Mgr Andrew Burnham: Liturgical Patrimony of the Ordinariate and the Reform of the Reform

15 10 2011

Monsignor Andrew Burnham of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham gave this paper on Saturday 15 October 2011 to the Association for Latin Liturgy meeting at St Mary Magdalen, Brighton. The text is reproduced here:

The Liturgical Patrimony of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Reform of the Reform

This paper is in two parts.  I suspect that some of those I am addressing are particularly interested in what is already happening in the first of the Ordinariates, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham (OOLW).  That is the subject of the first part of the lecture.  The second part will be of interest to those, especially those in the Association for Latin Liturgy, and indeed many in the Latin Mass Society – and I do know the difference – who are anxious to see the preservation of a cultural patrimony much wider and deeper than that of the Anglican tradition.  So, to begin with, and to justify the decision of the organizers of this event to invite me to address you, let me immediately identify myself with, and make common cause with, the aims of the Association for Latin Liturgy. We are keen ‘to promote understanding of the theological, pastoral and spiritual qualities of the liturgy in Latin’.  We seek ‘to preserve the sacredness and dignity of the Roman rite’.  We are anxious ‘to secure, for the present and future generations, the Church’s unique inheritance of liturgical music’.   I don’t know if reciting those aims automatically enrols me in the Association but, if I have to sign something and pay a subscription as well, I shall be only too glad to oblige.  I spent too long as a practising musician not to agree with these aims: I think a classical musician who wished to dissent from these aims would have to become a fan of Bartok or Delius or a member of the Nazi party to escape from the overwhelming beauty of the Catholic repertoire of liturgical music.  To come to the point: the second part of my reflection will be on what is normally referred to as ‘the reform of the Reform’, and I shall come to that when I have shared some thoughts on the liturgical formation of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

1.      Liturgical Formation of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

As the groups take shape and begin to establish a pattern of liturgical life, it is probably worth setting down a few thoughts about what is – or might soon be – going on.  The setting down of these thoughts has no more authority than whatever is self-evidently sensible within them, and may be more or less influential on what develops and how it develops, depending on circumstances well beyond my control.   Much of what I have to say is about music: the liturgy itself is a given but how it is celebrated, and in particular how it is said and sung, accompanied and adorned, depends on a number of significant choices.

Ordinariate Use

Though we now have provisional unpublished resources for the Office as it may be used in the OOLW, and the supporting calendar and lectionary material, and the marriage and funeral services, we have yet to publish the large collection of post-biblical readings.   The Office and the marriage and funeral services can be accessed from existing Anglican material and the Book of Divine Worship, with a steer as to what should and should not be used. The calendar and lectionary material will be published by the Ordinariate, and involves no complications of copyright.  It is the large collection of post-biblical readings which will need to be published and we hope that this will happen in Spring 2012.  Meanwhile it will be the task of the inter-dicasterial commission being set up this autumn to seek recognitio for the provisional resources and endeavour to produce an Order of Mass, suitable, if possible, for international use by those who have come from the Anglican tradition.  The aim is to achieve this within three years.  So, broadly speaking, Ordinariate groups and parishes, over the next three years at least, will be using the Roman Missal for Mass and the Ordinariate Use for the public celebration of the Divine Office, and for marriages and funerals.

Prayer Book Texts

Whilst permission for use of material ad interim has been granted by the CDF and CDW, there could be specific directives, from time to time, modifying what is permitted.  One such directive might cover the use of the Ordinary of the Mass, which some would like sung to Merbecke or some other setting, as found in the Prayer Book tradition.   There is a continuing facility to use the Book of Divine Worship, but not to import texts from that book into masses celebrated according to the Roman Missal.   Use of the Book of Divine Worship is complicated not only by it being North American in origin, and containing therefore much that is different from our own experience, but also because of some necessary restrictions placed on its use.  For one thing, certainly as regards the OOLW, only the traditional language (‘Rite One’) services may be used.  For another, the Roman words of consecration, as found in the new English translation of the Roman Missal, must be used in place of whatever is there, even in the so-called Coverdale version of the Canon.  

