Rorate Caeli

Motu proprio notes: Remembering Klaus Gamber

In this age of abysmally deficient party throwers who dare call themselves "liturgists", it is fitting to remember the work of a true Liturgical Scholar, a glory of Germany, Monsignor Klaus Gamber (1919-1989). Few scholars were as dedicated as Gamber to the search for Truth in liturgical history: not for the false truths of carefully crafted aberrations, as so many did in the late decades of the Liturgical Movement, with feverish application of their misguided concepts in the post-Conciliar turmoil. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in the well-known preface to the French translation of Gamber's most famous book, Die Reform der römischen Liturgie (The Reform of the Roman Rite):

What happened after the Council was altogether different: instead of a liturgy fruit of continuous development, a fabricated liturgy was put in its place. A living growing process was abandoned and the fabrication started. There was no further wish to continue the organic evolution and maturation of the living being throughout the centuries and they were replaced -- as if in a technical production -- by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment. Gamber, with the vigilance of a true visionary and with the fearlessness of a true witness, opposed this falsification and tirelessly taught us the living fullness of a true liturgy, thanks to his incredibly rich knowledge of the sources. As a man who knew and who loved history, he showed us the multiple forms of the evolution and of the path of the liturgy; as a man who saw history from the inside, he saw in this development and in the fruit of this development the intangible reflection of the eternal liturgy, which is not the object of our action, but which may marvelously continue to blossom and to ripen, if we join its mystery intimately.
Gamber was not afraid of revealing what he knew was true in liturgical history, even if that meant for him living a life of ostracism after the Second Vatican Council. The following excerpt of the aforementioned book displays the powerfulness of Gamber's scholarship, whose impact has been far-reaching:

...when Luther and his followers first discarded the Canon of the Mass, this change was not commonly noticed by the people because, as we know, the priest spoke the Canon in a low voice, as a private prayer. But Luther purposely did not dispense with the elevation of the Host and Chalice, at least not initially, because the people would have noticed that change. Also, in the larger Lutheran churches, Latin continued to be used, as was Gregorian chant. German hymns existed before the Reformation and at times were sung during the liturgy, so they were not a major change. Much more radical than any liturgical changes introduced by Luther, at least as far as the rite was concerned, was the reorganization of our own liturgy — above all, the fundamental changes that were made in the liturgy of the Mass. It also demonstrated much less understanding for the emotional ties the faithful had to the traditional liturgical rite.

At this point, it is not entirely clear to what extent these changes were, in fact, influenced by dogmatic considerations — as they had been in Luther's case. ...

The truly tragic aspect of this development is that many of those involved in designing the new liturgical texts, among them especially bishops and priests who had come out of the Catholic Youth Movement [Jugendbewegung], were acting in good faith, and simply failed to recognize the negative elements that were part of the new liturgy, or they did not recognize them right away. To them, the new liturgy embodied the fulfillment of all their past hopes and aspirations for which they had waited so long.

One thing is certain: the new (liberal) theology was a major force behind the liturgical reforms. (A good example of this is the German hymnal, Praising God.) Yet to assert, as is sometimes done, that the Novus Ordo Mass is "invalid" would be taking this argument too far. What we can say is that ever since the liturgical reforms were introduced, the number of invalid Masses certainly has increased.

Neither the persistent entreaties of distinguished cardinals, nor serious dogmatic points raised about the new liturgy, nor urgent appeals from around the world not to make the new Missal mandatory could stop Pope Paul VI — a clear indication of his own, strong personal endorsement. Even the threat of a new schism — the Lefebvre affair — could not move him to have the traditional ritus Romanus at least coexist with the new rite — a simple gesture of pluralism and inclusiveness, which, in our day and age, certainly would have been the politic thing to do.