29 August 2010

Vatican II Reforms: Psalter

As far as the text of the psalms is concerned, we need to recall that the Council met in the aftermath of the disastrous Translation of the Psalter commissioned by Pius XII and authorised by him for use in the divine Office (yet another example of the fact that major errors in the methodology of liturgical reform had already gripped the Latin Church before the Council; the Council was merely one episode in a flawed process which was already under way, and even under some of the same personel). The departure of the Pian psalter from the characteristics of Christian Latin - and this at a time when Christine Mohrmann's researches were still fresh in the minds of learned readers - meant that there was a very widespread unease about it. Tactfully, SC decreed that the "work of revising the psalter, already happily begun, is to be finished as soon as possible, and is to take account of the style of Christian Latin, the liturgical use of psalms, also when sung, and the entire tradition of the Latin Church". Thus the psalter included in the LH can decently claim to have been mandated by the Council, even if one's personal preference would have been to keep the words which had sanctified the lives of latinophone worshippers for a millennium and a half.

As far as the distribution of the psalter is concerned, the Council mandated that the psalms were to be distributed over a longer period than one week. LH, of course, distributed them over four weeks. One may have one's own views about the wisdom of what was done, and the opportunities that were missed of returning to something more traditional. In only one matter, however, is it clear that LH innovated without a conciliar mandate. Into the Psalterium, which by long tradition had included Old Testament canticles in Lauds, were now introduced New Testament canticles at Vespers every day. They were taken from S Paul's purple passages and from the songs of the angels in the Apocalypse (the production of the latter category of canticle required some use of scissors and paste). To introduce without a conciliar mandate a feature which increased the amount of psalmody to be arranged at a time when the reformers were under orders to reduce the burden on the clergy, seems perverse. Objectively, it is another example of the dynamics of a process in which those driving the engine slipped, perhaps even without noticing it themselves, from implementing a mandate, to giving themselves free rein to innovate 'creatively'.


Anonymous said...

Pope Pius the Twelf's revision of the Psalter by Cardinal Bea in a classicalísing Latin was not obligaotry, thank God. Though they published as many copies as possible of Rituale Romanum with the revised psalter. Pope John XXIII abolished the Pian Psalter already in 1960 which is why in the Breviarium ROmanum 1960 we have the old Vulgate Psalter.

rick allen said...

Could you perhaps give us an example or two of the difference between the prior Latin and the new?

I understand that the standard Vulgate never adopted Jerome's later translation of the psalter out of the Hebrew, and retained his translation of the Septuagint. Might that be the main difference, or it is something else?

Joshua said...

Herewith, the well-known Psalm 129 (130 according to the Hebrew), in the Vulgate, Pian version (copied out of a handy Vulgate Bible featuring for the Psalms in altera columna novam versionem latinam Instituti Biblici a Pio XII pro usu liturgico approbatam, die 24 martii 1945) and Neo-Vulgate.


De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine ;
2 Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes in vocem deprecationis meæ.
3 Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine,
Domine, quis sustinebit ?
4 Quia apud te propitiatio est ;
et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus :
5 speravit anima mea in Domino.
6 A custodia matutina usque ad noctem,
speret Israël in Domino.
7 Quia apud Dominum misericordia,
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
8 Et ipse redimet Israël
ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.


De profundis clamo ad te, Domine,
2 Domine, audi vocem meam!
Fiant aures tuæ intentæ
ad vocem obsecrationis meæ.
3 Si delictorum memoriam servaveris, Domine,
Domine, quis sustinebit?
4 Sed penes te est peccatorum venia,
Ut cum reverentia serviatur tibi.
5 Spero in Dominum,
sperat anima mea in verbum eius;
6 anima mea Dominum,
magis quam custodes auroram.
Magis quam custodes auroram,
7 Expectat Israël Dominum.
Quia penes Dominum misericordia,
et copiosa penes eum redemptio:
8 Et ipse redimet Israël
ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.


