Tag Archives: Robert F. Taft

Anton Baumstark: On the Historical Development of the Liturgy

The decision to publish this book in English is exceptional. Anton Baumstark is a pivotal figure in 20th century liturgical studies and widely considered a genius. He set the world on fire for his keen understanding of the sacred Liturgy, both of the East and the West as he offers a lens –a method– for understanding historical (organic) development in the Tradition of the Church. Baumstark keeps the reader grounded in asking the questions which keep us close to the theologia prima, the sacred Liturgy. The serious student in liturgical studies will pay close attention to On the Historical Development of the Liturgy and Comparative Liturgy.

The Forward is written by Archimandrite Robert F. Taft, SJ, from whom I was first introduced to Anton Baumstark.

From the publisher, Liturgical Press:

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Anton Baumstark’s On the Historical Development of the Liturgy (1923) complements his classic work, Comparative Liturgy. Together they lay out his liturgical methodology. Comparative Liturgy presents his method; On the Historical Development of the Liturgy offers his model.

This book was written for one audience and valued by another. Written to lead adherents of the nascent German liturgical movement to a deeper religious appreciation of Catholic worship, its methodology and scope have won the appreciation of liturgical specialists for nearly a century. In describing the organic growth of the liturgy, its shaping and distortion, Baumstark’s reach extends from India to Ireland, Moscow to Axum, Carthage to Xi’an. He discusses the influences of language, literature, doctrine, piety, politics, and culture. While his audacity can be breathtaking and his hypotheses grandiose, his approach is nevertheless stimulating. In this annotated edition, Fritz West provides the first English translation of this work by Anton Baumstark.

Trained in classical and oriental philology, Anton Baumstark (1872-1948) was prodigious as a scholar studying the literature, art, and liturgy of the whole church–Oriental, Eastern, and Western. Comparative liturgy, his method for studying the historical development of the liturgy as an organism, has had a lasting influence, notably on the liturgical study of the Christian East. Fritz West, a liturgical scholar ordained in the United Church of Christ, has written numerous articles on liturgical methodology, the three-year lectionary, and worship in his Reformed tradition. He has published two books, The Comparative Liturgy of Anton Baumstark and Scripture and Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three-Year Lectionaries.

Fr Robert Taft advocates ecumenical scholarship & theology as a new approach to restore communion among the churches of East and West

Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches should own up to their
past misdeeds and work to restore communion, according to Archimandrite Robert F.
Taft, SJ.

Fr. Taft, a Jesuit priest of the New England Province and professor emeritus of the history of Byzantine Liturgy at the Pontifical
Oriental Institute in Rome, said that the rift between the churches was
sustained primarily by offensive actions–not theological differences.
He delivered “Perceptions and Realities in Orthodox-Catholic Relations
Today,” on June 28 at Fordham University.

“The main problem that we Catholics and Orthodox face in our ecumenical
dialogue is not doctrine but behavior,” Fr. Taft said. “The issue is
not that Catholics and Orthodox do not know how to pray and believe and
live Christianity in the right and true apostolic way. The problem is
that we do not know how to act.”

pointed to Catholic “uniatism”–aggression against another church–as a
major problem blocking fruitful dialogue between the religions. He
added that although the Orthodox faith has been victimized, it also
refuses to admit its own misdeeds.

Fr. Taft advocated a system of “ecumenical scholarship and theology”–a
new way to study Christian tradition that seeks to reconcile and unite,
rather than to confute and dominate. To accomplish this, the Catholic
and Orthodox churches must recognize one another as historic apostolic
sister churches, he said.

point of this new ecumenical theology is not that Catholics and
Orthodox never disagree. “What it does mean, is that at the official
level, disagreements can be discussed truthfully and courteously,
without invective, rudeness, and slander,” Fr. Taft said. [Fordham

Fr. Robert F. Taft gives keynote address honoring the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Robert Taft.jpgMany are familiar with the name of the great liturgical scholar the Right Reverend Archimandrite Robert Francis Taft because they actually know him (and thus love him), or know his very extensive list of publications (more than 850) on matters pertaining to liturgical history or because of an experience him in the classroom or merely because they heard of him. Whatever the case may be this blog entry is not panegyric of Father Robert Taft but a way of encouraging you to listen to his keynote address on the point of liturgy AND the enduring influence of the late Father Alexander Schmemann at the symposium noted below: it will shape anew your thinking on the Church’s liturgical life.

Alexander Schmemann.jpgSaint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary held an international liturgical symposium honoring one of the best of liturgical scholars to walk the earth 29-31 January 2009: “The Past and Future of Liturgical Theology: Celebrating the Legacy of Father Alexander Schmemann.”


The talks are thus far available in podcasts noted here.

The other speakers at the conference:

His Grace the Rt. Rev. Maxim [Vasiljevic], Bishop of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America; “Opening Episcopal Remarks”

Dr. Michael Aune, Dean of the Faculty, Dean of the Chapel, Professor of Liturgical and Historical Studies at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, and Core Doctoral Faculty in Liturgical Studies at General Theological Union; “The Current State of Liturgical Theology: A Plurality of Particularities”

The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Job [Getcha], former Dean of St. Sergius Theological Institute, Paris; “From Master to Disciple: The Notion of ‘Liturgical Theology’ in Father Kiprian Kern and Father Alexander Schmemann”

Keynote by The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ; “The Liturgical Enterprise Twenty-five Years after Alexander Schmemann [1921-1983]: The Man and His Heritage”

Dr. Bryan D. Spinks, Professor of Liturgical Studies, Yale Divinity School; “From Liturgical Theology to Liturgical Theologies: Schmemann’s Legacy in Western Churches”

The Rev. Dr. Stephanos Alexopoulos, Professor at the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies, Athens, Greece; “Did the Work of Father Alexander Schmemann Influence Modern Greek Theological Thought? A Preliminary Assessment”

Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin, nun of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad; currently teaching Liturgical Studies at the University of Vienna; “Father Alexander Schmemann and Monasticism”

Dr. David W. Fagerberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame; “The Cost of Understanding Schmemann, in the West”

The Most Blessed Jonah [Paffhausen], Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; “Closing Episcopal Remarks.”

Robert F. Taft, SJ: priest, scholar & friend at 77

RF Taft.jpgOn January 9th Archimandrite Robert F. Taft, SJ celebrated his 77th birthday. May God grant him abundant blessings in the coming year.

Father Taft is the reason I am interested in the Eastern Churches and the study of the sacred Liturgy. He’s a former professor of mine and continues to be a friend.

BTW, he’s delivering the Schmemann Lecture at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on January 30th at 7:30 pm. For more info see the website.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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