Did the pre-Vatican II Mass really have more Scripture than now?

Over at Chant Cafe, I just read a claim which is often made about the quantity of Scripture in the pre-Vatican II Mass compared to the reformed rite:

Contrary to some underinformed claims, the 1962 Missal contains far more Scripture than is heard at those Ordinary Form Masses in which the proper texts are omitted. This is because the proper texts are almost always composed entirely of Scripture. Instead of one Responsorial Psalm, the proper texts of the Mass offer the equivalent of 5.

I thought it’d be interesting to do the math once. So I made a little chart with the 1962 Scripture readings (including the propers) on the left and the reformed lectionary readings (presuming no propers) on the right for the coming Sunday, July 7. Here it is. (I put both columns in Latin to level the playing field, since number of words and length of syllables might be longer in a vernacular language compared to Latin.)

As you see, the reformed Mass wins, hands down. To be sure, appropriation of Scripture is about much more than it’s quantity at liturgy. But that’s the question at hand here.

I suspect this Sunday, July 7, 2013,  is fairly typical – but if someone out there has the time to do the math for every Sunday of the year, I’d welcome the additional data.

Of course there are several other important factors possibly muddying the waters. It’s possible that the post-Vatican II Mass have locally-chosen songs at entrance, preparation of offerings, and communion with loads of Scripture (think St. Louis Jesuits, but not only them), doubling or tripling the Scripture quantity. It’s possible that the lay worshiper at the old rite not have a hand missal with vernacular translation (no one did before the late 19th century, almost no one did before the 1930s, many still didn’t in the 1950s), and so not hear or understand one syllable of Scripture at the entire liturgy – this would have been the case for most lay Catholics throughout most of liturgical history. (For most of history, most of them wouldn’t have been able to read and would have taken in only what was read aloud to them.) The Latin Scripture readings were sometimes read aloud a second time in vernacular translation before Vatican II – but not for most of history. Also, in a few rare cases the old proper texts are not taken from Scripture.

But to stay with the question at hand, and to judge strictly by comparing the number of characters of Scriptural text on a given Sunday: unless if I’m missing something, the reformed three-year lectionary offers more Scripture than the old missal did, even with its Scriptural propers. If others can correct or improve my understanding, I welcome it.



52 responses to “Did the pre-Vatican II Mass really have more Scripture than now?”

  1. Vic Romero Avatar
    Vic Romero

    Father Felix Just, SJ, in his excellent website on the Lectionary, has done just what Fr. Ruff seems to have in mind:

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      @Vic Romero – comment #1:
      Thanks for the helpful link.
      But note that Fr. Just is comparing lectionary to lectionary. The claim that the old Mass has more Scripture refers to not just the old lectionary, but also the Scriptural propers in the old Missal.

  2. Vic Romero Avatar
    Vic Romero

    Chapters: 89, Verses: 3,779

    Pre-Vatican II Missal:
    848 verses used, 22.4 %

    Current Lectionary, Sundays, Major Feasts:
    2,184 verses used, 57.8 %

    Current Lectionary, Sundays & Weekdays:
    3,393 verses used, 89.8 %

    Chapters: 61, Verses: 1,493

    Pre-Vatican II Missal:
    270 verses used, 18.1 %

    Current Lectionary, Sundays, Major Feasts:
    468 verses used, 31.3 %

    Current Lectionary, Sundays & Weekdays:
    846 verses used, 56.7 %

    Data: http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm

  3. Charles Weaver Avatar
    Charles Weaver

    I like both lectionaries and don’t really care which one wins, but one consideration comes to mind.

    What if you included the ordinary items that come from scripture? If you add the psalm judica me with its antiphon and the last gospel, I think it would be more even, no? I suppose these aren’t physically heard by the congregation (at a solemn mass, at least), but they are said aloud at nearly every mass according to the 1962 missal.

  4. Richard Malcolm Avatar
    Richard Malcolm

    The idea of counting the scripture in the propers is an interesting notion. But I’m prepared in any case to say that the answer is “no.”

    And I think that is actually a good thing, not a bad thing. But I have made my arguments against the three year lectionary already here, and I will not belabor the point.

  5. Steve Adams Avatar
    Steve Adams

    Hasn’t Paul Ford also done the math? I remember a presentation of his a few years ago with a chart and the percentages. But maybe that was comparing something else.

  6. Matthew Hazell Avatar

    People may find some of the work I have done on my blog handy if they want to do some comparisons between the Missals in this regard. I have gone a step further than Fr Just (his website is really great, not just for lectionary stuff!) and compiled a table of all the propers and readings in the EF, organised by the liturgical year, as well as a scriptural index for the same.

