Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Transitional Missal, Revisited

The MR 1965 restricted concelebration to as many ministers as could
reasonably surround the altar.
During Benedict XVI's interesting pontificate liturgical dilettantes began clamoring for a merger of the 1962 Roman rite (which rite that is) with the rite of Paul VI. "Mutual enrichment" and "organic development", they called it, all the while condemning any interest in inserting old prayers into the new Mass, aside from a few unspecified rubrics like the "canonical fingers" and maniples. Some wanted the Vatican to publish a reformed novus ordo with the old offertory prayers; others, like Scott "Alcuin" Reid, championed the transitional rites of the 1950s and mid-1960s as the true reflection of whatever Sancrosanctum Concilium demanded. Most recently, Fr. Hunwicke has expressed admiration for the Communion and concelebration guidelines of the "1965" Missal. What was the "1965 Missal"?

As far as I can tell it never existed, but there was a modified Missal of 1964. I have seen several Missals that were published in 1964 and would parse their variety during downtime in the religion section of Olin Library at Cornell University years back. Before I knew much about what Pius XII did to the liturgy I assumed it was generally unchanged since the Tridentine Council until Vatican II. Instead of researching the pre-Conciliar liturgy I researched the transitional rites, which were endlessly confusing. I could not for the life of me find a genuine 1964 Missal, only 1962 Missals published in 1964 with alterations. In fact the 1964/5 Missal is nothing more than a tweaked 1962 editio typica, with no major variances in the propers or ordinary of the Mass. The textual differences were restricted to vernacularization of parts of the ordo Missae, the new Communion formula, the suppression of the Johannine prologue, and the reversal of the dismissal and blessing. The vernacularization scheme might be the weakest point of the 1964 liturgy and is a sore spot for those who wish to personify that "rite" as a balance between tradition and novelty.

Episcopal conferences introduced vernacular at their own discretion, allowing them to translate more than the Congregation of Rites would on its own initiative. The American bishops, peace be upon them, translated the ordinary chants of the Mass (rendering centuries of music useless with only garbage to replace it), the dialogues, and the readings. The variable prayers people were less apt to know by heart remained in Latin. The Kyrie is recited at every Mass and could easily be learned with instruction, but a variable Latin collect could only be known to either those equipped with a Missal or training in Classical languages. One can reasonably assume that the standard parts were vernacularized first because Rome did not want to venture into the time consuming endeavor of standardizing translations across several langues before the end of the Council; they wanted to see results immediately.

The caeremoniale of the transitional rite is the most difficult organic square to circle in the transitional rite, more so than the minor textual differences. Modestly, it asks that freestanding altars be constructed in the style of the ancient Roman basilicas (enter decades of wreckovation). Without the slightest hint that the Mass of the Faithful should be celebrated versus populum, everyone began a forward celebration of Mass. Paul VI himself promoted this trend by inaugurating the Inter oecumenici period with a versus populum Mass in the Parrochia di Ognissanti in Rome. Was anything about the revised liturgy more jarring to the man in the pew than what Geoffrey Hull called the "great narcissism, Mass facing the people"?

Among other strange features of the 1964/5 rite are the offertory procession and the option of performing the Fore-Mass from the chair. The offertory procession must have seemed every bit like the play acting it in fact is. The 1474 Roman Curial Missal speaks of an offertory procession with no indication as to what that was. The medieval rites prescribed a procession with torches during the Gradual in which the acolyte or subdeacon would solemnly bring the gifts from their place of preparation, often an altar in another chapel, to the priests, who would bless the water and wine before the minister would repose them on the altar of sacrifice. In the late first and early second millennium Roman liturgy, lay people would present the gifts to the celebrant during Mass, but only because they had fermented the wine and baked the bread themselves and at the beckoning of the Bishop of Rome. The Byzantine Great Procession is a relic of the Hagia Sophia, where the bishop and deacons would celebrate the first half of the Divine Liturgy while the priests in the skeuphlakion prepared the bread and wine in the ceremony now known as the proskomedia; the Great Procession brought those gifts to the altar and announced the intentions associated with them. The 1964/5 procession has no foundation in liturgical history, unless one considers that at some point a sacred minister had at some prior point taken bread and wine from a table to the altar.

The celebration of the Fore-Mass at the sedilia would not be as unwelcomed as it is if not for the enormous thrones, inevitably stationed at an angle, priests make for themselves. The real trouble with this is that celebration from the chair is traditionally associated with the teaching authority of the bishop, hence why Mass at the Throne and Mass at the Faldstool are considered fuller celebrations of the Roman Mass.

