16 December 2013

'Organic Development' yet again

A little while ago, a comment appeared on one of my threads ... I thought the tone was a little hostile ... appearing to suggest, rather abruptly, that the changes made in the Roman Mass by Pope Paul VI were no more remarkable that those made earlier by other popes. Then the writer hurled at me the Filioque and, in what I take to be irony, said that he supposed this was all right by me because the change was made by the papacy.

I felt that I didn't quite know where to start with all that. In the first place: the popes did not introduce the Creed into the Mass. It seems (Jungmann [ET] Vol II p 469) to have entered the Western Mass in Gaul in the 790sIts introduction may have been a response to the Adoptianism of some Spanish bishops. Rome herself did not reluctantly follow Charlemagne's initiative for another couple of centuries.

But, so far, my brief and summary narrative has not got to the filioque. So: how did the filioque spread itself around? Not as a Papal initiative. There is an interesting paper by A Breen (Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 90c, 107-21) discussing the text of the Creed in an Irish Altar Book known as the Stowe Missal (once owned by the Dukes of Buckingham at Stowe). That book seems to have been scribed in the 790s, when it contained a text of the creed without filioque. But what makes this Missal so fascinating is the way it was subsequently added to and  changed by different people. Sometimes somebody would even take a knife to the vellum and scrape portions of text away and then, in smaller handwriting, repeat what he had just scraped away but with additional material ... but he might then discover that he still didn't have all the room he needed so he would bind in a small additional sheet of vellum. (In the first millennium, perhaps the first task of a liturgical reviser was to catch his calf ...) That is the context in which filioque entered the Mass in one Irish monastic site.

 Here in the Stowe Missal we have organic evolution of the Liturgy physically on display before our very eyes (if we can get to look at it in Dublin*). In the hands of the presbyters of the worshipping community which actually used the book, it gradually accommodated itself to the changing needs of its church or to the changing fashions within the wider Church. Nobody made massive alterations overnight, whether on his own authority or at the behest of Superior Authority. Nothing could be more unlike what Vatican  committeemen did in the 1960s.

As I remarked, Stowe had the Creed, and without filioque. But, as Breen demonstrates, only a few years after the production of Stowe, somebody made some corrections to its text of the Creed, one of which was the addition of filioque above the line. And the text of the Creed which the corrector used to make his corrections was one which had just been promulgated at the 796/7 Council of Foroiulianum. This text had been composed by S Paulinus II, Patriarch of Aquileia (an influential see which used to be so powerful that it wasn't always content to be obediently in communion with Rome). Not a whisker here of the actions of some pope or, for that matter of any external authority. Indeed, when the scribe of Stowe added filioque to his altar book, Patriarch Paulinus, and his Council, and his Emperor, as far as I understand, had no jurisdiction over Ireland. In the centuries before printing, the authority in Liturgy was very generally a combination of Tradition, Sensus Fidelium, and Subsidiarity - with the emphasis very strongly upon the first of this troika.

I suggest, from my consideration of the history of the Stowe Missal, a useful rule of thumb for discerning whether a liturgical change is 'organic' [as the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II mandates] or not. Here goes: If you can continue to use your old Altar Book, while from time to time gumming a new Mass or preface in here or making a marginal alteration there or crossing out this bit or remembering to do that bit differently, then evolution is probably happening organically. If, on the other hand, you have no choice but to abandon that book to gather dust lying useless on the top shelf in your sacristy ... while you go out to the shop and pay big money for a new book ... then the changes are certainly not organic. You've got on your hands, not evolution, but revolution.

I call this the Stowe Test.
* There is a full facsimile in HBS Vol XXXI.


Savonarola said...

Are you not using words, dear Father, in a Humpty Dumpty way to mean what you want them to mean: "Changes I like and approve of are organic evolution (good), changes I dislike and disapprove of are revolution (bad)"?
We cannot now use the previous missal at all. The books are left to gather dust and very expensive new replacements have had to be lain in. In your terms, therefore, introducing the new translation is a revolution, but this is a change I imagine you greatly approve of?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

If you are saying that the new English translation is not an organic development of the old one ... I couldn't agree with you more. You have well understood and applied the Stowe Test! Congratulations! It obviously isn't. The old one was unsalvageable. A Revolution was needed here; so as to try to claw back just a fraction of what was lost in the post-conciliar disruptions.

Savonarola said...

I took you to mean that organic evolution is preferable to revolution (that is what your article clearly suggests), but if it is a revolution you think is needed that is alright. Humpty Dumpty, Father!

Patruus said...

The Stowe Missal can be viewed online:

Navigate to fol. 20v to see the interlineation of filioque &c. in the fourth line from the foot.

In deciphering the medieval script, this annotated transcription is most helpful:

Peter Kwasniewski said...

