Monday, July 25, 2016

Award for the Most Hideous Lectionary Ever

In an article entitled "Books That Cry Out the Unique Richness and Holiness of God's Word," I argued that somewhere along the line, we decided to forego the expense and trouble of creating beautiful artifacts for the sacred liturgy, and settled for a combination of aesthetic mediocrity and repellent modern ugliness. Sometimes it seems as if intentions are good but artistic ability is totally lacking; other times it seems that the intentions are actually modernist and the goal is to repudiate past tradition in favor of a newly-fashioned religion of the future. Whatever the case may be, in my article I provided photos of exquisite historic lectionaries and modern imitations in a similar vein, as well as of some unremarkable contemporary lectionaries.

Recently, I came across a set of lectionaries that struck me as the most hideous I'd ever seen. Since there may come a day when our children and grandchildren do not believe us when we regale them with stories of such things -- they will protest that we are surely exaggerating like a bunch of tippling fishermen -- I thought it worthwhile to reproduce some images here, followed by the palate cleansing contrast of several books in my library that enshrine the Word of God and the rite of the liturgy in a beauty that befits them.

First, the books published in 1999:

Examples of the inside "artwork," which reminds me of projects we did in elementary school:

Now for something completely different:

An episcopal book from 1940
Graduale Romanum from 1948
The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship (Ottawa, 2004)
And saving the best for last, here is a deluxe Vulgate published by Desclee in 1881, which was given to me and my wife as a wedding gift by some generous friends who lucked out in a used book store. It seems to me that if one is going to publish God's very own words to mankind (trusting that we believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Sacred Scripture), one ought to do it some such way as this. Wouldn't it be marvelous if lectionaries for Mass could have this appearance? At least we could start with the usus antiquior lectionary, because it has been relatively stable over the course of the centuries, and, being in the Church's mother tongue, its text would not need to be updated every few decades by a committee.

Laus tibi, Christe!

(By the way, as odd as this will sound, I'll be happy to send the three-volume hideous lectionary to anyone who wants it as a museum piece, a coffee-table item, a cautionary tale, etc., if you can pay the shipping. Contact me by email.)

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