Friday, January 10, 2014

Much Discussion These Days on the Novus Ordo Calendar and Its Problems

There was once a time when you could clock the appearance of interesting scholarly and popular treatments of flaws in the Pauline liturgical reform in terms of weeks or months, and generally you found them in obscure places.  These days, however, it seems as if almost every day brings something noteworthy and worthwhile, and in the mainstream.  All this is surely a sign of vitality, of the spread of Pope Benedict's profound liturgical theology and no-nonsense criticisms of the hack-job of the 1960s, and of a growing awareness in the younger generations that something has gone seriously amiss.

Indeed, as the world darkens, as governments become more openly and oppressively anti-Catholic, and as too many leaders of the Church continue to bury their heads in the sand (rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic is how I've heard it expressed), there is an ever-intensifying realization that our number one responsibility, absolutely the first and greatest, is getting our own temple in order.  In the famous slogan of a well-known blogger: "Save the Liturgy, Save the World."  That is a task to which every one of us can make a contribution, here and now, in smaller or bigger ways, as the Lord gives us opportunity.  And the new liturgical movement will succeed only if we patiently and persistently move forward, step by step, with a determination never to give up until the short-term and long-term goals have been achieved.

But to the point: this past week I've been amazed at the number of blogs taking up the same question from different angles -- the question, namely, of the botched reform of the Novus Ordo calendar, which is agreed to be one of the worst casualties of the 1970 MR.  Here are some choice quotes and links, all appearing on the web in recent days.

From the blog of Joseph Shaw (President, LMS in England & Wales):
The dates of the Church's major feast days are in no way random. They have deep historical and cultural roots, and immense theological significance. The Church uses the calendar to teach us things, and the means she employs include the intervals between feast days.
          Thus, most obviously, the Ascension is 40 days after Easter. 40 is the time of waiting we find in the Old and New Testament. Moving the feast of the Ascension not only obscures this, but mucks up the interval between the Ascension and Pentecost: nine days, a novena of preparation for the Holy Spirit to descend.
          Corpus Christi is on a Thursday after Easter because it recalls the mystery of Maundy Thursday. The symbolism is destroyed if it is moved to Sunday.
          Epiphany is the Twelfth Day of Christmas: it can't be moved without damage to all the cultural associations this has. It is the primary feast of Christmas for many Oriental Churches. It was celebrated on 6th of January by the Emperor Julian in the year 360. This is pretty well as far as detailed records go back for many aspects of the liturgy. To move it is surely an act of barbarism.  [Read more...]
From Rorate's Fr. Richard Cipolla:
One of the saddest and most deleterious effects of the changes in the structure and content of the Liturgical Calendar in the post-Conciliar reform is the lack of understanding of the sanctification of time by the feasts and fasts of the Church. The introduction, at least in English, of the term, “ordinary time”, contradicts the fact that after the Incarnation there is no "ordinary" time. There is only the extraordinary time that has been brought into being by the insertion of the dagger of the Incarnation into ordinary time. Now we know that the term “ordinary time” is a poor translation of the Latin term for “in course”. But even this does not take away from the fact of the impoverishment of the Liturgical Calendar that has been effected by taking away the Sundays after the Epiphany and the Sundays after Pentecost. The traditional way of naming these Sundays understood that these two feasts, Epiphany and Pentecost, are the climaxes of the Christmas and Easter seasons, the seasons that celebrate the event and meaning of, respectively, the Birth, and the Death and Resurrection of Christ, and therefore these feasts become the touchstone, the source of reality of the Sundays of the Church Year. ...
          Surely we can now see the foolishness of the possibility of celebrating the Epiphany as early as on January 2, four full days before the actual feast that is celebrated in those parts of the Western Church still on January 6 and celebrated on that day by our Orthodox brethren throughout the world with the solemnity it deserves. It is foolish as well to celebrate this feast after January 6, as if it is irrelevant to the sanctification of time when any feast is celebrated, for the guiding principle in this reform is the convenience of the people: it is more convenient for the people to celebrate the Epiphany on Sunday rather than the interruption of having to go to Mass on a weekday. But it is precisely the interruption that is the point. The ir-ruption of the Incarnation demands such an inter-ruption, demands such an “inconvenience”, for it is a reminder of the sanctification of time itself to those of us who forget that time and space and the world and our lives and our future have been radically changed by the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.  [Read more...]
From Kate Edwards, sovereign explicator of the Benedictine Monastic Office:
The removal of most of the octaves from the liturgical calendar was perhaps an understandable decision.
          But it was, I think, one of those reforms that went more than a few steps too far, most obviously in the abolition of the octave of Pentecost in the Ordinary Form calendar.
          Another case in point, in my opinion, is the abolition of the octave of the Epiphany, which is, I think, one of those decisions which it would be nice to reverse as a means of giving some genuine impetus to the 'New Evangelisation'.
          The calendar reforms of the twentieth century saw a progress reduction in the importance of Epiphany, starting with the abolition of the octave of the feast, and culminating in the outright abolition, in the Novus Ordo calendar, of the traditional season of time after Epiphany.
          Yet Epiphany is, above all, the great feast of the revelation of God to the gentiles, represented by the three wise men.  So how could reducing the importance of this feast possibly be thought consistent with the objective of making the Church more missionary oriented?  [Read more...; she's written several posts in recent days along these lines]
From Fr. Cassian Folsom's Brompton Oratory talk, just posted online:
The Ordo Missae of the 1970 Missal was radically changed: in fact, we call it the Novus Ordo. Concerning the calendar, and especially the superabundant growth of the sanctoral cycle, there has always been need of periodic pruning. But in the 1970 Missal, the pruning was so radical that the original plant is sometimes unrecognizable. The protective fence of the rubrics, carefully developed over centuries in order to guard the Holy of Holies, was taken down, leading to unauthorized “creativity” and liturgical abuse.  [Read more...]
It's hard to say whether or to what extent all of this activity and discussion will yield results at official levels.  After all, we could all spend a lot of time pointing out how ridiculous it is to celebrate "Ascension Sunday" or "Epiphany Sunday," and yet these things could remain fixed, like prehistoric flies in amber.  Still, there can be no change for the better, i.e., no restoration of Catholic tradition, until there is a massive change of mentality, a dying off of the old guard and a genuine renewal from the grassroots.  And for this to take place, for it to have even a chance of taking place, the activity and discussion must continue, must rise and grow into a mighty wave of unanimous and irresistible testimony: "Give us back our tradition, give us back the fullness of the Catholic Faith."  This will become the second greatest instance in history (the first was the Arian controversy) when the sensus fidelium shall have carried the truth of the Gospel in a time when even hierarchs compromised, denied, or disappeared.  Onward, Christian soldiers!

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