Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 1.2: The Blessing of a Corner-stone (1961)

For a description of this ceremony in the Pontifical of Clement VIII, click here.

The rubrics of the ceremony presume that holy water is blessed beforehand, rather than as part of the ceremony; of course, the bishop may still be the one to bless it. The ceremony is formally divided by the rubrics into three parts, which are labeled ‘the lustration of the place’, ‘the blessing of the corner-stone’ and ‘the laying of the corner-stone.’ The ceremony itself is re-ordered so that the sprinkling of the foundations of the church, or the place where they will be dug, takes place within the first part, before the corner-stone itself is sprinkled with holy water and laid in its place, not after.

The first part begins with the bishop singing, as at the beginning of the Hours, “Oh God, come to my assistance”; those who are present respond “Lord, make haste to help me” and “Gloria Patri,” but Alleluia is not said. These are not part of the previous version of the rite.

As in the earlier version, a wooden cross is set up in the middle of the site where the altar is to be built. The bishop sprinkles it with holy water, and then proceeds directly to the sprinkling of the foundations, beginning behind the cross, proceeding thence to the left, and making a full circuit of the site. He does not intone anything before beginning, and he does not say anything as he sprinkles the water. The sprinkling of the foundations is no longer divided into three parts, but is done all at once.

While he does this, the choir sings the antiphon “Place the sign of salvation” from the previous rite. It is now sung with Psalm 47 Magnus Dominus, instead of Psalm 83, and repeated after every two verses, much like the responsorial psalm in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. “Gloria Patri” is not sung at the end.

The bishop then sings the first of the three prayers said at the sprinkling of the foundations in the previous version; the other two are suppressed. It is now preceded by “Dominus vobiscum”, rather than “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.”, and finishes with the short conclusion.
Almighty and merciful God, who hast given to Thy priests above others such great grace, that whatsoever is done worthily and perfectly by them in Thy name, is believed to be done by Thee; we ask Thy immense clemency, that Thou may visit what we have now visited, and bless all that we have blessed; and at the entrance of our humility, by the merits of Thy Saints, may the demons be put to flight, and the Angel of peace come in. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The text in bold represents the change of verb tense from future periphrastic (“visitaturi sumus…benedicturi sumus”) to perfect (“visitavimus…benediximus”). All the chants formerly proper to this part of the ceremony are suppressed.

A prayer is now said over the corner-stone. The bishop sings the versicle “Our help is in the name of the Lord”; those present respond “Who made the heaven and earth.” The other versicles formerly said with it (“Blessed be the name of the Lord… The stone which the builders rejected… Thou art Peter.”) are suppressed. The bishop then says the following prayer; the prayer formerly said right after it is omitted.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who art the true almighty God, brightness and image of the eternal Father, and life eternal, Who art the corner stone, cut from the mountain without hands, and unchangeable foundation; strengthen this stone, which shall be laid in Thy name: and be Thou, we beseech Thee, that art the beginning and the end, in which beginning God the Father did from the first day create all things, the beginning, and increase, and completion of this work, which is duly begun to the praise and glory of Thy name. (short conclusion – words in italics now omitted from the previous version . The word “cut” (in bold) is changed in Latin from “abscissus” to “excisus”; this does not alter the meaning, but “abscissus” is the word used in the Vulgate in Daniel 2, 34 and 45, from which the reference to the “stone cut from the mountain without hands” is taken.)
He then sprinkles the stone with holy water. A new rubric is added that a document recording the blessing of the stone and foundation of the church may now be read, to be signed by the bishop, clergy, and members of the laity, and laid in the foundations along with the corner-stone. This custom existed prior to the 1961 revision, but was not formally part of the rite, and is not mentioned in the earlier editions of the Pontifical. This same rubric concludes by saying that “a popular song may be sung” at this point.

The ceremony in which the bishop symbolically cuts crosses into the stone, and the prayer which followed it, are omitted. The rubric at the beginning of the ceremony on the material preparations necessary for it says only that the stone must be “quadratus et angularis – squared and angular”, and makes no mention of crosses; however, it should not be assumed that the crosses are formally prohibited. The Litany of the Saints and the prayer Actiones nostras, formerly said before the corner-stone was set in place, are also omitted.

The bishop touches, and lays the stone (with the assistance of others), saying:
In the faith of Jesus Christ we place this corner-stone in this foundation: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, that the true Faith, the fear of God, and brotherly love may flourish here, that this place may be given over to prayer henceforth, and to call upon and praise the name of the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father etc. (The crosses formerly made at “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are omitted, as are the words “the same” before the conclusion. “Henceforth” is an addition; the Latin word “ulterius” is a peculiar choice for it.)
A stonemason sets the stone in its intended place, and the bishop then sprinkles it once again with holy water; he no longer says the antiphon “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop” or the psalm Miserere. While this is done, the choir sings the antiphon, “Let the Lord build us a house, and keep the city.”, and with it psalm 126 Nisi Dominus, both from Vespers of Tuesday in the Breviary of St. Pius X. The antiphon is not intoned by the bishop, and the doxology is omitted. (This same psalm was sung at an analogous point in the prior version, but with the antiphon “Arising in the morning”, the text of which is from the Office of the Dedication of a Church.)

The bishop then says “Dominus vobiscum” and the following prayer, which was formerly said at the beginning of the ceremony.
Let us pray. Lord God, who though Thou art not contained by heaven and earth, deignest nevertheless to have a house upon the earth, where Thy name may be ever invoked; visit this place, we beseech Thee, with the serene gaze of Thy loving mercy, through the interceding merits of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and of Saint (naming the Saint in whose honor and name the church is founded), and of all the Saints, and purify it of every defilement through the infusion of Thy grace, and having so purified it, preserve it; and deign Thou to perfect what we desire in this work, Who didst complete the devotion of Thy beloved David in the work of his son Solomon; and let every spiritual wickedness flee from this place. (long conclusion – words in italics now omitted from the previous version.)
The Veni Creator Spiritus and the two prayers that follow in the earlier version are omitted. The ceremony is concluded with “Dominus vobiscum” and “Benedicamus Domino”, again like the Hours. The bishop then gives the solemn blessing and indulgences; no reference is made in the final rubric to the saying of a Mass in honor of the Saint to whom the church will be dedicated. The rubrics of the 1595 Pontifical say that the bishop may exhort the people at the end of the ceremony to contribute to the building of the church; this is now made part of a rubric at the beginning on the general “pastoral preparation” of the faithful.

It should be noted in conclusion that at no point does the bishop make the sign of the cross upon or over the stone. Although the prayer which asks God to “bless whatsoever we bless” is retained, and the title of the ceremony still refers to blessing, all other references to blessing, consecrating and sanctifying are removed.

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