Ceremonial

We are at an interim stage as regards ceremonial.  The CDW is preparing an instruction for us, at the request of our working party, detailing what is permissible within the framework of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).  This is likely to commend eastward celebration, when the dynamic of the building suggests it, and may even commend such practices as kneeling for the Incarnatus.  We shall have to see, but it is important for us to realise that, though most of us are thoroughly attuned to the same ceremonial style and language as are used in most Catholic churches in England and Wales, there are many overseas who are very anxious indeed about being required to abandon traditional ceremonial and indeed traditional words.

A Liturgical Patrimony

How, then, do we establish a liturgical patrimony, a distinctive feel to the services we celebrate?  We need to be careful of what has been called ‘effortless Anglican superiority’, the assumption that whatever we do is rather better than what others do.  For one thing, our little groups usually have more to learn than they have to teach as they interact often with large and flourishing congregations.  For another, in some dioceses there are so many ex-Anglican priests at work that, even if we were some kind of leaven, the lump had plenty of that kind of leaven already.  And yet we do bring some gifts.  Solemn Evensong and Benediction is widely recognised – not least by the Holy Father himself – as a gift that we are bringing.  The marriage and funeral rites are similarly a gift: the marriage rite itself is a direct descendant of the mediæval marriage rite of England.  We also bring a sense of the ‘solemn mass on Sundays’ (even if the numbering attending it in our Anglican days seldom reached three figures).  The Catholic mass culture is a ‘low mass’ culture, and, in many parishes, however much singing is done, there is nothing that could be easily identified as a ‘solemn mass’ on Sundays.  The new missal is tackling this, by integrating the priest’s singing part into the main text, and there are instructions, from time to time, about the importance of plainsong.

Singing the Mass

The main gift we shall bring to eucharistic celebration, I believe, may be paradoxical.  It may be the way in which we approach the new translation of the Order of Mass and the way we set about celebrating it.  Former Anglicans will mostly not be unnerved by the singing of the Mass, the prayers and, in appropriate circumstances, the readings.   It will require a great deal of hard work: it will not do simply to approximate the singing to some sort of half-remembered oral tradition, as we have long done.  My experience in Oxford, with a group of about thirty, is that, with the notes, the congregation managed Missa de Angelis in Greek and Latin in Easter time, and Credo III in  Latin (sung alternatim) and has also managed to learn what I am calling Missa simplex, the very manageable setting in the new Roman Missal.  They have also managed Credo I in English.  We shall be looking for a third setting, which is neither fancy Latin for feast days, nor plain English for green Sundays, but that will be about as much as we need.  That third setting may be a modern setting though, so far, none has emerged which commends itself.  Meanwhile we have the services in Oxford of the Newman Consort, a small group of expert singers, whose mandate is to point up the solemnity of a particular occasion by singing parts of the Ordinary to polyphony and by singing, from time to time, a motet at the beginning of the Offertory, and an Agnus Dei or a motet at the Communion.  Last weekend we had the Byrd Four-part for the Newman Pilgrimage at Littlemore and the Byrd Five-part for the Oxford Ordinariate’s Vigil Mass.

Cultures and the Ordinary of the Mass

One of the challenges of the future indeed is what to do about modern settings.  These are being controlled very carefully, by way of copyright restriction, by the Catholic Bishops’ Liturgy Committee, we understand.   There is a strong desire to drive out cheap and meretricious settings of the Mass, and to ban all paraphrases.  Whatever musical provision is made for ‘folk’ or ‘rock’ or ‘youth’ masses, in the Pope’s view it should not be the Ordinary of the Mass that is set to popular music or adapted to popular songs.  These settings should be in some sense classics, as indeed the plainsong chant settings are.  As regards settings from a distinctive Anglican background, we have discovered, after unconvincing attempts to adapt it, that it is probably a good idea to preserve John Merbecke for the traditional prayer book texts, once we have permission to use them.  Merbecke, after all, was setting these texts in 1550, when they were contemporary.  Though the Martin Shaw ‘Anglican Folk Mass’, a twentieth century setting in an idiom which resembles both plainsong and folk song, sets the traditional texts, we have found that it also adapts well to the new English texts.  The work has been done and we await copyright permission.

