New Liturgical Movement

Placing the Extraordinary and the Ordinary in Context: Fr Thomas Kocik on the liturgical reform movement

Earlier this month, Fr Thomas Kocik of the New Liturgical Movement visited Thomas More College and gave a brilliant presentation of the liturgical movement since its beginnings in the 19th century. I recommend everyone to watch it.

Somehow condensing what had been a 14-part series in his diocesan magazine into just one hour, he managed to give us the detail of the theology that was driving it. He made it interesting and understandable; as he introduced each new piece of detail, he placed it clearly in the context of the overall aims of the movement thereby making sure that we could see how this contributed to the greater picture of the development of the movement. He did the same in describing the errors: both from the over zealous proponents and reactionary forces who saw themselves as preserving ancient tradition (but were often, it seemed, seeking to preserve a misguided innovation of the previous generation of reformers). This portrayal of extremes was epitomised by his description where on the one hand the reformers sought to emphasise liturgical piety to such an degree that all traditional devotional prayer was discouraged - this is one of the things that lead to the removal of statues and iconoclasm of the post-Sixties period; and on the other the promotion traditional devotions to the degree that they are placed ahead of a genuine liturgical piety in importance. He described in clear terms what the Second Vatican Council said in regard to liturgy and why it was necessary. He went on to say how many of the recommendations were only partially or wrongly implemented, pointing out also aspects that have appeared since the Council for which there appears to be no justification at all. He then presented the current forms of the Mass, Extraordinary and Ordinary into this context.

In offering hope for the future he describe how more recently, and under Pope Benedict XVI especially, we have started to see a move towards what the council was asking for. He emphasised the importance in this of the Oxford Declaration on Liturgy in 1996. This statement was made in the proceedings of a conference at Oxford under the patronage of the the Centre for Faith and Culture (now maintained by Thomas More College of Liberal Arts). The proceedings were edited by the Centre's director, Stratford Caldecott. In calling for a proper reflection of the what the Second Vatican Council had called for in the liturgy, the Oxford Declaration represented an influential turning point and was cited approvingly by the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1998. It is worth mentioning that the work in this area continues to this day by the Centre and Thomas More College publishes and distributes in the US its journal for faith and culture called Second Spring (to which Fr Kocik contributes). Stratford Caldecott and his wife Leonie also run Thomas More College's annual student Oxford summer programme. With all of this detail, one might imagine that what was given to us could have been dry and difficult to follow for all but the cognoscienti, but this was not the case at all. The material was so well organised and clearly presented that it was always easy to follow. It was particularly gratifying to see so many of our students, many of whom were hearing this information for the first time, reacting so positively to what they heard. In the period of socialising afterwards they crowded around Fr Kocik to ask more questions.

The link through to the summary and video on the Thomas More College page is here.

The Practice of Lectio Divina - a Source of Joy (1)

Scripture, part of the foundation of joy (part one, part two tomorrow)
A group of Thomas More College students and myself have just made a trip to the Benedictine community, St Benedict Abbey, which is at Still River, Massachussetts for a mini-retreat. We arrived for sung Vespers in Latin at 6pm and then left after Compline, which finished about 9.15pm. In between the two Hours, we had dinner with our host, the guestmaster, a talk and period of quiet reflection.
The guestmaster's talk focussed on the contemplation of Scripture, one of the four 'pillars' of the new liturgical movement - Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Scripture and Mystagogy (which I recently wrote about). The form of study of scripture discussed on this occasion was lectio divina. Lectio is required of all monks who follow the Rule of St Benedict, and so I had asked him focus on this aspect to help our students (and me) incorporate it into our daily lives. We were lucky to receive a wonderful, down to earth talk about this form of study of scripture, which gave us some great pointers on how to incorporate it into our own lives. 
What was so interesting for me was his description of how the the constant practice of both lectio and participation in the liturgy, Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, each enriches and deepens participation in the other. So a quotations from the bible in an antiphon at Vespers, for example, might evoke the whole biblical context; and then conversely, how the reading of a phrase in lectio, would evoke the season or feast in the liturgy and place it in the context of our heavenly destiny - the worship of God the Father. Through this dynamic, each reinforces and deepens the experience of the other. As a monk, he told us, he spends more than an hour a day on lectio. As it is unlikely that lay people can regularly devote an hour to this, I asked if it was worth trying to incorporate it for perhaps 10 minutes in a day. Would that still be worthwhile. Oh, yes! I was told. What also struck me was how joyfully and generously it was offered to us. Tomorrow, I post a short summarise what I grasped from his talk and describe how I, and amateur at these things, have tried to put this into practice in my daily routine.
For those who wish to learn more about lectio divina you could always do what we did - go and listen to someone who practices it and will joyfully pass it on to those who ask. Failing that a book that I found very helpful and practical is "Praying Scripture for a Change" by Dr. Tim Gray.
I recently described, here, how in my opinion, these the pillars of the new liturgical movement  could be a basis of cultural renewal and as such, certainly, are the foundation of the Way of Beauty. But none of this is worth doing unless it is a source of joy, and our visit to the monastery yesterday reinforced the conviction that this is what the Church offers us.
Here is St Bonaventure (whose picture is shown) from the Office of Readings of Monday Week 5 of the year:
'The substance and fruit of holy Scripture is very specific: the fullness of eternal happiness. For this is what Scripture is – its words are words of eternal life, and it is written not just so that we should believe, but specially so that we should possess eternal life in which we may see, and love, and have all our desires fulfilled. When they are fulfilled, then we shall know the superabundant love that comes from knowledge, and so we shall be filled with all the fullness of God. God’s Scripture tries to lead us to this fullness, and to the truth of the preaching of the apostles. It is to this end, with this intention, that we should study holy Scripture, and teach it, and hear it.
If we are to follow the direct path of Scripture and come straight to the final destination, then right from the beginning – when simple faith starts to draw us towards the light of the Father – our hearts should kneel down and ask the Father to give us, through his Son and the Holy Spirit, true knowledge of Jesus and of his love. Once we know him and love him like this, we shall be made firm in faith and deeply rooted in love, and we can know the breadth, length, depth and height of holy Scripture. That news can then lead us to the full knowledge and overwhelming love of the most holy Trinity. The desires of the saints draw them towards the Trinity, in which all that is good and true is and finds its completion.'
Liturgy is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. By worshipping the through and with the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, we approach the Father. This is what we will do in heaven and we can step supernaturally into this wonderful place and by degrees (not fully before we die) partake of divine nature in this life. Bonaventure is describing this in this little passage above. The liturgy  - the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours - is how we can do it.
The liturgy is described by Church as the 'source and summit' of human existence. Worship of God the Father in heaven what we are made for, and the liturgy is the source of grace that guides us to it. I cannot imagine anything higher than the prize that contains full and eternal happiness, superabundant love and all our desires fulfilled: and this, according to Bonaventure is precisely what the Church offers us.
For more about Bonaventure, follow link here.
The painting below is of a monk reading scripture, by Rembrandt.

