Claude De Vert: Preface to Volume 2 of the Explanation (1710)

INTRODUCTION
PREFACE to Volume 1

Here De Vert shows that the frequent changes, variations, and dispensations of Church practices show that the Church does not hold mystical or symbolic reasons for the ceremonies as primary. Note especially his paragraphs on Baptism**.

PREFACE
Volume 2

In the preface of the first part of this work, I showed that this method of explaining the ceremonies of the Church according to their simple, natural and historic sense was nothing new, and that I have taken as my model a great number of authors renowned for their knowledge and piety.[1]

But this was insufficient. It still remains to show that the Church herself lends me this idea, and that my own mind differs in nothing from hers. God forbid I should ever think otherwise, or depart from her spirit and views in anything, even in trivial matters and points of less importance.

Nothing seems easier than to justify this proposition, and to show how at every step of the way and with all her conduct the Church approves as true, proper, and original meanings of her ceremonies those that I call simple, natural, and literal. If it were otherwise, and if she saw her ceremonies as founded solely upon spiritual reasons, and instituted for purely symbolic and mystical reasons, then because these sorts of reasons are not susceptible to change and because mystical realities are fixed and constant, once room is given to figure and allegory the ceremony must remain unaltered forever. It would follow that the Church herself was immovable–even in her customs and regulations. Her ordinances and laws, rites and ceremonies–once we supposed them to be founded upon such mystical reasons, as upon stable and permanent foundations–would thereby become essential and indispensable with no room for exception. In no circumstance would it be permitted to the Church to innovate or change anything in her whole exterior conduct. This would in no way accord with her discipline, which is variable and changing according to circumstances of time, persons, and place.

[Impediment to Orders for the Twice-Married]

Mariage sous le poêle au XVIIIème siècle

 

If it had always been true, for example, that those who have married more than once were excluded from Holy Orders merely because they had divided their flesh (as the mystical authors would say), and having shared it (so to speak) with others, they are no longer able to represent the union of JESUS CHRIST with his Church[2] which is one, and their marriage cannot be the image of the perfect love of this virgin Spouse for her virgin Groom,[3] this resulting defect of the sacrament constituting an irregularity; if, I say, it had always been true that this was the spirit and essential, primitive motive, principle cause and fundamental original reason that St. Paul prohibited a man who had more than one woman from the sacred ministry, then must also wonder why it is so easy, as it is, to lift this prohibition, founded as we have supposed on such sublime and serious, mysterious and thus respectable reasons. But if the apostle made this rule to accommodate the morals of his time and especially in order not to be less sensitive than the Jews and pagans, who also forbade from ministry at the altar those who had had more than one woman,[4] then we would easily judge that there are cases where this reason which is nothing more than mere convenience and pure convention, should give way to other considerations that justify dispensing this canonical impediment.

[Impediment to Marriage within a Certain Degree, Marrying in Penitential Seasons]

The same holds for some other customs that have come to us from the Jews and pagans, in which the Church has no trouble giving dispensations if she does not find just and legitimate reasons for them. Certainly she would be loth to do so if she thought that everything was mystical in the institution of all her practices. Thus in the case of the prohibition of marrying between parents of a certain degree (a prohibition that seems to have come to Christians through the Jews and Romans), indulgence is given very frequently. [5] This is true for innumerable other constitutions and ordinances, in which she gives dispensation so easily only because she regards them as being founded on opinions and motives that are subject to change and variation; such is the case for most of her practices and customs. Accordingly dispensation is nearly always granted for marrying in Lent and Advent (in this case we might even say the exception has become the rule), because we know that the Church’s prohibition on celebrating nuptials during those times is only the consequence of the ancient practice of continence on fasting days; since in our time such continence has become a matter of simple counsel, superiors have more leeway to relax the discipline on this point. Moreover, I have heard that in some diocese one is no longer even required to give a reason to obtain this dispensation, so well informed they are on the true reason and spirit of the law.

[Interval between reception of major orders]

In the same way, the Church finds it very easy to dispense with the usual interval of time between the reception of two orders, because there is reason to believe that the reason for the introduction of the span of one year between the reception of orders is that in ancient times ordinations were done only once a year in Rome, in the month of December, in accordance with the words repeated so often in the Lives of the first popes, fecit ordinationes mense decembri.[6] Consequently since orders were received only once a year it was necessary to wait an entire year before being promoted to the next order. But since at present orders can be conferred regularly on every Ember week, and even more often if desired, namely on the Saturday before Passion Sunday and Easter Saturday, several bishops have deemed that this span of three months can suffice for an interval between orders. […] Nothing is more frequent than these extra tempora, i.e. dispensations to be ordained outside of Ember days. And whence comes this facility of obtaining dispensations, if not because, in light of the fact that ordinations were done every Sunday in some centuries […] it seems less difficult to return to this use and that we may without scruple give an exception and condescension, even for cases without grave reasons? Thus it seems that what most facilitates the obtaining of these dispensations is nothing other than the recognition that there are reasons that form the basis of this regulations, and that these reasons were simple, indifferent, and variable. If on the contrary there were mysteries and spiritual senses hidden under these rules, these superiors would behave entirely differently and would be careful not to dispense anyone from them.

Now for practices of a different nature. If it were true, for example, that the clerical tonsure, at its origin and institution, had been nothing else than the image and symbol of the crown of thorns placed on Our Lord’s head, would we not be obliged by necessity to hold to this idea and practice, or would it be permitted in any case or for any reason to alter such a mysterious and significant sign as this? and would not the Church herself, on the contrary, have to require clerics in all times and from the very beginning, to wear a tonsure as similar as possible in form to the one worn by Our Lord, without permitting it to be enlarged or diminished at will? But the fact that the Church permits these ministers to have different tonsures, some more large or straight than others, us a visible sign that she does not at all regard the crown of Our Lord as the model and measure of what all clerics must wear. She gives another origin to this practice. Thus, she knows she has the freedom to regulate the form of the tonsure as she judges best, in accordance with circumstances of time and place.

Again, if it were true that infants are named at their baptism only in order to put them under the special protection of the Saint whose name they take, would the Church leave the choice up to the will of every individual to change this name at confirmation, clothing, or religious profession?

[Altar Decorations and Vestments]

Could we easily believe that the bishops would permit so many churches to have no antependium (parement) in front of the altar, if they were not informed that this antependium’s only purpose originally was to protect the relics that were placed under the altar; so that, in relation to this original use, the antependium has become entirely useless in churches where relics are no longer placed under the altar?

