Thursday, November 17, 2022

“For a General Liturgical Reform” by Annibale Bugnini (Part 2)

We continue our publication of the first-ever English translation of Bugnini’s programmatic 1949 article in Ephemerides Liturgicae outlining the plan for a total overhaul of the Church’s liturgical worship. Part 1 was published yesterday.

An Ordo from 1842

The general complaint is that the ranking of feasts, as it currently stands, is too complicated and painstaking. But when it comes to providing a solution, either no solution at all is offered, or one which is clearly inadequate to the purpose. Most are content to say that the “doubles” are too many and must be reduced; that the “semi-doubles,” in practice, have no other effect than to burden the office with the addition of the “preces” at Prime and of the common commemorations to the normal nine-lesson office, and that it must therefore be abolished, reducing these feasts to the simple rite, while raising the Sundays to the double rite, or to the major double, or to second-class feasts.

Furthermore, we have the semi-festive office (St. Agatha, St. Cecilia, etc.), which would also need a transformation as it forces an illogical division and, in some cases, a capricious interweaving of parts that are inseparable by nature. Overall, the proposed remedies only solve the problem to a minimal extent. How to reach a real and definitive simplification?

Not far from the truth, perhaps, are those who describe as “excessive and arbitrary the current nomenclature of the rites of the Office,” and even suggest the development of a new ideal scale for the ranking of feasts, one that is not merely intentional and fictitious, but has a real and concrete basis in the intrinsic value of the feasts themselves, and that can meet the reasonable demands of the liturgy. Such a scale should take into account first of all the fundamental feasts of the mysteries of the Lord (Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost), which regulate the entire annual cycle of the Redemption and should therefore be given special treatment, then the other more recent but particularly important feasts of the Lord, namely Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart and Christ the King, and then, proportionally, the other feasts of the year, distributed, of course, in very limited gradations.


A. Temporal [Cycle]

We have already mentioned that with the two cycles of Christmas and Easter the proprium de tempore should regain, in the reformed liturgy, an absolute pre-eminence over the proprium sanctorum. This desire is universal. Here too, however, no one has addressed the problem on the whole, but rather limited themselves to particular remarks, which can be summarised as follows:

a) A proper Preface for Advent;

b) Suppression of commemorations in Advent;

c) In the Christmas cycle, concordance between the historical succession of events and the liturgical calendar. Currently, it is noted, there is a very capricious intertwining of the two things, as can be seen from the following chart:

Historical succession

1. Nativitas

2. Circumcisio

3. Praesentatio

4. Magorum adventus

5. Fuga in Ægyptum

6. Innocentium Passio

7. Reditus de Ægypto

8. Vita in Nazareth

9. Jesus in Tempo

10. Baptismus in Jordane

11. Nuptiae in Cana

[Feast Date]

25 Dec.

28 Dec.

Dom. Infra Oct.


1 Jan.

5 Jan.

6 Jan.

Dom. i. Oct.

13 Jan.

Dom. II

2 Febr.

Liturgical Calendar

1. Nativitas

2. Innocentium Passio

3. Praesentatio (1ª pars)

4. Reditus in Nazareth

5. Circumcisio (die 8)

6. De Ægypto in Nazareth

7. Magorum adventus

8. Jesus in Tempo

9. Baptismus in Jordane

10. Nuptiae in Cana

11. Praesentatio (2ª pars)

If one were to trace the lines connecting historical facts with the corresponding liturgical feast, the result would be a veritable labyrinth.

The proposal would aim to bring the two ideal successions together.

d) The octave of Christmas should deal entirely with the Christmas mystery and therefore the feasts of the saints should be eliminated or reduced to a simple commemoration. St John the Evangelist and St Stephen are already celebrated at other times and can disappear here; the Holy Innocents, on the other hand, can remain, as they are related to Christmas. Lessons for other days can be taken from the feast of the Holy Family, the Maternity, etc. (Editor’s note: when he says that Ss John and Stephen “are already celebrated at other times”, he is referring to the feasts of St John at the Latin Gate on May 6th, and of the Finding of St Stephen on August 3rd, both of which were suppressed in 1960. That such a mutilation of the ancient arrangement of the Christmas octave was even deemed worthy of mention, and not just in any scholarly journal, but the Vatican’s official publication on the liturgy, shows how appallingly the field of liturgical study had already deteriorated well before any serious changes were made.)

e) On the Feast of the Epiphany, a second Mass should be celebrated to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus (the Mass of the Magi in the morning, and of the Baptism after Terce).

Greater prominence should be given to the Feast of the Epiphany with its octave. Somewhat curious in this regard is a project that would pile up around this solemnity several others, currently celebrated throughout the year. Namely, with this arrangement:

Sabbato post kalendas Januarii

Dominica prima post Circumc.

Feria secunda post Epiphaniam

Feria tertia post Epiphaniam

Feria quarta post Epiphaniam

Feria quinta post Epiphaniam

Feria sexta post Epiphaniam

Sabbato post Epiphaniam

Dominica prima post Epiphaniam

Dominica secunda post Epiphaniam

Dominica tertia, quarta, quinta p. E.

Dominica ultima post Epiphaniam

Vigilia Epiphaniae

Epiphania (Bapt. J. C. in Jordane)

Magorum adventus

Jesus in Templo

Nuptiae in Cana

Transfiguratio Christi

Cor Jesu (sine octava)

Assumptio B. M. V.

Festum Christi Regis

Festum Sanctae Familiae

ut nunc

Festum Praesentationis (Purificatio)

The proponent adds to the scheme ample explanations justifying the individual allocations and transpositions, but the proposal seems on the whole rather peculiar and not easy to implement, assuming, of course, that it really deserves, as it stands, to be taken into consideration. (Editor’s note: here also, we have a proposal for mutilating the liturgical calendar in which even something so ancient and universal as the date of the Assumption is not safe. The mere fact that Bugnini himself describes this horrendous and absurd idea so mildly (‘somewhat curious’, ‘rather peculiar’), demonstrates how perfectly unfit he was to have any hand in any project of liturgical reform.) 

f) Easter. Some want it fixed, others mobile (either leaving it as it is, or setting it on the first Sunday in April or in the first half of the same month). The supporters of a fixed Easter claim that it “would bring in all fields of activity and of prayer a considerable advantage, which would far outweigh the various standpoints of the traditionalists.” These, in turn, note that “the mobility of Easter is one of the most precious elements in the poetry of an already too monotonous life.” On the other hand, they add that in order to achieve it artificially, the desired fixedness could not be ensured without sacrificing,  the traditional lunar computation and the regular succession of the seven weekdays.”

The issue, as is well known, has been dealt with in all sorts of ways even outside, indeed especially outside, the purely ecclesiastical field. Yet for the purposes of a possible liturgical reform, this is of secondary importance. The attitude of the Holy See in this regard is also well known, an attitude which remains to this day the guiding principle.

g) Pentecost. Return to the most ancient practice of closing the Easter season with the fiftieth day, i.e. with Pentecost Sunday, without an octave. [1]

B. Sanctoral [Cycle]

A lightening of the Sanctoral was a desideratum of many respondents, wishing for a greater development of latreutic worship and ferial offices. It is a matter of elimination and limitation. Thus, what is called for is not just a reduction of the current calendar, but also some fixed and peremptory norms to prevent the indiscriminate clustering of new feasts of saints, later on. Here is how one contributor puts it:

The devotional prevalence must be brought to an end by reducing to the one type of simple feast and ferial psalter all the feasts of saints for which there exists no local reason for greater solemnity. Purely devotional reasons are inadmissible. All that should be taken into account are: the birth of the saint, his dwelling place, his tomb or the actual presence of prominent relics in a specific place, not for the whole diocese.
        The simplified feasts should include, out of their proper or from the common, nothing but the Collect, the antiphon to the Magnificat and the verse at Vespers, the antiphon of the Benedictus with the verse at Lauds. Everything else should be taken from the psalter and the ordinary. Only the most solemn feasts should have the nine-lesson office and double rite, as in current use. The actual patrons, local apostles and major saints of the universal Church should have their proper office or the common one with double major or 2nd class rite. The 1st class, especially with an octave, should be very rare.
        An excellent way to cut down on the irritating multiplication of commemorations would be to incorporate into the Breviary the reading of the Martyrology at Prime...
        The public celebration must be freed of all the elements that have crept in by fortuitous circumstances (findings of relics, translations of relics, etc.). History tells us that the cult of saints was only celebrated around their burial site, the tomb or ‘cathedra’. The unsafe position of “extra muros” cemeteries at the time of the invasions led to the bringing of the saints’ bodies into the city, giving rise to the development of their cult to the detriment of the celebration of the mysteries of Redemption. A return to the ancient state of affairs could have the beneficial effect of revitalising pilgrimages, something that no one thinks about any more since the saints’ feasts are celebrated everywhere.
To these general observations another scholar gives a more traditionalist and detailed emphasis, while still upholding the principle of simplification:

1. It is by now common consensus (he says), and admitted by all that the office ‘de tempore’ must resume a preponderant place without sacrificing the cult of saints. This can be achieved by keeping only these feasts in the calendar of the universal Church:

) the two feasts of St John the Baptist, and that of St Michael the Archangel on 29 September;

b) a single feast of St Joseph to be celebrated at Christmastide (others suggest the 3rd Sunday after Easter or in the month of May);

) the feasts of the Apostles;

d) the main feasts of the martyrs, retaining just the ancient Roman martyrs, but also a few martyrs of the universal Church, e.g. St. Pothinus and St. Dionysius, St. Boniface, St. Josaphat, St. Wenceslas, the Dominican and Franciscan Martyrs of Morocco, the Japanese Martyrs, a few missionary martyrs of the last centuries;

e) the feasts of the Doctors of the Church (if necessary, by grouping them together);

f) the feasts of some major Popes: St. Gregory VII, St. Pius V, etc.;

g) the feasts of the founders of great Orders or Congregations of truly universal importance and scattered throughout the world, such as St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Brunel, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne de Chantal, St. Theresa of Avila, etc.;

h) a few other feasts of saints that are truly universal and chosen somewhat from all countries. Obviously, this choice would require a great deal of tact!

2. Within the same vein, several saints who have had the same or related activities should be grouped together (something that is already the case in the Benedictine Order). Why not bring together Saints Barnabas, Titus, Timothy and Silas, with the office of the Apostles? Likewise St. Joachim and St. Anne (with their own office, taking into account that they are Old Testament saints); groups of holy Popes, etc.; of holy Patriarchs and Prophets, instituting a collective feast.

3. As a mere suggestion, the following feasts could be eliminated from the universal calendar: St Martina, St Andrew Corsini, St Romuald, the Seven Holy Founders of the Servants of Mary, St Symeon of Jerusalem, St Casimir, St Frances of Rome, the Forty Martyrs [of Sebaste], St Francis of Paola, Sts Soter and Caius, St George, St Paul of the Cross, St Peter of Verona. On the contrary, one could combine St. Thomas Becket and St. Stanislaus, St. Athanasius of Alexandria and St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Damascene, St. Albert the Great and St. Bonaventure, St. Peter Canisius and St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Felix of Valois and St. John of Matha, St. John of God and St. Camillus de Lellis. In this case the common “pro aliquibus locis” of multiple confessors and holy women could brought into general use. On the other hand, suppressed saints’ feasts could be integrated into the diocesan, national or congregational propers.

4. As for the feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, some are certainly duplicates and should be simplified. For instance: the Circumcision and the Holy Name of Jesus, the Precious Blood to be merged with the Octave of the Sacred Heart, the Transfiguration and the 2nd Sunday of Lent, the two feasts of the Holy Cross, the two feasts of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Holy Name of Mary, to be merged with the Octave of the Birth of the Virgin, the two feasts of the Cathedra Petri.

Other proposals of lesser importance concerning the Sanctoral are: that the feast of Christ the King be transferred to the Sunday within the octave of the Ascension, and the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to 3rd January; or that the name of St. Joseph enter into the Canon [2] and the Confiteor; that a “festum Annuntiationis S. Ioannis Baptistae” be set on September 23rd, as this day would constitute “primordia Evangelii” [the primordial events of the gospel]; that the “Commune Sanctorum” be completely reordered; (the so-called “Confessorum” is practically a refuge for all the most disparate saints: priests, monks, laymen, young, old, of all classes and ranks, so that even the formulary has become schematic, without life and proper charateristic). At least the “Commune Confessoris non Pontificis” should be split in two: a “Comm. Confessoris Presbyteri” and a “Comm. Conf. non Presbyteri,” assigning to the former some texts drawn even from the Roman Pontifical, so that they may “rememorent pristinos dies” and “resuscitent gratiam quae data est per impositionem manuum” [“remember the ancient days” and “reawaken the grace once given through the imposition of the hands”].

What to say about all these proposals? There is undoubtedly much good in them, and they appear to be driven by a fairly concrete vision of the problem. However, it seems to us that they must be set within an even broader framework, and flow from distinct and clear principles, providing the backbone for the reformed calendar and serving as a norm for the future. For the days in a year are limited (365), while the saints are many and ever increasing. On what principles could an agreement be reached? We think these should be the same as those that inspired the Commission of St. Pius V when it carried out the reform named after him, as it was exactly then that the Roman calendar took on a truly “catholic” character with its extension to the universal Church. If one looks closely, the Pian calendar has an embryonic twofold orientation: a sense of Roman-ness and a beginning of Catholic universality. These two concepts could provide the founding principles of the new calendar.

Romanitas, thus giving a place of privilege to authentic Roman martyrs, ancient saints that are not Roman but with ancient cult in Rome, saints associated with the titular churches of Rome, popes, the dedication of Roman churches.

Catholic universality: the Doctors, the holy Fathers and later ecclesiastical authors, the saints representative of monasticism and ancient asceticism, of the Eastern Churches, the national saints (the evangelizers of the different nations, saints and princes, other “national” saints), the founders (depending on the importance of the saint and of his Order in the universal Church), patron saints, the feasts of the most famous world shrines. There is then a heap of questions about the minor feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, the feasts of ideas, the Offices of the Passion, etc., which must be carefully examined, so that the liturgy can truly meet all the demands (as far as humanly possible) of today’s liturgical piety. But how can the introduction or retention of all these feasts be reconciled with the desired lightening of the calendar from the feasts of the saints? Everything depends on the rank they will possess, and thereby the manner of celebrating them.

This series will continue with Part 3, on the Breviary, the Psalmody, and Antiphons.


[1] [It is with some astonishment that one reads “return to” Pentecost without an octave, since the octave in this case is extremely ancient, going back at least to the sixth century (and probably more ancient given its universal practice in East and West), putting it squarely within the age of antiquity recognized by the Liturgical Movement as “uncorrupted” by medieval influence. Even the Jews celebrate Pentecost (Shavuot) for two days instead of just one.—PAK]

[2] [Which occurred in John XXIII’s revision of the Missal.—CS]

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