The progressive National Catholic Reporter has an editorial on liturgy that makes their view altogether clear: “Liturgy is the visible expression of the arrangement of power.” They don’t say why that is so, although their whole discussion presumes the point, so it’s worth making the logic explicit: a sacrament is the visible expression of a spiritual reality. For progressives, the only spiritual reality is power. It follows that liturgy is really about power. QED.
Unfortunately for NCR, that view is held by progressives and no one else, and it eliminates any reason to go to Mass. A basic reason the Old Mass was everywhere the same, and changed only very slowly and practically unconsciously, is that it was not an expression of power. It was what it was. Everyone, from village priest to Pope, had to live with it and by it. No one could treat it as an expression of his own power and purposes. Specific features of the Old Mass, such as the use of a special liturgical language, making the celebrant face the same direction as the people, and leaving the most important parts of the text inaudible, had the same effect. It was patently not an attempt to put anything over on anyone. If you want something as different as possible from advertising, propaganda, or a dictator’s harangues, go to a Tridentine Mass.
In theory, progressives view a “creative” liturgy as an expression of the beliefs and purposes of the particular worshipping community. In fact, of course, it expresses the beliefs and purposes of those who decide things in the name of that community. Modern tyranny is exercised in the name of the people. The functionaries who make such decisions decide what the community is, what God wants of it, and even what God is. Everyone else has to sit there and take it.
Nice job if you can get it. The problem is that nobody wants to worship a god invented by functionaries who speaks to them through liturgical professionals. The question why people stopped going to Mass when it began to look like something made up answers itself.
[For other comments on the editorial, see Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s weblog.]