The Liturgical Life that will Create the Culture of Beauty

My colleague at the New Liturgical Movement website, Shawn Tribe, has posted a simple but truly wonderful and inspiring article about what he calls the 'pillars' of a liturgical life.He describes not a theoretical discussion for experts in liturgy, but rather simple practices for parish and family. It is a spiritual life based upon the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and study of scripture, especially through lectio divina. This, in my opinion, is the basis for cultural renewal. Shawn's article is a must read for anyone committed to the re-establishment of a culture of beauty in the West, especially those associated with the liturgical arts (and frankly for that matter everyone else too). This is the sort of practice of the Faith that has been called for by Popes (just to my knowledge) ever since Pius X at the end of the 19th century and right up to Pope Benedict XVI today. He emphasises particularly the importance of something so often neglected by lay people, the Liturgy of the Hours otherwise called the Divine Office. Passing on a practical way of such a fruitful participation in the liturgy is the primary aim of the weekend retreat at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts this summer. It not only teaches about Shawn's pillars, but how to participate. It is expected that many will already have a strong sense of this in the Mass; but knowledge of a practical way that busy lay people can participate in the Liturgy of the Hours, and how Catholic culture is rooted in the whole of the liturgy is less well known. It is designed so that not only will everyone be able to continue practising what they learn after they leave, but will be able teach others in their family and parish.

Although what is offered is at the grassroots level of one person praying with another. The ambition and hope we have of this high - the transformation of society. Any culture points to the cult at its centre, in the case of Catholics that is the liturgy. Accordingly, the demise of Catholic culture in the past points to large scale demise in the liturgical life in the Church militant (and we are talking about something here that happened long before the 1960s); and conversely the primary driving force for any cultural renewal will be liturgical renewal. What Shawn is describing is the basis, therefore, not only of the basis of liturgical renewal, but also cultural renewal.

The TMC weekend retreat is aiming to fulfill the final pillar listed by Shawn in his piece, and which informs the other three, that is 'mystagogy'. Mystagogy is, to quote Stratford Caldecott, 'the stage of exploratory catechesis that comes after apologetics, after evangelization, and after the sacraments of initiation (baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation) have been received' And it is necessary (here quoting Benedict XVI) because '"The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism.'

Read Shawn Tribe's article here.

..and here is a newly discovered 15th-century Coptic icon

Shawn Tribe who writes at the New Liturgical Movement website just posted this image. It is a newly discovered ancient icon. Having described  Stephane Rene's neo-Coptic style as a more polished form of the 'folksy' original Coptic style, here comes something to disprove my point! This is 15th century but it reflects high level of drawing skill. One of the great difficulties when I paint in the iconographic or the gothic style is conforming to the style, yet still managing to have the figure to read anatomically and the clothing to drape naturally so that the folds reflect the figure underneath. The artist seems to have taken great care, for example, with the blue shawl of Our Lady to do this.

The Coptic Church is one of the Oriental Orthodox churches.  The Oriental Orthodox churches are those Christian bodies that broke away with Rome in the wake of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, over disagreements on the christological doctrines affirmed by that council. The Oriental Orthodox churches include the Armenian Apostolic, Syrian, and Coptic Orthodox—but not the larger Russian, Greek, and other Orthodox churches of the Byzantine tradition. The Pope has fostered dialogue with these ancient churches. writes about this here.