Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Tradition Both “Venerable” and “Defective”: More from Matthew Hazell on the Reform of the Missal

I posted an article at the beginning of December, noting the important work of Mr Matthew Hazell in documenting the changes to the Postcommunion prayers, in both the Latin originals and the various English translations. He has just added to his site Lectionary Study Aids a page with links to two scanned articles from Ephemerides Liturgicae, both from 1971, which provide quite a bit of useful information on certain aspects of the 1969 reform of the Missal. The first, by Henry Ashworth O.S.B., is a brief description of the reform of the Prayers for the Dead in the new Missal; the second is in French, by Antoine Dumas O.S.B., and gives the sources for the abundance of new prefaces added to the Missal in the Novus Ordo.

As one might expect, knowing something of the procedures by which so much of the post-Conciliar reform was done, what these articles document is not lacking in irony. For example, Dom Henry tells us that “those whose task it was to compose these prayers were not unmindful of the rich theology of life and death contained in the ancient formularies of the Mozarabic liturgical books, especially in the Oracional Visigótico.” (Edited by J. Vives and published at Barcelona in 1946, in the series Monumenta Hispaniae Sacra.) An examination of his footnotes reveals that that this “rich theology” was grossly impoverished by addressing several of its prayers directly to Christ. These were therefore rewritten for incorporation into the Novus Ordo, in accordance with the entirely false theory that all liturgical prayers were anciently addressed to the Father.

Likewise, Dom Antoine tells us (section 4) that “Too many beautiful texts remained unused in the ancient Sacramentaries,” (which is quite true), and that these must serve as the first source for the new prefaces to be added to the Missal. He goes on to say that “(t)he criteria for selection had to be rigorous, to obey the directives of Vatican II, which had defined the liturgical reform first of all as a response to pastoral needs.” I agree that broadening the corpus of Prefaces was in theory a good idea, although I am not convinced that it was a particularly urgent pastoral problem; Sacrosanctum concilium itself is completely silent on the matter. Since the texts of this “venerable tradition” had to be both “translatable into modern languages, and adapted to the modern mentality”, very few of them could be retained in their entirety, according to Dom Antoine. They required “numerous cuts, and a patient work of centonization,” (composing new texts out of fragments of various old texts); otherwise, “reproduced in their original form, they would be unbearable, if not defective.” (insupportables, sinon fautifs.)

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