Tag Archives: Novus Ordo

Objections to the Traditional Latin Mass answered: The Lectionary

In commentary after commentary of defenders of the Novus Ordo, from liberals to so-called “conservatives” (who are preserving the liberal revolution), they always point to the supposed superiority of the lectionary of the Novus Ordo to that of the Traditional Latin Mass.

The argument goes “Since the majority of the bible is read in the course of 3 years, Catholics are exposed to more scripture now than in the Traditional Liturgy with its narrow selection of readings”.

We’ve heard this for years, and I’ve refuted it for years, but it won’t go away. To be fair, I’m not concerned with issues of translation. The best arguments against the Novus Ordo are against the Latin Novus Ordo, not the ICEL translation. Defenders of the new rite can always appeal to a bad translation to explain away the endless problems with the fabricated liturgy of Bugnini’s Concilium. They might also refer to Bishops changing the banal and doctrinally questionable translations in favor of traditional ones. It is simple enough to go back to the source. Forget the ICEL monster. This I do here, and have consistently done when criticizing the new rite.

The argument is essentially flawed because it relies upon numbers and the mere quantity of something as the sufficiency necessary for correct evaluation. Thus, to put it another way it seeks to implement the liturgical reform the way governments try to reform things, by throwing more of something indiscriminately. In this case it is scripture. Just as truly as government throws money at education, or defense in the desperate hope that things will get better, so the new lectionary throws as much of the bible at the layman as possible, indiscriminately, in the hope that he will leave the Church knowing something about the bible. However, the Traditional Lectionary’s effect is qualitative, focusing not so much on how much of the Bible the man in the pew hears, but rather what the man in the pew hears.
In the Traditional Liturgy the lectionary was tailored to match the breviary and lead the faithful to a certain idea through its collects, antiphons and other propers, the lectionary of the Novus Ordo often makes use of antiphons and propers that do not match any liturgical objective, that are given just for the sake of it.

The next problem with the argument is that there are many texts of scripture, which are present in the Traditional Rite of Mass but are omitted or made optional in the new lectionary (which, if all the endless options and alternative texts were gathered into one book the thing would plummet to the center of the earth). The text of the great apostasy predicted in 2nd Thessalonians is present on the ember Saturday of Advent in the Traditional Rite, but absent in the new lectionary. Another example was pointed out by Cardinal Stickler speaking on the text of I Corinthians XI:27-29:

Apart from the pastoral difficulties for parishioners’ understanding of texts demanding special exegesis, it turned out also as an opportunity-which was seized-to manipulate the retained texts in order to introduce new truths in place of the old. Pastorally unpopular passages-often of fundamental theological and moral significance-were simply eliminated. A classic example is the text from 1 Cor. 11:27-29: here, in the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the serious concluding exhortation about the grave consequences of unworthy reception has been consistently left out, even on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The pastoral necessity of that text in the face of today’s mass reception without confession and without reverence is obvious. (Online source)

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a writer for Latin Mass magazine, had this to say in an October article on the New Lectionary:

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. This has been my experience. You get to know the Sunday readings especially; they become bone of your bone. You start to think of Sundays in terms of their readings, chants, and prayers, which stick in the mind all the more firmly because they are both spoken or chanted and read in the missal you are holding (more senses engaged). In this way the traditional Western liturgy shows its affinity to the Eastern liturgies, which go so far as to name Sundays after their Gospels or after some particular dogma emphasized. In the old days, the fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost had a distinctive identity: Protector noster was the introit, you knew its melody, and the whole Mass grew to be familiar, like a much-loved garden or a trail through the woods. Nowadays, who knows what the “tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time” is about! It’s anyone’s guess. Online source

