Friday, August 23, 2013

More on the two Lectionaries

A commenter on the previous post said, "'New' lectionary. Most living Catholics have only known this lectionary. Do you see no merits in the OF lectionary?"

Of course Summorum Pontificum means that the ancient Lectionary is still part of the living tradition of the Church today, it hasn't been abrogated and at least for priests and people stands as a counterbalance for the Pauline Lectionary.

There are obvious advantages to the new Lectionary, even if it is a product of a committee and let us leave aside the matter of that committee's theology. The most obvious is that it gives a much broader and richer selection of the scriptures is offered, the Old Testament for example is not really present in the Lections, in the older form. Weekdays have their own readings rather being a re-presentation of Sunday, again opening up more of the Bible, at least for those who attend weekday Masses.

The problem is that the new Lectionary demands a deeper knowledge of scripture than most members of a congregation, or even most priests, actually have. Continuous readings are fine but miss a day with a feast or solemnity and there is a wait until the cycle reappears the year after next. Obscure readings from the Old Testament tend to go over people's heads unless the context is explained, for a highly mixed congregation the second reading and even the more difficult portions of St John's Gospel can exclude rather than include. In fact the new Lectionary more or less always demands the priest to give some explanation.

The newer Lectionary because of its Sunday three year cycle and weekly two year cycle always stands independent not only of the Divine Office but more importantly of the other texts and prayers of the Mass, this is not so with the older Liturgy were the Word of God is integral to the celebration not just of the Mass but of the whole days liturgy.

The change in the liturgy marked a distinct change in the use of scripture in the Church, the Mass of Paul VI made scripture essentially didactic, the ancient Lectionary is theophanic, a moment of divine revelation, an encounter with God, but it is also kérugmatic, it was honed to the proclamation of Christ, his death, resurrection and return. The single year cycle means that those things considered important by the Church are returned to repeatedly, year after year. The annual cycle of saints, remember the high significance of the cult of saints in the tradition of the West, their place in the ancient Roman Canon for example, constantly repeats the necessity for Christian virtues.

The scatter-gun approach of the OF Lectionary has meant that scripture is not memorised, as it was by previous generations. Most people's memories do not retain texts over a three year period (six if the cycle is interrupted by a transferred Holyday), and memories are confused by similar texts, for example stories that appear in all the Gospels, like the feeding stories, especially when the writers have different doctrinal reasons for presenting them.

Perhaps one of our big problems as a Church is that Catholic doctrine seems so very complex and that it is not understood by most regular Mass attenders, I think this is the result of the imprecision of the Pauline Lectionary, and that in fact more scripture in the Liturgy often means less scripture in the heart.


Cosmos said...

The law of unitended consequences rears its ugly head.

The modern spirit seems to say, "if you can not justify your tradition to me right now, on my terms, then it is suspect and I have a right to do away with it for any good reason whatsoever." (think homosexual marriage)

"Do you know why the Lectionary excludes so much of the OT that is sacred to the Jews? You don't? Well then, we are going to change the Lectionary!"

We have had to swallow a lot of stuff based on such arguments (removing the altar rails, removing head coverings for women, recieving the host in our hands). While the justifications often sound convincing, especially when given in response to loaded questions ("why do you discriminate against homosexuals who want to marry?") they tend to break down under heightened scrutiny and often reveal a hidden agenda. For whatever reason, the Church hierarchy simply refused to defend (or even explain) these traditions for most of the last 50 years. The results have been bad.

Sadly, many faithful Catholics feel that it is their relgious duty to insist that all such innovations were willed by the Holy Spirit--as if God's will and providence could be discerned so easily--and that our refusal to accept them without hesitance is a sign of pride. It is refreshing that people are starting to ask questions!


Cosmos is right. Many faithful Catholics feel that it is their religious duty to insist that all such innovations were willed by the Holy Spirit. However, Man's will gets in the way of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Josef Jungmann and Mgr. Annibale Bugnini are responsible for the new Mass and as the video below demonstrates the new Mass appears to be 'Work of Human Hands' i.e. "my hearts desire" as Jungmann said).

The catechism clearly states that you cannot be a revolutionary in the Catholic Church and Jungmann and Bugnini were clearly revolutionaries. A genuine prompting of the Holy Spirit would have meant that the impetus of the new Mass would have come from many different sources and not just one very small committee.

I am beginning to believe more and more that the new Mass was a revolutionary act.

Amfortas said...

Now the 'newer' lectionary is part of the modern spirit that leads to homosexual marriage. I'm sure that's not really what Cosmos means.

Thank you Father for this post. It helps to clarify your arguments in a more digestible way than the longer blog. Ultimtaely I don't think the 'theologies' of the two lectionaries are incompatible.

The OF lectionary is explicity referenced at points in the newer Office. I waht way dose the older lectionary and Office go beyond this?


Work of Human Hands The Creation of the New Mass.

(part three - only lasts 7 minutes) -

John said...

@Cosmos—Well said!

BJC said...

