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Heresy of Formlessness Paperback – September 30, 2006

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Heresy of Formlessness + A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes + The Organic Development of the Liturgy: The Principles of Liturgical Reform and Their Relation to the Twentieth-Century Liturgical Movement Prior to the Second Vatican Council
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (September 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586171275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586171278
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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74 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Alcuin Reid on December 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Saint John's Gospel records the ultimate entry of God into history with those beautiful words: "The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us." There is no Christianity without Jesus Christ made man, without Christ truly taking human form. Christian faith is utterly contingent upon the Incarnation.

It logical, then, that Christian worship is itself incarnational - it embraces the senses in coveying through its rites and prayers the graces brought to us by God incarnate. Naturally, it has done this in different ways throughout history, and the manner of Christian worship has developed over time.

The reforms in Western Catholic Liturgy in the latter half of the twentieth century have provoked controversy. Were they an act of positivist papal tyranny that destroyed the form of the Liturgy, or were they a legitimate refinement and development of it?

Mosebach - a German layman of some literary renown - holds the former. He maintains that the form, the incarnation of the Catholic faith in Roman rite Liturgy has been so badly mutilated in recent generations as to prejudice the celebration and transmission of the faith itself. Hence his use of the strident term "heresy." He is, of course, not alone in this conviction. But his perspective is of interest. He is no professional theologian or liturgist. He is an educated layman, a man of letters, who drifted away from the Church as the Mass of Paul VI engulfed it and who returned, gradually, through the rediscovery of the traditional Liturgy.

The book brings together a series of essays whose underlying thesis is that the form of the Traditional Liturgy is essential for Roman rite Catholics - spiritually and theologically - and that it should be restored.
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By wh on January 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
If my title seems hyperbole, well, read the book. It is a set of meditations by a writer--reflections on the classical liturgy that are not themselves theological or historical arguments, but are nonetheless profound, moving, and often beautiful. I am reminded of the work on the liturgy by another layman, Dietrich von Hildebrand (Liturgy and Personality). As that great Catholic layman philosopher might have said: we do not dissect the gift of the liturgy. Rather, we receive it as the great gift it is, and we open to it and respond to its value.

Much thanks to Ignatius Press for publishing the English translation of this work. I am grateful to Father Fessio, though respectfully, his introduction is off the mark. He simply asserts that a "via media" can be accomplished: a "reforming" of the 1970 liturgy that would make it look as much as possible like the preconciliar one. It won't work simply because the 1970 rite (and I am not contesting its validity in any way) is already the work of a committee, a "fabrication."

Mosebach's book is, in a sense, a culmination of decades of work by the laity. It is supremely ironic that the Second Vatican Council triggered a liturgical revival, but among laymen and for the preconciliar rite! As a result of the disastrous Pauline reforms, laymen have become "amateur experts" on the liturgy. We have spent countless hours reading works by the likes of Dom Gueranger, Adrian Fortescue, Joseph Jungmann, Odo Casel, Michael Davies, Klaus Gamber, Catherine Pickstock, Louis Bouyer, and yes, Joseph Ratzinger--all on the liturgy! We have read, studied, and debated --and all to deepen our understanding of the preconciliar rite and sadly to learn that so much of the postconciliar reform foisted on us was Orwellian, dishonest, ignoble.

Martin Mosebach, who reads as if he is a spiritual son of Dom Gueranger, is our spokesman. He has written the book on liturgy for this generation.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By U. M. Lang on December 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Martin Mosebach, a well-known and award-winning German novelist and essayist, has published novels, stories, and collections of poems; he has also written scripts for several films, opera libretti, theatre, and radio plays. He is a regular contributor to the major German newspapers and magazines, including Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Zeit. He has also written for the New York Times. Most recently, Mosebach has been awarded the Großer Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste.

`Heresy of Formlessness' is a collection of essays on the Catholic liturgy and its recent reform, not from the perspective of a theologian, but from the perspective of a literary writer. The effect the book had in Germany can hardly be overstated; 'Heresy of Formlessness' helped to bring the debate on the Catholic liturgy into a wider public. A French translation was published last year, with a preface by the noted German philosopher Robert Spaemann.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on October 18, 2007
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A brilliant even mesmerizing book, easy to read again and again and generously fruitful for one who does, thanks in large part to the book's literary as opposed to polemical approach consummated in the compassionate, efficient, marvelously apt prose of gifted Martin Mosebach. The book is a reader's joy from beginning to end! Alcuin Reid has richly said everything necessary in his review. A passage from Mosebach's novel 'A Long Night' (Chapter9) reads like a kind of holy emblem of religion, and its inclusion in this book of essays makes its role as antidote to mindless sleep a crucial presence. Chapter10 'Revelation through Veiiling in the Old Roman Catholic Liturgy' climaxes the book, as Mosebach reveals the Passiontide veiling of images and crosses as a "fasting of the eyes", then turns with a scholar's reach to substantiate the rewards of such a divine thought. In the concluding two chapters, Mosebach in command of authentic intellect turns every page for you. The clarity of thought and gifts of prose are astonishing, and I read a lot of this stuff. Mosebach's effort here is timely and just. An unnecessary foreward by Fr Fessio, but no matter. Heresy of Formlessness articulates an indispensable argument in the affairs of the recovery of the sacred from the lassitude of banality. Martin Mosebach's contribution is a vital blast of truly fresh air.
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