The following is a translation of a conference given by Fr. Roberto Spataro on 30 September 2017, in Mantua at the Chiesa dei Santi Simone e Giuda. The conference was entitled “La bellezza della liturgia si fa evangelizzazione (EV 28)”, given on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. It is included in a volume of Fr. Spataro’s essays soon to be published by Angelico Press, along with “The Vetus Ordo for Church Going Forth,”which also appeared here this month.
“Liturgical Beauty and Joyful Evangelization” (EG 24): The Experience of the Tridentine Mass
Mantua, 30th September 2017
Dear Sirs and Distinguished Gentlemen,
It is a great joy for me to speak this evening in the artistic setting of the church of Saints Simon and Jude, in a city so rich in history, culture, and faith. Mantua, a city that boasts so many illustrious citizens: Virgil, quel savio gentil, che tutto seppe; Sordello, the troubadour who inspired the Supreme Poet’s invective against Italy, di dolore ostello, nave senza nocchiere in gran tempesta, a sentiment which is true today more than ever; Vittorino da Feltre, Christian pedagogue; the Gonzaga princes, who gathered famous artists in their court, among them the composer Angelo Monteverdi. The fiftieth anniversary of this eminent musician is related to another event. In 2017 we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by which Pope Benedict XVI restored dignity to the venerable Tridentine liturgy, calling it the “extraordinary form” of the one Roman rite. Reflecting on the characteristics of this liturgical form, a passage from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium comes to mind as a springboard for this conversation:
Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.
I would like to develop my thoughts in two points.
The Tridentine liturgy is beautiful.
We might say that there have been two complimentary conceptions of beauty in the history of Western civilization . The first considers beauty as the pulchrum, a proportion and harmony of parts, the perfection of form, integrity and elegance. It is an Apollonian conception found especially in the art of Greece. It appeals to reason and insists on the objectivity of the beautiful. The other conception, expounded especially by Kant, interprets beauty as a species, a sort of luminosity that breaks in upon an object, expands its substance, orienting it outside of itself and putting it in relation with the subject . The whole is in the fragment, as Urs von Balthasar would have said, that great Swiss theologian who, in his monumental work The Glory of the Lord, developed a convincing re-reading of theology in an aesthetic key. It is not by chance that there was a great harmony of thought and feeling between Hans Urs von Balthasar, theologian of beauty, and Joseph Ratzinger, pope of the liturgy and vindicator of the rights of the Latin Mass. They share a Dionysian conception of beauty that appeals to the senses and focuses on the subject. Both these aesthetic conceptions are in agreement that beauty is always very attractive. For this very reason, in Thomistic philosophy it is associated with the other transcendentals of being–unity, truth, and goodness–as part of the moral and spiritual fruition of the subject who experiences it. Now if we apply these categories to the Tridentine liturgy, we will easily grasp why it is beautiful.
The Tridentine liturgy is harmonious. Like a perfect diptych, its first panel opens with the “Mass of the Catechumens,” and the second with the “Mass of the Faithful.” The second part is the more important since during it the Sacrifice is offered, and so it also lasts longer. The first part has its own interior coherence: it humbly leads us into the presence of God through the prayers at the foot of the altar, with their sublime penitential orientation. Out of this humility, which is the proper basis of the relationship between creature and Creator, sinner and Redeemer, springs the supplication of the Kyrie and the prayer of the Collect. At this point, we are ready to be instructed by the Wisdom of God that is revealed in salvation history and unfolds the truth that leads us to Heaven, for only the humble will “hear” and be glad, as the Psalm says. We find a copious sprinkling of Scripture passages and Psalm verses—a prayed Bible!—that make up the text of the Introit, Gradual, Tract, Alleluia, and then the pericopes of the Epistle and the Holy Gospel. In every place we find the proportion that is the intrinsic property of beauty: texts that, except on a few special occasions, are neither too long nor too many, as is the case with the biennial or triennial cycle of the Novus Ordo. Though it had the laudable intention of offering a semi-continuous reading of the entirety of Sacred Scripture, this cycle ends up “wasting” a great number of texts that the average faithful cannot remember and, sometimes, not even hear, not only because of the length and difficulty of certain passages, but also because they are read by lectors insufficiently prepared for their task, chosen in obedience to the equality called for by an erroneous understanding of actuosa participatio. Length and bad diction are signs of vulgarity, not beauty.
The Offertory begins. The sacred silence and the kneeling position of the faithful give the moment its peculiar solemnity. The prayers of the priest have an especially harmonious structure: the offering of the host and chalice, the personal apologies, the prayer to the Most Holy Trinity. As these ancient and venerable prayers are being offered, they are accompanied by the precise, delicate gestures typical of the Tridentine liturgy, and that give the rite its unmistakable pulchritudo. These gestures are just one example of the ordered variety that makes the liturgy Vetus Ordo so truly beautiful. There are also the bows toward the cross, the kissing of the cruets by the ministers and of the altar by the priest, and even the affectionate glances toward the sacred vessels and their contents. Christ, Our Lord, is loved because he is beautiful and is beautiful because he is loved. I could go on showing how the extraordinary form of the Roman rite is beautiful because it unfolds without excess or imperfection, with calm and proportion like a melodious chant. But we should move on to other considerations.
Let us try to apply the other conception of beauty to the Tridentine liturgy. The senses of one who assists at it are touched by the Sacred, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, to use the famous definition of Rudolf Otto. They are pervaded by a thrill of spiritual joy, to invoke the great bard of the divine beauty, Augustine of Hippo. The Sacred, i.e. the perception of God that follows his manifestation, excites both reverence and adoration, because he is tremendum; and love and attraction, because he is fascinans. Can anyone deny that reverence and adoration are especially present in the Tridentine liturgy, while unfortunately they are not well preserved in the Novus Ordo? Who would not agree with the claim that the priest—mark you, the priest, the sacrum dans and not the president of the assembly—ministers, and faithful, are all intimately drawn, (while each remaining in his proper place), toward the center of all and everything, the Crucified One enthroned on the altar, where the Sacrifice of the Cross is presented to everyone’s gaze, so that everyone may love it? This manifestation of the Sacred, transcendence and immanence, Heaven and earth, divine and human, is not merely the religious archetype identified by Otto, but the incarnation of the divine Word that wills to use the Sacred to reveal his Beauty in a human form: the divine person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has united human nature to his divine nature, and thus rendered his divinity accessible to human senses. This logic of the incarnation extends to the sacred liturgy because—as the Fathers of the Church taught and the Catechism of the Catholic Church has recalled in a timely manner—quod redemptoris nostri conspicuum fuit, in sacramenta transivit (“what was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries”: CCC 1115, citing Pope St Leo I, Sermon 74, 2). Beauty strikes the senses, and the Tridentine liturgy strongly affirms the aesthetic dimension.
In the Latin Mass, our view is directed to a triple focal point: the crucifix, the altar and what takes place there, and the tabernacle. Our attention is seized by the fairest among the children of men: “they will look upon the one whom they have pierced” (John 19:37). Our eyes linger, feasting on the beauty of the colors of the walls, their costly ornament. We follow the ministers’ sacred dance, sober and constrained to careful, rhythmic movements, and from time to time our eyes wander to the decoration of the Temple, which recounts, in various styles, the story of the salvation recalled in each holy Mass. We hear words uttered in a raised voice, in a language different from our ordinary language, because it is reserved for dialogue with God, like a code that heightens understanding and connection between those who adopt it, a sort of familial register sons use to address their Father. It is a beautiful language, as only Latin can be, with its figures of sound and word, with a compact but still mobile construction that comes from its unmistakable literary style. Further, we hear the great silence that shrouds the priestly prayers, above all the Canon Missae, because the Mystery of God who pours out his blood for me, a sinner, because he loves me and saves me, can only be uttered submissa voce. Like all great and sublime things, he loves silence, which invites everyone to recollection and earnest prayer. We are charmed by the celestial charms of the sacred music, the sound of the organ, the Gregorian chant that floats mystically on high. We smell the delicious perfume of the incense that rises to Heaven just like our prayer, and the odor of the candles, symbols of the hearts that pine with longing for Heaven. All this proclaims a hope that the world does not know, and the Church of the last few years, not comprehending the grandeur of the Vetus Ordo, seems to have forgotten. Immersed in secular matters, and entranced by transient fashions, she has become like chaff scattered in the wind.
The sense of touch is also involved: kneeling at various points in the Holy Mass permits the faithful to touch the earth, and from this position to render adoration, thanksgiving, supplication, and impetration. The sense of touch is denied contact with the eucharistic species because the consecrated Host is received directly on the tongue, an eloquent gesture that expresses all the sanctity of the Sacrament received with faith. Only the priest is permitted to touch the Body and Blood of Christ, and only with extreme delicacy, as if caressing it. In fact, on the day of his priestly ordination, his hands were anointed with the chrism, a biblical-liturgical sign of the Holy Spirit, the divine Person who through the epiclesis performs that miracle of miracles, the consecration. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 33:9), the Psalmist exclaims. The Vetus Ordo liturgy frequently repeats this verse to dispose the faithful to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ with a hunger at once spiritual and material, provided they are suitably disposed to do so.
