8 May 2008

Liturgical Seasons

I do find myself, despite the enthusiasm with which I embraced the New Calendar 40 years ago (it seemed to have a simplicity and clarity which struck me as pastorally valuable), starting to have doubts about some aspects. For example: Christ the King. It's not just that in Ascension Day we already observe Christ the King (after all, we allow Corpus Christi to duplicate Maundy Thursday, and Trinity Sunday -- the Lord's Baptism, and the Sacred Heart -- Good Friday), as a suspicion that it's not a good idea to eschatologise it by putting it just before (and overshadowing) Advent. And some of the texts (one of the hymns; the homily by Origen) seem, anyway, to be more about Christ-ruling-in-my-heart than eschatological. And in any case, the pre-Conciliar celebration has a lovely political ring about it: Christ as ruler of all human estates is just as relevant now as in the days of Hitler and Stalin. Interestingly, the old Collect, mangled by the Roman revisers so as to be eschatological, is retained for a Sunday in early November in Common Worship. Wouldn't this celebration (understood in the old, 'political', sense) come rather nicely at the end of October so that it interrupted the 'Green' Sundays, emphasising Christ as the Great Interrupter of the comfortable continuities of human affairs and politics?
(Incidentally, the fact that Christ the King before Advent makes it impossible for S Andrew, one of the historically great celebrations of the historical Roman Rite, ever to happen on a Sunday even where he is a Patron, is not a negligible problem.)

Secondly: has the subsuming of the themes of Holy Spirit into the days before Pentecost really worked pastorally and devotionally? Yes, I know that the Octave of Pentecost is historically comparatively late and it is confusing to have Eastertide lasting 56 days rather than 50, but ....

I think I will start a process of Obscurantist Reaction by celebrating the old Vigil Mass (1962 Missal) of Pentecost on Saturday morning in Red vestments. Perhaps next year we could move on to celebrating the whole Pentecostal Baptismal Vigil as in the pre-1962 Missale Romanum. And when would readers advise me to keep Christ the King at S Thomas's this year?


Xpihs said...


I've been enjoying your thoughts on the liturgy.

With respect to the new calendar and the calendar of the 1962 missal, it does seem that some reconciliation ought to be made. I agree with your comments on Christ the King, and in addition would like to offer a "reconciliation" on this feast day. If in the future, this feast is moved to the last Sunday in October, it will work, both eschatologically as well as a welcome break in the Sunday cycle. In being the Sunday before the Solemnity of All Saints, it will bring attention to the reign of Christ in our lives today just as he ruled the earthly lives of the saints of yesterday. In being placed here, this feast will begin the period of eschatological reflection that reaches deep into Advent while reaching deep into our lives of today. Such a reflection could well reach its zenith on the Solemn Feast of the Epiphany, which could again regain it's proper force in the minds of the faithful, that in the liturgy there really is the three fold celebration of the Coming of Christ the Savior: in history, in grace, and at the consumation of the world. Today, really is the day of Salvation.

Again, thank you for your blog.

Scott Smith

Little Black Sambo said...

And keep St Joseph out of the Canon.

Once I Was A Clever Boy said...

Being an obscurantist reactionary is no bad thing - I have been one for more than half a century (and what a century) - and I think your comments on the date and emphasis of Christ the King give considerable food for thought. Personally I think the restoration of the traditional structure of the celebration of Pentecost-Whitsun the single most important improvement that could be made to the current liturgical calendar. The 1970 changes not only destroyed traditional practice, but reduced the time in which to celebrate, learn and reflect year by year on both the Ascension and the Gift of the Holy Spirit. The effect has been to diminish both in in the interest of the unity of the Week of Weeks. That of course was before the latest nonsense of transferring the day of obligation from Ascension Day itself to the following Sunday - further confusing the Faithful and not so Faithful. The restoration of the Pentecost Octave and the appropriate propers and forms would not be just a return to previous practice, but a real opportunity to get the Church to reflect liturgically, and appropriately, on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and reclaiming them from the seemingly self appointed exponents of charismatic practice. In the meantime it is good to see churches where votive Masses of the Holy Spirit are offered this week, thereby, in effect, marking, or re-inventing, the Octave. I was very pleased to read that at the Birmingham Oratory they are offering daily EF Masses for the Octave - that is the sort of use of the Motu Proprio that can encourage the 'Reform of the Reform. '