De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
2 Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuae intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meae.
3 Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine,
Domine, quis sustinebit?
4 Quia apud te propitiatio est,
ut timeamus te.
5 Sustinui te, Domine,
sustinuit anima mea in verbo eius;
speravit 6 anima mea in Domino
magis quam custodes auroram.
Magis quam custodes auroram
7 speret Israel in Domino,
quia apud Dominum misericordia,
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
8 Et ipse redimet Israel
ex omnibus iniquitatibus eius.

Basically, the Neo-Vulgate is the Vulgate with corrections from the Pius XII version to make it closer to the Hebraica veritas, but without the Ciceronian Latinity.

I think it reasonable to say that the Neo-Vulgate is sufficiently like the Vulgate to read pleasantly, whereas notoriously the strange sound of the Pian Psalter, especially if attempted to be sung, really doesn't work.

Joshua said...

I recall attending a funeral of a Dominican - being at the graveside with a learnèd Tertiary, I suggested that we say the De Profundis for his soul. Alas! without realizing till we got halfway through, Anthony was praying the Neo-Vulgate and I the Vulgate, so once we got to "et propter legem tuam..." we got hopelessly snarled up and were unable to finish the prayer - much to the amusement of some Dominican clerical students nearby, who mocked us for it.

Joshua said...

I recall having a similar experience while attending Mass in English - I was in New Zealand last year on holiday, and while in Queenstown went to Mass. Well! The dratted Kiwis have some newfangled version of the Lord's Prayer that left me unable to join in at all - whereas when I attended Latin Mass in Christchurch, I could join in the responses perfectly. (Apparently I would have been reasonably safe with an English Mass in Christchurch too, as that diocese has resisted the change.)

All change is pernicious.

Jesse said...

On the NT canticles added to Vespers in Liturgia Horarum, Stanislaus Campbell, OSB, has the following illuminating passage in his From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours, pp. 188-9:

At its meeting of September 22-26, 1965, Group 9 agreed to the insertion of a New Testament canticle in Vespers and examined ten texts proposed by Group 3 as such canticles. When the Group of Relators met on September 28, however, there was more hesitancy to accept the proposal to adopt the canticles. Fr. Burkhard Neunheuser objected that canticles of this kind in Vespers would simply be against tradition, and if they were introduced the New Testament would no longer be the culmination of the Hour. Furthermore, those canticles from the Pauline epistles would be put to chant with great difficulty. Fr. P. M. Gy did not think the canticles would connect well with the Magnificat. Fr. Bernard Botte thought the passages selected pertained more to a homiletic genre than to that of canticles, and Msgr. Johannes Wagner said he would rather see examined the possibility of structuring Vespers on the Benedictine model of four psalms, reading, responsory, and versicles. To Father Neunheuser's objection that the New Testament would cease to culminate the Hour it was said that the Magnificat, a canticle from the gospel, would remain as the high point of Vespers. Monsignor Joseph Pascher thought that even if the proposed canticles were untraditional they ought to be introduced. Priests (sic) ought not to be deprived of the joy these canticles can induce. There should be no difficulty, he said, in moving from the Old Testament psalms to the New Testament canticle because the psalms should be read in the light of the New Testament. To Father Gy's objection that the canticles would not go well with the Magnificat it was maintained that just as the epistle at Mass went with the gospel, so the New Testament canticle at Vespers could go with the Magnificat. Fr. Herman Schmidt favored the addition of the canticles because they would render Vespers more solemn and, just as the use of an evening psalm in the first place at Vespers (as had been proposed) might open up the possibility of introducing a ritual of light (such as the ancient lamp lighting in cathedral Vespers), so the New Testament canticle in the last place could lead into "the evening sacrifice" (sacrificium vespertinum), by which he may have meant, in this context, evening Mass. Fr. A. M. Roguet also favored the introduction of the canticles into Vespers because they would help show better the connection between Old Testament and New.

Jesse said...

