Monday, February 12, 2007

Guest Piece by Dr. Alcuin Reid: A Review of "The Celebration of Mass" (1964) by Rev. J.B. O'Connell

by Dr. Alcuin Reid (for the NLM)

Whilst preparing the most recent edition of Adrian Fortescue’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described I added to the bibliography the 1964 edition of Canon J B O’Connell’s classic The Celebration of Mass noting that, in fact, this was the only book published in English at the time which conformed exactly to the 1962 editio typica of the Missale Romanum (which itself only appeared from the Vatican Press early in 1963 – printing and binding having been stopped and re-started in order to accommodate Blessed John XXIII’s insertion of Saint Joseph into the Canon of the Mass). The 1962 edition of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described was, therefore, published before the 1962 Missale Romanum and missed some rubrical modifications that appeared only in the editio typica.

But Canon O’Connell – undeterred, interestingly, by the approach of an ecumenical Council (on the Conciliar Liturgical Commission of which he was a peritus at the time) – proceeded with a thorough revision of his own comprehensive textbook on how to celebrate Mass. It received its imprimatur less than a month before the promulgation of Sacrosanctum concilium and appeared in print in the USA the following year whilst – Father Bugnini was busy organising the infamous work of his Consilium.

Needless to say, this fourth edition of O’Connell’s book was quickly found to be redundant (though Canon O’Connell prepared a four page supplement which was printed and sold with the book listing many of the early changes made immediately following the Council) and many traditionalists have missed its importance because of its date.

Yet, for priests and seminarians learning how to celebrate the traditional rite of Mass, it is the basic textbook, more so, dare I say than even Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described. Ceremonies is certainly the basic manual for all involved in the celebration of the traditional rites, from sacristans to celebrants, but The Celebration of Mass is the textbook every seminarian and priest ought to have studied carefully in order to understand not only the ceremonial of the celebration of Mass, but the nature of the liturgy and the requirements of liturgical law, the rules occurrence and concurrence, the intricacies of the calendar, etc.

The book does have much to offer laity involved in the celebration of the traditional liturgy, most especially its “Synopsis of the Ceremonies of Solemn Mass” (Appendix A) which lays out the respective duties of the celebrant, deacon, subdeacon and MC for each part of the Mass in parallel columns. The synopsis does contain one error (spotted by my longstanding friend Mr Michael Pearce of Sydney) in that its instruction that the subdeacon lower the paten, genuflect etc., should be placed during the Pater and not at the Per quem haec omnia.

It had long been my hope that O’Connell’s invaluable book would be reprinted and I am delighted to report that this has recently taken place in the USA. The worthy hardback reprint (alas, not a new edition) is being distributed by Preserving Christian Publications. Its availability will further enhance the intelligent and faithful celebration of the traditional Mass according to the typical edition of the 1962 Missale Romanum.

Preserving Christian Publications are also distributing reprints of Father Philip Weller’s beautiful three volume Latin-English edition of The Roman Ritual, originally published in the 1940’s. Volume I (the sacraments and processions) and volume III (the blessings) are currently available with volume II (the rites for the dead, exorcism and reserved blessings) soon to appear. A comprehensive review of these books would need to examine particular law relating to the use allowed of the vernacular texts they contain, any modifications that ought to be made to them in the light of the subsequent 1953 editio prima post typicam of the Rituale Romanum and the variation in certain rites (such as Matrimony) customary in different countries. Here, let it suffice to note that this splendid edition is now available once again to facilitate the worship of Almighty God according to the venerable tradition of the Roman rite.

In the USA available from:

In the UK distributed by:
Carmel Books
PO Box 40
Wellington TA21 9ZN
Tel/Fax 01823 664 751
(no email or credit card facilities)

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