Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Louis Bouyer on mutual enrichment?

I would suggest that the advocates of traditional Catholicism, in its post Summorum Pontificum version, are not really interested in the mutual enrichment between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms sought by Pope Benedict XVI.

It's perhaps not a surprise that they should make much of the chapter in Louis Bouyer's Memoirs in which he gives a trenchant and critical account of his experience in working as a member of the post-Conciliar Consilium revising the Liturgy. There is perhaps a particular glee in noting Fr Bouyer's scathing observations about the modus operandi of the then Mgr Annibale Bugnini. The account of the writing, at least in part, of Eucharistic Prayer II in a Trastevere restaurant to meet a deadline the following morning also raises a chuckle.

But Fr Bouyer also notes the enrichment arising from the re-introduction to the Missal of " a good number of splendid prefaces taken over from ancient sacramentaries and thanks to the wider biblical readings (although, on this latter point, there was too much haste to produce anything satisfactory)". [English translation p.223]. He particularly praises the new Common Preface I; and has already referred to "three Eucharistic Prayers which, despite rather wordy intercessions, reclaimed pieces of great antiquity and unequalled theological and euchological richness" [p.220]. Can we perhaps see here something of the origins of Pope Benedict's suggestion that some of these new prefaces be introduced into the Missal of the Extraordinary Form, a proposal on which those attached to the Extraordinary Form show no sign of moving forward?

I would suggest that Fr Bouyer's summary of his account [English translation p.224] clearly recognises things of value in the Ordinary Form (my emphasis added):
After all of this, it's not much surprise if, because of its unbelievable weaknesses, the pathetic creature we produced was to provoke laughter or indignation - so much so that it makes one forget any number of excellent elements it nevertheless contains, and that it would be a shame not to salvage as so many scattered pearls in the revision that will inevitably be called for.
If Fr Bouyer's account is read as a whole, and not in a selective way, there appears to me an undeniable impetus in the direction of mutual enrichment.

The same chapter in the Memoirs includes an account of Fr Bouyer's participation in the International Theological Commission, from which he eventually resigned. In Fr Bouyer's account, he would usually be seated at meetings of the Commission between one Fr Joseph Ratzinger (traditionalist cheer?) and a certain Fr Hans Urs von Balthasar (traditionalist boo?). Now doesn't that make one's mouth water at the thought of the coffee break exchanges that might have taken place between these three!

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