Saturday, July 07, 2018

Fota XI Conference, Day 1: Summary of the Lectures

The first day of the Fota Liturgical Conference was held today in Cork, Ireland, with four lectures on the theme “Psalliter Sapienter: The Liturgy of the Hours.”

Dom Benedict Andersen OSB of Silverstream Priory delievered a paper entitles “Erant Semper in Templo: The Divine Office in the Life of the Church.” The history of the Divine Office (the Church’s daily pensum servitutis or bounden duty), is the gradual unfolding of the image with which the Evangelist Luke closes his Gospel, “They were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God”, and which he immediately resumes in the Book of Acts, speaking of perseverance in apostolic teaching, eucharistic communion, and “the prayers” (tais proseuchais).

This and other NT texts, when situated in their proper Jewish apocalyptic context, reveal a primitive community understanding itself to be the universal doxological community foretold by the Prophets, “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19,6; Apocalypse 5, 10) offering up unbloody, rational sacrifices upon earth, in a way mirroring the heavenly ministrations of Christ the High Priest and the Angels who serve him. Consideration is also given to patristic and medieval sources, as well as modern magisterial texts (e.g. Mediator Dei and various passages in the documents of Vatican II) showing that the Office is a continual “sacrifice of praise ... that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13, 15).

Brief consideration is given to the problem of historicism in liturgical scholarship, which has tended to de-emphasise or deny altogether a sense of continuity with the “Temple idea”, even as, ironically, biblical scholarship more and more confirms the vital importance of Jewish temple mysticism in solving some of the most difficult puzzles regarding Christian origins. Far more important, however, than debates among contemporary scholars is the Church’s living memory, witnessing to a divine reality which mere historical investigation cannot access. In order to show the pervasive nature of Temple concepts and imagery in traditional Catholic worship, the paper concludes with a brief mystagogy of the Office of Vespers according to the traditional Roman Breviary, celebrated in the solemn pontifical form.

- My own paper, entitled “The History of the Church in the Divine Office”, examined how the texts of the Divine Office, (principally, but not exclusively the Matins readings,) served as the place where the Church kept and celebrated the historical memory of itself, not only in the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, and perhaps most importantly in the readings of the Lives of the Saints. The Tridentine reform of the Breviary received this tradition from the Middle Ages, and reworked it, in no small measure as a response to the Protestant idea that Scripture is the only valid source of belief, the only “tradition” which a Christian ought to accept. The Breviary of St Pius V achieved a balance between the different parts of the received medialve tradition.

More recent reforms of the Breviary, first those of 1955 and 1960, then the post-Conciliar reform, have tended very strongly to deemphasize the lives of the Saints. The former two drastically reduced the role of the Lives of the Saints in the Office, while the latter simply removed them altogether, in defiance of the express command of the Council as stated in Sacrosanctum Concilium 92c. It is very much to be hoped for that future reforms of the Office will take into account not only the historical tradition of the Church, but also the actual order of the Council.

My NLM colleague Matthew Hazell spoke about the “The Second Vatican Council and Proposals for Reform of the Breviary: 1959-60”. “Timid”, “conformist and unoriginal”, “frankly disappointing”: these are some of the scholarly evaluations of the responses of the worldwide episcopate and superiors of religious orders in the antepreparatory period (1959-60) of the Second Vatican Council.

To the contrary, this paper sought to demonstrate why the suggestions of the future Council Fathers (known as the vota) are a vital key to their intent and their discussions at the Council itself, specifically in the area of the reform of the Roman Breviary. After a brief introduction to the antepreparatory period of the Council, an explanation what thevota are, and their value for a general hermeneutic of the Second Vatican Council; the suggestions and proposals made about the Breviary, the study of which has been sorely-neglected, was examined to get a view of precisely what the future Council Fathers wished to discuss at Vatican II. Matthew then briefly compared the vota with one of the final documents of the liturgical commission established by Pope Pius XII, the 1960 Code of Rubrics, which anticipated some of what was desired in thevota. The paper finished with indication of the possible directions for future research on the topic.

Our publisher Dr William Mahrt delivered the final talk of the day, “The Role of Antiphons in the Singing of the Divine Office”, after which, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke celebrated Solemn Pontifical Vespers at the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, and confirmed seven young members of the parish.

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