Creed and Lord’s Prayer

There are a number of decisions to be made.   One concerns the use of the Creed.  The rubrics permit the use of the Apostles’ Creed, and whether that becomes the vehicle for catechesis in Lent may depend on how well it is known and used at other times.  Within the Anglican tradition historically there would have been nothing to be gained by using the Apostles’ Creed at the Eucharist, because it was used twice a day in the Office.  In the modern Catholic tradition, if the Apostles’ Creed is not used at Mass, then it is likely to fall into disuse, except where there is a devotion to the Rosary.  Where the Nicene Creed is used (and, of course, it usually is), some reflection is needed on whether it should be said or sung.  The Oxford plan at present is to say it occasionally but usually to sing it – to the modern English setting of Credo I in the Roman Missal in the green season and to the Latin of Credo III in Eastertide and on solemnities and feasts.

The new version of the solemn tone of the Lord’s Prayer in the Roman Missal is, in my view, similar to but less felicitous than the setting long used by Anglo-catholics.  That might indicate the need to stay with an established use, but there is a risk in that which we will explore shortly.   As with the Creed, there are three clear pathways which suggest themselves.   The festal one is the use of the Rimsky-Korsakov setting.  When I first came across this, I was unconvinced: what place has a piece of Byzantine chant in the Western context of the Roman Mass?  Soon, haunted by its beauty, I glimpsed the profound symbolism of a Byzantine gem at the heart of the Roman Mass, as significant in its way as the use of the Greek text of Kyrie eleison.   This can be particularly poignant in a plainsong mass: suddenly there is this moment of four-part congregational singing as the mass reaches its climax.  I reflected too on the popularity of the Russian Contakion of the Departed (English Hymnal 744), a piece no less disjunctive in the context of a Western rite requiem.  For green Sundays there might well be the setting of John Merbecke, which is clearly, in style, a ‘simple tone’ version of a plainchant original.  Then there is the saying of the Lord’s Prayer, rather than the singing of it.  This everyday use might never commend itself for the Sung Mass but circumstances vary.

Idiosyncratic Settings

The music J S Bach composed for St Thomas, Leipzig, is a constant reminder that local composition and performance is more than a local enrichment.  There will always be a place for local composition and performance but it would be fair to assume that most things produced locally are likely to be of limited value.  There is also a sense in which the Ordinary of the Mass is something to be shared, something familiar to come across as one goes from place to place, something to be roared out by a crowd in St Peter’s Square.  In short, the local organist’s anthem, or hymn descant, or psalm chant, is probably to be encouraged more than his or her mass setting.  The Church needs some interchangeability and transferability and the risk of losing that is acute if idiosyncratic settings are preferred.  Thus, even if the new solemn tone for the Lord’s Prayer is less good than an older version, it nonetheless has wider currency.  The problem is more acute with translations of plainsong settings.  Missa simplex is available both in the original languages and in translation.  It is to be hoped that all plainsong masses available in translation will be standard: changes in underlay and melismata, and even notes, from place to place, would achieve nothing for the corporate life of the Church.

Propers, Psalms and Hymns

There is no space here to expound how integral psalmody is to the celebration of the Mass: much of the psalter was inextricably bound up with the temple cultus and that tradition has sometimes all but disappeared but in the end has remained.   Few groups and parishes will take on the provision of the Graduale Romanum, which best suits abbeys and cathedrals, and the Graduale Simplex has never really taken hold.  Coming soon is a Graduale Parvum, which will have Latin and English texts, and there are other excellent resources emerging.  Adam Bartlett’s Simple English Propers came out this year and uses the texts of the Graduale Romanum translated into the English of the Revised Grail Psalter.  In Oxford we have made extensive use of the simple tones of the English Gradual – the old Wantage collection, where the tones are the same every week but only the text changes – but using the actual texts of the Roman Missal.

