About the Liturgy with Dr. Peter Kwasniewski at Crisis Magazine.
I should mention that my favorite site on the development of the Liturgy is written by Dr. Carol Byrne and the first installment, of a very long series, is found here, A Plea for Silent Participation in the Liturgy – Dr Carol Byrne (traditioninaction.org)
An excerpt from the Crisis Magazine interview.
“A recent series of articles by three respected Catholic scholars, argued for the superiority of the new rite of the mass over the old. We’re going to talk about that today with liturgical expert about the two rites, how they compare. And basically what we can learn about the liturgy from those articles and from his new book.
“I’m Eric Sammons, I’m your host. This is Crisis Point. I’m the editor-in-Chief of Crisis Magazine. And before we get started, I just want to encourage people to hit the like button, to subscribe to the podcast, to let other people know about it. I really appreciate when you do that. Also, we’re on all the different social media channels at Crisis Mag. Oh, and one thing I do want to mention, we are in the midst of one of our two fundraising campaigns. So please go to CrisisMagazine.com/donate to please donate to the project. We make all of our material, all of our podcasts, all our written material for free but we do need your support.
“Okay, let’s go ahead and get into it. We have Dr. Peter Kwasniewski with us. A lot of times I like to go through a bio, but I don’t think it’s necessary for you anymore. You’ve been on the program, everybody knows who you are. But I want to emphasize one of your latest books. I don’t even know what your latest book is, because you put them out so quickly. It’s like impossible to say what your latest book is. But The Once and Future Roman Rite, it’s an awesome book from TAN, Returning to the Traditional Latin Liturgy After Seventy Years of Exile. And I feel like I mentioned in the opening that there was a series of articles at the… What was the place? Church Life Journal and Notre Dame by three scholars. And I know this book was long time coming written. But I almost feel like it’s just a take down of those articles in a sense, which I know that wasn’t the intention, but it’s almost like providential.
“So what we’re going to talk about today is generically about the liturgy, about the two rites, the Novus Ordo, the Traditional Latin Mass. And by the way, I just know some people that get hung up on the names for these liturgies. I used to use the terminology extraordinary form and ordinary form. But I feel like Pope Francis himself has eliminated those as categories by his own words in Traditionis Custodes. But anyway, we’re going to talk about those two rites, forms, whatever with Dr. Kwasniewski today. And also address those series of articles at the Church Life Journal. So welcome to the program, Peter. I love having you here.
“Dr. Peter Kwasniewski:
“Thank you so much, Eric. And by the way, this is actually my latest book.
“Okay, here we go. What are we up to right now? What’s the number, do you know?
“Dr. Peter Kwasniewski:
It’s past 20.
“Once you get past 20, you don’t have to keep track anymore.
“As with a really large family, it’s like how many children do you have? Oh, I don’t know. It’s somewhere up there.
“Exactly. It’s like when I talk to Scott Hahn, I don’t even bother asking him what number is he on now, because like you said once you’re past 20. I still tell people I have eight because I have a very distinct number. But eventually you get up to your level. So let’s start off the discussion. I want to start off the discussion with some basic principles of the liturgy, and specifically something you address in this book, which is the development of the liturgy. I know there’s long been the analogy of the organic development of the liturgy. What do we mean when we talk about how the liturgy develops in general?
“Dr. Peter Kwasniewski:
“Right, exactly. No, and in fact that’s a major part of this book. Several chapters devoted to trying to understand what we mean when we say the liturgy develops. Now, first of all, it does develop. That’s a fact. Every once in a while you meet a traditionalist who thinks that Christ instituted the solemn high Tridentine Mass at the last Supper. No, He didn’t. He was transforming the traditional Jewish ceremonies into the core of the Christian mass, the representation of the sacrifice of Calvary. So what He did, He was a traditionalist in that sense. He was taking the Jewish ceremonies but then transforming them from within, fulfilling them. And in a sense planting a seed within the church that was going to grow into a mighty tree. He planted an acorn and it grew into a mighty oak tree. And that’s what we mean when we talk about the development of the liturgy.
“Just like doctrine develops, it doesn’t essentially change. But the full expression of it emerges over many centuries and often requires quite a bit of fighting as we see in the ecumenical councils. So similarly with the church’s public worship, that acorn it’s going to grow into a giant trunk and it’s going to put out many branches. What are those many branches? Well, it’s the development of the liturgical chant. It’s the development of which texts are we going to pray when we come together for liturgy. It’s the development of the calendar. And of course the celebration of all the saints which can’t develop until they’re actually our saints to celebrate. So in this way, I think the organic metaphor is helpful because although the liturgy is the work of human beings assisted by the Holy Spirit, nevertheless, it’s the work of thousands of human beings over thousands of years and often without anybody’s name being attached to it. And usually by a process of gradual dissemination, not some kind of top down imposition. So there’s an organic nature to it. It unfolds over long periods of time and with the contributions of thousands of people.
“One thing I thought on the development was that basic understanding, I think most people understand that on some level. But one thing your book brought out that I had never thought of that I was like, whoa, this is a new way for me at least to see it. Is that the development is not linear in the sense of just the same level of development over 2000 years. And roughly, it seems to me and correct me if I’m wrong here, seems to me that there are almost like three general phases when it comes to development, up to the time of maybe Pope Gregory the Great around 600 AD. Then from that time to about Trent, post Pius V. And then from Trent to today, or I should say 1960s because obviously… Or 1950s or so, we’ll just say 20th century. But there’s these three phases and the way that liturgy developed isn’t the same.
