Thursday, June 02, 2022

Fr Carlo Braga on the 1955 Holy Week Reform (Part 2)

We continue with the second part of this address by Fr Carlo Braga CM, given in 2005 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1955 reform of Holy Week, in a translation by Mr Carlo Schena. The first part was published yesterday.

In 1956, Fr Braga, together with his confrere Fr Bugnini, published a commentary on the then-new Holy Week reform in the Ephemerides Liturgicae, the Vatican’s official liturgical bulletin, to which Braga was a regular contributor. It is a breath-takingly dishonest piece of work, in that it offers vast quantities of verbiage about about relatively minor changes, while saying little or nothing about much more substantial ones that radically break with the tradition of the Roman Rite. Fifty years later, the policy is much the same. In this section, Fr Braga offers a great many glittering generalities about “participation” and “being pastoral”, but has almost nothing to say about how the reforms in and of themselves are pastoral and bring about participation. This will continue in the next part, his treatment of the individual days of Holy Week.  

The first item to be addressed in the reform process was the recovery of the veritas horarum, i.e. the historical correspondence between the moments of the celebration and the historical events recalled: the Lord’s Supper towards the evening of Thursday, the death on the afternoon of Friday, the resurrection at the end of the night between Saturday and Sunday. (As I noted in a link yesterday, this is an historical falsehood.) In ancient times, this correspondence had existed. But in the Middle Ages, for various reasons, mainly for convenience, the celebrations were brought forward to the morning hours, as in the case of the other feast days. This resulted in displacements which, though accepted in other historical periods when participation in the liturgy had become a formality, caused genuine difficulties for the sensitivity and the spirituality produced by the liturgical movement. This was particularly evident in the morning celebration of the Easter Vigil, with its blessing of the fire for the new light and the many references to the blessed night, carried out while the sun was shining. The joyful ringing of the bells in the middle of the morning or at noon of Saturday marked the end of the Lenten fasting and made the spirit of anticipation for the Resurrection vanish completely.
The recovery of the veritas horarum was also meant to foster the participation of the whole Christian community in the liturgical action.
Frustrating the Christian community’s participation in the Easter vigil of 2021.
We are reminded of the celebration of the sacred Triduum rites in deserted churches, with just a handful of people present. Up until the seventeenth century, the days of the Easter Triduum were also mandatory under civil law. It was therefore easy for the community to join in the celebrations on each individual day. However, due to the changed social circumstances, Urban VIII was forced to remove the days of the holy Triduum from the list of holy days of obligation in 1642. Yet in that time and age, it was unthinkable to re-establish the truth of the times in order to provide the faithful with timetables that would allow for a communal participation in the celebrations of these holy days. The pace of work prevailed over spiritual values.
2. To these motivations had to be added, and that with the utmost priority, the pastoral concern for a conscious and active participation of the Christian community. An archaeological reconstruction intended for mere aesthetic purposes or the restauration of ancient forms was not enough. Recovering a few lost elements, preserving parts from the past that were still valid, and introducing something new that could complete the framework of tradition: all these things had to be guided by the pastoral principle of the participation of the Christian community, whose members had to become once again, each to his own degree, the true actors of the celebration and derive from it more abundant fruits of sanctification. This is what the faithful were asking for, particularly those who were more sensitive to the new spirituality that was manifesting itself and fostering the renewal [of Christian life]. [17]
The Commission embraced the earnest aspirations of the People of God and, in tackling the most delicate part of its work, namely the reform of the heart of the liturgical year, showed how a true revision of the liturgy could be achieved in full and scrupulous fidelity to the best liturgical traditions.
What was not psychologically and spiritually possible at the time of Pius V and Urban VIII because of tradition, insufficient spiritual and theological formation, and lack of knowledge of the liturgical sources, was however possible at the time of Pius XII. 
The Church was now open to the ferments of renewal and to the new aspirations of society, showing understanding and courage in the face of the challenges of new times. The mindset of the Christian communities was not only willing to accept the reforms, but even demanded them, confident of the spiritual results they would bring. On a scientific level, the Commission had all the necessary technical means at its disposal. The historical, textual and rubrical sources were now at hand, in critical editions drafted with reliable scientific criteria. The past could be read and assessed; it could be clarified and compared with the new realities. The journey of the reform would be neither easy nor quick, but it was possible, and the passion and good will of the scholars [involved] would make it possible. Possibly the authors of the critical editions had dreamed of such a courageous initiative, but had to be content with hope. To see its completion was something reserved for us.
