Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church: Reflections on a New Memorial

As readers of NLM are no doubt already aware, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced last Saturday in a decree dated 11 February that the obligatory memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church will henceforth be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost in the forma ordinaria. The Latin texts to be inserted into the Missal, Lectionary, Breviary and Martyrology can be found on the website of the CDWDS.
In brief summary:
  • The Mass of the memorial is the Votive Mass of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, which can already be found in the editio typica tertia of the Missale Romanum, and thus will be in any vernacular translation of that edition. 

  • The readings at the Mass are as follows: Genesis 3, 9-15, 20 or Acts 1,12-14; Psalm 86 (87), 1-2, 3+5, 6-7 (R. v. 3); John 19, 25-34. These differ slightly from those already suggested in the Ordo lectionum Missae (no. 1002) for the Votive Mass mentioned above. The Alleluia verse, O felix Virgo, is taken from the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine, no. 26 (B.M.V., imago et mater Ecclesia, II). However, as the Monday after Pentecost is part of tempus per annum in the Ordinary Form, and none of the readings for the new memorial are indicated as being proper, the weekday readings will normally be used (cf. General Introduction to the Lectionary, 82).

  • For the Divine Office, Lauds and Vespers have proper hymns and Benedictus/Magnificat antiphons, and the Office of Readings has a proper hymn and first reading.

  • Finally, there is a very brief insertion for the Roman Martyrology.
Our Lady, Mother of the Church (unknown artist)
I would like to make a few observations on the establishment of this new memorial, touching on the “irreversible” liturgical reform, as in some respects it makes for an interesting case-study of certain principles of the post-Vatican II reforms.

1) It should be noted at the start that, as this memorial is fixed on the Monday after Pentecost, it acts as a further obstacle to the potential recovery of the Octave of Pentecost in the forma ordinaria. If the octave were to be re-established in the future, this memorial would need to be moved. Given that one of the options for the first reading is Acts 1, 12-14, where the Blessed Virgin is in the upper room with the disciples after the Lord's Ascension but before Pentecost, I would tentatively suggest that the Saturday after Ascension might be a day in which this memorial could be moved in the future, if desired.

Related to this, as the Octave of Pentecost is preserved in Divine Worship: The Missal (Ordinariate Use), it is difficult to see how this memorial could be incorporated into the calendars of the Ordinariate. On the other hand, in the forma extraordinaria, the 2nd class feast of the Motherhood of the B.V.M. occurs on October 11th, and this feast would already seem to encompass the idea of Our Lady’s motherhood of the Church. [1]

2) One of the operating principles of the post-conciliar reform of the Calendarium Romanum seems to have been to minimise the number of “devotion-feasts” and duplications. [2] Consequently, quite a number of Marian feast days were eliminated in the reforms, including that of the Motherhood of Mary, which the Consilium considered to be part of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1). [3] Indeed, the post-communion prayer for this Solemnity reads as follows (my emphasis):
Sumpsimus, Domine, laeti sacramenta caelestia: praesta, quaesumus, ut ad vitam nobis proficiant sempiternam, qui beatam semper Virginem Mariam Filii tui Genetricem et Ecclesiae Matrem profiteri gloriamur. (MR 1970/2008)
We have received this heavenly Sacrament with joy, O Lord: grant, we pray, that it may lead us to eternal life, for we rejoice to proclaim the blessed ever-Virgin Mary Mother of your Son and Mother of the Church. (ICEL 2011)
This source for this prayer is the Gelesianum Vetus, no. 1262:
Laeti, domine, sumpsimus sacramenta caelestia; intercedente pro nobis beata et gloriosa semperque uirgine dei genetrice Maria ad uitam nobis proficiant sempiternam. 
Joyfully, Lord, we have received the heavenly sacraments; through the intercession of the blessed and glorious ever-virgin Mary mother of God may they profit us to life everlasting.
One can immediately observe that the words in the first clause have been transposed in the post-conciliar Missal, and that the mention of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin has been cut out and replaced with the proclamation of her as Mother of the Son and Mother of the Church. [4] It would not be beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that the insertion of Ecclesiae Matrem into this prayer was the Consilium’s way of ensuring that attention was paid to the declaration of Paul VI, while avoiding “duplications” in the new calendar.

