3 September 2009

Was Gregory Organic?

Someone coming from Sicily said to me that certain friends of his, whether Greeks or Romans I am not aware, as if through zeal for the Holy Roman Church, complained of my arrangements, saying, 'How is he proposing to keep in check the Church of Constantinople, when he follows its customs in every respect?' And when I said to him: 'What customs do we follow?', he answered 'Because you have caused Alleluia to be said at Mass outside Eastertide; because you have determined that subdeacons shall be without tunicles in procession; that Kyrie eleison shall be said; that the Lord's Prayer shall be said immediately after the Canon.

Thus Pope S Gregory the Great described the criticisms made of his liturgical changes (translation by G G Willis). His replies to this criticism of his Byzantinisation of the Roman Rite have some of the slippery characteristics of a Blair age politico. For example, he defends the introduction of the Kyries not by denying that they come from the East - they do - but by saying that we do them a bit differently in Rome; the moving of the Lord's Prayer to immediately after the Canon, which is exactly what he will have witnessed during his years as papal Apocrisiarius in Constantinople, is not, he cries, Byzantinisation: "In Rome only the Priest sings it, whereas in Constantinople everybody joins in".

The great Anglican liturgist G G Willis damned the introduction of alien Eucharistic Prayers into the Roman Rite after Vatican II with a phrase (borrowed from Juvenal's Third Satire: those were the days when scholars knew their classics) about the Orontes having flowed into the Tiber. Well, a gallon or two of Bosphorus got there well before Bugnini.

I think we should all take seriously the question of how much tinkering counts as 'inorganic' development. I don't intend to lay down the law on this matter; we all believe that Liturgy can never be, has never been, static; we all believe that too much change breaches the 'organic' rule laid down wisely by Vatican II and reemphasised by the Holy Father. Where, between those two principles, we discern a line, will to some degree be subjective.

I would just point out that this episode does give us a good example of the liturgical law that the pew-fodder do notice, and often complain about, substantive changes in what they are used to (this cuts both ways; both the Liberal radicals and the 'Reform the Reform' restorationists can be the victims of it). Perhaps what went wrong in the 1960s and 1970s was that a clericalist coup, effected by 'experts' who knew that they knew best, overrode this 'law'.

What should we learn from this?


Joshua said...

Is the Ambrosian position of the Lord's Prayer (after the Fraction, itself after the Canon) the original Roman position?

Michael McDonough said...

What work was GG Willis translating?

What you suggest, the "clericalist coup", does sound just, with respect to the Novus Ordo itself. From memory, as teenaged pew fodder myself, I do not recall that we were much upset with the Roman Missal (English or Latin) of 1965, which I now view as the approximate "norm" toward which we RCs ought to tend. It incorporated (with a few shearings and shifts) the 1962 Missal's permissions for the dialogic form of responses, with such innovations as the laity sitting for the readings until the Gospel, common recitation of the Gloria, Credo, and Pater Noster, and a slightly more "logical" incorporation of the Communion Rite.

This brought back, or put some emphasis on, the truth that at Mass, it is the whole Church which is united in the Eucharistic Worship of the Father, while it left individuals free to participate as they deemed appropriate.

What was not particularly "respected" in USA parishes was the learning of Gregorian chant, especially the chanting of the propers. I mention USA, since I doubt that we (RCs) ever had truly beautiful Solemn High Mass celebrations outside of the urban areas; much of what was done was driven by the "newness" of the Church on these shores (i.e., we were a mission territory for a very long time).

Thus, it now seems to me that that edition best fulfills the guidelines you mention: some change, but not too much change.

If I am not too far off the mark about the 1965 Missal, the Novus Ordo, which retained such elements has had the benefit (yes, benefit) of instilling that specific habit in us pew fodder, and my sense is that a number of those now being introduced to the 1962 approach, miss it.

William Tighe said...

It is from Pope Gregory's letter to Archbishop John of Syracuse, written in October 598.

JamesIII said...

In my understanding or the term “organic”, it is a process of natural growth and development from the root. Nowhere in that definition is there a specific mention of “new and innovative”, although that may often occur. It is a process of gradual and natural change and can just as well involve the return to a practice whose apparent value was not evident until it was lost. The key words are gradual growth and change. Sometimes it is to seek a better design and sometimes it is in reaction to unforeseen results.

Borrowing of liturgical practices has been at the heart of Catholic worship since the earliest days. Exposure to other meaningful ceremony has often prompted change in various sees. We forget the sheer size of the Roman Empire and the many cultural influences contained therein. The Kyrie was actually a return to a practice discarded after the Western liturgy had moved from Greek to Latin. The reintroduction may have been partially conciliar but it made good sense liturgically.