The reform was greeted with very favourable comments. In this sense, the bibliography of liturgical journals is significant. For many of them, it was not possible to publish the document itself or presentations and comments in the last issue of 1955. But the first issues of 1956 were dedicated to preparing the renewed Easter celebrations and all through the year there was a great number of scholarly and pastoral articles. [18]  Some magazines devoted special monographic issues to the subject. [19]
I have spoken of liturgical journals. A few journals, then widespread among the clergy, both at the end of 1955 and during 1956, gave no space to the question of the new celebrations. The concept of liturgical pastoral ministry had not yet come to animate the general pastoral approach. Times had yet to mature, by means of experience of the celebrations.
The changes in the new Ordo
Let us take a closer look at the changes that the new Ordo has brought into the Roman liturgy. We mentioned that this is not an archaeological effort. However, it could not disregard historical data to evaluate and choose its innovations. We will have to do likewise in our presentation: in order to appreciate the value of certain solutions, we will need to retrace the historical development and the ritual evolutions. [20]
1. The first innovative element to be found upon opening this liturgical book is the method of publication. The Decree, a juridical document, includes the entire normative (i.e. rubrical) section; in addition, however, we find a pastoral guide, designed to help both priests and the faithful understand and celebrate the new rites. Such a procedure had not been followed even for the promulgation of the reformed Easter Vigil.
The purpose of the Instruction is clearly expressed at the very outset: “Whereas the purpose of the new Ordo of Holy Week is to enable the faithful to participate more devoutly and fruitfully in the venerable liturgy of these days ... it is of great importance that this salutary end be fully achieved.” The means of doing so was to be the knowledge and implementation of the Instruction itself. Through it “the transition to the new dispositions is made easier, and the faithful, from their lively participation in the sacred rites, will certainly draw more abundant fruits”.
The Instruction is not a pious exhortation; it is not optional. Its knowledge and application are required: “All those concerned should strive to know and observe the following Instruction” (the Latin text is stronger: “huius Instructionis cognitio et observantia iniungitur.”)
In particular, the bishops are called upon to prepare the priests in the knowledge of the new Ordo, not only from a ritual viewpoint, but also in its liturgical and pastoral sense. Priests are also reminded of their duty to ensure that “the faithful, during Lent, are suitably instructed so that they may properly understand the new Ordo of the Holy Week, in order to partake with understanding and devotion in the sacred celebrations.”
This pastoral exhortation remains valid even for today: Lenten catechesis should aim to prepare the faithful for the Easter celebrations and to grasp all the implications of these celebrations for the life of the believer.
This idea of a pastoral and spiritual Instruction for participation in liturgical celebrations proved to be a positive one. It served as a guide for new documents and new liturgical books; it would be applied and expanded in the Praenotanda of the books of the conciliar reform.
2. Some indications for all of Holy Week.
Before going into a detailed examination of the reform of the individual days, it is worth pausing briefly to examine some norms concerning Holy Week as a whole.
a) Form of the celebration. In nos. 1 and 2 of the Ordinationes of February 1, 1957, two forms of celebration are envisaged: a so-called “solemn” one for churches where a sufficient number of sacred ministers is available; another referred to as a “simple rite” for churches where there are no sacred ministers. The principle had already been formulated and tested in the second edition of the Ordo of the Easter Vigil, in 1952. The liturgical book shows the norms for the two forms of celebration together: those for the solemn rite in round type, those for the simple rite in italics. The two forms are intended to ensure a dignified celebration, not just where there is an abundance of ministers and means, but also in places with fewer human and material resources. The one condition “absolutely required in order to be able to use the simple rite” is the accurate preparation of the celebrant, the ministers and the various material items – thus the necessary adaptations are provided in order to avoid unbecoming improvisations. This is a wise rule, part of the economy of the dignity of the sacred action.
