Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568 - 1961: Part 10.1 - The Reform of 1960

In the year 1956, the Archbishop of Bologna, Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro, addressed a liturgical congress held in the city of Assisi, on the subject of the reform of the Breviary promulgated the previous year. (Cardinal Lercaro would later head the committee that produced the post-Conciliar liturgical reform.) In describing the reform, His Eminence contends that the essential criterion behind it was the simplification of the rubrics, and that any abbreviation was merely incidental, rather than a result sought after deliberately. At the same time, he does not mind the resulting abbreviation:

(A)nother consequence of this process has been a shortening of the Office, something which was not immediately or per se intended, but which follows logically from the adoption of the principle of simplification. No one will wish to complain about this. The time spent in prayer has its value; but the time spent does not depend only on the multiloquium, the “much speaking” which the Gospel condemns as a preoccupation of the pagans. It also depends on the way that vocal prayer is said, and the good priest will find in the moderate shortening of the text the motive for a more devout recitation.

Quoting the Vatican’s official liturgical journal, the Cardinal goes on to describe the provisory reform as “a bridge between the past and a future which (we hope) is not far distant.” This future was in fact only four years distant, something which he clearly did not imagine. While the reform of 1955 may not have been deliberately aiming to shorten the text of the Office, it is difficult to see how the 1960 reform could have been aiming at anything else.

The majority of the changes made in 1956 are confirmed in the new reform, namely:

- The suppression of the transference of Sundays and vigils.
- The suppression of the majority of the vigils and octaves.
- The reduction of Simple feasts to commemorations.
- The suppression of the Paters, Ave Marias and Apostles’ Creed from the beginning and end of the Hours.
- The restriction of the Preces of Lauds and Vespers to Wednesdays, Fridays, and Ember Saturdays.
- The suppression of the Preces of all of the minor hours.
- The suppression of the Suffrages.
- The restriction of the Athanasian Creed to Trinity Sunday.
- The suppression of the transference of impeded hymns, antiphons and readings.
- The recitation of the ferial psalms at the minor hours of all feasts not of the First class.

Further changes are introduced as follows.

1. The corpus of rubrics is completely re-written, replacing all previous rubrics from the Breviary of St. Pius V, and subsequent revisions. These rubrics cover 31 pages of small type in a duodecimo edition printed by Pustet in 1961, albeit with a great deal of wasted space on the pages.

2. A new system for the classification of liturgical days is introduced. All categories of liturgical days are now called first, second, third or fourth class. Sundays and octaves are divided into two classes, feasts and vigils into three, ferias into four. Feasts are further divided into those of the universal calendar, and those of local calendars.

Little is really changed in the classification of the Sundays, ferias, the few remaining vigils, and the three remaining octaves. The Ember Days of Advent, Lent and September are given a greater degree of precedence. However, the change to the classification of feasts is very notable, and will be discussed in greater detail later on. Suffice it to say here that the feasts now called First class are those which were formerly called Doubles of the First class, and the feasts now called Second class are those which were formerly called Doubles of the Second class. Of the feasts formerly called Major Doubles, Doubles, and Semidoubles, four are raised to Second class, the rest are now grouped together as Third class.

3. In the Breviary of St. Pius V, and subsequent revisions, as in the breviaries of the Middle Ages, very few liturgical days excluded the commemoration of an impeded feast. In the new revision, the rules of precedence are re-arranged to exclude commemorations much more frequently than was traditionally the case. Commemorations of the Saints are entirely prohibited on liturgical days of the First Class, even those of the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. Likewise, they are severely restricted on days of the Second class.

a. Major Sundays are granted precedence over all feasts, except the Immaculate Conception; they now exclude all commemorations of the Saints.

b. Ordinary Sundays of the year are now ranked higher than all feasts except those of the First class; a Third class feast occurring on such a day is now omitted, rather than commemorated.

c. Exceptions are made for Second class feasts of the Lord, such as the Transfiguration; but when a feast of the Lord is celebrated on a Sunday, the Sunday itself is now also omitted entirely. In the previous system, an impeded Sunday was always commemorated.

d. The ferias of Lent are granted precedence over the majority of feasts, bringing about the effective disappearance of the feasts of Saints Thomas Aquinas, Gregory the Great, Patrick, Benedict and the Archangel Gabriel, among others.

e. The translation of impeded feasts is now restricted to those of the First class. As a result of this change, and the re-arranged precedence rules, it becomes possible for the first time in the history of the Roman Rite for feasts of the Apostles and those of equivalent rank to be reduced to mere commemorations, or omitted entirely. This year, for example, the feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr will be reduced to a commemoration on the Sunday within the Christmas octave; next year, St. Mark the Evangelist will fall on Easter Monday, and be omitted.

