23 June 2017

Printing and the Sacred Heart

Once when I was an Anglican, using the older of my two Latin Altar editions of Missale Romanum, I said the Mass of the Sacred Heart as it existed, firstly pro aliquibus locis and then for the Universal Church, before Pius XI provided a replacement in 1928. I rather liked the older mass. The psalmus in the Introit was Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, a haunting verse which has stuck in the minds of many. You find it in Pius IX's Mass of the Precious Blood; it occupied the same place in the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds; I remember deciphering it, highly abbreviated, on a choir pew put in Lifton church in the late fourteen hundreds by Parson Halyborton, an adventurous Scotch cleric who came to Devon, became an archdeacon, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I recall seeing it on a portrait, 1582, of S Teresa of Avila, once in the Carmel at Lanherne ... Why did this old Mass of the Sacred Heart have to be abolished? Its collect was to be resurrected by the post-conciliar 'reform', so it can't have carried the marks of being too dated. Why couldn't the mass have been kept as an alternative, or even just as a votive, somewhere in the Missal?

I have written before about the significance, understood by too few liturgical writers, of printing. This made it possible for legislators with liturgical bees in their bonnets to enforce, in a flash, liturgical revolutions. Before printing, we had a situation - I am thinking of the early history of Corpus Christi - in which a pope could mandate a feast for the Universal Church and it wasn't even observed in the papal capella until nearly two generations later. But printing made it possible for a Cranmer to overturn an entire liturgical culture overnight, and to replace his own liturgical innovations with a substantially different and yet more radical version of them a couple of years later.

This particular technological mechanism of Rupture came to town, I mean ad almam Urbem, after Vatican II. But there were earlier signs. I have just mentioned Pius XI and the liturgy of the Sacred Heart. Then there was Pius XII and the Assumption. Out went the old Mass and Office and in came radically new replacements. There was nothing wrong with the old euchological formulae; they made the point which was at the heart of the theology of the Assumption in both East and West in the first millennium and a half: that Mary was assumed so that she could intercede, be the Mediatrix of all graces. Granted that Pius XII desired in 1950 to imprint upon the liturgy his new dogmatic definition, he could have behaved in the organic, evolutionary way of earlier pontiffs - he might, for example, have left the texts which he inherited untouched but embodied his new precisions in an added word (corporea) in the Preface; or even have asked that fertile Fr Genovese to write a Sequence, ordering it to be printed in liturgical books after that date and to be be brought into use as the newer books gradually spread. (Something like that is what Papa Barberini did when he classicised the texts of the Office Hymns.)

Printing is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of liturgists.


Matthew said...

'Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo' is indeed a haunting verse -- set rather memorably, as I recall from long-past years of oecumenical optimism, by the brethren of Taizé.

Matthew Roth said...

Where are the other texts of the Mass taken from? I don’t recognize the abbreviations at all? At least the 1920 missal, which is not too hard to acquire, would leave the original text and simply gum in a new page.

“Signum Magnum,” the text itself, is a legitimate development of exegesis and arguably equal in value as a text serviced by music in the liturgy if compared to “Gaudeamus.” But it loses on account of the antiquity of the Assumption's texts. The Sacred Heart is a real toss–up.

John Vasc said...

"Why did this old Mass of the Sacred Heart have to be abolished?"

The answer, I suspect, is not the cynical one that 'Liturgists have to eat - and see, how many of them there are!', but is bound up with particular emphases of devotion and belief to counter the errors of the particular age and underline what Popes saw as its pressing needs. Liturgical changes and new devotions were the principal means to do this, in the days before doctrine itself was up for papal grabs. (...Oh dear! Did I really say that out loud...)

I expect the same anguished question ('Why?..') was asked by the devout when St Jean Eudes' beautiful 17c Mass of the Sacred Heart ('Gaudeamus omnes in Domino') was replaced (perhaps more than once) and then replaced by the one you had read, that was in turn replaced in 1928.
That original Mass of St John Eudes deserves to be better known. It contained very inspirational Propers:
- a Lectio from Ezechiel (...'And I will give you new heart and a news spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a new heart of flesh...')
- a Gradual that manages to pack in Gal, Phil, Eph, Jn 15, Ps. 56 and 2 Mach., a miracle of elegant liturgical compression.
- a full-length (apparently freshly composed) Sequence: 'Gaudeamus exultantes'
- as a Gospel, the famous excursus on love in Jn. XV
- the Oratia all emphasising Caritas, very Ioannine.
The mass can be found here in Appendix I at P.139 of the printed text at http://www.liberius.net/livres/The_Sacred_Heart_of_Jesus_000000344.pdf

(Eudes composed a full office as well, equally edifying, with readings from the Song of Songs and the sermons of St Bonaventure and St John Chrysostom on Jn. XV.)

John Vasc said...


Pius XI had canonized St John Eudes in 1925, so surely he cannot been unaware of the Eudine liturgy; nevertheless it was entirely ignored in the new Sacred Heart Propers of 1928, which are much more literally Passion-related, and less Ioannine 'caritas'. (Doctrinal emphasis may well have been at work there too.)

Btw, Father, regarding that 'Misericordias Domini in aeternum' verse in the Introit: since in 1928 the Mass of the Precious Blood already did (and of course still does) include that Introit verse, and as Pope Pius XI had raised the June Feast of the Sacred Heart to the eminence of First Class Double with its own Octave (ie the Introit might be said every day for a week) perhaps a deliberate attempt was made to elegantly vary the Introit of the *new* 1928 Propers so as not to duplicate any Mass occurring, say, a couple of weeks earlier or later, as does the Feast of the Most Precious Blood (which had been fixed at the beginning of July since Pius IX).
Also, by 1928 Pius XI might well have already been planning for that latter Feast itself to be raised to the honour of a First Class Double five years later - as it was, for the Passion anniversary year of 1933).
Pope Pius XI was of course not blessed with the wisdom of a later Post VII generation that cheerfully at a stroke abolished that Feast entirely (except as a Votive mass), when in 1969 the Bugninian zeitgeist 'discerned' that there were quite enough Eucharistic feasts of Our Lord already, and after all, one could have too much of the Passion, and all that kind of thing.
(Miserere nobis Domine.)

Stephen said...

Great power have we, enablers all, giving credence with our consent, yet how corrupting at the same time, as we weild not a scalpel, deftly avoiding the bad and keeping the good, but a broadsword, such that we endorse that which we'd rather not.