Monday, November 12, 2018


Press title for full article:

The Myth of Noble Simplicity

This is an excerpt:

Burgundian gothic chasuble. Order of the Golden Fleece. Ca. 1453.

My point here is not to call into question the value of liturgical clarity in ritual enactment as envisioned by the liturgical renewal.  What I do find problematic is the manner the concept of noble simplicity was and is employed as an aesthetic category involving both architecture and art. Certainly in the case of visual history, Christian art and architecture has not been constrained by, nor defined by simplicity.  More problematically, in as much as noble simplicity has come to define the liturgical environment based upon an anthropology of poverty, it must be recognized that such an argument was descriptive and not prescriptive, as cultures most certainly change. As a pastoral approach to modernity it has no inherent theological value.  Indeed, I would suggest the notion that western society is ‘uneducated’ and ‘simple’ is certainly past its prime. In many respects, the anthropology the Council was belatedly working out of was an approach geared to the vestiges of industrial society. Today, a ‘simple’ Church seems rather fanciful in the matrix of social and technological advancements.

1 comment:

Victor said...

I just wrote this post at PrayTell. I doubt it will be shown. So I repeat it here:

The author makes some very good points. But there is one which perhaps denies the traditional understanding of the liturgy as an art form. The Mass for instance as a whole can be looked at as a sacred dance, a bodily ceremonial in which the clergy "dance in the sanctuary". It is an art of the body. So when SC 34 calls for the rite to be of noble simplicity (Ritus nobili simplicitate fulgeant), it is not merely calling for the language to be simple as well as noble. It calls for the entire Rite to be of noble simplicity and specifies that language is to be included in this Noble Simplicity of the Rite. The language is part of the art form of the Mass. So when Mr Hadley says concerning SC 34 "Here it deals with the structure and language of rites.", the structure and language are as much part of the art form of the Mass, as are other individual parts, such as the music. One has to look at the Mass as a whole as an art form.
Apparently it was Paul VI who insisted that that the phrase "noble simplicity", taken from the visual arts at the time, be included in SC. It was meant for the entire reform of the liturgy, and by extension to the art and architecture of the sacred spaces for the liturgy. This is all to say that if "Noble simplicity as a liturgical-theological aesthetic (the way things look) is a myth, both as an historical assertion, and as a category of contemporary compulsory praxis", then I would suggest there is a problem with the nature of the entire reform itself as founded on "noble simplicity", that is to say, it makes SC a dated document, and therefore merely a disciplinary one that can be changed according to the necessities of the times.