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Liturgical Renewal:
Two Latin Rites?

by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B

Many say that the bishops assembled at the Second Vatican Council would have been wiser had they first articulated the ecclesial vision of that council and then proceeded to discuss and outline the liturgical renewal. The liturgical discussion, they rightly say, would have followed logically after The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). This may well be true, but we all know that hindsight is easy. Why did the bishops feel so confident to take up the liturgical questions first?

Historical and Traditional Roots

Romano Guardini Probably the council Fathers began with liturgy because it was the subject that had been the best prepared during the pre-conciliar period. The liturgical reform did not come out of nowhere. For decades that reform had been making its way, first in monastic circles, and then in the Church at large. What became normative at Vatican I I had been long prepared for by such great personages as M. Leroquais, L. Beauduin, F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, A. G. Martimort, M. Andrieu, B. Botte, B. Capelle in France and Belgium; by J. A. Jungmann, I. Herwegen, O. Casel, B. Neunheuser, A. Baurnstark, K. Mohlberg, Romano Guardini, P. Parsch, B. Fischer in Germany and Austria; by I. Schuster, M. Righetti, and C. Vaggagini in Italy; by Edmund Bishop, Walter Frere and Gregory Dix in England, and by a host of other giants.

Many of these were influenced by such important Benedictine liturgical centers as Maria Laach and Beuron in Germany. In the United States we were initiated into this new thinking by Virgil Michel, R. Hillenbrand, G. Ellard, H. A. Reinhold, M. B. Hellriegel, F. McManus, the indefatigable Godfrey Diekmann and many others.

Featured Book This liturgical reform was based on historical and scientific research carried out over many decades. It sought a reform that would be the product of the finest thinking within the whole of the Catholic tradition, basing itself especially on the wisdom, experience, and theology of the patristic period. The bishops assembled at Vatican 11 also knew that the more immediate preparation for their work, one that gave a solid theological basis to it, came from the encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (1947). The liturgical renewal did not come out of thin air. It was not without historical and traditional roots. All these studies made it clear that the groundwork had been laid and that the bishops could proceed with a certain security to discuss liturgyas their first topic.

The Spirit of the Liturgy

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