A Companion on the Way

This valuable reference companion is a worthwhile addition to any theological library, institutional or personal. Comprised of twenty-two chapters and concluded by a sizeable glossary of useful terms and personalities, this latest addition to the T&T Clark label provides both serious academics and the casual reader with smart analyses and overviews of major themes in liturgy. Of special note is the plethora of well-researched endnotes and rich bibliographical listings which can, among other things, serve as illuminating guides for further research. This feature is especially true in the essays by J. Leachman on cultural periods and by A. Chadwick on the missal of Trent.

As the editor has admitted elsewhere, the title itself is somewhat misleading in that the work only addresses themes and topics that pertain to Western liturgy and (except for a concluding chapter) Roman liturgy. This perimeter then sets the current work apart from other established reference works that treat a broader spectrum of Christian worship, such as The Handbook for Liturgical Studies, Vols. 1–5, edited by the late Anscar Chupungco (who penned two chapters of the present work), and The Church at Prayer, Vols. 1–4, edited by the late Aime Martimort. It further distinguishes itself as a promoter of—or at least sympathetic toward—what is termed the Reform of the Reform Movement. Truly, not every contributor would adopt such an approach toward current liturgical debates and indeed might even reject outright any attempt to reform the reform, but overall this companion has as a defining feature a more critical eye toward post-conciliar liturgical reforms.

Of great import is the opening chapter by David Fagerberg wherein he presents a foundational system of liturgical theology providing the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the more specific topics found in the subsequent chapters. A wonderful wordsmith, Fagerberg discusses with clarity two methods of doing liturgical theology and urges us to consider a third method, the genesis of which is the scholarship of A. Schmemann.

Readers of Sacred Architecture will be particularly interested in the chapter on Catholic architecture by Thomas Gordon Smith. As a leader in shaping the University of Notre Dame’s architecture program toward a Neo-Classicist approach, Professor Smith unsurprisingly invokes the timeless lessons of Vitruvius as reliable guides that safeguard church architecture against those elements foreign to the Church and her liturgies while simultaneously encouraging laudable elements of every time and culture worthy of emulation.

The editor, Alcuin Reid, a monk of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in France, contributes five chapters, the last of which explains the post-Vatican II history of the uses antiquior or what is today termed the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. This fascinating read details forgotten or little-known events and personalities, and with insightful quotes situates the recent history and current reality of the uses antiquior in the broader life of the Church. It is worth noting that one great doubt held by critics of the 2007 motu proprio, Summorum pontificum, is whether the Extraordinary Form is capable of expressing an ecclesiology presented by the council fathers. This concern arises time and again within both heated debates and fraternal discussions about the intersection of liturgical forms and the implied ecclesiology expressed by those forms. This matter seems not to have been addressed with any thoroughness in the volume at hand. It quite possibly could have been addressed had all those invited to contribute to this compendium accepted. With admirable honesty the editor laments in the introduction over those named invitees who for whatever reason declined to contribute. Proven liturgical scholars in their own right, surely their essays would have brought important considerations to the fore. But we will never know.

Clearly this volume is situated within the context of a post-Summorum pontificum world. As such its value as a reference work is quite evident, and it further distinguishes itself from those volumes listed above. This is not to say that some sort of competition exists between these reference works that have decades between them, but rather that those earlier volumes would never conceive of Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio allowing for a tremendously broader permission for the uses antiquior. But such is the reality of the current liturgical landscape, and the T&T Clark Companion readily grapples with that very reality and in turn assists us, the readers, in understanding the ramifications and fruits of such a declaration.

Eucharistic Adoration at the high altar of the Monastèrie Saint-Benoît in France. Photo: newliturgicalmovement.org

Michael Wurtz, C.S.C. is a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross and a doctoral candidate in Sacred Liturgy at the Pontifical Athaneum Sant’Anselmo, Rome.