Sunday, 16 August 2009

Mass of the Assumption...

Yesterday evening, I spent some time comparing the Proper texts for the Feast of the Assumption from my 1962 Missal with my 1945 Missal. The Mass Propers were changed in 1950 because of the dogmatisation of the doctrine of the Assumption. It interests me to compare the great number of differences between the Traditional Roman Rite and the 1962 Rite. A friend of mine, a sincere Catholic according to his fashion, once tried to persuade me (when I was even more ignorant of these changes than I am now) that the only ''major'' difference was that the Confiteor was not said before the Communion of the faithful! How wrong he was I later discovered.

The traditional Propers for the Feast of the Assumption are incredibly beautiful (and relevant to the Feast!). An example (the Introit):

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore beatae Mariae Virginis: de cuius Assumptione gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. Ps. Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi. Gloria Patri. (Let all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a feast day in honour of Blessed Mary the Virgin: of whose Assumption the Angels rejoice, and greatly praise the Son of God. Ps. My heart has proclaimed a good word: I speak my works to the King. Glory to the Father.).

This was changed to:

Signum magnum apparuit in caelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus eius, et in capite eius corona stellarum duodecim. Ps. Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit. Gloria Patri. (A great sign appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with the Sun, and the Moon under her feet, and on hear head a crown of twelve stars. Ps. Sing to the Lord a new canticle: for He has made wonders. Glory to the Father.).

What is gained by making this unwarranted change? It is often alleged that the New Rite is more ''Scriptural'' than the Old Rite. If they mean that there is more rather meaningless Scripture littered about the Rites (to possibly compensate for the wanton eradication of many traditional and meaningful Psalms absorbed into the Ordinary) then I can perhaps see what they mean. But the Catholic faith is not Protestant. Our divine faith is not confined uncomfortably to the Bible. The Introit of this beautiful Mass is a fruit of centuries of Catholic devotion, which is orthodox, apostolic and pious. Its abandonment represents a shocking departure from the Western liturgical Tradition which no words of any modern liturgist can allay. In my opinion, the new Propers are simply not worthy of the Feast.


  1. Despite the editing and snipping done to the '62, don't get too overwrought - compared to the Novus Ordo (which I have no choice but to attend, to fulfil my Sunday obligation), it's heaven.

    In the interests of making the Mass of the Assumption somewhat more explicitly about the Assumption, rather too many changes were made.

    Annoyingly, the old Secret, which alluded to the death of the Virgin, was changed:

    Subveniat, Domine, plebi tuae Dei Genetricis oratio: quam etsi pro conditione carnis migrasse cognoscimus, in coelesti gloria apud te pro nobis intercedere sentiamus. Per...

    (May the prayer of the Mother of God aid Thy people, O Lord: and although we know her to have passed out of this life, fulfilling the lot of the flesh, may we experience her intercession for us with Thee in Heavenly glory. Through...)

    Furthermore, attesting to the united belief of East and West, and illustrating the age-old manner of reading the Scriptures, the pre-1950 Gospel was the same as that used in the Byzantine Rite (which also adds St Luke xi, 27-28).

    The Communion, linked to the Gospel, is particularly poignant:

    Optimam partem elegit sibi Maria: quae non auferetur ab ea in aeternum.

    (Mary hath chosen for herself the better part: which shall not be taken from her forever.)

    Interestingly, however, the Introit Gaudeamus (with suitable changes of a few words) was originally composed for St Agatha.

  2. For those of us who regard Liturgical Theology as primary theology, in the school of Kavanagh, Schmemann, Taft, Fagerberg etc., the re-writing of the texts is a classic inversion of priorities and principles. The tradition of the Church in its liturgy should have informed the Dogma, not the other way around.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Patricius that the new texts are inferior and even detract from the feast. As Joshua points out elements were once common to East and West (and was not St. John of Damascus what we would call Eastern?) and it is sad to just break those traditions.

    I also find it strange and unreconcilable to think of the millions of Fourth Glorious Mysteries that were offered prior to 1 Nov 1950 the offerers did not know with certainty they were not praying a lie.

    Unlike Joshua I believe the 1970-2002 Mass formular is superior to that of 1950. The optional use of Gaudeamus is a start, the additional reading helps I feel along with the substitution of a Pauline Epistle to Judith. What a Jewish princess who decapitated her enemies has to do with the BVM evades me. The proper preface too is an improvement.

  3. Having gone over the three Propers, I see how the modern Mass formulary is very similar to the new 1950 Proper:

    Ant. ad introit. - either "Signum magnum" (1950) or "Gaudeamus" (pre-1950), but in both cases, the verse and Gloria Patri is optional. Of course, in the Novus Ordo it is very rare for either to be chanted; and otherwise these anthems would only be read (one hopes) at a Mass without singing.

    Collect: "O. s. Deus, qui immaculatam" - the new 1950 prayer is still used in the modern Mass (a vernacular alternative is proposed, but I believe this and all like it will be dropped when the new English trans. comes out)

    The modern Mass provides a passage from the Apocalypse that is at least apposite; but ever since I was a child, I've been puzzled by the Pauline text given. Obviously the 1950 text from Judith is meant to be read as a typological prophecy of the Blessed Virgin, who fulfilled the Protoevangelium since the Son she brought forth destroyed the empery of the Devil.

    The pre-1950 and 1950 Graduals, and also the modern Resp. Psalm, all use more or less the same parts of the mystic marriage-song that is Psalm 44. (At a modern Mass, the 1950 Gradual may still be sung.)

    I think the pre-1950 Gospel (esp, in its Byzantine form) is better than the 1950 pericope, and its enlargement in the modern Mass.

    The pre-1950 Offertory "Assumpta est" is better than the 1950 ("Inimicitias ponam", quoting the Protoevangelium), and if the modern Mass is chanted, it is the pre-1950 Off. that is appointed to be sung.

    The 1950 Secret is the same as the modern Prayer over the Gifts (i.e. Oblations): "Ascendat ad te". But, since the modern Collect essentially says the same thing, it is a great pity that the pre-1950 Secret, "Subveniat Domine plebi" is not retained instead.

    I will agree that the modern Proper Preface for the Assumption is quite excellent - purists will grimace, but I agree with those decisions of the Pope, PCED et al, that allow modern Prefaces to be used at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass: this is an enrichment, not an impoverishment (though, I think the eschatocols of the new Prefaces should be adjusted to match the traditional ones).

    The pre-1950 Communion, "Optimam partem", well-matched the former Gospel passage, bringing out its mystical signification; the 1950 and the modern Mass formularies unite in using "Beatam me dicent", mirroring their choice of the Gospel of the Visitation and the Magnificat.

    The pre-1950 Postcommunion, "Mensæ cælestis participes", was replaced in 1950 with "Sumptis Domine salutaribus" - which is still used in the Novus Ordo, except that the words "merita et" are deleted! Apparently not even the Virgo Assumpta has merits these days.