We've seen many organic changes over the two millennia in the West, some good, some not so good. The gradual reduction of the Epiclesis to a sentence or two, when it is the heart of the consecration, may have been one of the worst. In our attempt to streamline things we have often ignore the concept that great liturgy is among the finest of arts and should be that spotless and worthy offering of the Old Testament. That concept is simply forgotten or ignored in most modern liturgies and music. It is certainly ignored in our artless translations.

The last three enduring popes have all had a love of our rich and ancient heritage. We forget that Vatican II was not so much about innovation as it was about augmentation and the broadening of practices. It was unfortunately seen by the “progressives” as a wholesale license to discard the “musty old clap-trap”.

I grew up under the Tridentine Rite and, though not perfect, certainly had the concept of artful and worthy worship at its heart. The same can be said of the English Liturgy even though a bit of Cranmer's reformist attitude showed. Our liturgical brothers who celebrate the Masses of Sts. James, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Cyril, and others, have much to offer us.

Independent said...

Since the Middle Ages however there has been the invention of printing and the consequent desire on the part of authorities to centralise, homogenise, and geneally tidy up what was a considerable variety of rites and uses. Since the BCP of 1549 and the Missal of Pius V this continued apace until the Second Council of the Vatican unwittingly reversed the process. Now that everyone is his own printer one wonders what will be the result.

Whether something is organic is indeed a problem of definition.

William Tighe said...

"The gradual reduction of the Epiclesis to a sentence or two, when it is the heart of the consecration, may have been one of the worst."

In the West? This strikes me as mystification of the most egregious sort, as the "consecratoryepiclesis" is clearly an Eastern "export" to the West, and one that never flourished there. Apart from its appearance in Hippolytus(assuming it is not an interpolation there, and asuming that "Hippolytus" itself is genuinely early -- both of them considerably assumptions indeed) it can only be found in some of the many Gallican and Mozarabic eucharistic prayers. Let's put it bluntly: such an epiclesis is alien to the whole Western tradition, as Ratcliff and Willis were both at pains to point out, and so it can never have been "reduced" or "lost" in the West.

Likewise with the Kyrie. It is a prefect,and late, innovation in the West. The West, in fact, appears to have preserved in what are now the Good Friday Solemn Prayers, a form of intercession that preceded, even in the East, the development of litanaic forms. And when the West, or atleast Rome, started tinkering with this in the time of Gelasius I, it was replaced not by an Eastern-style litany, but by the "Deprecatio Gelasii," a uniquely Roman version, and entirely in Latin, related to Eastern-style litanies, probably, but rather different in itsd format and deroulement. It was only when Gregory the Great suppressed the Deprecatio Gelasii that the Kyrie, as a sort of liturgical peregrinus, entered the Roman liturgy.

Joshua said...

What's organic?

A. Singing alleluia out of Paschaltide; adding a few Kyries for decoration; denuding some subdeacons of tunicles (sounds rather Anglo-Catholic ;-) ); and moving the Pater noster back a pace or two - probably.

B. Ripping up the old and introducing an entirely new Lectionary, and a bowdlerized one; redoing the Church calendar, moving feasts about from one month to another; introducing at least three extra made-up Eucharistic Prayers; extensively rewriting, editing, and reassigning the corpus of orations; etc. - probably not.

Perhaps the test of "organic development" is simply the volume of the change: a small change is organic, a large one is not.

I would speak of the difference being that of an accidental versus a substantial change, but that would be heretical... :-)

Independent said...

Is organic development that which is made only by a process of accretion excluding deliberately planned change? Is it the sum of many small changes rather than of big ones? I must admit to being puzzled as to what is organic and what is not.

David said...

"Perhaps what went wrong in the 1960s and 1970s was that a clericalist coup, effected by 'experts' who knew that they knew best, overrode this 'law'."

May I suggest that a comparison of the text of the 1962 missal and it's predecessors with the 'bare ruined' texts of the 1969 missal gives the lie to the any notion that the "experts' knew best.

Michael McDonough said...

I'm not sure whether this is to make too much of a mere letter of Gregory the Great (though I know some Orthodox and Eastern Catholics who put great probatory store in the slightest details they find in his letters), but I found interesting a few bits that Fr. H. did not have in his original post.

Immediately after the main quote under consideration, Gregory concludes that paragraph, saying, "I answered him that in none of those changes did we follow [the practices] of another Church (aliam Ecclesiam).