I completely agree with the Stowe Test, but I wonder what we would have to say about the aftermath of the promulgation of the Missale Romanum by St. Pius V in 1570. Wouldn't a lot of folks have had to get themselves a new altar missal at that point?

Perhaps one could respond to Savonarola this way: If there has been a crisis such that an urgent universal response is required, then a new missal may be promulgated. Such was the case at the time of the Protestant Revolt, with a view to implementing the reforms of Trent; and such was the case with the deplorable and scandalous English translation of the 1970 Missal. In such cases, necessity compels the creation of a new book.

The difference, of course, with St. Pius V's missal is that while it may have omitted some material, it did not create new material whole-cloth. Its content was, in that sense, utterly traditional.

Patricius said...

Can a priest in communion with Rome, then, in good conscience paste Gaudeamus into his Pacelli missal and use those propers in place of Signum Magnum on 15th August? According to the Stowe Test, the revised propers for the Assumption aren't very organic at all, are they?

Rubricarius said...

Most interesting. Applying the test where does that leave the post-1911 arrangement of the venerable Roman Psalterium and that other committee product, the mid-1950s Holy Week? In both case a new book was essential and the former texts unusable.

Matthew Roth said...

Dr. Kwasniewski, certainly the post-Tridentine period was not clean, but now I am curious. As Fr. Hunwicke demonstrated at one point, so long as one is willing to glue in pages (and pages...) and pencil in changes the 1474 Missale is still serviceable. How many local uses were actually suppressed by Quo Primum, and thus required the 1570 Missale, how many continued on, and how many already used the Roman books for Mass?

Patricius, of course not, and I think the Stowe Test does fit the Mass for the Assumption.

I might add that some changes happened inorganically, and we need an organic correction to them. We also need to be of one mind for them to change. For example, medieval accretions were supposed to be eliminated from the Roman Rite, but they added the Gallican Prefaces in 1962. They also cut signs of the cross from the Canon, using the Dominican practices instead, but retained a single sign in the other Eucharistic Prayers. The simplification of the Office is good for parish clergy, and with it came corrected hymn texts, but it otherwise is lacking when compared to the older Breviarium.

Maximilian Hanlon said...

Patricius, according to the 1974 Graduale Romanum, the old proper for Assumption are fair game.

William Tighe said...

In the Mozarabic rite the Creed dates back to 589, following the Third Council of Toledo, as is explained in the Prenotandas to the Ordo Missae of the revised Mozarabic rite which can be found here:


It remains to this day, in its distinctive form, is said at every Mass (and not just on Sundays and solemnities as in the Roam Rite), before the fraction and the Pater Noster.

“118. El rito de la Comunión empieza, por lo tanto, con la admonición sacerdotal Fidem, quam corde credimus, ore autem dicamus, que está inspirada en Rom 10, 9-10. A continuación, la asamblea proclama la profesión de fe, en plural, Credimus, según el texto aprobado por el I Concilio Constantinopolitano.

La liturgia hispánica fue la primera en Occidente en introducir el símbolo de la fe en la celebración eucarística. La disposición fue tomada en el III Concilio de Toledo (589), en el canon 2, es decir inmediatamente después del acto de conversión oficial del Reino de los Visigodos al Catolicismo.

El concilio apela, como precedente, a la costumbre de las iglesias orientales, sin especificar de qué iglesias se trata. El mismo canon indica la colocación del símbolo de la fe antes del Padrenuestro y con la función precisa de preparar los fieles a la comunión: quo et fides vera manifestum testimonium habeat, et ad Christi corpus et sanguinem prælibandum, pectora populorum fide purificata accedant.

120. En el rito hispánico, desde su institución, a fines del siglo VI, el Credimus figuró siempre entre los elementos ordinarios del rito de la Comunión. Se dijo, por lo tanto, en todas las misas. No fue nunca considerado, como sucedió más tarde en el rito romano, como un signo de solemnidad”.

Figulus said...

Savonarola is hardly the first to point out the counter-revolutionary’s dilemma. When faced with a revolution, do you slowly and painstakingly restore the status quo ante per conservative principles, or do you stage a counter-revolution? I have nothing new to add to that debate but will still point out that, in some cases, to forego counter-revolution is to cede the field to the revolutionaries.

I do, however, find Savonarola’s example a not particularly illustrative one. Surely he knows that the editio tertia is an organic development of the editio altera of the Missale Romanum. It’s not clear to me that abandoning one (mis)translation for another, which is what he’s really talking about, counts as a counter-revolution. Certainly, I see no evidence of any counter-revolution from my perspective in the pews. One banal para-liturgy has been replaced by an almost identical other. A few cue cards are all that are necessary to guide us pew-sitters through the transition.