Is it conceivable that they would set their hands so readily to the destruction of the jubés, if they did not see that, since these types of tribunes were only erected to such a height so as to ensure that the reader’s voice would carry and be heard by the whole assembly, and that suffices to attain this purpose if the lector stands only a few feet above the others; and that there is no need to build these jubés in the form of galleries and to raise these huge masses of stone that can still be seen, especially in the cathedrals and collegiate churches, and that entirely block the faithful’s view of the choir and sanctuary?[7]

59 contemporary dove tabernacle cardinalseansblog.org copy
“From the time of Emperor Constantine a common form of tabernacle, both East and West, was a dove (called in the West columbae), which was hung over the altar from the ciborium canopy (55). It was high enough not to be stolen easily, and could be lowered with a pulley system. In some cases this rope was attached to the church bells so that people were alerted if someone tried to steal the columba.” Source: https://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/ciboria-and-tabernacles-a-short-history/ 

The same obtains for the practice of suspending the Blessed Sacrament above the altar. Would the re-establishment of this practice in many places be permitted, to the prejudice of tabernacles, unless we knew that this was the ancient custom (especially since the 6th century[8]), and that tabernacles have only been in use for about a hundred years?[9]

Image result for chasuble cuts diagram over time

Finally, it is the same for certain sacred vestments that would never be allowed to be cut, and which have been cut to the point we see today, if we had not learned from many renowned authors[10] that these vestments originally were not peculiar to the ministers at the altar, so that taking account of their original use, it doesn’t seem that there is anything amiss about letting them gradually take on a different form, more convenient and comfortable. Especially with regard to the chasuble, which formerly used to cover the priest entirely all around, if it were certain that it had this form for the sole purpose of being the symbol of charity that covers (in the words of St. Peter) a multitude of sins, would it have been, so to speak, relaxed to the secular arm, namely, left to chasuble-makers to cut them, shorten them, scallop them, and reform them to the point that they no longer cover the arms or legs? Truly, would it have been permitted to thus disfigure a sacred vestment consecrated by the moral idea that had been attached to it from the beginning?

Perhaps if people reflected well on all these consequences, they would be more hesitant to suppose that the Church has ideas and intentions that it is very doubtful and very uncertain that she has ever had. No priest and no bishop thinks any longer that the stole and maniple were destined since their institution to represent the bonds with which our Lord was tied when he was taken before Pilate.

If they imagined these vestments from this symbolic point of view, would they allow them to be so largely disguised by the ornaments embroidered onto them, so that today they have no resemblance to the cords with which the Savior of the world was tied and bound? If any bishop still believed that the action of kissing the altar at Mass contained any mysterious meaning, would he believe that it is sufficient to kiss only the wooden border that surrounds the altar? For, if we suppose that the altar was a figure of Jesus Christ, as certain mystical authors claim, could this symbol and image be applied to a simple wooden rail on which the antependium is set?

*[Baptism]*

louis xiv 10
The baptism and anointing of Clovis

But how should we explain the fact that Pope Innocent II decided that there was no obligation for women to be churched after childbirth, if not because (without looking about for anything mystical in the ceremony), this great jurist and theologian saw that this practice belonged to a law that had been abolished by the Author of grace and truth, and so allowed the Church to use this blessing as a laudable pious custom, a custom of counsel and devotion and not a duty of precept? Moreover, how was it permitted that the full immersion of the whole body in the ceremony of baptism was changed to a simple pouring or infusion of one part of the body? It is because we know that this practice of plunging was originally a form of washing infants at the moment of their birth for reasons of physical health. Thus it can never be part of the essence of a sacrament, where the point is not to wash away physical uncleanness, and so the amount of water used does not matter, and as long as the sacrament is administered with water, then infusion, aspersion, or immersion or all equally good, and all forms are judged valid.[11] But if, on the contrary, the Church regarded immersion as essentially instituted to be an express representation of the fact that, being baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, we are also mystically buried with him, she would have taken great care to prevent this practice from changing, knowing well that whatever is the ground and substance of the sacraments is unalterable and indispensable. From this alteration of the discipline with regard to baptism we can see that the Church regards baptism by immersion as a simple custom that has come down to her from the tradition of the Jews or pagans, or perhaps from both together, and from all the nations of the world.[12] The same applies to the unction that precedes and follows the baptism. Understanding the physical, sensible causes for the institution of this practice, the Church has found it appropriate for good reasons to reduce it to only certain parts of the body, where formerly it was done on the whole body. On the other hand, if she had believed that this ceremony had been introduced only to give the catechumen power against the temptations and attacks of the devil, or to indicate that the neophyte takes part in a spiritual unction (reasons all used later on for the instruction and edification of the faithful), she would never have allowed it to be touched or reduced in any way, because that would have weakened the mystery, rendered its signification defective, and thus diminished the effects of the holy chrism and oil of catechumens.

[[NB footnote 12: “Though this did not keep the apostle Paul […] from finding excellent relations and wonderful allusions between this manner of plunging entirely into the water and the faithful’s being buried with Jesus Christ and rising from the water as Jesus Christ rose from the tomb. But it is one thing to make allusions and applications, metaphors and comparisons, and quite another to say that the original purpose for the institution of this action was to represent and signify the burial of the faithful with Jesus Christ. I mean to say that all these spiritual and symbolic viewpoints are not the cause and principle of the immersion, and played no part in the intention of those who instituted it. Rather, the fact of immersion merely provided the occasion for all these ideas and reflections.”]]

[Mystical Reasons Lead to Contradictions]

Creation (Hurlbutt)
Passauer Calendar Universitätsbibliothek Kassel, 2° Ms. astron. 1, fol. 70v.

Another thing that seems to demonstrate that the Church is very far from envisaging these sorts of reasons as the only reasons for the establishment of her ceremonies is the fact that if this was the case, she would often fall into contradiction in her practice. For instance, on the one hand the Church gives us to understand that the candles on our altars burn for no other reason than to express Jesus Christ who said that he was the light of the world; and at the same time they are not lit at Prime, Terce, Sext, or None, when Christ is no less the light of the world than at Matins, Lauds, and Vespers, when they are lit. This would not be coherent and the Church would be contradicting herself. Assuming this symbolic reason were true, we would have to leave the candles burning continually, and not only at certain divine offices, because, as the Apostle says, “(Heb. 13)” He is “the true light of man, who enlightens the world” (John 1) at all times of the day as well as during the hours of night. He is eternally the splendor of the “glory of his father,”  (Heb 1:3; Sap. 7:26).

If we ask the Church for the reason why she lights candles at certain hours of the office and not at others, she responds very simply and naturally, it is that there is no need for superfluous light during the day when Prime, Terce, Sext, and None are said, but only at night and dawn when Matins, Lauds, and Vespers are sung.

