Tuesday, March 02, 2021

A Proposal for the Restoration and Renewal of 1948 Breviarium Romanum - Guest Article by Dr Lee Fratantuono

Our thanks to Dr Lee Fratantuono for sharing this article with us, a consideration of the differences between the last three typical editions of the Roman Breviary, and his propsal for returning to the use of the one issued in 1948.

The 1948 editio nova typica of the Breviarium Romanum was published in 1949 (its decree of approbation was signed on 21 December, 1948). It was reprinted once after the changes to the Assumption office that were promulgated after the 1950 dogmatic declaration. [note]
The decree from the Sacred Congregation for Rites which notes that the rationale for a new publication of a Vatican breviary was the introduction of the optional use of the Pian Psalter.
The 1948 breviary was the first new typical edition of the Office since 1928. The intervening two decades saw the addition of a number of new feasts to the general calendar and some modest adjustments based on new patronages of saints and the awarding of the title Doctor of the Church, as well as the 1942 creation of the Common of Pontiffs. This Common has occasioned some justifiable criticism: it is highly repetitive in practice (this is especially notable in the proper for Rome, where so many sainted popes fill the calendar). It largely obscured the distinction between martyr and confessor popes. It strangely resulted in the deletion of the proper third nocturn for Gregory the Great on 12 March, despite efforts otherwise to retain such proper texts for popes as the oration for Marcellus, or the office for Leo the Great.
But by and large, 1948 is 1928, except for certain new feasts. One must confess that the psalter text is the notorious Pian edition of 1945, not the Vulgate. However, given that the Pian psalter was optional, breviaries otherwise faithful to “1948” were published with the Vulgate (even if most chose to use the Pian).
The 1948 edition is the most lavish twentieth-century Vatican edition of the Roman breviary. Printed in four volumes - the only such Vatican Press breviary until the 1971-2 Liturgia Horarum - it was illustrated with woodcuts by Fernando Fausti Conti, who provided illustrations for every feast of at least Double of the II Class rank, as well as for several double majors. This was a breviary where Ss Gabriel and Raphael have lovely woodcuts, as does every apostolic feast. This is the last Vatican breviary to date with frontispieces.
Every feast of the II class and every common has an illustration.
One may note that the 1948 Vatican breviary was styled a “new typical edition,” rather than the “fifth after the typical”; the reason for this seems to have been that the stated occasion for the publication of a breviary was the publication of the new psalter.
The 1956 Vatican typical edition is a totum with significantly reduced illustrations. It is also an anomalous breviary: published after the 1955 simplification of the rubrics, it does not actually include the text of those rubrics. Indeed, the only hint of the simplification comes to the lynx-eyed observer who notes the absence of commemorations in the offices of such new feasts as the Queenship of the B.V.M. on 31 May. The textual differences from 1948 to 1956 include the results of the new Holy Week rubrics; the new Assumption and octave offices (carried over from the reprint of the 1948 edition); the May feasts of Joseph the Workman and the Queenship; Saint Pius X on 3 September; the abolition of the Patronage of Joseph and its octave (the Matins lessons of which, ironically, already honored Joseph the Workman on the octave day).
The 1956 breviary thus contains significant material that would never actually be used by those observing the simplified rubrics. It paved the way for what followed, in which unused texts would simply be dropped entirely.
One irony to note: 1956 also omits the abolished local feast of the Holy House of Loreto on 10 December, a feast that had entered an appendix of the typical edition because of its use throughout Italy and the adjacent islands. It would be Pope Francis who would add this feast to the general calendar: a case of where the 1948 edition is more Bergoglian than 1956 or 1961!
The 1956 edition is styled the “fifth after the typical”; the 1961 was not considered the “sixth” because the rubrics were completely rewritten.
The 1961 typical edition is another totum, with the same illustrations as 1956 and of course the drastically reduced office of the Johannine Rubricarum instructum of 1960. It is so slender that it is not much larger than the Spring volume of the 1948 edition. The only new material in it consists of the three feasts added by that saintly pope to the calendar, Lawrence of Brindisi, Gregory Barbarigo and Anthony Mary Claret, plus the Litany of the Precious Blood in the appendix of texts from the Ritual. The first of these had actually been added to the general calendar in 1959 - thus earning Lawrence the dubious distinction of having been the last saint for whom a full second nocturn was appointed for Matins. Otherwise, 1961 is essentially a drastically edited version of its predecessor.
It is interesting that the official 1961 Vatican printing of the breviary included a set of four booklets with all of the post-1956 changes to the office. These are labeled according to the now-defunct seasonal scheme of Winter, Spring, etc., with clear intention for their use with traditional four-volume breviaries like the 1948 edition.
The 1948 Vatican breviary also records the traditional, votive devotions associated with the days of the week, such as St Joseph on Wednesdays.
Little more than a dozen years separate these three typical editions of the Office. The 1948 represents the culmination of a process that began with the first Pius X typical edition of 1914. There is no hint in the twentieth-century typical editions through 1948 inclusive that major changes are on the horizon. There is, in contrast, a clear, prefatory statement of what the future was to hold: corrected texts of the patristic readings, for example, to restore them to their pristine state. This sort of textual work is the labor of patristic and classical scholars, of editors of critical texts who study the manuscript traditions of the works of writers like Ambrose or Augustine.
