Monday, August 23, 2010

Paul VI and the New Office

Last week, I was reading something online which led me to read something else which led me to read the apostolic constitution, Laudis Canticum, from Pope Paul VI. Laudis Canticum is the document promulgating the post-conciliar edition of the Divine Office. You should read it. A side note, I have oftentimes thought of Pope Paul VI as a sad character. Some people think he was horrible. But when I think of the man, I am just saddened.

One thing we always hear is this: "Vatican II never did away with Latin! Just read the documents and you'll see!"

Ok that is technically true. But there is also a lie we tell ourselves when from our love for traditional liturgy and language we try and convince ourselves that the council fathers had no idea what was coming next. Enter Laudis Canticum.

There is some beautiful language elsewhere in the document regarding the Office, but here our focus is the final paragraph:

We hereby decree that this new book for the Liturgy of the Hours may be put into use as soon as it is published. Meanwhile, the conferences of bishops are to see to the preparation of editions of this liturgical work in the vernacular and, after approval, that is, confirmation, of these editions by the Apostolic See, are to fix the date when the vernacular editions may or must be used,[! in usum recipi possint vel debeant] either in whole or in part. Beginning on the effective date for use of these versions in vernacular celebrations, only the revised form of the Liturgy of the Hours is to be followed, even by those who continue to use Latin. [and the Old Not Abrogated: ] For those however who, because of advanced age or for special reasons, [Conscientious objection?] experience serious difficulties in observing this new Order, it is lawful to continue to use the former Roman Breviary, in whole or in part, with the consent of their Ordinary, but only when reciting the Office alone.

Maybe I am misreading this, but it appears the pope gave the conferences of bishops the power to mandate the vernacular use of the Divine Office in their countries. He may even have expected it. Notice the follwing language, "for those who continue to use Latin." He knew exactly that Latin was all but being put out of use, but he didn't abolish the practice. He also allowed some to continue praying the traditional office but not in public.

I think a lot of what was done after the Council was done in good faith. But it was done with bad manners, poor execution, and naive optimism for the future. The men of the time were looking at the world around them and thought they had to update everything in the Church. They looked at the traditions and said "Oh yes, we appreciate that, but we want this. Voila, it is renewed." Perhaps I am being uncharitable. I know I am being simplistic.

The new Liturgy of the Hours isn't all bad. Yes some psalms were picked apart, removed or mangled, historic hymns and antiphons were all but obliterated, the vast amount of options have left it nearly formless, but there is some good here. The patristic readings during the Office of Readings (Matins now renamed...) are great. On Saturday I used the LOTH because I wanted to celebrate Pius X. Ironically his reading for the day was from Divino Afflatu, which was his letter promulgating a new Divine Office. He letter, as does Paul VI's, has some beautiful parts to it. He was not so nice to the edition previous to his however....

From Pius X, Divino afflatu:
Therefore, by the authority of these letters, we first of all abolish the order of the psaltery as it is at present in the Roman breviary, and we absolutely forbid the use of it after the 1st day of January of the year 1913. From that day in all the churches of secular and regular clergy, in the monasteries, orders, congregations and institutes of religious, by all and several who by office or custom recite the canonical hours according to the Roman breviary issued by St. Pius V and revised by Clement VIII, Urban VIII and Leo XIII, we order the religious observance of the new arrangement of the psaltery in the form in which we have approved it and decreed its publication by the Vatican printing press. At the same time we proclaim the penalties prescribed in law against all who fail in their office of reciting the canonical hours everyday; all such are to know that they will not be satisfying this grave duty unless they use this our disposition of the psaltery.

Paul VI did not do
that when he promulgated the new Liturgy of the Hours. Pope Pius X meant business. For the new LOTH, we find this in the reading from Pius X, from Divino Afflatu, in the Sanctoral Cycle:

It is beyond question that the psalms composed under divine inspiration, which are collected in the sacred books, have from the beginning of the Church not only contributed wonderfully to foster the piety of the faithful offering the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to his name (Heb 13:15), but have also had a conspicuous part, from custom introduced under the old law, in the sacred liturgy itself and in the divine office. Hence, as Basil says, that natural voice of the Church (Homil. In Ps. I, no. 2,) and the psalmody called by our predecessor Urban VIII (in Divinam psalmodiam) the daughter of her hymnody which is constantly sung before the throne of God and the Lamb, [Think about that next time you pray the Office] and which, according to Athanasius, teaches the men whose chief care is the divine worship the manner in which God is to be praised and the words in which they are fitly to confess him (Epist. Ad Marcellinum in interpret. Psalmor no. 10). [I love this next quote:] Augustine beautifully says on the subject: “That God may be praised well by man, God himself has praised himself; and since he has been pleased to praise himself man has found the way to praise him (In Psalm. Cxliv. No. 1).