Are there many communities and famous corporations who are persuaded that the primitive reason for the institution of the hours of the office is precisely to honor and celebrate the various mysteries of Christ’s life? such as for example the birth of Our Savior at Matins, his resurrection at Lauds, the morning of his Passion at Prime, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Terce, the crucifixion at Sext, his death at None, his burial at Vespers, his lying in the tomb at Compline?

If it were true that in instituting the Divine Office, the Church had intended to honor in each of these hours the mysteries that took place during them–how Our Lord came into the world at night, how he rose at dawn, valde mane, how the Holy Spirit descended around Terce, cum sit hora diei tertia, how Our Lord was crucified around the hour of Sext, erat hora quasi sexta, that he died around None, circa horam nonam, and that he was buried in the evening–then it would never be permitted at all to change the order of the offices and thus obliterate all these intentions of the Church.

But an evident proof that all these congregations do not believe that the Hours were instituted for these sorts of sublime and mysterious reasons, is the freedom that they give to anticipate or postpone the Hours, to distribute them according to convenience or the will of their superiors. Thus, at Paris for example, they say Matins followed by Lauds at anytime during the night, between five o’clock in the evening of the previous day and six in the morning of the next day. Likewise they say Prime sometime between five thirty and eight in the morning; Terce between eight and ten; Sext between ten and eleven forty-five; None between mid-day and three; Vespers between one and six; and Compline between three or four and nine. Nothing could show more clearly how these hours are arbitrary, and how far the Church is from thinking that the primitive reason, the reason for the institution of these Hours was to honor the various mysteries.

Furthermore, would the whole Church have taken it upon herself in Lent to anticipate Vespers at noon and celebrate at that hour a mystery that happened in the evening? It is thus much more natural to believe that all these particular churches and the universal Church herself regard the determination of the Hours of the Office as a tradition coming from the Jews, who actually assembled for prayer at about the same hours as Christians; namely in the morning[13], at 6,[14] and 9,[15] and in the evening,[16] not to mention the night prayers.[17] Therefore the Churches can easily anticipate or postpone these Hours because in the final analysis, just as the jews had their reasons for choosing these hours, the Churches about which we are speaking also believe that they have sufficient reasons to change the times of the hours and choose other times.

Therefore, we have found proof of my thesis everywhere: that the ease of obtaining dispensations and the variability of the Church’s discipline, especially with regard to the rites and ceremonies, comes from the fact that this discipline is founded on simple reasons that are nearly all based either on the customs of the ancients, or on the relation between actions and words or between words and actions, or on necessity, or on propriety and convenience.[18] All such practices and reasons are subject to change, because what is convenient at one time is not at another. As soon as these reasons no longer hold, it would seem permissible at the same time to abolish the practices connected with them. If, on the other hand, all these practices were meant to figure and represent some mystery, then the respect superiors had for these reasons would prohibit them from permitting the changes that are introduced nearly every day in the ceremonies and exterior cult of our religion.

[….]

It was the changes introduced into the ceremonies that caused people to forget and lose sight of the sensible and natural reasons of their establishment. If people only wore their hair short and their clothes long once again, as they did less than 200 years ago, they would very quickly see the reason for the tonsure and the religious habit and the whole exterior vesture of ecclesiastics.[19] If they could see the chasuble in its ancient form, they would quickly see why it is lifted at the elevation of the host and chalice. If the maniple became a handkerchief once again, they would see what the manipulus fletus mentioned in the vesting prayer is. If on Holy Thursday all priests celebrated Mass together with the bishop in the cathedral churches, with the parish priest in the parishes, or with the superior in the monasteries, and therefore with the priests vested in their priestly habits, they would know why they take communion on that day with the stole.[20] If Tenebrae is restored to midnight, so that the office began in darkness and ended around dawn, they would see that the Church was not mistaken at first to light a great number of candles during this office and extinguish them gradually as the day approached, and to extinguish them all at the end of Lauds when day had broken. If on Sunday before Mass, we began once more to bless and sprinkle the holy water, inside and outside the Church, the cemetery, and the common places in the monasteries and cathedral chapters where the canons once lived in common, we would understand the origin and reason for the Sunday procession and why in monasteries and other churches the procession visits the four sides of the cloister. There is no other way to explain this procession or discover its object. [….]

[The Literal Sense and Church Reform]

Understanding the literal and historical reasons is useful for another reason: it allows bishops more easily to remove ceremonies that, through the change of manners and church discipline, no longer seem appropriate. Thus, for example, the archbishop of Sens thought it best to suppress most of the baptismal exorcisms in his new ritual, because it seemed to him that the repetition of these exorcisms, which were once performed on different days, no longer had a purpose after they were joined into one ceremony.

[On Burial Practices]

So there you have it, material already too much for one preface. If I were to give it the full extent of treatment it deserves, there would be enough to compose a book; indeed all the more so because the truth of the system I have proposed has already been sufficiently proved by many judicious and learned persons. It is also useless to speak again about the necessity of studying the simple, literal, and historical reasons for the ceremonies if one wants to understand what is happening at every moment in the Church, either at Mass or in the Office, or during the administration of a sacrament, or any other function. Above all, nothing is more shameful and scandalous than to see pastors and priests who are ignorant of what their ministry obliges them to know and teach to others. A learned bishop of the 16th century, complaining to a cardinal about the ignorance that reigned among most clergy of his day about church ceremonies, said:

“Since our understanding and right intention is the foundation of the sacred worship, whoever is ignorant of what he is doing performs sacred worship in vain, for he lacks the basis, namely the right understanding and intention. How many clergy put on their vestments entirely ignorant of why there are so many and various: priests who have celebrated mass for years, and bishops who have consecrated for years? If you ask them why they do these things, they are speechless and have nothing to respond.”[21]


NOTES:

[1] Among them we cannot fail to mention Dom Edmond Martenne, a scholar of the Congregation of St. Maur, who in the preface to his first volume on the ancient rites of the Church, openly declares that he prefers historical reasons to those commonly known as “mystical”: His igitur attente consideratis…post habitis rationibus mysticis, quas apud editos scriptores quique consulere potest, universos ecclesia ritus more historico representarem, etc.

[2] St. Paul takes what Moses says literally about the union between man and wife, using it to explain the union of Jesus Christ and the Church from a mystical point of view, calling it a great mystery and sacrament: Sacramentum hoc magnum est, ego autem dico in Christo et in ecclesia (Ephes. 5:32).

[3] M. Nicole shows in his Instruction on the Sacrament of Order that, far from being St. Paul’s explanation, it was St. Augustine who was the first to invent it, and that before him the reason for the exclusion of the twice-married from orders was the incontinence that was implied in these second marriages.

