Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Scattering of the Propers: A Case Study in the Mass Formularies of the Ordinary Form

The corpus of prayers found in the post-Vatican II Roman Missal is very different from that of the preceding liturgical tradition. This is not a new observation, but it bears repeating every now and then, as it seems that, whatever pages one turns to in the Missal of the usus recentior, one is guaranteed to come across several major differences with the equivalent pages in the usus antiquior. Particularly in the tempus per annum, it often feels like the reformers took each oration in the existing corpus of prayers, threw them up in the air, and then assigned them to where they happened to land, thereby scattering them throughout the liturgical year.

What, though, is the reality of this situation? Can this suspicion be justified? I thought I would attempt to answer this question by looking at the sources of the Mass propers for last Sunday, the 15th Sunday per annum, principally in terms of the corpora (i.e. the Mass formularies) from which they have come.

Reference will be made to the volumes of the Corpus Orationum (CO), [1] which lists, in alphabetical order, the orations contained in over two hundred extant manuscripts from before the liturgical reforms carried out after the Council of Trent, and makes it possible for one to determine how widely a given prayer was used, when it was used, in what contexts, and whether there are any textual variants. These volumes are an essential tool in this kind of research!

The Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia emendata (2008)
CollectCO 1582)
Deus, qui errántibus, ut in viam possint redíre,
veritátis tuæ lumen osténdis,
da cunctis qui christiána professióne censéntur,
et illa respúere, quæ huic inimíca sunt nómini,
et ea quæ sunt apta sectári.
O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honour.
(ICEL 2011)
This text can be found in the 1962 Missal, where it is the collect for the 3rd Sunday after Easter, and has the word iustitiae after redire. The omission of iustitiae from this oration in the post-conciliar Missal is a text-critical decision made by the Consilium, following the Gelasianum Vetus.

The Corpus Orationum cites a total of forty-six manuscripts that contain this prayer, in two groupings and with some overlap:
  • CO 1582 A cites eleven manuscripts, dating from the 6th to 16th centuries, that use this prayer in various ways, though always as a collect. In the oldest of these manuscripts, the Leonine Sacramentary, it is given in an alia missa in the month of April (note also that only the Leonine is unique to this group of manuscripts). Six other manuscripts assign it to the 4th Sunday after Easter or equivalent, with the other four using it variously as a collect pro cuncto populo christiano (two), for the 1st Sunday after the dedication of the basilica of St Michael the Archangel (one), and as a prayer of preparation for the Divine Office (one).
  • CO 1582 B is by far the larger group, made up of forty-five manuscripts dating from the 8th to 16th centuries where this collect is used on the 3rd Sunday after Easter. In forty of these manuscripts, it is used with the same secret/super oblata and postcommunion prayers. [2]
It is clear that the orations that make up this Mass formulary for the 3rd Sunday after Easter have a very long history of being used together as a set. It is also worth noting that, even in the handful of times where the collect is used apart from the other two orations, it still has a very strong association with Eastertide. Four manuscripts do utilise this collect outside of the Easter season, but in all four this is a duplicate usage: i.e., the oration is used in Eastertide in addition to elsewhere.

By assigning this prayer to the 15th Sunday per annum in the post-Vatican II Missal, then, the reformers doubly severed it from the liturgical tradition. It has been detached both from the history of its seasonal usage in Eastertide, and from its grouping with two other specific orations. [3]

Super oblata/Prayer over the Offerings (CO 5085)
Réspice, Dómine, múnera supplicántis Ecclésiæ,
et pro credéntium sanctificatiónis increménto
suménda concéde.
Look upon the offerings of the Church, O Lord,
as she makes her prayer to you,
and grant that, when consumed by those who believe,
they may bring ever greater holiness.
(ICEL 2011)
This oration can be found in the 1962 Missal on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, formerly (pre-1955) the Sunday in the Octave of the Sacred Heart. It is extant in a total of forty-four manuscripts, in two groupings with overlap, similar to the collect above:
  • CO 5085 A is the main grouping of forty-three manuscripts, ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries, where this secret/super oblata is used on the 4th or 5th Sunday after Pentecost. In almost all of these (forty-two), it is used with the same collect and postcommunion in the same Mass formulary. [4]
  • CO 5085 B is a much smaller group of five manuscripts from the 9th to 11th centuries, where the prayer is used on Low Sunday (dominica albis depositis), with exsultantis in place of supplicantis. In four out of the five manuscripts, this a unique use, with the remaining manuscript (Sacramentarium Triplex) also part of group A.
We can again see that the prayers of this Mass formulary have a long history of being used together. Where this super oblata is used separately from its corresponding collect and postcommunion, it is in a rather small number of manuscripts, spanning only three centuries. By the 11th century, at least on the extant evidence that we have, this oration does not occur apart from the other prayers in its post-Pentecost Sunday Mass formulary. [5] So although the traditional season for this prayer was preserved by the Consilium, the set that this prayer was an exclusive part of for the best part of 900 years has been scattered across the reformed Missal in a novel and previously unknown way. [6]

