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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MODERN AMERICA NOT HISTORIC EUROPE

Recent liturgical studies have shown that there have almost always been great differences between rural Italian and Roman liturgies up to and through the Renaissance.
Papal liturgies were emulated in urban cathedrals, but, despite Roman practices nearby, something much simpler was carried forward in the villages in the ages before printing made changing the local sacramentary simpler and less expensive. Monasteries developed various separate traditions.
Much church practice was developed in agrarian villages or small cities where everyone could walk to church. All lived and worked with the members of their worship community. They were in a single denomination reality and had little communication with any outside world. Should our differences from that affect how we come together to pray?
I think there is a great deal of difference in the USA between early 21st century suburban parishioner needs, and reasonable parish participation expectations, compared to what was reasonable for early 20th century urban parishes, much less comparing either of them to any part of pre-Renaissance Italy.
Our parochial, communal prayer can certainly borrow elements from the monastic and cathedral and papal traditions, but it is very easy to make the mistake of idealizing those strong traditions instead of looking at the actual needs and the contemporary real world in one's own time, place, economy, and social reality.
For example, monastic communities are excellent places for recovery by those spiritually shipwrecked, but they do not necessarily provide a particularly useful form of prayer for those carrying on their daily business at sea. The monastic or hermetic life appeal to particular personality types, too, and are not ideals for everyone, just as celibacy is a particular calling not appropriate to the majority of people.
This is not to reject monasticism or its productive history or its practical examples. Instead, it is to ask whether any parish should take that particular pattern for building its own community or seek some other pattern.
To find other patterns, look at the document on liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium. Instead of a monastic or a cathedral liturgy, in fourteen places it calls for all present to participate fully, participate consciously, and participate actively. This blog is about figuring how to implement that insight in practical ways within the rules of our various Christian denominations.

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