No Continuity In The Magnificat

It’s been my premise that the norm of organic development in Vatican II liturgical reform (Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 23) is overused as a principle with wide application. The reality is that so many saints, even those who lived objectively good lives before making a radical commitment to God that often disrupted their lives, broke with the past in definitive ways. Saul, then Paul on the way to Damascus. Katharine Drexel, responding to the Pope Leo XIII’s challenge, “Why not my child, yourself become a missionary?” She didn’t immediately leap at that suggestion. But she eventually fulfilled that call.

Even ordinary people leave behind the life of single adults to become religious or priests committed to chastity, obedience, and in some cases, poverty. As missionaries they move to new places. As married persons they leave behind most aspects of the single life. Parents bear and raise children. Life, even Christian commitment, is full of rupture. We might dislike it, but I would suggest continuity is great for a time of rest. But not the ordinary experience of Christianity.

The Blessed Virgin suggests as much in Scripture, that God’s plan often involves disruption. Making messes. Turning things upside down. She recognizes this in her own future:

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)

And later, upsetting the status quo of politics and the economy are part of the Divine plan for the human race:

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to No Continuity In The Magnificat

  1. Liam says:

    I’ll bite.

    There is a fundamental limitation with your usual bleat on this point: ritual is, by its very nature, a thing of continuity. And liturgy is ritual. Even in the secular domain.

    Jesus observed rituals; when he broke or modified them, with divine authority, it was that continuity in the nature of ritual that provided the context for his intended examples/lessons, without with, they would not have had the impact they did.

    That doesn’t mean that continuity is the sole value or the supreme value in all senses.

    But it does mean it’s not an incidental value.

    So, for your critique to get traction, you would need to modulate the critique to consider it specifically in the ritual context.

    I do wonder if your critique subliminally partakes of an American cultural value of spontaneous tokens of personal transformation as the authenticator of experience, and applying that in a ritual context.

    • Good points, of course. But I would assess a great deal of continuity between the modern Roman Missal and its predecessors. Most Catholics adapted to the rapid changes in peripherals rather quickly over six years–language, liturgical roles, Scripture, etc.. Many complaints centered on what my wife often calls “Vatican II done in a Vatican I way,” or clergy bulldozing things without much diplomacy, consultation, or formation, and often in a seemingly arbitrary way. When I got married, I had to change many rituals in my life, especially having experience the single life as a post-college adult for 14 years. But there were benefits I clearly understood. I think people who clearly understood what post-conciliar liturgy intended likewise were able to find benefit in what most anyone would concede were significant disruptions. Less understandable might be changes caused by parish closures, sex abuse cover-up, and other issues that might have been blundered like liturgy was in many parishes.

      On your last point, perhaps so. I will need to ponder that.

      • Liam says:

        Yes. My main objection is that your argument about continuity as an argument is that it does not, in the ritual context, really achieve what you appear to think it should; SC may expressly talk about continuity only once, but doesn’t need to talk about it much because the inherent nature of ritual. To treat each Mass as if it were a hinge event in change of ritual for each person present is to lay magical expectations on the liturgical form.

      • Liam says:

        PS: when it comes to challenging ritual continuity, one challenge that’s been avoided largely in the name of tribalism in the liturgy wars is whether pro-conciliarists are willing to critique the reforms promises vs demonstrable results, and triage what was expected to be most necessary and fruitful vs what has actually manifested thus far.

      • Among my colleagues in other parishes, dioceses, and liturgy circles, I do think there’s a willingness for critical examination. Those kinds of explorations don’t get expressed much online because many of us find ourselves in a Vatican II, thumbs up or down discussion. The arguments don’t get past square one.

        Perhaps this would be a more fruitful area to explore here. Certainly there are disappointments about Sunday Mass attendance; I’m sure the Europeans among us would’ve wished for a reversal of earlier trends of abandonment even prior to the Cold War era. Clearly, the US leadership was mostly unprepared for white flight and the end of cultural Catholicism undergirding parish culture here.

        For every success (such as a wider appreciation and engagement of Scripture) we can probably count a failure (the Hours or Penance). And while our catechetical resources for children have certainly been consistently high for a half-century, clearly they have not engaged two entire generations.

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