It is worth reading the whole thing. I especially like this quote, not included but directly following the LOTH reading in the actual text of Pius X:

With good reason was provision made long ago, by decrees of the Roman Pontiffs, by canons of the councils, and by monastic laws, that members of both branches of the clergy should chant or recite the entire psaltery every week. [It was an ancient practice. This was done away with in the new Divine Office.] And this same law, handed down from antiquity, our predecessors St. Pius V, Clement VIII and Urban VIII religiously observed in revising the Roman breviary. Even at present the psaltery should be recited in its entirety within the week were it not that owing to the changed condition of things such recitation is frequently hindered.

They certainly weren't going to include that part in the Liturgy of the Hours. God be praised, Pope Benedict XVI has allowed almost universal use of Pope John XXIII's rubrics of Pius X's Psalter. Of course that is another can of worms.

I am not saying by the way, that if you use the new Liturgy of the Hours to sanctify your day you are doing anything bad. I am merely interested here in the recent history and development of the Divine Office which is a central part of my spiritual life. Hopefully I'll get to some more writing on this subject soon.


Jérôme said...


This is a nice post.

We all know that a 4-week psalter in not traditional and we also know what's wrong with Liturgia Horarum.

I personaly sing daily lauds and vespers with Heures Grégoriennes from Communauté Saint-Martin (which add missing verses!) as well the new Antiphonale Romanum from Solesmes.
And it is a real pleasure, despite its drawbacks.

I tried to pray with the monastic antiphonary because I believed a one week psalter is a good thing just like you do. But, as a lay person, it is too much a burden. And it takes to much time to sing so you I had to read it and do it quickly which gave me a bad feeling.

I'm happy the 1961 breaviary is officialy back for priests, but I think it is not adapted to lay persons.
I know many lay persons praying the Liturgy of the Hours, so I'm convinced the reform was good in this regard.

In the future, the best would be to have the one week psalter back, with all psalms, with adaptations in order to spread psalms over 2 or 4 weeks. (just like the monastic A,B,C,D schema)
I'm confident that the Church will come up with something like that.

Usually, I can see many 1961 breviary users bashing Liturgia Horarum and it saddens me because one shall not reject the Church's prayer. On the contrary, there is a broad liturgical choice these days and that shoud contribute to peace.

Happy praying !

Matt said...

Hi Jerome,

Thanks for your great comment. I can see how singing the office as a layman in the world would take a longer time in the older versions.

I have found that in reciting the office, rather than singing it, the 1961 Breviary isn't all that difficult. Vespers for instance takes about 7 minutes at a normal, unhurried pace. Matins this morning with the III Nocturns took me approximately 30 minutes. Singing them would have taken much longer.

As I said there are good aspects to the reform but there are some really bad ones too. Perhaps in a future post I'll elaborate on that a bit more.

For those who pray it regularly, the modern Office can be a great source of prayer and daily sanctification and I would never begrudge anyone who takes the time to say that Office amid the daily struggles of lay-life. So I hope you don't think I was bashing it.

Jérôme said...

Dear Matt,

I don't think you were bashing it. I can notice that your posts are usually objective and non offensive. Nice from you!

But it is nonetheless important to focus on what the Church is giving to us, and the best we can do with it. After all, the Pope himself is using Liturgia Horarum and seems kind of holy to me :-)

I mostly follow the Novus Ordo (without excluding the EF I do attend to, from time to time), and LH is better connected to it.
All in all, I do agree with most criticisms about the liturgical reform, especially the one of the breviary (I could mention the use of the Nova Vulgata; the revision of the Vulgate has gone too far in my point of view).
So the 1961 breviary being back is useful.

But the more I focus on what's right and what's wrong, the less I pray.
So, I do trust the Church, being confident things will go back on the line sooner or later.


Rich said...

I'd be interested in that blogpost about your take on the reforms. I have my own opinions, and my own reservations about things, but it is nice to have another person's perspective. Not many people are aware of the liturgical reforms, the few that are are usually focused on the Mass. So, finding Catholics who have a grasp of the reforms of the Office are rare.

I've been praying the Monastic Diurnal, but I have to attend an OF the discrepancy is pretty schizo. I'm asking my pastor if I can borrow his Liturgia Horarum, and I hope that this will be a reasonable compromise if I decide to purchase (at a ridiculous price from paxbook....yeesh!).

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton