I refer to the the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings ...
The tradition of the Roman Church through very much of two millennia was that there were no OT readings at Sunday Mass. But, through certain times, particularly Lent, the reading before the Gospel in the old rite is from the OT on all weekdays. (Last week, being an Ember Week as well, we had eleven such OT readings.)
Those accustomed to the Old Mass will have noticed that the Missal tells us, each day in Lent, what the 'Stational Church' was. I believe that at S John Cantius they have devised ingenious and edifying ways of bringing this alive in their liturgy! But my purpose today is to point out what these 'stational' arrangements really teach us.
These days were days when the whole Roman Church gathered together with the Pontiff to celebrate Mass together. Pope, presbyters, and people prayed and celebrated Lent corporately.
This meant that the plebs sancta Dei did get a substantial exposure to the OT. The fact that these arrangements are not today part of the life even of most 'traddy' Catholics is inevitable but, I think, suboptimal.
A couple of rather obvious suggestions:
(1) If you are fortunate enough to have access to the Old Roman Rite on a daily basis, take advantage of this!!
(2) Otherwise, perhaps you could find time to read the weekday Lenten lections ... carefully and liturgically? (You might do this by 'labiating'; that is, moving your tongue and lips as you read ... just as your clergy do when saying their Office. Otherwise, 'reading' can so easily degenerate into 'casting the eyes down the page'.)
Looking ahead, I hope a time may come when the place of the OT in the Roman Rite will be reconsidered. This is not the time to do that: so many people were so wounded by the corrupt and illegal changes made to the Western Liturgy after the Council that fiddling around now would be unpastoral and inopportune. But, until 1962, Liturgy was not unchangeable ... it evolved graduallyand organically and according to type and in accordance with genuinely Catholic principles.
It would be possible for OT readings to be added to the Epistles and Gospels in the Missal of S Pius V.
In fact, a suitable such table was devised in 1965 ... in the Church of England. Readers will be aware that the Sunday Epistles and Gospels in the Book of Common Prayer are the same as those in the Missal of S Pius V*. So the OT readings offered in that Anglican list might be appropriate accompaniments to the authentic Roman Rite.
*There are some dislocations due to the fact that the Anglican Epistles and Gospels follow a lectionary which was widely common in Catholic Medieval Northern Europe but not quite the same as that used in Southern Europe. But this is a minor detail easily accommodated.
8 March 2020
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No, thank you, father.
The Roman Rite never had 3 readings (until the 1960s).
It is fine without adding another reading.
Dear Father H,
What might be a reply to the objection that the Roman Rite, by immemorial use, never had more than one reading (in addition to the Gospel)?
I am perfectly aware that the Roman rite has never had three readings at Sunday Mass. I was trying to draw attention to the fact that, since nowadays very few Catholics go to a Vetus Ordo Mass every day in Lent, we are now in an unbalanced situation.
I thought I had made that clear. What ought I to have said to make it clearer? Or does neilmac live in a community where he and everybody else does go to an old rite Mass every morning in Lent? Lucky fellow!!
"Just as your clergy do when saying their Office." Dear Father, I know the idea of the daily office as somehow "belonging" to the clergy is deeply entrenched, but should this questionable state of affairs be accepted uncritically? One of the more laudable aims of Vatican 2 was to bring the Church's Official Prayer back to the ordinary people of the Church. The resultant revision of the Breviary was rather less than inspiring (and has been successful more as a relief to overburdened clergy than as a popular form of service among the laity), but the principle holds good -- and it is one eminently appropriate for former Anglicans to identify with and popularise.
I might add that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has an optional one year lectionary with OT readings which might also be mined for such a project in the future.
The Old Testament? That's what Matins is for. If we were to concede the use of a third reading on Sundays, perhaps the basis for each Sunday would be a selection from that Sunday's first nocturn at Matins. However, I would rather spend the energy to make parts of the Divine Office a more regular part of every Catholic's life than try to cram everything into Sunday Mass.
Bringing it back to Catholic laity is the right word. Lay attendance at Vespers was common before the Reformation. Indeed, delving recently into Alan Harding's 'English Law in the Middle Ages' I came across a rector in the fifteenth century who spent two weeks in the episcopal prison in Hereford for neglecting to hold Lauds and Vespers in his parish on Sundays.
Interesting that one of the features that those that favor the "novice ordo" (as my youngest son used to call it) is the number of additional readings. Yet one of the first things the "reformers" did was jettison the Ember Days with their rich set of additional readings. Plus there is always the usual pressure to cut back on the "extraneous" readings at the Easter Vigil so people can get home and get to their Easter candy sooner. Just sayin'.
Leaving aside other (compelling) arguments, mightn't there be compelling ceremonial reasons for prescinding from such a development? Obviously, were there to be a lection before the Epistle, it would be best read by a lector (or other clerk in minor or major orders) in surplice, in order to preserve the cursus whereby the Gospel is given greatest dignity by being read by the deacon, the epistle somewhat less by being read by the subdeacon, and so on. Now, given the paucity of clerks of any kind (and barring a much-to-be-hoped-for but currently unlikely resurgence in the minor orders generally), mightn't the net effect of this insertion be to make High Mass even rarer than in presently is? Sourcing three clerks in major orders (or two, and another in minor orders) is already hard enough, but having to find a fourth to read an OT lesson would complicate matters still further.
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