Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961: Part 7.2 - The Breviary Reforms of St. Pius X (Continued)

We continue with our consideration of the breviary reforms pursued in the early 20th century by Pope Pius X.

For terms and their definitions, please see the associated Glossary which accompanies this compendium.

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961

by Gregory DiPippo
for publication on the New Liturgical Movement

Part 7.2 - The Breviary Reforms of St. Pius X (Continued)

The Psalter of St. Pius X

If the Church wished to restore the regular use of the entire Psalter to its public prayer, there were only two ways to do this. One was to keep the Psalter of the Pian Breviary unchanged, and radically reduce the number of Saints. This solution was in fact proposed by some liturgical writers at the time, but it would simply have restored an Office which fell into disuse in no small part because of its great length, as St. Pius X himself admits in the decree which promulgated the new Psalter. The second solution was to do as the neo-Gallican breviaries had done, namely, to restructure the weekly Psalter in such a way that it could be integrated into the Offices of the Saints, which were otherwise left untouched. The reform of Saint Pius X opted for this latter solution, “so that nothing may be lost from the cult of the Saints”. (Divino afflatu, parag. 5)

The decree of 1911 creates a mostly new arrangement of the Psalter for Sundays and ferial days, with the stated purpose of restoring as far as possible the weekly recitation of the whole Psalter. The use of the ferial psalms is extended to the great majority of the Saints’ days; the division of feasts into six grades is retained, and in all but the two highest, the psalms of the feria are said at every hour. An exception is made for the feasts and octaves of Our Lord, and the feasts (not the octaves) of Our Lady, the Angels and the Apostles, St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph; all these retain the traditional festal psalms, with a slight adjustment at Lauds. Another exception is made for all feasts which have their own proper antiphons; these are kept along with their traditional psalms at the major hours, but the ferial psalms and their antiphons are said at the minor hours.

The new Psalter admits of no repetition at all among the psalms; each is said only once in the course of the week. Matins of Sunday is reduced from eighteen psalms to nine, and that of each feria from twelve to nine, conforming them to the pattern of Matins on feast days. The number of psalms at the other hours remains unchanged, and a canticle from the Old Testament is still said at Lauds after the third psalm. The extremely ancient custom of reciting psalms 148, 149 and 150 together as the last psalm of Lauds is done away with; however, it must be noted that the psalms chosen to replace them all begin with the word “Laudate” or “Lauda”.

There are 231 places for the psalms over the seven days of the week: nine each day at Matins, four at Lauds, five at Vespers, three each at the remaining Hours. There are, of course, only 150 psalms. In order to fill each of the 231 places, without repetitions, many of the longer psalms are divided into two or more sections. Unlike the Parisian Breviary of 1736, the new Roman Psalter keeps to the numerical order of the Bible, broadly speaking, as did the older Office; no attempt was made to imitate the Parisian arrangement, constructed around a “theme of the day.”

The psalmody of Lauds is now arranged in a two-fold scheme, one to be used on feast days and ordinary ferias, the other to be used only on penitential ferias. This latter, penitential scheme retains the Miserere as the first psalm each day, and the traditional Old Testament canticles in the customary order. However, since it is used only on penitential ferias, (those of Advent and Lent, and the vigils of Saints), they are still said only quite rarely. The first scheme of each feria is arranged in imitation of Sunday Lauds; the first psalm of each day is clearly selected for its joyful theme, more appropriate to the feasts of Saints feasts, and a new selection of Old Testament festal canticles is also provided, largely borrowed from the 1736 Paris Breviary.

The complete re-ordering of the Psalter also necessitated an extensive re-writing of the corpus of antiphons which accompany them; in general, the new antiphons are longer than the traditional ones of the Pian and medieval Breviaries. Psalm 65, moved from Wednesday to Thursday, has an antiphon in the Pian Breviary, “Benedicite, gentes, Deum nostrum.”; it is is now divided into two sections, one with the antiphon “Videte opera Domini, et auditam facite vocem laudis ejus.”, the other with the antiphon “Audite, omnes, qui timetis Deum, quanta fecit animae meae.” Many of the new antiphons are borrowed directly from the neo-Gallican breviaries. The traditional rules about doubling and semidoubling antiphons are left intact.

