Elizabeth Harrington cooks the liturgical books…

Over at Cooees from the Cloister, Hardman Window takes Elizabeth Harrington to task about her latest (apparently rehashed) article in Brisbane’s Catholic Leader: “Rules alone won’t do it”. Now, Elizabeth often has good points in her column. But she is somewhat affected by the weltanschauung of the Liturgy Commission. Hardman Window brings this out in his commentary on this particularly problematic example of her writing.

I would like to add just a couple of observations to HW’s critique.

Elizabeth says:

Celebrating liturgy well is not simply a matter of saying the words and doing the prescribed gestures exactly as set out in the ritual book.

Which is right–but it certainly isn’t less than this. As Fr Z’s slogan has it: Speak the black, do the red. The art of celebrating the liturgy well (the ars celebrandi as it is called) doesn’t end here, but it surely must start here.

Elizabeth says:

Australian clergy had had experience of adapting the Roman liturgy to the extraordinary conditions of the Australian setting since the days when our pioneer priests travelled overland on pastoral visitation…

My fear is that this practice of “adapting” the Roman Rite will not end but will increase when the new translations are introduced. I will blog separately on this.

Elizabeth says:

But it is always necessary to ask how we turn the liturgical text into an evocative liturgical event for this particular group on this particular occasion. It is here that real creativity comes in.

And that is what worries us. This penchant for “creativity” is precisely what the Holy Father was talking about in his accompanying letter to Summorum Pontificum:

In many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.

Isn’t that just what Elizabeth is saying? That to be “meaningful”, “evocative”, “appropriate”, “intelligible”, etc. creativity needs to be added to the rite? That “doing the red and speaking the black” won’t do on its own? Yes. That is exactly what Elizabeth is saying. She writes:

Intelligence and creativity in using the liturgical books are essential if the rites are to be celebrated in such a way that the sacred mysteries shine out in the particular situation in which the Church has gathered.

Finally she describes this creative process in the following way:

While the rites we celebrate are set out in ritual books, it requires creative people to bring to life these words on a page – much like a good cook who can turn a recipe into a delicious dish.

A kind of ritualistic “cooking the books”, perhaps?

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3 Responses to Elizabeth Harrington cooks the liturgical books…

  1. Ttony says:

    I posted some time ago an evocative picture of how one Australian priest did his level best not to adapt to his conditions more than necessary.

  2. Athanasius says:

    It is revealing that the views held in the original article haven’t shifted in seven years. And this is despite Benedict’s recent interventions on liturgical discipline. Like the Bourbons, some people learn nothing and forget nothing.

    The article is the ecclesiastical equivalent of “flipping the bird” at the Holy Father.

  3. Schütz says:

    That’s a good one about the Bourbons. I hadn’t heard it before. Very fitting.

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