General and Introduction
Part 2 History of the Liturgy

Chapter d20 Overview of the History of Liturgy

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Presuppositions

Ten Finger History Grid

Ten Finger History: Explanation

Ten Finger History: The Study of Theology

Tip of the Pistol

Premodern, Modern, Postmodern

To Think About


Preliminary Questions

If someone asked you "What is liturgy?" how would you respond? Which is more important in your spiritual life, the liturgy or your personal prayer? Why? Which do you enjoy more?

What do you know about liturgy? Have you formally studied the liturgy or the sacraments? How does one study liturgy;  what kind of methodology would you employ?

When you look at the "signs of the times," what are the things that cause you to be fearful or cause you concern? What are the things that energize you and give you reason to be excited with the possibilities inherent in the "signs of the times"?

"We can never do theology well unless we have the humility and courage to listen to the arguments those with whom we disagree and take them seriously."  -- Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. Former Master of the Order of Preachers.

As liturgical scholar Robert Taft has noted, "Only the unhistorical mind thinks history is the past. History is a view of the past, and as such is the product of the historian's mind." (Robert F. Taft, review of Paul Bradshaw on history as interpretation) History is thus always a construct, an interpretation, and this is true of liturgical history as well. Every analyst brings their presuppositions to the study of liturgical sources from various historical periods, e.g., in defense of an accepted "orthodox" interpretation or to support a "revisionist" challenge to that interpretation, "otherwise it [history] is mere repetition of what has already been written."    (John Baldovin)  -- from A Commentary on the Order of Mass, p. 3.

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Bibliography

Joseph Martos. Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church.  Revised and updated edition. Liguori/Triumph: Liguori, MO.  2001.  ISBN 0-7648-0718-8. $21.95.

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Presuppositions

1.  "Theology and other branches of knowledge, especially those of a historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts."  -- Second Vatican Council

2.  "All history involves interpretation.  There was a time when historians believed that their task was simply to discover the past and to put it don on paper the way it really happened.  This is still the idea of history that many people have.  Historians themselves, however, have come to the conclusion that written history is never that simple. The history that is found in books (including this one) always involves selection and interpretation: selection because no book can record the past in all its minute detail, and interpretation because on historian can avoid trying to explain why things happened the way they did.  History as written is always an attempt to interpret and explain the past, as well as record it." (First paragraph of Joseph Martos Doors to the Sacred)

3.  At the very beginning of his book Sacramental Guidelines (Paulist Press, 1995) Kenan Osborne offers some very important advice which I think is applicable not only to reading his book, but applicable to taking this course.  Before discussing "The Sacramental Dispensation" he inserts a page which warns:  Stop!

"Before you turn another page, remember you are entering the area of sacramental theology with major presuppositions.  Presuppositions about God, Jesus, Church, Religion, the Meaning of Life.  You also have a complex personal background of human experience.  Human experience about relationships, self-identity, self-image, self-determination, the meaning of male/female."  (Osborne, pp 18-19)

Both the teacher and the student enter the course with multiple presuppositions and backgrounds.   When issues and confrontations arise during the course it may well be that the issue is not with sacramental theology but the difficulty may lie in the area of one's presuppositions or in the area of one's life experience.   Osborne offers what I think is very sound advice at this point.  He suggests:  "When this happens, back away from the sacramental issue under consideration and begin to unpack with your students the presuppositions which are involved and the life experiences which are also involved."  (Osborn, pp 18-19)

4.  I have listed some of my presuppositions in Chapter 12 at Osborne on Catechetics.

5.  Leadership and History   If you have a car that is just parked in front of your house and you never go anywhere in it, you do not have much need for a road map.  You don't need to know where you have been and where you are going if you are not going to go anywhere.  When I studied theology in the early 1960's there was no need for history courses because the Church was presented as being just like it was when Jesus founded it.  Nothing had changed.  Once we learned that was not the case, and once things began to change, Church history suddenly became an important discipline.

6.  Baby with Beard The director of the Institute Superior de Liturgy in Paris frequently mentioned that historically when something new was to be entered into doctrine it was introduced as though it were something old, as though the new baby was given a long beard so that he would not appear young.  Notice for example the number of works by "Pseudo Somebody" -- Pseudo Dionysius, Pseudo Mark, Pseudo Paul, the Pseudo Decrials, etc.  These are examples of this process.

