Seeds of Liturgical Utilitarianism

An excellent piece deserving of attention from Traditional Catholics.


“One can see the same utilitarian and instrumentalizing trend in the development of the “private Mass” in the late first-millennium West. This reduced, if not in essence then certainly in appearances, the inherently communal liturgy into the priest-monk’s tool for daily personal sanctification and edification……Another seed is the gradual abandonment of the choral obligation of the Office (which in many places, according to Fr. Robert Taft, also implied a canonical obligation for laity [!] to attend!), in favor of private individual recitation. If we concede that a priest settled comfortably into an armchair by the fire silently mouthing the words of a Breviary by himself qualifies as “liturgy,” and are completely comfortable with setting the canonical bar there, should we really be that surprised at the prevailing utilitarianism of both clergy and laity when it comes to liturgy in general? There is also the medieval multiplication of stipend-Masses for the private intentions of the stipend-givers, a well-oiled machinery of sacramental efficacy if there was one…..”

Tom's Digest

Peter Kwasniewski’s newest post on New Liturgical Movement struck a chord with me when he discussed the relationship between the Mass and the Divine Office:

[T]he Divine Office . . . is pure verbal incense, burned up in the presence of the Lord, and for His sake. This is not to say that we do not benefit from it; quite the contrary. St. Thomas Aquinas says plainly enough that since we cannot improve God by our worship, any benefits must accrue to us. But the benefit consists in the very doing of it, not in something other than the doing of it. Perhaps this is why the Office has fallen on such hard times: for pragmatic, utilitarian, materialistic people such as we modern Westerners are — even, at times, in spite of our best intentions — the Office fails to “deliver the goods.” Where’s the thing we get at the…

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