Monday, May 5, 2014

Feast Day Book Review: Missal & Breviary of St Pius V

I have been accused of it all: being an immovable traditionalist, being a false traditionalist, being an Ultamontanist, being an Eastern Orthodox in disguise. Why? Usually, but not exclusively, for my liturgical views. This perhaps gives his Traddiness an opportunity to clear the air, again, on his views and to discuss the legacy of a great pope (unless you are an English monarchist).

Again, I think the Roman rite is to be found in features and not a particular year or set of approved books. Among these features I would include:
  • the Roman Canon
  • the Roman Ordo Missae (generally understood in the Latin Church and not necessarily the 1570 Ordo word-for-word)
  • the immemorial Roman psalter
  • unique Roman feasts (apparition of St. Michael, Our Lady of Snows, St. John at the Latin Gate etc)
  • the Roman kalendar system (feria, simplex, semi-duplex, duplex, octaves)
  • the Roman Holy Week rites
  • rites for non-Eucharistic Sacraments and the understanding those rites convey
One reason this blog discusses pre-Conciliar changes so much is not because the author thinks the alterations of the 1960s were minor, but in order to help people understand that by 1962 the Canon of the Mass was the only thing that had not already changed.

Let us consider a wonderful set of books published by the saint of the day, Pius V, which wonderfully epitomize the Roman rite.

After the Council of Trent Papa Ghislieri issued a pair of liturgical books which he made available for general use to any Latin rite priest without having to answer to his superiors. The two accompanying documents, Quod a nobis and Quo primum tempore, exempted liturgical traditions over 200 years old. What were these books? The Missale Romanum and the Breviarium Romanum used by the Roman Curia since about the time of St. Gregory VII.

The Missal is an adjustment of the 1474 Missal published in several locations throughout Italy, often with corruptions. The bull Quo primum tempore was not aimed at future liturgical reform committees as much as it was duplicitous Venetian printers, the dual punishment of excommunication and a two hundred ducat fine for changing the books. Quod a nobis—abrogated by Papa Sarto—has the same warnings and punishments in the exact same language. The 1474 Missal was a bit different from 1570, containing many sequences which likely resulted from the international character of the Curia. The Johannine prologue is not mentioned because it was said in recession to the sacristy as the priest's devotion and not at the altar as a public proclamation. There were also more feasts.

The 1570 Missal is trimmed down version of the 1474 Missal, perhaps better off for the reductions. It eliminates the December 8th Immaculate Conception Mass (Egredimini et videte filie syon reginam vestram) and replaces it with a re-branded Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mass based on the September 8th Salve sancta parens formula for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

Some sequences are eliminated, really all but the best ones. The Greek Doctors of the Church, four at the time, were given Duplex rank on par with their Latin counterparts. One weakness of this Missal is that it rightly eliminates some feasts that inspire only local devotion (Ss. Anthony of Padua, Patrick of Ireland, and Elizabeth of Hungary), yet goes a bit far in eliminating some important ones, too (Ss. Joachim and Anne, as well as the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Despite the elimination of feasts the kalendar is a strength of this Missal. There are quite a number of ferial days and the Lenten kalendar is quite stark. The rubrics require the Sunday Mass to be repeated on a weekday before a votive Mass can be said. The kalendar cycle, especially in the Breviary, is so strong that when a feast approaches one wants to leap for joy because a feast is so special. Octaves are a welcomed change of pace, particularly the three during Paschaltide and the one after that (Corpus Christi). The kalendar system ensures that even during feasts the ferial cycle is not entirely ignored. The Gospel of superseded Sundays and Lenten feriae is read in the place of St. John's prologue at Masses on those days. Similarly, the lessons of superseded days are compressed into one long ninth lesson at Mattins in the Breviary.

The weakness of this Missal is precisely that it is the Curial Missal, a book meant for time pressed bureaucrats looking to eek out a Mass in 60 minutes within the walls of a chapel. Outside of Holy Week the rubrics presume low Mass to be the norm, differentiating between public and private Mass only (meaning the essential and extra Masses of the day in places where a Mass in required). Consequentially the rich and grand ceremonies of cathedrals and collegiate churches fell into disuse upon adoption of the Pian Missal and new ceremonies could not evolve. Perhaps it would have been prudent of the saint to permit variation of this sort. Men like Clement Russell and Quintin Montgomery-Wright kept the medieval ceremonies regardless.

The strongest of these two books is the Breviary. It has the aforementioned kalendar system, with its schedules, octaves, and commemorations. It also has certain feasts which are beautiful, didactic, and Roman to the core. My favorite texts are the antiphons for the Common of Roman virgin martyrs like Ss. Anne, Cecilia, and Agnes. The responsories at Mattins are subtle and reflective of the Roman tradition's use of Scripture in the liturgy as a means of commenting or coloring the feast at hand. The psalter is brutal at first (12 psalms at Mattins, 8 at Lauds, 5 at Vespers, 4 at Compline), but eventually paces itself and becomes a weekly rhythm of prayer, one prayer visited several times.

For more on the technical particulars of the 1570 Missal, Quo primum tempore, and the contrasts with the 1474 Missal see this particular by one Paul Cavendish here. He also discusses later emendations by Clement VIII. What is interesting to see, despite my disagreement with the ballooning of Duplex feasts, is that additions and abolitions took place within the existing liturgical framework and sought to preserve the existing praxis both in spirit and in law.

St. Pius V, pray for us!


  1. Dear The Rad Trad. This is a most interesting
    and welcome Post.

    It answers several questions that have
    confused me over the years.

    The Link to Paul Cavendish is also very useful.

    in Domino

  2. Another great post! I am partial to the antiphons from the Common of Martyrs/Apostles in Paschaltide, thus used today for St. John at the Latin Gate.

    Is it your opinion that the Sequences being reduced was a good thing because of the literary quality or because they should be "safe, legal, and rare". Leaving aside the texts (of which I am not familiar), I think it would be more apt and consistent to have a sequence at each major feast of Our Lord; hence, Christmas, Epiphany, and Ascension would also have them (or ubi Communicantes proprium, ibi Sequentia).

  3. Roman Missal is curial. That's why it seems to me radically different in ceremonies than Papal Solemn Mass.