[4] On the Jews, see Leviticus 21 and for the pagans, Titus Livius, (Decade 1.50.x, and Alex ab Alex. 50.6. To see that second marriage were detestable to the ancients, as showing some kind of incontinence or weakness, we have only to hearken to Dido, the widow of Sicheus, who reproaches herself for the grievous fault of merely thinking of marrying Aeneas (Huic uni forsan potui succumbere culpa, Aeneid 4).

[5] Trans. note: Consanguinity is forbidden by Leviticus 18 and Deuteronomy 20.

[6] Primi apostolici semper in decembrio mense, in quo Nativitas D. N. J. C. celebratur, consecrationes ministrabant usque ad Simplicium…ipse primus sacravit in Februario (Amalarius II.1). The Micrologus says the same thing. See also Dom Mabillon, in his Commentary on the Ordo Romanus, n. 16.

[7] See M. Bocquillot in his Traité historique de la liturgie, pg. 72.

[8] Following these words of the Council of Tours can. 3: Ut corpus Domini in altari, non in armario, sed sub crucis titulo componatur (The Body of Our Lord should not be placed in a tabernacle but on the altar under the cross.). This is what we find still in many churches where the holy ciborium is suspended at the foot of the great crucifix over the altar.

[9] It is thought that the first tabernacle seen in Paris is that of the Capuchins on the Rue Saint-Honoré.

[10] Among others, Fr. Thomassin, the Abbé of Fleury, etc.

[11] See M. de Meaux in his Traite de la communion sous les deux especes.

[12] Though this did not keep the apostle Paul […] from finding excellent relations and wonderful allusions between this manner of plunging entirely into the water and the faithful’s being buried with Jesus Christ and rising from the water as Jesus Christ rose from the tomb. But it is one thing to make allusions and applications, metaphors and comparisons, and quite another to say that the original purpose for the institution of this action was to represent and signify the burial of the faithful with Jesus Christ. I mean to say that all these spiritual and symbolic viewpoints are not the cause and principle of the immersion, and played no part in the intention of those who instituted it. Rather, the fact of immersion merely provided the occasion for all these ideas and reflections.

[13] Sacrificium matutinum.

[14] Ascendit Petrus in superiora ut oraret circa horam sextam (Acts 10:9).

[15] Petrus et Joannes ascendebant in Templum ut orarent ad horam orationis nonam (Acts 3:1).

[16] Sacrificium vespertinum

[17] Media nocte surgebam

[18] See vol. 1, p. 269, note b.

[19] See pg. 431 ff.

[20] See vol. 1, pg. 348 ff.

[21] To Saint-Pierre d’Abbeville, 25 September 1707.

Claude De Vert: Preface to Volume 1 of the Explanation (1709)

As we promised in the introductory post, here are excerpts from the Preface to the first edition of volume one of Claude de Vert’s Explication simple, littérale, et historique des cérémonies de l’Église (1709 – 1713).

PREFACE to Volume 2

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PREFACE

[1. Encouragement by Protestant Ministers]

It has been several years since M. Jurieu[1] undertook in one of his books to attack the ceremonies of the Mass and even to subject them to mockery. I found myself charged at that time by M. the Bishop of Meaux, and also by my own interest, to refute this minister, who had used me as a sort of witness and proof of his own ideas. Thus I wrote him a letter[2] on the subject. Since it was clear from certain places in his work that mystical and symbolic explanations were not to his taste and left no impression on him, I thought it best to accommodate myself to his dispositions. In other words, in my response the only explanations I admitted were those that were simple, natural, and historical, against which I judged M. Jurieu would have no objection. It pleased God to grant my attempt so much success, that my letter has remained without response for fifteen years.

But this is not the only effect that this manner of explaining the ceremonies of the Church has produced. It has also pleased a great number of new Catholics. Even several converted ministers were intrigued by my explanations and did me the honor of writing to say (and these are their own words):

“We have always been convinced that in order to give an account of the ceremonies of the Church, especially to new converts, one must make use of common sense, give the facts as simply as possible, and in the end explain things as naturally as possible. We have already experienced the cogency of your natural explanations with two completely opposite sorts of people, namely, with some grudging converts who saw only superstition and mummery in the Church’s rites; and with some old ecclesiastics who would hear nothing about the literal sense or about the traces of ancient customs in the liturgy, recognizing only mystery and speculation in it.”

They said that neither of these groups were able to resist my historical reasons, and the connection I made between the letter and the spirit left them speechless.

They were certain that a full discussion of all these things would be well received by both scholars and the unlettered, and even by stubborn opponents of the Church. M. Jurieu’s brief controversy had not provided the occasion for such a discussion, but the wish and need of the Church compelled me. The attempts that I had already made in my letter had given them so much pleasure that they were impatient for a complete treatment of the subject. Further, in my explanation of the Introit, Kyrie eleison, Collect, Secret, Supra quae propitio, etc., of the mingling of a part of the Host in the chalice, I had said things that no one had yet thought and that promised countless further discoveries.

Moreover these ministers plied me with innumerable questions and difficulties which they implored me to answer. And so this is the occasion and, so to speak, the foundation of the present work that I present to the public.

At the same time another ministers, one of my friends, who had also converted some years ago, but converted sincerely in good faith, through persuasion, intelligence, and knowledge, brought me one of his nephews who was still in the grips of error. […]

He was already very prejudiced against our ceremonies and especially against the exterior cult of our Religion. After having questioned me on many practices, he appeared so content with my responses (all literal and historical) that he said to his uncle (who later told me) that one more meeting with me would be enough to remove all his scruples and doubts.

[Another Successful Conversation with a Protestant Lady….]

[….]

[2. Support from Catholic Ecclesiastics]

To these proselytes, and others that I have not named, I could add a large number of Catholics: ecclesiastics and laymen of every state and personality. M. Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux especially (and all know that his name alone is synonymous with knowledge, eloquence, beauty, genius, and zeal for the Church) often did me the honor of urging me, face to face and in writing, to explain and develop all this material to its fullest extent. I did this in two or three conferences. He listened, made objections, gave counsel, and offered his advice on difficult and delicate points. I will always remember how he encouraged me not to attack the Mystical Authors or their reasons, telling me that all I had to do was lay out the facts and establish them soundly, and the truth speak for itself.

But he isn’t the only who encouraged me to work my ideas into a book. M. the Bishop of Chalons sur Saône, so well versed in this discipline, and engaged since the start of his episcopate in the correction of the usages of his church, which he is reforming wholesale and in a manner worthy of his zeal and intelligence: the Breviary, the Missal, the Ritual, and Ceremonial. After approving my Letter to the Minister Jurieu, he asked if:

“I might give a more ample, literal, and historical explanation of the ceremonies of the Mass and in general of the whole Office.”