A book I read years ago which I think has some bearing on this is 'The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass' by Fr Anthony Cedaka. A sedavacantist I know but TAN published it and I can't see anything wrong with it. Its about the propers of the mass not the lectionary but he divides into some interesting sections, some of which will probably help with the analysis:

1. "Negative theology"
2. Detachment from the world
3. Prayers for the departed
4. Ecumenism
5. The merits of the saints
6. Miracles

There's also another section on "vanishing doctrines". In this discussion I think 1,2 and 4 probably feed into why the modern lectionary is arranged the way it is.

Just to give some examples of the airbrushing of "negative theology" and so a negative God:

(1) The old Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter has been been moved to a weekday (author doesn't specify where) and the words "perils of everlasting death" were revised to the the less threatening "slavery to sin".

(2) The Secret for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost became the Prayer over the Gifts on the 10th Sunday in Ordinary time and the words "and to be to us the support of our weakness" were revised to "and to be to us an increase in charity". Praying for charity is obviously "more positive" than alluding to man's weakness of will and inclination to sin.

And so it goes on. Very interesting book.

ServusMariaeN said...

I like what Fr John Parsons had to say regarding a comparison between the old and new lectionaries and a marriage between the two:

gemoftheocean said...

Having experienced both, I'd say there are good/points not-so-good-points with each, the most glaring deficiency, IMO in the OF lectionary is that John 6 is only covered for a few weeks in the summer in Year "B" -- and people wonder why so many "Catholics" don't seem to have a clue re: the real Presence? And God forbid if someone misses those weeks in the summertime due to illness or what have you. SIX years without hearing directly the most key point of our faith. As far as the EF goes, yes, it is more tightly integrated with the Breviary readings etc. It can also be as monotonous as all get out once you hit post Pentecost Sunday. I find the Lenten, Eastertide, Advent reading cycles splendid -- but overall the New Lectionary covers quite a bit. I DO hate the dumb down of some of the verbiage of the OF though, it gets worse and worse every time they revise it. I particularly noticed this in Palm Sunday reading the narrator part for many years. It just got more and more "English for Simpetons" rather than the more subtle and sublime vocabulary used in the 60s and 70s. Something else I find irritating, slightly in the EF form. -- there is NO Mass for "virgins AND Doctors" -- no updates to supply for such female saints who are doctors. And why are there no MALES honored as "Virgins?" What about "St. Tarcissius Virgin and Martyr, surely?

gemoftheocean said...

Forgot to add -- for the priests, surely a good copy of the Jerome Bible Commentary or something similar should be in every parish as a resource for the priest -- and people should be encouraged to have one. There were youngsters who always served Mass at our 5:15 when I was at Immaculate Conception in Old Town -- I saw to it that they each got a copy when they were confirmed in their teens. A lot of it may have been over their heads -- but I wanted each to have a copy so it would eventually dawn on them, if they hadn't already figured it out -- that the church is also FILLED with scholars with a love of the scriptures and a desire to enlighten. I didn't want them going off to college or later in life thinking our church is full of backward goobers at the top. In addition to explanations of the scriptures in detail it also had many, many articles of all sorts re: canonicity, etc.

gemoftheocean said...

Sorry Cosmos, I am NOT going to put some rag of a hankie on my head if I "forget" just so you can puff up your widdle chest with pride how you get to look at subjugated below worms women so you can feel "good" about yourself. that's a man made "tradition" that can get stuffed. Basically created because Paul didn't like those women who were "out to get him."

The Rad Trad said...


In the older Divine Office on days semi-double or higher (which, by the 20th century was virtually every day), there were three nocturns at Mattins (a nocturn is 3 psalms followed by three Scriptural, hagiographic, or patristic lessons). In the third nocturn, after the psalms, one would read the Gospel of the day in its entirety followed by three lessons from the Church Fathers on said reading. The chapter at Lauds and Vespers would often, but not always, come from the Epistle/Lesson of Mass and the antiphon on the Benedictus and Vespers would also usually, but not always, come from the Gospel of the day. The connection between all facets of the liturgy was very intricate, but gradually deteriorated after the 1911 and 1960 Office reforms. The Pauline Office is another story.

Christopher said...

Not wishing to get too off-topic, I find gemoftheocean's reaction to head-covering somewhat perplexing. I don't know that there is any evidence to suggest Paul was trying to suppress certain women who were "out to get him" - where does this idea originate from? My understanding of the I Cor 11 (where the instruction occurs) is that Paul was requiring women (wives in particular) to cover their heads in order to emphasise their distinctive relationship to God which does not rely on men (their husbands). That is why she is to have a "symbol of authority" on her head - a symbol, in a sense, of her authority as a woman rather than as a creature whose identity is dependent on her relationship to men. Christianity in fact emphasises just this point very forcefully through it's approach to virginity - a woman unmarried and without children was an unthinkable thing in Jewish religion, and not much more regarded, except as a temporary way of life for priestesses serving certain goddesses, in paganism.

