Dom Guéranger on the Neo-Gallican Prefaces

As Gregory DiPippo over at the New Liturgical Movement begins his discussion of the Neo-Gallican Prefaces whose facultative use the Lord Francis PP. recently extended beyond the confines of France, it seemed germane to translate Dom Prosper Guéranger’s remarks on these very Prefaces.


The same reason [viz. that minds might be elevated to God, and helped to enkindle the holy fire of faith, hope, and charity] has led us to add certain Prefaces when proper ones were lacking, to wit for Advent and certain greater solemnities of the year, namely Corpus Christi, the Dedication, All Saints, and others. Thus we have tried, as much as possible, to draw near to the ancient custom of the Roman Church, where almost every Mass was assigned its own Preface, as is still the case today in the churches that use the Ambrosian Rite. 

Charles de Ventimille, Pastoral Letter announcing the reformed Parisian Missal, 11 March 1738

Why, then, were the prefaces of Advent, the Dedication, All Saints, and even St Denis not taken from the ancient sacramentaries? Why commission the composition of entirely new ones from doctors of the Sorbonne, whose style, so prolix, so bloated, is so far from the refined cadences of St Leo and St Gelasius?

413px-laurent-franc3a7ois_boursier_281679-174929_docteur_en_thc3a9ologie_c3a0_la_sorbonne
Laurent-François Boursier (1679-1749)

Why, above all, was a heretic like Dr Laurent-François Boursier, expelled from the Sorbonne in 1720 for having written against the Council of Embrun,1 given the honour of composing such sacred prayers? To this man the Church of Paris owes the Preface of All Saints, also sung on patronal feasts. In this Preface, Boursier tells God that, by crowning the merits of the saints, He crowns his own gifts: eorum coronando merita, coronas dona tua: a very Catholic expression in one sense, and a very Jansenist one in another.

As a liturgical historian we would be remiss if we did not mention that Boursier died on 17 February 1749 in the parish of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, without having retracted his Appeal.2

The Curé of this parish, although an opponent of the Appeal, nevertheless administered the Sacraments to Boursier, and the Archbishop of Beaumont therefore exiled him to Senlis for his act of schism. And yet Boursier’s Preface continued, and continues, to be sung!

Dom Prosper Guéranger, Institutions liturgiques, vol. 2, p. 371.

Notes.

1. A controversial council held in 1727 that deposed the Lord Jean Soanen, bishop of Séez, one of the major baculous opponents of the papal bull Unigenitus, which condemned Jansenist propositions.

2. The appeal against the bull Unigenitus.

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