Monday, November 09, 2009

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961: Part 7.3 - The Breviary Reforms of St. Pius X (Continued)

We continue with the final installment of 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 7.3 - The Breviary Reforms of St. Pius X (Continued)

An Assessment of the Reform of St. Pius X

The reform of St. Pius X may well be described as an imperfect solution to an otherwise irresolvable problem. By 1911, the office of St. Pius V was generally considered to be too long; that of Leo XIII was extremely repetitive, and largely obscured the whole of the temporal cycle with Saints days. The innovations introduced by Divino afflatu are copied from the neo-Gallican breviaries as the only readily available historical model for the resolution of the problem.

This being said, I believe that most people would agree that it was per se a good thing to restore the recitation of the complete weekly Psalter. On the other hand, it’s use is perhaps over-extended in the 1911 reform; a system might have been created that did not leave St. Mary Magdalene or St. Francis of Assisi with the same psalms as a common feria, or reduce them to a mere commemoration when they fall on Sunday. To do so would have required a general re-organization of the rankings of feasts, but the reformers did not want to make any changes that would seem to diminish the cult of the Saints. As a result, Saints of the highest importance to the life of the Church such as Thomas Aquinas are left on a par liturgically with figures like Venantius of Camerino, of whom absolutely nothing at all is known for certain. A bolder reform might have taken the opportunity to clear away a number of the more historically dubious legends, or at least made them optional, as has been done in the modern Rite.

It is now broadly agreed that the re-arrangement of Lauds is not altogether successful. Anton Baumstark once remarked, a propos of the breaking up of the Laudate psalms (148-149-150), that the reformers had removed from the Breviary the one custom which we can say with certainty was observed by Our Lord Himself when He prayed in the synagogue. The restriction of the “second schema” of Lauds to penitential ferias only means that the very ancient series of Old Testament canticles is used only very rarely; it would certainly have been a better idea to use the second scheme in all ferial offices, regardless of the season.

Many changes were made to the corpus of antiphons, and new antiphons were introduced even where older ones might just as well have been retained, or borrowed from the Monastic Breviary. The psalms of Sunday remained almost unchanged from Lauds to Compline, and yet, of the 13 antiphons for these hours in the Breviary of St. Pius V, eight were removed, and new antiphons put in their place. Slight verbal changes were made to two others, and only three remain untouched. On the other hand, since the Breviary had to be completely reprinted anyway, the opportunity might have been taken restore the hymns of the original Pian Breviary, and permit the optional use of the Urban VIII hymns, if anyone could be found who really wanted to keep them. Instead, the original hymns are preserved only as an appendix in the newly re-arranged Antiphonale, for those who retained the use of the older text by indult or immemorial custom.

The Bull Divino afflatu, which officially promulgated this reform, states at one point “Everyone sees that with this decree, We are taking the first step towards an emendation of the Roman Breviary and Missal.” Although Pope St. Pius goes on to state that a commission will be appointed to study further the questions of liturgical reform, no further steps were taken in his pontificate, and his new Breviary remained substantially unchanged until late in the reign of Pope Pius XII. The reforms instituted in 1955 will be discussed in the next article in this series.

An appendix to this article will be added separately, giving the details of certain other, less significant changes made in 1911.

[In part 8, we will consider the reforms of 1955.]

-- 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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