical English rather than an absolute insistence on Latin has been most beneficial in the Anglican way, including the Catholic revival.
My reflections are not cast in stone, but I do know that a number of people think in this way – with or without Aspergers Syndrome!