Saturday, 22 September 2007

Looking forward, not back

As a devotee of the Old Mass (now to be referred to as the Extraordinary Form or More Ancient Use of the Roman Rite) since boyhood, the promulgation of Pope Benedict's motu proprio has been an occasion of the greatest joy for me. But what I have seen since the announcement has made me pause to reflect. Is Summorum Pontificum a document that intends to make Tradition anew for the future, or a document that wishes to re-create the past? This issue is, in fact, a tension that has been manifest in the Old Mass movement all along.

For my part, Summorum Pontificum is not only about clarifying the status of the Old Mass; I believe it is also intended as a means to reform the degenerate state into which the Church's Liturgy has fallen. The revival of the Old Mass is intended to enrich the Church: our ancient Traditions are never more needed. But this doesn't require our getting into a time machine back to 1950 or 1750. When I saw a headline on the internet Return of Latin mass sparks old vestment hunt, I felt slightly uneasy. What I have seen since 14th September has made me very uneasy: an explosion of pictures on the internet of the celebration of the Old Mass, almost all of them shewing lacey albs, fiddleback chasubles, birettas, baroque mitres etc etc. It's as if suddenly the doors of a lolly shop were broken down and everyone has got in to gorge themselves.

These are the questions I wish to pose to the Old Mass Movement: Do people believe that the true expression of the Old Mass must be with Baroque styles of vestments? If so, why? Is this Tradition or Re-creation?

This blog was not intended for philosophical debate, but about issues concerning the Liturgy and specifically Sacred vestments and architecture. So, I attach two photos to this post of Pontifical celebrations of the Old Mass. In one, the Cardinal-President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission and his assistants are vested in a frightful dark red set of 18th century "Roman" vestments (but certainly a very beautiful cope is also pictured); in the other, a French bishop celebrates an Ordination at the Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault in 2004. Celebrant and ministers are vested in a beautiful early 20th century set of red Gothic revival vestments. The contrast between these two expressions of Tradition is overwhelming.