Varietates Legitimae 34-35: Goal, Unity, Authority

VL 34 gives three basic concerns, which I would interpret as the CDWDS’s “agenda” for the whole document:

34. In the planning and execution of the inculturation of the Roman rite, the following points should be kept in mind:

  • 1) the goal of inculturation;
  • 2) the substantial unity of the Roman rite,
  • 3) the competent authority.

The goal, obviously, is the evangelization of believers, the cultivating of their faith, and a hoped-for influence on the culture in which they find themselves. VL cites Vatican II to find a basis for the portion of this goal:

35. The goal which should guide the inculturation of the Roman rite is that laid down by the Second Vatican Council as the basis of the general restoration of the liturgy: “Both texts and rites should be so drawn up that they express more clearly the holy things they signify and so that the Christian people, as far as possible, may be able to understand them with ease and to take part in the rites fully, actively and as befits a community.” (SC 21)

(Active participation, again!)

Rites also need “to be adapted to the capacity of the faithful and that there should not be a need for numerous explanations for them to be understood.” (SC 34) However, the nature of the liturgy always has to be borne in mind, as does the biblical and traditional character of its structure and the particular way in which it is expressed (cf. above Nos. 21-27).

35b is a matter of careful discernment. Rome desires something of Rome to be in the structure and details of the celebration of liturgy. With the new translation, for example, we have Roman grammar assembling English words. If the grammar of a language is part of the theological grounding of liturgy, or a significant part of the actual ritual, then this makes sense.

My opinion tends to be formed by the nature of the art of composition. I would argue the imposition of foreign grammar on English rites runs the risk of damaging the artistic rendition and quality of the whole. It would be like insisting all keyboard music be played on the organ. Some parishes lack a quality organ. Some otherwise excellent pieces are arranged for piano. A subset of these might adapt well. But other pieces would not. And then an assessment would be needed on how this particular directive would be received. There might well be a virtue to having a piece accompanied on organ above piano, all other things being equal. Or it might be that a secondary aspect of liturgy has been raised to a level not in keeping with its relative importance. In the case of organ versus piano, the cultivation of excellence in liturgical music. In the case of translation, the rendering of texts to inspire faith, rather than disengage it.

Any thoughts on this?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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