Page 4, 7th March 1986

7th March 1986
Page 4
Page 4, 7th March 1986 — The challenge of a diverse unity

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Locations: Rome


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The challenge of a diverse unity


PLURIFORMITY can be termed as the key to the solution of many problems in the Church. Pluriformity — a diversity of expression of one and the same truth, one and the same faith — may indeed cause tension but it can and should be a "fruitful tension", to echo Baron von Hugel. We think of the two great traditions of Eastern and Western Christianity: of Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Prescinding from the papacy, these two traditions should surely be seen not as opposing forces but as complementary, one to another.

Not that in liturgy — to confine ourselves to this aspect — we of the West should try and ape the East. It is a mistake on the part of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy to seek to incorporate a eucharistic prayer from the Eastern tradition into the Western Mass.

To be present at a celebration of the Eastern liturgy must always, nevertheless, be a refreshing experience for a Catholic, perhaps especially nowadays. It should not, however, lead us to opt for an Eastern uniate or orthodox way of doing things, but rather to see that the equivalent elements of Godwardness and adoration are treasured and preserved in substance in our Western tradition.

Viewing things from a slightly different angle, it is only comparatively recently that we have come to possess the historical sense: to perceive and relish and hold together in our minds the different apprehensions of the true and the beautiful which could be said to have divided previous ages. Gothic architects had no scruple in demolishing previous work and in building in their own style. The classical Renaissance, in its turn, despised the Gothic and medieval past. The nineteenth century largely decried the eighteenth century, and the twentieth century turned against the nineteenth.

But while living in our own time we must not be imprisoned in it. There are not a few who have thought that Vatican Two somehow cancelled Vatican One and the previous era, whereas there is continuity between the .two councils and they are complementary. According to the final report the recent Synod in Rome has made it clear that "the Council (Vatican Two) must be understood in continuity with the great tradition of the Church", and that "the Church is one and the same throughout all the councils".

In the liturgical sphere, while the vernacular is here to stay, so also is Latin, whatever the right proportion may be. It will vary according to circumstances. Expect no worthy contemporary music, whether in the litugy or outside it, from those who have no feeling for the great achievements of the past, or who think these have no relevance for the present. It is rather these works that have life in them, and life in abundance for us now.

Nor are we likely to get a good vernacular from those who are neither alive to Latin nor to our English tradition of language and literature.

It is the hope of the Association for English worship to have demonstrated this in their "Prayers of the Roman Missal: Two Versions Compared" (St Michael's Abbey Press).

* Chairman of the Association for English Worship.

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