Summorum Pontificum and the Flourishing of the Liturgical Arts

Pope Benedict's motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, has mainly been thought of in terms of the benefits that this legal epiphany provided for these liturgical rites and how it positively impacted communities and individual Catholics attached to the same. While this is perfectly understandable, one benefit that has not been frequently considered has been how it has likewise helped to contribute toward a broader flourishing of the liturgical arts. 

The widened usage of the usus antiquior created a need and a demand for liturgical items that had either been neglected or put aside for decades; what's more it (and indeed Benedict's pontificate itself) created a new culture of openness and tolerance toward more classical artistic expressions. In the earliest years this need was mainly met by seeking out items in antique shops or scouring the back drawers of sacristy cupboards and rectory basements, but as the usus antiquior's use matured and grew it became apparent this was going to be neither enough nor was it a satisfactory solution. Further augmenting this demand was a generational shift in tastes which saw the primitivistic tastes of the mid to later twentieth century traded in for more classical tastes within the twenty-first.  While this was certainly underway before Summorum Pontificum and the explosion of growth in the usus antiquior, the latter took an already growing trend and saw it grow exponentially.

What happened? Countless new vestment makers arose in response to rising demand, developing new vestments in classical styles; solemn Mass sets with all the parts and pieces along with copes in various liturgical colours were suddenly needed once again. Along with this, shapes such as the Borromean were being rediscovered and,  more recently, an appreciation of the various regional shapes of the Roman pianeta.  This demand has seen more and more being created which has in turn allowed for greater opportunity for creative expression and maturity in the craft.

Outside of vestments we saw other developments, such as the creation of new sacred music, including full Mass settings -- such as the "Mass of the Americas" that utilizes traditional polyphony and other classical influences.  

We have likewise seen a rebirth of traditional book arts in the publication of traditional liturgical books using traditional craft and materials. Closely related to this has been the advent of newly commissioned, hand illuminated altar cards. Even something so simple as the need for the various parts and pieces required for the traditional requiem -- including unbleached beeswax -- has all contributed to this in their own way. The end result is a cumulative effect.

Of course, circling around all of this is the general increase of interest in and the commissioning of traditional architecture, ornaments, painting and sculpture -- and while not exclusively related to the motu proprio or usus antiquior of course, certainly the milieu, atmosphere and ceremonial needs that Summorum Pontificum ushered forth has only increased these needs and demands as more and more priests and parishes consider the needs of both forms of the Roman liturgy. 

Necessity is often said to be the mother of invention and certainly the liturgical necessities created by the widened use of the usus antiquior can be seen as a kind of example of this, however so too can the pax liturgica that Benedict XVI ushered in -- for if necessity breeds invention, liturgy wars certainly do not seem to breed much in the way of artistic creativity.  

Ultimately, the revival in the liturgical arts that this climate has brought forward is something which has proven itself of great value whatever rite or form of the sacred liturgy we are discussing. In this regard it is, to my mind, yet another fruit of Benedict XVI and his motu proprio.

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