28 November 2013


Query: is The New Liturgical Movement doing a series, or is it not, which will come to a conclusion, on whether the Roman Rite originally had three readings (including the OT) at most Masses? I'm a trifle puzzled.

In Liturgy there often tend to be lots of funny little clues which point to elements which have got lost. I do not know of any such tasty little clues to support the hypothesis of the Lost OT Reading*. I suspect that, quite simply, at some early point somebody/bodies in Rome decided that it would be NT nearly always on Sundays/festivals, with OT on fasting ferias/vigils etc., and in the Divine Office. (Such a system, of course, would be expected to become gradually eroded and 'exceptions' would enter the rite; Masses of our Lady spring to mind.) Substantially, this is very much what we still have now, and very neat it is. And it supplies a very Rich Table of OT Scripture.

I think the way forward might be the re-examination of Patristic remarks about Scripture to see whether there is any evidence of a rationale being offered for such a practice. The reason why this has never been done is that nearly everybody has blindly accepted the unevidenced theory of the Missing OT Reading at Rome.

I would be interested if my erudite readership had any ideas.

*Except, just possibly, the presence of two psalms after the Epistle. But this would point to the 'missing' reading having come between the Epistle and the Gospel.


Maximilian Hanlon said...

Fr., I understand that the lectionary cycle contained in the manuscript tradition of Benevento has never been systematically studied. Trying to see if anything like a coherent cycle of Old Testament lessons is contained therein would be a good place to start thinking through the question.

And why do we have two chants between the lessons in the Roman Rite and not only one?

Christopher said...

The Alleluia is generally reckoned to be the most recent of the Proper chants of the Roman rite. This is so because its assignment to particular days is more variable than for other chants, and in the earliest Mass Antiphoners the Alleluias are usually have a section of their own separate from the other chants which are grouped according to their feasts. From the famous epistle of Gregory I to John, bishop of Syracuse (which can however be interpreted more than one way) it would seem that even the occasions on which it was to be sung in the Roman rite were still not definitively fixed before the end of the sixth century.

So working on the eminently plausible hypothesis that the Alleluia was not a part of the Roman rite in its earliest forms, the presence of two psalms between the readings cannot be regarded as evidence that a third reading was formerly present.

Henri Adam de Villiers said...

During my stay in Ethiopia, the priests told me that in their rite, only the New Testament is read at the Mass and the Old Testament is read during the divine office, because the Mass is the fulfillment of the new covenant.

(By the way there are four readings at the Ethiopian mass : 1. From Paul 2. from the catholic epistles 3. from the Acts 4. From the Gospel.

Henri Adam de Villiers said...

That the New Testament be reserved for mass is not a Roman specificity.

The byzantine rite have the Prokimeinon (=Gradual) before the Epistle; the evidence of an existence of a Prophecy before the Epistle is not clear at all in the history of this rite. As in the Ethiopian rite, only the New Testament is read as the byzantine divine liturgy, the Old Testament is read at vespers.

The medieval Parisian rite (as other diocesan rites) have got one Prophecy for some rare great feasts (e.g. at Christmas or Epiphany) but the Gradual is sung after the Epistle just before the Alleluia (never before the Epistle).

Gregory DiPippo said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke,

The series was occasioned by my colleague Dr. Kwasniewski's article "Is Reading More Scripture at Mass Always Better?" (November 11) My intent is to cover all of the major putative sources of the revision of the lectionary. The first article was about the (now discredited) theory that the Roman Rite originally had three readings. The second and third were about the Ambrosian Rite, which often has 3 readings. There will be a fourth article on the medieval ferial lectionary of the Roman Rite, and a fifth on Sacrosanctum Concilium. I am planning them both for next week.

Best regards,

Gregory DiPippo

Richard Toporoski said...

Could I take up Mr de Villiers' comment and point out that in the Byzantine Rite, after the presiding bishop or priest has gone to the presidential chair behind the altar after the Trisagion (which I hope it is agreed plays the same role as the Roman Kyrie, eleison), the deacon calls out "Let us attend" and the "president" gives the first salutation (i.e., in exactly the same place as in the classic Roman Rite). There is no collect at this point; rather, the deacon or the second deacon proclaims, "Wisdom! Let us attend", but this is immediately followed by the prokeimenon/gradual. Since after the prokeimenon/gradual, the deacon again says, "Wisdom!" and the title of the Epistle is announced, after which the deacon again says, "Let us attend", and the Epistle is proclaimed, can we not assume that the first "Wisdom! Let us attend" originally heralded an Old Testament lesson? If it did not, it is surely a very striking false alarm.