Thursday, August 16, 2007

History of the Dominican Liturgy, 1946-1969 [The Pre-Conciliar Reforms - Part 1]

[Continuing on with Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P.'s series on the Dominican liturgy...]

Part One: Pre-Conciliar Reforms, 1946-1962 [Part One]

Although it directly legislated little on Dominican liturgical life, the General Chapter of the Order that met at Washington D.C. in 1949 may be taken as having initiated the trajectory of liturgical development for the whole period considered, that is the lessening of emphasis on monastic elements in Dominican worship and the assimilation of the Order's rites to those common in Catholic parishes using the Roman liturgy. This general chapter, coming soon after the Second World War and during a period economic difficulty in Europe, was essentially paid for by the American province of St. Joseph, where it was held. At the request of the host provincial, Fr. T. S. McDermott, O.P, the acta of the chapter, for the first time in history, contained an extensive section on parochial ministry. This reflected the dominance of that kind of work in the United States, as distinct from Europe and other lands, where Dominicans generally did not run parishes. This, symbolically at least, declared parochial work, where active ministry took clear precedence over the monastic and contemplative life, to be fully compatible with Dominican spirituality, and the inclusion was so seen at that time. [2]

The first of the many liturgical changes that took place the last twenty-five years of the rite, the reform of the Dominican Eastern Vigil, may be taken to have begun in February 1951, when Pope Pius XII approved the experimental move of the Vigil from the morning of Holy Saturday to that evening, a permission allowed to the Order in time for Easter 1952. [3] This event occasioned the reprinting of the Dominican chants of the Passion. [4] The Dominican liturgy of the thirteenth-century had celebrated the vigil in the afternoon of Holy Saturday, but by the early modern period, celebration had shifted to the morning, as was also the case for Roman practice. The Dominican vigil of 1950 was a markedly monastic affair in that it had no blessing of water and virtually no remnants the patristic baptismal rites. [5] As medieval Dominican priories did not have pastoral cures, they also lacked baptismal fonts. The Dominican vigil was short. Unlike the Roman Rite, with its twelve readings, the Dominican followed the practice more typical of northern Europe in having only four. These were preceded by the blessing of the new fire (done before the altar) and the chanting of the Exultet. During that chant, a deacon inserted the grains of incense in the candle and lighted it at the words quam in honorem Dei rutilans ignis accendit. The four readings (Gen. 1-2; Ex. 14-15. Is. 4, and Is. 54-55) were then sung with their collects and, for the last three, their responsories.

It is interesting that when the twelve readings of the Roman liturgy were reduced to four, those chosen were the ones already in use in the Dominican Rite. The Litany of the saints came next, immediately followed by the Kyrie and Gloria, which introduced the Vigil Mass proper. The medieval Dominican rite included neither the Credo nor the remaking of baptismal vows. At communion time, a short Vespers service consisting of Psalm 116 [117] "Laudate" and the Magnificat, with their antiphons and the Postcommunion Collect ended the rite.

The evening Vigil (to be celebrated after 8:00 p.m.), which was approved for optional use in the order ad experimentum for a three year period, used the old Dominican texts wholesale, without even changing the Vespers service. The missing baptismal parts of the rite were to be taken from the Roman Ritual. [6] Still assuming the absence of a font, the permission provided that the Easter Water was to be blessed in a holy water bucket, which might be suitably decorated. The paschal candle was now to be decorated, not plain white. The people and friars present were also held lighted candles during the Exultet. Perhaps more important than these changes, which effectively turned the old monastic vigil into a parish affair, was provision that the ancient Pentecost Vigil might now be omitted. With this change, the last remains of the patristic practice of baptisms on Pentecost disappeared. It seems that, in some places, the old morning vigil continued to be performed in addition to the night vigil--the rescript provided that those attending both might receive communion twice on the same day.

Pius XII definitively promulgated the new rites of Holy Week in fall of 1955, in time for Easter of the following year. [7] For the Dominicans, however, the experimental period continued another year, during which the order's revised Holy Week Rites were prepared for publication. The Master General, Fr. Michael Browne, later a cardinal, directed that decrees concerning the changes from the Congregation of Rites be printed in the Analecta, the Order’s official publication, leaving local authorities to decide on how to implement the reforms in parallel to those in the Roman Holy Week rites. These reforms included, most importantly, the prohibition of anticipating Matins and Lauds ("Tenebrae") on the evening before during the last three days of Holy Week, and the removal of the priests obligation to recite quietly the readings chanted by the deacon, subdeacon, and lectors during the Vigil. [8] Even with this small simplification, the new Vigil was much more complex, and there were still no new books for it; some seem to have complained, and they were reminded that in churches without large clerical staffs they could "do as much as they could" and just omit the rest.

