(I'm posting this in light of the recent Synod in Crete.)
But the Roman Church does not attack these traditions, I hear my readers cry! Well, no, but yes.
Here are some extracts from the FIUV Position Paper on the Traditional Mass and the Eastern Churches.
... the Latin reform saw the almost universal abandonment of the Latin
tradition of liturgical orientation: the celebration of Mass by a priest facing liturgical east,
which meant (outside a small number of exceptional churches), facing the same way as
the Faithful. The promotion of this change, which was not discussed by the Second
Vatican Council and has never been made obligatory in the Latin Church, has been
accompanied by a polemic against the traditional practice, which is disparagingly
described as ‘the priest turning his back on the people’. This polemic is not endorsed in
the Church’s official documents and has often been criticised, notably by Pope Benedict
XVI. It is, nevertheless, very widespread, and is clearly applicable to the tradition of
worship ad orientem in the Eastern Rites. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches
has felt it necessary to address the issue in the Instruction Il Padre, (107):
It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding the celebration with the back
turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the
Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord. Such practice, threatened in numerous Eastern Catholic Churches by a
new and recent Latin influence, is thus of profound value and should be
safeguarded as truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality.
In a similar way, the same Instruction finds it necessary to defend the Eastern tradition of
the distribution of Holy Communion only by clerics; a longer Eucharistic Fast than in
force today in the Latin Church; a ‘penitential orientation’ to the liturgy; and the use of
traditional sacred art and architectural forms for churches. All of these are features of the
Latin liturgical tradition which have been subject to criticism, disparagement, and even
ridicule, in the course of the debate over the liturgical reform.
An earlier document from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the 1984
Instruction Observations on: ‘The Order of the Holy Mass of the Syro-Malabar Church
1981’, furnishes still more examples of the same phenomenon. Reference is made to a
popular theological critique of silent prayers in the liturgy.
It is sometimes said that all liturgical prayers should be said aloud so that everyone
can hear them. This is a false principle both historically and liturgically. Some
prayers are specifically designed to be said during singing or processions or other
activities of the people, or are apologies pro clero. Just as the clergy do not have
to sing everything the people chant, so too the people do not have to hear all the
prayers. Indeed, to recite all prayers aloud interrupts the proper flow of the
The attack on silent prayers in the Mass is also strongly opposed by Pope Benedict. It
is by no means part of the official theology of the Reform, and indeed the Missal of 1970
contains a number of silent priestly prayers. It is nevertheless true that the Reform, and
its implementation, has moved the practice of the Latin Church very much away from
silent prayers, and this has given an opening to a theological polemic, to the effect that
such prayers wrongfully exclude the Faithful from liturgical participation.
The Instruction Observations also directs the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church to
resist Latinising tendencies which would import unscripted prayers into their Rite; the
proclamation of the Scriptures from a lectern instead of from the Altar; over-elaborate
offertory processions; and spontaneous bidding prayers. On the last issue, it notes, in
relation to liturgical experiments in the Latin Church: ‘There is no need to imitate the
failures of others'.
Popular theological polemics against numerous aspects of the Church’s shared liturgical
tradition, and even the notion of a tradition, undermine the programme of preservation
and restoration of Eastern Rites called for by the Second Vatican Council, and undermine
professions of respect for the traditions of Eastern Christians not in communion with
(Read the whole thing here.)
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