Friday, August 04, 2017

The Second Vatican Council and the Lectionary—Part 2: The Preparatory Period (1960-1962)

Note: This is the second part of a three-part series. Part one, on the antepreparatory period, can be found here, and part three will look at the first and second sessions of the Council itself (1962-1963).

On June 5, 1960 (Pentecost Sunday), Pope John XXIII issued the motu proprio Superno Dei nutu, which closed the antepreparatory period and initiated the preparatory period of the Second Vatican Council. The day afterwards, June 6, he established the preparatory Commission on the Liturgy, one of ten commissions and two secretariats under the umbrella of the Central Preparatory Commission (hereafter CPC). Gaetano Cardinal Cicognani was named President of the Liturgy Commission (after his death in February 1962, Arcadio Cardinal Larraona would succeed him), with Fr Annibale Bugnini named as Secretary. [1] The Commission began its work in November 1960, with the draft schema on the liturgy being mostly completed by January 1962.

The discussions of the CPC on all the draft schemata can be found in Volume II of the praeparatoria volumes of the Acta et Documenta Concilio Oecumenico Vaticano II Apparando, some of which have been made freely available here at NLM. [2] The texts of all the draft schemata can be found in Volume III of the same series. [3] Meetings of the Liturgy Commission were held in November 1960, April 1961 and January 1962, with the draft liturgy schema being discussed by the CPC in its fifth meeting (26th March - 3 April 1962). [4]

Pope John XXIII signing the apostolic constitution Humanae salutis (25 Dec 1961), solemnly convoking the Second Vatican Council.
The question of lectionary reform in the draft schema was the responsibility of the second subcommission (De Missa) of the preparatory Commission on the Liturgy. Josef Jungmann, S.J., was the relator (i.e. the one who reported back to the Liturgy Commission), with Theodor Schnitzler as secretary, and the following as consultors: Henri Jenny, Antoine Chavasse, Pietro Borella, Pierre-Marie Gy, O.P., Heinrich Kahlefeld, C.O., and Vincent Kennedy, C.S.B. It should perhaps be noted that, while Bugnini is at pains in his memoir to declare that “every part of the world in which the liturgical movement was active and prospering had to be represented on the commission, and this in a real and not a fictitious way” [5], the De Missa subcommission was very Eurocentric and heavily skewed towards German and French speakers. For the lectionary, this is quite important, as the majority of the (quite radical) proposals for reform in this area had been coming from German-speaking scholars throughout the 1950s. [6]

What is said about the lectionary in these draft schemata? Let us compare paragraph 46 of the first draft schema (discussed in April 1961) with what would become paragraph 51 of Sacrosanctum Concilium:
46. Ut Fidelibus cum Mensa eucharistica etiam Mensa verbi Dei paretur et praedicatoribus maior copia Sacrae Scripturae praesto sit, thesauri biblici largius aperiantur, ita ut decursu quattuor circiter annorum maior et praestantior pars Scripturarum Sanctarum populo praelegatur. [7]
[46. In order that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word together with the eucharistic table and, to preachers, a greater abundance of Sacred Scripture may be before them, the treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a greater and more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read before the people through about four years.]
51. Quo ditior mensa verbi Dei paretur fidelibus, thesauri biblici largius aperiantur, ita ut, intra praestitutum annorum spatium, praestantior pars Scripturarum Sanctarum populo legatur. 
[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. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.]
A number of things are obvious. The paragraph in the first draft is longer and more detailed; part of the rationale for lectionary reform is to benefit preachers by giving them more material to preach on. The later conciliar text praestantior pars is ambiguous, as the various vernacular translations of this phrase demonstrate; it can be translated as referring to the quantity of texts (as per the Italian la maggior parte), or the quality of texts (as per the German die wichtigsten Parte). [8] However, the first draft has both the quantity and quality in mind. Lastly, with regard to the quantity, it is noteworthy that a four year cycle of readings is explicitly mentioned in this draft. Indeed, in his capacity as relator, Jungmann did submit an example of such a cycle (designed by Kahlefeld) to the preparatory Liturgy Commission:

Preparatory Commission on the Liturgy, Subcommission II: Proposed Order of Readings (PDF)

Kahlefeld’s proposal is made up of four columns, corresponding to the readings proposed for Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This arrangement would be Year A. The four year cycle works by changing the days of the columns, so in Year B, the second column becomes the Sunday column and the first column becomes the Saturday column, and so forth. The majority of the Missale Romanum Gospel pericopes are kept in their places in Year A, (though many of the Epistle readings have been changed), and the proposal for weekday readings on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays is consonant with earlier, pre-Tridentine Roman liturgical books.