A very notable difference from the practice of the Parisian Breviary is that the same antiphons are used in both the ferial office and the offices of the Saints; in the Parisian Breviary, the ferial psalms were mixed with the antiphons of the feast. Much of the new corpus of antiphons is clearly designed to create a repertoire which is better suited to the Saints’ offices. The traditional antiphon of Psalm 97 is a grammatical fragment, “Quia mirabilia fecit Dominus – Because the Lord hath done wonders.” It is replaced by a new antiphon, “Jubilate in conspectu regis Domini – Shout with joy in the sight of the King, the Lord.”

The preceding six paragraphs were written by taking six paragraphs from the article on the neo-Gallican breviaries, and modifying them where necessary. The careful reader will note that several sentences from the earlier article have been left completely unchanged, so closely does the reform of 1911 resemble the Parisian reform of 1736.

Other changes in the reform of St. Pius X

The reformed Breviary of Saint Pius V had given much greater prominence to the weekly Psalter than its predecessor, a change which was then undone by the subsequent increase in the number of Saints’ feasts. The reform of 1911 therefore included a number of other changes to ensure that it would remain more or less intact.

The Mass and Office of Sunday are given much greater prominence in the new reform; since the Sunday office has now been considerably shortened, the principal reason for not doing it has been done away with. Only the top two grades of feast (out of six) are allowed to impede a common Sunday – in 1913, the first year the new Psalter was universally obligatory, only eight common Sundays were impeded by feasts on the general Calendar. The custom of assigning feasts to a particular Sunday was abolished, with only one exception, the feast of the Holy Name, newly assigned to the Sunday between the Circumcision and the Epiphany. (Two further exceptions were made later, for the Holy Family by Pope Benedict XV, and the feast of Christ the King, instituted by Pius XI.) All of the others were assigned to a particular day on the calendar, although the practice of the external solemnity, i.e., the repetition of a major feast on Sunday, remains to this day.

The translation of feasts is also strictly limited to the top two grades; all others are simply commemorated if they are impeded by a more important office, or, on fairly rare occasions, omitted altogether. This being the case, it now often happens that a local feast falls on the same day as a feast of the general Calendar. Previously, one of the two feasts was celebrated on its own day, and other permanently translated to another day; under the new system, such permanent translations are also abolished.

Shortly after the reform of 1911 was promulgated, every feast which could no longer be translated was provided with a “lectio simplificata” a shortened version of the Saint’s life, in only one lesson. This was to be read, according to the new rubrics, as the ninth lesson at Matins of the impeding feast. To give a concrete example, the Discalced Carmelites formerly celebrated the feast of All Carmelite Saints on November 14th, and permanently translated Saint Josaphat to the 26th. In the new system, Josaphat is commemorated on the 14th, and a shortened version of his life read as the ninth lesson at Matins of All Carmelite Saints. This practice already existed in a very limited way in the Breviary of Saint Pius V; the extension of its use in 1911 will lead to a tremendous change to the Breviary fifty years later.

Only the most minute changes were made to the general Calendar of Saints in 1911, but the number of feasts on local calendars was in places reduced by various expedients. A number of secondary feasts were either abolished or relegated to local calendars; the feast of Our Lady’s Expectation on December 18, which originated as the Mozarabic Rite’s version of the Annunciation, disappears from many Breviaries. The diocese of Rome had formerly kept each Sainted or Blessed Pope (more than eighty of them!) with his own feast; many of these were collapsed into feasts of two or three Popes together, and a new Common of Several Confessors invented to accommodate them. The privileges related to the celebration of proper octaves were severely curtailed; ten were removed from the Carmelite calendar mentioned above, and twenty-two from the Dominican Use. All votive offices are definitively abolished without exception.

[In the third part of this section, we will conclude with an assessment of the specific reforms of Pius X.]

-- Copyright (c) Gregory DiPippo, 2009

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To read previous installments in this series, see: Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961

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