These resources should be explored fully within the Ordinariate, whose groups often have the aptitude and resources for the task.  The standard collections of responsorial psalms were just a beginning.   Sometimes the most effective place to start is the metrical psalm.  Until the Oxford Movement the nearest thing to hymn singing in the Church of England was the metrical psalm and a tenth of the metrical psalter has survived in the form of well-known hymns: psalms 17, 23, 26, 34, 46, 67, 72, 87, 90, 100, 103,104, 122, 136, 148, 150.  To begin Mass with one of these metrical psalms is to recover and integrate several significant traditions – psalmody, hymnody, the Anglican tradition of metrical psalms, the place of psalmody in the cultus.  The more adventurous will find, in Christoph Tietze’s Hymn Introits for the Liturgical Year a much wider selection of possibilities, many of which are patient of being set to well-known tunes.  (For the Vigil Mass of the Assumption, for example, there is a metrical setting of Psalm 45 to the tune of the Christmas carol, Gabriel’s Message, and with the refrain ‘Most highly favoured Lady.  Gloria!’  That  was useful too for the Ordinariate’s solemnity of Our Lady of Walsingham)

Hymns themselves often displace the texts of propers and it is worth pondering just what it is that former Anglicans bring to this.  I would suggest that it is something between the Wesleyan tradition of building liturgy on hymnody – where the texts of the hymns are the building blocks of the liturgy of the day – and the modern Catholic fashion for having suitable musical interludes in a ‘said mass’.    The Anglican tradition could be summed up as singing appropriate words, to tunes of the appropriate mood, for an appropriate length of time at the points in the service where, in the Catholic tradition, the propers are otherwise sited.  Hymns not only enable people to join in but, as the hymn boards often show, are a somewhat prolix strategy for keeping people engaged and quiet at various times.  Perhaps a creative liturgical patrimony will re-learn from the Wesleyans the art of tailoring text to theme and from the Catholics that two or three hymns will suffice and that half a dozen and more is several too many.   We have to learn the lesson still that over-lengthy services are the result of too much hymn singing.

Musical Accompaniment

Music may well be the bicycle of the liturgy, as the late Thurston Dart used to say, but groups and parishes will sometimes struggle to find musicians.  The instinct is to look for an organist and, failing that, a pianist, and to count oneself fortunate indeed if there is a music group.  More necessary than any of these, arguably, is a good cantor, someone who can sing the solo parts and lead the singing of the congregation.  Accompaniment is sometimes thought necessary to support small numbers but it could in truth be the large congregations which really need the playing of the merry organ.  The full nave of a cathedral needs organo pleno.   A congregation of a few dozen can be led by a singer or a strong flautist.

A Distinct Style

We have dwelt on the musical issues at some length, and I hope that the little group of musicians who are consulting one another about all this will be a helpful resource.  There is so much bad practice that could be imported if we are not all vigilant.  Moreover, the risk is that so much of what we have done has been contemporary Catholic worship on a much smaller scale.  There is a real risk, that is, that the lunchtime or afternoon Ordinariate Mass will be the poor relation not just in timing to whatever goes on normally in a particular church.

Interaction and Assimilation

It is much too early to tell whether Anglicanorum cœtibus will result in something large, vibrant and new within the Church, or whether it will have been – and remain – a friendly crossing point, a part of the river which is not too deep.  Certainly there will be an enormous amount of interaction and assimilation, as clergy from the Ordinariate work in and serve Catholic parishes and Catholic institutions, as congregations mingle and merge.  There will be fear of the consequences of interaction and assimilation but, in truth, the survival of the Ordinariate, and its growing strong and prospering, will rely almost entirely on the vibrancy of the liturgical and parochial life it engenders.  In short, we have nothing to fear from others, from helping them and from them helping us, but plenty to fear from not rising to the challenge of developing our own culture and patrimony.

2.      The Reform of the Reform

I move on now to the second part of what I want to say.  As in a concert, this second part is quite a bit shorter than the first.  A shameless commercial will obviate the need for saying too much.  My views on the Reform of the Reform are set out in Heaven and Earth in Little Space: The Re-enchantment of Liturgy, a book published in 2010.  There is, in particular, a chapter called ‘Said or Sung’ which harmonises well with some of the things I was talking about earlier.  Similarly, there is a chapter called ‘Extraordinary or Ordinary’ which deals with the Reform of the Reform.  Those who like pure red meat will not be reading what I have to say but going straight to Francis Mannion’s 1996 essay, ‘The Catholicity of the Liturgy: Shaping a New Agenda’[1] or to Thomas Kocik’s book, The Reform of the Reform?,  and Aidan Nichols’ essay therein giving ‘an English View’.[2] The other place to go to is The Spirit of the Liturgy,[3] the permanent gift of the then  Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to liturgical theology.  The way that the burden of this book is, in equal measure, revered and ignored in the Catholic Church shows both the strength and the vulnerability of the Petrine ministry.  Too many otherwise loyal Catholics seem to regard the Holy Father as being old-fashioned and slightly out-of-touch in liturgical matters – why else would they disregard what he says? – whereas he is pointing forward to a new synthesis, when what has been a pendulum of reform will settle and become a plumb-line of a rich eucharistic spirituality, expressed in a glorious liturgy.

