Saturday, July 8, 2017

Readings: Part of the Roman Rite?

Discussion at New Liturgical Movement has come around to positing that the Roman liturgy proper is composed of "elements more and less central" to its identity rather than a minimal statement of validity. This touches on what has been said on this blog for years, that the Roman liturgy is not to be found in a given set of books ("pre-'55", 1962, "pre-Pius X" etc), but rather a series of characteristics either ancient in origin or synthesized by gradual acceptance over the course of several generations. Some elements, like the Eucharistic Canon of Mass and the Kalendar, are irreplaceable as essentials of the rite. Others, like the offertory prayers and choir ceremonies, form unique aspects of the Latin liturgy that distinguish local "dialects" from the mother tongue. The Sacramentary, Psalter, and Sunday lectionary are essential aspects of the Roman rite, while ritual books and private prayers have always permitted some local variation. However, one aspect of the Roman liturgy that we have not argued as an essential on this blog is the Mattins cycle of readings.....


Simply because they changed relatively often before Trent. St. Pius V's commission to pare down medieval exuberances also looked at the inherited Curial breviary's reading schedule for the Office and found it wanting in the age of sola Scriptura. As of 1529 most of the readings for feasts, aside from the Gospel lesson in third nocturne, were edited Patristic sermons of variable, and occasionally dubious, origin.

It was not always this way. Six or seven centuries earlier readings tended towards Scriptural passages, often at lengths that discouraged concentration by the canons and monastics praying the Office. The Cluniac Divine Office often covered an entire Pauline epistle in two days of Mattins; this proved so onerous during the evening vigil that the abbot regularly appointed a monk to roam the Choir with a wooden stick and call inattentive monks to attention when they dozed off.

Centuries before then the readings may have been an odd mix of Scripture and contemporary sermons. Pierre Batiffol recounts St. Augustine advising a pastor as to which of his sermons he thought worthwhile to read during the Office.

The Tridentine commission assigned Scripture to the first nocturne of Mattins for feasts, often taken from the same book and chapter as the pericope at Mass, and a gradual reading of St. Paul on ferial days. The unique Masses of Lent already possessed proper Gospels and hence required no revision in the study group's mind. Local uses seem to have revised their vigil readings in line with the Scriptural revival in the Roman Office, although some, like Sarum, died out as they were, leaving Origen's sermon on the Incarnation for us on Christmas Eve.


  1. So much has changed in the Roman Rite over the course of centuries (not counting the modern reforms) that i think st. Gregory the Great would have trouble recognizing the Tridentine Rite as his own. Much more is that worth for his predecessors, and much more for their predecessors.

    So to speak of organic development, to me, just doesn't hold water. The only difference between organic and inorganic developments seems to me to be the rate of change, where organic is slower, and inorganic is faster. At least that's what i gather from those who advocate its existence and its liciety.

    It maybe could be argued that organic development means simply that that which is implicitly present somewhere, grows and becomes explicit. But that would mean that no external elements can be introduced. I can certainly see that with doctrine, but how would that happen with liturgy? Every little rite is that which it is and not implicitly something else.

    As pope st. Agatho says and condemns the Roman Church from his own mouth: "one and chiefest good, viz.: that nothing be diminished from the things canonically defined, and that nothing be changed nor added thereto, but that those same things, both in words and sense, be guarded untouched".

    When i hear the usual accusations of the West, particularly Rome, being legalistic, i always get angry because i think it is just an empty platitude. But when i think, it may even hold true. As much as Rome was conservative and traditionalistic (e.g. not adding hymns to the Office until 12th century), its own reliance on legalism and papal power gave it the possibility to change things indiscriminately. Even to the point of including the "Filioque" into the Creed. What good is relying on tradition in these days when the pope can change everything with the stroke of the pen, utterance of his voice, impulse of his will.

    Imagine if tomorrow pope Francis decreed that the Lord's Prayer comes after the fraction, that the pax comes before the offertory, and that Kyries and Confiteor are abolished. There would be so much traditionalistic tantrum, but where was this outrage when st. Gelasius abolished prayers of the faithful and introduced the litanies, and then when st. Gregory abolished even litanies (on most days) and changed the place of the Lord's Prayer? Was anything ever sacred?

