Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Well Did the OF Actually Implement Sacrosanctum Concilium - Scripture in the Mass

In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council decreed the reform of the liturgical books. But how well did that reform actually follow the mandates of the council? As someone who attends the Extraordinary Form in a diocesan parish which celebrates both forms of the Roman Rite with dignity and reverence, I do not intend to discuss here the ars celebrandi in which the Ordinary Form is celebrated, but only the content of the texts and rubrics themselves. Nor is this intended to be a critique of the lectionary itself, which is also another discussion for another time.

I do believe the Conciliar Fathers had a significant part to play in the bad practices that developed after the Council, both through their actions in the celebration of the liturgy and in the texts of the council itself. That, however, is a discussion for another time. Here, I intend to take a closer look primarily at the revised Ordinary of the Mass, the mandates of the Council, and compare them with those elements which have been specifically downplayed or removed in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. While some may see this as a feeble attempt to compare the Extraordinary Form to the Ordinary Form, it’s not simply that. Sacrosanctum Concilium asked for a revision of the missal, not a complete rewrite from scratch. Therefore, any discussions of the reforms and formation of the Ordinary Form liturgical books must be placed in context of the 1962 Missale Romanum, as that is where they were reforming from. To ignore it is to not fully appreciate the situation.

I am well aware that those who disagree with me will be quick to quote Sacrosanctum Concilium § 51. On this topic I will limit myself to the following observations and questions: what makes a part of the rite “of little advantage?” For the purposes of this post, how should § 51 be implemented in such a way so as to not directly conflict with § 24, § 25.1, § 51, and § 91? (See below) Indeed, I am writing this post from the point of view that the council documents contained the best vision for liturgical reform, and am intentionally leaving the post open ended on that topic, with a view to further reflection on its value. The discussion about the merit of Sacrosanctum Concilium itself is an important one, but again, will be left for another post at a later date.

First, I begin with the Asperges. In the Extraordinary Form, the Sunday Mass begins with the sprinkling of blessed water, accompanied normally by an antiphon from Psalm 50 (51 - Asperges Me) and accompanying verse or Ezechiel 47 (Vidi Aquam) and a verse of Psalm 117 (118). These are sung before the High Mass every Sunday, as a required part of the rite. In the Ordinary Form, this chant and ritual is downplayed (according to GIRM § 51) to be used “from time to time,” and also replaces the Kyrie and Confiteor.

In the Extraordinary Form, Psalm 42 (43) is recited by the priest and sacred ministers or servers at nearly every Mass, barring Requiems. Notably, in the Ordinary Form, this is completely removed, and the Mass simply begins at the Introit, giving the beginning of Mass a very different flow.

Also, we find that in the older form, as the priest washed his hands near the end of the offertory, he would read 7 verses of Psalm 25 (26), which talks about being cleansed of our sins and praying at the altar of the Lord, followed by a Gloria Patri. In the Ordinary Form, this is replaced by a single verse from Psalm 50 (51) during the the same action, with no Gloria Patri.

Next, in the Extraordinary Form, we find another big change to the flow of the end of Mass, where the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John are proclaimed at the end of almost every Mass, a practice going back to the twelfth century. If you’re following the trend of this post, you may have guessed that this was also removed from the post-Conciliar liturgy. The exclusion of this one is perhaps the most incongruent to me, as this Gospel not only speaks of the nature of Christ in the didactic matter the Council encourages, but of course is a removal of scripture that was mandated to be in more abundance and more suitable. If the reformed liturgy is to be more easily understandable and didactic, why would one remove the recurring passage which describes briefly the nature of Christ and his mission?

And finally, the proper antiphons of the Mass are required to be prayed by the celebrant at every Mass, and are required to be sung at every Mass in the Extraordinary Form. This is also a discussion for another post, but in the Ordinary Form, in Masses without music, the offertory proper is missing, and in sung Masses, they are merely one option among many, with only a slight preference toward the proper chants over various motets and hymns.

In conclusion, I ask the same question I posed above: how well does the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium follow the mandates of § 24, § 25.1, § 51, and § 91?

For your reference:
§ 24: Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.

§ 35.1: In sacred celebrations there is to be more reading from holy scripture, and it is to be more varied and suitable.

§ 51: The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word.

§ 92: Readings from sacred scripture shall be arranged so that the riches of God's word may be easily accessible in more abundant measure.

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