27 June 2010

Printing and the Sacred Heart

During the Octave of the Sacred Heart, using the older of my two Latin Altar editions of Missale Romanum, I said the Mass of the Sacred Heart as it existed, firstly pro aliquibus locis and then for the Universal Church, before Pius XI provided a replacement in 1928. I rather liked the old mass. The psalmus in the Introit was Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, a haunting verse which has stuck in the minds of many. You find it in Pius IX's Mass of the Precious Blood; it occupied the same place in the Sarum Mass of the Five Wounds; I remember deciphering it, highly abbreviated, on a choir pew put in Lifton church in the late fourteen hundreds by Parson Halyborton, an adventurous Scotch cleric who came to Devon, became an archdeacon, went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I recall seeing it on a portrait, 1582, of S Teresa of Avila, once in the Carmel at Lanherne ... Why did this old Mass of the Sacred Heart have to be abolished? Its collect was to be resurrected by Bugnini in the post-conciliar 'reform', so it can't have carried the marks of being too dated. Why couldn't the mass have been kept as an alternative, or even just as a votive, somewhere in the Missal?

I have written before about the significance, understood by too few liturgical writers, of printing. This made it possible for legislators with liturgical bees in their bonnets to enforce, in a flash, liturgical revolutions. Before printing, we had a situation - I am thinking of the early history of Corpus Christi - in which a pope could mandate a feast for the Universal Church and it wasn't even observed in the papal capella until nearly two generations later. But printing made it possible for a Cranmer to overturn an entire liturgical culture overnight, and to replace his own liturgical innovations with a substantially different and yet more radical version of them a couple of years later.

This nasty and corrupt mechanism of Rupture came to town, I mean ad almam Urbem, with a vengeance, after Vatican II, in the Bugnini deformation of the worship of the Latin Church. But there were earlier signs. I have mentioned Pius XI and the liturgy of the Sacred Heart. Then there was Pius XII and the Assumption. Out went the old Mass and Office and in came radically new replacements. There was nothing wrong with the old euchological formulae; they made the point which was at the heart of the theology of the Assumption in both East and West in the first millennium and a half: that Mary was assumed so that she could intercede, be the Mediatrix of all graces. Granted that Pius XII desired in 1950 to imprint upon the liturgy his new dogmatic definition, he could have behaved in the organic, evolutionary way of earlier pontiffs - he might, for example, have left the texts which he inherited untouched but embodied his new precisions in an added word (corporea) in the Preface; or even have asked that fertile Fr Genovese to write a Sequence, ordering it to be printed in liturgical books after that date and to be be brought into use as the newer books gradually spread. (Something like that is what Papa Barberini did when he classicised the texts of the Office Hymns.) I had better not start going on about what happened when the infant Bugnini got his toddler paws onto the Holy Week rites ...

You do not put nuclear weapons into the hands of rogue states and you do not equip crazed would-be mass-killers with sub-machine guns. Printing is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of opinionated liturgists.

2 comments:

nodjam said...

You were right on in the last paragraph. The difference between a terrorist and a liturgist is that you can negotiate with a terrorist.

Jesse said...

To printing we may add Desktop Publishing and, dare I mention it, PowerPoint (the latter an evil for many other reasons, too). If the people don't have a chance to memorize their part in the liturgy, then how can it become part of their lived experience?

That's not to underestimate the laity. I read today in The Medieval Review of a new volume of essays and texts on Medieval Christianity in Practice, ed. Miri Rubin, which includes a chapter on a medieval text entitled "How to behave in church", which assumes that a layman will have quite a few psalms (Psalm 27 on the way to church, Psalm 5 on entering) and Gospel texts memorized to aid his interior participation at Mass. There is also a fourteenth-century apprenticeship contract for a cleric wanting to become a priest. Lived experience again.