“It seems to me not same rite or something. Can you explain that to us because I felt like that was a major thing for me? I was like, whoa, that makes a lot of sense but I hadn’t thought of it before.
“Dr. Peter Kwasniewski:
“Yes. No, what you’re saying it’s a crucial point. In other words, at the beginning, the first few centuries there’s the most development. There’s actually quite a bit of fermentation you might say, that’s now taking a different metaphor than with a tree growing. But there’s a lot of the apostles go out and preach the gospel around the world. And wherever they plant churches, all of those nascent Christian communities are worshiping in an accord with what they were taught by the apostles. St. Paul is very clear about this. There’s already a paradosis, a traditio, a handing on, going on in those early centuries. But there isn’t a fully developed public formal official worship of the church. It’s under development, it’s under construction you might say, although that’s not the best phrase perhaps. But the church has always also been fiercely conservative. In other words, we want to hold onto what has been given to us by our God fearing forefathers.
“And this is the attitude you find in the church fathers in a huge way. Even by the time you get to the fourth century and the Cappadocian Fathers like St. Basil the Great, he just hammers on this point that what we are doing is what we’ve been taught to do, what’s been handed down to us. And yet he is also able to contribute to the liturgy. He can both have that conservative attitude and he can help build up the liturgy. The Greeks even have something they call the liturgy of St. Basil. So he’s contributing to it while also being fiercely conservative of everything that’s already been handed on. And that attitude perdures throughout the centuries so that by the time you get to roughly about the year 1000, the liturgical rights of East and West are already essentially complete. The order of mass, the order of the service, the order of the divine liturgy is essentially complete.
“It’s been augmented and enhanced over the centuries, but it’s now received by Christians as a totality, as a body of prayer. And it’s something we wouldn’t dare to change. Why would we change what we’ve inherited from our Holy Fathers, the saints? And so really the Roman liturgy it has various strata of development. That’s part of the reason why this can be confusing to people. The central part of the Roman liturgy, the Roman canon, is already there in the sixth century. It’s very ancient. And by the time Gregory the Great touched it up, we know that he actually worked on it. He did the final edit, the final redaction of it. But it was already a prayer that he himself was familiar with. It wasn’t something he invented whole cloth. But other parts took more centuries, the Gregorian chant took more centuries to develop.
“But by the time you get to about the year 1000, you’re dealing with a pretty well articulated body of liturgical prayer that everyone would have recognized as traditional. And therefore good and holy and to be maintained as a rule of faith. Remember, this isn’t just about aesthetics. This is about our faith is confessed in these traditional rights. That’s why we’re not going to dare to modify them in any significant way. By the time you get to the Council of Trent, it’s not as if Pius V… This is a terrible myth, it’s not as if Pius V created the Tridentine rite or something like that. He codified, he canonized, so to speak, the rite that was being used by the Papal court that had been used for many centuries prior to that. Even essentially back to Innocent III at the turn of the first millennium, we’re talking about that Roman rite.
“Pius V essentially codified what the Church of Rome was doing for many centuries. And because of the authoritative nature of his stamp of approval… Some people call it his canonization of the Roman rite, as a result for centuries after that the attitude was, we’ve got it. We have our liturgy in full blossom. This is the fully mature oak tree. And oak tree doesn’t keep growing perpetually until it reaches the clouds. It has a natural terminus of development when it’s perfected as the kind of being it is. This is something that Aristotle brings out in the physics, everything grows to the point of its perfection. And so, one of the things you see in liturgical history is that the rate of growth tapers off at a certain point and then what you see is continuity. Almost like a straight line, which the liturgical progressives they call that fossilization or ossification or it’s become frozen.
“No, that’s not… It just does perfectly what it’s supposed to do. It confesses the faith in the Trinity and the incarnation in our Lady and the Saints. It celebrates the liturgical year and it professes all the dogmas. It teaches the moral lessons of the Christian life. What more could you want? Why would you change something that has reached this mature and full form? And certainly that’s the attitude in the East. In fact, the attitude in the East they almost go overboard because they talk about the divine liturgy as if it came down from heaven. And it’s eternally the same, it’s never changed. Well, that’s balderdash. Their liturgy developed just the way that the Roman one did. But in the East I think partly because of the schism, but also partly because they seem to have a healthier instinct in this regard, they’re content with keeping things the same for very long periods of time.
“And in the West and I think it’s part of the temptation of the Western mentality, it’s what some people call the Faustian mentality, we always want to be tinkering. We always want to be improving. What’s the latest model? What’s the new technology? This is almost like a Western vice. It brings about good things too of course, especially in the realm of technology. But it leaves us feeling sometimes restless with simply what we’ve inherited. Just to give one example, I’ve been singing Gregorian chant now for 30 years and I never get tired of it. It’s the most beautiful music. No one has ever written melodies more beautiful than the Gregorian ones. No one has ever written music that more perfectly suits the texts of the liturgy and of sacred scripture. And they are just infinitely fascinating and subtle and beautiful and satisfying. And so I never get tired of singing chant. And nobody I know who sings chant ever gets tired of singing chant. So in that sense, we don’t need a new form of sacred music. We just need to do well the form that we’ve humbly inherited.”