On pp. 192-3 of Campbell's book, we pick up the story of the NT canticles:

Group 9 considered the matter again at its meeting in September 1966. Group 3 (distribution of psalms), which, with the assitance of Group 4 (biblical readings) and Group 8 (chants), was primarily responsible for the work on the proposed canticles, had offered three reasons for their introduction into Vespers. The first reason was that there is a liturgical tradition for the use of such canticles. Although the Roman Rite has never used them, they are found in the Mozarabic liturgy. The second reason was one of usefulness. Recent biblical studies have revealed that some passages of the New Testament are of a hymnic literary genre. These passages resemble in their literary form the psalms of praise in the Old Testament. That form, which invites to praise and gives motives for doing so, is especially favorable to fostering the spirit of liturgical prayer. Besides, although the psalms ought always to be prayed in the spirit of the New Testament, many have difficulty in doing so. Canticles from the New Testament with their specifically Christian focus could assist in fostering a Christian understanding of the psalter. Finally, these canticles could provide a transition from the Old Testament psalmody to the culmination of Vespers in the gospel canticle, the Magnificat. From that point of view it would seem best to put the New Testament canticle in the last place of the psalmodic section rather than after the reading. New Testament canticles may not always serve well as responsories to the readings because responsories are relatively short passages having a function different from the psalmody. It would be well to enhance the psalmody itself with New Testament passages of a nature like the psalms themselves.

none said...

Actually, the Vatican Press 1961 edition of the Office (= the "'62 version") includes the Pian Psalter, which was still an option.

You can't sing it. For private recitation, I actually don't mind it. I know that view is anathema among traditionalists, but I'm much more bothered by the illogic of having the first lesson of a gospel homily ask a question that doesn't get answered because the 1961 Breviary cuts the answer out.

-Dr. Lee Fratantuono

Sadie Vacantist said...

Fascinating to read the litigurus discussing the problems of the pre-Vatican II reforms of which Evelyn Waugh also complained in a letter to one of the Mitfords.

I found a British Pathé newsreel on the web from 1967 of Liverpool Cathedral's consecration attended by Cardinal Heenan. Parading around in a cappa magna (ironically?) for the purposes of what looked like a gruesome ceremony, it's easy to forget that he commissioned the dump.

The problems, as our experts observe, began well before 1962. It's no wonder that Waugh grew disenchanted with the "duplicitous" Dr. Heenan.

rick allen said...

Joshua, thanks.

I only know the New Vulgate from its use in the Novem Testamentum Graece et Latine. From the critical apparatus it appears that its New Testament varies only slightly from earlier versions of the Vulgate, that it is a minor revision rather than a new translation.

The repetition of the phrase "magis quam custodes auroram" seems a good example of a change which, if less smooth, is areguably more transparent to the original:

נַפְשִׁי לַאדֹנָי-- מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר, שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר.

voltape said...

Well, I am a 77-year old married layman. I have been praying the office for 50 years at least. My first encounter with the psalter was the Versio Piana. Only after years of using it I found out there existed the venerable Gallican. In 1972 I was subcantor at the Cathedral of Lima, Peru and I chanted the office with the Canons, always the Piana. When I run into Gallican I was disilusioned. I found it insipid, clumsy, unintelligible. Except for maybe Miserere or Ps. 90 with its demonio meridiano, I cannot use other psalter. Some years ago I turned to the Liturgy of the Hours, but the Nova Vulgata seemed to me the Gallican patched here and there with Piana. I am sorry but for me, tradition is Piana. I can certainly sing it. We used at the Seminarium and at the Cathedral the Liber Usuales by the Solesmes Monks and it uses Piana all the time, which is perfectly singable.

Adrian F Sunman said...

Today I picked up two volumes of a 1951 Breviary from a bookseller who sells books for charitable aims. Whilst the volumes themselves were in better condition than I expected, they did - as I expected - contain the 'Pian' rather than the Vulgate Psalter. Having compared the two translations, it is clear that the Vulgate is superior. Pian isn't too bad so long as ones sticks to reading the Latin text and doesn't try to translate it into English when its deficiencies become apparent.