There were nineteen addresses in five major languages (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish) given at the Sacra Liturgia 2013 conference held in Rome between June 25-28. Over 300 people from 33 different countries crowded into the aula magna of the Universita della Santa Croce each day to hear these talks, and attend the conference liturgies, in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, in the adjoining Basilica of St. Apollinare.
It was truly an international conference.
At least half of the attendees, by my estimation, were clergy which, in my opinion, is an extremely good sign. The clergy are, and remain, the custodians of the sacred liturgy. The true reform of the liturgy in its externals but, more importantly, the acquisition of a true liturgical spirit will only fully come to the laity through the example and guidance of learned, well-formed priests and bishops.
The conference itself had no single over-arching theme, but I detected at least four themes upon which I will write in this and three upcoming articles. The four themes are: the new evangelization, the clergy, family life, and liturgical academics.
This first article has to do with the liturgy and the “new evangelization.”
There were three different talks which included the term “new evangelization” in the title: Dr. Gabriel Steinschulte’s “Liturgical Music and the New Evangelization,” Don Nicola Bux’s “Liturgical Catechesis and the New Evangelization,” and Tracey Rowland’s “The Usus Antiquior and the New Evangelization.” However, I will start with Abbot Jean-Charles Nault, OSB whose talk entitled “The Sacred Liturgy as Foundation of Religious Life” cited a caution of Fr. Louis Bouyer (in 1944) that the liturgy is not a tool for evangelization. The liturgy “is not a tool for conversion.” The liturgy is “a means of living the Christian life. . . . it is not made for winning over crowds.”
Thus the New Evangelization, which is meant as a means of re-evangelizing a post-Christian West, should not try to alter the sacred liturgy as a means of appealing to “modern man.” This was the mistake made back in the 1960’s and, according to Dr. Steinschulte, is a mistake not only of “aesthetics, but theological categories.” He also noted that the “new” in New Evangelization means to “requalify our positions” and to “draw from the wisdom of the Church from the beginning.” He also stressed that there is “no reason to withhold the (Church’s) musical tradition from (potential modern, secular converts.)”
Indeed, as Dr. Tracey Rowland noted, we are living in a post-modern world, not a “modern world.” This is something that secular scholars, but few church officials recognize. Post-modernity, which began in 1968, is “wistful and nostalgic – open to tradition.” Unlike modernity, it does not have a “neurotic desire to wipe out the past.” In addition, Dr. Rowland made the fascinating distinction between the instrumental and expressivist theories of meaning. According to the instrumental theory, largely discredited, meaning is only conveyed by words; according to the expressivist theory, words cannot convey meaning outside of practices and culture. Thus, a vernacular Mass with “happy-clappy” music is not going to mean the same thing as a Latin Mass with Gregorian chant – irregardless of validity.
Finally, Fr. Nicola Bux, who is rumored to have been one of the ghost writers of Summorum Pontificum, cited 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason that is in you with meakness and fear.” – stressing that worship and evangelization are two separate acts. First you worship God, then you evangelize.