The New Lectionary has a cold and meaningless feel about it. First of all, let us suppose a Latin Novus Ordo where the propers were used, and not replaced by this or that hymn, something which is rubrically incorrect even in the NO. There is no theme, no attempt to unite the psalms sung with the readings. Sometimes they are consistently repeated throughout Sundays of the Year. Second, while the Sunday readings are on a “3 year cycle”, the weekday readings are on a “2 year cycle”, which is completely nonsensical. If they match up at all to what is read on Sunday it is a pure accident occurring around the time when the planets align. And, who can remember all of these readings? I have known priests who say the Novus Ordo who haven’t a clue of the general order or pace of the readings beyond the Sunday they are in, and one back as well as one forward. It becomes a dead letter and we move onto the next one. And if we consider Lent and Holy Week, in some instances the readings match up and follow a progression, but there is no overall theme matched by the Mass propers or the Divine Office. In Holy week you only hear two passion accounts, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, where as in the Traditional Liturgy you hear all four, Matthew on Palm Sunday, Mark on Tuesday and Luke’s on Wednesday, while Monday contains a prophecy of our Lord’s death and resurrection.

The whole of the lectionary for the Traditional Mass is contained in the same book as the Missal, and it comprises a modest size book. As I said above, if one was to take the entire Novus Ordo with all of its options, extra prayers, and the lectionary with its endless options and substitutions, it would fall through the altar and wind up in the center of the earth (a good place for it if you ask me, and good riddance!)

Another problem is the fact that the lectionary was arranged by exegetes with sociological leanings (which could just as easily be written socialist), while the ancient Roman lectionary was arranged by St. Jerome one of the greatest of ancient doctors apart from Chysostom and Augustine, and apart from changes and modifications for the saints or new feasts, the propers for the year are unchanged. If we lined up the Traditional Lectionary with the calendar of the Eastern Church (or even that of the Orthodox), one will find striking similarities. Only one epistle reading, not two as in the Novus Ordo. A one year cycle, is unique to both calendars, and to liturgical tradition. The concept of a three, or two year lectionary is a novelty east and west and not even suggested by Vatican II. Sundays after Easter are called “Sundays after Pentecost” by both calendars, and the propers which must always be sung in a Divine Liturgy match up to the epistle and Gospel reading. Lastly, the readings must be sung in the Divine Liturgy, just as they must at a Tridentine High Mass. The Traditional lectionary is linked with and grew out of the common heritage of liturgical development which in spite of different cultures, locations and circumstances, share characteristics coming form ancient practice.

Therefore, for both practical and liturgical reasons, the New Lectionary is a complete and useless novelty, inferior to Catholic tradition, just like everything else in the Novus Ordo. Yet one may ask, how could one reform the Traditional lectionary? There are several Masses for different types of saints, and when there is no regular reading for the saints, the regular readings from the Mass Os Justi, or some such Mass will be used over and over again, sometimes within the same week. So texts could be found which would match the life of the saint, while this is often not done in the Novus Ordo, and as Dr. Kwasniewski notes in the article I linked, the readings for St. Therese in the Traditional Mass make sense, whereas the ones in the new rite follow the baneful 2 year cycle and have nothing to do with her.

There is but one more consideration. At the average Traditional Mass, one will hear more scripture than at the Novus Ordo if one is to take the whole of the liturgy into account. The Mass begins with Psalm 42, many of the responses are actually quotes from the Psalms (Adjutorium nostrum…Psalm 69, etc.), a good portion of the offertory prayers are from scripture directly, including all of Psalm 25, many parts of the canon and the priests communion come directly from scripture, not to mention the Last Gospel (John 1:1-18) and the fact that the propers are never skipped, while in the Novus Ordo encoutnered by 99% of Catholics in the world they are generally skipped, and or are repeats from a series of options while in the Traditional Liturgy they are different every Sunday and saints day.

Like all things, the simple fruits of tradition are better than the ugly creations of modernity.

Thoughts on the Divine Office

Originally published as “More thoughts on the divine office” , 18 December 2008.

Already on a few occasions I’ve written about the breviary, but I want to go in a different direction without rehashing too much of what I’ve already thought.