To sum up, dear friends, we must find, perceive, and enjoy the beauty of the One who has been pierced. This is a “synaesthetic” experience that affirms sensual richness—for the sacraments are propter homines (“for us”), as Thomas Aquinas would say—so that the manifestation of the All in the fragment, of God in the space and time of the unbloody renewal of the sacrifice hic et nunc, may irradiate the Divine Mystery that is in itself the revelation of beauty. Confronted with this liturgy that is so potently theocentric and therefore respectful of all anthropological structures, we cannot help but remark, with a note of sadness, that the Novus Ordo is more impoverished, more rational, more prolix, even to the point that it becomes irritatingly and insufferably wordy in the hands of certain showman priests and ministers. A liturgy celebrated in this way is relentlessly narcissistic and vulgar.
Permit me to conclude this point about the beauty of the old liturgy with a Marian reflection. Our Lady, Tota Pulchra, is the creature in whom all beauty, insofar as it is pulchritudo and speciositas, is gathered to a Mass. The Tridentine liturgy cannot help but invoke her in the heart of the Mass: in the prayer that offers the sacrifice to the Most Holy Trinity, and in the Communicantes of the Canon. An irrepressible longing for Heaven rises from the thought of the Holy Virgin, who descends more beautiful than the dawn (Cant. 6, 9) to soften the pains of this life, where we can always count on her powerful patronage.
The Beauty of the Tridentine Liturgy and Evangelization
Recall the opening citation from Evangelii Gaudium, which pointed out the relationship between the via pulchritudinis of the liturgy and the two-fold evangelical movement of the Church. The Church first allows herself to be evangelized so that she can then evangelize the world. Let us explicate this point. More than ever, the Church today needs to be oriented to Christ, her Head, her Spouse, her Founder. Christ is her Gospel, the good news that brings joy to her youth and fills her with authentic joy and hope. Unfortunately in the past few years, with a rapidity that should raise serious questions and concern, the Church has become engrossed with issues of a sociological nature, all affecting more or less the Church’s moral teaching. Many dubious proposals have been made by pastors, even those who bear serious ecclesial responsibilities, that are frankly incompatible with Gospel. The Church feels the need to be re-evangelized and led back to Christ. Pope Benedict XVI made extraordinary efforts in this direction, and his trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth is an expression of a Christocentrism founded on Scripture and the sound doctrine of Tradition. He always wanted to promote a reform of the liturgy, and this program found a great expression in Summorum Pontificum.
The Tridentine Mass is truly evangelical because it is Christocentric. Just think of its conclusion: the proclamation of the prologue of the Gospel of John. It is like a hinge joining the liturgy to the daily life to which we are about to return. It proclaims the heart of the Gospel, the Mystery of the incarnation, with the beauty we have been speaking of: the hieratic movement of the priest toward, cornu evangelii (“the Gospel side”), the reading, the genuflection at the words et Verbum caro factum est, and during the Sung Mass, the musical piece performed by the schola cantorum. The Church is evangelized during the celebration of the Tridentine Mass because, as the fourth-century Father of the Church and author of very valuable liturgical-mystagogical catecheses, Cyril of Jerusalem, said, the teachings of Sacred Scripture must be gathered into a summary, the regula fidei (“the rule of faith”), the Creed of the catechism. But the Tridentine Mass itself is a catechism in action, tying us intimately to the Gospel of Christ. “What are the two principal mysteries of the Faith?” asked the unsurpassable Catechism of St Pius X. The Mass tells us. We profess our faith in God’s unity and trinity when we turn to the three divine Persons at the beginning of the Mass in the nine-fold Kyrie eleison, three times invoking the Father, three times Christ, and three times the Spirit. We adore their majesty when we sing the Gloria. We implore them to accept our offering at the Offertory. We express our desire for them to accept the sacrifice in the prayer just before the final blessing. As for the mystery of our Lord’s incarnation, passion, and death: how many signs of the cross does the priest trace out, especially during the Canon? The whole ancient liturgy and all of its texts are steeped in the theology of the Fathers of the Church, rather than the ideas of the experts and specialists of the twentieth century, and its rites are a compendium of the Holy Gospel, the Church’s real treasure that has been translated into doctrine and summarized in the Catechism.
We could continue to multiply examples of how the Tridentine Mass is a catechism for everyone, including faithful evangelizers and non-believers in need of evangelization. The plan of salvation history—creation, sin, incarnation, redemption, grace, glory, and eternal life—is taken up and synthesized in the great prayers of the Church. For instance, think of the words that the priest says as he pours the water into the chalice:
Deus qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti [creation] et mirabilius reformasti [redemption], da nobis per huius aquae et vini mysterium eius divinitatis esse consortes [divinization and the life of grace], qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps [incarnation]. (O God, who did wonderfully create human nature, and more wonderfully still restore it, grant us through the Mystery of this water and wine, that we may be made partakers of His divinity, who deigned to become a partaker in our humanity.)
Now take the Confiteor. The ritual gestures surrounding it reinvoke the whole drama of sin with great clarity and poignancy, as we kneel, beat our chests, recite the prayer, and await the priest’s absolution so sadly abolished in the Novus Ordo: Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum vestroum tribuat vobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus. In the Roman Canon, the priest asks the Father for the grace to pass the final judgment, the judgment that should be our only concern, though a serene one for Mary is praying for us: ab aeterna damnatione nos eripi et in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari.
Once she has been evangelized, the Church is ready to evangelize. The Tridentine Mass furnishes the grace that makes her disciples into zealous apostles, and her faithful into courageous missionaries. Is this not the Mass that inspired generation upon generation of our forefathers to spread the Gospel to faraway lands, often in the midst of grave dangers? When we read the chronicles of the missionary expeditions of the Jesuits and Franciscans in Asia and Latin America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we are surprised and moved by how concerned they were to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass in this liturgical form that casts itself completely upon God as the giver of all things, especially the grace to make efforts of evangelization fruitful.
The usus antiquior is an effective evangelizer for another reason: it speaks to the heart of those who have lost the faith or never had it. For example, today in our western society that denies its Christian roots, some people, thirsting for recollection and interior peace, turn to oriental philosophies that, despite whatever good is in them, leave the soul in its existential loneliness. They have no God to love them, to feel loved, to love. The silence and sacrality of the Tridentine Mass is a discovery that often becomes the first step toward the faith. Others, especially the young, find our “pastoral initiatives” banal, if not outright heterodox! They are looking for solid spiritual food. The Tridentine Mass offers them this substantial nourishment. Its theology coincides completely with the fides quae (“what is believed”); here the lex credendi is the lex orandi. The simple, who are the beloved of God, intuitively recognize that something very great is taking place in the Tridentine Mass, where the priests speaks with God and all are on their knees before him. The sacred mysteries teach and evangelize them too. Every kind of person feels the fascination of the splendor of this Mass that, even when offered in a small place or with modest means, is always solemn and majestic because it is truly beautiful, beautiful with a beauty mediated through vestments, words, gestures, but founded in God the supremely beautiful. To be at this Mass is to set out on a Platonic itinerarium pulchritudinis in Deum, which begins from material signs and ascends in steps up to Reality itself. It gazes upon creation in order to rise to the creator. The experience was described by Augustine, and I will close our conversation with his words:
Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them; question all these things. They all answer you, ‘Here we are, look ; we are beautiful.’ Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not unchanging Beauty?
 “That gentle sage, who knew all things” (Inferno, Canto VII).
 “Inn of sorrows, ship without a helmsman in harsh seas” (Purgatorio, Canto VI), Mandelbaum translation.
Monday of the First Week of Lent: Station at the Priory Church of Saint-Denis-de-la-Chartre (Sanctus Dionysius in Carcere).
This little church, located north of the Île de la Cité, on the site today occupied by the edge of the Hôtel-Dieu on the Quai-aux-Fleurs, was built—according to tradition and in conformity with the etymology of its name (carcer)—on the Roman prison that is said to have provided shelter for St Dionysius and his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius before their martyrdom. Its existence is mentioned for the first time in a charter of the year 1014. In 1143, during the famous transaction that led to the construction of the Royal Abbey of Montmartre, King Louis VI (“the Fat”) donated Saint-Denis-de-la-Chartre to the Abbey of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in exchange for their properties in Montmartre.
The church was rebuilt for the first time in the 14th century. The priory and church were of modest proportions and were frequently affected by the rise of the Seine. In 1618, the parish was transferred to Saint-Symphorien and only one monk remained in the priory. Faced with this critical situation, a ruling of the King’s Council ordered that new monks be installed there, and in 1624, Charles de Berland, His Majesty’s almoner and the former agent-general of the French clergy, tried to give new life to the priory.
In 1665, Anne of Austria ordered the restoration of the church. The new high altar was ornamented with a monumental stucco ensemble crafted by Michel Anguier (c. 1604-1669) representing Christ giving communion to St Dionysius. By the sides of the altar, two little chapels were dedicated to St Eligius and St Roch. Two rows of twenty stalls and ancient tapestries representing the martyrdom of St Dionysius decorated the choir. The crypt, whose entry was closed off by an iron grill, had two chapels. In the cloister of Notre-Dame, the monks possessed a little enclosure that they used as a cemetery.