Others told me:

“The quickest and easiest way to refute every calumny the Heretics advance against the practices of the Church is to trace them back to their origin and institution. Hence we learn the true reasons for the ceremonies, and we see their simplicity. We prove that it was necessity or utility that introduced them, and that they have been preserved either for decency or out of fear of innovation. Because the reasons are simple and natural, we see their connection to the ceremonies immediately. It has been said that the primary reason the ministers of the Protestant religion declaim against the ceremonies of the Catholic Church is that they see these ceremonies only through the mystical reasons that some Catholic authors have given to them, without seeing the natural sense that the same authors presume as the basis of everything they say.”

[…]

[On the Usefulness of this Method in Seminary Education]

M. Wateblé (who recently passed away), Superior of the seminary of Beauvais, also asked me many times to share my reflections on this question, assuring me that they would be welcomed in the seminaries of the Congregation of the Mission [….]. He said that, if he had only known these reasons a long time ago, then our seminaries would have embraced them, and this manner of explaining the ceremonies would be held in high regard. This holds as much for the priests of St. Lazare as for the Jesuits, the Fathers of the Oratory, for the congregation of St. Sulpice, and other ecclesiastics who form clergy in the seminaries. In these excellent schools, after having given the seminarians the primitive and fundamental reasons for the ceremonies, we could present them other reasons for their edification, to nourish their piety; I am referring to what I call secondary and subsidiary reasons: spiritual and symbolic ideas and pious moralities. In these holy congregations, in their frequent conferences on the practices and uses of the Church, we could develop the analogy of all these different senses and teach them to join the spirit with the letter, and figurative and allegorical explanations to literal and historical ones.

[The Catechism of Montpellier already does this]

[….]

[3. Justification for this Method from the Fathers]

In the interest of justifying this approach with examples and authorities, we see that always and in all times the practices and ceremonies of the Church have been interpreted in their proper, primitive, and necessary sense, and whenever people have understood them, they have given as far as possible simple and natural reasons in preference to those called mystical (mystiques) and figurative (figurées), and often enough even to their prejudice and exclusion. Therefore, my project is neither new nor unique. I am merely following and imitating nearly all of the authors who have ever written on this subject.

St. Jerome, for example, in his Letter to St Paulinus, St. Augustine says that the Host is broken at the Mass in order to distribute it to the faithful, ad distribuendum comminuitur. Behold: another entirely simple and natural reason for the Fraction of the Host, and very different, as we shall see, from the allegorical reasons to which the Protestants accuse us of having reduced this practice.

[Mass on Holy Thursday morning]

St. Isidore (7th c.) and the Rule of the Master written about the same time, teach us that the washing of the altars, which is still practiced today in many Churches on Holy Thursday and Good Friday is done in order to remove the dust and odors that may have collected on the tables throughout the year. In addition, they washed and purified the walls and sacred vessels, so that the whole Church was washed and set in order from the vaults to the pavement in preparation for Easter.

Amalarius, not content with the various mystical reasons given for the custom of reserving only the Body of Our Lord on Holy Thursday, without the Blood, concludes (along with the Bishop of Meaux[3]) that a more simple explanation is that this species is corrupted more easily than bread. Thus we see that this author seems to prefer this reason to the “mystical” reasons. The same author says that the priest washes his hands at Mass in order to clean and purify them from any uncleanness he may have come into contact with by touching the bread received during the Offertory. His testimony is all the more credible because Amalarius certainly cannot be accused generally of preferring simple and natural explanations. Indeed Cardinal Bona reproaches him for his excessive subtilty (quandoque nimium subtiliter). The Ordo Romanus VI, St. Thomas Aquinas, Durandus, the Jesuit P. Scortia, and others give the same reason.

[….]

[St. Thomas on the Use of Incense]

Now, what are we to make of St. Thomas’s response to the objection regarding the use of incense in the Church (this irrefragable doctor, who cannot be contradicted with impunity in the Schools of Theology, where he justly bears the excellent title of Angelic)? It is to dispel bad odors: Ut scilicet per bonum odorem depellatur si quid corporaliter pravi odoris in loco fuerit, quod posset provocare horrorem.[4] Dominic Soto, Cardinal Bellarmine, Genebrard, Scortia, Gavantus, M. Meurier, and others whom we cite later on in the work, all adopt the same reason.

[….]

[The Paschal Candle]

In the Benediction of the Paschal Candle, the Church herself teaches us that its purpose is to give light during the night: Cereus iste, in honorem nominis tui consecratus, ad noctis huius caliginem destruendam indeficiens perseveret. Thus it is left burning until the morning (flammas eius lucifer matutinus inveniat[5]).

[…]

The Council of Trent teaches us (along with the whole tradition) that water is mixed into the wine in the chalice as an imitation of Our Lord Jesus Christ who, we think, did the same: quod Christum Dominum ita fecisse credatur.[6] And why did our Lord dilute his wine at the Last Supper? Because, as St. Thomas and many theologians and scholastics tell us, it was the custom of the place to do so (secundum morem illius terrae).

[4. Conclusion]

The method we have supposed is not novel, its purpose is not unusual or surprising. Rather to the contrary, there are authors who absolutely reject every mystical reason, regarding their different applications as impractical. And the truth is that since everything in ritual and discipline is subject to perpetual change, it is quite difficult to assign mysteries to the Church’s customs and practices. Let us say, for example, that I want the chasuble, which was once entirely round and reached down to the floor, to be a symbol of charity which (according to St. Peter) covers a multitude of sins. Today this vestment is significantly shortened, trimmed and open at the sides. What possible relation could this modern garment have with the proposed mystical reason?

Or again, the Cardinal bishops were once seven in number. They could represent the seven angels or seven Churches of Asia. But now that there are only six, what can they represent? The six wings of the Seraphim? Hence the difficulty or rather the impossibility of allegorizing practices that are subject to such variation.

[….]

[Apology for Mystical Reasons]

Thus, following the understanding and taste of all these different authors, I have seen fit to explain the ceremonies of the Mass in their simple, literal, and historical sense, but with this difference, that I do not go so far as some of them. God forbid that I should ever condemn the mystic writers or mystical reasons. On this point I hold to what I said in my Letter to M. Jurieu, and to what I shall say again in the present work. To put it simply, everything I say here about historical reasons is always without prejudice to the mystical reasons. Further, even if I seem to privilege these latter, it is not that I have made my own decisions, but that I have sought the truth, and I will always be happy to learn from not only pastors and superiors, but from the littlest disciples and smallest children of the Church. Quaero non affirmo.


