In yesterday’s discussion on altar candlesticks, Fr Brendan suggested some old liturgical practices are part of “the so called hermeneutic of continuity; a catch phrase used to justify the re-introduction of all sorts of pre-Vatican II excesses.”
You can’t deny it: the catch-phrase excuse is operable some of the time. *Some* of these re-introductions are made, and sometimes, there’s just no good reason for them. The most grievous violations of continuity arrive with new pastors. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great priests who saw the wisdom in letting go, watching, adapting, and waiting before continuing the needful changes to a parish’s liturgy (and other things). I’ve know of other guys who come in and change just to show they have the power to muck things up. They may well be traditionalists or self-styled progressives. They may have very good reasons. But they show no grasp of the principle of continuity.
In the next comment, Jeff correctly pointed out that the pope himself has adopted the principle of a “hermeneutic of continuity” as a valid and needful approach to liturgical reform on a broader level.
The pope has even said that sometimes aspects of faith have appeared to be in “apparent discontinuity,” when it “actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.”
One question might be: do we trust our eyes alone? Is continuity all about matching up close to what went on last week? Or is it about continuity with the Church’s “inmost nature” and “true identity?” I think I’d side with the pope on nature and identity as universal principles, and that continuity is a pastoral value for the local church. Generally speaking.
When looking at a hermeneutic of continuity for liturgy, is it about finding the Scriptural roots in the Last Supper narratives? Do we strive for continuity with the simple Pesach shared by Jesus with his disciples? If so, we have to ask ourselves (as the bishops did during and after the council) if a vernacular liturgy, visible to worshippers, engaging their active participation, and shed of pagan (Roman) and court (Kingdom) trappings is more in continuity with the true Christian nature.
Good heavens, we might have to call into question large churches, megaparishes, and the like. Lots of good Catholics did and do so. But we adapt, don’t we?
This is my take on the candlesticks: they’re a distraction. They reinforce the notion that the important battles are taking place on the altar, not in the hearts and consciences of the individual believers coming to Mass.
On one hand, many worshippers are edified by beauty and style. Others find solace in attempts at style. But I would ask of an innovation or change: does it appeal to the Church’s true nature? At liturgy, that means the worship of God, and the sanctification of the faithful. And if it’s not about either of those, then we have to ask the question: who’s it for?