In 1695, the priory was on the decline, however, and it was joined to the seminary of Saint-François-de-Sales that had just been founded in the faubourg of Saint-Marcel. In 1704, Cardinal de Noailles, archbishop of Paris, ratified this situation by suppressing the priory of Saint-Denis-de-la-Chartre and uniting all its properties to the aforementioned seminary. The priory and church buildings were closed in 1791 by the revolutionaries, and then, after being nationalized, were sold, divided up into lots in 1798, and demolished in 1810. Saint-Denis-de-la-Charte was the fifth stage of the Parisians’ pilgrimage in honour of St Dionysius.
Wednesday of the First Week of Lent (Ember Wednesday): station at the priory church of Saint-Eloi près le Palais (Sanctus Eligius prope Palatium).
This women’s priory was founded in the centre of the Île de la Cité by Saint Eligius in 632, and brought together 300 women religious under the direction of St Aurea. The church and the covent were at that time dedicated to St Martial. In 1107, Gallo, bishop of Paris, transformed it into a men’s priory, bringing in a prior and twelve monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. During this reform, the monastic church was divided in two: the choir became a parish church under the name of Saint-Martial and the nave became the priory church under the name of Saint-Eloi (St Eligius). In 1530, the priory was attached—together with the Abbey of Saint-Maur—to the bishopric of Paris, and then given over to the Barnabites in 1632, who rebuilt the church and the conventual buildings in 1701 and put up a magnificent new façade, the work of Jean-Sylvain Cartaud, in 1704-1705. During the Revolution, the convent was closed in 1790, and the church transformed into a mint, then into the French house of accounts, and finally into the State house of moveable property (1852). It was destroyed in 1858 by Baron Haussman and replaced by part of the buildings of the Prefecture of Police. The façade, Cartaud’s work, was recovered and rebuilt stone by stone in 1863 by Victor Baltard over the present church of Notre-Dame-des-Blancs-Manteaux.
Friday of the First Week of Lent (Ember Friday): station at the church of Saint-Bathélémy près le Palais (Sanctus Bartholomeus prope Palatium).
This church goes back to the 5th century and was considered one of the oldest in Paris. It was rebuilt in 890 by Odo, count of Paris, who set up a collegiate church of canons there. It was enlarged around 965 by Hugh Capet, who placed several Breton relics there to keep them safe them from Viking attacks. Amongst them was the body of St Magloire, bishop of Dol; the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Magloire of Léhon came to the collegiate church seeking refuge, and thus it became known as Saint-Berthélémy-Saint-Magloire. The monks and the precious relic of St Magloire permanently moved in 1138 to the right bank of the Seine, and Saint-Barthélémy recovered its original name and became a royal parish on account of its proximity to the Palais de la Cité. It was rebuilt several times: in the 14th century, in 1550, 1730, 1736, and 1740. In 1772, Louis XVI ordered that it be entirely rebuilt, but the French Revolution interrupted the work. Only the façade, bearing the royal arms, had been finished at that point. The church was nationalized and sold on 12 November 1791, and destroyed the following year. The Tribunal of Commerce of Paris has stood on the site since then.
Today we present a chapter from Prosper Guéranger’s Institutions Liturgiques, whereinhe attacks the artistic decadence of the Gallican Church, contrasting it with the sobriety and universality of the Roman rite.
In his recent book Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, John O’Malley pointed out Prosper Guéranger’s (1805 – 1875) key role in the great ecclesiastical controversy of the 19th century.
In the chaos of post-Napoleonic France, while figures such as De Maistre and Lamennais argued strenuously that the Church had to submit to a strong Roman authority in order to confront the centralized power of the rising secular nation states, Guéranger saw that “liturgical unity was essential to the success of the Church’s renewal.”
Unity under the one Roman Rite, which to his mind had always preserved itself serenely from error in all its parts, would guarantee the salutary spiritual submission to Roman authority that the liturgical diversity of the Gallican Church had always prevented.
Therefore, as Peter Raedts argues:
“What Guéranger contributed to Ultramonantism was not his passion for the pope, nor his reactionary political ideas, but his unique insight into the possibilities of the liturgy as a way of visualizing the unity of the Church and the authority of the pope everywhere in the Catholic world.”
The Institutions Liturgiques (pub. 1841 – 1851) were a major step in this direction. Written after his move to Solesmes, “the Institutions launched Guéranger’s campaign to install [the Roman Rite] in the churches of France and then in the other churches throughout the Catholic world” The work treats the history of the Mass in the West, with special focus on France in the modern period.
Raedts argues that “the thrust of the book is more political than historical; Guéranger did not so much want to describe the past as to change the present.” He aimed to show that, in liturgy as in doctrine, Rome had always been a bulwark against heretical influence. Aware of this polemical purpose, the modern reader has to read cautiously, as Gregory DiPippo argues:
“Guéranger was a 19th-century romantic, with all that that entails. It has been noted more than once that he sometimes let his zeal get the better of his judgment; what he writes here should not be taken as the final word on the condition of the music in the Neo-Gallican period, of which he knew only the rump end. He was born in 1805, when most of the chapter system was already completely destroyed, so would not have heard most of what he is describing in actual liturgical use. It should also be remembered that the ‘pure’ Gregorian chant of Rome was also in pretty awful shape in his time, with everybody using the reduced music of the old Medicean edition.”
For a reader who keeps this caveat in mind, the Institutions remains a useful work of erudition and scholarship. It is of timely importance for understanding the development of the “ultramontane Church,” and a landmark of the Romantic phase of the Liturgical Movement.
Would that some generous soul would undertake the immense labor of translating the whole work!
“The General Character of the Liturgical Innovation in Relation to Poetry, Chant, and Aesthetics in General”
Let us rather say that these men, who remade the liturgy according to their own ideas, although perhaps unaware of the evil they foisted upon us, have contributed as they could to the total extinction of Catholic poetry in France on account of their utter ignorance of good taste. They expunged from the liturgy the ancient chants of Christendom, and put in their place the pretentious patchwork of their scriptural antiphons and responsories. We will not reflect now upon the effects of their liturgical innovations on literature, since we shall discuss the language and style of the liturgy in another part of this work. Let us then go over the effects of the liturgical revolution on chant.
[The Revolution in Chant]
This is one of the deepest injuries we must report. One could consider the question solely on an aesthetic level, or on the much more serious one of Catholic sentiment. We shall first denounce the barbarous anti-liturgists of the 18th century, who bereaved our fatherland of one of the most admirable glories of Christendom. We have seen elsewhere how the last remnants of ancient music were set down by the Roman pontiffs, and especially St. Gregory, in the two repertoires called the Roman Antiphonal and the Roman Responsorial. This collection, made up of many thousands of musical compositions, most of them of solid and melodious character, had accompanied all the Christian centuries in the expression of their joys and their sorrows. From this source Palestrina and the other great Catholic artists took their inspirations. For posterity, it was a sublime spectacle to see that the genius for preservation innate to the Catholic Church was the means by which the famous music of the Greeks and the harmonies of the days of yore reached—in a purified, corrected, and Christianized form—barbarous Western ears, which it proceeded to soften and civilize.
In the new [Neo-Gallican] breviaries and missals, almost all these ancient compositions were replaced by completely new ones. It necessarily led to the material suppression of all the ancient melodies and hence to the loss of many thousands of old pieces, a great number of which were remarkable for their nobility and originality. Lo! An act of vandalism if there ever was one, and one for which the 18th century, with its frenzy for destruction, has yet to be rebuked. And what excuse could they possibly give to justify such monstrous destruction? On the one hand, liturgical manufacturers such as Frédéric-Maurice Foinard said that nothing would be easier than transporting the motifs of the ancient responsories and antiphons onto new texts, and we have seen how they got together to prepare the material for the composers. On the other hand, there were forgers of plainchant who actually thought that if they composed new chants without materially departing from the character of the eight Gregorian modes, all would be well. As if it were no great loss to abandon an immense number of compositions from the 5th and 6th centuries, veritable vestiges of ancient tunes! As if inspiration were assured by adhering perfectly to the rules of Gregorian tonality! For, let us remember, if they were going to interfere they should have been able to do a better job than the Romans.
It was certainly a pitiful sight to see our cathedrals forget, one by one, the venerable canticles whose beauty had so ravished Charlemagne’s ear that he, acting in concert with the Roman pontiffs, made it one of the most powerful tools for civilizing his vast Empire; and then to hear them resound with the great noise of a torrent of new compositions bereft of melody, bereft of originality, as prosaic for the most part as the words they enshrouded. Admittedly, they did set a certain number of the new texts to old Gregorian melodies, and oftentimes even with happy results. Some of the new compositions, too, were quite inspired. However, the bulk of them were frightfully crude, and the best proof thereof is that it was impossible to learn these new chants by heart, whereas the people’s memory was a living repository of the vast majority of the Roman chants. When performing these boring new melodies, they could not have enough serpents, double basses, and counterpoint, under the noise of which the chant almost entirely disappeared. The Gregorian tunes, on the other hand, being so lively, vibrant, and often syllabic, were declaimed with sentiment, even when singing in unison, so that they produced great effects upon the souls of the faithful, impressing upon them the thoughts their texts expressed.