4. The following feasts are removed entirely from the Calendar:

The feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome on January 18th. The feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Antioch on February 22nd is renamed simply “The Feast of St. Peter’s Chair.”

The Finding of the Cross – May 3
The feast of St. John at the Latin Gate – May 6
The Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel – May 8
Pope St Leo III – July 3. The feast of St. Irenaeus is transferred to this date from June 28.
The feast of St. Peter’s Chains – August 1
The Finding of the Body of St. Stephen – August 3

5. The following feasts are reduced to a commemoration:

The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary on the Friday of Passion week. (This version of this feast was added to the Breviary of St. Pius V in 1727. The September feast of the same name, originally the patronal feast of the Servite Order, was added to the general Calendar in 1814, and remains in the reform of 1960.)

St. George, Martyr – April 23rd.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel – July 16
St. Alexius, Confessor – July 17
The Stigmata of St. Francis – September 17
Ss. Eustace and Companions, Martyrs – September 20
Our Lady of Ransom – September 24

6. All antiphons at all hours are now doubled. The custom of changing the doxologies of hymns on certain feasts and in certain seasons is suppressed. The ferial chapter of Prime is abolished, and the festal chapter always said. The short reading at the end of Prime is always to be said of the liturgical season, even on feast days, where previously the Chapter of None was said.

7. When a priest says the Office entirely by himself, he is no longer to say “Dominus vobiscum” and the response “Et cum spiritu tuo.” Instead, he says the verse which was hitherto used in place of “Dominus vobiscum” by nuns, and clerics not yet ordained to the diaconate, “Domine, exaudi orationem meam”, along with the response “Et clamor meus ad te veniat.” It may be noted that this change was not introduced into the rite of Mass by the reform of the Missal issued concurrent with this reform of the Breviary.

8. The canticle of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 Audite caeli, said on Saturdays in penitential seasons, is shortened by the removal of 38 verses, including the verse from which its antiphon is taken. A similar abbreviations is made to psalm 88 at Matins of Christmas, the Transfiguration and Christ the King.

9. In the reform of St. Pius X, the psalms of Lauds are divided into two “schemes”, one for feasts and common ferias, and one for penitential ferias, such as those of Advent and Lent. When the latter scheme is used, the first psalm of the first scheme has no place in Lauds, and so it is removed to Prime. In the 1960 reform it is simply omitted. By this change, the recitation of the entire Psalter within a week, however much it may have been theory rather than practice in the past, is now formally discarded in both Advent and Lent.

10. First Vespers, which had already been suppressed in the majority of feasts in 1956, are now suppressed from the feasts of the Second class (formerly Doubles of the Second class). At the same time, the anomaly of feasts with no Vespers at all introduced by the reform of 1955 is corrected, with the exception of the Saturday Office of the Virgin Mary.

11. The manner of arranging the Sundays from August to November is altered. Formerly, the first Sunday of each month, on which a new group of Scriptural readings and responsories began, was always the Sunday closest to the first day of the month, whether before or after it. For example, the “first Sunday of September” this year was actually counted as August 29th, the closest Sunday to the first of September. In the new revision, the first Sunday of each month is simply that which occurs first within the Calendar month.

The most notable effect of this is the displacement of the Ember Days of September from their traditional place after the Exaltation of the Cross in three years out of seven. The readings of the second week of November can no longer be used according to this system, and are removed from the Breviary.

The second part of this article will explain the changes made to the lessons of Matins by this reform. To read the most recent parts of this series, click here. For the complete set of links to the earlier parts of this series posted last fall, including a Glossary of terms related to the Divine Office, click here.

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