Translator's note: the author of these notes belongs to a community celebrating the pre-Pauline liturgy, but in its forms of 1964 and 1967. He advocates a return to the Missal of 1962 with a "corrected" Pius XII Holy Week. In this, we disagree with him, and advocate a return to the Roman liturgy prior to 1950. This apart, these notes are highly recommended to our readers.
Notes on the reforms of 1964 and 1967
by an anonymous French Benedictine monk
translated by Fr Anthony Chadwick
I. One can make a rapid resume of the post-conciliar reforms concerning the Ritus servandus in celebratione Missæ, both for the Solemn Mass and the Sung Mass.
1st text: 26th September 1964 Inter Oecumenici:
We should note that the manner of incensing the choir at our monastery should be revised.
2nd text: 27th January 1965, modified Ordo Missæ and Ritus servandus:
All that is not brilliant, even if one can admit the abolition of the Judica and the Last Gospel (these are texts that were once said going to the altar and returning to the sacristy). On the other hand, the simplification of gestures in the Canon is very grave - they turn the Canon from the category of sacred action to that of a narrative. This would rapidly bring us to making the Mass into a clerical chat-show with politico-religious themes.
What is more serious about this text is something more, in the following principle. After the incensing of the altar, the celebrant goes to the sedelia and stays there until his return for the offertory. Once at the altar, from the offertory up to the end of Mass, the celebrant stays in the middle.
With its logical and benign appearence, this principle is in reality the destruction of the structure of the ceremonial of the Mass and the generating leaven of the present ceremonial anarchy - and consequently, of liturgical anarchy in general.
The ceremonial structure of the Eucharistic celebration had traditionally been organised in two different ways according to the person of the celebrant.
If the celebrant is the Bishop in his diocese, he presides over the congregation of faithful in virtue of his personal quality as a Bishop. His Episcopal quality makes him the head (or the centre) of his diocesan clergy and faithful. When these assemble for the Eucharistic celebration, the point of focus is not the altar, but the Throne of the Bishop: as in the Lateran Basilica, where the throne occupies its place in the apse, and where the Cardinals sit in order of seniority from this throne (what makes the youngest of the order of Deacons nearest the altar).
If the celebrant is a simple priest, everything is different: if he presides the congregation of clergy and faithful, it is not in virtue of his personal quality - but because he is the celebrant of the Eucharistic Action. Consequently, the point of focus of the congregation is the altar itself, that determines the order of places and all the acts of presidency that the celebrant will have to accomplish (singing of Dominus vobiscum, collects, intonation of the Gloria in excelsis and the Creed). He must do these from the altar, not having the quality required to impose himself as president otherwise than attached to the altar and as relative to the Eucharist. What is more, as there is an hierarchy between the different acts he must perform at the altar, this hierarchy will be very harmoniously marked by the diversity of places that the celebrant will occupy at the altar - the centre being reserved to the Eucharist itself, and the right corner being for the singing of the collects. If the celebrant wishes to sit, he does not have any quality to use any kind of seat of presidency - he will use a bench, near the altar. He performs no acts of presidency from this bench - for the least of these, he must go to the altar.
The old liturgical books had organised all that with a perfect coherence and fine balance.
This ceremonial organisation reflects and expresses theological and dogmatic principles of the hierarchical structure of the Church. In the Church of Christ, the Eucharistic celebration has a reason (rationale) of principle. Also, it is not because one presides the Christian congregation that one can celebrate the Eucharist - it is because one celebrates the Eucharist that one can preside over the congregation. Bishops receive a power to preside over the Christian congregation in a way different from the simple priest who celebrates the Eucharist (this is regardless of the way of theologically presenting the fact: the power of jurisdiction received from the Pope whilst the power of order comes from the Sacrament of Order, or the doctrine of the three munera). This has always been understood by the clergy and faithful, who assemble voluntarily around the Bishop. This is what explains the development of ceremonial around the person of the Bishop (solemn entry into the church, etc.). Obviously, the Bishop leads his people to the Eucharist: while he celebrates it, everything becomes centred on the Eucharist, and there is little difference between his manner of celebrating and that of a simple priest. However, from the moment the Eucharistic celebration is over, it is again the person of the Bishop who becomes the centre of focus of the solemn ceremony.
