Friday, October 23, 2015

Another Posting On Why The Revised Rites of Vatican II Are Better Than The Unreformed Pre-Conciliar Rites

Reason 6 of why the current liturgical rites are superior to the pre-Conciliar rites is that the liturgy walks us through the cycle of Christ’s birth, life, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection and sending the Holy Spirit. 
Of course the pre-Conciliar rites also took us through the anticipation of Christ’s Incarnation (Advent), The Mystery of his Incarnation (Christmas) his teaching (Sundays after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost) and the Paschal Mystery of his Suffering, Death and Resurrection (Septuagesima, Lent, Easter and Pentecost), but it was a very different experience.  In the first place the 1970 revision uses a three-year cycle of readings that literally triples the amount of Gospel and Scripture readings to which we are exposed in the Sunday Liturgy.  (The Daily Lectionary is a two-year cycle which therefore increases the scriptures used at daily Mass by 50% as the Gospels are the same in both years.)  The expanded Lectionary not only exposes us to more of the Word of God, but gives us the same narratives of the life and teaching of Jesus from the perspectives of the different Evangelists. 
In addition to the expanded Lectionary and the more extended use of Scripture readings, the faithful actually hear the readings.  While the custom before the Council was generally that the Gospel be read a second time in the vernacular on Sundays, at daily Mass the readings were simply read sotto voce by the priest at the altar and in Latin, meaning that only if the faithful had a daily missal with them could they access the readings.  And it was not unknown in the “old Mass” that not even the Gospel was read to the people in their own language.  It only mattered that the priest “say the Mass” as he “said it for us” and we were onlookers to the sacred action. We had neither to hear nor to comprehend but only to be present.   
Another example of how little we were exposed to the scriptures before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council is that it was the common practice that whenever possible the Requiem Mass be said for the person for whom the stipend was being offered.  The readings for the Requiem Mass did not change from day to day but were always the exact same reading.  It was entirely possible that from a Monday through a Saturday, the same Epistle and Gospel were read at Mass each day.
When there was a feast that pre-empted the opportunity to use the Requiem Mass, the readings were almost always from the propers of that feast, or more exactly the “commons” of the particular genre to which the saint of the day belonged.  So if the feast were that of a Virgin Martyr such as Saint Cecilia, the exact same readings were used for several dozen other feasts through the year—Saints Ursula, Barbara, Lucy, Perpetua, Agatha, etc.  Same for Bishop Confessors: Martin, Patrick, Ambrose, Gregory, Leo.   Same for Martyrs: George, Vincent, Justin, Ignatius, etc.  Greater Apostles (Peter, Paul, John) might have their particular readings, or at least a particular Gospel, but the majority of them—Jude, Simon, Matthias, Thomas, etc tended to get lumped together with the same readings, or at least for their Epistles.  And of course Saturdays were the Votive Mass of Our Lady with the same readings each week.  All in all, it was a tiny portion of the New Testament that was read at Mass and little, if any, of the Old. 
Lent was extended with the addition of Septuagesima—a period of three weeks affixed to the First Sunday of Lent.  This took three Sundays where the Vatican II Liturgy focuses on the teaching and miracles of Jesus and added them to the focus on his Passion and Death.  This deemphasizes discipleship in favor of our being passive onlookers to the Passion and Death of the Lord. 
All in all the pre-Conciliar Rites minimized the importance of the Scriptures and restricted liturgical access to them in favor of the priest offering the Sacrifice on our behalf but without our active participation.  It fit the needs of the sixteenth century where the bulk of Catholics were illiterate and uncatechized but it also kept the faithful from growing in their faith and committing themselves to active discipleship.  

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