Finally, in time for Lent 1957, the drafts for the new Dominican Holy Week rites were approved by the Congregation of Rites. These incorporated, where they could, the older forms of the Order, added missing parts from the Roman Rite, and provided music from the Order's tradition where this was needed. [9] This draft included another important change, the moving of the Mass of Holy Thursday to the evening. As the provision of music was probably the most pressing need, a 35-page pamphlet was ready for printing in 1956. [10] It would take, however until 1960 for the order to produce a single altar book containing the reformed Holy Week Rites. [11] This book changed the communion-time Vespers service to one of Lauds by merely replacing the Magnificat with the Benedictus. Other than some fine-tuning, the reform of Holy Week was complete. [12] This rite would be later incorporated, virtually verbatim, into the Missal of 1965. [13] The only textual revision made for the 1960 publication was the removal of the word perfidis ("unbelieving") from the Good Friday prayer for the Jews and the introduction of kneeling for it (previously it was uniquely said standing). These changes complied with a 1959 directive of Pope John XXIII imposing them on the Roman Rite.

The reform, as a whole, certainly produced a liturgy that was more suitable to parochial worship, where vigil baptisms would eventually come to play an important role in the life of the faithful, but in it something of the order's monastic heritage was lost. The moving of the offices of Holy Week to their liturgically correct times was, on the whole, a less mixed blessing. In that case, not only did this make more sense for the sanctification of time, it restored the original rhythm of liturgy, long obscured by the late medieval practice of anticipation.

As the order moved to adopt the new Holy Week rituals, it also attempted to improve the execution of its worship musically, and to make adaptions for missionary areas. In practice, outside of the novitiates, houses of study, and some very large communities, the Divine Office was recited in a straight tone ("recto tono") and said "Low Mass," without chant, predominated over Sung Mass ("Missa cantata"). The full Solemn High Mass, with its deacon, subdeacon, and intricate choreography was rarely celebrated. Pastoral pressures could produce rushed performance, especially at the Office. In 1953, an essay drawing on the medieval Master of the Order Humbert of Romans' De Vita Regulari, addresses the problem of sloppy and rushed recto-tone Office. [14] Friars in choir were instructed to stay together, not to elide italicized syllables, to keep the pitch up (but not "nimis"), and to use organ to sustain it, if necessary. [15] Finally, the essay belabored the failure to observe the "morula" (a slight pause at the asterisk in the psalm verse traditionally lasting the time it takes to say the two words "Pater Noster"). Apparently the pressure to finish Office and get on with study or work had lead to rushing through the psalms without hardly a chance to take a breath.

This correction of bad singing seems part of a growing concern to improve music. The General Chapter of Rome had in 1955 ordered revision of the chant books, required preparation of musical materials for novice- and student-masters, and required houses of formation to hold choir practices at least every other week. [16] New editions of the Dominican music books were also to be prepared, the first of which, that for Compline, would came out in 1957. [17] This publication was contemporary with Pope Pius XII's sweeping decree on music, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, as well as his encyclical on liturgy, Mediator Dei, both of which were included in the 1958 issue of the Order’s Analecta. [18]

By the mid-1950s, for some friars, especially those working alone in parishes, the idiosyncracies of the Dominican Rite, the people's lack of familiarity with its forms of music and rubrics, and the difficulty of procuring books for it, had already brought requests for permission to use the Roman Rite and its resources in parochial and missionary work. In reply, Master General Michael Browne wrote to the provinces, reaffirming the right of Dominicans to use their own rite and calendar, even in churches where they served as temporary administrators or in chaples and oratories directly under the local ordinary. Brown closed his letter with a monitum: "Imprimis, usus ritus proprii non est mere privilegium sed revera obligatio iuris communis." One senses that for some friars using the ancient rite was a nuisance and a chore, not a "privilege." Perhaps bowing to the inevitable, the Master General, in the same communication, did allow a dispensation to use the Roman Calendar in such situations. [19] Clearly there was pressure to conform liturgically with the general practice of the Church. Bowing to that need, one year later, on 8 February 1959, Browne requested permission from the Congregation of Rites for up to four friars in groups of Domninicans administering seminaries in mission lands to celebrate Mass for the seminarians in the Roman Rite. He admitted that switching back and forth between that liturgy and the Dominican Rite could be confusing, so he consented to those friars using the Roman Rite exclusively. He did hope, however, that these men might be convinced to go back to celebrating the liturgy proper to the Order on return to their provinces. But he did not seem very optimistic that this would happen. [20]

As the decade progressed, desires for accommodations to modern sensibilities and to Roman standards continued to surface. Petitions were received to use candles with less than 51% beeswax (denied); for the sisters to use cheaper artificial fabrics for their habits in place of wool (approved); for the use of the title "after Epiphany" rather than "After the Octave of Epiphany" for Sundays before Quinquagesima (approved), and to make the litany of the Blessed Virgin traditionally recited after Compline on Saturday optional (approved). [21] It seems that by 1958, in many places, the anticipation of liturgical change and reform had become so prevalent that communities and friars began to make them on their own, without authorization--an abuse reprobated by the General Chapter of Caleruega in that year. Bowing to the signs of the times, this chapter also established a liturgical commission to undertake reform of the calendar and the simplification of the rubrics for Mass and Office. [22]

Within a month of the chapter’s final session, Pope Pius XII was dead, and John XXIII was elected in his place on 28 October 1958. [23] Liturgical reforms would soon multiply and effect every part of Dominican worship.

