Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century

edited by Alcuin Reid, Oremus, £16.99

‘The reform of the reform” – in other contexts the phrase could have an absurd ring to it, the sound of thinkers disappearing down a plughole of their own making. But when it comes to the liturgy, the stakes are genuinely high.

The Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us that the liturgy is “the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church”. Yet many of the faithful are faithful no more. The new liturgical practices that followed in the wake of Vatican II do not seem to have bound the people more closely to their Church. Something is not right.

This collection of papers, presented at the Sacra Liturgia conference held last year in New York and broadly advocating “the reform of the reform”, opens with Cardinal Raymond Burke’s essay on changes in the understanding of beauty. Along with truth and goodness, beauty was once seen as a “transcendental” – a fundamental quality of being which is found in God in its fullness and perfection, but which is discovered also “in all being coming forth from the hand of God in Creation”. Now, however, beauty has been “stripped” of its metaphysical meaning.

Indeed, we have reached a point, argues Cardinal Burke, where beauty is treated as “suspect”. The cloud of suspicion has made its way into the Church. One of the purposes of the Sacra Liturgia movement is to dispel this cloud, restoring beauty to its rightful place in the liturgy.

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