    The PDF files and other resources can be found in the right-hand side bar at catholiclectionary.blogspot.co.uk. Everything is free to download and use – I hope people find it helpful!

    My quick take on Fr Ruff’s question would be that typically, there is more scripture in terms of quantity at the OF, but since the propers are often omitted in the OF, there is more variety at the EF.

  7. Phil Eichorn Avatar
    Phil Eichorn

    If it’s just number of words you’re counting, then you should have tossed in the Last Gospel, which would have evened things up a bit. But I doubt even the most ardent traditionalist would claim that there’s a greater variety of Scripture in the old Mass. The point they’re making is that scripture passages remains woven throughout the fabric of the old Mass from beginning to end, and aren’t confined to a defined portion of the ‘liturgy of the Word’, which is what generally happens when vernacular hymns replace the introit and communion antiphons. Some would also maintain that certain ‘hard sayings’ also disappeared from the new lectionary (see http://ccfather.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-unread-gospels.html and http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1120138/posts). Furthermore, some traditionalists would maintain that scripture in the Mass is primarily intended as prayer rather than for public instruction, which seems to be the underlying assumption here.

    All that said, in my opinion the expanded lectionary could have been the single great success of the new Mass. However, it could and should have been devised in line with the traditional calendar; the new calendar, with its loss of saints’ days (consonant with the downplaying of saints in the new liturgy itself) and the horrible concept of ‘Ordinary Time’ (with loss of pre-Lent Sundays, Sundays after Pentecost, octaves, etc) is greatly inferior and the biggest rupture with tradition. Without the new calendar, it would be quite easy to synthesise the new and old missals in a way that wouldn’t please everyone (nothing ever does) but would please a lot more people than is the case now.

    PS…Why do you repeat the old canard ‘no one [had have a hand missal with vernacular translation] before the late 19th century’? This simply isn’t true. You can find one on Internet Archive, or even buy one at abebooks.co.uk if you like—at least, there’s an one for sale as of this morning (though at £475, I’d stick with one of the…

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      @Phil Eichorn – comment #8:
      Hi Phil,

      Regarding hand missal with vernacular translation, I had in mind the famous Schott in German. I neglected various other books that had parts of the Latin Mass in vernacular. Can you tell us more about this? And do we have info based on press runs about how much they were used? My sense is that much less than 1% of the faithful every had a translation with them at Mass before the 19th century, but is there evidence otherwise?


      1. Phil Eichorn Avatar
        Phil Eichorn

        You’d think someone, somewhere must have written the history of vernacular translations of missals for the laity (maybe a doctoral dissertation?), but it hasn’t hit the best-seller lists. As for what percentage of mass-goers used them, obviously that would depend on the time and place, and estimates would depend on what sources are available as evidence.

        But it’s very easy to find vernacular missals thanks to Mr Internet:

        Here’s an English/Latin “Roman Missal, for the Use of the Laity” from 1806 (London): http://archive.org/details/a550137400unknuoft

        And here’s a German one from 1783 (Vienna): http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb10590967_00041.html.

        Here’s a real interesting one from France: ftp://ftp.bnf.fr/004/N0046398_PDF_1_-1DM.pdf. This was published in 1792, in the early years of the French Revolution. The king was executed that same year but this must have been published earlier, when there was still a constitutional monarchy. We can tell that because fronts-piece clearly states the book was printed ‘Avec Approbation & Privilège du Roi’ (and also with the permission of the cardinal archbishop of Rouen). This is more than a missal as it contains the breviary and devotional aids for the laity as well (eg, for confession). But if you want the ordinary of the Mass, it starts on pdf page 47. For Christmas midnight Mass, one of my favourites, turn to pdf page 366.

        What intrigues me is where this notion came from, that missals with translations were forbidden. The idea seems to have taken root among Novus Ordo triumphalists, but it was also current among pre-Vatican II vernacularists. Space constraints prevent me from posting more links.

        #17 (Mark)—You’re right that ‘per annum’ has been translated as ‘ordinary time’. But this wasn’t found in the old calendar.

      2. Michael Hartney Avatar
        Michael Hartney

        @Phil Eichorn – comment #25:
        In his well-known 1985 book Grundriß Liturgie (English translation: Fundamentals of Liturgy), Adolf Adam states (chap. 4, section 2) that Trent’s rejection of an all-vernacular liturgy led to a ban on the publication of vernacular translations of the missal even for personal use. He mentions that the ban was repeated in 1851, that Pius IX prohibited translations of the Canon and words of institution in 1857, and that the ban was lifted only in 1897 by Leo XIII.

