15 April 2011

Hoc Hodiernum Tempus; or 'Hemming (3)'

Continues from the Hemming posts.
Not long ago, turning the pages in the Liturgia Horarum, I noticed in the 'Patristic' reading some words of Vatican II, taken from the Pastoral Constitution de Ecclesia in mundo huius temporis. These were the opening words of the passage selected* for the reading: "Mundus hodiernus ...". How long, I asked myself, is hoc hodiernum tempus* to be deemed to last?

A few hundred Council Fathers were worried by the incorporation into a conciliar constitution of transient observations relating to a rapidly changing world: which is why, to satisfy such traditionalist pedantry, a long exculpatory Note is attached to that constitution's title. But - still - how long was their hodiernum tempus?

In the World outside the conciliar aula, that 1960s tempus passed quite quickly. The Beatles soon became what they are now, a delightful but retro taste. I recall the first of Ian Fleming's books to be made a film ... that distant decade when female parishioners told me that I resembled Sean Connery ... but, as the years passed after Dr No, the producers increasingly found Fleming's hodiernum tempus much too old-fashioned ... and commissioned new scripts. Among politicians, hoc hodiernum tempus was marked by the Cold War and fears that the Menace of World Communism would gobble up country after country until we had Soviet Commissars looking over our shoulders as we ordered our books up to Duke Humphrey or punted down the Cherwell. That tempus passed before the 1990s.

But perhaps hodierna tempora last longer in the Church? Did the hodiernum tempus Concilii Vaticani II end with the death of the last pope who was himself a Father of the Council - in 2005? (I presume that, long before then, the last conciliar diocesan bishop had retired upon reaching the retirement age). Or will hoc hodiernum tempus end when the last old gentlemen ... Kuengs and Ratzingers ... who were bright young periti of the Council, have passed to their (immensely varied but equally deserved) rewards? Or let us consider the Babes of the Council: those who ... despite the contraceptive frenzy of the time ... succeeded in getting conceived during the conciliar decade. They are already in middle age, tut-tutting in front of their mirrors over their white hairs and counting the wrinkles round their eyes. In a generation they will be retiring; a generation after that they will be as deadish as I shall be. Which of these landmarks might indicate the end of hoc hodiernum tempus?

Or possibly - it occurs to me - there is another looming indicator of the termination of this tempus. Shortly before his retirement, the then director of ICEL, Mgr Bruce Harbert, speaking in Oxford, said that ICEL was very shy about doing too much work on a new English translation of the Liturgia Horarum because of the strong likelihood that the post-conciliar form of the Office would itself be back in the melting pot before they had got very far. O utinam ... you can just imagine the majestic words in the Bull of Suppression, can't you: ... auctoritate praesentium tollimus imprimis et abolemus breviarium novum ab Hannibale Bugnini viro scelestissimo confectum, et in quacumque ecclesia, monasterio, conventu, ordine, militia, et loco virorum et mulierum, etiam exempto, tam a primaeva institutione quam aliter ab hac Sede permissum ... these things more or less write themselves ... or is my subconscious recalling a passage from some earlier papal document ... my memory is fading by the day ... how I do ramble ... will that felicitous moment indicate the end of the hodiernum Tempus Concilii Vaticani II?


*Hoc hodiernum tempus means, literally, this todayish time. Incidentally, I wonder what earlier precedents there are for including extracts from recent conciliar documents as 'Patristic' readings in the Breviary. Bl Pius IX and Pius XII included passages from dogmatic bulls dated respectively 1854 and 1950. Other parallels?


Little Black Sambo said...

... I resembled Sean Connery.
"Look on this picture, and on this."

Christopher said...

Conciliar texts were very popular in the Gallican breviaries. Admittedly they were composed some time after Trent, but they quote it extensively.

Interestingly, there are to my knowledge two Fathers of the Council that have yet to retire: the Chaldean Emmanuel III Cardinal Delly, Patriarch of Babylon and Archibishop of Baghdad, and the Melkite Abp Hilarion Capucci, Auxiliary Bishop of Antioch.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

Well if you accept the argument, as some in the East do, that the "age of the Fathers" is not definitively closed, then recent texts could be included, albeit awkwardly I should think with texts not by one "father" but by a council of them.

Sadie Vacantist said...

70 years is usually the time allotted by the Holy Spirit before a recovery is staged. A more pertinent question would therefore be when did the clock start ticking for us? I guess 1965 is an obvious date. Too soon to call last orders just yet?