Also, one hears all the time of such arguments against many Pauline teachings. If we admit one I think there is no longer the possibility of reasonably maintaining the others. Immediately when we begin to say "Paul only said this because of x conditions which existed in his time or place or ministry, therefore it no longer applies" we have lost all credibility in arguing anything from Paul, and done a great disservice to his theology as a whole.

I don't normally comment in these discussions, so hope this is not offensive - I trust, Father, if it is, you wont publish it!!

Amfortas said...

Thank you Rad Trad, that's the clearest explanation I've read anywhere.

Jacobi said...

You use a very good phrase, Father, “scatter gun”. I must admit that I find the OF Lectionary, both Sunday and weekday, obscure, too wide ranging, and frankly, forgetful.

It strikes me as being orientated towards the Protestant approach and its preoccupation only with scripture. Once again, one suspects the Bugnini influence.

What is missing, for example, are the beautiful and full Introit psalms, the”Judica me” or the “Signum magnum”. So much beauty and direct prayer that we could expect, and get to know, has been lost.

Ttony said...

I get really uncomfortable when people blame Jungmann or Bugnini as though the NO was their fault and nobody else was involved: each is a significant cog in what was a much larger machine in the period from the end of WWII until the proclamation of the NO in 1969. But you have to remember that they were broadly encouraged by Pope Pius XII and even if it is difficult to think of him imposing the NO, that's only because he wasn't around to oversee the crucial business which took place between the imposition of the new Holy Week and the start of the Council.


Gem of the Ocean,

Maybe you ought to get used to the mantilla, because from what I see many of the youth at Juventutem wear it now and I have even seen teenagers wear it at Youth 2000.

To teenagers the mantilla is seen as a good thing because they see it as being counter-cultural, amongst other things.

job said...

Father, You mention in your note that the priest must try to explain the readings -- is that not what homilies are for?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Of course, but in the OF it becomes (almost) a necessity, at every Mass.

John Nolan said...

I shall be getting up rather early tomorrow morning to attend a Low Mass in the Roman Rite. Having been taught as a child to use a missal I know the Ordinary (including the priest's prayers) more or less off by heart, so I have put the ribbon in the Propers. But more than that, I have pre-read them and also a commentary which puts them in context, particularly in the context of the Office (anyone who uses the St Andrew Daily Missal will know what I mean).

I don't need to join in with the responses because I am praying them anyway. There will be some very young children at Mass (even the servers are aged 8 and 10) and some babies will be crying, but so what? I am 62 years old and it gives me great joy to see young families at the traditional Mass.

On the Feast of the Assumption I was in Oxford and attended the lunchtime EF Mass at the Oratory. Most of the congregation were younger than I, and as someone who was brought up with the old Mass and have the benefit of both familiarity and nostalgia, I can't help marvelling at its continued appeal.

Gratias said...

Thank you Father Blake. We attend a Diocesan EF mass only once or twice a month. It is over an hour to get there so it takes all Sunday. The OF taught us little. We read the EF readings every Saturday night, and by now are familiar with them. It is a great reward to be reminded every year of what our faith is about. The OF is a few minutes away yet it is hard to go there. Bugnini and Paul VI really, really caused great destruction,

Amfortas said...

The OF lectionary is not 'scatter gun' but is it less successful during Ordinary Time than during the seasons of Advent, Lent and Eastertide. During Ordinary Time the attempts to bring out the over-arching theme of covenant, through a typological reading of the OT alongside the NT, is often somewhat strained.

But if, Gratias, the OF taught you nothing then I wonder if your were listening. These blogs always bring out the quasi-presbyterian 'OF was the beginning of the end' brigade but despite its shortcomings the OF lectionary provides a very effective scripture reading programme. There are many orthodox voices who point to the lectionary as a real treasury but I guess none of them are in the 'ultra-traditionalist extremist' camp referred to by Prosper Grech. Let's not turn the debate about the two lectionaries into a divisive EF versus OF contest.

Savonarola said...

14 ardrWhat a pity that devotees of the EF seem to think they have automatically to laud to the skies everything EF, while equally automatically denigrating everything OF - and inventing somewhat spurious reasons for doing so.
Every lectionary and every form of liturgy must be deficient and incomplete, presenting only a limited picture of God. The absence of the Old Testament from the EF lectionary is surely a major deficiency, which the OF makes up for, while lacking in other ways. If Scripture readings in the OF need to be explained, the same must be true of the EF. Scripture speaks for itself to some extent, but hearing or reading Scripture is a skill or art that needs to be acquired, it does not just happen. As one writer says here, it is surely the task of priests to educate their people in reading Scripture and I find the notion that this is not needed in the EF rather disturbing. Catholics certainly used to be very unversed in Scripture and most people would regard that as a lack in them. The OF lectionary provides an excellent means to remedy that defect, though probably not during Mass itself.

Fr Ray Blake said...

In the EF the readings, the antiphons, the prayer tend to form a whole, if you place them within the context of the rest of the liturgy, the meaning the Church wishes to give them is clear, everything is set in context, this is not so with the OF, where the one year cycle of the Missal is never going to fit the three year cycle of the Lectionary and readings and antiphons of the Office are not or rarely integral with the Mass.

