Tuesday, August 21, 2007

History of the Dominican Liturgy, 1946-1969 [The Pre-Conciliar Reforms - Part 2]

[Continuing Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P.'s history of the recent Dominican liturgy.]

The medieval office of the Dominican Rite was very distinctive, with its own psalm arrangement and a simple elegant calendar that emphasized the ferial office and the weekly recitation of the whole psalter. The psalms of the "Little Hours" of Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline were invariable, which facilitated recitation from memory when travelling. The office was admittedly long, although actually shorter than many other medieval uses. The multiplication of saints' days had, by the early modern period, effectively erased the ferial. By 1900, outside of Lent, a Dominican could expect to celebrate the ferial office about three times a year. This did have the effect of shortening the office somewhat because, even with three nocturns, a saint's Matins was shorter than that of the ferial. Under the influence of Pius X's reform of the Roman Breviary, the Order had aleady scrapped its medieval office and introduced the new Roman psalter with different psalms for each little hour every day of the week. But very little was done at that time to reduce the number of saints' days. The Breviary of the Order in during this period was that published in 1947, which added new feasts and made minor stylistic changes.

This Office and its Calendar was badly in need of reform to restore its original balance, nevertheless, saints and other observances continued to be added: St. Margaret of Hungary (1947), St, Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1950), Bl. Joseph, Melchior, and Companions (1953), Patronage of the Virgin (1955). At the same time, petitions were received by the curia to lighten the choral obligation, in particular the community requirement to recite the daily Office of the Dead. This did not happen, and Fr. Abel Redigonda of the Lombard Province was asked to write an essay for the Analecta defending the practice as exemplifying the care of the dead typical of Dominican spirituality. When a new Breviary was published in 1949, it left the issue of the calendar and the burden unaddressed, doing no more than adapting the Roman practices of reciting Sunday Matins responsories during the week (in place of the medieval Dominican ferial set) and repeating the antiphon of the Benedictus and Magnificat before, as well as after, the canticle.

Perhaps the liturgists of the Order were too consumed with the reforms of Holy Week; the problem of the Breviary would not begin to be addressed until 1957. This began with an important permission, granted to the Order by the Congregation of Rites, so that Mass might always be celebrated after Terce, "even in Lent." It had been the ancient practice to celebrate Mass after None in penitential times, after Terce in festive and Paschal times, and after Sext otherwise. This originally had the effect of extending the Eucharistic fast till afternoon in Lent and till late morning during the year, while cutting it short at mid-morning on festivals. In fact, by the modern period, Mass was always celebrated in the morning. The effect was to require completion of all diurnal hours before the morning Mass during Lent. This odd practice was now finally dropped. Permission was also given to always celebrate Vespers after the noon meal, rather than before it, as was also the old Lenten discipline, reflecting the long daily fast.

Master General Browne soon moved to shorten the Office, in accord with changes also happening in the Roman Rite. On 2 February 1957, he announced the dropping of the Athanasian Creed from Prime on Sunday (except for Trinity), the omission of orationes imperatae (collects required for special intentions) when there were already three collects at Mass or Office, and the practice of moving an impeded Sunday Office and Mass to a free day later in the week. Admittedly, this did not substantially lighten the burden, but it was a start.

A more agressive shortening of the Office would come into effect on 1 January 1960, with approbation of the Congregation of Rites of changes requested earlier. These ended the silent recitation of the Our Father and Creed, which preceded and followed most of the hours, and dropped the devotional antiphons in honor of the Virgin (Salve Regina) and St. Dominic (Pie Pater) previously attached to every office. The recitation of the Salve Regina and the O Lumen (in honor of St. Dominic) were retained,however, at the end of Compline. The decree also removed the "Preces" from Prime and the memorial collects of the Cross and the Blessed Virgin from Lauds and Vespers. Certain other simplifications were also made, such as the abolition of the variable doxologies of the hymn for confessor saints, the Iste Confessor.

