We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Unity and Depth

Is the multi-year Lectionary of the Novus Ordo, containing vastly greater quantities of Scripture, superior to the old one-year Lectionary of the usus antiquior? For a very long time, this question was hardly taken seriously, its answer being assumed to be a self-evident yes. It is therefore gratifying to see more and more people awakening to the seriousness of the question and undertaking comparisons and studies, rather than assuming, in a distinctively modern fashion, that bigger is better.

Decades' worth of experience with both lectionaries has led me, in fact, to just the opposite conclusion: the new Lectionary is unwieldy and hard to come to terms with, whereas the old cycle of readings is beautifully proportioned to its liturgical purpose and to the natural rhythm of the year. The regular and comforting recurrence of the readings helps the worshiper absorb their teaching ever more deeply.

One who immerses himself in the traditional liturgy becomes aware that its annual readings, over time, are becoming bone of one’s bone, flesh of one’s flesh. One begins to think of certain months and seasons of the year, certain Sundays or categories of saints in tandem with their fixed readings, which open up their meaning more and more to the devout soul. If the Word of God has an infinite depth to it, the traditional liturgy bids us stand beside the same well year by year, dropping down our bucket into it, and in that way awakening to an inexhaustible depth that may not be so clear to someone who is dipping his bucket into different places of a stream over the course of two or three years ...

A wider selection of readings could have been (and can still be) incorporated into the old missal, without destroying the correlations I am defending. There could be a more ample distribution of pertinent readings for martyrs, virgins, popes, confessors, doctors, etc. Even with such a distribution, however, the profound unity of the liturgy will be perfectly maintained whenever the fitting harmony of prayers, antiphons, readings, and Ordinary is respected throughout. Specific propers and readings could be appointed for certain saints, emphasizing the contemplative vocation of one or the missionary vocation of another; but again, all with a view towards the integrity of the liturgy as a coming together of the communion of saints to celebrate victory already accomplished and victory yet to be achieved.

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