Now, the straightforward meaning of "another Church" from context seems to be "another particular Church", in the Vatican II sense of "particular Church", i.e., Constantinople, Jerusalem, Rome, etc. I wonder, though, if that's all that Gregory intended. Was it possible that he was also saying that such other particular Churches are not "other" because they are partakers in the communion of the Catholic Church?

Second, Gregory states that the Roman Church's use of the "Alleluia" outside of Eastertide actually is due to the "traditio" of St. Jerome, which was "traditum" (given) to the Roman Church in the times of Pope Damasus, so that Gregory's "new" usage actually replaces (amputavimus) a subsequent Greek practice of more recent date, in favor of the tradition from Jerusalem which Pope Damasus appears to have instituted in his day.

Finally, along with what Fr. H. quotes about the Our Father, Gregory gives a rationale why he found it approprate that the Our Father be prayed when it is, and it seems to have to do with a Consecratory purpose. I find the Latin difficult here, though I think I get the drift, so I'll quote it, and ask one of you Classicists to do us the favor:

"Orationem vero Dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quia mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent. Et valde mihi inconveniens visum est ut precem quam scholasticus composuerat super oblationem diceremus, et ipsam traditionem quam Redemptor noster composuit super eius corpus et sanguinem non diceremus. Set et Dominica oratio apud Graecos ab omni populo dicitur, apud nos vero a solo sacerdote."

Is Gregory saying here that he believes in an Apostolic custom of consecrating the Eucharist by using the Lord's Prayer? And that to commemorate that custom he deems it appropriate that it should immediately follow the prayer composed by a scholar?

Reading between the lines, what seems to be governing Gregory's "reforms" is the idea of ancient authentic traditions not being lost, but that may be my naivete.

Michael McDonough said...

I was thinking about the comments made about the Epiklesis and the Roman liturgy. I've heard various ideas about where the Epiklesis may be found in the Roman Rite. In spite of all the arguments I've heard there is only one prayer in the original Roman Rite that strikes me as qualifying as an Epiklesis at all, and that is the Veni, Sanctificator which is prayed at the Offertory.

However, if the very Institution Narrative can be contained "implicitly" in the Canon of Adai and Mani, as was declared by the Pope not long ago, who is to say that there need be an "explicit" Epiklesis?

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"...if the very Institution Narrative can be contained "implicitly" in the Canon of Adai and Mani, as was declared by the Pope not long ago..."

Not by any Pope, but simply by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

William Tighe said...

I heard some time ago that one of the Vastican presses published a "symposium" of papers on Addai & Mari, and the question of its lack of an institution narrative. I have never beeen able to track down the biblographical particulars of the book, but I was told at the time that some of the contributions argue very strongly indeed against the position of the PCPCU (I thought it was the CDF, but I would be glad to be wriong about it) on that question.

One should also bear in mind that the Vatican's statement on A & M (whatever its provenance or level of authority) went on to request the Assyrians, in the event that a formal agreement were reached for a tripartite reunion between the Assyriand and their chaldean Catholic counterpart, as well as with the Cathlic Church as a whole, made a formal reques tof the Assyrians that they insert an institution narrative into A & M, and use it invariably for the future with that insertion.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Epiklesis ... the Roman Canon does not have an epiklesis, never had one because its antiquity is such that it antecedes the invention of the epiklesis, and one of the glories of the Canon Romanus is its lack of epiklesis. I wish people would stop letting themselves be bullied by ignorant philo-Byzantines into trying to find a 'Roman Epiklesis', or speculating on when the Epiklesis "disappeared".

None of this is meant as an attack on the integrity of the Byzantine Rite. Or a call for its Latinisation. I believe in the integrity of rites, and that we should all respect the integrity of other peoples' rites.


Paul Goings said...


How I wish that someone had told that to Bl. John XXIII and Paul VI!

William Tighe said...

Concerning "Orationem vero Dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quia mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent. Et valde mihi inconveniens visum est ut precem quam scholasticus composuerat super oblationem diceremus, et ipsam traditionem quam Redemptor noster composuit super eius corpus et sanguinem non diceremus. Set et Dominica oratio apud Graecos ab omni populo dicitur, apud nos vero a solo sacerdote,"

here is what G. G. Willis wrote in his posthumously-published *A History of Early Roman Liturgy to the Death of Pope Gregory the Great by G. G. Willis, with a memoir of G. G. Willis by Michael Moreton* (London, 1994: The Henry Bradshaw Society), Subsidia I, pp. 53-55:

Since the time of St. Gregory the Roman Canon has been immediately been followed by the Lord’s Prayer, with its introduction and embolism. It is well known that it was St. Gregory himself who made some change in the arrangement of the Roman Mass at this point. He himself says that he did so in his letter of October 598 to John of Syracuse, and this statement was copied by his ninth-century biographer, John the Deacon.

