20 August 2010

Vatican II Reforms: Calendar

Recently I reread Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), with the hope of seeing how many of the innovations in the Divine Office are, indeed, the result of the Conciliar Mandate. I was mindful of the front page of LH (Liturgia Horarum): "officium divinum ex decreto sacrosancti oecumenici concilii vaticani II instauratum". I accordingly begin an occasional series; in what follows, I may have missed some conciliar implications, and would be grateful to have these pointed out to me.


SC undoubtedly mandates a revision of the rubrics concerning the dominance of the Sunday Office, and of the Christian Seasons, over the Sanctorale. It also encourages a reconsideration of the saints who are to be commended to the Universal Church, and of those deemed to have historical problems associated with them. I do not, however, discern a mandate for the wholesale disruption of the days upon which saints are observed, except in as far as the Council could be said to give support for diminishing the numbers observed during Lent and Advent. As I work through the year, I am surprised - sometimes day after day - by the large numbers who have been shifted a day or two this way or a day or two that way. One notices this particularly when, in the same church, both the older and newer calendars are in use.

I have not discovered any mandate whatsoever in the Conciliar documents for the major changes subsequently made in the Christian Year. The abolition of the Gesimas; the revolutionary transformation of Eastertide, summarised in the change in the titles of its Sundays, so that the intense spirituality of the Easter Octave is now expected to persist for fifty days; the abolition of the Octave of Pentecost: for all these I cannot see even a whisker of a hint in SC. That there is none is suggested by the Commentary published with the revised Calendar in 1969; for example, dealing with the abolition of the Pentecost Octave, the explanation concludes " ... ita ut a multis optaretur suppressio octavae Pentecostes:quod factum est." [My italics.] If there were a conciliar basis for this suppression, a footnote, in the customary curial style, would give it. The impression one is left with is that, as soon as a particular academic tendency ("multi") had got its hands on the process of revision, they considered that they had carte blanche for the introduction of what many of them had argued in the pages of learned periodicals. A fair number of Council Fathers, had they known what their vote in favour of SC would be deemed to have enabled, might have been horrified.

Do not forget that Archbishop Lefebvre voted without demur for SC. He, presumably, assumed that what he was voting for was the text to which he subscribed his signature. One wonders how many of the Fathers made the same assumption. Indeed, one is tempted to wonder what Papa Montini would have said in 1963, had he known the full extent of what, after the regular attrition wrought by his interviews with Hannibal, he would end up having been deemed to have authorised.

Cardinal Ratzinger notoriously observed that "After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council". In as far as the erudite writer intended to describe what actually occurred after the Council, it has to be said that his analysis is far from accurate. What Paul VI did to the Calendar was, in its more dramatic manifestations, not by the mandate of the Council. It was the effect of a coterie of academics abusing the goodwill of the Pontiff.

As one peruses the evidence from the intervening episodes of the 'reform', one discovers intriguing indications of the pace at which it moved. The Commentary on the new calendar, 1969, having explained why the Gesimas were being abolished, reassured any for whom the antiquity and spirituality of these Sundays commended them, that "Textus proprii harum trium Dominicarum alibi ponentur in Missali romano". (Similarly, the Embers and Rogations.) I have yet to find them; by the time the Missal was published in 1970 such vestigial relics of respect for Tradition had been swept away.


Ben said...

Dr Lauren Pristas has a very interesting article in the current issue of 'Usus Antiquior' on the suppression of the 'gesimas. The pre-Lenten season seems to have been largely a victim of the casual and hasty procedure of the Consilium, since not even 'multi' were in favour of its complete elimination.

Christian said...

I am of the opinion that a restoration of a calendar more in keeping with the "hermenutic of continuity" is one of the most urgent things which needs to be done to the liturgy. If done properly it the new-new calendar would be acceptable to traditionalists and we would (thank God) have one calendar for the whole Latin Church again used in both forms. I doubt that this would be as difficult to achieve as it might seem. Most lay people would take very little interest or even notice so their would be little opposition from them and clerics are more easily brought into line. I, therefore, doubt there would be much opposition at all. I expect that there will be more opposition to the new ICEL translations than there would be to any calendar change a sane person might suggest.

The Moderate Jacobite said...

I'm not usually one to join with the rabidly anti-1962 campaigners, but what was the presented justification for the significant calendar changes before the Council?

I have a particular dislike of the 1969 changes as it has messed up my name-day by several months - but the switch from semi-doubles et al. has struck me as almost as large since starting to use the Farnborough Abbey Diurnal for the Office.

Rubricarius said...

It seems quite clear that SC had relatively little to do with what the back room bureacrats were up to.