So, the question could be posed: does the introduction of this new memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church not go against a major principle of the “irreversible” liturgical reform?

Mosaic of Our Lady, Mother of Divine
Providence - another victim of the 
Consilium deserving of restoration?
Admittedly, some other “devotional” celebrations, such as the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Jan 3) and the Most Holy Name of Mary (Sept 12), have already been reintroduced as optional memorials, so this principle has already been undermined to a degree. However, this is the first time since the post-conciliar reforms that there has been a new, obligatory memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary inscribed in the General Roman Calendar. [5] Furthermore, it is one that duplicates particular aspects of other Marian feast days, and according to the decree from the CDWDS has been established explicitly for the devotional benefit of the faithful:
Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and be now celebrated every year.
In multiple ways, therefore, this new memorial of Our Lady would seem to go against the grain of certain key principles of the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms.

3) Finally, it is notable that, aside from the general reports in the news, there has not (yet) been much in the way of comment and analysis of this decision of Pope Francis. This could be seen in two ways. On the one hand, the lack of immediate comment could indicate the non-controversial nature of this papal act; on the other hand, it could just mean that those who are unhappy with this decree for whatever reason are, for the moment, keeping their peace.

As the first reading at the Office of Readings for this new memorial happens to be part of Paul VI’s speech at the end of the third session of Vatican II (21st November 1964: Latin, English, Italian), in which he proclaimed the Blessed Virgin as Mother of the Church, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves of the rather visceral reaction in some quarters to the Pope’s speech at the time. Historians of the Council have tended to count Paul VI’s declaration as part of “Black Week”, a week in which many of the hopes of the so-called “liberal conciliar faction” were dashed.

To conclude this article, I present some of these reactions - some well-known, some perhaps less well-known.

* * * * *

Henri de Lubac, Vatican Council Notebooks: Volume Two (Ignatius Press, 2016), p. 307
After the ritual promulgations and applause, which lacked any enthusiasm, a long speech by Paul VI, which I did not hear well.
But if another priest is to be believed, de Lubac’s reaction was rather different from what he tells us in his notebooks...

