Sunday, June 30, 2013

Which Lectionary?

It came home to me again this morning just how much time had passed since I had spent time with the FIUV Position Papers : too long! I find a balance in this effort which encourages, never falling short of provoking an honest examination of the status quo.

I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend: Positio N. 15 THE LECTIONARY OF THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM. It gives me occasion, among other things, to make a plug again for the wisdom of what Benedict XVI has hallowed, recommending the growing together of the two forms of the Roman Rite, as "mutual enrichment". The position paper, especially in the Appendices A & B, casts a clear light on a few of our lost treasures in need of recovery for the sake of our own enrichment. Particularly sobering for "new" Lectionary enthusiasts should be the non taxative list of Scripture passages from the 1962 Missal, no longer heard in church even in the course of three years.

Furthermore, encouraged as I am by how Pope Benedict XVI was able to wrest exegesis from the sterility of the recent past and gift us with a lectio worthy of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church, I wish to second a very important point made obliquely in Paper N. 15, concerning pitfalls of the Lectionary prescribed for the Ordinary Form. In speaking about the Lectionary which forms an integral part of the 1962 Missal, the author comments:

"4. The Lectionary’s development is such that, while the Sunday Gospels and Epistles each form a discernible series, the two series are independent of each other. We are not presented with connections between readings dependent on the exegetical preferences of scholars of any particular age, but rather a more fundamental working-out of the mysteries of salvation."

The point is well taken and reflects back on the merit of upholding a millennial tradition of the essential canon which has and should nourish our liturgical tradition. This thought brings me back to Appendix B and an interview with Vatican Radio by Jeffrey Tucker, which spoke convincingly of the benefits for our liturgy of the recovery of our patrimony of Gregorian Chant now under way, which has gone leagues to helping with the implementation of what has either been ignored or has remained vestigial in many if not most parishes from 1970 up until the present day (viz. antiphons, et. al.).

The issue of the Lectionary also "bleeds over" inexorably into the question of calendar reform and the rollback of the Sanctoral cycle generally, but most specifically in favor of the new ferial Lectionary in its two year cycle of first readings. 

"8. The ancient ferial Lectionary did not displace the readings for feast days, and given the fullness of the Sanctoral cycle in Rome, and the developing popularity of Votive Masses, it seems likely that the editors of Roman Missals from the 13th century onwards thought it was unnecessary: there is clearly little point in a cycle of readings which is rarely used. The Lenten ferial cycle could only avoid being swamped by feasts and votive Masses by giving it a greater liturgical priority. A relative paucity of feast days is appropriate to the Lenten season, as is the distinctive character of the ferial Mass formularies, which also include ancient, complex, and profoundly beautiful chants."

I wish the paper hadn't used the word "swamped" to describe the ascendancy of the Sanctoral cycle. You might say that the author lends credence thereby to the thesis which establishes "defense lines" or "levies" to hold back the Sanctoral "tide" for the sake of daily mass goers now deprived of the richness of Matins from once upon a time. I can remember in seminary being taught  to privilege the ferial cycle in Ordinary Time over choices from the various appendices of the Lectionary for optional memorials of Saints. I find intriguing the fact that with the most recent edition of the Lectionary for the U.S. appropriate choices have been made for every saint. A priest friend of mine in this regard has "gone Sanctoral" if you will. Maybe a restoration of an enriched Matins would indeed be a better route to go and more in tune with an ancient spiritual tendency for the proper nourishment of Christ's Bride?

No doubt some will advise me as a mere dilettante to stand clear of realms where "black belt liturgists" have reason to fear. Naive as I am, I cannot help but share the enthusiasm of those which see the reform of the reformed liturgy already in course. In this holiday time of warm weather in the northern hemisphere many a small child is getting his first dunk in a lake or a pool secure in Daddy's firm grasp. He will soon be in the swim of things and through "mutual enrichment" and exposure to treasures many thought lost, we may sooner than later find ourselves awash in the richness of our great tradition.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for pointing out the FIUV Position Papers. They look to be an excellent resource. An article of my own on the subject of the traditional Western lectionary has been fomenting for some time; it seems about the right time now to get it written. There is much to be said about this ancient and deifying depository of Scripture that has, as yet, hardly been touched on. Your comments here are to be welcomed for opening the subject, and reminding us that the reform of the reform is not rubrical alone, but concerned even with how the Church marks time.


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