The suppression of the Gregorian books was not only a loss for art, but a calamity for popular faith. A single consideration will allow us to understand this point and at the same time expose the culpability of those who dared to do such a thing. The divine offices are of no use to the people unless they are interesting to them. If the people sing along with the priests, one can justly say that they are assisting at the divine service with pleasure. But if the people are used to sing during the offices, and all of a sudden are forced to keep silence and allow the voice of the priest alone to be heard, one can also justly say that religion has thereby lost a large part of its attraction for the people. Yet this is precisely what has happened in the greater part of France! And so the people have, little by little, deserted the churches, which became mute for them on the day they could no longer join their voices to that of the priests. This is so true that if in those churches that resound with modern chants the people ever attempt to join their voices with those of the clergy, it is when they perform (usually in a disfigured way) some of the ancient Roman compositions, such as the Victimae Paschali, Lauda Sion, Dies irae, certain responsories or antiphons of the Blessed Sacrament, etc. When, however, it comes to the new responsories, introits, offertories, etc., the people listen without paying attention, or rather they put up with them passively, without attaching any idea or sentiment whatever to them. But go to one of those last parishes in Brittany whose choirs still sing Roman chant, and you shall hear the entire people sing from the beginning of the offices to their end. They know by heart the easy melodies of the Gradual and the Antiphonal. That is how they expressed their great joys on Sunday, and during the week, one can often hear them repeating them as they work. Surely, it would be an extremely serious thing to tear this music away from them, for that would vastly diminish the interest they take in the Church’s offices.
If, after these saddening reflections, we were to move on to the history of the Revolution as it affected the singing in our churches in the 18th century, we would say lamentable things. Think of the frightful task imposed upon the composers of plainchant from the moment when the brains of those learned men hatched their new breviaries and missals, and when the printers, burdened like never before with books of this genre, finally brought them to light. Before they could launch these masterpieces, they had to take the necessary measures so that the entire corpus of new pieces could be chanted in the choirs of cathedral, collegiate, and parish churches. Thousands of pieces had to be improvised. Now recall the great Gregorian Antiphonal. A repository of ancient music, a body of melodies popular, grave, and religious, a work that harkens back at least to St. Celestine, gathered and corrected by St. Gregory, then by Leo II; then enriched again every century; presenting a marvelous variety of chants, from the severe motifs of Greece to the tender and moving strains of the Middle Ages. What did the 18th century have to offer in replacement? First, we cannot repeat enough that this meant an immense loss of so many remarkable musical pieces, popular and often of historic value, but let us go further. How many hundreds of musicians would be employed for this great task? Where, in the age of Louis XV, would one find men able to replace St. Gregory? Would 50 years be enough time to complete such a work? Alas! Any hypothesizing is pointless. Within two or three years everything was ready, composed, printed, published, and chanted with the noise of serpents, double basses, and loud voices. Do you want to know how many dioceses found the men needed to cover the antiphons in question with great big musical notes, how they went about inviolati inveniri in pace?  They made an appeal to men of good will. As we have seen, those in charge of the whole operation were bereft of any instinct for art and poetry, and so they were hardly difficult or demanding when it came to the melodies. A learned 18th-century writer on plainchant, Léonard Poisson, Curé of Marsangis, had this to say in his Traité historique et pratique du Plain-chant appelé Grégorien:
Of all the churches that adopted new breviaries, some, it is true, made greater haste to compose the chants than others. All of them, however, wanted to see the completion of this task at any cost, and sought all sorts of ways to satisfy their eagerness to use the new breviaries. Hence the rabble of people who put themselves forward to compose the chants. Everyone pretended and thought himself capable to composing them. Even some mere schoolmasters did not shy away from signing up. Because their profession involves using chant and ordinarily they know how to chant better than others, they too threw themselves into the work. Isn’t it astounding that musical pieces by such people were adopted by men who doubtlessly were not as ignorant as they? For, although they knew how to sing well, these schoolmasters were nonetheless ignorant of Latin, which is the language of the church. And so, anyone can see how many blunders such a handicap necessary entailed.
Thus for the composition of the new chants, they chose those they thought most capable, and placed the entire execution of this great work on their shoulders. Such an enormous enterprise required a proportionate amount of time, and they were rushed. In response to the urging of those who had chosen them, they were hasty in their work. Their pieces were sung almost immediately after the compositions left their hands. Everything was received without careful examination, or with a very superficial examination, and this only after printing, without having tried them out. Only after they had been authorized for public use were their defects perceived, but too late, and after there was no longer any time to fix them.
Then they saw with regret, either that they were were mistaken in their choice of composers, or they had pressed them to work too quickly. It is not possible to ignore the innumerable and often gross shortcomings of these compositions, which of course ought to have been pleasing at least for their novelty, but which did not even have this minimal advantage.
Who indeed could bear faults as clumsy and revolting as those which for the most part fill these works? I mean the errors in metric quantity, especially in the music of the hymns; the phrases mixed up by the tenor and flow of the music, which should have been marked out as they are by the natural sense of the text; other phrases maladroitly split up; others maladroitly left hanging; chants utterly opposed to the spirit of the words: grave, when the words called for a light melody; a rising melody, when it should have been falling; and so many other irregularities, almost all caused by a lack of attention to the text.
Who would not be disgusted to hear these same old chants so frequently—so many responsories, graduals, and alleluias—, which are truly beautiful in themselves, but were imitated too often, almost always disfigured, and generally at the expense of the sense expressed by the text and at the expense of the flow and energy of the primitive chants?
What more can be said about the exaggerated and neglected expressions; forced tones; lack of good judgement in the choice of modes, without regard for the text; and the childish affectation of arranging them by number seriatim, i.e. by putting the first antiphon and first responsory of an Office in the first mode, the second antiphon and second responsory in the second mode, and so on, as if any mode were appropriate for any words and any sentiment?
This is the judgement of the liturgical innovations with respect to chant by a man who was adroit in composition, nourished by the best traditions, and otherwise full of enthusiasm for the texts of the new breviaries. He is therefore an irrefutable witness. We will only add one more word about the new chants, viz. that although it was inexcusable that the fabrication of new chants in certain dioceses was left up to the mercy of the multitude, it was no less deplorable to impose the colossal mission of filling up three enormous volumes in-folio with musical notes upon a single man. Yet this is exactly what happened with the new Parisian breviary. The Herculean task was imposed upon Fr. Jean Lebeuf, a canon and sub-cantor of the Cathedral of Auxerre. He was a learned and industrious man, profound in his theoretical discussions of ecclesiastical chant and well-versed in the antiquities of this genre. That was something, but even if his spark of genius had been greater still, it could not but be snuffed out soon enough under the thousands of pieces he had to put to music, despite their multitude and the strange circumstances of their manufacture. For all that, he approached this task in good faith and, since he appreciated the ancient chants, he strove to introduce its motifs into many of the new pieces. “I never had the intention,” he said, “of providing anything new. I decided to centonize, as St. Gregory had done. I have already said that to centonize means to draw from everywhere and make a selection out of all one has gathered. All those who worked before me in similar tasks either made a compilation or at least tried pastiche. I intended to do sometimes the former and sometimes the latter.
“By and large the Antiphonal of Paris follows the lines of the previous antiphonal, which which I occupied myself in 1703, 1704, and thereafter. But since Paris is inhabited by clerics from the entire kingdom, many noticed that that there sometimes was too much levity or aridity in Archbishop de Harlay’s antiphonal. And so I have used the melodies of 9th-, 10th-, and 11th-century French symphoniastes more widely or more frequently, especially for the responsories.
These intentions were praiseworthy and one ought to do justice to them, but the results failed to live up to the intentions. Besides a small number of compositions, part of which had been written by Fr. Claude Chastelain for the previous version of the Parisian books, one must admit that the Parisian Gradual and Antiphonal are entirely devoid of interest to the people; that its music is not of the sort easily learned by heart; and that it is difficult even to perceive an overall melody in the new responsories, introits, offertories, etc. The imitations, even if done note by note (which is at any rate impossible), are usually unable to reproduce the effect of the original compositions, because these latter have no rhythm and hence owe their character entirely to the sentiments expressed in the words, to the words themselves, to the sound of their vowels. Moreover, the syllables are not measured, so it is almost impossible to find two pieces that perfectly match in syllabic number. One must, therefore, eliminate or add notes, and so sacrifice the entire expression of the piece.
We have spoken elsewhere of the Introit for All Saints, Accessistis, which Chastelain based on the Roman Gaudeamus with such felicitous results. Lebeuf rarely matched this standard in his imitations, and with respect to the compositions of his own invention, they are almost always impoverished, cold, and bereft of melody. The numerous chants he had to compose for hymns are also sad and monotonous, showing that he had none of the creativity Chastelain displayed in the music he composed for the Stupete gentes. Lastly, Lebeuf was unable to liberate Parisian chant from those horrible quarter notes called périélèses, which ultimately disfigure the rare beautiful melodies among his compositions. It is impossible to recall without indignation that the Alleluia verse Veni, sancte Spiritus, a tender and sweet melody miraculously retained in Archbishop Ventimille’s Missal, is torn up seven times by these quarter notes. One is tempted to surmise that Lebeuf feared that this piece, if allowed to retain its original melody, would make too manifest a contrast with the pile of new and insignificant morceaux that surround it.
