6 December 2014

Barberini, Sarto, and liturgical law (originally posted January 2010)

While looking through the library of the late and learned and very lamented Fr Michael Melrose, Successor Martyris as Vicar of S Giles, Reading, I spotted an unusual little volume (well, there were plenty of those: what a Library!): very slender, published in 1912, it gave the Psalter as rearranged by S Pius X. In other words, when S Pius made his revolutionary changes to the distribution of the psalms, you didn't have to buy a new Breviary; you bought the Slender Volume and used it in conjunction with your old Breviary.

But you did have to make some such provision. The Decree Divino afflatu makes clear that if, after a certain date, you fail to fall in with the new order of things, you are not fulfilling your obligation to say the Divine Office. In this, it differs considerably from the decree Divinam Psalmodiam of Urban VIII (1631; this was the decree which imposed the text of the hymns confected by the Pontiff and his fellow admirers of Horace in place of texts in the Latinity which had been good enough for the likes of Ambrose and Venantius Fortunatus). Urban's decree is full of fire-breathing menaces for anybody who shall print unamended texts after the decree, but he permits books already printed to go to the booksellers ... and books in the bookshops to be sold ... and books in use to continue to be used. In other words, Urban was content to rely on a gradual process of books wearing out and being replaced.

S Pius V, as we all know, did not impose his revised texts on any Church which had its own local 'dialect' (the term is Fortescue's) of the Roman Rite which was more than 200 years old. But he did take a rather fierce line with those not in that position. In effect, the Bishop of Rome was saying, not unreasonably, that if you use the Roman Dialect of the Roman Rite, you shall use it in the form in which I have edited it; otherwise, you are to continue to use the Dialect of the Roman Rite which was anciently customary in your Church before, more recently, people started fiddling around. This, of course, was in the period of retrenchment when the Latin Church was on a war-footing against Protestant enemies who delighted to find corrupt or indefensible texts in popish service books. In the circumstances, what is significant is that the Pope was prepared to affirm local 'dialects' at all.

It is my view that a rough but good rule of thumb as to whether a 'reform' is or is not 'organic' is the consideration: Does it render all existing liturgical books totally obsolete after a certain date? When people defend the process of imposition under Paul VI of his new books by reminding us that changes not inconsiderable had been made before (as some fool in the Tablet did a couple of months ago), I don't think they realise the depth and rapidity of the Pauline rupture, compared with earlier discontinuities.

And yet, curiously, although the B Paul VI's decree Laudis Canticum was so explicit in displacing and suppressing the Breviary hitherto in use, his decree Missale Romanum did not state that the Old Mass would be illegal after the New came into use. Was that an oversight? Did the canonists drafting it think that it was too obvious to need saying? I suspect so. But I presume that this funny little lapse was the ground upon which a Commission of Cardinal canonists decided by a majority vote that the Old Missal was not abrogated - a verdict finally published and confirmed in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.


Kiran said...

I thought much could be made of this:

For those however who, because of advanced age or for special reasons, experience serious difficulties in observing the new rite it is lawful to continue to use the former Roman Breviary, in whole or in part, with the consent of their Ordinary, and exclusively in individual recitation.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

It is on precisely that ground that previous posts of mine have recommended the practice of using Lit Hor but with Lauds and Vespers from the old books.

Joshua said...

As I was discussing with a friend, if one reads nine lessons pro pia devotione rather than the three of a IIIrd Class a la 1962, this fulfils any obligation since the greater includes the lesser.

Yet while obviously to read the pre-1912 arrangement of the Psalms would be longer than to read the post-1912 arrangement, by Papal decree such a work of supererogation would be, well, of supererogation only, and would not suffice to fulfil the pensum sacerdotis.


Pedes Christi said...

I do not dissent from the judgement of the Church that St. Pius X was a saint, but even saints make mistakes, and this was a big one, not to mention an injustice. I am not obliged to say the breviary, but I have in fact been saying it daily for 25 years, and for most of that time I have resorted at least to saying the ordo psalmarum pre-Pius X. It simply works better from an ascetical perspective. His Holiness had no business abolishing the ordo psalmarum that had existed for more than 1500 years, nor can I say that his replacement is in any way an improvement. It in fact (nonsensically) breaks up some psalms into little pieces , gets rid of some powerful ancient antiphons, and removes psalms with particular associations with hours. It also set the stage for all the liturgical iconoclasm that followed. St. Pius was a great hero against modernism, and a very holy man, but in this area I fear he behaved very ill-advisedly.

I say the whole office on Sundays and feast (and I am a husband and a dad). During a busy workweek, the old psalter is ascetically very good—and requires little modification if you are a busy layman: say 3 psalms a nocturn as opposed to the 12 of the first nocturn on Sunday and the single nocturn on weekdays. This gives you a four-week psalter at matins, and the rest stays the same every week. You can also only say one of the lesser hours per day. Reduce most of the minor feasts to commemorations, and you have a very workable office in which the temporale keeps its shape. Do this and you will be praying what most of the Roman Rite has been doing since at least the 4th century. It really does work to sanctify the day!
Michael LaRue

P.S. If you want to use the ancient antiphons look at Renwick's edition of the Sarum office, or find one of the many old breviaries now available online, or take a look at the cantus database. I am right now compiling what I do into a Latin-English version (with the intention to include most of the Sarum and Roman options, as well as more recent feasts), if anyone is interested. The Psalterium is just about available for distribution. Just e-mail me at pedesxpi@gmail.com for a copy (pdf or Word.

kingofages said...