Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Consilium and ad experimentum Lectionaries, 1965-69

Recently, I had the opportunity to look at the early issues of Notitiae, the bulletin of the Consilium (and subsequently the CDW and CDWDS).[1] The earlier issues from 1965-1970 record some very interesting details and minutiae about the early stages of the post-conciliar liturgical reforms. Reports on the progress and reception of the reforms around the world, permissions given for the use of vernacular books in the liturgy, articles that give some of the rationale behind certain of the reforms - all of this and more is contained in the pages of Notitiae.

To make some of this information a bit more easily accessible, I have drawn up two new freely-available resources, which can be found on my blog Lectionary Study Aids - incidentally, along with all sorts of other interesting resources regarding the Lectionary and Missal!

The first resource is entitled Permissions given by the Consilium for the use of ad experimentum lectionaries, 1965-69, and details all the permissions recorded in Notitiae for the use of experimental weekday lectionaries and particular lectionaries.[2] It is made up of two tables, the first being organised by date, and the second organised by country/diocese/order. The second, related resource is Text and Tables of the Consilium's « Lectionaria particularia », which reproduces the Consilium's ten experimental sets of readings for occasions such as weddings, funerals, confirmations, etc., which Conferences of Bishops could ask for permission to use from 1967.[3] 

Some interesting things come to light when we look at the permissions in a little more detail. Reading Bugnini's memoirs of the liturgical reform, one might have assumed that the experiments with weekday and particular lectionaries were confined to a few countries/dioceses:
The announcement of the permission [i.e. that given to Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands] roused great interest, and a number of other conferences asked if they might join in the experiment (Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990], p. 408, my emphasis).
The only figures in this regard given by Bugnini are for France, Spain, and the diocese of Lugano in Italy: 22,000 copies were printed in France, and ad experimentum lectionaries were apparently used in 15,000 Spanish and 20,000 Italian parishes (cf. ibid., p. 409 n. 9). 57,000 parishes[4], plus an unknown number in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, might seem like a large enough sample to be able to draw meaningful conclusions as to the benefits and drawbacks of the experimental orders of readings. To be more representative, one might wish to have a few dioceses/countries in other continents also participate in the experiments, in order to get more of a feel for how the whole Church might receive a new order of readings.

It is perhaps surprising, then, to find out that between 1965 and 1969, 93 separate permissions were given to 74 different countries (along with 3 religious orders) to experiment with at least some part of the lectionary.

Pie chart of countries by continent given permission to use
ad experimentum lectionaries (click to enlarge)
As well as the rather wide nature of the experiments, they did not appear to be particularly consistent. Conferences could ask permission to use the German or French experimental weekday schemes,[5] but there was also the Consilium's own experimental scheme which was given to countries which did not request the German or French ones.[6] This means that three different weekday lectionaries were in use in various places around the world. As of yet, I have not been able to get hold of the Consilium's scheme, but I can say that the differences between the German and French experimental schemes for weekdays were quite substantial in parts. For example, the German scheme was split over two years (one year for OT readings, one for NT readings), whereas the French scheme was only one year, switching from OT to NT every few weeks; the French scheme also introduced the concept of the Responsorial Psalm, which is absent from the German scheme.

With regard to the particular lectionaries, Conferences could ask for permission to use all of it, or only a few parts of it, which only adds to the rather haphazard appearance of the experiments. Finally, it is interesting that permissions were being given right up until February 1969, only three months before Paul VI's promulgation of the Ordo lectionum missae.[7]

It seems, then, that the experimentation behind the unprecedented post-conciliar reform of the lectionary of the Roman Rite was rather messier and more chaotic than Bugnini lets on. One wonders whether, for instance, some of the excesses in the Ordinary Form's lectionary (e.g. the overwhelming number of choices for readings in the Commons) might have been tempered if the experiments and permissions had been a little more controlled.


[1] Unfortunately, the earlier issues seem particularly difficult to obtain these days. I might suggest that, for anyone who has access to them, it would be a wonderful service to scan and make available online these earlier, out of print issues of Notitiae! If you have these issues to hand and live in the United Kingdom, please e-mail me at mhazell@newliturgicalmovement.org if you would be willing to participate in making them available online.

[2] By "particular" is meant the ad experimentum schemes for occasions such as weddings, funerals, confirmations, ordinations, etc.

[3] Conferences were also free to design their own particular lectionaries and submit them to the Consilium. For example, the USA had its own particular set of readings for use at Nuptial Masses, authorised by the Consilum for experimental use on 30 Jan 1967.

[4] Assuming the 22,000 copies printed in France were used in parishes.

[5] Both these schemes are available for download from Lectionary Study Aids (German, French).

[6] Cf. Bugnini, Reform, p. 408. Notitiae details some exceptions to this: for instance, following Spain, a number of other Spanish-speaking countries were given permission to use the German scheme with some adjustments. Hungary also obtained permission to use the German scheme with a modified order of readings for Advent weekdays.

[7] Also, rather oddly, more permissions for use of ad experimentum lectionaries were given in 1968 (22 permissions) than in 1967 (19 permissions)!

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