That envisaged work never materialized, because by 1948 a liturgical commission was already beginning the process that would result in the 1955 simplifications; the 1961 breviary; and what would replace it a decade later - an entirely new work.
I would submit the case that the 1948 Office is superior in every way to the 1961, and that history will judge that the better course would have been to follow the announced plan of Pius X, and to correct the texts of the Office lessons with the usual philological rigor such enterprises entail.
Why do I argue that 1948 is superior, indeed vastly superior to 1961? I leave aside what has already been noted by many writers on the history of the Roman breviary in the twentieth century: the mutilation of Matins, such that the Sunday Office is sometimes thoughtlessly arranged given the deletion of lessons. What of other differences between the breviary of 1948 and that of 1961?
If there is one abiding feature of the 1948 office that distinguishes it from what replaced it, it would be the notion of a never ending day. Constantly one encounters the ancient tradition of First Vespers. One day passes naturally into another by the extensive system of commemorations and dual Vespers, where half of one feast is observed before the Chapter commences the observance of the new. This never-ending day is an image of the heavenly liturgy, where day is endless. One is forever saying farewell to one feast even as a new begins. We rarely go to sleep, as it were, in a state of ending. Endings sometimes come after None, as a simple feast ends and we wait for a new one to start as the sun sets. But we seldom finish one feast with Vespers without also introducing the new. Christmas is a lovely example: we close Vespers on 25 December by singing a commemoration of Stephen, whose feast has already commenced. The blood of the martyrs is recalled already as the sun sets on the Lord’s Nativity.
“The morrow” is a concept that is deeply engrained in the 1948 breviary - itself a concept that speaks to Christian hope in the eternal tomorrow.
There are other touches that remind one of time, of season and feast: the adjustments of the doxologies of hymns; the change in the Iste Confessor to note the actual day of a saint’s death; the suffrages and other prayers that are part of the distinction between double and semidouble/ferial offices.
The transference of impeded lessons and the venerable tradition of anticipated Sundays; such wonderful weeks as the summer Octave of Corpus Christi with its rich daily Matins lessons; the autumn Octave of All Saints; the greater attention to the apostles and their liturgy that marks the passing months - all of these features of 1948 offer a richer exposure to the traditions of the Roman liturgy than what by comparison can seem the anemic rubrics of 1961.
Am I advocating, then, a return to 1948? Yes, and more.
My modest plan for the reform of the Roman breviary would begin with what Pius X envisaged: attend to the critical texts of the Fathers and the legends of the saints. Second, restore those verses of both Scripture and the Fathers that were cut in editions subsequent to the 1568 editio princeps. Third, restore the text of the hymns to the 1568 originals, again with due care for textual criticism as for the lessons.
All of these steps would represent conservative restoration, not innovation. 1948 is a suitable year from which to start because its selection is not based on more subjective criteria such as whether or not one favors the addition of a Common of Popes. 1948 is the year of the publication of the last typical edition before the decisive change from tending to a liturgy that was seen as lacking only the ultima manus to perfect it, and the drive to create something novel. It is the year of the liturgical commission that would begin to enact dramatic changes in the consequential decade of the 1950s.
1948 (and not 1961) is the last typical edition of the breviary before the very concept of the breviary would be reimagined and conceived anew. The history of the breviary from 1948 to 1971 is one of repeated cutting and abridgment, all before the introduction in 1971 of a completely new book - a new book that like the new Missal of 1970 did not pretend to be a new edition of what preceded it, but which abandoned entirely the 1568 bull of Pius V and even the title Breviarium Romanum. With the exception of some new feasts and the peculiar case of Holy Week, the story of the Roman Office from 1948 to 1971 is simply one of slashing and burning. 1961 is noteworthy for being the last typical edition of the breviary, but in the larger picture of the history of breviary reformation (some would say deformation) following on the Pian liturgical commission of 1948, it is a mere halfway point. It was the second of two typical editions that were crafted in the years of abridgment and abbreviation of the breviary. In a perverse sense, 1961 is akin to a “Christian Prayer” version of the four-volume 1948 Office. There is but one reason to commend 1956 or 1961 to 1948: it is shorter. Cardinal Quiñones was better at that sort of thing than his twentieth-century would-be epigones.
There are good historical reasons for choosing the “1962” books for the so-called extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. But in terms of the history of the Roman breviary, I would argue passionately in favor of a wholesale return to 1948, the true “last year” before the liturgical tone would shift from preservation to innovation, from organic development to creation virtually ab initio via the expedient of jettisoning large portions of the Office.
It is an easy Roman Office to come to love, as one appreciates the rich texture of the never ending canticle of praise.
[note : In 1954, a fascicle was published by the Vatican Press containing the few updated Matins texts occasioned by the declaration of new sacred patrons, notably the addition of the detail to the feast of the Apparition of St. Michael on 8 May that said title had been declared the patron of those who practiced radiation therapy in the medical profession. This constituted the last update to the breviary before the simplification of the rubrics in 1955; the 31 May feast of the Queenship was instituted in 1954, but only celebrated for the first time the following year.]

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