Simple priests receive a priesthood that is essentially dependent, defined by the power to celebrate the Eucharist, but not including - essentially - a personal power for presiding over the congregation of clergy and faithful. The priest in his parish is like the extension of the Bishop for the Eucharistic Action (indispensable for the life of the Christian community), but he is not personally the focal point of the liturgical community. Also, the faithful unite in the parish church before the altar, not around the priest. The priest presides, for this is necessary (sacrament of the presidency of Christ), but only as celebrant of the eucharistic action. Priests often bewail the difficulty they have, in our days, of "building an assembly" (as they say) - this in inevitable, normal, for they are seeking to build up their congregation independently of the altar. Instinctively, "normal" faithful do not go along with this - where the modern priests assemble only their "militants", duly formed, recruited and mandated, whilst they already "constitute the assembly", but in the manner of a meeting, around a man holding a microphone - then, in this case, what the congregation is celebrating is not Christ's Eucharistic Mystery, but itself. From this comes the shocking phenomenon of Christian congregations singing the glories of the People of God - the inversion of worship. The vicious circle is fatal - and arose from the fact of the presidency of the liturgy of the word away from the altar.
There would be a lot to say about this presidency away from the altar. In fact, it is nothing other than a translation of ecclesiology à la H. Küng expressing the formula: it is because one presides over the Christian congregation that one can celebrate the Eucharist. The conclusion is obvious: where there is a lack of a priest validly ordained by a bishop, the Christian congregation can give itself a president, having by the very fact the power of celebrating the Eucharist.
In conclusion, the presidency from the altar of the liturgy of the word by a simple priest is truly the articulus stantis vel cadentis liturgiæ traditionalis.
3rd text: 4th May 1967, Tres abhinc annos
This is yet another series of deletions or simplications of "details" (genuflections, kissing of the altar, joining of the fingers after the consecration, ablutions). This is detestable, in the measure of losing more and more the meaning of the celebration of the sacramental Mystery. If we celebrate, we do not treat an action in its proper reality. The celebration is the manner we have, in this world, to attain a reality our worldly condition does not allow us to attain in itself. We can attain it only through symbolism. The more we develop symbolic gestures, the better we can attain unattainable realities - the more they are retrained, the less we surpass the domain of our world. Mass without genuflections, kissing, etc. is a meal shared between brethren, not the Mystery of the Paschal Sacrifice. Obviously, this is true only in the psychology of someone participating superficially, for the pure objectivity of the Christian Sacraments permits that their essence is safeguarded as long as the minimum essential conditions are there. But, to make the congregation into a meeting directed by a showman with a microphone, with the extreme rarefaction of mysterious gestures - we know what the Mass becomes.
4th text: 21st June 1968, Pontificales ritus
The work of demolition reaches the Pontifical, under pretext of simplification. This is in reality the same de-mystification as above.
And we arrive at the last nail in the coffin, 3rd April 1969, Missale Romanum.
II. The only disadvantage of returning to the Missal of 1962 is that it contains the Holy Week according to the reform of Pius XII.
This reform was the testing ground for the great upheaval to come. This fact is little known, because the reforme respected the eucological texts and readings of the old rite; but it is by the bias of the ceremonial that the reformers (Bugnini, etc.) upset the atmosphere of the liturgy, the proper ethos of the traditional liturgy. They rationalised and simplified it, and made it lose the character of the old celebration.
The Holy Week in the Missal of Paul VI is no better, and there, the eucological texts and readings were modified. Paradoxically, this Missal slightly improved the ceremonial.
