You know those heart-rending stories one hears after terrorist atrocities? The gunmen with their submachine guns have slaughtered dozens, but two or three victims have survived by lying down among the corpses and pretending to be dead. Today's Sunday Collect is one of those. As Archbishop Bugnini stood back and with a Clint Eastwood gesture blew the smoke from the end of his gun, he thought he had fifty two corpses in front of him. In fact, two of the fifty two were alive, lying there, motionless, shamming.
The fifty two were the Sunday Collects of the ancient Roman Rite. The two that survived were the only two which were left, in the Pauline Missal, occupying the same Sunday that they had occupied in the rite that came down to us from the Patristic period (Epiphany II and Epiphany V). So today is the last Sunday in this Calendar Year upon which those following the Novus Ordo and those adhering to the Vetus Ordo will be saying the same collect. Perhaps it should be celebrated as a remarkable pignus unionis futurae of the time when the Roman Rite will again be a unity, as Benedict XVI hoped.
You are sitting there scratching your heads. "Impossible", you cry. "Have you not read Sacrosanctum Concilium? 'There must be no innovations unless the good of the church genuinely and certainly [vera et certa] requires them.' And are you not aware that the Council gave no instruction whatsoever about attacking the Sunday collects?"
Indeed. And what makes this act of vandalism worse is that, from the three great Seasons of the Year, not one single Sunday collect survived as a Sunday collect in that season. They were all, apparently, regarded as so truly and certainly [vera et certa] unfit for purpose that they departed, pitiful refugees, taking with them into exile their teaching about the meaning the Roman Rite had historically discerned in Advent, Lent, and Eastertide.
I seem to recall that in his famous letter, sent formally from the offices of the Brentwood Liturgical Commission to The Tablet and the diocesan clergy, Fr Butler (as far as I am aware, he is still in post) made much of the fact that when Sacrosanctum Concilium came up for its final vote, only four Fathers voted against it. The poor silly Bu**er does not realise the actual significance of this truth. I am surprised that as many as four voted against it. The four did not include Archbishop Lefebvre, who had no problem voting for it and adopting the first two, light, revisions of the Ordo Missae that followed the Council (1965 and 1967). The Fathers thought that they were voting for a light and consensual updating of the Roman Rite, not for terrorists walking through the streets shooting anything that moved.
Pedantic postscript: some sixteen of the old After Pentecost Sunday collects did survive, strangely shuffled up and sometimes mutilated, among the Sunday collects per annum. A couple of the Eastertide Sunday collects survived, unhappily reassigned to Sundays per annum. Some of the Advent, Lent, and Eastertide Sunday collects were allowed to survive as long as they submitted to the indignity of serving just one single weekday each and, in some cases, mutilation.