Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cardinal Sarah's proposed reform of the Traditional Mass

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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  1. The bishops that straddle the traditional world (i.e. those who exclusively, or desire to exclusively, attend the traditional liturgy), and the rest of the church seem to have raised the notion of mutual enrichment far beyond the Holy Father's prudential suggestions regarding mutual enrichment in HH's letter accompanying to SP. I'm guessing that they are afraid of being seen as partisan if they only advocate for the unilateral enrichment of the NO.

    Quo Primum allowed former uses to continue to be used so long as they had been in use continuously for the previous 200 years (I'm paraphrasing obviously). Let's wait that amount of time and evaluate then whether there is anything left of the NO to enrich the TLM.

  2. Here we go again! Those who think they can improve on the Mass of Ages already had their go at tinkering with it - big time. The result was an unprecedented disaster and each passing day confirms this over and over again.

    Now they want another go. No, no, no! By all means 'improve' the NO, if you're not satisfied with it (and if you think that that is actually possible), but leave the Traditional Mass alone.

    Tinkering with the Traditional Mass deflects attention away from the core defects of the NO and the rampant abuses that these defects lead to. That is what needs to be addressed if the good of the faithful is the real issue.

    Many faithful have made the deliberate decision to attend the Traditional Mass and are very happy with that decision, experiencing the many spiritual benefits that flow from the old Mass. They do not want any changes.

    As for the other Catholics, they are free to make the same decision whenever they wish.

  3. "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." 100% spot on.

    The other key point, overlooked perhaps, is the 'Breviarium Romanum' - the creation of a new lectionary/ferial Mass series at Advent would surely mean a re-write - a big task.

    Not carried out would see a series of antiphons and lections (at Matins in particular), not linked to revised ferial Advent Mass of the day.

  4. There's no reason at all that you would have to pull new ferial propers from the O.F., which would be difficult for the reasons Mr. Shaw points out.

    But Kevin Jones points to the solution: just crib off the Breviary.

    And people should really take Mr. Shaw's advice not to Freak Out to heart. No one's going to hand the traditional lectionary over to Archbishop Marini with a carte blanche. It's an academic exercise. And it's a reasonable one. Adding some extra ferial propers would be fine, useful, and not historically aberrant. The topic hasn't anything to do, one way or another, with rampant abuse in the N.O. It's an entirely different conversation; the people responsible for abuses in the N.O. aren't interested in participating in it, and they aren't interested in listening to our (very obvious) observations concerning those abuses.

    So until someone wants to use the ecclesiastical elbow grease needed to make those people listen on that topic, we might as well talk about something else. This will do.

  5. Dr Shaw has given a very crisp and perceptive summary of the ineradicable differences of approach and choice of biblical texts in both rites.
    I agree that 1) the provision of ferial propers for Advent in the ancient rite might well be a good idea but 2) would need to be informed by the ancient penitential spirit of that rite and that Season, and would differ radically from those provided in the OF Lectionary. So that, far from providing any 'reconciliation' between the OF and EF, such a move would actually further deepen the division.
    Personally this would worry me not at all, as the two rites are in essence and approach completely irreconcilable, and it is most salutary for everyone to see this clearly and without fudging the issue. The clearer the differences, the more readily and inexorably the devout will be drawn to the older rite.
    I am surprised Cardinal Sarah of all people wishes to pursue such a 'liturgical reconciliation' in the first place. If anyone told me that in a certain Church the TLM was said in a manner that made it 'more reconciled' with the OF, I would strictly avoid it.

  6. 1. Why card. Sarah wants reconciliation if pope Benedict XVI has written that there are no contradiction between the two forms? What is to reconciliate there?

    2. As most of the churchgoers go to Mass on Sundays and Feasts of obligation, the reformers wanted to squeeze as much as possible into such days, so we have the 3rd lesson and 3-year cycle of readings in the OF. Therefore, the introduction of ferial lectionary will have little pastoral advantage.

    3. As the traditional form has a rather rich Sanctoral (even the 1962 version), the Advent season included (+ Ember days), more effective 'enrichment' in practice would be to add a little more diversity to the readings of propers and/or commons of Saints.

    4. As an aside, the reforms immediately before 1962 had in fact empoverished the lectionary. The most easy 'enrichment' would be to restore the pericopes lost then.