First ... a Corrigendum. I have, from time to time, remarked on the scandal that the Usus Deterior of the Roman Rite eliminates the use as Sunday Collects of all the Sunday Collects of the great Christian seasons ... Advent; Lent; Easter ... as found in the Usus Authenticus. I failed to notice an exception: the Collect for Palm Sunday did survive. Apologies to readers.
But today: my subject is the Collect for the First Sunday in Lent. The Usus Deterior Collect asks that we may go ahead to understanding Christ's Secret. When I looked at it the other day (like all sensible people, I don't have much more to do with the Usus Deterior than I have to) I was struck by how neatly this fits the the Gnostic Heresy. I mean, the idea that Christianity is to do with the understanding of unbodily things, and, even, of secret mysteries, and is not interested in the redemption and divinising of the body.
But this Collect is not a Sixties confection. That cannot be our charge against the Usus Deterior on this occasion. While this Collect is not in the Usus Authenticus, or in the so-called Gregorian Sacramentary, which is an earlier edition of the same rite, it is in the so-called Gelasian Sacramentary. The confectors, back in the Sixties, of the Usus Deterior were moderately keen on making use of forms they found in earlier rites. The gravamen against them is that in the selection and choices and emendations they made, there is a consistent and impatient motive of eliminating certain ideas. That is what lies at the heart of the bias intelligent people have in favour of the Usus Authenticus: it offers a far broader and more generous (and sometimes more daring: consider the formulae pro defunctis) selection from two millennia of Christian praying, while the impoverished Usus Deterior works with a far narrower and more grudging set of concepts and themes.
The Collect for Lent 2 (which is a Sixties confection) would also have been equally acceptable to the great Gnostic heresiarchs such as dear Valentinus (the Word will feed us inwardly so that we may be purified by spiritual vision).
Sunday worshippers regularly at the Usus Deterior will not be faced this Lent with bodily concepts unless they survive until Lent 3, when the Collect (taken from the so-called Gelasian Sacramentary) does refer to fasts, prayers, and alms.
So what did the toilers of the Sixties eliminate from the euchological tradition of the Roman Church? They were, understandably, shy about the whole concept of fasting, which had largely gone missing from Western Christendom.
I tend to feel that the Papacy, by its neglect during the last century, shares some blame for allowing this ancient Christian praxis to disappear. Is it really so much more difficult for office-workers to fast in the temperate zones of world than it was for peasants working under a hot sun in their Middle Eastern fields? Why is it that our own substantial Islamic population has so little trouble observing Ramadan?
And then there is the whole bundle of ideas that the sufferings we endure, from natural disasters as well as by acts of human agency, are sent by God as punishments, and that by bodily fasting we in some degree expiate the sins of our First Parents; of the society surrounding us; of ourselves.
Yes; there are problems here about how we relate to the post-Christian world we live in. The hopes many Orthodox felt, that their Great and Holy Council would sort out for them the interface between Modernity and Tradition, were dashed.
But I wonder if the violent and extensive 'Bugnini' mishandling of the Liturgical Tradition which followed after Vatican II was really the best methodology for dealing with these problems. Professor Ratzinger came to doubt that it was.
Sacrosanctum Concilium tiptoed very nervously round Fasting (paras 109, 110, and especially 111). Despite the claim of Vatican II to be a 'Pastoral Council', its boldest intervention is its laughably timorous requirement that the Paschal Fast ("Good Friday and, iuxta opportunitatem, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday") should be observed (sacrum esto ... ubique celebrandum ...).
I am sure that PF and his roche are even now preparing strict regulations reinforced by blood-curdling responsa ad dubia regarding observance of this quite modest conciliar mandate! Roll them out, grammatical howlers in your Latin included!
It's less than six weeks until the Triduum!