THE CATHOLIC SANCTUARY
AND THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
by Michael Davies
THE ERROR OF "ARCHAEOLOGISM"
Modern liturgists may claim that these changes bring us closer to the way the
first Christians worshipped. This is true, but as I have pointed out the early
Christians worshipped in the way they did, using a table, for example, because
they were a persecuted minority forbidden to build places of worship. Once the
persecution ended, they built church which were a fitting setting for the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass which was offered in an increasingly elaborate rite
inspired by the desire to render the greatest possible glory to God, to whom all
honour is due. The way one worships in a time of persecution can not be
considered the norm for a time of freedom.
The theory that the older a liturgical practice the better it is was
condemned unequivocally by Pope Pius XII, the greatest and most erudite Pontiff
of this century, who possessed an unrivalled knowledge of the principles of
sound liturgy. In his encyclical Mediator Dei, published in 1947, he
The liturgy of early ages is worthy of veneration; but an ancient custom
is not to be considered better, either in itself or in relation to later times
and circumstances, just because it has the flavour of antiquity...The desire
to restore everything indiscriminately to its ancient condition is neither
wise nor praiseworthy.. It would be wrong, example, to want the altar restored
to its ancient form of table; to want black eliminated from liturgical
colours, and pictures and statues eliminated from our churches; to require
crucifixes that do not represent the bitter sufferings of the divine Redeemer
(66, p. 30))...this attitude is an attempt to revive the "archaeologism" to
which the pseudo-synod of Pistoia (1794) gave rise; it seeks also to
re-introduce the many pernicious errors which led to that synod and resulted
from it, and which the Church in her capacity of watchful guardian of "the
deposit of faith" entrusted to her by her divine Founder has rightly
condemned. It is a wicked movement, that tends to paralyse the sanctifying and
salutary action by which the liturgy leads the children of adoption on the
path to their heavenly Father (paragraphs 65-68).
© 1997 Michael Davies.
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Last modified 27th October, 1997, by David Joyce.