A page from Thomas Jefferson’s “Bible”, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (1820), a rationalist cutting, editing and rearranging of the Gospels.
Postcommunion (CO 5641)
Sumptis munéribus, quǽsumus, Dómine,
ut, cum frequentatióne mystérii,
crescat nostræ salútis efféctus.
Having consumed these gifts, we pray, O Lord,
that, by our participation in this mystery,
its saving effects upon us may grow.
(ICEL 2011)
This prayer occurs twice in the 1962 Missal, on the 4th Sunday of Advent, and on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost where it begins Sumptis muneribus sacris. These uses are the two groups attested in the Corpus Orationum:
  • CO 5641 A comprises forty-six manuscripts, ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries, and in all but one it is used as the postcommunion for the 2nd or 3rd Sunday after Pentecost. The sole manuscript where it is not used in this way, the Gelesianum Vetus, assigns it to the Sunday after Ascension, where two other manuscripts duplicate it. In one other manuscript, it is duplicated for the Mass pro peccatis. The word sacris is added after muneribus in five manuscripts. The same collect and secret/super oblata are used with this oration in forty-one of the extant manuscripts. [7]
  • CO 5641 B cites thirty-eight manuscripts, again ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries, and in all of these it is used as a postcommunion in the season of Advent. Two manuscripts assign it to the 4th Sunday before the Nativity, in one it is used for alia missa de Adventu, in four it occurs on the 1st Sunday of Advent, and the rest (thirty-one) have it on the 4th Sunday of Advent. Note that thirty-two of these manuscripts are also in the first grouping above. Sacris is added as above in only two of the manuscripts in this group. In twenty-seven of these thirty-eight extant manuscripts, this postcommunion is used with the same collect and secret/super oblata. [8]
When compared with the collect and super oblata assigned in the OF to the 15th Sunday per annum, it is clear that there is a little bit more variability with this postcommunion in terms of the other prayers in its Mass formularies, particularly in group B. Nevertheless, in a majority of the extant manuscripts, it is still associated with a specific collect and super oblata. The liturgical tradition is also nearly unanimous in its use of this oration only in Advent and Time after Pentecost.

Given that one of the aims of the post-conciliar reformers was that duplicated orations were to be avoided, [9] it was always going to be the case that one of the long-standing uses of this postcommunion would be eliminated. Still, just as with the collect and super oblata above, the orations historically associated with both occasions where this postcommunion is used in the liturgical tradition have been scattered across the reformed Missal. [10]

General Observations

This examination of one of the per annum Sundays in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite would appear to bear out one of Lauren Pristas’ observations about the collects in the proper seasons, that “the post-Vatican II revisers did not adopt an antecedent tradition of usage. They produced something unique.” [11] For the Sunday we have looked at, the Consilium took orations from some of the well-attested Easter, Time after Pentecost and Advent prayers, and created a new, unique Mass formulary. This process of reform could almost be seen as a kind of liturgical “greatest hits” album, with the reformers having taken what they considered to be the best orations from across the entire liturgical tradition, and collected them into one corpus of prayers. Of course, this is not a completely accurate metaphor, as, at best, the reformed Missal could only be partly considered a “greatest hits” album. Within it, there are also a sizeable number of “re-recordings” (edited orations) and “remixes” (centonisations), as well as completely new compositions - not things that people tend to buy “greatest hits” albums for!

This rather cavalier approach to liturgical reform is not without its serious problems. Ultimately, it treats the liturgical tradition as a vast body of texts that can be freely deconstructed and reconstructed, like a giant piece of plasticine able to be remade in a completely different shape at the whim of the one moulding it, without any necessary reference to what it was before. No previous liturgical reform had been carried out like this; the 1570 Missale Romanum largely took up a corpus of prayers that, at the time, had been in use for some 800 years, making only very minor changes to it.

A slightly tongue-in-cheek reconstruction of the offices of Coetus XVIII bis
And the key word here is corpus. For it is easy to point at single prayers in the post-Vatican II Missal that date back to the 8th century or earlier - indeed, this is the case for all three of the orations for the 15th Sunday per annum that we have examined. But all three of these prayers have been, to a greater or lesser degree, separated from their traditional contexts and associations, and are now part of, in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, a “fabricated liturgy”. For good or ill, the sets of Mass propers contained in the ancient missals and sacramentaries have been separated into their individual parts and scattered across the reformed Missal, by the Consilium. What effects this has ultimately had on the liturgical formation of the faithful of the Roman Rite is a question that requires further attention and diligent study.

* * * * *

[1] E. Moeller, J.M. Clément & B.C. ’t Wallant (eds.), Corpus Orationum I-XIV (CCSL 160-160M; Brepols, 1992-2004, 14 vols.).