    1. I agree with you & recently have to come to realize that Rome has been in a constant state of change since the very early days of the Church.
      Ironic you bring up this topic as I have been thinking along this pattern recently.

    2. i think st. Gregory the Great would have trouble recognizing the Tridentine Rite as his own.

      I think it would still be quite recognizable to him. And not just because the Canon was unchanged.

    3. @Catholic State
      Yes. Constantly.
      We know that pax was after the prayers of the faithful in time of st. Justin. Well, somebody changed that and put the pax before Communion. Then someone added offertory and Communion chants in 4th century. Someone added the secret super oblata prayer. Someone composed the Roman Canon, basing it maybe on the old anaphora that st. Ambrose cites in De Sacramentis, but until st. Gregory it has gained several different parts and the structure of the anaphora has become totally messed up. And then all the other things with st. Gelasius and st. Gregory that i mentioned in the post above.

      Yes, "having trouble recognizing" is a strong wording, perhaps.
      Now, when not serving but being present at the Solemn Mass, one could make the case that, yes, he would recognize it, although he would be bewildered by the genuflections, inclinations of the head, elevations, the silent canon and other rites concerning the fraction, consignatio and commixtio, pax, Agnus Dei. (that's a lot actually)
      But otherwise, since all the elements and embellishments cannot actually be aurally perceived by the faithful, that which is audible would be recognizable to him. The similar things, thus, could be said of the Novus Ordo.

      Now, if he were to celebrate the Tridentine Rite, that would be another story. Read the introit, Kyrie, Gloria, epistle, gradual, alleluia, Gospel, offertory chant, Communion chant all to himself? That would be very strange to him. To pray all the offertory prayers, pre and post-communion prayers, the Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, the last Gospel. That would be non-sensical to him.
      As a celebrant. He would find himself more at home with the Novus Ordo, than with the Tridentine Rite.

    4. Since High Mass was still normative when Trent met, I'd say he would very much recognize the Mass and Office 10 centuries after his death. It was really little more than an elaboration of what came out of his pontificate.

      The private prayers are different from the prayers (if any) that would have existed in his own time, but interestingly the aloud parts are nearly identical (aside from shorter psalms) between 600 and 1600. A layman would absolutely recognize the two rites.

    5. Well that's what i said. From a position of spectator there is certainly a good degree of recognizability.

      But still there are some notable differences which are eliminated by the Novus Ordo. You know them and i don't have to enumerate them to make a point.

    6. I doubt that he would recognize the Novus Ordo. At least in the traditional practice, chasubles are used by all three ministers for penitential days. The subdeacon holding the paten is gone. (Or an acolyte, but I think the SD is the Roman usage.) The Pax is a totally different rite, even if you consider that the Agnus Dei was added later; that improved the Pax considerably. The Pater Noster was not sung by all, at least not as it is today. The Liber Usualis even provides for a full responsory at the Gradual. Such would be impossible in the Novus Ordo. The Canon being silent might not faze him as much as simply reading it or singing it to the modern (and totally made–up) tones of the modern liturgy. While I know that the Byzantine liturgy has developed–Old Believers can tell us that!– that the anaphora and associated elements are not entirely aloud today, sung or not, makes me think that something similar existed in Gregory’s lifetime.

      I personally favor the celebrant doubling everything, but that’s an accidental feature which wasn’t universal even as late as the 16th century. Surely something was said at the Offertory in his day.

      The hypothetical reconstruction of the Roman Canon is specious. It holds that everything comes later (4th through 6th centuries), and it assumes that earlier equals better, which in the case of the Canon is nonsense. The received form is very fine indeed. Enrico Mazza’s The Origins of the Eucharistic Prayer is worth a read, even if much is left to be desired.

    7. I think Matthew Ross hits on the real difficulty with all this comparison business: "earlier equals better," namely. A merely material comparison of one text to another is hardly a true comparison of the Novus Ordo with the Mass of Trent. (Even on a merely material level, the four Eucharistic Prayers, three Penitential Rites, the "verbis brevissimis" introduction of the Mass of the day, and so forth, make the comparison laughable.)

