In addressing the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage to Rome last weekend, with many very fine and important things to say, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, Cardinal Sarah acknowledged the response to his earlier remarks on the subject of ‘reconciling’ the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite.
In July I spoke of a possible future reconciliation between the two forms of the Roman rite. Some have interpreted this expression of personal opinion as the announcement of a programme that would end up in the future imposition of a hybrid rite which would bring about a compromise that would leave everybody unhappy and would abolish the usus antiquior by stealth, as it were. This interpretation is absolutely not what I intended. What I do wish to do is to encourage further thought and study on these questions in peace and tranquillity and in a spirit of prayerful discernment. There are improvements which can be made to both forms of the Roman rite in use today, and both forms can contribute to this in due course.
Cardinal Sarah clearly wants to reassure - indeed, to calm down - Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form, but he doesn't actually abandon his project. The reconciliation he desires should, however, only come about after careful study, and with due consideration for the sensitivities of Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form.
One is tempted to say: ‘In others words, PANIC!!’ However I don’t actually think that is necessary. Cardinal Sarah is entitled to his views and his call for a debate is welcome. The practical and political obstacles to liturgical reform are currently so overwhelming that we really can have this debate in a calm state of mind - it is for the foreseeable future purely academic.
In any case, I intend here to respond to His Eminence’s call for a calm and reasoned discussion, taking my start from his own example of the possible development of the Extraordinary Form:
the older missal may well profit from the addition of ferial Masses in Advent and the expansion of its lectionary on ferias.
This is interesting both in itself and because it may represent a development of his thinking: having seen the arguments about the possibility of using the reformed Lectionary as a whole in the EF from Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form, which naturally focused on the Sunday cycle, he wants to focus just on the Ferial cycle. So we now need to think about what to say about that.
The FIUV Position Paper on the Lectionary does discuss the question of ferial cycles outside Lent. One aspect of the question is the fact that prior to the 13th century Missale Romano-Seraphicum, upon which later editions of the Roman Missal have been based, there were ferial cycles outside Lent, as well as the Lenten ferial Masses which it did include. Versions of these survived even longer in non-Roman, Latin Missals. Unlike the Lenten cycle, however, they were not day-by-day sets of extra readings, but only two or three days a week, making use of parallel pericopes to the previous Sunday.
This makes sense, because the Orations at ferial Masses outside Lent are the same as those of the previous Sunday. So for the readings and prayers to hang together, the readings were commonly simply different versions of the same gospel miracle or parable or whatever.
It is worth pausing to ask why the Franciscans who created the Missale Romano-Seraphicum, based on the liturgy of Papal court but adapted to their own needs, did not include the non-Lenten ferial cycles of readings. They haven’t left an explanation, but it is not difficult to imagine them deciding that the significant extra size of Missal and therefore the expense involved was not worth it, because these ferial readings were not going to be used very much. This was so because the weekdays not used up by the abundant sanctoral cycle of the Roman Rite were so often used for Votive Masses, including the Mass for the Dead. These considerations are no less applicable today than they were in the 13th century.
Now making the case for the restoration of ancient ferial cycles is a very different matter from making the case for the use, in the EF, of the reformed Lectionary. I assume Cardinal Sarah has the latter in mind. Indeed, referring to ‘ferial Masses’ in Advent suggests that it is not just the readings, but the orations also which he has in view: we are talking, then, about whole Mass ‘formularies’: introit, collect, epistle, gradual (no alleluia in Advent on ferial days), gospel, offertory, secret, communion antiphon and postcommunion prayer. (The EF has such ferial Masses for Lent.) This proposal raises a number of additional issues.
The first question is where all these texts are going to come from. If you open the 1970 Missal with a view to pulling out the relevant texts for use in the EF you will find that they are not all there, and the closest equivalents does not necessarily have the same function. The OF doesn’t have a secret prayer, for example. The 1970 Missal doesn’t include graduals, although you can find them in the 1974 Graduale Romanum, as options if there is to be something sung between the Epistle and Gospel: they would never appear in a non-sung OF Mass. These, and the Scripture passages for the lections, have been chosen and spread through the liturgical year in a way completely different from the way it is done in the EF, and since the proposal is to use this method of selection only for Advent, it could have some odd consequences in terms of repetitions of texts and things being left out.
In short, the creation of a set of Advent ferial Masses for the EF using resources from the OF would be a lot more complicated and messy than one might at first imagine. Not only would the Ordinary Prayers of the Mass be in tension with the Proper Prayers and readings, but insofar as the Propers included ancient texts from the Graduale Romanum and other sources, the propers would be in tension with each other.
The tensions would arise in part from differences of theme, but the most serious problem is the consistent difference of attitude or tone between the EF and the OF, which is reflected in the propers as well as in the Ordinary. Anyone in any doubt about this needs to read the research on the subject, notably that of Lauren Pristas. This difference will be particularly acute in Advent because it is - at least in the EF - a penitential season. References to penance, the mortification of the flesh, and repentance, are abundant in the propers of the EF Sundays of Advent, but are scarcely to be found in the OF anywhere. Archbishop Bugnini thought that they were too ‘negative’. He also removed almost every reference to grace. Yoking OF propers to the Ordinary Prayers of the EF would produce a liturgy with a split personality.
Cardinal Sarah is talking about reconciliation and mutual enrichment. This proposal seems a way not of lessening the differences between the EF and the OF, however, but forcing them into battle with each other within a single liturgical celebration. As I noted before, the way to establish liturgical harmony is to let each thing be what it is, not to force changes on them contrary to their own inner logic.
I will of course leave the assessment of Cardinal Sarah’s proposals to change the OF to others.
I have, in this post, referred to ‘Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form’, since it is necessary to pick them out as a group within the Church with a particular interest in these matters, and to an extent with common characteristics, notably in their preferences and needs. I think it is obvious that if we are going to talk about them at all - and it would clearly be unjust to pretend that they do not exist and have no rights or interests - we need a way of doing so in less than six words or 14 syllables. Pace Cardinal Sarah, I think referring to ‘Traditional Catholics’ serves the job without implying anything about them being in a ghetto. Those who think that Traditional Catholics are, or should be, in a ghetto, should just stop thinking that.
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