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The Reformed Liturgy: A “Cadaver Decomposed”? Louis Bouyer and Liturgical Ressourcement Alcuin Reid, O.S.B. Introduction In 1968 Father Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) of the French Oratory, a convert to the Catholic Faith from Lutheranism in 1939 and subsequently an enthusiastic promoter of liturgical ressourcement in the middle of the twentieth century, made an astonishing claim: [W]e must speak plainly: there is practically no liturgy worthy of the name today in the Catholic Church. Yesterday’s liturgy was hardly more than an embalmed cadaver. What people call liturgy today is little more than this same cadaver decomposed. [...]1 Perhaps in no other area is there a greater distance (and even formal opposition) between what the Council worked out and what we actually have. Under the pretext of “adapting” the liturgy, people have simply forgotten that it is and can only be the traditional expression of the Christian mystery in all its spring-like fullness. I have perhaps spent the greater part of my priestly life in attempting to explain it. But now I have the impression, and I am not alone, that those who took it upon themselves to apply (?) the Council’s directives on this point have turned their backs deliberately on what Beauduin, Casel and Pius Parsch had set out to do, and to which I had tried vainly to add some small contribution of my own.2 Bouyer’s concern is shared by others looking back on this period. Writing in 2004 of the Neoscholastic reductionism and theological 1 Emphasis added. “La liturgie catholique n’était plus guère qu’un cadavre embaumé. Ce qu’on appelle aujourd’hui « la liturgie » n’est pas plus de ce cadavre décomposé.” Cited in Louis Bouyer, Le métier de théologien: Entrentiens avec Georges Daix (Geneva: Ad Solem, 2005) 63. 2 Louis Bouyer, The Decomposition of Catholicism (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1969) 105. Original: La décomposition du catholicisme (Ligugé, 1968). Antiphon 16.1 (2012): 37-51 38 Alcuin Reid, O.S.B. disconnection with the living form of the liturgy that the liturgical movement had attempted to overcome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger asserted: “Anyone who, like me, was moved by this perception at the time of the liturgical movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.”3 Are they right? Have the genuine and sound efforts of the twentieth-century liturgical movement been squandered or even hijacked? Or, in the words of the French liturgist A. G. Martimort, are these simply the laments of “pioneers” who have been “overtaken by others travelling the roads which they opened up,” indulging in revisionist polemics?4 The Aims of the Liturgical Movement What was it that the pioneers of the twentieth century liturgical movement set out to do? It must be said plainly that, first and foremost , they sought to take that venerable organism, objective liturgical tradition—”objective,” that is, in the sense of being a reality that is not the Church’s property with which she can do as she likes, but a constitutive element of Tradition—and place it once again at the center of the spiritual, and therefore of the theological and pastoral, life of the Church. They desired a widespread return to liturgical piety. The nineteenth century Benedictine “grandfather” of the movement , Dom Prosper Guéranger (1805-1875), clearly articulated this aim in the words with which he opened the first volume of his magnum opus, L’Année liturgique: “Open your hearts, children of the Catholic Church, and come and pray the prayer of your Mother.”5 This was the vision of its papal protagonist, St Pius X (reigned 1903-14), in his desire to restore “the true Christian spirit” through the “active participation in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church,” its “indispensable fount.”6 And it was the inspiration 3 Preface to Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005) 11. 4 “Presentation” to Nicola Giampietro, The Development of the Liturgical Reform: As Seen by Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli from 1948 to 1970 (Fort...


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