As I’ve written before, and as one could guess, I do not like the new Liturgy of the Hours in any way shape or form. I just fail to see it as an expression of prayer akin to what has always been adopted by the Church, east and west, from the most ancient times. It is modeled after the Quignonez breviary, which had 3 psalms for every office, and was suppressed because it made the prayer of the Church too short and placed psalms without regard for their historical replacement or the tone of the psalm with the time of day. The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, drawing on the consensus of liturgical judgment, said concerning Quignonez:

In the light of tradition and of liturgical principles the only possible verdict in that Quignonez’ Breviary, being constructed on a priori principles, violating most of the liturgical rules, must be condemned…. Every hour had three psalms; and in consequence of this severe regularity, there disappeared the deep and historical motive which gave to each hour its own characteristics. (source)

It wasn’t because Quignonez was evil, he was in fact a great churchman, and effected the release of Pope Clement VII from Charles V’s de facto imprisonment. Moreover, he resisted the trends of the time to restore Latin to pagan usage in order to conform with antiquity. Rather, it was condemned because he made a “Novus Ordo” of sorts with the breviary. We don’t even have a breviary quite as good as his for the Novus Ordo and on top of that it doesn’t even have all the psalms. The concept of vigils, or Matins, as it existed in the ancient breviary which made it through the middle ages, was wrecked in the Quignonez version, and likewise in the 1970 version. Three psalms scarcely carries the ancient tradition, although it should be admitted, the two readings in themselves are about the length of the readings of the 2nd and 3rd nocturnes which are divided up in the traditional schema.

The principles of the divine office, the liturgical laws and the characters of the hours were of ancient usage. When St. Benedict laid out what was to become the Monastic Breviary in his rule, he himself was drawing on ancient tradition, particularly Roman tradition (and ironically, is the only breviary today which maintains the ancient Roman Tradition.) This is one reason of course why I pray the Benedictine Breviary, the division of Psalms is roughly the same as St. Benedict laid out and as his early monks prayed. Though it has changed and suffered additions over the years, it is substantially a product of ancient tradition. Akin to praying the ancient form of Mass, there is something both humbling and inspiring about praying the same breviary as ancient and medieval monks did. Another benefit to the Benedictine Breviary is they did not modify their hymns during the reform of Urban VIII, and hence have maintained their ancient style. Moreover, it did not suffer any changes to the psalter during St. Pius X’s reforms, so many features which it drew from the Roman office, such as the Laudes psalms (148-150) are still said at the end of Lauds (from which that hour gets its name), and the use of Psalm 50 every day. The length of psalms in the Benedictine and pre-Pius X Roman Breviary are interesting. The Benedictine breviary for example begins Lauds every day with Psalm 66, and then Psalm 50 are prayed. Two psalms and the canticle differ each day, and then the Laudes Psalms are said. The only difference in the Roman breviary is Psalm 66 was not said. So the hour generally has 8 psalms, and more on Sunday (although they’re short). Vespers in the Benedictine is generally only 4 Psalms, unlike 5 in the Roman. Matins was 12 Psalms in the Roman Breviary and 12 in the Benedictine, which was then followed up by 4 scriptural canticles.

Another interesting thing is that Compline was the same every day, and the tone of those psalms was always defense in the night. The little hours in the Benedictine breviary are exactly the same Tuesday through Saturday, and after a while you start to memorize them. This allows one to better meditate on the thought of the psalms (plus, only monks are going to have the time).

The Pius X reform of the Roman Breviary starts a trend which ends up in the Novus Ordo, though St. Pius X could scarcely have imagined it. First off, while changes had been effected to the breviary throughout time, the Roman Psalter was thought to be in its integrity even older than the Canon of Mass in its current form. The idea of permanence in the liturgy was impugned, and it opened the door to further changes on the principle that Pius X had changed the breviary. However while the change in the distribution of Psalms ought to be a concern, the character of the hours largely remained the same, although now somewhat uniform. 5 Psalms for Lauds, 5 Psalms for Vespers, only 9 for Matins, while all the readings remained the same. The little hours now received psalms that were once said at Matins or at Lauds, so that they would change every day. All of these were motivated by pastoral changes. Yet these rubrics left in place a very important pastoral principle, that the priest could divide up the hour of Matins (which is very lengthy) so as to better accomplish the work of a parish priest. According to a good priest I know, one of the changes made by Bugnini when he served in the congregation of rites before Vatican II, was to eliminate this rubric and require priests to say the whole of Matins in one block and not divide it. Functionally, this meant that priests had to lock up a whole hour of prayer into the divine office. That is one thing for a monk or a country priest, but a priest in a large parish of many souls could have a problem.