[To be continued in the next installment in the series...]


2. So recounted by Fr. Antoninus Wall, O.P. (ordained 1950), of the Western Dominican Province U.S.A., oral communication of 13 Aug. 2007. The section on parish work may be found in Acta Capituli Generalis Diffinitorum Sacri Ordinis FF. Praedicatorum Washingtonii: In Conventu Immaculatae Conceptionis a Die 18 ad Diem 25 Septembris 1949 (Rome: Curia Generalitia, 1949), nn. 121-31, pp. 73-75.

3. Sacra Congregatio Rituum [hereafter SCR], "Decretum de Solemni Vigilia Paschali Instauranda" (9 Feb. 1951), ASOFP, 30 (1951-1952): 135-36. This experimental permission was renewed by the SRC on 11 Jan. 1952, also giving the order permission to adopt it: ibid., pp. 225-26

4. ASOFP, 30 (1951-1952): 438 (due out in 1953).

5. See the service in the Dominican Missal then in use: Missale S. Ordinis Praedicatorum (Rome: Hospitio Magistri Ordinis, 1933), pp. 179-90.

6. SCR, "De Factutativa Celebratione Instaurata Vigiliae Paschalis ad Triennuium" (5 Mar. 1952), ASOFP, 30 (1951-1952): 227-29.

7. SCR, "Decretum Generale Quo Liturgicus Hebdomadae Sanctae Ordo Instauratur" (16 Nov. 1955), ASOFP, 32 (1955-1956): 227. The Dominican experimental period was extended by an SCR decree of 15 Jan. 1955: ASOFP, 32 (1955-1956): 35.

8. SCR, "Decretum Generale Quo Liturgicus Hebdomadae Sanctae Ordo Instauratur" ("Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae"--16 Nov. 1955, to take effect on 25 Mar. 1956 (Palm Sunday), ASOFP, 32 (1955-1956): 227-36.

9. Letter of MG Michael Brown (1 Feb. 1957), ASOFP, 33 (1957-58): 32. SCR Decretum (9 Apr. 1957) finally approving Dominican drafts: ASOFP, 33 (1957-58): 143-50.

10. Cantus Gregoriani ad Ordinem Hebdomadae Sanctae iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum Instauratum (Rome: S. Sabina, 1959).

11. Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum Instaratus (Rome: S. Sabina, 1960). Promulgated by SRC on 4 Jun. 1959 (Prot. N. O. 152/959).

12. E.g., Use of tabernacles not bolted down for Holy Thursday reposition reprobated: ASOFP, 33 (1957-58); SCR permission spreading out the rites of baptism over Lent: ASOFP, 35 (1961-1962): 654-55.

13. Missale iuxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum (Rome: S. Sabina, 1965), pp. 140-65.

14. "De Ratione Psallendi Recto Tono," ASOFP, 31 (1953-1954): 49-58; cf. Humbert of Romans, Opera de Vita Regulari, ed. Joachim Joseph Berthier (Rome: A. Befani, 1888), 2: 100ff.

15. A SCR decree (13 Jul. 1949), ASOFP, 29 (1949-1950): 139, had already allowed use of electronic organs.

16. Acta Capituli Generalis Electivi S. Ordinis FF. Praedictorum, Romae (11-17 Apr. 1955) (Rome: Curia Generalitia, 1955), n. 84-87. The chapter was also concerned about adding saints to the Litany without permission; they forbad this: ibid., nn. 78-79.

17. Completorii Libellus iuxta Ritum S. Ordinis Praedicatorum (Rome: S. Sabina, 1957)

18. ASOFP, 33 (1957-58): 480-92; and, continued, ibid., 34 (1959): 14-25

19. SCR decree (N. 6113-57), ASOFP, 33 (1957-58): 83-84.

20. SCR. decree (prot. num. 6307-59--4 Feb. 1959), ASOFP, 34 (1959-1960): 29-30.

21. ASOFP, 33 (1957-58): 292 (candles); ASOFP, 34 (1959-1960): 175 (habits): Acta Capituli Generalis Diffinitorum S. Ordinis FF. Praedicatorum, Calarogae (24-30 Sept. 1958) (Rome: Curia Generalitia, 1958) n. 116 (name of Sundays) and n. 143 (litany).

22. Acta Capituli Generalis Diffinitorum S. Ordinis FF. Praedicatorum, Calarogae (24-30 Sept. 1958) (Rome: Curia Generalitia, 1958), n. 141 (no unauthorized changes) and n. 145 (liturgical commission).

23. Events announced in ASOFP, 33 (1957-58): 441-51.

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