Friday, June 10, 2016

Feast of St Mary Magdalene Upgraded to Feast (Updated)

The title of this article refers to something which has always struck me as one of the weirdest things about the post-conciliar reform, the use of the word “Feast” as the name of a grade of feast. Prior to 1969, “feast” was the generic term for everything of whatever grade in all traditions and rites, from Easter down to the obscure medieval hermit celebrated on one local calendar. It’s rather like reforming the grades of military rank and calling one of them “Officer.”

In any case, the bulletin of the Holy See today published a decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which raises the feast of St Mary Magdalene in the Ordinary Form from the grade of Obligatory Memorial to Feast, the rank at which the Apostles sit, apart from the Solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul. A new preface is added to her Mass, which is otherwise not changed. (More on this below.) Her Office will be more noticeably upgraded, since there should now be proper psalms and antiphons for the Office of Readings, and the day hour (Terce, Sext or None) should not be of the feria, as it is on Memorials. No reference is made to the Extraordinary Form, in which the feast is kept as a Third Class; perhaps the Ecclesia Dei commission will consider raising it to Second Class, by analogy with the new decree.

Fr Zuhlsdorf is certainly correct to predict that far too much will be made out of the fact that Pope Francis has raised the feast of a woman to a grade mostly occupied (as far as the general Calendar goes) by Apostles. Not only is this not a novelty, it is partially a return to the historical practice of the Tridentine Rite. In the Breviary of St Pius V, which predates his Missal by two years (1568), there were only three grades of feasts: Double, Semidouble and Simple. St Mary Magdalene’s feast was a Double, meaning that it had both Vespers, doubled antiphons at the major hours, nine readings at Matins, precedence over common Sundays, and had to be transferred if it were impeded. It is true that later on, as Double feasts were subdivided into four categories, she remained at the lowest of them (along with all the Doctors, inter alios). Nevertheless, the privileges of her liturgical rank did not even begin to be curtailed until late in the reign of Pope Leo XIII, at the end of the 19th century.

As I noted in 2014 in an article about her feast day, the Creed was traditionally said at the Mass of St Mary Magdalene in recognition of that fact that it was she who first announced the Resurrection to the Apostles. (This felicitous custom was removed from the Roman Missal for no discernible reason in 1955.) This is also why she was called “Apostle of the Apostles” in a great many medieval liturgical texts, such as the Benedictus antiphon in her proper Office sung by the Dominicans.
O mundi lampas, et margaríta praefúlgida, quae resurrectiónem Christi nuntiando, Apostolórum Apóstola fíeri meruisti! María Magdaléna, semper pia exoratrix pro nobis adsis ad Deum, qui te elégit.
O lamp of the world, and bright-shining pearl, who by announcing the Resurrection of Christ, didst merit to become the Apostle of the Apostles! Mary Magdalene, of thy kindness stand thou ever before God, who chose thee, to entreat him for us.
The newly promulgated Preface has been published in Latin, with the provision that vernacular versions be produced by local bishops’ conferences, and inserted into the next printing of the Missal. It cannot be ignored that the first part is grammatically correct, but orders the words in a needlessly clumsy way, which at one point or another will jar against the musical clauses of the Preface tone, should anyone try to sing it.

“Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutáre, nos te, Pater omnípotens, cuius non minor est misericordia quam potestas, in ómnibus praedicáre, per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Qui in hortu manifestus appáruit Maríae Magdalénae, quippe quae eum diléxerat vivéntem, in cruce víderat morientem, quaesíerat in sepulcro iacentem, ac prima adoráverat a mórtuis resurgentem, et eam apostolátus officio coram apóstolis honorávit, ut bonum novae vitae nuntium ad mundi fines perveníret. Unde et nos, Dómine, cum Angelis et Sanctis universis tibi confitémur, in exsultatióne dicentes:”

Truly is it worthy and just, right and profitable to salvation, to proclaim Thee in all things, Father Almighty, whose mercy is not less than Thy power; through Christ our Lord. Who appeared in the garden to Mary Magdalene, as she has loved Him while he was living, had seen Him die on the Cross, had sought Him as He lay in the tomb, and was the first to adore Him when He rose from the dead. And He honored her with the office of apostleship in the presence of the Apostles, so that the good news of new life might come unto the ends of the earth. Wherefore we also, O Lord, with the Angels and all the Saints, confess Thee in exultation, saying.

UPDATE: Fr Hunwicke has caught a grammatical error in the new preface which I shamefully missed - the Latin word “hortus - garden” is of the 2nd declension, not the 4th, and should appear here as “horto” in the ablative case, not “hortu.” Sigh...

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