Monday, February 22, 2010

Re-Attempt the Reform

There is a lot of talk in some circles about a "reform of the reform." Usually it comes from that bizarre but influential category who waffle between trad positions and neoconservative ones. People who clearly "highly sympathize" with traditionalism, but are unwilling to publicly portray themselves as purists.

The idea is often that "liturgical abuse" is the cause of most of the problems in the New Liturgy, and that simply by dressing it up, by approaching it with a better 'ars celebrandi' we can make it at least tolerable and more what "Vatican II intended" (a meaningless concept, as I discussed in a recent post). Just do it in Latin, ad orientem, with nice vestments, use chant and incense, always use Eucharistic Prayer #1, and voila!

Now, it's true that there is nothing about the Novus Ordo that requires that it be celebrated in a patronizing vernacular translation in polyester vesments as a "four hymn sandwich."

But, a lot of the problems are inherent to the rite itself, especially the removal of numerous little gestures and details. So, the "reform of the reform" crowd will tell you...the solution is simply bringing back the maniple ("which was never abrogated!"), re-inserting genuflections ("which aren't specifically called for, but maybe they're not forbidden either?!"), having the priest hold his fingers together after the consecration until the ablutions ("he could still do that just voluntarily!"), etc.

But, even then, there are problems inherent to the text itself; the butchered Offertory, of course, the cut Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Last Gospel, the totally artificial three-year lectionary, the Frankenstein reworking of the Collects, a very blithe reworking of the calendar, and an unnecessary multiplication of sometimes poetic, but nevertheless untraditional, Prefaces. Well, they'll tell you, maybe the priest could re-insert the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar as a "private devotion" before Mass, and likewise for the Last Gospel after. There is talk of the "mutual gravity" of the "extraordinary form" someday leading the Vatican to allow for the more substantial Offertory or the restoration of certain calendrical features like Septuagesima or Ember Days, but as for the new Lectionary and Collectary, at this point people seem to defeatistly believe we're pretty much stuck when it comes to the extent of the "Reform of the Reform."

But, we're also told, somehow the "final product"...will eventually resemble the Old Rite more than it resembles the New. However, even this is always fatalistically placed at some ridiculous distance into the future; "decades" or "generations" or "centuries," as if, though the revolution took only a few years, the restoration can only be some eschatological event at the end of a brick-by-brick rainbow.

But I always have to wonder, if the final product is going to resemble the old more than the new, why not just take the Old as our starting point, seeing as it has "less distance to travel," as it were? Rather than trying to salvage the new like some sort of Ship of Theseus until it is, practically, the Old again...why not just go back to the Old, and start from square one? I suspect some notion of saving face is involved.

This is where my notion of a "Re-Attempt at the Reform" comes in. It's not that I deny improvements could be made to the Old Rite or that there aren't some unstatisfying gaps there. But rather than committing irrevocably to the "first attempt" at the project (ie, the Novus Ordo)...why not start from where the liturgy was in, say, 1900, and then have a "Redux Reform," based on what we've learned from the reforms of the 20th century, keeping the good, discarding the bad, maybe even trying some parallel ideas of the Liturgical Movement that never quite made it into practice? There is no shame in admitting that the first attempt at an experiment wasn't perfect the first time around and that we need to learn from our mistakes and try again.

I think one major fault of the Novus Ordo was touching the texts and gestures themselves substantially. Structurally changing the body of the liturgical rites themselves, re-writing the Ordinary and Propers, changing the choreographic rubrics, etc. I think they should be changed only with extreme caution and very minimally, if at all (organic development of new local rites and usages is a different question that I hope to explore more in a later post).

However, there are numerous things that I still imagine could be the subject of a "Re-Attempt at the Reform" of the Old Rite without touching the body of the Missal itself:

1) Vernacular. As I said in my earlier post, I think allowing a nice hieratic vernacular translation of the Old Rite (ala the Anglican Missal and Anglican Breviary) would cause a huge explosion in its popularity, and remove 95% of the objections and hesitance people have to it. The Ordinary chant parts (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Ita Missa Est), as well as the silent Canon itself, and the minor dialogue parts (Dominus Vobiscum, etc), could probably familiar enough even now to keep in Latin, besides the fact that references to their Latin forms are ubiquitous in art, architecture, and literature and thus should be familiar to Western Catholics (and educated people in general). New Liturgical Movement had an article today announcing that MusicaSacra has finally gotten up scanned copies of the famous Palmer/Burgess English plainchant books, which are amazing resources (those Anglo-Catholics were incredibly prodigious at one point!) inasmuch as they parse the Propers of the traditional Mass (and the Magnificat Antiphons from Vespers!) in nice hieratic English, but largely retain the authentic melody from the Graduale Romanum, making only minor changes to suit the peculiar characteristics of English (other attempts at settings of English propers usually compose essentially new melodies). I bet in the Romance languages it would be even simpler to simply make that adaptation.

