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Old 07-23-2021, 12:51 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
This is first obviously meant to be "a cultural influence of Faery" and perhaps a sort of metaphore for "restoring the old and forgotten, the mythology to its right place", but still, can it be more? Can it be, in broad terms, somehow connected to Tolkien's love for the "old-fashioned look" of churches, perhaps even in the forms of liturgy and so on? (Is anybody aware of Tolkien's view of older forms of Roman Catholic mass as opposed to more modern ones? However I am not aware of there being any "modern" or, contrarily, "restoration" movements at least as far as liturgy is concerned around that time yet, that would fall only towards 1960s and the Second Vatican Council, but perhaps someone specifically well-versed in Roman Catholic history would know whether there had been some minor attempts at changes already back when the Smith was written).
There was nothing to the same level as the post-Vatican II change of liturgy, but the tinkering started already during the 1960s (traditionalists have had to fix a date of "nothing after which" and 1962 is as close to a consensus for pre/post Old Mass/New Mass changes) so it was already ongoing when Smith was written. Tolkien, though not noted anywhere as a liturgist, would have seen some of the experimentation as a regular Mass-goer (particuarly experimenting with more vernacular) if any of it was going on locally, and would certainly have been read up enough on the news to have heard more in the offing. Certainly, a few years later, when the "Agatha Christie Petition" was circulating, he was vocal about disliking the changes. Smith was published in 1967 and my memory of The Letters--without looking them up!--is that it went from idea to bound paper quickly, so it was definitely written during the welter of Catholic life that was the 1960s.

But it's something Tolkien could have picked up on earlier. Though not the same degree as the 1960s, there was a lot of liturgical tinkering in the 1950s that someone who spoke fluent Latin as an active Catholic might have noticed, such as the revised Holy Week rites.

It was also a time of architectural change--at least on this side of the ocean, the 1950s was already a time of designing "ugly" rather than "timeless" Churches, and if that was true in a cultural backwater like western Canada, I imagine Catholic churches being erected in the same postwar period in England would have had examples of the same.

At the very least, as something very much in Tolkien's world at the time he was writing Smith, changes in ritual--and the lack of necessity in his view for the same--are eminently plausible as the intellectual backdrop of his thinking here, regardless of whether they may be intentional themes or parallels.
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