The novelty lies in the fact that the prescriptions for the two rites are systematically included together in the same liturgical book. Formerly, Benedict XIII had a Memoriale rituum published in 1724, i.e. a simple ceremonial for the parish churches of Rome, which Pius VII extended to all dioceses in 1821, to be used at the bishop’s discretion. This reduced ceremonial remained in use until the reforms of Pius XII. It inspired the rubrics of the Ordo. And since there are still many churches that have no abundance of clergy, on February 5, 1957, the Congregation of Rites published a very detailed Ritus simplex Ordinis Hebdomadae Sanctae instaurati, intended to replace the Memoriale of Benedict XIII. As a sort of completion, ten days later (February15, 1957) it also published a Ritus pontificalis for the same Ordo, replacing the corresponding chapters of the Cerimoniale of bishops.
But n. 3 of the Declarationes goes even further. In order to enrich the celebrations according to the simple rite, it provides that, where there is another priest or deacon, these may “suitably fulfil the part of the deacon”, with no need for the parallel figure of the subdeacon. This form was already known in the monastic rites. An interesting possibility, as it opens the way to what the Institutio generalis of the Missal of Paul VI will refer to as the Missa cum diacono.
b) Forms of participation. - According to the Ordo, the presence of the Christian community at the Easter celebrations must express itself in the fullness of forms required by the rites. It must be attentive, conscious, active and full.
Attention must be ensured by the prior knowledge of the rite achieved through the Lenten catechesis offered by the priests, which in turn presupposes their own preparation. Active participation should implement both the general norms and those specific to certain moments of these celebrations. The visibility of particular gestures of the celebration, detached from the altar and carried out by the sacred ministers while facing the people, is also of significance and influence. Full participation must be ensured by sacramental participation: hence the indication to arrange for the celebration of Confession at opportune times, even before Holy Week.
Among the many details that should have encouraged active participation, I shall dwell briefly on a rubric concerning the listening to the word of God: “(Lectiones) leguntur a lectore.... Celebrans et ministri, clerus et populus sedentes auscultant”. It is normal to listen to a reading while sitting down. The new and most important part refers to the celebrant: he is no longer obliged to read personally, as if he were abstracting himself from the community, what is proclaimed for the whole assembly. This rubric was already in the Ordo of the Easter Vigil. The Instructio of 1955 takes it up and specifies that “…the celebrant omits what the deacon, the subdeacon and the reader sing or read” (No. 6). With the Codex rubricarum (no. 473) of John XXIII and the 1962 edition of the Missal, this became a general norm for all celebrations. A new style of celebration was gradually emerging. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this new norm lost much of its value as the readings were not allowed to be in the vernacular.
There is a minor inconsistency: the rule has no corresponding application, as would be logical, for the sung parts. It is only on Good Friday that it is said that, while the “sic dicta improperia” are being sung, “celebrans, ministri sacri et ministrantes, ceterique omnes qui adorationem sanctae crucis peregerunt, sedentes auscultant”.
No reason is given for this particularity.
NOTES (numeration continuing from the previous part)
After the reform of the Easter Vigil, the reform of the Holy Triduum became the subject of many conferences. This is evidenced by a lecture given by Fr. G. LOEW at the Theological Week in Linz (July 1953) entitled “La riforma liturgica del Triduum sacrum” and published in the Rivista Liturgica 41 (1954) 118-130. Of course, Fr Loew’s position in the Commissione Piana allowed him to disclose many details in advance, even though he claimed to be speaking on a personal capacity.
The Rivista liturgica published the text of the documents in the last issue of vol. 42 (1955), with a short note of presentation by Mgr. Carlo Rossi, President of CAL (233-246). In vol. 43 (1956). the Rivista published P.G. LOEW, “La Settimana Santa restaurata e la pastorale liturgica” (79-92), by D. BALBONI, “ Teologia ed ascetica nell’Ordo Instauratus Hebdomadae Sanctae” (93-105) and L. ROVIGATTI, “ Esperienze e suggerimenti della prima celebrazione della Settimana Santa restaurata” (106-117).
I shall just mention two extensive commentaries published in 1956. The first can be found in Ephemerides Liturgicae 70, fasc. 2-3, edited by A. BUGNINI - C. BRAGA (81-228). It has a historical and pastoral character. This text was published in a separate volume with the title Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae instauratus (Bibliotheca Ephemerides Liturgicae, Sectio historica 25), published by the Edizioni liturgiche, Rome 1956, 174 pp. The second commentary is that of Maison-Dieu n. 45 (1/1956), rather pastoral in character, with studies by L. BEAUDUIN, P.-M. GY, P. JOUNEL, P. DONCOEUR, L. BOUYER, E. VIALE, B. CAPELLE, I.-H. DALMAIS.
[20] The nature of this essay does not allow me to offer detailed documentation for the historical part that will be recalled. I apologise and refer you to the study of which I was the author together with Fr Bugnini, as mentioned in the previous note.

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