      A true comparison would have to involve the fact that there had been a development in certain parts of the Mass in response to, say, a heresy or a greater appreciation of some mystery of the Faith, but that this was then (with the Novus Ordo) rejected or curtailed: the Greater and Lesser Litanies, e.g., or the elevations, the Offertory prayers and their explicit sacrificial language.

      Only then--seeing the Novus Ordo formally as well as materially--could our thought-experiment St. Gregory be asked which was more familiar: the rite that frequently begged pardon for sin, repeatedly called on the Saints, multiplied acts of adoration, or the one that, well, doesn't.

    8. Matthew Roth, I should have said. Apologies!

    9. In his day there was no subdeacon holding the paten.
      That would be the duty of an acolyte and he would stand on the right, and not in front of the altar.

      At pax in his time we would do the consignation and commixtion and then pax. That is not a "totally different" rite.

      A canon sung to a modern tone would be something less of a difference than a silent canon, since it is at least sung. And it wasn't only partially sung. Ordo Romanus Primus (which is younger than Gregory) is an indication of it because it directs the pontiff to begin canon only after the Sanctus has been sung.

      Offertory in his day consisted merely of the "super oblata" prayer which was said secretly because the chant was sung, hence a younger name "secreta". That is it. All other prayers are of non-roman origin.

      Yes. Pater noster would be different.
      In his days there was a real responsorial psalm as it is now in Novus Ordo, so i don't know what you're talking about.

      Those differences would not faze him so that he wouldn't recognize an entire rite.

      About the reconstruction of the canon. Why would it be specious? If you look at it's structure, the structure, compared to other anaphoras is very strange.
      First there is an intercession with an oblation, then the memento of the living and the commemoration of some saints.
      Then again there is an intercession with an oblation.
      The there is a sort of an epiclesis (Quam oblationem).
      Institution narrative.
      Anamnesis and an another oblation.
      And an another oblation.
      And an another upward epiclesis.
      Then intercessions with memento of the dead and another list of saints.
      Finally, doxology.

      Is that not a mess?
      Antiochian anaphoras follow this pattern:
      Account of history of salvation/Post-sanctus
      Institution narrative
      Intercessions with mementos and commemorations

      When you look at what st. Ambrose quotes you find following parts
      Institution narrative
      Epiclesis (upward)

      This you find in the Roman Canon too from Quam oblationem until Supplices.

      Oriental anaphoras have the epiclesis before doxology.
      Coptic anaphora of st. Cyril/Mark is a different story. Many have invoked it as an explanation for the weird structure of the Roman Canon.
      One could lay down it's structure like this:
      Preface (history of salvation)
      Intercessions with mementos and commemorations, and an another oblation and more intercessions
      Epiclesis for filling of the sacrifice with heavenly blessing
      Institution narrative
      (sort of an oblation - "we have placed before Thee")
      Epiclesis for the change and fruits of communion

      The fact is that the difference between this and Roman Canon is that in Roman Canon there are intercessions before and after narrative-anamnesis-oblation-epiclesis part. In Coptic anaphora it is only before.

      One could group the prayers of the Coptic anaphora thus:
      Epiclesis (which consists of first epiclesis as a beginning, then narrative-anamnesis-oblation and an epiclesis for change of elements and fruitful communion)

      That would look like an Oriental anaphora.

      So given all that. Roman Canon is certainly an anomaly.

    10. I suspect there is rather a lot, and not just matters liturgical, that Gregory the Great would not recognise if he descended to earth at the the present time.

      I think it is fair to assume that the idea of 'organic development' ceased at Trent, if not earlier. To me the interesting concept, is the one of 'organic correction' a term I believe, but I am open to correction, originally proposed by the esteemed John Rotondi. To what extent the modern papacy will tolerate correction of some of its more gross errors will be an interesting process to observe.

    11. I’m fine with slowing development. Abandoning a conservative posture is problematic.

      I think that we can see small developments, such as restricting triple signs of the cross to prelates or all present saying “Domine, non sum dignus.” I would also argue that changes, such as adding “Stabat mater,” occasional new prefaces, using Trinity’s preface for most Sundays of the year, and the like are organic. The bulk of development is in new can argue over the wisdom there, but that’s the situation.

      Allowing regional variations of following rubrics is good: traditional French priests and traditional English priests won’t celebrate the Mass exactly the same way. There’s organic development there as well.