7.   Many streams flowing together to form a river   Years ago, when the earth's crust was cooling and I studied in the seminary, we were taught that there was an original unity and then through time, the tradition did not get handed on accurately in every place and this caused diversity.  The Liturgical Movement has revealed that it was the other way around.  An original diversity has come together (for various reasons, many of which are more political than theological) into one unity -- much as many streams join into a river and the rivers feed into an even larger river.)   E.g. various "eucharistic" traditions come together to form the two basic records in the New Testament  (Luke and Paul, and Matthew and Mark).  

8.  The Constitution on the Liturgy, #21 states:  "In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it."   Since the time of the Council, the relative size of these two categories (those things that are divinely instituted and immutable / those things which are subject to change) have changed -- in large part, due to historical research.

1960

immutable, divinely instituted

subject to change

2000

immutable, divinely instituted

subject to change

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The Ten Finger History Grid

The following memory aid is a historical grid into which you can place various liturgical and theological topics.  I have tried to make each example of the "Ten Finger History" the same size so that you can print a hard copy of each one and place them next to one another for study purposes.

[Twenty years ago, the original idea for this ten finger history was taken from a chart devised by Rev. Gilbert Ostdick, O.F.M., Professor of Liturgy at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.   But I have modified and changed the grid and its content so many times over the past years that I no longer know what came from Gil and what came from my students.  Twenty years ago we were not as concerned about author and copyright as we are today.  My apologies to anyone whose work has been copied without being acknowledged.]

1. Apostolic [0-399] 


 
2. Patristic [400-799] 


 
3. Early Medieval [800-1199] 


 
4. Medieval [1200-1299]


 
5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]

 
6. Reformation [1500-1699]  


 
7. After Trent [1700-1899] 

 
8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]


 
9. Vatican II [1960-1975] 


 
10. After Vatican II [1975-2050] 


 

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List of the Ten Categories

1. Apostolic [0-399] 
2. Patristic [400-799] 
3. Early Medieval [800-1199]
4. Medieval [1200-1299]
5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]
6. Reformation [1500-1699]
7. After Trent [1700-1899]
8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]
9. Vatican II [1960-1975]
10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]

 

Ten Finger History: Explanation

1. Apostolic [0-399]  RIGHT THUMB:  The first 400 years.  What were the ORIGINS of the topic under consideration? What did it look like during the time of Jesus? during the time of the apostles? during the formation of the Christian Scriptures? during the period until Christianity "goes public" with Constantine?
2. Patristic [400-799] RIGHT SECOND FINGER: The next 400 years.  What happens to the topic of the grid once Christianity goes PUBLIC? Often a large increase in Church membership will require the formation of structures, laws, books, etc. and the regularization of discipline.
3. Early Medieval [800-1199]  RIGHT THIRD FINGER: The next 400 years. This section of the grid looks at the TRANSITION between periods 2 and 4. What events set the stage for the development of the topic which will become the basis for the theological reflections of the scholastics?
4. Medieval [1200-1299]  RIGHT FOURTH FINGER: 100 years.  The SCHOLASTICS: Thomas, Bonaventure, Scotus, etc. What was their experience? In what ecclesial and secular context did they formulate their theology.  This brief period is very important because this theology was the basis for the decisions at Trent and became identified with "Catholic Teaching."
5. Late Medieval [1300-1499] RIGHT LITTLE FINGER: The next 200 years.  A second TRANSITION period. What SET THE STAGE for the reformation? What were the abuses that needing reforming? What were the values that, even if obscured, needed to be retained?
6. Reformation [1500-1699]   LEFT LITTLE FINGER: The next 200 years.  The REFORMATIONWhat was reformed? What was the Catholic response at the Council of Trent.  What were the steps toward reform taken by the Catholic Church.
7. After Trent [1700-1899]  LEFT FOURTH FINGER: 200 years   How did the reformation and Catholic-reformation develop in PROTESTANT theology and in CATHOLIC theology? What is similar and what is dissimilar in the two theological visions?
8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959] LEFT THIRD FINGER: 60 years This period of the grid looks to those issues and events which SET THE STAGE for the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. [This 8th  period is very important because many of the Catholics you will be catechizing are still in this section of the grid. Some identify this period with the Tradition of the Church.]
9. Vatican II [1960-1975]  LEFT SECOND FINGER: 15 years.  GENERAL LITURGICAL PRINCIPLES.  New rites and rituals.  How was the topic effected by the Second Vatican Council and the documents which resulted from the Council?
10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]  LEFT THUMB: 75 years (Historians say that it takes about 75 years for a Council to be implemented).  How have the directives of the Council been implemented with regard to the topic?  How has the initial experience of the renewed topic influenced new theological reflection on the topic?