NOTES:

[1] A Protestant leader.

[2] https://books.google.co.il/books?id=g5xbAAAAcAAJ

[3] Communion sous les deux especes, pag. 167.

[4] De Vert omits the rest of Thomas’ response, which adds a spiritual explanation: “[The use of incense] has reference to two things: first, to the reverence due to this sacrament, i.e. in order by its good odor, to remove any disagreeable smell that may be about the place; secondly, it serves to show the effect of grace, wherewith Christ was filled as with a good odor, according to Genesis 27:27: “Behold, the odor of my son is like the odor of a ripe field”; and from Christ it spreads to the faithful by the work of His ministers, according to 2 Corinthians 2:14: “He manifesteth the odor of his knowledge by us in every place”; and therefore when the altar which represents Christ, has been incensed on every side, then all are incensed in their proper order.”

[5] Of course, even a cursory fair reading of the Exultet, with its florid descriptions of Christ as the Light of the World, and comparisons of the candle with the Pillar of Fire, would make it one of the strongest arguments against the validity of De Vert’s reductive literal sense.

[6] Again, De Vert neglects the spiritual reason given in the same chapter of Trent: “Monet deinde sancta Synodus, praeceptum esse a Ecclesia sacerdotibus, ut squam ino in calice offerendo miscerent: tum quod Christum Dominum ita fecisse credatur, tum etiam quia e latere ejus aqua simul cum sanguine exierit, quod Sacramentum hac mixtione recolitur; et cum aquae in Apocalypsi beati Joannis populi dicantur; ipsius populi fidelis cum capite Christo unio repraesentatur.”

The Voyages Liturgiques: A Roundup

Several weeks ago we posted the last of our series of excerpts from the Voyages Liturgiques, a work that we hope has captured your imagination as much as it has ours. Happily there have been two grateful responses, one on New Liturgical Movement and on by the Rad Trad, both of them pointing out the role that cathedral chapters used to play in maintaining exemplary liturgical life in the Latin West.

I wanted to round out the series with a reflection of my own, pointing out some aspects of De Moléon’s authorial voice. Is he simply a liturgical tourist, a curiosity-seeker, or is his purpose more serious, or more sinister? Are the Voyages an amateur’s impressions, or a reformer’s manifesto?

Rarely does De Moléon actually express a direct opinion about the rites he observes—an occasional disparaging comment about medieval texts, a fastidious remark about “passing over” certain things he has found in older books. Much, however, is implied. In fact, the work is even more valuable once the reader realizes that its author is not an impartial observer. All told, when we count up what he decided to include, and what he must have excluded, and range together those aspects of liturgical life that seem to exercise the most fascination upon his imagination, we get a rather clear picture of a personality.

 

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Lord Byron contemplating the Colosseum in Rome, by James Tibbitts Willmore or his brother and pupil, Arthur Willmore

His personal “taste”—the first word of the preface, and a major theme of his century—largely governs what he includes in his account, and what he excludes. His clear prejudices and predilections shed an intriguing light on the character of the age, and of the reforming zeal that was brewing in the Gallican Church.

As any writer, De Moléon writes to please contemporary taste. His quest for “the most pure and ancient antiquity” in the cities and provinces of France was intended to flatter the antiquarian fancies of that century of Italian journeys and Versailles’ Apollonian king. The same taste leads him to admire survivals of the ceremonial splendor of the Middle Ages—pre-Mass processions, florid Tropes, Offertory verses, sanctuary veils, episcopal masses, etc.—as much as vestiges of Roman baths and funereal urns: he rejoices wherever he sniffs the sea-breeze of antiquity!

Yet, though the language of his Preface might seem to belie it, our traveler was seldom interested in the merely curious or antiquarian; his interest is more sure and mature than an aesthetic preoccupation with old ceremony.  

I say this because, all told, he shows a keen preference for and understanding of the elements of integral liturgical life in the Roman tradition: survivals of the ancient baptismal rituals in the Easter Vigil, the full episcopal liturgy with assisting local clergy, the lives of observant and communal colleges and chapters, processions and stations, and in general all the colorful rituals of urban religious life that assimilated French towns to the world of the Ordo Romanus I. He either finds these things currently in use, and praises them; or through books finds them observed in centuries past, and lavishes his attention on the older state of affairs.

In each case, the picture that emerges, based partly on observations of contemporary practice, but also largely on ceremonies culled from ancient practice, is a sort of “classical ideal” for each city in question, a picture of its liturgical life at high tide, when the chapters were observant, the people wholeheartedly participating, and the liturgy fully integrated into urban life. We hasten to add that, in many cities covered in the Voyages, actual practice often strayed not too far behind this “classic ideal.”

Jungmann explains this spirit of the age well:

“The desire was to get free from all excess of emotions, free from all surfeit of forms; to get back again to ‘noble sim­plicity.’ As in contemporary art, where the model for this was sought in antiquity and attained in classicism, so in ecclesiastical life the model was perceived in the life of the ancient Church. And so a sort of Catholic clas­sicism was arrived at, a sudden enthusiasm for the liturgical forms of primitive Christianity, forms which in many cases one believed could be taken over bodily, despite the interval of a thousand years and more, even though one was far removed from the spirit of that age” (MS, 152).

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Johann Joachim Winckelmann

Because he rarely digresses to express his own opinions, it is not easy to tell what precisely our author admires in this “classic ideal,” nor why–at least, what is important is that it is ancient! But at first glance we can say he shows a sound taste for good principles, for the fully communal, urban episcopal liturgy, sung from memory, rife with public processions, blessings, sprinklings, and public acts of penance. There is much to commend in this vision.

However, the rationalist spirit of the age, already present in 16th-century liturgical commentary, is also apparent. For example, he frequently chastises the “mystics” for imposing senseless (if often “edifying”) explanations for ceremonies that really only have a simple literal causes. Like a less thorough-going Claude de Vert, he occasionally takes pains to expose the “genuine” literal sense. The arrangement of candles is usually to be explained by the need for light rather than any mystical reason (à la de Vert). This sometimes leads him to make rather bold claims, such as dismissing the whole ritual of extinguishing a symbolic number of candles during Tenebrae, as an irrational accident:

“However, far from extinguishing candles on these days when Matins begins at four in the afternoon, on the contrary they should have lighted them toward the evening, since light is more needed at that time than at four in the afternoon. This was not taken into account when people stopped saying this particular office near the end of night. Doubtless certain mystics who are ignorant of the true reasons for the institution of ceremonies will find some mysteries in these three days: as if they really thought that people acted differently on these three days than they did on every other day.”