The effect of this pruning was almost entirely to remove devotional elements that, over the centuries, had gotten attached to the Office, rather than shortening the Office itself. That task would be taken up in the preparation of the new edition of the Breviary. It would happen in the context of a revision that would also remove dubious legends from the Matins of saints, a project already requested by the General Chapter of Rome in 1955. Initial corrections were made in the sixth lesson for Matins of the Translation of St. Dominic. And in 1959 permission was granted to replace the third lesson (the legend) in Feasts of Three Readings (the lowest rank of feast) with the readings in the Commons. Such feasts usually commemorated ancient martyrs whose legends were often historically dubious or filled with extravagant miracles.

More important than any of these changes, however, was the calendar reform, which affected both the Mass and the Office. By decree of the Congregation of Rites, a new calendar went into effect for the Order on January 1, 1960. This reform was comprehensive and far reaching, on a scale never before seen in the history of the rite. It affected the rubrics, the ranks of feasts, the temporal cycle, and the number of feasts. One goal of the reform was to restore the primacy of Sundays and the ferial office. To this end, all Sundays of Advent and those from Quinquagesima to Lent became, like the Sundays of Easter and Lent, "major," and so could not be overridden by a saint's day (nn. 7-11). Privileged Vigils, which included some of great antiquity, were abolished except for those of Christmas and Pentecost. The remaining vigils, (Ascension, Assumption, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, and St. Lawrence) were all reduced to "common." All octaves, including the very ancient octave of Pentecost and the medieval octave of Ascension, were gone, leaving only those of Christmas and Easter (nn. 16-23). The suppression of Trinity Octave required a change in the name of the Sundays after Paschal time. Originally, as in the Sarum Rite, the Dominican called these Sundays "After Trinity" but they had been known as "After the Octave of Trinity" since the last major reform of the Dominican calendar in the 1600s. They were now to be known by the Roman title, "After Pentecost." Then, with one stroke, the "White Sundays" after Trinity, during the octaves of Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart, Sts. Peter and Paul, and St. John the Baptist ceased to exist and became ordinary AGreen Sundays.@

The weight of the sanctoral was greatly lessened. All simplex and semi-duplex feasts of saints became feasts of three readings. The votive Office of Our Lady on Saturday lost its first vespers. This change itself reflected a radical change in the understanding of the liturgical day. From ancient times, the day was understood to begin and end at dusk. So feasts with only one vespers (like the Virgin on Saturday) only had vespers on the evening before, while major feasts had a second vespers on the day of the feast. Now the liturgical day began with Matins (as it always had for Feasts of Three Readings--which had no vespers), and every day had Vespers and Compline of the day itself as its close. Major feasts, which now included all Sundays, kept their two Vespers. This change meant that some borrowing was necessary for the Magnificat antiphons of the new First Vespers of Sundays after Pentecost, and so provision was made for that.

The system of collects for Mass and Office was simplified, and the anomaly of differing sets of collects for Mass and for Office was gone. And the total number of collects used would now be limited to three. This especially affected the period after Christmas, when the overlapping octaves of the feasts of the last week of December could result in as many as six collects. After such drastic changes, one further one was added. The old system of ranking feasts (made much more complicated during the reforms of Pius X), with its Totum Duplex (first and second class), Duplex, Semiduplex, and Simplex feasts, was swept away. From now on, there were to be only three classes of feast: called simply First Class, Second Class, and Third Class.

Certain provisions that simplified rubrics went into force immediately. These included the end of the practice of multiple collects at Requiem Masses, a vast reduction in the use of the Creed (previously said on most feasts of saints), and the end of varying Last Gospels. Now the Prologue of John was to be universal (except for the third Mass of Christmas). Finally, provision was made for celebration of Mass from the Commons on days of saints celebrated in the Office merely as a "memoria" with an extra collect. This introduced variety into the pruned-down Mass repertoire by reducing the number of days when the weekday Mass merely repeated the chants and readings of the previous Sunday. Finally, by a separate decree, the number of times when the Leonine Prayers could be dropped was increased. These changes were provisional: a new calendar and set of rubrics were to be produced the next year. This would reduce the number of saint's days and reduce others in rank and make many other changes.

[Part 3 of this section will be forthcoming in the next few days.]

Previous Installments in Chronological Order:


The Pre-Conciliar Reforms, Part 1

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