29 January 2022

Prescription in Liturgy (1)

 Printing ... its invention ... is the precondition for the issuing of modern  "I-am-the-Master-you-must-obey-me-please-bow-even-more-profoundly"-style liturgical legislation. Printing has, of course, been enhanced by other pieces of more recent technology.

Think about it. It was only printing which made it possible for the bullies on Edward VI's Privy Council in 1549 ruthlessly to enforce overnight the elimination in England of the Rites of Sarum, York, etc.. Only technology made it possible for PF arrogantly to claim that, before you have your breakfast croissant tomorrow morning, Summorum pontificum will have been replaced by Traditionis custodes.

This novel approach to Liturgy, inconceivable before about 1450, cannot be part of the Catholic Faith, the Depositum fidei handed down through the Apostles. Something totally missing for the first Christian millennium and a half can hardly be at the essential core of the Faith.

In 1943, Dom Gregory Dix wrote:

"There is remarkably little foundation for the [Anglican] idea which has been assiduously propagated of late years in England that 'the catholic priest. at least if he has any tincture of the true catholic and priestly spirit, would rather say the most jejune and ill-arranged rite, which was that imposed upon him by authority, than the most splendid liturgy devised by himself'. Either the whole church from the second century to the sixteenth was devoid of 'any tincture of the true catholic and priestly spirit', or such statements are comprehensively mistaken. ...

" ... in every century every liturgy borrowed where it chose, without the intervention of 'authority' in the matter at all, till we come to the edicts of Byzantine emperors and Charlemagne. It is true that in every church the rite was from time to time codified in a revision by the local bishop -- a Sarapion, a Basil, a Gregory. But it is also true that their work never endures as they leave it. The same process of unauthorised alteration  and addition and borrowing begins again ...

"The proof is written in almost every liturgical MS in existence. The primitive bishop had control of the text of the prayers because their recitation was his special 'liturgy'; he was the normal celebrant. When he passed on that 'liturgy' to individual presbyters, in practice if not in theory the same control tended to pass to the new normal celebrant, however objectionable in principle the fact may now seem to us. The presbyter was largely ruled by tradition-- as the bishop had been. But I have a not altogether inconsiderable experience of ancient liturgical MSS. Setting aside mere copyists' errors, I do not remember any two professing to give the same rite which altogether agree on the text of the celebrant's prayers."

To be continued.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. This is all too historically accurate and reasonable and so it can not be true.

Although, if Jesus is both Priest and Victim in His action of the Holy Holocaust/ Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then it just may be true.

Jesse said...

Exactly right, Father. You have reminded me of some comments in a seminal paper by the late Christopher Hohler on "Some Service-Books of the Later Saxon Church," in Parsons (ed.), Tenth-Century Studies (1975):

An existing liturgical manuscript is often, I should say usually, not the clean lineal descendant of the approved typicum of some edition, but copied from a "practical" book, based on some much older form of the text than the one it purports to represent. This will have been brought more or less up to date at successive recopyings by collating what was supposed to be a "good" text. (p. 63)

Dom Deshusses's admirable dictum that each successive copy of a liturgical manuscript was "une petite édition critique" is liable, though I should hesitate slightly about the word critique, to be true down to the thirteenth century. (p. 81)

PM said...

Very true, Father. When I was a history student in the late 1970, Elizabeth Eisenstein was delivering her splendid Ford Lectures on The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, which ranged far beyond the liturgy but would bear out the point you make.

Two subsequent pieces of technology have also had a huge impact.
Fist, electronic communication ('the electric wire' in Cardinal Wiseman's famous piece of doggerel)has made ultramontanism more practicable. In the Middle Ages it took weeks for pieces of parchment to move between London and Rome, and days even between London and York. Now the Austen Ivereighs of the world can have their snitching on traditional liturgical practice in Archbishop Roche's inbox in seconds.

Second, the invention of the microphone and loudspeaker has made most of the liturgical changes of the past century possible. I do not claim this as my own insight: it comes form the fertile mind of Marshall McLuhan of 'The Medium is the Message' fame, who among other things was a keen student of the Angelic Doctor.

Matt said...

This is brilliant. I never considered this angle. Thank you!