20 February 2010

LENT IS DIFFERENT

Lent, I suppose, shouldn't be fun, but liturgically it can provide novelties, and change is always fun. And Lent does provide us with novelties, or rather, with whatever the opposite is of novelty ... antiquelties, perhaps. Take the Prayer over the People which concludes the Lenten Masses ... Oops ... you didn't realise that in Lent Mass did end with an Oratio super Populum? That's because the postconciliar 'reform' abolished them. The Editio Tertia Missalis Romani of 2002 brought them back; but the new ICEL English translation which will restore them to anglophone worship is not yet authorised. Here at S Thomas's, of couse, we use them on weekdays and take them from the good old English Missal.

Before the final blessing of the Mass was introduced, first by Dr Cranmer and then by his imitator Pope S Pius V, there had been no sacerdotal dismissal of the people for centuries in the Roman Liturgy. But, anciently, the Pontiff dismissed the people with a prayer said 'over' them. When, in 538, Pope Vigilius was arrested just before the end of Mass by the Imperial Byzantine Special Branch and dragged off to the East (have the Orthodox apologised yet for all those Popes who were arrested and dragged off to Constantinople to be tortured, imprisoned, or starved to death?), the pious Roman mob followed him to the boat yelling that they wanted 'the prayer'. He chanted it; the mob yelled Amen; and the boat moved off. The Prayer over the People was a blessing, in the sense that blessing means the priest prays a group from which he implicitly excludes himself by praying, not for 'us', but for 'you' or 'them' (that is how it differs from the post communionem prayer). In the preconciliar rite, it was preceded by Let us Pray; and a diaconal Humble your heads before God. The modern rite discontinues that, and orders the prayer to be said versus populum rather than, as anciently, versus orientem.

Archaisms tend to survive in seasons like Lent. One reason why this is particularly true of the Roman Rite is that only in Lent was there an unbroken sequence of daily masses, stational masses presided over by the pontiff himself rather than by parish priests. Daily through the streets of the City there were the busy processions of the Pontifical plate and of the curial clergy and the pope himself journeying first to the Church of Meeting for the Collecta and thence to the church appointed for the Statio. The entire Christian people of Rome witnessed this great annual exercise and the deeply sanctified memories thus created tended to make Lent a time more than usually resistant to innovation.

And of course, there are the different vestments in Lent. We must remember that the chasuble was not always exclusively worn by bishops and priests. As the normal out-of-home garment of middle-class citizens of the Empire (the toga being by now as rarely worn as top hat and tails are among us), the chasuble was worn, if not by everybody, at least by the clergy of all ranks. The practice of tarting up deacons and subdeacons in dalmatics or tunicles invaded Rome rather later; in the period of the classical sacramentaries they wore just chasubles. In the archaising season of Lent, Mass began with the deacon and subdeacon wearing chasubles rolled up in front (or chasubles made to look as if they're rolled up in front); when we got to the parts of Mass where deacons and subdeacons have to be physically quite busy, they took it off and rolled it lengthways, slung it over the left shoulder and tied a knot in it under the right armpit (that's the theory; in fact they wore a piece of cloth made to look like a chasuble rolled lengthways; it is popularly known as a broad stole because that is rather what it looks like).

We sometimes use these at S Thomas's. The problem is that in the years since Rome abolished these garments, somebody has vandalised them in the interests of cannibalisation ...

12 comments:

Adrian2010 said...

Father, do you know when the latest revision of the Roman Liturgy is due to be authorised? I asked our local RC priest a couple of years ago and he wasn't sure but seemed to think it would probably be by this year.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

If you mean the new translation into English: we have apparently been told "Advent 2011". These delays are most deplorable and one can only hope that the main hope of those sponsoring delay - that the Holy Father will die and that they will be successful in leaning on his successor - will be frustrated.

Adrian2010 said...

Although I feel the present translation is unsatisfactory - and very 1970s - as an Anglican who occasionally worships at an RC church, I do have concerns about loss of the ecumenically agreed texts and also the prospect of having to learn new responses, albeit for only occasional use. If Rome had seen fit to simply authorise some of traditional Anglican texts - ones that flow and can be sung to Merbecke - I'd be far more relaxed about the whole business.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Curiously, the new Roman versions are very close to Cranmer!

Ian said...

Any idea, Father, why there is no oratio super populum appointed for Sundays in Lent? I use the English Missal in my parish, and wonder anew at this every year.
Ian+

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Sundays have them in earliest strata of the Roman Sacramentaries. Their absence on Sundays in the Classical Rite is a stage in their gradual disappearance. Nobody knows why this happened.

The New Missal restores them.

Rubricarius said...

My understanding was that the Oratio super populum was linked to the celebration of Lenten Vespers immediately, or even interopolated into, the celebratioin of Mass. The Oratio super populum is after all the collect used at Vespers.

On Sundays Vespers would have been said at the usual time.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Good one. I think that helps (more than either of the theories in Willis) to account for the disappearance of the super populum on Sundays. But the 'Leonine' and 'Gelasian' sacramentaries seem fully equipped with these prayers on Sundays too. I suspect that means that the prayer began as a prayer within Mass and then migrated to a dual use as the collect also of the not unadjacent Vespers. (Does Rubricarius have in mind the assimilation of Vespers into the Easter Vigil? Interesting. Do we know when the Vigil migrated to before noon on Holy Saturday?).

Adrian2010 said...

It seems to have happened around the eighth century. Whether a fixed rule had developed regarding the Eucharistic Fast had developed by then, I'm not altogether sure. I'd assumed that the practice of having the vigil on the morning of Holy Saturday, a most unsatisfactory custom, arose from the requirement to fast from the previous midnight prior to celebrating Mass or receiving the elements. Since Rome sensibly reduced the eucharistic fast to one hour before reception of communion, evening Masses have become not only permissible but also commonplace and it has become possible once again to follow the ancient practice of observing the vigil on the evening of Holy Saturday.

Rubricarius said...

Looking also at liturgical praxis in the rites of the Religious Orders and in non-Roman rites Vespers and Eucharist in Lent are intimately connected. Although in 'modern' times the connection becomes much weaker still for the Triduum there is strong connection with arrangements that are parallel with the contemporary Byzantine praxis.

In some praxis the blessing of fire was observed still on the days of the Triduum before Vespers. MacGregor's book, 'Fire and Light in the Western Triduum' is a good starting point for sources.

It gives 'food for thought', I shall remind myself to think more on the subject between chanting alternate prophecies this Holy Saturday morning.

Michael said...

Adrian2010, the 1975 ecumenically agreed texts of the ICET were abandoned a long time ago. In 1988, the ELLC produced new ecumenical texts which, in a number of churches, superseded the original ICET texts.

Certainly, as far as the C of E goes, the Creed and Lord's Prayer are neither the original ecumenical texts nor the new ones. They are based on them but have been altered specifically for Anglican use. There are possibly other similar examples of which I am unaware. It may or may not be a bad thing that the effort to use common texts has come to nothing but it is a boat that sailed a long time ago, (over twenty years ago, to be precise). If anything, the Roman Catholic church should be congratulated for being one of the last churches to relinquish the commn texts.

I originally intended to say simply that I am interested by the folding of the diaconal and subdiaconal vestments at times of practical service as this seems to mirror the Byzantine rite, in which the deacon arranges his orar at the Lord's Prayer, so that it is wrapped around him after the fashion of a subdeacon, in order that he may assist, unhindered, at communion.

Ian said...

One follow-up question: Is it correct to say the super populum of the weekday on e.g St Matthias and the Annunciation, since they don't come with their own?