        This is partly borne out by Dom Guéranger who writes in the preface to his Liturgical Year (begun in 1841): “In order to conform with the wishes of the Holy See, we do not give, in any of the volumes of our ‘Liturgical Year’, the literal translation of the Ordinary and Canon of the Mass.” However, he does give the translation of the proper for each Sunday.

        So was there a ban or not?

      3. Jordan Zarembo Avatar

        @Michael Hartney – comment #33:

        I’m inclined to believe that the Latin-rite Austrian, German, and western Slavic custom of congregational singing of vernacular paraphrases at Tridentine sung Mass derived both from a desire for congregational participation and also a desire to instruct the laity on the meaning of the prayers.

        Interestingly, the logical conclusion to this process of vernacularization is apparent in the earlier Lutheran orders of worship. Luther explicitly permitted pastors to include or omit the Gloria on feasts and Sundays ad libitum. In Scandinavia, the pastor proclaimed the incipit Gloria in excelsis Deo (in the vernacular) before the congregation sang a paraphrase. This is unlike the Latin rite, where the priest-celebrant was required to say the Gloria in a low tone during the congregational hymn.

        As I have written many times, I do think that many anglophone EF adherents would benefit from an English translation and adaptation of the settings for the German and Polish vernacular paraphrases. Granted, this is one of my hobbyhorses. Still, I do believe that the indult for vernacular hymnody at EF sung Mass is still valid. Sadly, I do not think this project would be popular given the general sentiment of many EF adherents.

    2. Mark Miller Avatar
      Mark Miller

      @Phil Eichorn – comment #8:
      I believe that in the Latin, the words are the same for what is now called ordinary time: per annum. Do we say the season ” throughout the year?”
      This was the translation in the Liturgical PRess bi-lingual (1962) Breviary.

    3. Paul R. Schwankl Avatar
      Paul R. Schwankl

      @Phil Eichorn – comment #8:
      I don’t see how it would be possible to revise the lectionary under its present principles to retain Septuagesimatide, Ember Days, and Whitsunweek / the octave of Pentecost from the previous calendar. The current lectionary’s Tempus per Annum, in my understanding, was designed to allow us to contemplate in a sequential way the healing and teaching life of Jesus between the great events of his coming and leaving—with a hiatus for the Lent-Easter season, which comes at a different point in the Tempus per Annum each year. The weekday readings were likewise designed to celebrate Jesus’ life in sequence, one Synoptic gospel at a time, and to treat the other books of Scripture sequentially as well. Maintaining pre-Lent, Ember Days, and Whitsunweek, and insisting on special readings for saints’ memorials on weekdays, would result in even more disruption of the course of those stories than there is now.
      To me, the new lectionary’s richer and more orderly exposition of the message of Scripture, the charter and foundation of our faith, is worth much more spiritually than the maintenance of the full gamut of the medieval calendar (1962 version). I had hoped that my traditionalist brethren would agree.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #44:
        Well, Ember Days are contemplated by the conciliar reforms. The octave of Pentecost could be accommodated in some form. Pre-Lent is the least likely to find any home in the conciliar reforms, because the circumstances under which it took root (a preparation for a preparation for a preparation in an era when the vast bulk of the faithful only communed at Mass on Easter; and acting as a counterpoint to Carnival revelries that now mostly survive only as tourist spectacle here and there).

      2. Paul R. Schwankl Avatar
        Paul R. Schwankl

        @Karl Liam Saur – comment #45:
        True enough, Ember Days and Rogation Days are provided for in the new calendar, as votive celebrations to meet local needs. I believe that means that they can be observed with special prayers but normally with the regular weekday readings (I’d vote for that). If I understand Phil, he wishes that they had been kept in the universal calendar with special readings. I see that as combating the design of the new lectionary.
        A few more points:
        1. Rogation Days, like thanksgiving for harvests, are a fine idea. But unless they are to be purely traditional, they demand local treatment in a church that comprises widely differing growing seasons and both hemispheres.
        2. Before 1970, the Ember Days brought a welcome interposition of special readings for weekdays; nowadays, that treat is handed out every day of the year. In the new lectionary, the scriptural experience of the Advent, Lent, and Pentecost-Week Ember Days is absorbed almost entirely during those seasons. The revered Missa Aurea from Ember Wednesday in Advent is largely preserved in the Fourth Sunday of Advent in year A, when more people can profit from it than on a Wednesday.
        3. The remarks by Phil and others of like mind suggest deep reservations about having the lectionary drive the calendar. I’m unsympathetic to these reservations and wish I understood them.