Lebeuf’s fecundity gave him a reputation. In 1749, when he was over 60 years old, he accepted the offer to compose the chant for the new liturgy of the diocese of Mans. In a period of three years, he succeeded in giving musical notes to the three enormous volumes that make up this liturgy. And so this composer furnished the liturgical innovation with a contingent of three volumes in-folio of plainchant! It was nevertheless evident that Lebeuf’s last work was of even lower quality than the first. Weariness had finally caught up with him. But one doesn’t hear that he ever felt any remorse for the active part he played in the vandalism of his century.
[Modern Chant Styles]
Enough talk of the new chant-books that replaced the Gregorian melodies. We will only add a word on the subject of the all-too-famous plain-chant figuré, which we have proposed elsewhere to our readers’ animadversion, and which was again in vogue in this time of universal destruction of the ancient chant traditions. An immense number of compositions of this sort blossomed, first in the hundreds of new proses [i.e. sequences], mostly bland when not mere ditties in the style of the Régence. This era also produced the insipid collection known under the title of La Feillée, which is still regarded as the archetype of musical beauty in many of our provincial seminaries. We will limit ourselves to insert here the judgment of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on this ignoble and bastardly form of music whose unfortunate charm has so unhappily contributed to distract French singers from the sad loss of the Gregorian repertoire:
“The modes of plainchant, as they have been transmitted to us in the ancient ecclesiastic chant, preserve therein a beauty of character and a variety of affections very sensible to an impartial connoisseur, and which have preserved some judgement of the ear for the melodious systems established on principles different from ours: but we may well say that there is nothing more ridiculous and more flat than these plainchants suited to our modern music, embellished with the ornaments of our melody, and modulated on the chords of our modes; as if our harmonic system could at any time be united to that of the ancient modes, which is established on principles exactly opposite. We ought to thank the bishops, prevosts, and choristers who have opposed this barbarous mixture, and use our utmost endeavours for the progress and perfection of an art which is very far from the point at which it has been placed, that these valuable remains of antiquity may be faithfully transmitted to those who have sufficient talents and authority to enrich the modern system by the addition of them.”
[The Other Liturgical Arts: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Vestments]
We have said elsewhere that all arts are tributaries of the liturgy, and again and again lend themselves to its sublime pomps. We have just seen what 18th-century innovation made of ecclesiastical chant; the other arts followed the liturgy in its degradation. We have already pointed to decadence in the latter half of the 17th century. It became more profound and more humiliating when the churches of France in their greater number abjured the ancient traditions of the liturgy to create new forms to the taste of the age. Religious painting, which in the 17th century descended from Eustache Le Sueur to Nicolas Poussin and Pierre Mignard, took shelter in the workshops of François Boucher and his school. Thus the same brushes that decorated the boudoir of Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry in the time of the little epigrams of the Abbé de Bernis degraded the severe majesty and suave mysticism of Catholic artistic subjects with affected grimaces and effeminate poses.
Sculpture, no less impoverished and just as materialized, had nothing to offer in representing Our Lady than the vacuous posing of Edmé Bouchardon’s Virgin, or the fat and burly bearing Charles-Antoine Bridan gave the Queen of Angels even in her Assumption into heaven.
But how could such works (and out of modesty we have only cited the least boorish production of this age), how could such works be accepted for as church adornments by the grave characters who delighted in the new breviaries, whence all the carnal license of the Roman Breviary had been severely expunged? Here we must admire the judgements of God. It is written that whosoever is puffed up in spirit falls by the flesh; this is a universal law. Yet, since the partisans of innovation were unaware of the full extent of their fault on account of their utter impotence in matters of poetry, God allowed the sense of the beautiful to be extinguished in them. By leaving them to the mercy of the degraded artists of the age of Louis XV, he did not allow their consciences to sense the degree of profanation they allowed them to carry out. They gave themselves up so confidently to these artists of the flesh that the Parisian Breviary of 1736 itself shows on its frontispiece some repulsive courtesans bedecked in the attributes of Religion. They even found a way to introduce some variety into each of the four volumes, so as to show the richness of the brutish brush of the age. The 1738 Parisian Missal also offers on its frontispiece a virago plopped down upon clouds and likewise tasked with representing Religion. The collection of these sundry engravings will someday be the precious monument of the horrible familiarity with which artists of that time treated religious subjects, and proof of the clergy’s indifference to anything related to art, even in connection with divine worship. But we must still mention the last effort at scandal: the frontispiece of the 1782 Missal of Chartres, in which the Immaculate Virgin, the glory of this town and its ineffable cathedral, is outraged with an immodesty that forbids all description.
This indifference to form, a few of the effects of which we have just pointed out, also led to the suppression of the innumerable rich engravings around solemn feasts which had thitherto adorned the new missals and breviaries. This custom had persisted until the 18th century as a souvenir of the rich miniatures that gave life to the ancient missals and antiphonals. The new Parisian Missal of 1738 still had images for feasts, but done anew by artists of the time. In the second half of the 18th century, the missals of the rest of France contented themselves with an engraved frontispiece at best, and most limited themselves to a Crucifix, which they dared not remove from the first page of the Canon. Happy were those that did not place, as did the Parisian Missal of 1738, Jesus Christ’s arms above his head to prevent him from embracing all men. That sort of crucifix was a symbol dear to the Jansenists, and we know how much influence this party had over divine worship in France at this time.
One can well imagine the fate suffered by architecture, the most divine of the liturgical arts, in this unhappy age. It waned even more than it had at the end of the 17th century. Domes like that of the chapel of Hôtel des Invalides were no longer built. (Italian-style churches, with their luxurious paintings and marbles, although out of place in our cold and foggy climate, are always, whatever one might say, Christian churches.) The Church of Saint-Sulpice, so bare and stripped of soul and mystery, was soon found too mystical. Louis XV lay the cornerstone of two new churches. One, Sainte-Geneviève, was to have a dome, but on the condition of having a portico in front of its doors inspired by Agrippa’s Pantheon, so that passers-by would think it was a pagan temple. The other, which was to be open presently, looked as if it were prepared for Minerva; Louis XV intended to dedicate it to St. Mary Magdalene. Admittedly, the original plan was entirely different to the one that was adopted in our day. What need is there to talk of Saint-Philippe-du-Roule, built a bit later, modeled perfectly on an ancient temple, and so many other churches that have neither pagan or Christian appearance! To such a degree were sacred traditions forgotten that no one raised his voice in protest and no complaints were made. To that degree had religion, as understood by the French, departed from form! Such was the depth of the break from the Ages of Faith!
This was also the source of the degradation of priestly vestments, especially of the surplice, whose sleeves, which around the middle of the 17th century had already been split and let to fall behind, were in the 18th century stretched out and entirely separated from the body of the surplice itself. They took the name of ailes [wings], waiting for the 19th century to amuse itself by pleating them in the ridiculous and uncomfortable fashion of our days.
When it comes to the choir biretta, it was, at the beginning of the reign of Louis XIII, the same in France as it was in the other churches of the Catholic world. By the end of the 17th century, the projection of its upper part had been eliminated, and the biretta itself lengthened it by a third. In the 18th century, this upper part was made pointed and the body of the biretta was lengthened further still, thus leading to the ridiculous and annoying headpiece of our day, which looks like a candle snuffer and thus compromises the gravity of priestly functions, and gratuitously furnishes freethinkers with an occasion to declaim against the bad taste of the Catholic Church.
The rationalist spirit of which Dom Claude de Vert, the voice of his century, was the apostle, contributed to the clergy’s neglect of religious aesthetics. To the eyes of a spiritualist religion, only one thing can elevate form, and that is mysticism. But since this rationalism deprived the ceremonies of their proper objective—viz. to sanctify visible nature by making it serve the expression of the invisible world—it is easy to understand how the clergy, already deprived of the poetic elements of the ancient liturgy, could reach such an indifference to art with respect to worship. This is the opposite of what happened in the Middle Ages, when Catholicism spiritualized material nature, divinizing science through its contact with theology, and sanctifying the government of society by the upshot of Christ’s Kingdom.
[Contemporary Evaluations of the Neo-Gallican Rites]
We could continue to protract these reflections, but we will come back to them in due time. Now we will bring together some contemporary judgements about the new French liturgies, and show that illustrious prelates—Jean-Joseph Languet, archbishop of Sens; Charles de Saint-Albin, archbishop of Cambrai; François-Xavier de Belsunce, bishop of Marseille; Jean-Félix-Henri de Fumel, bishop of Lodève; etc.—were not the only ones in the 18th century to defend liturgical tradition and judge the work of the reformers with severity.