In order for there to be at least some integration between Missal and Lectionary there would need to be a three year cycle Missal.

Lent, Year A, when prayers, antiphons, prefaces and the Lectionary marry up is the ideal, if only that were so for the rest but the Missal would be huge

Nicolas Bellord said...

Whatever the readings I think it is essential to have one's own missal. First of all following the words in the missal is great for not having distractions. Secondly there are so many readings which are very difficult to take in let alone understand unless you have the words in front of you - particularly St Paul. The new missals from CTS are wonderful!

Katie said...

sorry to be off topic but taking a break I saw something on Il blog di Raffaella which is up-cheering. She links to a brief Italian TV interview with Apb Gaenswein in which he states in very strong language that the newspaper reports (Vatican Insider, Zenit etc)about B16's 'vision' are fabrications 'from alpha to omega' and refers to his job acting as a bridge between the 'papa emerito' and the 'papa regnante'.

Katie said...

sorry to be off topic but there's something on Il blog di Raffaella which is up-cheering. She links to an italian TV interview with Apb Gaenswein in which he says the newspaper reports about B16's 'vision' are fabrications 'from alpha to omega' and refers to his job acting as a bridge between the 'papa emerito' and the 'papa regnante'.

Physiocrat said...

The chances of hearing the readings are quite low anyway due to the poor standard of most readers, the poor quality of most public address systems and the difficult acoustics of most church buildings. And that assumes your attention has not wandered. A lot of the time they might as well be reading the shipping forecast for all you can hear. And who can even remember? On the other hand, the EF readings are coherent and memorable and I have no difficulty in recalling that today's was "no man can serve both God and mammon."

A missal is a good thing to have but there are three times as many readings in the NO as in the old Mass, which makes for a very fat book. All in all the NO Mass is just too complicated. My own wish would be an announcement from the Vatican giving two years' notice that only the EF Mass was permitted from a specified date, and that the NO was henceforth prohibited except between consenting adults in private.

Savonarola said...

It is probably true that in the Christian understanding everything fits with everything else in one way or other, but it is surely possible to exaggerate the extent to which the EF liturgy evolved organically as a coherent whole. Its growth could just as well be described as random and haphazard.
Many texts of antiphons and collects have only a generalised import which could fit various different contexts. Today's introit for example. 'Look to us, God our protector, and look on the face of your Christ: because one day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere,' would provide a suitable beginning for almost any mass with any theme or choice of Scripture readings. How does it fit with the epistle contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruits of the Spirit? or with the Gospel, 'No-one can serve two masters etc.'?
If anything the OF liturgy is rather more coherent because it was planned as a whole and its wider representation of Scripture gives a broader image of the God who speaks in Scripture.
The EF mass, with its Latin language, style of ritual and music, may be very good at conveying the transcendence of God, his majesty and other-worldly glory, but in doing so gives little sense of his immanence and presence with us. To that extent its picture of God is distorted and has had dire effects, imbuing over centuries the attitude that God is remote from us - which is a major reason, I believe, why in our time people continue to drift away from religion and the Church. If they are led to believe that God has little to do with them, other than to impress them with his splendour and keep them in their place as dreadful sinners (an essentially non-Christian pagan way of looking at God), once they cease to be afraid of God they will end up thinking, why should I have anything to do with him? The Vatican II reform of liturgy was, for this reason, long overdue.

Physiocrat said...

Savonarola - I do not recognise what you are describing in the EF Mass I attended this morning. On the contrary...

And as I said in my previous post, for one reason and another the chances of hearing all the readings and maintaining attention all the way through are slight. All too much talk, talk, talk.

Hasn't the main drift away from Catholicism in English speaking countries happened after the introduction of the NO Masss? How has it helped to keep people inside the church?

Genty said...

There is some truth in the claim that, on the whole, Catholics have not been well-versed in the OT. But that is understandable since Catholicism is founded on the NT. Such OT deficiency as exists can always be rectified by RE teachers in Catholic schools. Part of their remit, I'd have thought, would be to go through the readings in advance of Sunday Mass.
Which, then, of the three Mass readings is the priest supposed to choose for his homily? He can't do all three in 10 minutes. In my view, the priest is there to enlighten, to reveal the hidden depths, not to teach the basics and, given the seminal nature of the NT in relation to the Catholic faith, it is surely encumbent upon him to prioritise the words and work of Christ.
I have to admit that, try as I might, I frequently find myself unable to detect the link between the OT passage and the Epistle and Gospel. My bad, no doubt. But it seems to me that the expansion of the readings, plus bidding prayers, subtract from the core of the Mass.

The Rad Trad said...

Not all of us traditionalists think that the EF is wonderful. I for one think 1962 is an absurdly modern liturgy that suppresses many of the great days of the year and reduces others (going from 12 to 4 prophecies on Holy Saturday and 6 to 0 on the Pentecost Vigil comes to minds, as well as making Ember day readings optional).