Since any of these books has been written, the English-speaking world of the Catholic Church has begun to experience the new English translation of the Missal.  We are still nervous about bits of bureaucratic English that have intruded – ‘approve this offering in every respect’ – or new poetic expressions – ‘the dewfall’, which, this side of the Atlantic at least, exist only as a rare surname.  We are still wondering how Americanisms such as ‘reconcile us to yourself’ have survived the scrutiny of non-American English-speakers (though there are not too many of us left now who bother about the improper use of the reflexive pronoun).  Then there are those – and I am not one of these myself – who are suspicious of the re-introduction of theological vocabulary – ‘consubstantial’, ‘chalice’, ‘oblation’ – or of theological concepts that need careful handling – ‘poured out for you and for many’.    There is a curious anger erupting here and there – not least in the pages of the Tablet – as people express the notion that, somehow, everyone ought to have been consulted.  A prison chaplain wrote to me to say that one of the inmates, called Mad Mick, or some such, was taking it particularly personally that the Pope had not sought his approval for the new translation of the Mass.

Compared with these minor difficulties, the great prizes of what may become possible loom large.  Can we persuade priests and people to re-engage with chant?   In the spirit of Liturgiam authenticam 2001, can we persuade the English-speaking world that the first or second Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version is the version to use, since it is in the English biblical tradition of translation whereby, broadly speaking, significant Hebrew and Greek words are given a stable English equivalent?  My own view is that, whatever the translators tell us are the merits of dynamic equivalence, and the merits of such translations to convey what is interpreted as the meaning of the original are considerable, the English of the Mass and the English of the Bible have a different job to do.  They are not simply the vehicles of the most inspiring interpretation – as, for example, the translation of a Russian novel might be – but they have the added burden of being the modern lingua franca, where, for several purposes, verbal equivalence will outweigh brilliant paraphrase.   I think it is not putting it too strongly to say that that emphasis is a gift of Anglican patrimony and I was not at all surprised to read, at some stage in the squabble, an article in the Tablet complaining that the Anglo-catholics had got hold of the liturgy.

Well, most of this is in the direction of ‘Reform of the Reform’ but it is not quite what the Association of Latin Liturgy stands for.   However sublime the English of the new translation – and, despite the infelicities and the elephant traps, much of it seems very fine – what results is not a Latin Mass, Ordinary or Extraordinary, but an English Mass.   We must consider, therefore, how the Latin of the liturgy may continue to be recovered and to develop as well as what the direction of reform should be.  On the subject of Latin, let us put to one side the question of the place of Latin in the curriculum of schools and colleges.  Every time the teaching of ancient languages seems to be on the point of withering away, there is something of a revival.  Latin continues to be widely taught still in the private sector and there are occasional renaissances in the public sector too.  We shall never revert to the convention that every educated person should have Latin at ‘O’-level, but nor will the Latin of the liturgy ever be generally incomprehensible.  The Church’s use of Latin, like its choice of English liturgical vocabulary, is simply one of the many influences on those who form curricula and who make curricular choices.  ‘Dewfall’ might have been an obsolete word, but, from now on, if priests continue to prefer Eucharistic Prayer II because of its brevity, ‘dewfall’ is in common use, if not common parlance.  Where I think Latin is particularly important – and I would say this, would I not? – is in the rich treasury of liturgical music.  If I am honest, I don’t much care whether or not another priest or religious ever reads the post-biblical reading in the Office of Readings in Latin.  What I do care about is the survival of Latin psalm singing, Latin plainsong, Latin motets, Latin mass settings.   And, if the context for some of this is a Latin Mass, with a silent canon beneath glorious polyphony, then so much the better.

