5 January 2018

Mutual Enrichment

Some time ago, following the 1962 rubrics, I discovered that I had three consecutive days saying the Mass of the previous Sunday. I must say that I found this most refreshing. The simple luxury of putting on green vestments and using the marvellous ancient collects and psalmody which come to us from the fifth century and breath the genius of the old Roman Rite; its terse elegance; its austerity; its capacity for patterning an economic number of words with as much expressive skill as a Horace ...

Moreover, with a less cluttered calendar, one got the Sunday Collect over and over again in the Office ... one lived with it ... and I remembered the admirable old Anglican Patrimonial tradition of learning (Cranmer's elegant translations of) these dear early Roman collects week by week; of thus making them part of ones being. Instead of enduring an endless succession of Confessor Bishops who, bully for them, founded religious orders, and whose labours were rewarded with flat, predictable, formulaic collects.

I have no doubt that the EF Calendar is overloaded. Historically, Calendars do get overloaded and the poor things need, every now and again, to be pruned. S Pius V certainly operated on that principle! Even S Anne was mercilessly deleted! But his successors recommenced the overloading of his calendar, and I get tired of reading the (truncated form of) the Parable of the talents at Mass; in the Divine Office, there is the endless saying of the hymn Iste confessor, bringing with it the daily anguish of remembering whether mutatur tertius versus.

In the Novus Ordo, lots of memoriae are optional. We could do with that principle in the Old Rite.

And in the Liturgy of the Hours, on most ordinary memoriae, one has the liberty of saying (for example) the ferial hymns. So one has the advantage, among other things, of using that wonderful old cycle of the Days of Creation at Vespers. That rubrical adjustment would be an enrichment of the old Breviary. (Yes, I know, 99% of clergy who say the LH don't get those hymns anyway because the English translations of LH don't include many translations of Latin hymns. How crafty the Enemy is.)

In theory, I would not object to using some Weekday Eucharistic Lectionary (medieval dialects of the Roman Rite sometimes offered variant Epistles and Gospels midweek). In practice, I would most strongly object, because the most comfortable thing about the Old Rite, especially for the aged, is that we don't have to keep juggling with a multiplicity of complicated and confusing books! Vera simplicitas et simplex Veritas!


Woody said...

In the East we have three commemorations of St Anne, two of which are described here: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2015/09/the-synaxis-of-ss-joachim-and-anne.html#.Wk-agSRMGhA

And the third of which is the Maternity of Holy Anna on December 9, celebrating, of course, the conception of the Theotokos.

Randolph Crane said...

Yes, you are so right, Father. Sometimes I roll my eyes when I read "Iste Confessor". It's like every day, or at least every second day.

Although I must say, I would abolish ad lib memoriae entirely. Either have the Saint or don't have him. The BR 1962 has the elegant way of having the weekday Antiphons and Psalms, but the rest of the Saint of the day (if it's not a commemoratio). If one would delete some lesser known Saints from the calendar, one would automatically have the weekday hymnus more often, anyways.

But I feel like the NO LH has too few Saints, and really great Saints have been cut from it, or diminished into a memoria ad lib.

William said...

There are two apparently contradictory principles at work here:
(1) Ferias are Good Things. The repetition during the week of the Sunday Propers is to be commended not only because of the quality and historic significance of the texts but also because it serves to reinforce the sense that the liturgical course has a structure and a flow and is not merely a succession of random and unrelated observances. All of this tends to be undermined by the regular silting-up of the Kalendar;
(2) Saints' Days are Good Things. The great figures of the Faith ought to be liturgically commemorated both for didactic and exemplary purposes and also as a way of formally seeking their heavenly intercession. Over the centuries, the number of such figures will naturally increase, but with no corresponding diminution in their significance to our understanding and observance of the Faith.