The reformers, and some who support the second Pauline lectionary, have a fundamental misconception about the purpose of the readings at Mass, or in the liturgy in general: laud of the 1970 lectionary invariably follows the idea that it has more Scripture than what existed 8 years earlier, and so it must be better. But the old lectionary, in 1962 or 962 or 462, does not envision this as a worthy end in and of itself. The traditional liturgical outlook, in the Roman and Byzantine rites, is that the Scriptures serve as instructions on the mystery of the day, not for their own sake. Consider the themes of the three Masses of Christmas Day in the old rite and compare it with the variable readings for the new rite, which are much less unified (although a world more coherent than Tuesday in the XYth week in Ordinary time). I think it most sensible of Fr Blake to point out that only in certain spurts does the newer lectionary have the old level of unity. There is simply too much Scripture in the 1970 books for it to make sense without leaps and bounds of preaching. In my experience at daily Mass the priest often only focuses on one reading or treats them separately because of the gap in subject matter that normally appears. Most Sundays are like this, too.

Lastly, the regular appearance of the Old Testament in the new lectionary does not necessarily suggest an impoverishment in the older system. In the ancient days the Epistle was usually a Pauline letter or something of the ilk read for actual instructional purposes. The Old Testament was read during vigils and evening watches (much like in the old Ember days, pre-Piux XII Holy Satuday, and pre-Pius XII Pentecost Vigil). The use of the Old Testament in, for instance, Marian feasts in the 1962 rite is the exception to the ancient practice.

To be fair the local medieval usages often had larger lectionaries than the relatively narrow post-1474 Roman rite. Part of this may have been the desire to honor local saints with distinct Masses and part may have been the wish to have some variability in weekday Masses in cathedrals and monasteries (which was usually a repeat of the Sunday Mass). Perhaps an expansion of the older lectionary was reasonable, but nothing approaching the 1967 and 1970 lectionaries could ever wish to present a coherent narrative of the sacred mysteries regularly.

Supertradmum said...

All I can say is, I agree! And, I thought there was going to be a change coming out from the Vatican (heard a rumour over a year ago) that a new guideline for sermons for priests, based on the Roman Catechism was to be promulgated so that priests could give sermons again on moral issues, for example, and not just homilies. Do you, Good Father, know about this?

Amfortas said...

Savonarola, the OF is in the Latin language.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Haven't heard of that one,at the moment I everything was put on hold immediately Bxvi resigned, now everything is on hold until appointments are eventually made permanent, or axed in the great reform!

The Saint Bede Studio said...

Savaranola wrote:

The EF mass, with its Latin language, style of ritual and music, may be very good at conveying the transcendence of God, his majesty and other-worldly glory, but in doing so gives little sense of his immanence and presence with us. To that extent its picture of God is distorted and has had dire effects, imbuing over centuries the attitude that God is remote from us - which is a major reason, I believe, why in our time people continue to drift away from religion and the Church.

I think these are rather extreme claims.

Nicolas Bellord said...

But Savonorola we had that same introit all last week in the Ordinary Form masses as it is the introit for the 20th Sunday in Year A which seems to be about the gentiles in the readings - so any more relevant then?

Savonarola said...

268 ttshoxxIt may be an extreme claim, but I stand by it. The model of Roman imperialism, on which not only the structures of the Church, styles of liturgy and church architecture were based but also our dominant image of God as the all-powerful provider who needs constantly to be appeased and propitiated to give us what we want, has not served the Christian religion or people well. Its influence in forming attitudes over many centuries is not something that will be dispelled quickly or easily, which is why one cannot look just at the last 50 years for any true historical perspective. Yes, Vatican II has not halted the decline of organised religion: if it were properly implemented perhaps it might begin to?

I do realise, Amfortas, that the OF editio typica is in Latin, but most people are used to it translated into their own language (or not in the case of the current "English" version). This does make a big difference, and where there are more words that could be responded to the problems of distraction grow, as others have pointed out here. But that problem is present more or less in every form of worship. What helps a lot I believe is periods of silence, as officially recommended but rarely observed. I regularly attend a 'contemplative Eucharist' where we keep 15 minutes of silent prayer after receiving communion. People praying together in silence with concentrated focus and where there is no other ritual or music going on is rather different from the EF use of silence. We can, however, surely learn from the devotional aspects of the EF when it is well done. My own experience sadly is that it rarely is and in its way, with the usual hidden agenda, is just as distracting as other forms.

Savonarola said...

Sorry to be a bore, but one further point. Catholicism surely cannot be based on the New Testament alone, as claimed by Genty, seeing that Christ its founder was a Jew who knew only the Old Testament as Scripture. Is not God for Catholics the God of Jesus Christ? So much of the OT greatly enriches our apprehension of God, and many of the texts of the EF are drawn from it. The OF lectionary enlarges this aspect.

Physiocrat said...

Reflecting on the comments above, I am struck by how well designed the EF Mass is.