Going back to the 1948 working document for the Pian Commission we get the starting point with regards to abolishing the Pentecost Octave: 'Se convenga ridare alla domenica di Pentecoste il suo caraterre originario di termine finale del tempo pasquale, abolendo la sua ottava' (#79 - #80 goes on to suggest suppressing the blessing of the font on the Vigil!)

These lads were quick off the start with this one and Mgr. B notes in his opus the decision to abolish the Octave of Pentecost was taken by the Commission on 14 Feb 1950 (ft.nt. p.320).

One can also see the way the wind was blowing for Septuagesima too, which they describe as 'Prequaresima' with the note that it is really per annum. However a question (1948, #52) was asked whether the three Sundays should be raised in rank but implicitly pointout out the greater importance of the Lenten Sundays. The problems of committee work liturgy...

Someone should go through Calendarium Romanum and compare it with the 1948 proposal, the 1950 document on the grading of feasts and the 1951 work on the Calendar. I will confidently precict much stronger parallels than with SC.

Jesse said...

I cannot comment specifically on the Calendar, but on the wider question of the extent to which subsequent reforms were (seen to be) authorized by Sacrosanctum concilium I have found much interesting information in the following book: Stanislaus Campbell, From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours: The Structural Reform of the Roman Office, 1964-1971 (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1995). It is, of course, written from a perspective very favourable to the reforms (indeed, Campbell at times seems to feel that they did not go far enough). But he is at great pains to demonstrate, through reference to the deliberations and decisions of the various committees responsible for the revision, how every change was seen as governed, and in some cases directly required, by the text of Sacrosanctum concilium.

It is very interesting to see some of the early drafts of, for instance, the four-week psalter. The chief liturgical scholar consulted on this matter, Joseph Pascher, was in favour of keeping Pss. 148-50 daily at Lauds and Pss. 4, 90 and 133 as the invariable daily psalms of Compline, as well as a one-week cycle for the psalms of Vespers (reduced to four a day as in the Benedictine cursus), Pss. 109-139) (see his first two schemata on pp. 140-43). No surprise there: he knew the historical development of the Roman cursus of psalmody better than anyone. But these aspects of tradition were eventually discarded out of consideration for lightening the burden placed on priests involved in pastoral work.

What is really worrying, though, is how practical constraints were allowed to compromise the finished result, as in the case of the planned two-year lectionary for the Office of Readings:

"Father Bugnini, in a memo (March 27, 1971) to Canon Martimort, various Latinists, and correctors of proofs, indicated the desire to have all volumes published within 1971. But the Vatican printing office encountered problems, and in June 1971 it informed Father Bugnini that it was impossible to print as desired the two-year cycle of biblical readings within the compass of the projected four volumes. Apparently, among at least Father Bugnini, Canon Martimort, and Professor Langeling (relator of Group 4, biblical readings), a decision was made to select texts randomly from the two-year cycle to construct a one-year cycle of biblical readings. These would be printed in the Office of Readings in their appropriate places throughout the four volumes. The texts of the two-year cycle would be relegated to a supplementary volume to be produced some time later. The choice was made hurriedly and to no one's satisfaction, but the final printing and binding of LH then proceeded" (p. 77).

Anonymous said...

Looking at SC itself, the relevant sections are 102-111. From a careful summation of these, we can get the "mind of the Council"

102: Feasts of the Lord and the cycle of his life (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter) are preeminent.

103: Close behind are feasts of Our Lady.

104: Next in line are the saints.

105: What they are referring to here is not clear, but it seems to reference things like Ember Days, the "idea feasts," etc.

106: Sundays always win rock paper scissors, with very few exceptions

107: if anything, this calls for a re-doubling of the sense of season. A simple reading of this implies a more penitential Advent, for instance

108: The proper of time shall trump the proper of the saints. Presumably, this would mean that anything but a feria would trump all but the biggest saints

109: Lent has a Baptismal sense ADDED TO (not replacing) the penitential sentiment of the season

110: Lenten penance should be both interior and exterior. The Easter Triduum should be the holiest time of the year

111: Now we come down to the crux of the matter--the saint calendar. This is pretty simple to me, and I'm not sure why it wasn't implemented: Saints of the fourth class were to be left to local calendars. Saints of the first and second class were on the universal calendar. Saints of the third class were either kept universal, or left to the locals, depending. It was expected that the locals (conferences of bishops, religious orders, dioceses, etc.) would populate their calendars with many favorite saints.

The intent was to remove some of the underbrush of minor saints from the universal calendar, something the Church has to do from time to time in the course of salvation history and as heaven gets more crowded. But this also gave the opportunity for sub-Roman levels of the Church to put a "local flavor" on a more vanilla general calendar. The latter never happened.