Saturday, September 24, 2016

Is Liturgy Worth Keeping?

New Liturgical Movement has recently discovered a video that Marko shared with us three years ago. Some commentators rejoice in the liturgical continuity between the ordo Missae of their 1962 Mass and the northern European parish Mass recreated by Fr. Piltz. Others are confused to discover that the "TLM" and the local Masses of the Middle Ages are not exactly the same thing: no servers' vestments (only cathedrals and collegiate churches would have been so equipped), a common offering of the host and chalice, difference prayers before the altar, no Last Gospel, the Benedicite at the end of Mass, a different blessing, and only two candle sticks; the recreation depicts a silent congregation, but one observer reminds us that John Burchard's 15th century ordo prescribes a fast of break and water for failing to make the responses at Mass. Some variation owes itself to the difference between the Norman liturgical family and the Roman rite, while other contrasts are really elements of the liturgy that had not yet expressed themselves as they exist to us today. Why did some medieval elements survive while others did not?

According to Piltz "All of [medieval] existence was framed by a number of ceremonies and behavioral patterns which were a matter of course for people at the time", among them the Latin liturgy. When, then, was this all important taxis allowed so much variety from place to place and why was time allowed to obliterate certain things within the arrangement? One point of curiosity is the offertory procession. Now a piece of playacting, the medieval offertory procession is not recorded in the Ordo Romanus Primus; the compiler records that the deacons simply prepared the gifts after the pope received them from their fashioners. By the time of Burchard the bread and wine were still brought to the altar rail by the people who provided the gifts and they now received a blessing from the celebrant, suggesting the ritual was not restricted to cathedral Mass; this would become the basis of Paul VI's offertory in 1964. In the Gallican traditions the oblata were initially brought in procession, preceded by incense; as the Middle Ages progressed there came about the practice of the acolyte or subdeacon bringing forth the gifts using the hummeral veil after the Epistle, emphasizing the gradual unfolding of the mystery of the Eucharist which culminated at the moment of transubstantiation. The Roman and Norman processions with the oblata differed both in purpose and manner, yet both appear to have originated in their known forms in the high Middle Ages. Perhaps the only thing the two rituals have in common is that they are both defunct. Why?

Ceremonies and rites construct an "arrangement" or order that frames the Church's relationship with God, singing His praises for His own sake during the Hours, awaking and sleeping with Him at the vigils and vespers, and meeting Him in the miracle of the altar at the Eucharistic sacrifice. The liturgy contains many echoes and whispers of past pieces that time has de-emphasized but not obliterated, such as the Kyrie, once sung at the end of the vigil during the procession to the altar until it was abbreviated and the Introit replaced its former function. The Church adds to its liturgy and retains older parts that crystallize the taxis of the Church. The prayers before the altar and the Last Gospel, as old, or young, as the various Latin offertory rites, survived while the blessing of water at the Gradual died. The Iudica me psalm and St. John's Prologue bookended the action of the Mass, the former ritual ascending the altar and the latter summarizing what just happened. These contemporary additions complimented the Mass at all levels—pontifical Mass, solemn Mass, parish Mass, and private Mass—while the offertory processions (Roman and Norman) could only be observed in solemn functions. This is not to say that the offertory variants lacked merit, but they did not enrich the Latinate concept of the Mass as an act of Theophany that was translatable to every level of celebration. By contrast, the Little and Great Entrances in the Greek tradition introduce the two main events of the Divine Liturgy, the proclamation of the Gospel and the Eucharist and were very easy to translate from the cathedral liturgy of Hagia Sophia to the parish level.

The principle of fitting with the liturgical framework should not preclude unique features that belong to particular gradations of celebration, such as the acts of obeisance and external symbols of high priesthood in episcopal celebrations. While the 1568 and 1570 documents from St. Pius V made wider use of the Roman rite possible (only with the approval of the bishop and the unanimous consent of the cathedral chapter), the 1588 erection of the Congregation of Sacred Rites and book printing probably did more to standardize the liturgy that Papa Ghislieri. Robert Nisbet observed that government intervention into realms usually occupied by traditional social institutions—the Church, the family, the local union—rarely accomplished good and often created a "vacuum" in the wake of what it pushed aside. Something similar can be said for liturgical additions which might further enhance the Church's worship. Whether one uses the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the "EF", the Mass of Paul VI, or something of exotic oriental extraction, we are bound to the books. My university chapel adopted the novel practice of inverting the lines for Holy Communion in reference to Christ's words "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." Did this add anything to the Roman tradition? Of course not, but it does betray an inherent need for local expression and variety in liturgical worship which has enriched the Church over the years. Centralization has yielded a vacuum.


