Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Poverty of the "Readings Cycle"

Some thoughts from Peter Kwasniewski on the ballyhooed "cycle of readings" used in the Pauline Rite are ....thought-provoking.

..the proper chants for [Therese of Liesieux'] feastday, in the new Graduale Romanum, are, in some cases (like the Alleluia verse) irrelevant, and in other cases barely relevant -- that is, bearing no special relation to Saint Thérèse. A comparison with the propers of the old rite for Thérèse's feastday will make apparent the magnitude of the loss suffered by the faithful when the ancient liturgy and its organic development were cast aside.

The Graduale Romanum (the Novus Ordo) offers the following propers for Saint Thérèse:

Introit (Ps. 30:7-8,2) -- I however have hoped in the Lord: I shall exult and rejoice in Thy mercy, because Thou hast looked upon my humility. V: In Thee, O Lord, I have put my hope, I shall not be confounded for ever; in Thy justice free me. I however have hoped in the Lord: I shall exult and rejoice in Thy mercy, because Thou hast looked upon my humility.

Gradual (Ps. 26:4) -- One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord. V. That I may see the delight of the Lord, and be protected by His holy temple.

Alleluia (Ps. 116:1) -- Praise the Lord, all ye nations, and rejoice in Him, all ye peoples. Alleluia.

Offertory (Ps. 102:2,5) -- Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all of His gifts: and thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's.

Communion (Ps. 9:2,3) -- I shall tell of all Thy wonders: I shall rejoice and exult in Thee: I shall sing Thy name, O most High.1

(N.B. Kwasniewski did not use the execrable ICEL translations---these are real translations of the Latin originals.)

Now, consider the Propers appointed in the old rite for the feast of Saint Thérèse. In stark contrast to the sad situation that obtains with the new rite, in the old rite the Propers were always recited or sung, because they are, and were treated as, an integral part of the liturgy. (When was the last time you actually SAW the Gradual and Offertory propers for a Sunday or daily Mass, much less read it--or had it sung by your choir? At least one can find the Introit, Alleluia, and Communion propers in the usual missalettes, albeit only the Alleluia versicle is usually sung.) Moreover, people often had their handheld missals with them, so that everyone who cared to pay attention -- and this was certainly an ever-growing number right up to the eve of the Council -- was nourished by these verses from Scripture, beautifully applied to the Little Flower:

Introit (Cant. 4:8-9) -- Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come; thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart. V. (Ps. 112:1) Praise the Lord, ye children; praise ye the name of the Lord. Glory be. Come from Libanus, my spouse, etc.

Gradual (Mt. 11:25) -- I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones. V. (Ps. 70.5) [Thou hast been] my hope, O Lord, from my youth.

Alleluia (Ecclus. 39:17-19) -- Bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters: Give ye a sweet odor as frankincense. Send forth flowers as the lily, and yield a smell, and bring forth leaves in grace, and praise with canticles and bless the Lord in His works. Alleluia.

Offertory (Lk. 1:46,48-49) -- My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior: because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid. He that is mighty hath done great things to me.

Communion (Deut. 32:10,12) -- He led her about and taught her, and He kept her as the apple of His eye. As an eagle He has spread His wings and hath taken her on His shoulder. The Lord alone was her leader.

You don't have to be a scholar to notice the difference in text/feastday unity. In fact, the argument could be made that only a blithering idiot would have substituted the NO Propers for those from the Old Rite. But then, we're dealing with ICEL...

Kwasniewski then takes on the more general case: the exaltation of "quantity" found in the 3-year cycle of the Pauline Rite.

...There is no liturgy in existence that privileges a rationalistically-conceived march through books of the Old and New Testaments. All liturgies, Eastern and Western, look to the mysteries of Christ and of His Mother, and to the lives and virtues of that bright "cloud of witnesses" who incarnate, so to speak, the reality of Jesus again and again throughout history. Recitation of the text of Scripture is made decisively subordinate to the historical embodiment of Scripture's message in holy persons. The readings serve, in other words, to frame, adorn, and bring to light the face of Christ and the faces of all His imitators. The use of Scripture is iconic, not homiletic...

In other words, what's first is the Season, or the Feast, not some concept of "reading the whole Bible." That 'read-the-whole-Bible-during-Liturgy' thing, practiced at the expense of the Advent-through-Pentecost seasonality (and the feasts of various Saints) is an 'enthusiasm,' and is more than vaguely non-Catholic.

The new lectionary, in contrast, is a failure, for three fundamental reasons.

First, the guiding principles were Cartesian, that is to say, mathematical order, a technical completeness (we have to "get through" the Scriptures), and a typically materialistic disregard for the organic unity of the soul-body complex which is the liturgy -- its soul being the Eucharistic sacrifice-sacrament, the dual motion of offering to the Father and receiving in communion, while its body is the surrounding prayers, readings, and chants.

Second, there is the basic human problem of having more than one year's worth of readings. A single year is a natural period of time; it is healthy, pedagogically superior, and deeply consoling to come back, year after year, to the same readings for a given Sunday or weekday.

Third, the men who chose the readings were a committee of "experts," biblical scholars with sociological leanings,...

Alright, maybe the third objection is a bit snarky. On the other hand, were 'scholar/sociologists' responsible for the Propers and readings of the Joannine Rite?


There's more at the link.

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