Sunday, November 16, 2008

The new Ambrosian Lectionary and the Extraordinary Form of the Ambrosian Rite

As some readers may be aware, today is the first day of the Ambrosian Liturgical Year, and the first Sunday of Advent of the Ambrosian Rite.

Maybe fewer of our readers know that today also comes into force the new Ambrosian Rite Lectionary, written by order of Dionigi Card. Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan.

This event has been recently greatly advertised in the Diocese as a key moment of the renovation of the Ambrosian Rite after the Second Vatican Council, and a restoration of an "Ambrosian way" to read the Holy Writ.

Unfortunately, while it is true that, after thirty years of continous liturgical renovation, whose poor fruits are often under everybody's eyes, this Lectionary stands perfectly and consistently in the line of Abp. Bugnini's school, it is very far from the truth that the new Lectionary is inspired by a true spirit of Ambrosian restoration.

We became aware today, with great sadness and concern, that the Archbishop of Milan has ordered to impose the new Lectionary also in all churches where the Extraordinary Form of the Ambrosian Rite is celebrated. Msgr. Magnoli, Secretary of the Diocesan Congregation for the Ambrosian Rite, has explained today to the faithful gathered in the church of San Rocco al Gentilino in Milan that they ought to accept this imposition, in conformity to Article 6. of Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum".

Now, while it is comforting to hear, as we maintained on the NLM, and contrary to what some believed, that the Archbishop of Milan is and considers himself in fact bound by the Papal authority as expressed in the Motu Proprio, we cannot but wonder why the same Archbishop doesn't recognize validity to many other articles of the same "Summorum Pontificum". For instance, as to the possibility for every Ambrosian Rite priest to choose freely to celebrate Mass either according to the new Missal or to the traditional Missal, which is now explicitly denied and forbidden!

Furthermore, it is very clear from the text of the Apostolic Letter that the use of vernacular readings is allowed, and not imposed. It is on the contrary far from clear and very open to interpretation, that a new Lectionary, whose features are largely incompatible with the structure of the traditional Ambrosian Calendar, can be used.

In order to understand the critical importance of this imposition, some precisions are in order.

First of all, the traditional Ambrosian "Ordo Lectionum" is most probably one of the most ancient and original features of the Rite itself. We have evidences that some readings were read since before St. Ambrose's times, and learned studies published by scholars like Prof. C.Alzati and P. Carmassi have shown that the Ambrosians considered their "pollens Ordo Lectionum" "a vigorous order of the readings" - as cited in the VIIth century Versum de Mediolano Civitate" - as a central point of their peculiar way to worship God.

The mystagogical character of this order of readings, its powerful catechetical mark and its noble history with strict connections with the liturgy of Jerusalem are only some of the unique peculiarities of the Ambrosian way to read the Holy Writ during the Mass.

Secondly, it is true that, shamefully, for thirty years the Ambrosians renounced their noble traditions and chose to adopt almost in toto the Roman Lectionary. However, it is a paradox that, with a pretext to restore the Ambrosian tradition, they have now fabricated a brand new Lectionary (with all the same year A and B's of the Roman one) to replace the ancient and original "Ordo Lectionum".

Thirdly, while some characteristics of the old calendar have been restored, on the other hand some very temerarious novelties have been introduced, such as a Vigil Mass for Saturday evening, with a proclamation of the Resurrection throughout the year, and a proper form different from the Sunday Mass, but equally able to fulfill the Sunday obligation. In other words, the Archbishop of Milan has de facto established Saturday as a second holy day in the week!

Today, in the church of S.Rocco, by intervention of some pious hands, the new Lectionary suddenly "disappeared", and the traditional readings were read.

Now we hope that this very imprudent imposition be withdrawn by the diocesan authorities in order to restore peace and harmony amongst the Ambrosian faithful.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: