1 March 2020

Stowe, Filioque, and Organic Development

We still sometimes read the suggestion that the changes made in the Roman Mass by Pope Paul VI were no more remarkable that those made earlier by other popes ... a weary old claim. The argument has even been put to me that the arrogant papal insertion of the Filioque into the Creed was a similarly revolutionary innovation. Er ...

Where exactly does one start with that? In the first place: the popes did not introduce the Creed into the Mass. According to Jungmann ([ET] Vol II p 469), it entered the Western Mass in Gaul in the 790s. Or there seems some evidence that those mysterious people the Mozarabs might have done it a couple of centuries earlier. Its introduction may have been a response to the Adoptianism of some Spanish bishops. Rome herself did not reluctantly follow Charlemagne's initiative for another couple of centuries.

But how did the filioque spread itself around? Not as a Papal initiative. There is an interesting paper by A Breen (Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 90c, 107-21) discussing the text of the Creed in an Irish Altar Book known as the Stowe Missal (once owned by the Dukes of Buckingham at Stowe). That book seems to have been scribed in the 790s, when it contained a text of the creed without filioque. But what makes this Missal so fascinating is the way it was subsequently added to and changed by different people. Sometimes somebody would even take a knife to the vellum and scrape portions of text away and then, in smaller handwriting, repeat what he had just scraped away but with additional material ... but he might then discover that he still didn't have all the room he needed so he would bind in a small additional sheet of vellum. (In the first millennium, perhaps the first task of a liturgical tamperer was to catch his calf ...) That is the context in which filioque entered the Mass in one Irish monastic site.

 Here in the Stowe Missal we have organic evolution of the Liturgy physically on display before our very eyes (if we can get to look at it in Dublin*). In the hands of the presbyters of the worshipping community which actually used the book, it gradually accommodated itself to the changing needs of its church or to the changing fashions within the wider Church. Nobody made massive alterations overnight, whether on his own authority or at the behest of Superior Authority. Nothing could be more unlike what Vatican  committeemen did in the 1960s.

As I remarked, Stowe had the Creed, and without filioque. But, as Breen demonstrates, only a few years after the production of Stowe, somebody made some corrections to its text of the Creed, one of which was the addition of filioque above the line. And the text of the Creed which the corrector used to make his corrections was one which had just been promulgated at the 796/7 Council of Foroiulianum. This text had been composed by S Paulinus II, Patriarch of Aquileia (an influential see which used to be so powerful that it wasn't always content to be obediently in communion with Rome). Not a whisker here of the actions of some pope or, for that matter of any external authority. Indeed, when the scribe of Stowe added filioque to his altar book, Patriarch Paulinus, and his Council, and his Emperor, as far as I understand, had no jurisdiction over Ireland. In the centuries before printing, the authority in Liturgy was very generally a combination of Tradition, Sensus Fidelium, and Subsidiarity - with the emphasis very strongly upon the first of this troika.

I suggest, from our consideration of the history of the Stowe Missal, a useful rule of thumb for discerning whether a liturgical change is 'organic' [as the decree Sacrosanctum Concilium of Vatican II mandates] or not. Here goes: If you can continue to use your old Altar Book, while from time to time gumming a new Mass or preface in here or making a marginal alteration there or crossing out this bit or remembering to do that bit differently, then evolution is probably happening organically. If, on the other hand, you have absolutely no choice but to abandon that book to gather dust lying useless on the top shelf in your sacristy ... while you go out to the shop and pay big money for a new book ... then the changes are certainly not organic. In those circumstances, what you've got on your hands is not evolution, but revolution.

I call this the Stowe Test.

The Pius XII/Bugnini Holy Week seems to me to fail that test. The S Pius X psalter might just squeeze past, because publishing houses provided small and slender 'psalter' volumes so that one did not need to buy an entire new Breviary. You disagree? You're probably right. But do you see what I mean?
* There is a full facsimile in HBS Vol XXXI. I think one can get to it on the Internet.


√Čamonn said...

The facsimile is at https://archive.org/details/stowemissalmsdii01cath/page/n3/mode/2up & the printed text at https://archive.org/details/stowemissalmsdii02cath/page/n5/mode/2up

Fr. Michael G. Earthman said...

A scan of the Stowe Missal can be found at: https://www.isos.dias.ie/master.html?http://www.isos.dias.ie/libraries/RIA/RIA_MS_D_ii_3/english/catalogue.html

Though, truthfully, the HBS edition is much easier to read.

PM said...

Indeed, I have sometimes thought that the liturgical changes of the 1960s were at the the same time the high water mark and the death knell of extreme ultramontanism. I cannot imagine that a future pope will be able to impose such far-reaching change with so little opposition.

PM said...

And as Benedict XVI (is it right to say 'of happy memory' when he is still alive?) so admirably put it, the pope is not an absolute monarch but the servant of tradition.

John Nolan said...

The Missal which was in use in 1962 was indeed mutilated to accommodate the changes mandated in 1964 and 1967, with the required deletions and insertions. Joseph Shaw has published photographs of one such.

However, the rite used after 1967 was not recognizably the Roman Rite - it was in effect a 'dry run' for the Novus Ordo.