By August 1961, the draft text of paragraph 46 had been slimmed down somewhat to the following:
46. Ut Fidelibus cum Mensa eucharistica etiam mensa verbi Dei ditior paretur, thesauri biblici largius aperiantur, ita ut decursu plurium annorum, praestantior pars Scripturarum Sanctarum populo praeleguntur.
[In order that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word together with the eucharistic table, the treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a more representative part of the sacred Scriptures will be read before the people through the running of more years.]
Notwithstanding a couple of transpositions of words, this would be the form in which this paragraph (later numbered 38 as a result of significant alterations in the first chapter of the draft schema) would be presented to the CPC. The text et praedicatoribus maior copia Sacrae Scripturae praesto sit has been deleted, as has the word maior before praestantior (thereby introducing the previously mentioned ambiguity). Perhaps most notably, though, is that a specific number of annorum is no longer mentioned in the schema. The majority vote of the preparatory Commission on the Liturgy was that the precise number of years was something that should be considered either by the Council itself or by the post-Conciliar commission that would inevitably be set up afterwards in order to carry out liturgical reform (though the majority of members favoured a three or four year cycle). [9] This did not prevent the Liturgy Commission from making its own suggestions to the CPC anyway, as Cardinal Larraona did in his relatio at its fifth meeting:
a) In Proprio de tempore, retento hodierno duarum lectionum numero, id est, epistola et evangelium: 1) novae lectiones pro feriis infra hebdomadam, pro tribus feriis, ad minus, ponantur; 2) hae lectiones in dominica resumerentur sequentibus annis; 3) hoc pacto haberetur systema lectionum pro tribus annis; in hoc sensu schemata iam fuerunt publicata.
b) In Communi Sanctorum: in unoquoque Communi addantur lectiones pro quinque, sex vel septem diebus, ita modo ut lectiones de Communi ne repetantur intra unum vel duos menses. [10] 
[a) In the Proper of Time, today’s number of two readings is to be retained, that is, epistle and gospel: 1) new readings for ferias during the week, may be established; 2) these readings may be resumed on Sundays in following years; 3) in this manner, a system of readings for three years may be kept; a draft has already been published with this sense.
b) In the Common of Saints: in each of the Commons may be added readings for five, six or seven days, thus meaning that readings from the Commons are not repeated within one or two months.]
The broad brush strokes of Larraona’s proposals are very similar to that of Kahlefeld above. He does, however, go against the majority of the preparatory Liturgy Commission in appearing to rule out adding a third reading from the Old Testament on Sundays. [11]

Finally, what did the CPC have to say about the proposals vis-à-vis the lectionary? In actual fact, not a huge amount. Francis Cardinal Spellman said that, in his view, the principle of amplifying the readings of the lectionary was impossible to argue with [12], and Julius Cardinal Döpfner called the same principle “necessary” [13], whereas André-Damien-Ferdinand Cardinal Jullien was concerned that the celebration of Mass not be made longer under false historical pretexts, because temporis praesentis condiciones omnino requirunt caeremoniarum brevitatem [14]. Given this lack of comment, and that no more changes were made to the paragraph, it appears that the CPC had little issue with the principles in it - even though, as we have seen above, those principles could be (and had already been) applied in a number of different ways.

In the final part of this series, we will examine the first and second sessions of Vatican II, and what the Council Fathers had to say about the text of what would ultimately become Sacrosanctum Concilium 51.


[1] Bugnini’s account of the meetings of the preparatory commission on the liturgy can be found in chapter 2 (PDF) of his book The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 14-28.

[2] The praeparatoria volumes of the Acta et Documenta will be referred to in this article by the abbreviation ADP.

[3] The text of the draft schema on the liturgy can be found in ADP III.2, pp. 7-68. Another vital resource for the study of the preparatory Commission on the Liturgy is Angelo Lameri, La « Pontificia Commissio de sacra liturgia praeparatoria Concilii Vaticani II ». Documenti, Testi, Verbali (Rome: Centro Liturgico Vincenziano, 2013). In this book, Lameri reproduces the minutes of the various subcommissions which drafted the different sections of the liturgy schema, and also parallels the three different versions of the draft schema.

[4] Cf. ADP II.3, pp. 26-144 (chapters 1-2), 275-368 (chapters 3-5), 460-492 (chapters 6-8). Other relevant material includes the relatio given by Cardinal Cicognani at the first meeting (12-20 June 1961) of the CPC, updating it on the work done by the liturgy commission up to that point (cf. ADP II.1, pp. 144-147), and the discussion on the use of vernacular languages in the liturgy at the third meeting (15-23 Jan 1962) of the CPC (cf. ADP II.2, pp. 248-258).

[5] Cf. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy, pp. 14-15.

[6] E.g. Heinz Schürmann, “Eine Dreijährige Perikopenordnung für Sonn- und Festtage”, Liturgisches Jahrbuch 2 (1952), 58-72; Heinrich Kahlefeld, “Ordo Lectionum Missae”, Liturgisches Jahrbuch 3 (1953), 54-59, 301-309. (My English translation of Schürmann’s article can be found here.)

[7] Cf. Lameri, La « Pontificia Commissio de sacra liturgia praeparatoria Concilii Vaticani II », p. 232. The English translation of paragraph 46 of the draft is mine; I have tried to stay as close as possible to the Vatican’s English translation of SC 51 in order to make comparisons easier.

[8] Cf. Michael Magee, “The Reform of the Lectionary of the Roman Missal: Evaluations and Prospects”, in Joseph Briody (ed.), Verbum Domini: Liturgy and Scripture. Proceedings of the Ninth Fota International Liturgical Conference, 2016 (Smenos Publications, 2017), pp. 243-244. On this subject, see also Gregory DiPippo’s NLM article Sacrosanctum Concilium and the New Lectionary (11 December 2013).

[9] Cf. Lameri, La « Pontificia Commissio de sacra liturgia praeparatoria Concilii Vaticani II », pp. 107-108.

[10] Cf. ADP II.3, p. 114.

[11] P.-M. Gy, for example, appeared very keen on adding an OT reading (cf. Lameri, La « Pontificia Commissio de sacra liturgia praeparatoria Concilii Vaticani II », p. 107), and when H. Jenny asked about it at the January 1962 meeting of the preparatory Liturgy Commission, Bugnini replied “si parli in modo generico, lasciando alla Commissione postconciliare [speak in a generic way, leave it to the post-conciliar Commission]” (Lameri, ibid, p. 448). Cardinal Larraona’s words retento hodierno duarum lectionum numero are not exactly generic!

[12] Cf. ADP II.3, p. 117.

[13] Cf. ADP II.3, p. 123.

[14] Cf. ADP II.3, pp. 139-140.

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