Several of his enlightened “talking points” seem to cast a long shadow toward the Synod of Pistoia (1786) and even to the post-conciliar reforms. How truly do De Moléon’s observations betray allegiance to contemporary Gallican liturgical reform projects, and to the general rationalist taste of his age? Surprisingly much.

For instance, his remarks show that he prefers the simple, unfurnished altar arrangement of antiquity, without retable, candles, or furnishings; the simple bishop’s chair in the center apse; he is fond of calling the altar the Table of Communion; the austere ritual of the Carthusians, he (wrongly) thinks, preserves the most ancient liturgical forms. Here is a list we made of elements he repeatedly, if indirectly circles about, indicating either his clear fascination or outright preference for them, so that they become “talking points” of his observations:

  • The desirability of communion under two species; communion of priest and laity from the same Host
  • The full Pre-mass procession with water blessing, sprinkling of the people, and visitation of the chapter house
  • Candles: for lighting, not for mystical reasons.
  • Afternoon Tenebrae is a irrational mistake.
  • Ablutions that involve drinking water/wine used to rinse the fingers is unsanitary.
  • The bishop’s chair should be simple and stand behind the altar in the apse, as in antiquity.
  • Altars should be bare (no decoration, retable, candles) outside the celebration of Mass.
  • The reredos is an innovation, and further breaks up visibility in the sanctuary.
  • Prayers at the foot of the altar are a modern innovation.
  • The Last Gospel is a modern innovation.
  • The Carthusians preserve the most primitive uses.
  • Full-length prostration on the ground is the true, ancient form of humiliation, not the more modern forms of kneeling or bowing.
  • The excellence of the practice of expulsion and reconciliation of penitents during Lent
  • Use of the Common Preface for Sundays of Lent is more ancient and logical, since they are not fasting days.
  • He loves stations and processions of all kinds (Rogations, Lenten stations, etc), but mentions few devotions to saints.
  • The Hours should be sung separately, as we find in ancient times, not in blocks.
  • On fasting days, there should be no anticipation of Vespers.
  • All should receive communion on Good Friday
  • Mass in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (and frequent exposition in general probably) is a modern innovation and inappropriate.
  • Silent adoration is most fitting, without song or ceremony.

If we compare these points with the agenda of 17th and 18th-century French reformers, there are many parallels. Readers may recall that Voyages’ author was raised at the Abbey of Port-Royal itself, the capital of Jansenism. The ever censorious Guéranger himself accuses de Moléon directly of having been a Jansenist:

“(1718). Le Brun Desmarettes, acolyte, author of the breviaries of Orléans and Nevers. Under the pseudonym Sieur de Moléon, he wrote the interesting Voyages liturgiques de France, ou Recherches faites en diverses villes du royaume. Paris, 1718, in-8°. We owe the latest edition of the book of John of Avranches’ Liber de Officiis Ecclesiasticis to this Jansenist author” (Ins. lit. Vol. II, ch. 22, p. 479).

The fatal link between Jansenism and liturgical reform, which Guéranger was so keen to establish, has been challenged by later scholars. Guéranger tries to paint Jansenism as a crypto-Protestant movement and a haven for enlightened sceptics. This account is echoed by Geoffrey Hull “The Proto-History of the Roman Liturgical Reform,” where he explains the Jansenist liturgical project. In a word, the Jansenists’

“habit of regarding Saint Augustine as a theological oracle led them to idolize the Church of the age in which he lived, the fifth century. If Catholics ought to follow the teachings of Saint Augustine…then they should also seek to emulate in their churches the worship of this golden age of Christianity. Hence the heretics’ contempt for the theology and liturgy of the Middle Ages.”

Modern historians are more cautious in their assessments of Jansenism as a movement. What is still a consensus view, however, is that the Gallican Church as a whole was strongly antiquarian.

The Synod of Pistoia held in the church of S. Benedetto, Pistoia, 1786.

The supposed Jansenists and the antiquarians are both united in their attempt to return to a perceived golden age of ecclesiastical discipline and practice, rejecting what they suspected to have originated in the Middle Ages and especially those ages’ contributions to the liturgical tradition. De Moléon more than once “declines to comment” on practices he finds in medieval ordinals; he wishes that the body of tropes might disappear because of their poor literary quality. The Jansenists’ famous austerity made them partial to severe penances: hence their attempts to restore public penitential rituals like that of Rouen, on which our author lavishes so much attention. De Moléon’s fascination with prostration could be noted here: it approaches the bizarre.

Unlike Protestants, Jansenists and enlightened archeologists did not deny the mystery of the Eucharist or the worship due to it, only wishing for a more moderate use of adoration. They did not deny the distinction between the ministerial and common priesthood, and the Voyages show no indication that there is any unhealthy “separation” between the people and the ministers. De Moléon says little about the people save for frequent observations to the effect of their enthusiastic participation in the liturgical customs of their city. He does not suggest that rood screens or silent canons or the Latin language is a barrier to this participation. Later reformers did aim to make the laity participate more directly in the ceremonies, singing the ordinary along with the priest, printing vernacular missals, removing rood screens, and eliminating silent parts, but such ambitions are not apparent in the Voyages.

So, what are we to say? How right was Guéranger? In my opinion, even while eschewing medieval commentary and some particular rituals, on the whole our traveler admires the contemporary liturgical life of France as a faithful expression of “the most pure and ancient antiquity.” There is only a faint trace of Jungmann’s thorough distaste for the “wild overgrowth” of the “Gothic,” or the inveterate laicism that would characterize later 20th century writers. At least overtly, he does not float in the same channel as Quesnel, De Vert, and other contemporary reformers, though he may be skirting the same banks. On the whole, the picture he paints is of a French people who are deeply engaged in their liturgical life and cathedral chapters that observe the whole office. His “taste” is for antiquity and ceremonial splendor, and this leads him to admire the pontifical liturgies of the middle ages. Admittedly, perhaps he does so because he believes them to be much more ancient than the extant source-books: expressions of the most ancient Gallic liturgies.

Guéranger on the Neo-Gallican Reforms and the Sacred Arts: A Chapter from the Institutions Liturgiques

Today we present a chapter from Prosper Guéranger’s Institutions Liturgiques, wherein he attacks the artistic decadence of the Gallican Church, contrasting it with the sobriety and universality of the Roman rite.

Introduction

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.”[1]

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”[2] 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.”[3] 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!


(excerpt from Ch. XX of Vol. II of the Institutions Liturgiques, 1st edition, Mans, 1861, pp. 428-449)

“The General Character of the Liturgical Innovation in Relation to Poetry, Chant, and Aesthetics in General”

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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[4] said that nothing would be easier than transporting the motifs of the ancient responsories and antiphons onto new texts,[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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[9] 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,[10] 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?[11]

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.