The Agatha Christie Indult and the foundational documents of the Institute of Christ the King (according to one ex-priest I knew) respectively directed the 1967 and 1965 liturgies. Both were summarily ignored for variations of the 1962 and pre-Pius XII liturgies. The FSSPX used the 1964/5 caeremoniale, but entirely in Latin for the sake of international students, until the French branch settled on 1962 and the rest of the Fraternity adopted pre-Pius XII. Putatively, the monasteries of le Barroux and the Fontgombault line use 1964/5, but it seems more likely that they use 1962 without the prayers before the altar (1964/5 had them), without the last Gospel, vernacular readings, and some new prefaces (taken from Paul VI's Missal); they did not adopt the ambitious range of vernacular texts nor all the ritual changes.

Given Cardinal Sarah's interest in the Ordinariate Missal and the Pope's lack of interest in anything in the Missal, one would be hard pressed to recognize this true Mass of Vatican II as anything other than a historical road sign, a point of passing.

As an aside, something does need to be done about the abusive levels of concelebration in the Roman Church today. It is an inherently good thing, well rooted in the Eastern and Western traditions, and a sign of communion between a priest and his bishop, but I remember once speaking with a visiting Dominican friar who told me that he had to look in the Missal and read up on how to celebrate Mass for our community. Why? "I concelebrate daily Mass at the priory, so I don't do this too often."


  1. Adding altars is cheating, and where do deacons stand? The lack of deacons, even when we have far more active deacons in the church, at concelebrated Masses is theologically unbalanced. Better to have a priest vest as a lesser minister than to be without.

    Silverstream Priory in Ireland also runs the gamut liturgically. I know they do 1962 officially, but they don’t have blinders on.

    Do you mean “putatively”? Except for apparently Holy Thursday, which is concelebrated, at least at Fontgombault, the French Benedictines modify the 1962 missal for conventual Mass: no prayers at the foot following Terce, and the Secret and Per ipsum are sung. (I cannot recall if the priest reads the Last Gospel.) The Low Masses are all 1962. Clear Creek is much closer to 1962 I think, and I know Norcia is.

    1. I did meant putatively! Auto-correct thought I mispelled the word and it picked the wrong alternative.

  2. "I concelebrate daily Mass at the priory, so I don't do this too often."

    I recall being struck by a comment on a Peter Kwasniewski essay on the problems of concelebration, by an anonymous Norbertine going by the name of Fr. Anselm: "Personally I prefer to say Holy Mass individually, for theological and spiritual reasons. However many priests of this mind who live in communities, or when there are gatherings of priests, must have the impression that one is almost 'obliged' to concelebrate in order not to appear as 'the odd man out'. I frequently have these feelings myself. We need to ger away from this kind of mentality, and pressure that is put on priests to concelebrate." It is not the first time I have heard this observation made. Even where a member of a community really is unhappy about concelebration, it can be difficult to act on that. The result is that even the modest and tentative language employed by the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium 57 and 61 has been rendered nugatory - like so much else of SC.

    There *are* signs that the tide is flowing back out to sea in a few communities. I have observed a definite shift at the Dominican House in Washington (Eastern Province), where even the Dominican Rite itself is starting to make a comeback. But then they have enjoyed the accession of such a large number of young friars in recent years.

  3. On the larger point, I agree that the all the bandwidth burned on the "1965 missal" in recent years has made one thing clear: it never existed in any clear form. It was different things in different places, observed differently. The fact that it was so ephemeral helps demonstrate the actual understanding of the day: it was one of a series of alterations intended to be transitional.

    I do understand the impulse, which has been invariably from Reform of the Reformers (a diminishing band now) keen to salvage a more restrained liturgy desired by the Council itself, one with less obvious rupture. But given that the 1964/65 changes don't even incorporate some of the most noteworthy changes demanded by SC (like the expanded lectionary), it's hard to see how they can find a real body to put on the pedestal. And it's not even clear what the mind of the Council Fathers really *was*, beyond a vague general consensus on some significant reform (and the verdict of history may yet show that even that consensus was mostly wrongheaded), and in any event those desires were moving targets. A diocesan bishop Father who had to be be mollified with strong language on Latin or chant in 1963 soon found himself pushed to to the barricades of much more radical experimentation by 1967, sometimes out of a reluctant obedience to "what the Pope wants," and sometimes because they simply were not well formed enough to care deeply. But then I imagine there were plenty of Jacobins of 1792 who were constitutional moderates when they took the Tennis Court Oath three years before.

  4. We must treasure everything reformed in the 1962-1965 BCE (bestest council ever) epoch especially the lord's supper because it included more scripture than ever which one can observe by noting it eliminated the last gospel

    And whose soul is not elevated by singing "when we eat this bread and drink this cup..." after the Eucharist has been confected?

  5. Not for one moment did I think Bihop Emeritus Ratzinger was one who valued Tradition or the real mass

    At any time during his reign he could have publicly offered the Real Mass and he didn't

    End of story

    He was always a lib who used language to manipulate those who revered him

  6. What a ridiculous joke the Liturgy has become from and since Vatican II.

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