Of course (as has been repeatedly observed, not least on this blog) the problem of reconciling these principles has been greatly exacerbated by the (historically ignorant) post-V2 abolition of the concept of Commemorations. The invention of Optional Memorias is a sticking-plaster solution which somehow manages to combine the worst features of both approaches. What is one to do?

If some "blue-sky thinking" (dread term!) be permitted (I expect to be shouted down here): if a three-year lectionary is deemed an acceptable solution to the "problem" of liturgical engagement with the richness of Scripture (… discuss …), why not a three-year Kalendar (at 3rd class/Memoria level and below) to accommodate the richness of the witness of the Saints?

The only alternative that I can see is to end up, eventually, with a single exemplar of each category (however defined) of Saint. One chosen instance of the Confessor Bishop Founder of a religious Order; one of the Virgin Martyr testifying to sexual purity; and so on. Practical, but bloodless, abstract and uninspiring.

William said...

Actually, I rather like the repetitive use of "Iste Confessor". Never at my best first thing, I know that if it's the feast of a Confessor I can do the first three minutes or so of Matins from memory. (And wasn't the mutatio tertii versus abolished in 1960?)

Ben of the Bayou said...

If one ever were to have the experience of praying Vespers and straightaway anticipating Matins of the following day, he would see directly how much you, dear Father H, have out your finger on one point that legitimately may be improved. Still, though I am a somewhat young priest still, I do wonder whether I shall live long enough to see the Church in a position to have organic changes such as these you suggest. Hard to say, of course, but it is in no wise apparent now how that could be, given the state of things.


Pulex said...

"If one would delete some lesser known Saints from the calendar"
They need not to be deleted entirely, but rather reduced to commerations to the weekday office, perhaps with the 3rd lesson being hagiographic.
By the way, having Iste Confessor so often helps one to learn it by heart. To have an alternative 3rd nocturn would be a worthy idea, though.

Randolph Crane said...


I am upholding my opinion, but I would like to further clarify it. In the Kalendarium of the Universal Church, there have always been significant Saints. The NO calendar has some Saints, I have personally never heard of, like holy martyrs from Korea, or something like that. In my opinion, those Saints should be restricted to local calendars, and the General Calendar ought to be "purged" from "niche" Saints. In my diocese, we have magnificent Saints and some even more magnificent Beati. But they do not belong on a worldwide calendar, at least not in my opinion. This means we can reduce the Saints in the 1962 calendar, add a few new ones that are relevant, but we can retain all of the Saints in the local calendars.

I'm not really a friend of commemorationes, but I can see the reason behind that.

Of course, it is easy to learn Iste Confessor when you read/sing it every day. But that's not what the Breviarium is for. As the Reverend Father has pointed out, many reforms in the past concerned themselves with the restriction of the Sanctorale. Pius V did it in great extent, Pius X did it as well (as far as I know), John XXIII did it also (deleting many feasts or reducing them to a commemoratio of the IV. class). After Vatican II, they jsut took an axe and killed all the Saints, which is a tragedy. Many Saints of the Counter-Reformation, who are always role models for everyone and all times, have been cut from the calendar.


I think so. At least, I have never seen a different text for any hymn in the 1962 BR. In the 1912 Antiphonale Romanum, there is a mutatio, and even some proper hymns for, I think, Saint Francis (or his Stigmatisation), Saint Nick, and Saint Martin of Tours (from whose office the Iste Confessor originally comes, AFAIK).

David said...

One solution, which I think is good, is simply to reduce the number of saints that are universally celebrated, while increasing diversity of celebrations among dioceses and religious orders. The universal Kalendar could, perhaps, be limited to apostles, early Roman martyrs, and doctors. Some of the “bigger” confessors (Francis, Dominic) and others could be given mandatory commemorations, if they are not otherwise celebrated. Otherwise, leave it up to local ordinaries. Why not?

Leila said...

But this simplicity and austerity (both laudable) must be balanced with the people's need (the need especially of children) for the saints. Making the memorials optional has, of course, simply deleted them, and with them, the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty.