25 August 2010

Vatican II reforms: Collects

I have been unable to find any conciliar mandate for the post conciliar treatment of the body of Collects; treatment, in one significant respect (Sundays), decidedly more ruthless than what a Zwinglian Reformer, Thomas Cranmer, did at the height of the English Reformation.

Sunday collects. The collects for the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Eastertide were, almost to a man, replaced. What this means is that the old prayers were deemed inadequately to express the indoles of the respective seasons. Academic studies have revealed the hidden ideological basis of this revolution (often a sort of practical Pelagianism). There is a considerable danger in such radicalism. The true mystagogue - such as Gueranger - derives his mystagogy from his studies in the euchology which eighteen centuries have handed down. He does not form his views on a priori grounds, and then take a pair of scissors to the Tradition.

As far as concerns the collects for the 'green' Sundays, 17 of the 34 are new importations.

Festival collects. The new books reveal a massive campaign to rewrite the collects for festivals of the Lord and of his Saints. This has had a particularly vicious effect as far as the survival of the older collects in the previous books are concerned. Those older collects, many of them in continual use since the days of the early sacramentaries, were commonly terse formulae whose main purpose was a desire to secure a share in the intercessions of the glorified servants of God, especially the martyrs. In the Middle Ages, a different style of collect became dominant; one can analyse it as providing God with a biographical summary of the saint concerned, followed by a request that the worshippers might receive congruent graces. (The collects written by Cranmer for those saints who retained propers were all to this formula.) The post conciliar reformers were wholly committed to this medieval style. My own feeling is that the body of collects, on the eve of Vatican II, found its main strength in its variety. As the days moved on, one went from a Leonine or Gregorian form to a Carolingian and then to a Franciscan composition, and then to a product of the Baroque counter reformation. I see this pluriformity as healthy; it prevents the Church from being imprisoned in one euchological register. Which is what the post conciliar books give us; so that, now, all our eggs are in the basket of one particular style. I feel certain that this style will, in a couple of generations, prove to have dated considerably. Perhaps there was a case for replacing some of the more plodding of the old collects; I am not a fundamentalist -

- but Vatican II gave nobody any mandate even to do that much.


Mall said...

When I am elected P I shall immediately appoint Fr H as C P of the S C for D W and the D of the Ss.

Walter said...

Thank you Father for summing up your work on the Collects.

'Once upon a time' we used to actually memorize them.

They were worthy of the honour we paid them, whether in Cranmer's translation or the beautiful terse original Latin.

All these 'changed' collects reminds me of your words about all the 'changed' psalters that were published.

How can anyone learn or memorize them when the rug is always being pulled out from under our feet?

Interesting topic.

Matt H. said...

For anyone who is interested, Lauren Pristas of Caldwell College in New Jersey has written several essays on the liturgical reforms after Vatican II: "Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal (1970)," "The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision," "The Collects at Sunday Mass: An Examination of the Revisions of Vatican II," and "The Pre- and Post-Vatican II Collects of the Dominican Doctors of the Church." The style of her work is academic and will not exactly grip the reader in quite the same way as that of a post by our esteemed blogger; it is, however, invaluable material for anyone who wants to see the nuts and bolts of the present discussion.

Links to the essays are at the bottom of the page:


Rubricarius said...

As far as I am aware the first person to write about this was Fr. Anthony Cekada with his booklet 'The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass', Tan Books, 1991. He has incorporated and expanded that work into his latest book 'Work of Human Hands' which criticises the 1970-2002 MR.