Delighted though I am whenever the work of an intelligent and eloquent woman breaks on the scene, it seems to me that Audrey Seah’s article on the Pray Tell blog must be seriously critiqued.
The article is an extremely sophisticated brand of namecalling.
The question is proposed: why do so many of the advocates of the Reform of the Reform advocate the same exact things?
What is curious about the various critiques, however, is the point at
which many of them converge — that is in the specific style of
liturgical aesthetics — despite the wide-range of approaches used to
critique the reform. The style upheld is one of grandeur and ornate
details, often inspired by gothic architecture from the high Medieval
Ages to early Renaissance, along with the period’s elaborate rituals,
processions, unutterable words and polyphony. The flaunting of the cappa magna, a
surge of interest in Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony, and the
return of elaborate gothic chasubles are just three visible trends
among many that reflect a growing adherence to such ideas of liturgical
The reason is obviously because we are all afraid of postmodernity.
Within a postmodern context, the liturgy is constantly in flux as
communities repeatedly discern the “right” way of doing liturgy while
fearing the slip into relativism: postmodernism is likely a key cultural
catalyst behind the many post-Vatican II “experiments” that have
understandably been criticized heavily. Performatism reacts to the
uncertainty of postmodernism and attempts to ascertain objectivity in
liturgy by appealing to arbitrary” authoritarian sources such as
“Performatism,” according to the article, is a way we ROTR’s and others who fear modernity get to feel secure again. There is some complicated mumbo jumbo that is hard to follow without reading a lot of modern philosophy first, but what it comes down to is that we’re all really immersed in our times, feel uncomfortable with some aspects of them, and so we try to make a comfortable space for ourselves. And this process (since after all the article is on Pray Tell) ends up thusly:
The result is a false and shallow
objectivity that manifests itself through partisan support for
particular interpretations of liturgical aesthetics and obsessions over
the letter rather than spirit of the law.
Now it was pretty obvious that an article (on Pray Tell) that talked about “flaunting of the cappa magna” in its second paragraph was going to reach the by-now-cliched liturgical namecalling of the above. We ROTR’s are false and shallow, in cahoots with authoritarianism, and we prefer the letter of the law to the spirit of the law.
In its final section, the article makes Hans Urs von Balthasar into some sort of hippie.
The author is obviously so very smart, that I wish she would write about things that are true. As an ROTRr myself, I understand quite well that my motivations have nothing to do with how obscure modern philosophers and liturgy grad students might think I react to postmodernity. The point of the Reform of the Reform is simple: human dignity. Why seek real beauty in the liturgy? Beauty expresses God. But also, beauty expresses us. We have been judged by God so important that we are worth His very self. We have been saved and we are becoming glorious. The glory of God is humanity fully alive. And that is worth getting dressed up for on Sunday morning.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.
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