There is a fine balance between silence and activity, there is plenty of opportunity for active participation with texts and music that quickly become familiar, and each section of the liturgy takes account of people's limited attention span, so one can maintain attention on the whole event without wandering off into thinking about what to have for lunch.

The EF is not dependent on clear readers, good acoustics, a good sound system or the native language of the priest. Like Coca Cola, it is a standard product world-wide; you know what will be in the tin. People can follow the Mass in their books in whatever language they choose. Even the small details such as the priest saying "Amen" at communion are a mark of how well thought-through the EF is.

Orthodox liturgies have many of the same qualities but they lack that most important sign of Catholicity - a common world-wide language of worship.

Amfortas said...

Genty, to say Catholicism is founded on the NT is true but not in an exclusive way. The NT - which was a covenant before it was a book - is the culmination of a series of covenants, or developments in the covenant between God and his people. The NT without the OT is theological nonsense although there have been numerous NT only heresies throughout history.

Amfortas said...

I was critical in an earlier post of ultra-traditionalist extremism Savonarola, you seem to be veering towards the other extreme. Don't be encouraged to adopt a liberal extremism in reaction to other raised voices.

Benoit said...

I came upon this blog by accident so excuse me if I make a couple of brief comments.
Vatican II called the Church to restore the Word of God to its proper place in the liturgy and priests are meant to base their homilies on at least the gospel of the day. The Holy Council attempted to do that which is why the readings are in English. To often in the past the priest gabbled away in Latin leaving the people to follow their missal IF THEY BOTHERED TO HAVE ONE WITH THEM.
As for most of the other comments, I would sum them all up in the words of King George V (speaking about ART) "I don't know much about ART but I kmow what I like" - just the same with liturgy I'm afraid! May God bless us all.

Amfortas said...

Genty, Jerome is supposed to have said that ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Jesus Christ, or some such. Forgive me if I've misquoted. Most Catholics fail to see the 'big picture' - horrid expression - in scripture and tend to shy away from the OT. At a more intellectual level this leads to a false dichotomy of scripture and tradition and a failure to understand that Catholicism is a biblical faith. BXVI understood this very well. Dei Verbum still stands as a corrective to those who reify tradition over scripture rather than seeing the essential unity of the two.

If you're struggling with the big picture then there are plenty of good guides to help you explore the OT alongside the NT. John Bergsma's Bible Basics for Catholics is one as is Scott Hahn's A Father Who Keeps His Promises. These will help to get you started if you can bear the folksy American writing styles.

I know I've banged on about this but the 'new' lectionary does offer a kind of reading or study programme to help understand scripture. But there is a problem with the way it is presented at mass, sometimes with great chunks of the OT seemingly without context. There is much that needs correcting here but it would help if priests would present the big picture in their homilies rather than just presenting this reading or that reading as a morality tale for our times. The Catechism is an excellent vehicle alongside the lectionary for doing this. And priests should be encouraged to range a little wider than the specific readings in front of them. In other words, they should be encouraged to present the faith rather than 'feel good' homilies.

Fr Ray Blake said...

If you look a the decorative schemas of ancient churches, even just ancient stained glass, or even mystery plays, their content would not suggest an ignorance of either the the content or more importantly the Christological content of the OT.

Elizabeth said...

I admit I haven't read through all the comments yet so I may be repeating someone but my feeling is that the Holy Mass isn't supposed to be a Bible Study. Seems to me the point is not to hear as much Scripture as possible ~ far from it.

With the new and improved "system", I'd venture to say that 99% of the parishioners leaving the Mass would say that they don't remember what was read at Mass that day.

Okay, NOW I'll go back and read everyone's comments :)

Cosmos said...


You said..."Sorry Cosmos, I am NOT going to put some rag of a hankie on my head if I 'forget' just so you can puff up your widdle chest with pride how you get to look at subjugated below worms women so you can feel 'good' about yourself. that's a man made 'tradition' that can get stuffed. Basically created because Paul didn't like those women who were "out to get him."

This is my argument in a nutshell. There is, in fact, no offical explanation for why the requirement for women to wear head coverings was dropped. There are passing references and theories offered by influential authorities, but no clear explanation. However, those same authorities have allowed the line of reasoning that you offer to occupy the field. Basically the argument is that the practice is suspect becuase it is seems sexist by modern standards, but (luckily) modern academics have discovered that this teaching (like many we don't like) is really just a result of Paul's cultural conditioning. Phew!

So we are supposed to believe that St. Paul--the very same man who said, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus"--imported all kinds of sexist cultural assumptions into Christianity based on his sexist Jewish context.

We are supposed to believe that a Roman citizen born in Turkey of Jewish parents, who studied to be a Jewish Pharisee (a sect of Judaism in battle with at least 2 others), but had converted to "the Way" in the midst of a violent persecution, was inherently bound by his social context (which one?).

Best of all, we are supposed to believe that the man who argued with Peter to stop imposing man-made Jewish customs on the converts he was making throughout the Mediteranean (circumscision, among other things), was incapable of understanding what was and was not a Jewish tradition.

