Books

A weighty, one-stop guide to the liturgy

The book is more balanced and less ideological than is usual today (mazur/catholicnews.org.uk)

The T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy
Edited by Alcuin Reid, T&T Clark, £130

The T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy has been launched into the rather choppy waters of contemporary liturgical studies. It comprises 22 articles of generous length by an international assembly of scholars, and offers a comprehensive overview of current liturgical issues.

Reid’s introduction advocates reading the book with critical faculties engaged, and the volume is itself in many ways a critique of the liturgical status quo, quite apart from being a resource of liturgical information. It sits at the “reform of the reform” end of the spectrum, though it gives a largely positive view of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

The articles themselves are in five parts. The first, by David Fagerberg of Notre Dame University, is devoted to examining the nature of liturgical theology, distinguishing the theology of liturgy from the role liturgy itself plays as a primary source for theological reflection.

Part two focuses on the liturgy in history, covering the Jewish origins of the Christian liturgy and liturgical development from the early Church through the late medieval period and up to Trent, and then into the modern Liturgical Movement, with articles also on Gregorian chant and the Divine Office.

Of particular interest to this reader were Robert Hayward’s examination of the Jewish roots of the liturgy, revealing the primacy of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharistic liturgy; and Daniel Van Slyke’s presentation of the desire of the 20th-century Liturgical Movement to establish a particular conception of the liturgy of the early Church. This preference for the liturgy of the classical period is addressed by other contributors, and is revealed to have been more a matter of taste and ideology than consistent liturgical reasoning. In this part, other issues such as lay participation are given a more balanced and less ideological treatment than is usual today.

Part three deals with the liturgy of Vatican II. This section has some of the volume’s strongest and weakest elements. Thomas Kocik outlines the “reform of the reform” movement, while Reid challenges the assertion that the post-conciliar Mass adequately embodies the reform that the Council actually mandated. Offering a contrary view is the late Benedictine liturgist Anscar Chupungco, a prominent champion of the post-conciliar liturgical reform. His two articles on the vision and implementation of the Council’s liturgy decree are marred by unsupported and occasionally emotive assertions in defence of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, preferring the nebulous “spirit” of the Council to its decrees.

Part four addresses contemporary liturgical themes. Uwe Michael Lang offers interesting insights into sacred language. Reid returns to examine the meaning of pastoral liturgy and some of the missteps made in its name. Other articles consider liturgical music and sacred architecture in light of the post-conciliar reforms and offer an apologia for the place of the Extraordinary Form in the post-Vatican II Church.

The final article offers an “Anglican perspective”, an inapt title as it deals with Anglican liturgical developments rather than an Anglican view of Catholic developments.

The fifth and last part offers a very useful detailed glossary of terms and names of relevance to contemporary liturgical studies.

The companion is a weighty volume, both literally and figuratively, and is priced accordingly. Though it tends to a particular view of the liturgical status quo, it does so in a scholarly yet accessible way, allowing a voice to contrary arguments. It is undoubtedly a required resource for liturgy studies.