The first judgement we shall produce is—would you believe it?—Foinard himself; he is all the less suspect. In his Projet d’un nouveau Bréviaire, while explaining the new liturgies tried out before 1720, condemns them with these observations, which are just as applicable to the breviaries put out thereafter:
“It does not seem that unction is the basis of the new breviaries. They have, it is true, labored much for the mind, but it does not seem that they have labored as much for the heart.” Later on, he adds these remarkable words: “Could it not be said that most of the antiphons in the new breviaries were only made to be seen by curious eyes outside of the Office?”
Let us now harken to Fr. Urbain Robinet, author of the breviaries of Rouen, Mans, Carcassone, and Cahors. Here is a valuable admission: “Those who composed the Roman Breviary had a better taste for prayer and the words appropriate to it than we do today.”
The testimony that follows that of Robinet in chronological order is that of Pierre Collet in his Traité de l’Office divin, first published in 1763. Speaking about certain clerics who obtained permission from their bishops to say breviaries other than those followed in their dioceses, under the pretext that the newer breviaries were better made, he shows the shallowness of this sort of whim: “Scripture, the psalms, and most homilies are the same in all the breviaries. If, to nourish one’s devotion, one needs legenda or some other similar composition from a foreign breviary, one can make use of it for spiritual reading. But how many antiphons seem the most beautiful thing in the world when they stand alone, and so pitiful when one one sees them at their source!”
Later on, he adds these words so full of sense and candor: “A young priest might loudly declare that he recites the Breviary of Paris with greater piety than that of his own diocese, but he would say very quietly that his diocesan breviary is much longer than that of Paris and, even if one did not change any verses or responsories, he would return to his own if one made it shorter than the one whence he finds so much material for devotion. After all, as we have already said, true piety does not disdain proper order. A commonplace thought can nourish it: the less it strikes the mind, the more it touches the heart. The antiphons of the Office of St. Martin come, I think, from Sulpicius Severus. Is there a single one that cannot serve as material for meditation for an entire year? How much force of sentiment there is in these words: Oculis ac manibus in cœlum semper intentus, invictum ab oratione spiritum non relaxabat…. Domine, si adhuc. populo tuo sum necessarius, non recuso laborem… O virum ineffabilem, nec labore victum, nec morte vincendum; qui nec mori timuit, nec vivere recusavit, etc.”
The Ami de la Religion, in its twenty-sixth volume, which we have already cited several times, and the Biographie universelle, mention a dean of the chapter of the cathedral of Montauban named Bertrand de la Tour, a man very attached to the Holy See and zealous for the good of the Church, who after the publication of the Breviary of Montauban by the bishop Anne-François de Breteuil, in 1772, attacked the liturgical innovation and published a collection of twenty-one articles on the new breviaries, a total of 397 pages in-4°. The author discusses the Breviaries of Paris, Montauban, and Cahors in particular. Our attempts to acquire this collection have so far been unfruitful. Thus, we will limit ourselves here to citing the judgment of the Ami de la Religion, which tells us that “the Abbé de la Tour is not generally favorable to the new breviaries, and regrets that they have distanced themselves from the simplicity of the Roman Breviary.”
We do not have any further witnesses among 18th-century French authors against the novelties whose history we are recounting; but these few lines will prove at least that the revolution was not accomplished without protest on the part of many zealous persons who united their voices to those of illustrious prelates whose names we have mentioned. The admissions of Foinard and Robinet are also not without meritOne the other hand, if we wish to inquire about the judgments that have been rendered in foreign countries concerning the serious changes that the 18th century saw introduced in divine worship among the French, it is difficult to find any testimonies expressing such a judgement. The reason is clear: first, because foreigners are not obliged keep up with all the fantasies that cross our minds. Secondly, because when they heard about liturgical uses particular to France they imagined, but since they did not have the new books in their hands, they supposed that these uses not only existed before the Bull of St. Pius V, but indeed went back to the earliest antiquity. We ourselves have found well-educated people who believe this in our own day, even in Rome. Nevertheless, we have found the opinions of three learned foreigners, two Italians and one Spaniard.
The first is the immortal Prospero Lambertini, who later became pope under the name of Benedict XIV. In his great word on The Canonization of Saints, he judges the new breviaries in relation to the authority of the bishops who promulgated them. He severely reprimands Pierre-Jean-François Percin de Montgaillard, bishop of Saint-Pons; Jean Grancolas; and Jean Pontas for having unreservedly sustained that it is within the bishops’ purview to change and reform the breviary, without distinguishing between those dioceses where the Roman Breviary had been followed and those that did not follow the Bull of St. Pius V. Because this question is mainly related to liturgical law, we will keep the explanation and discussion of this passage by Benedict XIV to the part of our work where we will treat this matter in particular.
Giuseppe Catalani, in his learned commentary on the Roman Pontifical, published in 1736, expresses himself with a severity we are unable to translate on the subject of the bishops who incurred the infelicity of lending their trust to heretics for the composition of the breviaries of their churches:
Jam praesertim pro auctoritate breviarii Romani plura possent afferri testimonia quibus abunde ostendi posset, quanta fuerit nuper quorumdam episcoporum insignis audacia atque insolentia, dum illud, inconsulto Romano pontifice, non modo immutarunt, sed et fœdarunt, hœreticisque ansam dederunt constabiliendi suas pravas sententias.
(“In favor of the authority of the Roman Breviary in particular, many witnesses could be brought forward to show the signal audacity and insolence of certain bishops who have recently, without consulting the Roman Pontiff, not only changed this Breviary but employed and entered into pacts with the heretics to establish their false opinions.”)
Finally, the illustrious Spanish Jesuit, Faustino Arévalo, in the interesting dissertation de Hymnis ecclesiasticis he placed at the beginning of his Hymnodia Hispanica, after having reported Benedict XIV’s doctrine on the rights of bishops with respect to the liturgy, adds:
“I have perused a few of these new French breviaries, and I have found many things therein that seem to me worthy of approbation and praise. Yet not on that account am I weary of the Roman Breviary. Rather, I began to hold it in higher esteem after having read several other breviaries. Somehow, what is most excellent in the latter was either taken from the Roman Breviary or formed according to its model.”
Arévalo’s language is a bit less gentle with regard to the new breviaries in the critique of Jean-Baptiste de Santeul’s hymns we have placed at the end of this volume: “In the course of this century, there have appeared in France so many new breviaries, and one finds in the Mercure de France, in Dinouart’s Journal, and in Zaccaria’s Bibliotheca ritualis such a number of works and dissertations on particular offices, on the form of the canonical hours, and on the litany and recent hymns to Our Lady, that one might be tempted to fear that in France, just like women ceaselessly make up new fashions for their clothes, so do priests invent new breviaries each year which please them only because of their novelty.”
But it is time to conclude this chapter with the following considerations:
Such was the upheaval of ideas in the 18th century that one sees prelates oppose heretics and, at the same time, by some inexplicable zeal, undermine tradition in the sacred prayers of the Missal. They profess that the Church has her own proper voice, and then silence this voice by giving the floor to anyone with learning but no authority.
Such was the naïve effrontery of the new liturgists that they, in agreement with each other, proposed nothing less than to bring the Church of their times back to the true spirit of prayer, to purge the liturgies of all that was unrefined, inexact, immoderate, dull, difficult to give good sense to—everything that the Church, in the pious movements of her inspiration, had infelicitously composed or adopted.
Such was, in the fairest of judgements, the barbarity into which Frenchmen fell in matters of divine worship, that, since liturgical harmony was destroyed, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture, which are the tributary arts of the liturgy, followed in a decadence that has only increased with the passing of time.
Such was the abnormal situation into which the innovators placed the liturgy in France that they themselves testified against their work, and joined the defenders of antiquity in regretting the loss of the Gregorian books.
 Peter Raedts, “Prosper Guéranger O.S.B (1805–1875) and the Struggle for Liturgical Unity,” 336.
 De Moléon’s Voyages Liturgiques makes special mention of which chapters still sang from memory, as if singing from books was still a fairly recent phenomenon.
 It is true that in the 1950s, people in Brittany still sang Sunday Vespers by heart, and in many places the Requiem Mass was known, as Domenico Bartolucci recalls:
“When I was a boy I remember that the people used to sing in church. They sang at Vespers (all from memory: the antiphons, psalms and hymns); they sang at devotional functions (Way of the Cross, Marian devotions, etc.); they sang in processions (the Magnificat, Te Deum, Lauda Sion, and other hymns); they sang even at Solemn Mass sometimes. (When I was a boy, each Sunday at my little church there was a Solemn Mass, and on normal Sundays the people sang by themselves.)” I used to sing too, either behind the altar with my father, who was the parish cantor, or with the people in the pews whenever there weren’t cantors behind the altar. The people sang: they sang in a loud voice, a song that centuries and centuries had handed down to them, a lusty song, severe and strong, that the children had learned from their elders, not at school desks or examination rooms but by constant habit, in the continuous practice of the Church. How can I recall without a still-living emotion the participation of all of people at the Liturgy of the Dead, and especially in the Obsequies? Everyone, I mean everyone, belted out the Libera me Domine and then the In Paradisum and then the De Profundis…! Everyone! And the music, that gorgeous music, attained an unmatchable power; the last, deep, hearty farewell to the dead as he left the church where countless times he had sung full-throatedly the praises of God! The people sang!”