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Example of the Ten Finger History: The Study of Theology

The following is an example of the use of the Ten Finger History Grid.   (I no longer know the name the author of the following grid; it entered my computer in 1989 but I think it is older than that. My thanks to the author.)

1. Apostolic [0-399]  Pastors (then called "bishops") and apologists (defending "the way" against accusations of atheism) elaborate a theology which is primarily biblical and pastoral.
 
2. Patristic [400-799] Theology as commentary on scripture. Pastor-theologians (bishops). Ontological questions about Christ, Trinity. Christian life = transformation in Christ through the Spirit.

 
3. Early Medieval [800-1199]  Monastic theology. Chartres. Rheims. Patristic collections (sentences). Monk-theologians. Christ's death as sacrifice. Vicarious satisfaction for sin. Theological speculation about sacraments separate from rites.
 
4. Medieval [1200-1299]  University theology. Theology as commentary on Sentences (summa's). Speculative, based on Aristotle, split from life and piety. Teacher-theologians. Systematic synthesis (God, creation, etc). Seven sacraments. Real presence.
 
5. Late Medieval [1300-1499] Theology as commentary on medieval masters. Church as structured society.

 
6. Reformation [1500-1699]   Theology fragments into disciplines. Reformation polemics about scripture and tradition, church authority, sacraments (especially eucharist).

 
7. After Trent [1700-1899]  Seminary theology. Manuals of theology. Priest-theologians. Church as perfect society. Controversies on grace and free will.

 
8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]  Studies in history of theology. Biblical, patristic, liturgical, ecumenical movements. Church as mystical body.  Development of dogma, Mariology. 

 
9. Vatican II [1960-1975]   Pluralism in theology. Some lay and woman theologians. Church as People of God. Church in the World. Ecumenism.

 
10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]  New ecclesiology gives rise to new Christology. Lay theologians develop theology of marriage and laity. Fundamental option for the poor. Liberation theology.  Feminist Theology.  Conservative reaction. 
 

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Tip of the Pistol

In using the historical grid

1.  The difficult part is in selecting what is important. 

2.  The important things are often not the "great big things" -- As Father Gy often said: "The most important questions are not always the burning questions." 

3.  The important thing is asking the right questions.

 

These "tip of the pistol" changes might be "sea change" or a "paradigm shift" -- but these "tip of the pistol" changes are not merely on the surface of the iceberg but have ramifications deep under the water! 

The word/phrase "sea change" is from a quotation from Shakespeare's The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

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Premodern, Modern, Postmodern

History, culture and religion exist in a complex relationship.  One factor in this relationship is the distinction premodern, modern, postmodern.  This relation is summarized in an editorial by Thomas C. Fox "Shaping a church in the postmodern age" National Catholic Reporter 38:42 (October 4, 2002) p 36.

A glance at the premodern worldview reveals a pyramid-type structure  in which authority and power is passed down from the top. At the top are religious leaders. They speak to God and divine his ways. They support and pass authority down the ranks to kings and courts that in turn keep empires intact by empowering male warriors. Meanwhile, the pyramid is supported at the bottom by the work of women and slaves. Neither has rights and both are treated as property.  The premodern worldview, which lasted for thousands of years, began to collapse in the West in the second half of the 17th century with the rise of science during the Enlightenment and Age of Reason.

The modern age replaced religion with reason, bishops and priests with scientists, monarchs with civil government.  Men still fought the wars, which grew in size and intensity.  Beneath them remained the women and children, as most slavery was slowly abolished.

The postmodern age took root in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and began to flourish as disillusionment in modernity and its promise of progress gained sway. Many have pointed to the world wars, the Holocaust, and the atomic bomb as reasons leading to this disillusionment.

Further, modern science played an enormous role in reshaping our postmodern worldview. Heaven is no longer "up." Indeed, there is no "up" at all. Instead, we live in a cosmos filled with infinitely complex galaxies.  We float as specks in space. If pyramids represented the premodern and modem eras, then a giant galactic circle represents the eclectic post-modern age. If religious truth and reason were the dogmas of the premodern and modern ages, then pluralism is the dogma of this postmodern age.

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To Think About

 

 

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter. All Rights Reserved. This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.   Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own. Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it. This site was updated on 03/20/15. Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org