10 June 2013

Mass Then And Now

Just think - what does this sound like?

The Bishop processes into Mass.  There is nothing on the altar but the Missal - behind it, arranged in a semicircle, are seats for the priests and deacons, with the cathedra in the middle. During the procession the choir sings the Entry Antiphon.  As he approaches the altar, he reverences the Blessed Sacrament, bows to the altar, makes the sign of the cross, and at the end of the antiphon says the opening prayers.  As the choir sings the Kyrie, he goes round to his place behind the altar. The Gloria is sung, then the Epistle is read, an Alleluia verse is read, and, after a blessing from the Bishop, a Deacon reads the Gospel.  The sacred vessels are then placed on the altar, and the people bring in the gifts of bread and wine.  Water is added to the wine, and the singing stops so that the Offertory Prayer can be said.  After that the Eucharistic Prayer, the Dialogue, the Preface and the Sanctus, and then the rest of the Canon, read aloud facing the people. At the end of the Canon comes the Our Father, then after the fractio, the breaking of bread, the choir sings the Agnus Dei. The Bishop communicates, then the clergy in the Sanctuary, then the people, while the choir sings.  Afterwards a final prayer is read, after which the Mass ends and the procession returns to the sacristy.

Yes, of course, I'm teasing you, and I've tinkered with the details.  But this isn't an ordinary visitation Mass or a Deanery Mass today, or indeed any old Bishop, but the stational Mass of a Pope in Rome around 675.  It is described in Jungmann's Mass of the Roman Rite, first published in 1949, a book which inspired those who reformed the Liturgy after Vatican II. 

I set myself the challenge of getting into the mind of those reformers: what did what, at the time, were the authoritative works, say about the origins of the Mass, and what, therefore, inspired the reformers in their particular direction.

The first, obvious, charge against them is archaeologism: they have selected a form of celebration of the Mass particular to one time and place in the past, and have declared it normative because of its antiquity.  Why any earlier form of Mass was rejected, and why any subsequent developments were ignored, are not issues addressed by the reformers: their authority as the Consilium has given them the right to choose an external authority to justify what they want to do.

Jungmann is an interesting choice of authority: he makes it clear that he is not like his predecessors, believing rather that he is of the generation that has made liturgiology a science.  He was Austrian, rather than German, which meant that he was able to travel soon after the War: he was in the US before this book was published, and, translated into both English and French at the start of the 1950s, it had an influence beyond any other history of the development of the Mass.  (Interestingly, his very short Bibliography includes Bishop, Dix and Fortescue.)

Not too far before the description of the Pope's Mass, there is a section which shows how Eucharistic Prayers were not fixed in form (other than in Rome) until shortly before this period: every Prelate could compose his own.

Two things strike me: the worthy thought is that the reformers really believed that they had been blessed with a vision of the Liturgy before a lot of mediaeval (I bet they used the word mediaeval as an insult) accretions were codified as mandatory, and were liberated by the thought that liturgical creativity had an ancient history.  The unworthy thought is that they didn't get much beyond page 75 (though to be fair to them, Jungmann himself seems to really like this model, and has a bizarre passage about liturgical orientation which seems to suggest "do your own thing" as well just a few pages later).

My contention is that this "liturgical science" is something which divorces history from praxis: which ignores "what we do and how we do it" in favour of "how we, knowing what we know, should do it".

In short, what we think of as "the Spirit of Vatican II" was abroad a good ten years before the Council.  It infused post-war thinking about the Liturgy; it appealed to poor old Pius XII's self-view and led him to his archaeological reform of Holy Week; it created a momentum of change which had some basis in arbitrary historicism but none in the practice of Catholic Worship.

Bugnini and his pals weren't wrong because they were modernists, crypto-protestants or freemasons (I bet they weren't any of these, actually): they were wrong because they thought that the spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist, was with them and they had the opportunity to return the worship of the Church to a scientifically proven ideal, or at least set of ideals.  They were wrong.

But, wrong as they were, they were still responding to the fact that neither spirit-of-VIIists nor trads seem prepared to address on terms: that for a century and a half it had been recognised that Catholic Worship was in a cul-de-sac, and needed reform.

More soon.


Patrick said...

It strikes me as bizarre that we should want to return to the perceived (wrongly as it happens) liturgy of the first three centuries, any more than we would want to return to the theology of that period, uninformed as it yet was by the great Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries.

Richard Collins said...

Ttony, I refrained from comment because I thought your premise was flawed from the start and that any intervention from me would be just too contentious. But, as you have expressed some reservations regaring the lack of response, here are my views on the matter.
The Mass was a work in progress for many centuries until codified by Pope St Pius V in 1535 and very sensibly set out in his Quo Primum.
At some stage there had to be a definition of what was right and QP set it out clearly and rationally.
The Latin Mass has basically, been the same ever since.
There is still room for organic evolution in terms of words and phrases, in fact, ++ Lefebvre himself expressed the need for further progression in the form of the words and structure of the Mass. But it would have always to be within the framework of Quo Primum.
I cannot think that there is much more that needs to be stated but would be interested to hear your response.

Richard Collins said...

Sorry, 1570.....what's 35 years between friends?