 This situation is a remarkable parallel to the state of affairs in the Roman church in the 20th century, where the complete revision of the Mass and Office propers required the composition of thousands of new pieces; a work still not even near completion fifty years later, either in Latin or in the vernacular languages. The Neo-Gallicans had this at least to boast, that they tried to replace the former melodies with true chant, rather than taking the folk music ready at hand.
 “Finding [men] blameless in peace,” 2 Peter 3:14. Perhaps he is elliptically and sarcastically suggesting that these composers would have had to have been people found “before [the Lord] unspotted and blameless in peace.”
 To be fair, this was done in the composition of new Offices since the Middle Ages; e.g., it is the case for the antiphons for Trinity Sunday and for Corpus Christi.
 He is not entirely correct, since we know that chant was original rhythmic. The prevailing idea in the Solesmes school in Dom Guéranger’s time was that all the notes in a chant piece had the same basic value and that any variation would be based on the text (e.g. syllables at the ends of phrases would make those notes a bit longer). Therefore, when the reformers changed the prose text, they had to change the music too, adding or deleting notes, and the results were usually infelicitous.
 It was the only musical proper this Missal retained (besides the sequences) whose text was not taken from Scripture.
 The regency between 1715 and and 1723, when King Louis XV was a minor and the Kingdom was ruled by the Philippe d’Orléans.
 François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, a friend of Madame de Pompadour in the court of Louis XV, and whose famous witticisms were admired by Voltaire. He later became Archbishop of Albi and a Cardinal.
L’Ami de la Religion, tome XXVI. Sur la réimpression du Bréviaire de Paris, page 294.
 Recall that the Breviary of Cahors was Robinet’s, and also followed in Carcassonne and Mans.
 L’Ami de la Religion. Ibidem. —Les mémoires canoniques et liturgiques de l’abbé de la Tour ont été publiés en 1855 dans le septième volume de ses œuvres, réimprimées par l’abbé Migne. (Note de l’édit.)
 De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione, lib. IV, part. II, cap. XIII.
 Catalani. Commentarius in Pontificale Romanum, tome I, p. 189. We offer this translation with all due respect to Dom Guéranger.
 Nonnulla ego istiusmodi breviaria pervolutavi, ac multa reperi in eis, quas approbatione, et laude digna mihi visa sunt; non idcirco tamen breviarii Romani me tœdet, imo pluris hoc habere cœpi, ex quo diversa alia perlegi, ac nescio quo pacto partes illae, quae in ceteris potissimum eminent, aut ex breviario Romano desumptae sunt, aut ad hujus similitudinem effictae. (Arevalo, Hymnodia Hispan., page 211. Dissert. de Hymnis eccles., § XXXII.)
 Tot nova Breviaria hoc seculo in Gallia prodierunt, tot opuscula, et dissertationes de officiis singularibus, de precibus horariis universe, de litaniis, hymnisque recentibus Deiparae in Mercurio Gallico, in Diario Dinouartii, in Bibliotheca rituali Zachariae indicantur, ut possit aliquis subvereri ne in Galliis, ut feminœ novas vestium formas, ita sacerdotes nova breviaria quotannis inventant, in quibus vel sola novitas placeat.
This article by Henri de Villiers was originally published in French on the blog of the Schola Sainte-Cécile. Since it is fairly lengthy, it will be presented in six parts over six weeks, each covering the Lenten stations celebrated that particular week. Today’s article includes the general introduction; there is only one station this week, that of Ash Wednesday.
Following the example of the Pope in Rome, the Bishop of Paris led his people in prayer during the stational liturgies of Lent. As in Rome, these liturgies included a procession followed by a Mass in the most notable sanctuaries of our city.
ORIGIN OF THE STATIONS
Among the ancient Romans, the word station designated an outpost of armed men or sentries keeping watch. Christians took up this terminology very early, at least from the 3rd century. Tertullian in particular frequently uses this term; for him (cf. De oratione XIX) a Christian’s station was the “guard” that the faithful—”the soldiers of God”—kept on certain days through fasting and ardent prayer, as a way of crowning the holy sacrifice of the Mass:
The station has taken its name from the example of the army—for we are indeed the soldiers of God— because in the camp neither joy nor sorrow interrupts the soldier’s station duty (Tertullian, De oratione XIX, 5).
In Tertullian’s time, the station days were Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. On these days, the fast lasted until the hour of None (around 3 p.m.). The Wednesday and Friday fast—universal in the East and West—had been established from the earliest days of the Church, as attested by the Didache, the ancient Christian work from the 1st century, contemporary with the New Testament itself:
“But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second (Monday) and fifth (Thursday) day of the week; but rather fast on the fourth (Wednesday) day and the Preparation (to the Sabbath, i.e. on Friday)” (Didache VIII, 1).
During Lent (and later during the season of Septuagesima), Monday was added to Wednesday and Friday as a third station day in the West.
In Rome, the practice of the stational liturgy is attested under Pope Hilarius († 468); it was reorganized both by his successor Simplicius (468-483) and especially by St Gregory the Great (590-604). At the hour of None, the Roman people convened in a church—called the church of the collect—that had been announced by the archdeacon at the end of the preceding station. There, the Pope sang an oration, the collect of the day (collecta meant the prayer over the people assembled at that place), and then a large procession was organized towards another church—the church of the station. Walking in procession behind the cross borne by the stational subdeacon, the faithful and the clergy chanted the litanies (including the invocation Kyrie eleison). At the church of the station, the Pope celebrated Mass and often gave a homily.
Originally, stations were held in Rome only on penitential days: Ember Days, Advent, and Lent. But in Rome, contrary to the custom in Africa and the East, Saturdays were fasting days as well (Ember Saturdays therefore have stations). Then, very early on, the collect, procession, and station were also performed on Sundays and great feasts, which were not fasting days (Christmas, Easter and its octave, Advent and Lenten Sundays, for example). This stational liturgy lasted in Rome up until the 12th century, when it fell into disuse. The exile in Avignon dealt it a serious blow. Some elements nonetheless have survived until our time. Thus, the term given to the first oration at the beginning of the Mass—the collect—and the singing of the Kyrie eleison are vestiges of the ancient church of the collect and the stational procession. Above all, the Roman Missal has preserved until the present day the practice of naming the churches where the Roman stations were carried out from the time of St Gregory the Great (one also finds mention of the churches of the collect in mediæval manuscripts). Pope St John XXIII restored the ancient usage of the Roman stations during Lent. The practice was partially taken up again by St John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, who have hence several times celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in the church of Santa Sabina, as indicated in the Missal of St Pius V.
THE LENTEN STATIONS IN THE ANCIENT USE OF PARIS
One might be tempted to think that the Lenten stations in Paris were nothing more than a clever local adaptation of a purely Roman papal liturgy, imported just as it was during the Carolingian era. We should note, however, that the existence of stational liturgies in Gaul is attested from the 5th century, before the importation of the Roman liturgy. Curiously, the framework of the Parisian stational liturgy remained limited to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of Lent, probably the sole days that were stational during Lent in Rome before the 6th century. The survival of this quite archaic trait until the end of the 18th century is very interesting. In Rome, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of Lent were characterized by a more marked penitence, and included the singing of a Tract during Mass (which the other Lenten ferias did not). These same days also had special Epistles and Gospels during the three weeks of preparation for Lent (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima), readings which the majority of medieval diocesan uses (including Paris) preserved, but which fell into desuetude in the missal of the Roman Curia on which the Missal of St Pius V is based.
The order of the Lenten stations in Paris is not mentioned in Parisian missals. It is only known through the Processionals and is described very precisely in the Parisian Ceremonial published under Cardinal de Retz and edited by Martin Sonnet in 1662.
Lenten stations were held in Paris on Ash Wednesday and then all Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays beginning with the first week of Lent until the Friday before Palm Sunday (Passion Friday). They were characterized by a procession that set off from Notre-Dame and headed for another church where the stational Mass of the day was sung. These stational churches—as noted in the Parisian Processional of 1662 (ch. VIII, 18)—are among the most ancient, dignified, and noteworthy in Paris. In fact, this stational itinerary through ancient Christian Paris can lead us to rediscover large swaths of our patrimony, often, alas, destroyed by the Revolution and then by the attentive care of Baron Haussmann, a Protestant.
This stational itinerary of Lenten Paris follows a rigorous geographical plan, beginning with the nearest church on the first day—Saint-Christophe, on the Place Notre-Dame —and finishing with the furthest on the last day—the Royal Abbey of Montmartre. During the first week of Lent, one visited three of the most ancient churches of the Île de la Cité. During the second week of Lent, it was the turn of the three most ancient churches of the neighbourhood and faubourg of Saint-Jacques du Sud to be visited. During the third week of Lent, one processed towards the great abbeys of the southeastern region. On the fourth week, one headed towards the ancient churches near the city on the right bank of the Seine, in order to finish, during Passion Week, with the abbeys further north from there. Note that the procession and the stational Mass were suppressed if a double or semi-double feast fell on the day.
