Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The New Prefaces of the EF Mass, Part 2: The Preface of St John the Baptist

This is the second article in a series on the prefaces which have recently been made optional for use in the Mass of the Extraordinary Form. The first part of the previous article outlines the history of the preface as a feature of the Roman Mass. In it, I explained that when the post-Conciliar reformers decided to broaden the corpus of prefaces, the texts were not taken from ancient sources of the Roman Rite, or from the Ambrosian Rite, which had always maintained a much greater variety of them. It was determined that such texts were unsuitable for modern use, and indeed, “unbearable”, and therefore, new ones were created by various devices. The preface examined in the first article, that of the Angels, is substantially the same as one attested in the very oldest liturgical source of the Roman Rite, the so-called Leonine Sacramentary, with some changes of wording and the omission (for no discernible reason) of one clause.

The preface for the feasts of St John the Baptist, on the other hand, is essentially a new composition, broadly inspired by an historical text. In their book “The Prefaces of the Roman Missal. A Source Compendium with Concordance and Indices,” Fr Anthony Ward, S.M. and Dom Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B., give six different ancient prefaces as its source; however, this is quite misleading. The first of these, also from the Leonine Sacramentary, provides no more than a single verb and the putative inspiration for a single prepositional phrase. The fifth, a preface for the feast of a martyr, is cited as the source for the “Et ideo” clause which concludes a huge number of prefaces, and might therefore just as well have been omitted. The sixth is not cited as the source of a single word of the new preface, but rather as a text which “seems at some points to have given generic inspiration for adaptation of the texts (listed) above.”

Folio 172r of the Sacramentary of Rodrad, 853AD, with the preface for the Nativity of St John the Baptist “VD. Et in die festivitatis”. This section of the manuscript is a collection of prefaces added to the original sacramentary, which were not integrated into the texts of the Masses to which they belonged; for this reason, the text above it is not another part of the same Mass, but a preface for the vigil, and that below is a preface for the feast of Ss John and Paul. Rodrad is the name of the priest who made this manuscript for Hilmerad, bishop of Amiens, who had ordained him to the priesthood. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12050)
The second and third of their sources are in fact the same text, first as it appears in the Leonine Sacramentary in the mid-6th century, and then in a supplement added to the Gregorian Sacramentary in the 9th century, with just four additional words. This was included, without its final section, in the 1771 neo-Gallican Missal of Lyon, which is Ward and Johnson’s fourth source. A slightly different recension provides the first half of the Ambrosian preface for the Nativity of St John the Baptist, as attested in the oldest sacramentaries of that rite; this was still being used at the time of the reform, and is still in use to this day in the Ambrosian Extraordinary Form. Here is the version from the Gregorian Sacramentary; the words in italics are the ones not in the Leonine.

“VD: Et in die festivitatis hodiernae, qua beatus Joannes exortus est, tuam magnificentiam collaudare. Qui vocem matris Domini nondum editus sensit, et adhuc clausus utero, adventum salutis humanae prophetica exultatione significavit. Qui et genetricis sterilitatem conceptus abstersit, et patris linguam natus absolvit, solusque omnium prophetarum Redemptorem mundi, quem praenuntiavit, ostendit. Et ut sacrae purificationis effectum aquarum natura conciperet, sanctificandis Iordanis fluentis ipsum baptismatis lavit auctorem.

A triptych of the Baptism of Christ, 1387, by the Florentine painter Nicolò di Pietro Gerini (active from 1366, died ca. 1415), with Ss Peter and Paul; in the predella, stories from the life of the Baptist (the annunciation to Zachariah, the birth, and the beheading) flanked by St Romuald (right), founder of the Camaldolese Order, and his spiritual father Marinus (left). Originally commissioned for the Camaldolese church in Florence, Santa Maria degli Angeli; now in the National Gallery in London.
Truly it is worthy… and on this day of festivity, on which the blessed John was born, (lit. ‘arose, appeared, came forth.’), to praise Thy magnificence. Who sensed the voice of the Lord’s Mother when he had not yet been brought forth, and while still enclosed in the womb, and made known the coming of mankind’s salvation with prophet rejoicing. Who in his conception wiped away the sterility of his mother, in his birth, set loose the tongue of his father, and alone of all the prophets, showed the Redeemer of the world whom he who foretold. And, so that the nature of water might receive the effect of sacred purification, he washed the very Author of baptism with the streams of the Jordan that were thus to be sanctified.”

