28 March 2015

Holy Week 1863

29 SUNDAY. PALM SUNDAY, semidouble. Violet. Vespers of Sunday without Suffrages.

30 Monday. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. Violet.

31 Tuesday. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. Violet.

Wednesday. Feria. Second Prayers for the Church or the Pope. Violet.

On this and the following two nights the Office of Tenebrae.

2 Maundy-Thursday. Double of the first class. Creed. White.

Good-Friday. Double of the first class. Black.

Holy-Saturday. Double of the first class. Paschal Preface (until the Ascension). White.

After Compline, Regina caeli until Trinity Sunday exclusively.

This week's Ordo is very simple and might have barely merited comment, so familiar are we all with Holy Week, but the damage done to Holy Week by the 1955 reforms under Pius XII constitutes as profound a rupture as is the reformed Missal of Paul VI. Indeed, the 1955 reforms are a prime example of a Pope showing that by virtue of his office he could do anything: la tradizione sono io.

Let me begin by offering the Holy Week schedule for Westminster Cathedral, Farm St and the Oratory for Holy Week 1939.  Here is a schedule which would be followed in any place in the world in which Catholicism could be practised openly. (Click on the images to see them more clearly.)

The immediate difference between then and now is that all of the liturgical ceremonies of Holy Week take place in the morning. This is usually explained by explaining that the canonical hours had gradually been brought forward to mitigate the harshness of the fasting and penance involved, and that the 1955 reform was aimed at recreating something analogous to the ceremonies as they would have been celebrated in the Early Church.

The equally usual objection to this argument is that we are not members of the Early Church, and that the gradual move of the hours is part of a developed tradition that deserves respect for its own undoubted antiquity.

At this point, I would like to refer you to John R's Regnum Amoris blog, and in particular to his discussion of the right hours for these ceremonies, which is here.

He makes two points overall: that the times, and the odd hours at which the different components of the office are said at this time have meaning, and that evening MassMass was first allowed to be said after midday only in 1953, a couple of years before Holy Week was changed—represents a massive rupture both to the Office, which is the complete Liturgy, and to the place of the Mass within the Christian day.: for the first time, the Christian day was measured from midnight to midnight, instead of from sunset to sunset. something it had inherited from its Jewish origins.

So why was this done? I think there were two reasons: accommodation to the times, and sheer ignorance.

In 1955 Abp Bugnini wrote:

"Liturgical reform is something that is needed if the Liturgy is to preserve its vitality and splendour.  The act of the Church [the liturgical rites] ... bounded by time, by space, by the ministers who perform it, is necessarily linked in its exercise to the changeableness of human matters.  On this account the Liturgy in its structure has required a corpus of formulas, gestures, rites and ceremonies which make of it a living organism, exposed like all organisms to outside influences, to luxuriant vitality and, sometimes, to decay." To see how Bugnini continues, and to explore further just how wrong this is see D. Alcuin Reid The Organic Development of the Liturgy pp 214-219.

What is really sad, though, is that in this big thing as in so many other smaller things, Bugnini and his companions didn't understand what they were doing, or perhaps better, had no understanding either of how simplistic their analysis of the Liturgy was, or of the consequences of the changes they were bringing in.

For the record, I don't think that simply reverting to a 1939, or, for that matter, an 1863, Missal or Ordo or even just a timetable would be any sort of answer in 2015. It will only be when there is a much more general appreciation of how the liturgical developments of the twentieth century changed the Catholic understanding of the Mass, and that a better understanding is restored, that the most egregious of the changes will be unpicked. 

When, and how, is anybody's guess; on a dark day, and they seem to become more frequent, the interrogative pronoun becomes "whether".

(According to the bookseller, this illustration from an 1845 hand Missal is by Pugin.)


Rubricarius said...

Depressing, totally depressing. 'The fort is betrayed,even by those who should have defended it."

I am interested though why you do not think a return to the former praxis would be the best solution?

Ttony said...

Rubricarius: I expressed myself badly. I believe that simply reverting to the status quo ante (either of them!) would be ineffective - possibly worse than useless - as Catholics have been led to believe different things about what Mass is for in general, and what Holy Week commemorates and re-enacts in particular.

I begin to understand, or at least to make a guess at, what Pope Benedict was trying to do by restoring the 1962 Missal: he was turning the clock back slowly and gently and trying to persuade people to understand again what the Extraordinary Form is for, and how it, and the Ordinary Form might enrich each other. Give that two or three decades and a generation will have a much deeper understanding and might begin to look at 1955 without it being (for most people, and as it was in 1955) a simple act of archaeological vandalism taking meaning away, and then after restoring Holy Week, look more broadly at what was wrought under Pius X.

I'd love to be persuaded that I'm wrong! Patrick Leigh Fermor's dream in Mani about the restoration of the Emperor in Byzantium is one of my favourite bits of writing.

Rubricarius said...

Thank you, Ttony. I understand now. Indeed the 'average' person in today's pew would not, on first exposure, be able to understand or 'get' the liturgy of fifty years ago or a century ago.