H. Denis, Église, qu'as-tu fait de ton Concile? (Paris: Le Centurion, 1985), p. 138 (from Roberto de Mattei, The Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story [Angelus Press, 2012], p. 423, fn. 380)
Father de Lubac is horror-stricken. He said to me, Father Denis, this is the end of the Council. There is no more John XXIII, no more aggiornamento.
Yves Congar, My Journal of the Council (Liturgical Press, 2012), pp. 696-697
There followed the Pope’s speech: thirty-seven minutes. I did not see in it the inspiration, the vitality, of his previous speeches... [F]or a quarter of an hour he gave a very devout eulogy of the Virgin Mary. Though his text contained little substance, he spoke at length, then he turned to using words like “declaramus” and announced the title Mater Ecclesiae. The seven protonotaries, sitting just near me, stood up: so also the two cardinals assisting the Pope, the other cardinals, almost all the bishops. The enthusiastic applause was very strongly supported by the mob of insignia-bearers and the various members of the papal court. They gave the impression of believing that the Pope had just made a dogmatic definition. But a definition OF WHAT? What is the CONTENT of “Mater Ecclesiae”?
The Observers have a very bad impression of these last two days and of this final act. They saw, and we saw with them, that no account had been taken of them, that the demands of a true ecumenical sensibility had not been observed. [...] Cardinal Dopfner and the Bishop of Rottenburg [Karl Leiprecht] were equally very much saddened. The session ended badly. I said: they threw ashes on our flowers and then, afterwards, they throw flowers on the ashes!! [...] [L]ooking at things coolly, what took place is VERY serious. We have gone back several years. THE SEPARATED BRETHREN HAVE GONE BACK TO HAVING DOUBTS ABOUT US. [...] The Pope, who is the man for all, wanted to give satisfaction to all. But in doing this he has come to appear like someone who cannot be fully trusted. Once again, he has neither the theology, nor the intellectual backing for his gestures.
Xavier Rynne (Francis X. Murphy), Vatican Council II (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968, one volume edn), pp. 425-426
A final disappointment awaited the bishops and particularly the Protestant observer-delegates. Everyone knew that the pope intended to confer the title of “mother of the Church” on Mary, for he had announced that he would do so at an audience on Wednesday [November 18, 1964], and intimated earlier in the [third] session that that this was his intention. What shocked his theologically perceptive hearers was his response to the highly articulate minority of Italian, Spanish, Indonesian and Polish mariological zealots clamoring for the definition of a new Marian dogma. While the pope was not prepared to go quite this far, his speech... was an indirect rebuke to the Theological Commission for having refused Mary the title which he now gave her. [...] After the Council had gone to so much trouble to achieve a balanced theological statement of an issue disputed among Catholics themselves, it certainly showed poor judgment to appear to be undercutting that statement and reverse a decision of the Council. The pope’s own carefully phrased explanation of the term was, typically, drowned out by the applause from the gallery accompanying the pronouncement. Another case of sacrificing the interests of the whole to the desires of a persistent, well-organised minority, which could count on support in high places.
A. Chandler & C. Hansen (eds.), Observing Vatican II: The Confidential Reports of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative, Bernard Pawley, 1961-1964 (Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 397
The rest of [Paul VI’s] speech was given over to an amazing blast of Mariology which left the Observers quite dumbfounded. He declared the B.V.M. “Mater Ecclesiae”, a title which had been rejected for inclusion in the Schema [i.e. Lumen gentium] by the Theological Commission. He said he would send a golden rose to Fatima etc. etc. It all seemed for the moment quite disconcerting. The Marian fanatics rose and cheered loudly, while the Observers sat glum and despondent.

[1] Though the (very!) cautious suggestion could be made that, as the collect for the Motherhood of the B.V.M. is a repetition of that for the Solemnity of the Annunciation (Bruylants no. 320: Deus, qui de beatae Mariae Virginis), in the future it might be replaced with the collect of this new memorial or another suitable collect from the liturgical tradition, in order to better highlight the Blessed Virgin’s motherhood of the Church as part of her general motherhood.

[2] For a first-hand account of the process of the calendar reforms, see A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 305-326. The classic example of the Consilium eliminating a feast they evidently considered a useless repetition (Sacrosanctum Concilium 34) is that of the Most Precious Blood (July 1), considered a duplication of Corpus Christi: cf. Calendarium Romanum (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1969 editio typica), p. 128. Many titles of the Blessed Virgin that were in the 1962 Missale were subsequently recovered (to an extent) in the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987 edtio typica, 2 vols.).

[3] Cf. Bugnini, Reform, p. 312; also mentioned here is the suppression of the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary (September 12), because it is included in her Nativity.

[4] “From a study of the postcommunion prayers in the new missal, it is clear that at most the feast is only commemorated; the petition is not made through the saint’s intercession as was the case in some previous postcommunion prayers of earlier missals.” (Thomas A. Krosnicki, Ancient Patterns in Modern Prayer [Catholic University of America Press, 1973], p. 51). Krosnicki goes on to give a number of examples where the intercession of the saints has been edited out of orations (pp. 51-53), and when one looks at the entire corpus of postcommunion prayers in the post-Vatican II Missal, this pattern of editing is certainly noticeable, with very few exceptions.

[5] The memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary was elevated from an optional to obligatory memorial on 1st January 1996 (cf. Notitiae 362 [1996], pp. 654-656), but this was a pre-existing memorial in the General Roman Calendar.

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