    12. Regarding reconstructions of the Roman Canon, Ray (2010)'s modification of Mazza's thesis, that the Canon was a redaction of two Strassbourg Papyrus-type anaphorae (i.e. Alexandrian, possibly primitive Hagiopolite) stacked on each other, is convincing.

  2. Thank you, The Rad Trad.

    As always, compulsive reading.

  3. Marko: I was referring to the Pax in the Pauline rite, sorry. Gregory wouldn’t recognize it at all. The Pax in the Tridentine rite simply has a few extra prayers between the Pax Domini dialogue and the actual exchange.

    The SD takes the paten fairly early on (within, what, two centuries of Gregory?) and honestly, his position is fairly accidental, though lining up seems appropriate in the end.

    The Roman responsory is found in the Office and in the Requiem Mass (Subvenite, Libera Me). It can be sung as such in the Mass, at least the TLM (for lack of a better circumlocution) during the Gradual by repeating the text until the asterisk; of course a cantor sings alone (ideally) all after the asterisk. The Alleluia is always a responsory. I’m skeptical that the NO form is an accurate representation of the older form, for the older forms were then very quickly cut down and set to elaborate melodies. It also can be sing antiphonally or in directum. Also, I wonder how the Tract developed. Their length really only makes sense with shorter pieces of Scripture preceding it. The chants of the Gradual are not necessarily short, but the texts are not entire psalms as we received them.

    Now, as far as the Canon goes, yes, Mazza seems to connect Alexandria and Rome, but you ought to see his hypothetical Ur-text Canon, rearranged with omissions. That’s more of a mess.

    I do not agree with the assumptions of the dating. My guess is that the early form of what we call the Canon dates to around 250 (really, the Roman church as we know it does) and by the end of the Roman Empire (or maybe Boethius’ death) the text is nearly complete. We know Gregory added half of the Hanc igitur. There’s no evidence proferred for a later development of the whole. Certainly, Ambrose has a tradition which is already ancient. Can not the same be true at Rome?

    We know the Byzantine (the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) and Maronite prayers were substantially rewritten, and some Syriac liturgies lack(–ed) an explicit institution narrative. Who knows if this is true or untrue for other rites? Further, while scholars are increasingly critical of Hippolytus’ prayer, at least in its authorship and geographic provenance, the assumption still is that consistency proves the antiquity of what became the received form. That seems in fact to contradict the view of the apostolic and ante–Nicene church, through the life of St. Justin and St. Irenaeus. There, the consensus is that the anaphora varied considerably from place to place, and while certain elements were valued/passed down from the Twelve, others were not. For example, the Didache contradicts St. Paul, so it’s either omitting details on purpose, is not the eucharist nor meant to be such, or what is said in 1 Cor. 11 isn’t true...hence the problems with the Assyrian liturgy; Ratzinger really seems to have struggled with the decision. At any rate, I can agree that it varied, and that isn’t such a bad thing.

    1. I have read "the Rite of St.Hippolytus" was conducted while he was schismatic and before he was received back into the true Church.
      Is this true,false,or an opinion?
      Seems both sides of the question have varying views.

    2. He wouldn't recognize it at all?
      But there is the "Pax Domini" exchange. But even if he wouldn't recognize it at all, we would recognize the rite as such, as Roman. There's Kyrie, Collect, readings, etc.
      He would, as i said, as a celebrant find himself more familiar with Novus Ordo than with Tridentine Rite, for the reasons i have already named.

      About responsory, the original practice was the same as present one (i.e. sung like the Invitatorium), with the only difference that the whole psalm was sung (which is better of course).
      Then it was shortened to:
      solist refrain, choir repeats it, solist sings the verse, choir repeats the refrain. A full responsory is still found on Saturday of lenten, fall and winter ember days, where even the Glora Patri is divided.

      Alleluia, which again, originally had more verses, is actually in the form of the shortened responsory.
      Solist sings alleluia, the choir repeats it, the solist sings the verse, and the choir repeats the refrain, i.e. alleluia.