In fact, in Paul's unussually long argument for head coverings (1 Corintheans 1-16) he appeals to three different types of authority--tradition, theology, nature--precisely because he understands that not all people will respond to appeal to single unquestioned authority. The explanation for why this custom disappeared after over 19 centuries, on the other hand, is nonexistent. My guess is that head coverings were dropped as an inevitable consequence of embracing the zeitgeist of the 1960's and 70's.

gemoftheocean said...

To Ora and Amfortas. I highly doubt if either of you was threatened by nuns and "social norms" to be forced to pin a da** KLEENEX on your head if you didn't have a da** beanie or other such head covering for mass when you were a child. Those in my generation were. So as far as I am concerned they can place those things where the moon doesn't shine. The older women will attest. I'd as soon wear a burqa.

The "younger generation" have no idea the humiliation we were subjected to if without. And older, stupid women who should have known better subjected themselves to the Kleenex business too if they were without.

As for Dear old Paul, I sense he had an older sister who regularly beat the tar out of him, and likely he deserved it too. One only has to look at the nasty attitude he has in 1 Tim. 2: 8-15. Women get saved if they are "mothers" we have no intrinsic worth according to Paulie. And he "doesn't allow them to teach." Well, mind this is the guy who lived with Prisca and Aquilla and THEY didn't think much of Paul on that score either because Acts of the Apostles Chapter 15: 23-> we learn that BOTH Aquilla and Prisca taught Apollos more accurately. Prisca didn't sit and twiddle her thumbs batting her eyelids like a simpleton. In 1 Timothy Chapter 2 Paul "wants" all the men to raise their hands in prayer -- and I don't see any traditionalist pumping for that -- quite the contrary.

And Paul's blathering re: head covering "on account of angels" really loses me. If it's so great, why don't men have to do it? Look: if Paul had just said to the Corinthians: "some of you people have distracting hairstyles, have some sense and don't do that or wear a head covering, that would have been fine. But all that whining - it's all HIS opinion and personal snit.7

Genty said...

Amfortas, Thanks for having my inerests at heart. But no thanks for folksy American-style writing. Gaaargh! Yes, I do know my OT, not as well as my NT it must be said, but do "get" how significant sections of the OT and NT accord. Nevertheless, I still find that several of the OT readings at the Sunday Mass frequently have no apparent link to the Epistle and Gospel readings. Father will correct me if I am wrong but my understanding is that priests must speak to the readings in their homilies. I still maintain you cannot range over three separate readings in 10 minutes and that scriptural grounding should be down to RE teachers.
Sorry for any misunderstandings, due to my sloppiness. I should have made clear that Christ did not throw aside the OT, (otherwise much of what He said would have made no sense to His disciples) but renewed the covenant and built upon it. To that extent His renewal forms the basis of the Catholic faith. Well, I stand to be shot down again. . . .
Benoit, you are repeating this myth about priests "gabbling" in Latin. The Epistle and Gospel on Sunday were invariably repeated in the vernacular. Why would anyone not have a Missal or that wonderful little aid: A Simple Prayer Book? If people couldn't be bothered with either, what's to say that the same people repeating the responses in the vernacular week after week are not simply on auto-pilot?.

Matthew Hazell said...

A document that might be interesting for everyone here is the General Introduction to the Lectionary (PDF link to E&W Liturgy Office website). In particular, tables I-III towards the back of the document may help with discerning the structure of the Gospel readings during Ordinary Time.

Fr Blake: I assume that the overarching structure of the OF lectionary was taught in seminary, yet in my layman's experience very few priests seem to make use of it in their preaching. If you don't mind me asking, why do you think that might be? Is the structure just too complex for busy priests to build homilies around? In your experience, is the structure even useful for homilies?

TLMWx said...

I quite like wearing the head covering. Not having ravishing hair I never felt the need to cover on that accord. It is nice not to have to worry about your hair though. At first I did it as a hat tip to tradition. Then, in time the intimacy of it became clear. When I put on my mantilla it is like I enter into the upper room. It is a different place with a lovely intimacy.

RJ said...

If a reading is missed out because of a holy day, the priest can give a brief introduction to the next day's reading, summarising the content and significance of the omitted reading, to maintain continuity. I think that works quite well.
Alternatively, it might be possible (within the rubrics?) to combine the readings from two days, provided they are not too long.

Athelstane said...

I have always been struck by the fact that the three year lectionary is among the most praised aspects of the Pauline Missal - even Pope Benedict was a noted supporter - while to me, hard-earned experience has suggested that it's really been a well-intentioned failure.

When it comes to mass readings, I believe, with the Fathers, that depth beats breadth. The more readings are multiplied, the easier it is to lose them in the crowd,and the more difficult it is draw connections between them. And there is a tremendous value in a ready association of a set of readings with a given day in the calendar.

The Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium called for “more reading from holy scripture.” (SC 35.1) This was understandably driven by concern that scriptural literacy among Catholics was not what it could be (and it wasn’t). But I have come to think that the Council’s concern was misplaced, at least in so far as it concluded that the mass was a proper place in which to supply this deficiency. While the mass does teach us, it is not a didactic exercise. The place for deeper connection with the Scripture has always been the Office. Unfortunately, conciliar hopes that greater resort to the Office would take place among the laity really have not been realized, either. Meanwhile, by a number of measures, scriptural literacy among Catholics appears, in the main, to be even worse than fifty years ago.

A friend of mine once put it even more succinctly: "The most persuasive objection to the expanded lectionary cycle is that while the goal of SC 51 was good, that the people have more exposure to the Bible, the means adopted were not well fitted to the end and had costs that the authors did not realize. (My emphasis)

"The associations of particular days, times and seasons with particular readings is strong in the EF. They’re the same from year to year. For instance, for last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, Luke 21:25-33. We hear the parable of the fig tree and Christ’s “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away,” every year."


Thanks to Fr. Blake for opening up this discussion.

John Nolan said...

The 'renewal' of the liturgy since V2 cannot be regarded as an outstanding success even by its warmest admirers. It's good to have the original texts of the Office hymns restored after the Jesuits messed them up in the 17th century, but the dumbing-down of the sacraments and sacramentals is scandalous. What annoys me is that Bugnini and co. knew that they were refashioning the Mass according to a new ecclesiology/theology but we were all assured by our bishops that nothing had changed. I lived through it - it was a scam dressed up in pious platitudes, and the older I get the more angry I am at the way we were duped.

I have on my bookshelf the Rituale Romanum for the use of the priest who attends me in articulo mortis.

Amfortas said...

Elizabeth, the mass is certainly not a bible study but much of the ordinary is drawn from scriptural texts. Most Catholics don't realise how biblical their faith is.

Amfortas said...

Gem, I don't know why you're addressing your latest comments to me as well as Ora. I've said nothing about veiling your head.

Cosmos said...

Just to be clear, I was not pushing head-coverings. However, the issue did end up illustrating my point perfectly: not even St. Paul is authoritative in many Catholic circles anymore if he questions contemporary, secular orthodoxy.

The greatest Church father and the apostle of the gentiles becomes just a silly proto-sexist not to be taken seriously. His positions are not even argued away, but simply brushed aside as one personal opinoin among many. ("That's nice, St. Paul, but maybe a little over-the-top. I tend to think...") I sure hope Jesus can stand up to the same scrutiny-- its going to be difficult to call ourselves Christians without Him! (Now how many female apostles did he chose... ut oh, this not looking promising!).

It is becoming painfully obvious that the pious justifications for yesterday's reforms were just window dressing offered by people with far different and more ambitious motives. It is sad that so many good women and men took them in good faith helped push through the changes.

Luckily, though, all of this is academic. We certainly don't need the New Testament to teach us about Jesus! We all know what he was about: love.

Annie said...

Do the Gospel readings at Mass ever include Matthew 7:13-14?:

"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few."

I've never heard it at a Sunday Mass - certainly it's never preached on. Perhaps it's the omission of this and other such passages that lead parishioners to conclude that everyone goes to Heaven no matter what.

Matthew Hazell said...

@Annie: In the "new" (OF) lectionary, Matt. 7:13-14 is read on Tuesday of the 12th week in Ordinary Time in years I and II (the full passage read is 7:6,12-14). This part of Matthew is also paralleled at Luke 13:24, which we read just this past Sunday (21st in Ordinary Time, Year C: full passage is 13:22-30)! Luke 13:24 is also read on Wednesday of the 30th week in Ordinary Time in years I and II (full passage also 13:22-30).

I'll also point out the interesting fact that Mt. 7:13-14 is actually not in the "old" (EF) lectionary as either a Gospel reading or as part of a chant (i.e. introit, etc.), and neither is Luke 13:24.

So would this count as an improvement upon the old lectionary? :-) <----slightly mischievous wry smile

Amfortas said...

Annie, St Luke's version of this (13:22-30) was the OF Gospel reading last Sunday.

Annie said...


Then the nuns must have taught it to us. They made sure we heard it all.

Cosmos said...

It agree that is not true to say that the new lectionary simply cut out any controversial statements of Jesus in order to give him a more modern feel. I don't think Father would say anything so crude occured. The problem is more subtle than that.

Certain things have been snipped, but the bigger problem is that most controversial topics are not preached upon because of the biggest problem: we don't believe in those things any more.

job said...

Fr. Blake -- you mention that the vernacular lectionary almost requires that one give a homily 'explaining the Scriptures' (to cause 'our hearts to burn') at every
Mass. And you seem reluctant: why? that is part of a 'priest's job' in any case. Most days even 5 minutes is sufficient to get the point across. If the Pope can do it why not us 'ordinary (lower) clergy'?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Too many words!

When I am at Mass I rather like worshipping God with my fellow Christians and not always have to teach them, or having to explain or teach.
It is a different dynamic.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...