This had a practical affect: to create disdain amongst the clergy for the office, which is exactly what Bugnini wanted. That is why when the Novus Ordo breviary rolled around, so many priests willingly accepted it because now: 3 psalms and 2 readings which can be anticipated the day before in the evening or said later in the day!

And if we look at the Novus Ordo breviary, the 1974 liturgy of the hours, there are some very unsavory things about it. Like the Quignonez, ever hour now has 3 psalms (except Compline which has one but inexplicably 2 psalms for Saturday and Wednesday). Moreover, one of the biggest problems with the Pius X psalter, that Psalm 50 is not said every day as is customary, is included. Unlike the Pius X psalter which required Psalm 50 during penitential periods, the Novus Ordo does not, except for Ash Wednesday, require Psalm 50 to be said on a day other than its placement, which is Friday every other week. This bothers me on a number of levels. A friend of mine who was recently ordained, in discussion on this topic, exclaimed “If you stop praying for mercy in the morning, what is going to happen in terms of pride during the day?” Like so many other things, you will stop getting it. It is the same with the Leonine prayers after Mass, or the use of additional collects praying for the Church before Bugnini suppressed them. If you stop praying for the defense of the Church, or from liberation against persecution, can you guess what is going to happen? You will stop getting defense, you cease to see even effective leadership bringing discipline from within. Ask and it shall be given, but what happens if you don’t ask?

This is the problem with many of the changes in both the breviary and the Mass.

Another problem with the Novus Ordo Liturgy of the Hours, is the new Vulgate has no decree behind it of infallibility in faith and morals. The Vulgate most recently promulgated under Pope Clement VIII on the other hand, has that guarantee both from the council of Trent and the Popes on document. John Paul II never extended such authority to the new Vulgate promulgated under his reign. Therefore if you are praying the LOH or the Pius XII psalter, your text is not even assured to be free from error in faith and morals as the traditional breviary and clementine psalter is! Imagine praying the new Vulgate for 4 weeks, shudder!

A lot of people complain about the four week psalter, but this doesn’t present a problem other than its novelty. There is nothing wrong in theory or even per se in practice with saying a four week psalter, except that the Fathers of the Church east and west when they required the faithful to attend the divine office being sung in the Churches, chose a one week psalter not a four. What is important about that is the early Bishops intended it to be done by lay people who had to work as well as pray, and they chose to accomplish the psalms in one week. The reason for this was so the faithful would be familiar with the Psalms and incorporate their prayers into their day. What better prayers are there than those which are scriptural and inspired by the Holy Ghost? It is for this reason the Traditional Mass incorporates so many of the psalms into the Holy Mass, many more than in the Novus Ordo.

The worst element about the Novus Ordo breviary, is the bidding prayers contained at Lauds and Vespers. I’m generally of the opinion that they are worse in Latin than they are in English, because ICEL polishes some of them up. There you have lame, dated, social justice petitions included in a banal manner in the Church’s official prayerbook. Contrast that with the breviary petitions formerly said on certain days at Lauds and Vespers (not every day), with prayers for the Pope, prayers for the Church, prayers for conversions, for defense from unjust persecution, etc. A holy priest I know looked at that in Seminary and questioned his vocation, because in his words “I could not say that nonsense every day of my life, whereas when I looked at the Traditional Breviary, I knew I could do that.”

Thus, even with the problems of the Pius X reform, I would still see that breviary accepted rather than the 1970 Liturgy of the Hours, which is just a mess of liturgical experimentation (replete with “original texts” in various languages not included in the editio typica). The solution in my view, is to permit a certain amount of freedom in which edition of the breviary that priests pray. In other words, allow them to go back to earlier forms of the Roman breviary, or to the monastic breviaries of different orders. Ideally of course, one would want the Bishop to regulate it according to the breviary which he prays, but the result of that is “well, pray the LOH that I pray.” If he does that is. I was invited once to a vocations get together at a chancery, and the Bishop’s breviary was at a table in a hallway. What sparked my curiosity was the fact that it was the wrong color for the season (as the LOH is multi-colored). I moved it, and a sharp outline of dust surrounded it. Told me everything I needed to know!