If, despite all, we took the Ordo of Holy Week of Pius XII, would it be amiss to correct it a little concerning the ceremonial, above all the vestments to wear? The chasuble should be worn for the whole Good Friday ceremony and the Paschal Vigil.
This would avoid the masquerade introduced by the Pius XII Ordo on Good Friday, where there were four different vestments to don during the same ceremony! Also, this would avoid the liturgical nonsense of this same Ordo for the Paschal Vigil where the cope was worn up to the two parts of the Litany, then the chasuble from the Kyrie.
There is still the problem (not very important) of the colour for Good Friday - the old black was merely the extreme darkening of red. Red is the true colour of this ceremony, but not bright red! - A dark and sober red is indicated. The idea of Pius XII for taking violet for the distribution of communion makes one want to weep. This is only the stupid application of the priciple according to which black is never used for the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass. The Good Friday ceremony is precisely organised like a Mass - it is the Mass of the Presanctified. The same colour and vestments should be kept for the whole ceremony.
On Holy Saturday, the change from violet to white is wholly justified, on condition that the change of colour is not identified with a change of kind of vestment (cope to chasuble), not with a dislocation of the ceremony into two distinct units. The Mass goes from the beginning of the Prophecies to the Ite Missa est Alleluia Alleluia, in a single celebration.
A final question: the Missal of Paul VI restored the entire Lauds of Easter. If there is something not to retain from the old Ordo [Pius XII] of Holy Saturday, it is this mini Office of Lauds (or Vespers) integrated into the end of Mass.
III. The Pontifical
We have not asked for the return to all the books of before 1964. We need to celebrate Mass according to the Ordo of St Pius V but with the Ceremonial of Bishops of John-Paul II. When our Abbot celebrates pontifically, must he read the Kyrie, Gloria, Graduel, Alleluia, Credo as in the Missal of St Pius V? Or should he not read them as in the new Ceremonial of Bishops?
Returning to the Missal of 1962 would render its meaning, and its difference, from solemniter ou abbatial : the throne serves only as a seat and all the acts of celebration are done at the altar. Solemniter would no longer be a kind of slightly simplified pontifical that we have known for twenty years; but to the contrary, a celebration of a "simple priest" type (presidency at the altar) with just the oldest and most essential elements of the abbatial ceremonial (mitre and crozier, use of a cathedra as a seat).
The Ritus servandus in Celebratione Missæ of the Missal of St Pius V (reproduction of a Missal of the Roman Curia of the end of the XVth century) is a masterpiece, both in the rites of Mass as for the ceremonial of Solemn Mass. It is the perfectly balanced and organised result of a long evolution whose elements of diverse origin have been, according to the case, integrated or eliminated. It has a perfect internal coherence: coherence of various elements between themselves, coherence of all elements with the object of the celebration (the Sacrament of the Eucharist in its two aspects, Body and Blood of Christ, Sacrifice of the Cross), and with the priest of the second order. It is principally this aspect of perfect coherence that makes its quality.
To touch any of these elements is to unbalance the whole, to disturb its perfect coherence. (Let us remember Dom Pothier correcting the melodies of the Gradual that Dom Moquereau restored in perfect fidelity to the manuscripts, and the cry of Dom Delatte "Don't touch it!"
In conclusion, we need to have full confidence in the Missal of St Pie V: it is, in all its parts, etiam in minimis the very fruit of human genius; its integral observation will introduce us very surely to the plenitude of the eucharistic mystery. For nearly thirty years, I continually fight against personal ideas, against typically modern and French subjectivism that imagines it can improve the post-Tridentine liturgical books. It is, in my view, a singular illusion to believe oneself capable of doing better than immemorial Roman tradition, which has, by a providential play of flux and reflux, produced a masterpiece that we have the privilege of using. We must have a total confidence in the Holy See, that has had the wisdom to give us back this Missal of St Pius V in its integrity, and to spare us the incoherent botching of the black years (1965-1970).