2) Audibility. As I've also said before, allowing the now-quiet Offertory and Communion prayers to be spoken aloud would make people a lot more comfortable with the Old Rite and engage them more. I imagine the Canon would remain quiet.

3) Scripture. The lectionary could be expanded within the one-year cycle, without touching the traditional cycle of pericopes. For example, by providing lessons for the ferias, ala the 1967 Ferial Lectionary that I recently discussed. As I said there, use of the Commons could be reduced, a Third Reading from the Old Testament could be added (ie, reconstruct the old Roman Prophecy cycle), and the lessons at Matins could be expanded so that whole books were read instead of just incipits. I haven't come up with a concrete proposal yet, but just for reference I will include links to charts I made of the traditional Matins lectionary and the Mass lectionary.

4) The Calendar. Though the Novus Ordo went way too Spartan with it, the problem of the Sanctoral cycle swallowing the Temporal has long been an issue. Allowing those ferial readings, like the ferial psalter, to take precedence on lower class feasts is one good thing. Having gone back to the calendar as it existed in, say, 1950 as a starting point...I would probably also re-work the rankings of the various feasts, and then make only the higher classes universal. The rest (which would have been the simples and semidoubles and even many of the less important doubles) would remain the Local Calendar for Rome itself, but other localities would create their own calendar with Saints important to local devotion (certainly in the Old World most countries could fill a whole calendar with local simples and semidoubles, and don't need to be clogged up with obscure local Roman martyrs...just look at all the proper feasts for the British Isles in the back of your hand missal!) The old Octaves eliminated in the 1950's were admittedly clunky, but they could probably have been kept as commemorations, at least; commemorations are easy and don't stop anything else from happening. Also, any reform of the calendar should take into account Eastern practices for things, like, the feasts of the Apostles which some ecumenical negotiation might be able to bring into alignment. I would even go so far as to say that a universal Martyrology for the whole Church should be compiled by cross-referencing Eastern and Western sources (individual local churches would then pick which, if any, of those saints to celebrate as a feast on a given day; but at least when a saint was celebrated in multiple localities, it would be on a consistent day).

5) The Psalter. Moving into the Breviary, besides going back to the pre-Urban forms of the hymns, I do believe that even the Pius X revisions need to be re-examined. While shortening the number of verses said at Matins (especially on Sundays) and getting rid of the repetition at the Little Hours was very necessary...I think the rigid application of these principles to the other hours was unnecessary, and led to a very untraditional weekly cycle of psalms. I have made a suggestion of a "more moderate" reform of the Psalter here. The Athanasian Creed should also be brought back for every Sunday at Prime instead of only after Pentecost or (as it finally was cut back to in 1960) only on Trinity Sunday.

6) The Antiphonary. As I discussed in another post, I was very surprised to learn originally that the antiphons of the psalter were butchered and confused in an entirely arbitrary seeming way under Pius X, with little or no explanation; so I did a little research and made some charts (links to which are included) comparing. Pre-1911, there were 141 unique antiphons in the psalter. Post-1911, there were 220. Yet, when compared, only 66 antiphons are recognizably the same between the two sets; and even then, sixteen are of those changed by expanding them, adding words, or removing words or clauses, or both. Many of the overlapping ones are just the ones for the special seasons (Advent, Lent, Passiontide), not the per annum ferias. So there were 75 antiphons unique to the pre-1911 Breviary that were simply lost, and 154 unique to the post-1911 Breviary that were simply introduced to the liturgy with no explanation as to their origin. This should be re-examined.

Where the old music went or where the new music came from for these even more mysterious. In total, between the two psalters, you can find 295 unique antiphons (just in the psalter; not counting Propers and Commons, which thankfully didn't change). All this massive change disturbs me. I've seen the Pius X changes deconstructed and critiqued, but the massive changes to the psalter antiphons (which in the chanted Office form a significant part, hence the "Antiphonale")...I've never seen discussed. The traditional Roman antiphonary seems quite destroyed by 1911. The Invitatories for the various days of the week were switched around a bit too, randomly, as are a few versicles.
I suspect it may have something to do with Solesmes and the manuscripts they were using for their musicology during the chant "restoration."
There was, of course, the Ratisbon antiphonale in three volumes from the late 19th-century, which could be consulted to see the old melodies for these old texts, but they are very rare books, and anyway would not be restored according to Solesmes, which changed the chant in such a way that many melodies were interpreted very differently anyway (NLM had an article about this with "Simile Est" as an example in 2008). Though I'd tend to agree with most people that this musicological restoration by Solesmes was for the better, I've made this psalter proposal for the Antiphons that would incorporate most of the antiphon texts from both pre- and post-1911 into the psalter.

