Monday, August 21, 2017

Neo-Gallican Antidoron

Marko has directed some interest in our series on the Lyonese liturgy over here from NLM, for which we are grateful. It reminded me to post this remarkable snapshot of French parish life as it would have been before the 20th century.

This image, La bénédiction du pain by Francoise Archange, portrays the end of a Sunday Mass in the neo-Gallican rites. A first communicant holds bread to be blessed after Mass, similarly to how the remainder of the prosphora is divided for consumption after the Divine Liturgy in the Greek Churches.

The Mass is a Missa Cantata, which was quite rare before the 1960s; the Roman rite was normatively practiced as a solemn Mass with minimalist variations such as spoken or sung low Mass when three ministers were unavailable (I believe Missa cantata was never legal in the diocese of Rome, at least as of Fortescue's time). The French rites permitted local adaptations to maximize the resources of a parish, which in this case included three young boys (one looks bored) singing with three coped rulers of the choir, one of which is singing the antiphon accompanying the blessing of the bread from medio choro, the same place where the Epistle and Gospel were proclaimed in the pre-Tridentine Roman rite and where they continued to be proclaimed in the French rites.

Within the church the full span of local society sits according to rank and order. A nun teaches catechism in the Marian chapel, which houses an image of Saint Jerome in prayer. The women make their thanksgiving after the Mass. The men in the choir are likely officials such as the mayor or magistrates, which was the custom before the 20th century; all society presented itself before the Church, according to rank and duty.

This was the sort of parochial Catholicism Quintin Montgomery-Wright sustained at Le Chamblac over the course of four decades. Montgomery-Wright's parish, as well as the diocese of Campos in Brazil, are interesting experiments in what might have been if the liturgical revolution had not transpired, but Le Chamblac was also blessed with a pastor who kept a Catholic spirit alive in town which, while foppish, was not out of place or [entirely] affected. As much as the Church needs a liturgical restoration, of one kind or another, it needs a re-invigoration of parish life in the modern day, one that is genuine and humbles the world before the Church rather than one which invents lay "ministries" for old ladies in pant-suits. The old French world is gone, but there is much we can learn from it today.


  1. Interesting! One wonders about the fate of local uses if not for the Ultramontanism and imposition of uniformity of the 19th century.

  2. Imposition of uniformity goes even further back to a time after Trent, although it functioned as a sort of ass-kissing (if you would pardon my French).

    First, some Orders abandoned their Rites, e.g. discalced Carmelites (their biggest mistake), Cistercians with gradual romanizations until general abbot Claude Vaussin who completely romanized their Mass in 1667.
    And then, local sees replaced their own Rites with that of Rome. As i like to mention, Zagreb, capital of my country, had it's own medieval Rite (which was largely a monastic Rite of Esztergom), but was replaced in the 18th century by that wretched free-mason bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac. Some of the traditionalists in Croatia even defend that decision. God-forbid something be non-Roman...