  1. "the offertory procession is not recorded in the Ordo Romanus Primus; the compiler records that the deacons simply prepared the gifts.".

    Not really. The Pontiff came down in front of the confessio to recieve the gifts of important seculars and even on the women's side and received their offerings, according to the Ordo. On some feasts the important seculars brought their gifts on the altar itself after the deacons. Water is offered by the ruler of the choir. The subdeacon receives the wine, but it is not said from whom.

    Thanks for the mention though :)

    "Robert Nisbet observed that government intervention into realms usually occupied by traditional social institutions—the Church, the family, the local union—rarely accomplished good and often created a "vacuum" in the wake of what it pushed aside. Something similar can be said for liturgical additions which might further enhance the Church's worship." I wholeheartedly agree. There should be more "free market" in liturgy.
    Some general norms should be set, but more freedom should allowed. Then sensus fidei governed by the Spirit, and the law of supply and demand will determine the outcome. But those are just my musings.

    1. Oops! Amended. I haven't opened my OR I in years, so I was trying to "wing it." The point still stands though.

      Interesting that you picked up on the term "free market." Nisbet may well have been a free marketer (I don't know), but he was really more concerned with social institutions, since it's where people actually live, interact, contribute, and gain their identity. Centralization erases those things and puts nothing in its place.

      I don't think anything can be objected to in the 1568 Office and 1570 Missal Pius V published. His accompanying documents even suggest it wasn't meant to be the norm everywhere. A great many bishops, who gave up their own dioceses' heritage, are to blame.

    2. Sure there was no "procession" as in, having liturgical dancing priestesses wiggle around in ballerina attire, or making freakishly long steps in 30bps tempo, but to get to the altar you have to process to it. The pope stood in front of confessio and received gifts from dignitaries and others. That is basically what the rubrics allow for today.

      "A great many bishops, who gave up their own dioceses' heritage, are to blame." Yep. And Orders too. My capital, Zagreb, had it's own Rite. It was basically use of Esztergom but the Missal was named after Zagreb. Then, bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac gave it up for Roman Rite... sad day...

    3. Btw. I would so much like to get my hands on that Burchard's Ordo. I've been looking for it online for months just to find it nowhere.

    4. Here:

      Still, the point stands that the pope in those days (seems limited to the city of Rome) commissioned individuals to provide the gifts that they made. The "procession" (don't like it because it equates at the time with litany processions and penitential processions) may, like the Great Entrance, have been entirely practical. I wonder if another reason it died in the Roman rite may have been the infrequency of popular Communion (only one bread needed) and the switch to unleavened bread (no "baking" required, just batter and a hot iron).

      Any their any resources for your former local usage online?

    5. It was practical. And when the term "procession" is used in that liturgical context it is meant as a practicality. People "process" to the altar. Isn't the entrance with the crucifix and candles a procession? This is "procession" in the same vein.

      But where from would it come that the pope commissioned who is to give offerings? He receives the loaves from all sorts of people, men and women alike and the altar is literally filled with bread, and among the loaves is the pope's loaf too.

      The reason you give for the death of the procession is very possible, if not the only logical reason.

      Here's the Missal.

    6. Sorry, wrong link.

      I don't know if there's a way to download the whole thing, but what i can tell you is that the Ordo starts at page 342. And it seems that there is no easy way to browse. Just click on the binding image.


      I love the subdeacon just standing there with his arms crossed :D
      That does seem to be the "manly" position throughout the traditional Christianity as i've seen men in many eastern Rites stand with their arms crossed like that.

    8. Wow. I'm reading the Buchards Ordo and the footnote says that the host is to be placed on the left or in the middle of the corporal at the offertory. The left positioning is totally Roman. I don't know where's the footnote from though. I guess some other manuscript or something.

      The rubric also says that in Masses of the Paschal time, Sundays etc., when the adoration of the sacrament by genuflection is finished, all stand until the end of the Mass. That's the present rubric too, although for all Masses.

      But otherwise it's just MR1570.