26 February 2016


Lent, I suppose, shouldn't be fun, but liturgically it can provide novelties, and, to the still childlike parts of our minds, change is always fun. And Lent does provide us with novelties, or rather, with whatever the opposite is of novelty ... antiquelties, perhaps. Take the Prayer over the People which concludes the Lenten Masses ... the postconciliar 'reform' abolished them. The Editio Tertia Missalis Romani of 2002 brought them back, and so you again find them in the current ICEL translation.

Before the final blessing of the Mass was introduced into the text of the Ordo Missae, first by Dr Cranmer and then by his imitator Pope S Pius V, there had been no sacerdotal dismissal of the people for centuries in the texts of the Roman Liturgy. But, anciently, the Pontiff dismissed the people with a prayer said 'over' them. When, in 538, Pope Vigilius was arrested just before the end of Mass by the Imperial Byzantine Special Branch and dragged off to the East (have the Orthodox apologised yet for all those Popes who were arrested and dragged off to Constantinople to be tortured, imprisoned, or starved to death?), the pious Roman mob followed him to the boat yelling that they wanted 'the prayer'. He chanted it; the mob yelled Amen; and the boat moved off. The Prayer over the People was a blessing, in the sense that blessing means the priest prays a group from which he implicitly excludes himself by praying, not for 'us', but for 'you' or 'them' (that is how it differs from the post communionem prayer). In the Extraordinary Form, it is preceded by Let us Pray; and a diaconal Humble your heads before God; in the Ordinariate Missal Bow down before the Lord

Archaisms tend to survive in seasons like Lent. One reason why this is particularly true of the Roman Rite is that only in Lent was there an unbroken sequence of daily masses, stational masses presided over by the pontiff himself rather than by parish priests. Daily through the streets of the City there were the busy processions of the Pontifical plate and of the curial clergy and the pope himself journeying first to the Church of Meeting for the Collecta and thence to the church appointed for the Statio. The entire Christian people of Rome witnessed this great annual exercise and the deeply sanctified memories thus created tended to make Lent a time more than usually resistant to innovation.

And of course, there may be different vestments in Lent. We must remember that the chasuble was not always exclusively worn by bishops and priests. It was the normal out-of-home garment of middle-class citizens of the Empire (like S Paul - see II Timothy 4:13 "ton phelonen"; the toga being by then every bit as universally worn as top hat and tails are among us), and so it was worn, if not by everybody, at least by the clergy of all ranks. (The practice of tarting up deacons and subdeacons in dalmatics or tunicles invaded Rome rather later; in the period of the classical sacramentaries they wore just chasubles.) In the archaising season of Lent, Mass began with the deacon and subdeacon wearing chasubles folded up in front (or chasubles made to look as if they were folded up in front); when it got to the parts of the Mass where deacons and subdeacons have to be physically quite busily active, they took them off and rolled them lengthways, slung them over the left shoulder and tied a knot in them under the right armpit ... a rather jolly example of the down-to-earth matter-of-fact-ness of classical Roman liturgy. At least, that's the origin of it all; in recent centuries those rolled-and-knotted garments evolved into bands of cloth which became popularly known as 'broad stoles' because they do rather look like stoles worn deacon-wise, but, er, broader.

I dragged our 'folded chasubles' and our 'broad stoles' out into the light of day when we were at S Thomas's; I rather miss them now! In places where they still lurk in corners of sacristies ... er ... well ... if you were to bring them back into use, who am I to judge?


Jacob said...

I go to the NO. Always have. But I do have an EF missal that I use to read through the liturgical year. albeit haphazardly. For instance, I am just now noticing the final blessing during Lent. Now I read here it's Lent Only prayer? whoa. Okay, that makes sense now, why it's not included anywhere else. Thank you!

But wait? It was removed from the NO and only restored in 2002? Is that different from the final prayer over the people that remember my priest saying at the end of all Masses throughout the year during the 1990s? Or was that just the postcommunion under a different name in our NO seasonal "missalettes"?

Always learning, Father!

Matthew Roth said...

The folded chasubles and broad stoles are in use at St. Mary’s, Norwalk CT, which just got a new set from Gammarelli's; they are in the Neri cut; and the maker uses a supple fabric allowing the chasuble to be folded into the broad stole. They also pin up the vestments, and they are not short. Mater Ecclesiae in NJ uses them and both places do pre-1955 Holy Week. The ICRSS has them in St. Louis, and I know the FSSP in Lyon just pulled them out too.