Where I think we want to get to, as I said in my book,[4] is something like the cluster of proposals, endorsed by the present Pope, and set out by such people as Klaus Gamber and Brian Harrison.   According to their argument, the ‘noble simplicity’ called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium might have been achieved – might still be achieved – by mostly ceremonial means.  Thus the Liturgy of the Word would be conducted from the chair and lectern, the Last Gospel might be read in the vernacular from the foot of the altar, and not on every occasion.  Whatever is unchanging – the Ordinary, the prayers read in a low voice, the Canon – should be in Latin, according to these proposals, and whatever would be widely unintelligible in Latin – that is the Proper, the readings, the Prayer of the Faithful, and the hymns – would be in the vernacular.  My own suggestion, modest enough, is that, instead of requiring certain parts of the Mass to be in Latin, would be to allow the invariable parts to be in Latin at a low mass and require them to be in Latin at a missa solemnis.  Incidentally, let no one be under any illusion that there still is something which could be called ‘a low mass’.  Despite the deregulation of ceremonial and music, or perhaps because of it, there are no fewer low masses than before.  What we have seen is a further attenuation of the missa cantata and missa solemnis traditions.

A fourth edition of Missale Romanum might meet some – but undoubtedly not all – of the concerns of those who presently prefer the Extraordinary Form.   I think, myself, the Extraordinary Form is here to stay and that, however much calendrical and euchological convergence there is between the fourth edition of Missale Romanum and a further edition of the 1962 Missal, we shall continue to have twin tracks: possibly the use of some abbeys and cathedrals, on the one hand, and the use of less liturgically intense religious communities, parish church cathedrals and parish churches, on the other.  Aidan Nichols sees a conspiratio, a conspiracy one might say, ‘among the various liturgies’, ‘a concerted action of the Holy Spirit to give us a testimony as adequate as any testimony can be, this side of Heaven, to what the Eucharist is and does’.[5]  This ‘breathing together’ would be as true of the distinct uses of the Roman Rite – and Nichols is concerned that we continue to learn from the Mass of St Pius V – as it would be of the co-existence of Roman and Byzantine Rites.

But, addressing ourselves to the fourth edition, it would be good to have the traditional eucharistic lectionary return, at least as a possibility.  It would be good to have the Gallican Offertory Prayers return, at least as an option for use at the altar whilst music is being sung.   It would be good to encourage the use of Latin for the solemn mass, and in particular for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  It would be good for versus orientem to become normative again, with permission for versus populum where a particular architectural style or spirituality requires it, as it sometimes does.

There are undoubtedly innovations of the post-conciliar Missal which have already commended themselves to traditionalists.  Some of the calendrical reforms – though not all of them.   Most of the new Prefaces.  Eucharistic Prayers III and IV, perhaps, if not Eucharistic Prayer II.  Much of the liturgy for the Easter Triduum, with one or two barbarities, such as the informal stripping on Maundy Thursday, removed.   What was electrifying, for both traditionalists surely and progressives, was the celebration of Mass at the change of Pontificate: both the Funeral Mass of John Paul II and the Installation Mass of Benedict XVI were strikingly beautiful, reassuringly traditional and yet thoroughly conforming to Novus Ordo Missae.  If something like the quality of those occasions – or of the papal mass in Westminster Cathedral in September 2010 – could be captured and become much more usual in the life of the Church, the winning of the hearts and minds of men and women of good will and the coming of the Kingdom would be hastened.


[1] M. Francis Mannion, ‘The Catholicity of the Liturgy: Shaping a New Agenda’ in Stratford Caldecott (ed.), Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement, Edinburgh: T&T Clark 1998, pp. 11ff.

[2] The Reform of the Reform? A  Liturgical Debate: Reform or Return, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2003.

[3] Joseph Ratzinger, tr. John Saward, The Spirit of the Liturgy, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2000.

[4] See e.g. p63f

[5] ‘Eucharistic Theology and the Rite of Mass’ in Aidan Nichols OP, Lost in Wonder: Essays on Liturgy and the Arts, Farnham, Ashgate Publishing, 2011


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