Ward and Johnson’s book is purely documentary, and therefore, although it shows by comparison what was changed, it doesn’t explain why any specific change was made. We are therefore left to guess at the motives of the post-Conciliar reformers where they are not obvious, and in this case, it is difficult to see why they felt they couldn’t just leave such an ancient text alone when adding it to the Missal. The final clause, which does not depend directly on any prior source, was made necessary by the absolutely bizarre decision to have one preface serve for both the birth of St John and his Beheading, the latter now renamed as his “Passion” in deference to the delicate sensibilities of Modern Man™. (This name is found, along with a great many other things, in ancient manuscripts.) This is the result of their work.

“VD… per Christum Dóminum nostrum. In cuius Praecursóre beáto Ioanne tuam magnificentiam collaudámus, quem inter natos mulíerum honóre praecipuo consecrasti. Qui cum nascendo multa gaudia praestitisset, et nondum éditus exsultasset ad humánae salútis adventum, ipse solus omnium prophetárum Agnum redemptiónis ostendit. Sed et sanctificandis etiam aquae fluentis ipsum baptísmatis lavit auctórem, et méruit fuso sánguine supremum illi testimonium exhibére.

The Beheading of St John the Baptist, ca. 1635, by the Neapolitan painter Massimo Stanzione (1585-1656), now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. 
My literal translation: It is truly right … through Christ our Lord. In whose Precursor, the blessed John, we praise Thy magnificence, even him whom Thou didst consecrate with particular honor among those born of women. Who, when he had brought man joys in his birth, and though not yet born, had rejoiced at the coming of mankind’s salvation, did alone of all the prophets point out the Lamb of redemption. But also he washed the very author of Baptism with the streams of water that were thus to be sanctified, and merited to bear Him the supreme witness by the shedding of his blood.

The new English liturgical translation: It is truly right … through Christ our Lord. In his Precursor, Saint John the Baptist, we praise your great glory, for you consecrated him for a single honor among those born of women. His birth brought great rejoicing; even in the womb, he leapt for joy at the coming of human salvation. He alone of all the prophets pointed out the Lamb of redemption. And to make holy the flowing waters he baptized the very author of Baptism and was privileged to bear him the supreme witness by the shedding of his blood.”

The words underlined in my translation are taken more or less from the preface in the Gregorian Sacramentary. Ward and Johnson cite the words “among those born of women” to a completely different preface in another Mass of St John in the Leonine Sacramentary; the modern version conforms the original reading “among the sons of men” to the Biblical text (Matt. 11, 11). The same preface is also given as the source of the single Latin word “consecrasti – Thou didst consecrate”, but (as they note without explanation) this is actually an editorial correction of the defective Leonine text made by Dom Leo Mohlberg OSB in his critical edition.

The preface which Ward and Johnson say “seems at some points to have given generic inspiration for adaptation of the texts above” is actually for the Decapitation of the Baptist, and attested in all the same manuscripts of the Gregorian Sacramentary as the preface “Et in die festivitatis” given above. No part of the clause about the Beheading at the end of the modern preface corresponds to anything in it, but phrases like “by the shedding of (his) blood” occur in many liturgical texts of every sort and period.

In the Novus Ordo, many new doxologies were invented for the new prefaces, but in this case, this will not be used in the EF. Here is the conclusion for the preface in the OF.

Et ídeo, cum caelórum virtútibus, in terris te iúgiter praedicámus, maiestáti tuae sine fine clamantes: Sanctus...

My literal translation: And therefore, with the powers of the heavens, we proclaim Thee unceasingly on earth, crying out to Thy majesty without end: Holy…

The new English liturgical translation: And so, with the powers of heaven, we worship you constantly on earth, and before your majesty without end we acclaim: Holy…

As was also the case with the preface of the Angels, the putative Biblical and Patristic sources which Ward and Johnson give for these liturgical texts are too generic to bother mentioning.

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