      Tracts, as replacements for alleluia, were also full psalms, and they were sung between second reading and the Gospel. They were sung in directum, or "in uno tractu" and thus, the name "tractus". There are still 3 remaining whole psalms. On the first Sunday of Lent it is Psalm 90; on Palm Sunday, Psalm 21; on Good Friday, Psalm 139.

      For the Canon to receive it's original form some parts need to be discarded for sure. The best source we have is what st. Ambrose cites because he cites an anaphora which is almost word for word Roman Canon. Both Rome and Milano might have borrowed from a common source.
      I have tried my best to "reconstruct" the Canon, and i tell you it's a hard job mainly because the idea of oblation is so dispersed all over the prayer.

      Anaphora of st. John Chrysostom, while enriched over time, keeps its antiochian structure which is also the one that the anaphora of st. Hippolytus (whether is it his or some Syriac anaphora is not known). St. Basil's anaphora is also of that strucure, and also the anaphora of 8th book of Apostolic Constitutions.
      But there are other ancient anaphoras with strange structures, like the anaphora of st. Serapion.
      Like the Coptic anaphoras there is the epiclesis for filling the sacrifice with divine blessing.
      Then there is an oblation of bread, which is then justified by institution narrative, and then also explicated by saying that the oblation of bread is repetition of image of Jesus' death, and after that, there is an intercession partly taken from Didache postcommunion.
      Same is then done with the cup.

      Or the anaphora of Barcelona papyrus, which some consider to be the oldest whole anaphora. First there is the oblation of "these your creatures, bread and cup", and then an epiclesis for change, which is followed by institution narrative as a justification for what is done at that moment. Then follows an anamnesis, an epiclesis for the fruitful communion and a doxology.

      So things did vary. And yes, Didache has some kind of Eucharist. Otherwise there wouldn't be any mention of spiritual food in the postcommunion. Apostolic Constitutions VII., 25. borrows heavily from it.

    3. "He would, as i [sic] said, as a celebrant find himself more familiar with [the] Novus Ordo than with [the] Tridentine Rite": I can't help smiling at this, picturing in my mind our transported-back-to-earth St. Gregory flipping through the pages of first one "Eucharistic Prayer," then another, and another (his face becoming visibly more concerned), then turning pages even faster with an even more incredulous look on his visage as he hits the "Penitential Eucharistic Prayers" and "Eucharistic Prayers for Children's Masses."

      There might be a greater textual overlap, materially speaking, for a sixth-century celebrant with carefully selected options from the Novus Ordo, but the spirit of the Pauline Missal would seem alien indeed.

      (Of course a carefully selected set of options from the Novus Ordo isn't really the Novus Ordo at all. Neither is its recitation in Latin. Those are really just imports from the traditional spirit of Catholic worship. But that's a different discussion altogether.)

    4. I don't capitalize the "i"'s on purpose but i won't tell you why. I accept the humiliation though. Thank you :)

      How is it that a carefully selected Novus Ordo isn't Novus Ordo at all? If something is legitimate it is legitimate. If something is what it is, it is what it is.

      With my incessant defenses of the Novus Ordo on this blog, i don't want to defend it unconditionally and in its universality. I defend it, or rather its features, from the point of antiquity, and i will defend whatever is defensible from the point of antiquity and history. My stance is that, if something was consecrated by Church usage in one time, it is sacred for all times. Something might not be prudent, but it is legitimate and within the scope of Church legislature.
      One of those things is Communion under both species or sung Eucharistic Prayer. But a thing not consecrated by Church usage is segregating the Body of Christ into age groups and adapting the worship to them. That is plainly idiotic and contrary to the whole idea of a unified Body.

      I, personally, am not content with the degree of antiquarianism. I would want to go back even further. But i don't want to reinterpret the old things. I want them as they are. I want that kind of situation where there are no various rites but only one Apostolic Rite. As st. Polycarp could celebrate the Eucharist in st. Anicetus' church because they adhered to the practice they have received from the Apostles...
      They didn't invent new things or subtract old ones.

      Mentally, i live in those days, and because of that, all things that are more than what is "merely" Apostolic seems to me as already an addition. That's why i don't look at the Novus Ordo as a "downgrade" because i don't observe it from the point of Tridentine Rite but from the point of Apostolic practice.

    5. "They didn't invent new things nor subtract the old ones." *