Here is the list of stational churches of Parisian Lent:
Ash Wednesday: station in the church of Saint-Christophe près l’Église Métropolitaine (Sanctus Christophorus prope Ecclesiam Metropolitanam).
On the Place Notre-Dame there used to be a collection of buildings that in 690 housed a convent of nuns, then in 817 a hospice for the poor and infirm, and subsequently for travelers and foreigners. It was known as the Saint-Christophe hospital, and had its own chapel. This church was rebuilt a bit further north of the square in the 9th century and transformed into a parish in the 12th century. The canons of Notre-Dame administered this collection of buildings from 1006. Rebuilt in 1494, the church was demolished in 1747 in order to allow for the construction of the Hospice des Enfants-Trouvés (a hospice for abandoned children).
 Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann was appointed by Emperor Napoleon III to carry out a massive renovation of Paris.
The generalized practice of cutting off the front part of the folded chasuble, which is certainly convenient, must have contributed to it being perceived as a vestment distinct from the celebrant’s chasuble, which was certainly not so in the beginning. Paradoxically, this might have contributed to disaffection with its use. In 1914, the Jesuit Braun  deplored the disappearance of folded chasubles throughout Germany. France was hardly better off at this time; although the published ceremonials continue to describe the use of folded chasubles, it is quite rare to find examples or even photographs of them in the 20th century). Their use seems to have endured more in Italy, in the Iberian Peninsula, and in the British Isles.
Already suppressed for the Paschal Vigil in the new experimental liturgies of 1951 and 1952, folded chasubles were entirely banished from Holy Week with the 1955 reforms, and violet and black dalmatics and tunicles put in their place; folded chasubles were still to be used during the rest of Lent and other penitential seasons. This anomaly ceased with the publication of the new code of rubrics in 1960, which stated at the end of the general rubrics that “folded chasubles and broad stoles are no longer used” .
Folded chasubles are one of the oldest characteristics of the Roman Rite; they go back to the time when all the clergy wore chasubles, and were retained for a most austere penance. Abandoning them makes a lie of the paintings in the catacombs. It is an immense loss, an outrage to history. They wrongly give this explanation to justify their misdeed: that folded chasubles are difficult to find. But the exact contrary is the case: one finds violet chasubles everywhere that can be folded, whereas violet dalmatics are much less widespread . Besides, one always has the option of ministering in an alb.
We may add that it was a curious move to suppress folded chasubles at the same moment when a return to the ancient, more ample form of the chasuble was being promoted everywhere.
On the other hand, the usage of folded chasubles was never interrupted among the Anglo-Catholics (and perhaps its usage will be gradually restored by the various new ordinariates erected to receive these communities into the bosom of the Catholic Church). In addition, amidst the renaissance of liturgical studies among traditional Catholic communities one observes a growing number of people who are restoring the ancient use.
IN THE OTHER WESTERN RITES. The use of the folded chasuble is not limited to the Roman Rite. It is found, with variations, in the following liturgies:
1) The Ambrosian Rite: Folded chasubles are used during Advent, Lent, and the Major and Minor Litanies (i.e. Rogation Days, which take place on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after the Ascension in this rite, and during which ashes are imposed) and other fasting days throughout the year. As in the Roman rite, the subdeacon takes off his folded chasuble to chant the Epistle. The deacon rolls his up crosswise in the Roman way from the Gospel to the end of Communion. During Sundays of Lent, the deacon chants the very ancient litanies after the Ingressa at the beginning of the Mass; to do this, since it pertains to his proper ministry, he also rolls his chasuble crosswise. The liturgical colours differ from the Roman custom: dark violet during Advent and the Sundays of Lent, but the ferias of Lent are in black. The Major Litanies are in dark violet and the Minor are in black. During an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on a day of penance, folded chasubles are obligatory, even in small churches. One notable difference with the Roman use is that during all of Holy Week (which begins on the eve of Palm Sunday, in Traditione Symboli) is celebrated in red and the dalmatic and tunicle are employed.
2) The Rite of Braga: The use is identical to the Roman rite, except for the procession of Palms when the dalmatic and tunicle are used.
3) The Rite of Lyon: very interestingly, folded chasubles are not used until after the first Sunday of Lent, a relic of the time prior to St Gregory the Great when the first day of the Lenten Fast was the Monday following this Sunday. The deacon takes off his chasuble before chanting the Gospel but does not roll it over his shoulders (so he does the same as the subdeacon at the Epistle). Folded chasubles are not used on Good Friday.
4) The Rite of Paris: Chasubles are not folded but rolled over the shoulders (the ceremonials speak of transversed chasubles: planetis tranversis super humeros). They are not used during Sundays of Advent (which are celebrated in white in Paris); rather the dalmatic and tunicle are used instead. Folded chasubles are nonetheless used during ferial Masses of Advent in bigger churches with many clerics; smaller churches are dispensed. Transversed chasubles are used for the first time on Ash Wednesday, then on Sundays of Lent, and on Good Friday; the vestments are black each time. On ferias of Lent, on the other hand, the deacon and subdeacon serve only in alb, stole, and maniple, without chasubles, even in the cathedral. Ember Days in September are celebrated with red transversed chasubles since these days belong to the Time after Pentecost, which is red in Paris.
5) The Premonstratensians: This rite has the interesting peculiarity that the use of folded chasubles begins on Septuagesima.
6) The Cistercians, Dominicans, and Carmelites: These three rites shares similar uses; during penitential seasons, the deacon and subdeacon serve in alb, stole, and maniple, as in smaller churches in the Roman rite. Note that in the Dominican rite, the dalmatic and tunicle are not used during ferial Masses throughout the year.
7) The Carthusians: This rite is very pared down and does not employ the dalmatic and tunicle at all during the year. During Mass, the deacon only puts on the stole to sing the Gospel. Folded chasubles are therefore not used at all.
AND IN THE EAST?– Based on the evidence from ancient artistic representations, the Byzantine East used the chasuble since at least the 5th century; and it is called φαιλόνιον in Greek (phelonion, similar to the Latin pælonia).
By an interesting development similar to the one that happened in the West, the front part of the phelonion is cut in such a way as to facilitate the gestures of the celebrant.
Certain Spanish folded chasubles have a shape very similar to that of modern-day Byzantine phelonia cut in the front.
We nevertheless do not find any evidence that deacons and subdeacons ever wore chasubles in the East; both used dalmatics . Yet, in the Russian use, during the ordination of a cantor or lector, the bishop puts a short phelonion over his shoulders, which is likely the Eastern equivalent of the Western folded chasuble.
The short phelonion is then taken off once the lector has chanted an Epistle.
During the ordination of a non-monastic subdeacon, the candidate presents himself before the bishop wearing a short phelonion. This vestment is not used outside these two ordinations , but it might well be the remnant of a more ancient custom where the chasuble was worn by the minor clergy.
The other Eastern rites do not, in general, use the chasuble, even for the celebrant, who usually dons a cope. The Armenians, however, do have an equivalent of the Russian short phelonion , a short cape that covers the shoulders of minor clerics in this rite and which is most often attached to the alb in our days:
CONCLUSION. Mons. Bugnini’s enthusiastic efforts to suppress folded chasubles (he notes with disdain that no one will miss them)  gives rise to a larger question that naturally emerges when one studies the liturgical reforms of 1951-1969. These reforms were presented to the faithful at that time as a welcome return to the liturgy of ancient Christianity, finally purified from the dross of the High Middle Ages and the Baroque era. But if that is the case, how are we to explain the contemptuous suppression of this truly ancient element of the Roman Rite, the folded chasuble, a precious custom that unites us to the prayer and practice of our forefathers in the faith going back to the first centuries? Alas, this particular example is far from unique, and it only highlights the abandonment of numerous ancient elements of the liturgy in favor of the purely imaginative constructs that took place during these reforms. More globally, one might ask about the nature of the liturgical reform of 1951-1969: does it constitute a continuous organic development of the liturgy of the Church or a radical rupture with the centuries-long praxis of the Roman Rite?
It is interesting to consider how in different parts of the world, traditional communities are starting to take up the use of folded chasubles. We are certain that these communities perceive that they form a part of the symbolic richness that the tradition has bequeathed to us and of which we have been unjustly deprived.
14. G. Braun, Die liturgischen Paramente, 1914, p. 98.
15. Rubrica generales XIX, n. 137: Planetae plicatae et stola latior amplius non adhibentur.
16. Indeed, strictly speaking violet dalmatics and tunicles are only used on the three Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.
17. Which very often retains structures much more ancient than the Greek usage.
18. The lector-cantor ordinarily uses a type of tunic for his office, the sticharion—στιχάριον. Certain parishes have tried to restore a more frequent use of the short phelonion.
19. According to R. Pilkington, I riti orientali, Turin, L.I.C.E. —Berruti, p. 31.
20. Cf. A. Bugnini—C. Braga, Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae instauratus commentarium. Bibliotheca Ephemerides Liturgicae Sectio Historica 25, Roma, Edizioni Liturgiche, 1956, p. 56, n. 28.