[2] Secret (CO 2912): His nobis, Domine, mysteriis conferatur, quo, terrena desideria mitigantes, discamus habere caelestia. Extant in forty-four manuscripts, in two groups. The first group (A) is made up of forty-three manuscripts where this prayer is used on the 3rd Sunday after Easter. The second (B) is a smaller group of nine with various uses: ordination of monks (one), 1st Sunday after the dedication of the basilica of St Michael the Archangel (one), Mass of one Apostle (two), and the 4th Sunday after Easter (five).
     Postcommunion (CO 5145 a): Sacramenta, quae sumpsimus, quaesumus, Domine, et spiritualibus nos expient alimentis et corporalibus tueantur auxiliis. Extant in forty-eight manuscripts, of which it is used on the 3rd Sunday after Easter in all but one of these. A variant prayer (CO 5145 b) is extant in forty-five manuscripts, used universally as the postcommunion for Wednesday in Week 4 of Lent (with duplicate uses in two manuscripts).

[3] In the reformed Missal, the super oblata has been moved to Tuesday in Week 1 of Lent, a move in keeping with the Consilium’s (arguably erroneous) interpretation of Sacrosanctum Concilium 109: see Lauren Pristas, “The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision”, Communio 30.4 (2003), pp. 621-653, at pp. 642-643. The prayer was also slightly edited: habere becomes amare, which is a variation seen in the textual tradition but not in the older witnesses (such as the Gelesianum Vetus). The postcommunion is not used at all in the post-conciliar Missal, which is perhaps surprising given its frequent attestation in the extant manuscripts.

[4] Collect (CO 4745): Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum, multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam, ut, te rectore, te duce, sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amittamus aeterna. Extant in forty-five manuscripts, of which it is used on the 4th or 5th Sunday after Pentecost in all but three.
     Postcommunion (CO 5300): Sancta tua nos, Domine, sumpta vivificent et misericordiae sempiternae praeparent expiatos. Extant in forty-six manuscripts, in two groups. The first, larger group (A) is made up of forty-four manuscripts, where this oration occurs on the 4th or 5th Sunday after Pentecost in forty-three of them, the sole exception being the Gelesianum Vetus (plus one other manuscript where the oration is duplicated elsewhere). The second group (B) comprises nine manuscripts with various uses: the Chair of St Peter in Antioch (one), various commemorations of Apostles (three), and alia missa tempore mortalitatis (four). Seven of these nine manuscripts are also in the first group.

[5] The one manuscript in CO 5085 A where this prayer is not used alongside CO 4745 and CO 5300 A dates from the 8th century.

[6] The collect of this Mass formulary was assigned to the 17th Sunday per annum, with a change to its ending that is not attested in the textual tradition (sic transeamus... aeterna becomes sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur, ut iam possímus inhaerere mansuris), while only the first half of the postcommunion makes it into the Common of Pastors (V. For Missionaries, formulary 3).

[7] Collect (CO 5346): Sancti nominis tui, Domine, timorem pariter et amorem fac nos habere perpetuum, quia numquam tua gubernatione destitutis, quos in soliditate tuae dilectionis institutis. Extant in fifty-two manuscripts, in two groups. In the first group of ten manuscripts, this oration is always used on the Sunday after Ascension, uniquely so in seven of them. In the second, larger group of forty-five manuscripts, in all of them it is used on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.
     Super oblata (CO 3604 b): Oblatio nos, Domine, tuo nomine dicanda, purificet et de die in diem ad caelestis vitae transferat actionem. Extant in fifty-one manuscripts, in two groups. In the first group of eleven (bA), it is nearly always used on the Sunday after Ascension, with one exception where it occurs on Saturday in Quinquagesima; five of these eleven manuscripts are unique to this group. For the second, larger group of forty-six manuscripts (bB), this oration is always used on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday after Pentecost. A variant of this prayer (CO 3604 a) exists in three manuscripts only.

[8] Collect (CO 2550): Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam et magna nobis virtute succurre, ut per auxilium gloriae tuae, quod nostra peccata praepediunt, indulgentia tuae propitiationis acceleret. Extant in forty-four manuscripts, always in the season of Advent, nearly always as a collect (with two exceptions).
     Super oblata (CO 5205): Sacrificiis praesentibus, Domine, quaesumus, intende placatus, ut et devotioni nostrae proficiant et saluti. The Corpus Orationum gives twelve (!) distinct usage groups for this oration; the first three groups (A-C) are quite small (one, two and four cited manuscripts respectively), but the others (D-L) each have around 20-30 manuscripts cited. The majority of its use is in both Advent and Lent, but it is also well-attested in the months of July and August, as well as numerous saints' days and the occasional Sunday post Pentecosten.

[9] Cf. Schema 186 (De Missali, 27), 19th September 1966, p. 1. The content of this schema, along with the Latin text and English translation of its introduction, can be found in Matthew P. Hazell, The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms Lectionary Study Press, 2018).

[10] For the prayers associated with CO 5641 A (see note 6 above), the collect was assigned to the 12th Sunday per annum, and the super oblata the 14th Sunday per annum. For those orations linked with CO 5641 B (see note 7 above), the collect has been preserved in the Advent season, on Thursday of Week 1, but only its first half (Excita... succurre), while the super oblata is now located on Thursday of Week 5 of Lent, with a couple of transpositions and changes (devotioni becomes conversioni, and totius mundi is added before saluti). Though the transpositions occur in a small number of the extant manuscripts, there is no text-critical basis for the other changes.

[11] Lauren Pristas, The Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 208.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: