Saturday, January 28, 2023

“Enrichment” by Impoverishment? The Fate of the Propers for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany in the Modern Missale Romanum

The collect, secret and postcommunion in the traditional Roman Rite for this coming Sunday, the 4th after Epiphany, have over a millennium of attested use in the liturgy. It is concerning, therefore, to note that, despite this, neither the collect nor the postcommunion for this Sunday are contained anywhere in the Novus Ordo, a book so often described as an “enrichment” of the Roman Rite, and more recently as containing “all the elements” of it. Let us take a brief look at the history of this Sunday’s prayers, and their fate in the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms.
The 4th Sunday after Epiphany (Dom IIII post Theophaniam), in the
Sacramentarium Triplex, Zürich, Zentralb. Ms. C 43, ff. 35r-35v
Collect (CO 1898)
Deus, qui nos, in tantis perículis constitútos, pro humána scis fragilitáte non posse subsístere: da nobis salútem mentis et córporis; ut ea, quæ pro peccátis nostris pátimur, te adiuvánte vincámus.
O God, who know that our human frailty cannot stand fast against the great dangers that beset us, grant us health of mind and body, that with your help we may overcome what we suffer on account of our sins.
The Corpus orationum tells us that this prayer appears in a total of forty-three manuscripts, dating from the 8th century. In all of these, it is an Epiphanytide collect, and in the vast majority of them (thirty-seven), it is used on the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, just as we find in the 1962 Missale Romanum.
It has completely disappeared from the Novus Ordo. It seems more than likely that the phrase in tantis perículis constitútos, pro humána scis fragilitáte non posse subsístere was deemed not suitable for the new, post-Vatican II “modern mentality”. [1]
Secret (CO 749)
Concéde, quǽsumus, omnípotens Deus: ut huius sacrifícii munus oblatum fragilitátem nostrum ab omni malo purget semper et múniat.
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that what we offer in sacrifice may cleanse us in our frailty from every evil and always grant us your protection.
This prayer has a variety of use in the tradition, the two main groups being:
  • as an Epiphanytide secret, in forty manuscripts from the 8th century onwards (thirty-three of which use it on the 4th Sunday after Epiphany);
  • as a Lenten secret: thirty-one manuscripts, from the 9th century onwards (note that in twenty-five of these, it is also used as an Epiphanytide secret).
The Corpus orationum also gives a third group of ten manuscripts, dating from the 8th century onwards, which use this prayer in diverse ways, with frequent duplication: in Advent (five manuscripts), Lent (three manuscripts), the Proper/Common of Saints (four manuscripts), and Votive Masses (two manuscripts). In one of these manuscripts, this secret/super oblata prayer is actually used as a collect!
In the 1962 Missal, this secret is used on Saturday in Week 3 of Lent as well as the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, and in every one of the thirty-one manuscripts where this prayer occurs in Lent, it is duplicated on the 4th Sunday after Epiphany. As per the policies of Coetus XVIII bis of the Consilium, [2] in the Novus Ordo this duplication is eliminated, in this case by removing the prayer’s (slightly earlier and better-attested!) use in Epiphanytide, and retaining its Lenten use. However, it has been moved to Thursday in Week 4 of Lent, a day on which it is never attested in the manuscript tradition. Of course, the post-Vatican II liturgical reformers couldn’t possibly have retained this prayer on a Sunday – after all, the phrase fragilitátem nostrum ab omni malo purget semper et múniat is obviously much too difficult for most of the faithful!
Postcommunion (CO 3321 b)
Múnera tua nos, Deus, a delectatiónibus terrénis expédiant: et cæléstibus semper instáurent aliméntis.
May your gifts, O God, detach us from earthly pleasures and ever renew us with heavenly nourishment.
The Corpus orationum informs us that there is some limited variation in the use of this prayer: three manuscripts use it in the Proper/Common of Saints, with relevant textual additions. In the vast majority of manuscripts (forty-two), however, it is an Epiphanytide postcommunion, with thirty-five manuscripts using it on the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, as we find in the 1962 Missal.
But, like this Sunday’s collect, this postcommunion is nowhere to be found in the Novus Ordo. And, like the collect, it is highly likely it is the phrase a delectatiónibus terrénis expédiant that was deemed unsuitable for “modern man” and what Fr Carlo Braga called the “new perspective of human values”. [3] The only changes the Consilium was originally going to make to this postcommunion were two minor “restorations” to the text as it is given in the Gelasianum Vetus (n. 1267; cf. CO 3321 a): Múnera tua nos... was to become Mensa tua nos... and instáurent adjusted to instruat. Furthermore, it should be noted that all the prayers for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany were originally going to be kept intact as a set in the reformed Missal on the same Sunday: see Schema 186 (De Missali, 27), 19 September 1966, p. 18. [4]
Schema 186 (De Missali, 27), 19 September 1966, p. 18
So, this coming Sunday provides yet more material in the traditional Roman Rite – prayers used for at least 1,200 years in the Church – that was omitted from the post-Vatican II Missal because it was sifted through the ideological filter of the 1960s “experts” and considered “too difficult”. It is difficult to see this so-called “enrichment” of the Roman Missal as anything but an impoverishment in many respects. As Fr John Hunwicke has aptly put it:
[T]he motives controlling the selections [the Consilium] made, and their editorial alterations, have a consistent mens, videlicet, to enforce a levelling-down: [in the Novus Ordo] we end up with a liturgical culture squeezed everywhere into the straight-jacket of one decade. On the other hand, the Authentic Use, having evolved organically over two millennia, picking up like a glacier diverse materials from every age it passed through, contains within it so much more cultural diversity.
[1] See, e.g., Lauren Pristas, “The Orations of the Vatican II Missal: Policies for Revision”, Communio 30 (Winter 2003), pp. 621-653, at p. 633 (quoting a 1971 essay by Dom Antoine Dumas): “In the liturgical renewal, from the beginning the revisers regarded concern for truth and simplicity to be particularly indispensable so that the texts and rites might be perfectly—or at the least much better—accommodated to the modern mentality to which it must give expression while neglecting nothing of the traditional treasury to which it remains the conduit.” Of course, more often than not, for the Consilium “accommodating the modern mentality” took priority over “neglecting nothing of the traditional treasury” of prayers, as the statistics show.
[2] See Schema 186 (De Missali, 27), 19 September 1966, pp. 1-2: Ergo, pro unoquoque textu, pluries in missali occurrente, perpaucis exceptis, usum antiquiorem retinuimus. Pro missis, quae exinde orationibus carent, novas selegimus. I QUAESITUM: Placetne Patribut ut, in missali romano recognito, textus orationum non repetatur? (“Therefore, for every text that frequently occurs in the Missal, its ancient use is to be retained, with very few execptions. For Masses which lack orations after this, new texts are to be selected. QUESTION 1: Does it please the Fathers that, in revising the Roman Missal, the text of orations not be repeated?”) It should be noted that this policy is a direct result of Coetus XVIII bis taking n. 51 of Sacrosanctum Concilium out of its original context, and applying it in a manner which was never envisaged by the Council Fathers: see my article “Continuity or Rupture, Again: An Example of the Consilium’s (Ab)use of the Constitution on the Liturgy”.
[3] See part four (of five) of my translation of Braga’s essay “Il «Proprium de Sanctis»”, Ephemerides Liturgicae 84.6 (1970), pp. 401-431 (at p. 419).
[4] For more on Schema 186, and an arrangement of it in parallel with the 1962 and 1970/2008 Missals, see my book The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms (Lectionary Study Press, 2018) (Amazon USA, UK; PDF)

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