Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Some Notes on the Suppression of Septuagesima, by Amy Welborn

We are just about half-way through the brief but liturgically rich period of Septuagesima; today I happened to stumble across an excellent series of considerations of the season by Amy Welborn on her blog Charlotte Was Both. I would encourage you to go over there and read the article, as she notes a couple of very important points, particularly in regard to its suppression in the post-Conciliar reform. I think it fair to say that this is now generally admitted to be a mistake for a variety of reasons. The first such reason which she points out is the ecumenical problem, since, as even the committee that ultimately brought about the suppression noted, Septuagesima is maintained by many Anglicans and Lutherans, and the Eastern rites also all have a Fore-Lent.
It’s bizarre for many reasons having to do with the normal reasons of upending tradition via committee work, but also because it’s such an unecumenical move, and, on paper at least, Vatican II was, we hear, informed by ecumenical concerns.
The article continues with a nice summary of the meaning of Septuagesima, quoted from a middle-school religion textbook printed in 1947; scans of the relevant pages are included in her post. And then she sums up in a single sentence what is, I would argue, one of the most problematic aspects of the whole post-Conciliar reform, the contempt in which the reformers held the run of the Catholic faithful: “As usual, it was determined that all this was too hard for us.”

Lest this seem too harsh a judgment, Welborn then gives a link to an article by Dr Lauren Pristas, who, inter alia, has done so much important work on the reform of the Prayers of the Mass; Dr Pristas quotes the preparatory work of the reform committee that revised the Calendar, to the effect that “Septuagesima should be abolished for pastoral reasons: so that the faithful may see the progress of the liturgical year clearly and not be confused by diverse ‘anticipations’... The penitential character of the time of Septuagesima ... is difficult for the faithful to understand without many explanations.”

And finally, a nice summary of the problem of “organic development,” or rather, the lack thereof.
...liturgy develops, and while “organic development” is practically impossible to define, it’s also obvious that a handful of scholars from a particular place and time sorting through options for transforming a thousand year-old set of traditions in a way that will profoundly impact hundreds of millions of Catholics, present and future…ain’t it.

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