7) Other expansions. As a liturgical maximalist, my reform ideas tend to favor expansion over reduction. There are many things that could be added to the traditional liturgy that have precedent. The psalm verses should definitely be restored to the chanting of the minor propers; many chant choirs (including my own) have already started this, Deo Gratias! Restoring the various processions (the Entrance, Gospel, Offertory) would give a liturgical purpose to these psalms/antiphons rather than "singing over" silent parts, which I really don't like. They also could bring back more medieval Sequences or the troped/litany form of the Kyrie. They could restore some form of Bidding Prayers, though not the awful ad libbed kind from the Novus Ordo (I imagine they'd be fixed petitions more like on Good Friday). They would need to add a Common of Doctress Virgins now, of course. Just as the "Gallican Prefaces" were allowed in the 50's to fill certain gaps (like Advent)...a limited number of logical categories of new Prefaces could be added (perhaps corresponding to the different categories of Saints from the Commons). Taking a cue from the Ambrosian Rite, after the Apostles in the two lists of Saints in the Canon...the Saints of local Roman importance might be replaced by Saints of local importance in other dioceses. The traditional rites of Holy Week from before 1955 should largely be restored (the ICRSS already has this privilege, apparently) though there are things that could be re-expanded that had gone vestigial even then (for example, they could restore the practice of two Masses for Palm Sunday), and I do sort of like the principle of eliminating later accretions from the liturgy for Holy Week itself, making it more bare and primitive. Some of the other liturgical books like the Rituale and the Pontificale could be organized in a more logical fashion, and I probably wouldn't care if they insisted on collapsing the double Confiteor in the prayers at the foot of the altar (and at Prime and Compline) into simply one Confiteor with the pronoun "nos," though I don't see why some people think that is so necessary either (it's not like it takes that much more time to do it double).

8) Attitude. High Mass and Solemn High Mass with all the ministers should be re-emphasized, as should public celebration of the Office in parishes, especially on Sundays. It would probably start with Vespers (either First Vespers on Saturday evening or Second Vespers on Sunday), which could be celebrated in conjunction with Compline. But it would also be great for pastors to try doing Lauds before Mass. Or even Matins-Lauds together; the East always precedes the Divine Liturgy with Orthros, after all. The "Low Mass mentality" was the thing more in need of reform than anything; Catholics need to lead an organic liturgical life in their community, that's the whole point. I imagine this would include having the bishop (and at Rome, the Pope himself) actually celebrate the Cathedral liturgy (Mass and Office) with the chapter of Canons (at least much more often than they currently do), and do all the traditional Stational Masses, etc. If an abbot can celebrate the public Office and run a monastery, the bishops could do it and run a diocese too. The liturgy has to be the priority, it's what all the other structures exist to enable! Yet it's a priority bishops and the Pope have not made for centuries (when was the last time a Pope celebrated the whole daily Office at the Lateran?), concentrating sadly on managing the existence of a bureaucracy-for-its-own-sake as if that were an end in itself. But it's not. The clergy exist for the liturgy, not the liturgy for the clergy.


Mark of the Vineyard said...

I envy your knowledge of things liturgical :'-(

A Sinner said...

I'm no professional, just a hobbyist, as it were. There is nothing systematic about my knowledge, it is incredibly piecemeal, I assure you.

Michael said...

"why not start from where the liturgy was in, say, 1900, and then have a "Redux Reform," based on what we've learned from the reforms of the 20th century"

I like your thinking, but do we have enough resources and emergency codes to undertake something like this?

F.G.S.A. said...

To what extent did Pius X's reforms affect the Benedictine Breviary?

A Sinner said...

Well, the order of the Psalms in the Monastic breviary was not changed.

I don't know what happened to the Antiphons in the Monastic Breviary before and after the Solesmes musical restoration, though.

I'd like to think they didn't change, but if the way that was slipped under the radar into the Roman was any indication...who knows. It would be easy to check. Just start comparing the ordinary antiphons from a 19th century Monastic Breviary to those from the 1930s Monastic Breviary.