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Fr. Jean Lebeuf

“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[12] more widely or more frequently, especially for the responsories.[13]

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.[14]

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,[15] 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.[16] 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.”[17]

[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[18] degraded the severe majesty and suave mysticism of Catholic artistic subjects with affected grimaces and effeminate poses.

François Boucher, Putti with Birds, c. 1730–1733

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.

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Edmé Bouchardon’s Virgin of Sorrows
Charles-Antoine Bridan, Assumption, Chartres Cathedral

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.

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Parisian Breviary, 1786

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[19] 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,[20] 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.[21] 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,[22] 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!

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Saint-Philippe-du-Roule

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.”[23] 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?”[24]

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.”[25]

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!”[26]

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.”[27]

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,[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

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,[31] 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;[32] and Jean Pontas[33] 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.[34]

(“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.”[35]

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.”[36]

[Conclusion]

But it is time to conclude this chapter with the following considerations:

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

NOTES:

[1] Peter Raedts, “Prosper Guéranger O.S.B (1805–1875) and the Struggle for Liturgical Unity,” 336.

[2] O’Malley, 74.

[3] Raedts, 337.

[4] French theologian, one-time Curé of Calais

[5] Projet d’un nouveau Bréviaire, p. 189

[6] 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.

[7] 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!”

[8] 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.

[9] “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.”

[10] 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.

[11] Traité théorique et pratique du plain-chant appelé Grégorien, pp. 4-5

[12] Composers of plainchant.

[13] Traité historique et pratique sur le Chant ecclésiastique, p. 50

[14] 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.

[15] It was the only musical proper this Missal retained (besides the sequences) whose text was not taken from Scripture.

[16] The regency between 1715 and and 1723, when King Louis XV was a minor and the Kingdom was ruled by the Philippe d’Orléans.

[17] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Complete Dictionary of Music, translated by William Waring, pp. 65-66 (1779)

[18] 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.

[19] Begun in 1676.

[20] Begun in 1646.

[21] The Revolution interrupted its construction, and it was finished by Napoleon in 1806 as the Temple to the Glory of the Great Army. In 1842, King Louis-Philippe had it consecrated as a church.

[22] 1774-1784

[23] Foinard. Projet d’un nouveau Bréviaire, page 64.

[24] Page 93.

[25] Robinet. Lettre d’un Ecclésiastique à son Curé sur le plan d’un nouveau Bréviaire, page 2.

[26] Collet. Traité de l’Office divin [1822], page 92.

[27] Ibidem, page 106.

[28] L’Ami de la Religion, tome XXVI. Sur la réimpression du Bréviaire de Paris, page 294.

[29] Recall that the Breviary of Cahors was Robinet’s, and also followed in Carcassonne and Mans.

[30] 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.)

[31] De Servorum Dei Beatificatione et Beatorum Canonizatione, lib. IV, part. II, cap. XIII.

[32] A theologian of the Sorbonne.

[33] A moral theologian.

[34] Catalani. Commentarius in Pontificale Romanum, tome I, p. 189. We offer this translation with all due respect to Dom Guéranger.

[35] 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.)

[36] 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.

 

 

Lebrun: The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

THE FIRST PART OF THE MASS

The Public Preparation at the Foot of the Altar

Sinai

This first part of the Mass contains three things 1. The desire to go up to the altar with confidence in God’s good will. 2. The confession of one’s faults. 3. Prayers to obtain their remission and the grace to ascend the altar with complete purity. These preparatory prayers take place at the foot of the altar, or often at a slight distance from the altar, since they are meant as a preparation for going there. They are mentioned in the Missals only very rarely, and are absent entirely from the first Roman Orders. The six ancient Orders printed by Fr. Mabillon tell us that the bishop, after dressing in the sacristy and signaling the choir to chant the Introit psalm, went first to the head of the choir with all his officers; that he made a bow there,[1] made a sign of the cross on his front, gave a sign of peace to his officers, and stood for some time in prayer before making the sign to the chanter to say the Gloria Patri; that then he advanced to the steps of the altar,[2] and there asks pardon for his sins;[3] that the ministers, except for the acolytes and thurifers, remain kneeling and praying with him; and that he continued to pray until the repetition of the Introit verse.[4]

None of these ancient Ordines describes the prayers of the preparation. In the Latin Church they are not found in writing before the ninth century, being left to the private devotion of the bishops and priests to say them either individually and silently[5] or with the other ministers. No council or pope prescribed the form or terms of these prayers, any more than the moment when they should take place. Some have performed them in a particular chapel, as it is done today at Tours at the tomb of St. Martin; others do it in the choir, as at Laon and Chartres, or at the entrance of the sanctuary, far from the altar, as at Soissons and Châlons-sur-Marne; others at the left or Gospel side of the altar upon entering, as the Carthusians who have taken many of their usages from Vienne and Grenoble; finally, others do them in the sacristy, as at Reims.[6] Various bishops have determined the place they are to be said and used whatever prayers were convenient for their devotion. This is why these prayers differ in their wording and content. Since the ninth century they have been included in some Missals, and more commonly in Pontificals, Manuals, or Ordinaries of the churches. We must look for them there, at least until the 14th century.

These preparatory prayers pertain as much to the assistants as to the priest, and they are said publicly at the foot of the altar, so that no one need assist at Mass without preparation.

Carthusian Rite Confiteor.jpg
Carthusian Confiteor (Source)

NOTES:

[1] Pertransit Pontifex in caput scholae et inclinat caput ad altare, surgens et orans (Ordo Romanus I; Mus. Ital. p. 8) In caput scholae et in gradu superiore (Ordo Romanus II; p. 43); In tribunal Ecclesiae (Ordo Romanus III; p. 56).

[2] Non prolixa completa oratione… annuat cantori ut Gloria dicat: ipse vero ductus a diaconibus pergat ante altare, inclinatisque ad orationem cunctis, stantibus acolythis cum candelabris et thuribilus, etc (Ordo Romanus V; p. 66).

[3] Inclinans se Deum pro peccatis suis deprecetur (Ordo VI; p. 71).

[4] Pontifex orat super ipsum oratorium [prie-Dieu] usque ad repetitionem versus (Ordo I; p. 8). Stat semper inclinatus usque ad versum prophetalem (Ord. II; p. 43).

[5] Pontifex concelebrat interim secreto orationem ante altare inclinatus (Ord. III; p. 56).

[6] See Meurier, writing in 1585, “Sermon 6” and the Ceremonial reprinted in 1637.