There is no doubt about the text of St. Gregory’s letter, but there has never been agreement about its precise meaning, nor is it agreed what St. Gregory found in the Mass at this point, and what exactly was the change that he made. We begin by citing the text of his letter:

orationem vero dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quis mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent, et valde mihi inconveniens visum est ut precem quam scholasticus composuerat super oblation diceremus, et ipsam traditionem quam Redemptor noster composuit super eius corpus et sanguine non diceremus.

(to be con't'd)

William Tighe said...


In the first sentence of this passage scholars from Amalarius onwards have taken the words oblationis hostiam together, as meaning “the victim of the oblation”, and have therefore interpreted St. Gregory as meaning that it was the custom of the Apostles to consecrate the Eucharist to the accompaniment of (ad) the Lord’s Prayer (ipsam orationem) and of nothing else.

In the nineteenth century Probst perceived that it is much more natural to take the words orationem oblationis together, and hostiam separately. This would then mean that Gregory says that it was the custom of the apostles to consecrate the Host to the accompaniment of the “prayer of oblation” only. This view has been followed by Cabrol and Batiffol, among other modern scholars, and it is now probably the accepted view. It gives much better sense, and Brightman’s interpretation of the whole passage is by far the most satisfactory. St. Gregory says that we say the Lord’s Prayer immediately after the Canon, because it was the practice of the Apostles to consecrate the sacrament with the Canon, or eucharistic prayer, and therefore it appeared unseemly to St. Gregory that we should say over the oblation a prayer composed by some scholasticus and should not say over the Lord’s Body the prayer which the Lord himself taught. Brightman was the first to make the likely suggestion that the prayer of human composition said over the oblation was the oratio super oblata, the Roman title of the prayer which the Gallicans call Secreta. If this prayer, of human composition, was recited over the unconsecrated elements, St. Gregory might well think it unfitting that the Lord’s Prayer should not be said over the consecrated oblations. He therefore moved it to a position immediately following the Canon. Obviously St. Gregory knew no better than we do what text the Apostles used in consecrating the Eucharist: there is no record of this in the New Testament. But he may well have supposed that the Eucharistic Prayer in the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus, or that in the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, was of apostolic derivation, and in fact neither of these has an oratio super oblata or the Pater noster.

The oratio super oblata was certainly said at the Offertory at Rome from the pontificate of Xystus III (432-440) or from that of Leo the Great (440-461), so it would be familiar to St. Gregory …

Joshua said...

It seems a bit mean-spirited to criticise Bl John XXIII for adding the very decent and pious phrase "et beati Joseph ejusdem Virginis Sponsi" to the Communicantes.

Paul VI's changes were, I agree, infelicitous: making the Per Christum's and most of both lists of saints optional were profoundly untraditional prunings; moving Mysterium fidei and introducing those silly Memorial Acclamations were also bad ideas; and adding "quod pro vobis tradetur" and modifying "Haec quotiescumque" to make it more Scriptural were also untraditional changes - since the older the prayer, the less likely it is to be ad litteram.

There have been different recensions of the Roman Canon over time, with small - organic! - differences between them.

For example, at the present day we have the Roman Canon as used in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (I say nothing of translations here), and as used in the Extraordinary Form, and also we have the Canon in its special Ambrosian Rite form.

In many Missals until the last century, the In primis included "et rege nostro N." - I believe this was only to be used for a Catholic monarch.

Michael McDonough said...

Prof. Tighe,

Thank you very much for taking the time to present that passage.

As I read the passage, I took the "ad ipsam solummodo orationem" as a reference to the preceding "Orationem vero dominicam", so whether the "oblationis" attended that phrase, or the word "hostiam", did not make as much of a difference to me. However, I did take it as Amalarius read it.

I remain "uncommitted", but against the later "consensus" I would say that there is some Scriptural warrant for taking Gregory's words a la Amalarius: Mt 6, 11: "Give us this day our daily bread", which in Latin was "panem nostrum supersubstantialem", and in the Greek "Ton arton humin ton exousion". And it seems odd to me that Gregory would need to add the "Et valde mihi" sentence, or note the fact that in the Roman Church only the priest recited the Pater, if he were of the mind of the later consensus.