Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Clarifying the Term "Pre-Vatican II"

As discussion over Benedict XVI's latest Motu Proprio ensues, we need to clarify a term we often drop: "Pre-Vatican II".

The Roman Missal which is now restored for extraordinary use in the liturgies of the Roman Rite is indeed "Pre-Vatican" if we only talk of dates. It was promulgated by Blessed John XXIII on April 11, 1962 several months before the Council opened on October 11 of the same year.

Even so, the 1962 Missal undeniably bears the mark of the same spirit which moved and guided the Second Vatican Council. One of the most noted examples is the exclusion of Anti-Semitic references in the Liturgy long before the publication of the Council's Declaration on Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate. Hence, even though the Missal is literally "Pre-Vatican II", it is beyond doubt already influenced by the spirit of the Council.

Moreover, the term "Pre-Vatican II" must never be used pejoratively, especially in discussing developments in the liturgy. Pope Benedict XVI puts it more clearly than ever: "In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."

This "Extraordinary Form" of the Roman Rite, which used the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope John XXIII must be respected and venerated with the same honor and reverence accorded to the other forms of the Roman Rite which are manifold not only throughout history but throughout the world.

Here the very prudent counsel of Saint Augustine once again applies: "In necesariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas." (In the essentials, unity; in uncertainties, liberty; in all things, charity.)

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