Recently I reread Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), with the hope of seeing how many of the innovations in the Divine Office are, indeed, the result of the Conciliar Mandate. I was mindful of the front page of LH (Liturgia Horarum): "officium divinum ex decreto sacrosancti oecumenici concilii vaticani II instauratum". I accordingly begin an occasional series; in what follows, I may have missed some conciliar implications, and would be grateful to have these pointed out to me.
SC undoubtedly mandates a revision of the rubrics concerning the dominance of the Sunday Office, and of the Christian Seasons, over the Sanctorale. It also encourages a reconsideration of the saints who are to be commended to the Universal Church, and of those deemed to have historical problems associated with them. I do not, however, discern a mandate for the wholesale disruption of the days upon which saints are observed, except in as far as the Council could be said to give support for diminishing the numbers observed during Lent and Advent. As I work through the year, I am surprised - sometimes day after day - by the large numbers who have been shifted a day or two this way or a day or two that way. One notices this particularly when, in the same church, both the older and newer calendars are in use.
I have not discovered any mandate whatsoever in the Conciliar documents for the major changes subsequently made in the Christian Year. The abolition of the Gesimas; the revolutionary transformation of Eastertide, summarised in the change in the titles of its Sundays, so that the intense spirituality of the Easter Octave is now expected to persist for fifty days; the abolition of the Octave of Pentecost: for all these I cannot see even a whisker of a hint in SC. That there is none is suggested by the Commentary published with the revised Calendar in 1969; for example, dealing with the abolition of the Pentecost Octave, the explanation concludes " ... ita ut a multis optaretur suppressio octavae Pentecostes:quod factum est." [My italics.] If there were a conciliar basis for this suppression, a footnote, in the customary curial style, would give it. The impression one is left with is that, as soon as a particular academic tendency ("multi") had got its hands on the process of revision, they considered that they had carte blanche for the introduction of what many of them had argued in the pages of learned periodicals. A fair number of Council Fathers, had they known what their vote in favour of SC would be deemed to have enabled, might have been horrified.
Do not forget that Archbishop Lefebvre voted without demur for SC. He, presumably, assumed that what he was voting for was the text to which he subscribed his signature. One wonders how many of the Fathers made the same assumption. Indeed, one is tempted to wonder what Papa Montini would have said in 1963, had he known the full extent of what, after the regular attrition wrought by his interviews with Hannibal, he would end up having been deemed to have authorised.
Cardinal Ratzinger notoriously observed that "After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council". In as far as the erudite writer intended to describe what actually occurred after the Council, it has to be said that his analysis is far from accurate. What Paul VI did to the Calendar was, in its more dramatic manifestations, not by the mandate of the Council. It was the effect of a coterie of academics abusing the goodwill of the Pontiff.
As one peruses the evidence from the intervening episodes of the 'reform', one discovers intriguing indications of the pace at which it moved. The Commentary on the new calendar, 1969, having explained why the Gesimas were being abolished, reassured any for whom the antiquity and spirituality of these Sundays commended them, that "Textus proprii harum trium Dominicarum alibi ponentur in Missali romano". (Similarly, the Embers and Rogations.) I have yet to find them; by the time the Missal was published in 1970 such vestigial relics of respect for Tradition had been swept away.