What Benedict means by 'new liturgical movement'

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

Sometime soon, the Vatican is expected to release a moto proprio, meaning a legal document under the pope’s authority, which will transfer responsibility for an aspect of marriage law from one Vatican office to another. Though it will probably fly below the public radar, the document provides a glimpse into Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to liturgy, meaning how the church celebrates the Mass and its other rituals.

Specifically, Benedict is expected to encourage the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican’s office for liturgical policy, to focus on promoting what he describes as a “new liturgical movement." The obvious question, of course, is what exactly he means by that.

In a narrowly tailored legal document, the pope can’t unpack the idea, but Vatican observers say that Benedict’s broad liturgical approach can be described in terms of “continuity,” i.e., recovering elements of the liturgical tradition which he believes were too hastily set aside or downplayed in the immediate period after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). His own style when he celebrates Mass reflects this thrust, including distributing communion on the tongue, rather than in the hand, and placing a crucifix on the altar to remind people that the focus is on God rather than the celebrant.

The “new liturgical movement,” then, is one which attempts to restore what Benedict XVI and like-minded observers believe was lost in the post-Vatican II period, perhaps principally, in the pope’s mind, a strong sense of transcendence.

That would be great if it were true, but I have reservations about it. Some I can mention here, others aren’t allowed:

  1. Until anything is released, it’s all rumor and I don’t subscribe to that channel.

  2. Maybe the author is privy to more information than what he’s shared, but to me, “new liturgical movement” doesn’t sound like a rebirth, but rather a “new movement” or even add-on to the way things are currently “progressing.”

Agreed on the first point (although I pray the rumors are true).

On the second, Mr Allen does seem, as a rule, to know more than he tells. As far as the term “new Liturgical Movement”, this has been used by then-Cardinal Ratzinger and seems likely to be a very specific term. Fr-Professor Ratzinger was an adherent of the Pre-V-II Liturgical Movement, which resulted in publications like “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Fr Guardini. It is no coincidence that Cardinal Ratzinger named one of his books on the liturgy after this other work.

Haven’t all of the Popes distributed Holy Communion on the tongue, even JPII? When I see Mass at St. Peter’s in Rome on TV I notice that those who receive from the Pope do so on the tongue, but some of those who receive in the other lines are receiving in the hand. I remember the same w/ JPII. Does my memory serve me correctly? I was unaware that Pope B. was doing anything different in this regard. J. Allen writes as though this observation is somehow indicative of the “new” movement, but hasn’t it always been so?

There is a wonderful blog entitled ‘New Liturgical Movement’ that examines the reform of the reform:
newliturgicalmovement.org/

I hope you’re right! I’m afraid I don’t know much of Mr. Allen, but I’ll definitely take your word for it. I just hope Pope Benedict hurries! I hate to look at things negatively, but His Holiness is up there in age…

No need to worry. God will let the Pope live as long as He wills, when his work on earth is done, He will call him home. God is in control here, even if we wish He would move things along faster. He has all the time in the world…:wink:

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