  8. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    Many of us formed as priests in the 1970’s were taught by liturgists that in a spoken Mass, one shouldn’t say so-called hymns or chants. This usually meant that the Entrance Verse would be omitted if not sung, the Alleluia would not be spoken if not sung, including its verse, and this was applied to the Communion Antiphon as well. Contrast this to the EF Low Mass where nothing is omitted if spoken. So with this ideology, a typical OF Mass that was spoken did eliminate a significant amount of Scripture compared to its EF counterpart.

    But I agree if an OF Mass actually incorporated the official chants, all of them, spoken or chanted, that there would be at least the same amount of Scripture if not more than a typical EF Mass, spoken or chanted.

    I think, though, that most typical parishes in the USA on Sunday substitute metrical hymns in place of the Scriptural Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons, and these hymns are not purely Scripture as some of the St. Louis Jesuit stuff, but may be Biblical or doctrinally based or simply devotional kitsch. In this case, there is much less Scripture today than with a typical Sunday Mass prior to Vatican II in either a spoken or sung Mass. A comparison might be a homily where the priest makes it Bible based but that doesn’t mean that he could then omit the readings of the Mass because he might quote some of those readings in his homily. It’s not the same.

  9. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    An interesting comparison. Obviously both forms of the Mass also have substantial quantities of Scriptural citations in the Order/Ordinary of the Mass. In addition to the elements which are held in common (and would therefore appear in both columns), I suppose for accuracy, the 1962 column should include the fact that the introit verse is repeated after the Gloria Patri; that psalm 42,1-5 is prayed during the prayers at the foot of the altar; that psalm 140,2-4 is prayed during the incensation of the altar at the offertory; that psalm 25,6-12 is prayed during the washing of hands and that John 1,1-14 is read at the end of the Mass.

    1. Father Allan J. McDonald Avatar
      Father Allan J. McDonald

      @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #8:
      Good points! With those additions clearly the EF has much more Scripture than the OF. The Chant Cafe is vindicated!

      1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #9:
        Alan, I tried hard to make my post an exercise in discussion and learning. I regret that you degenerated the discussion into who is “vindicated.” Msgr. Wadsworth’s excellent comments show rather that the comparison is complicated.

        One would have to look at additions to the Order of Mass since 1969 such as Scriptural quotations in the new prayers at Preparation of Offerings, in the revised orations, and Scriptural elements in the new Eucharistic Prayers. That is – if one frames the question as including the unchanging Order of Mass. The question could also be framed not to include this, but to refer to “new Scripture the faithful hear, not the same Scriptural text repeated over and over.”

        I suspect the conclusion might run something like this: the unreformed rite has as much or more Scripture if you tally the big chunks repeated over and over every Sunday (such as the Last Gospel), but the reformed rite has much more Scripture being introduced week by week, even if the propers are tallied in the unreformed rite (and this was the claim I was examining). Repeating the same chunk over and over is not a bad thing, IMHO.

        Then I would add that the above conclusion, as interesting as it is, remains at the level of what’s in the official book. As for what is done locally and what the people appropriate – this is much more difficult to measure. How many people had left by the time of the Last Gospel? How many Scripture-quoting hymns and songs are now done in various places? How many of the faithul know Latin or are following along in a translation? And so forth.

        And for the record: I support the reformist decree of the Second Vatican Council calling for more Scripture in the propers (such as lectionary), and I’m glad we have more Scripture there, even if you tally in the propers of the old rite.


      2. Father Allan J. McDonald Avatar
        Father Allan J. McDonald

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #12:
        If we isolate more Scripture to the revised lectionaries we do have more Scripture in the revised Mass, no doubt about it and that is a blessing and faithful to SC’s vision. But then in simplifying the Order of Mass Scripture that was said every day tied to the order of Mass was removed, ie, Psalm 42, etc, but worse yet the official introit’s, offertory and communion antiphons are made optional by the revised GIRM and defacto have been eliminated by liturgy planners who more often than not use hymns Catholic or Protestant that are more doctrinal and devotional than scriptural.

      3. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #14:
        Whence the claim that the hymns are more doctrinal and devotional than scriptural? I invite you to look at the texts in hymnals and note the wide variety of texts, from Wesley quoting Scripture freely to the SL Jesuits simply quoting (or paraphrasing) Scripture to all the rest of variety.

      4. Father Allan J. McDonald Avatar
        Father Allan J. McDonald

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #15:
        My point, apart from hymns that are purely Scriptural but set to secular tunes, is that these hymns are more like homilies that quote Scripture along with a theological or doctrinal perspective. With newer Catholic music an ideological slant is thrown into the “homily.”

      5. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #20:
        Unless you’re speaking of “Amazing Grace” set to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun,” I think you’ve misdiagnosed. Even if someone like your 11am guitarist, for example, composed a very bad tune vaguely reminiscent of a commercial jingle to set a paraphrase of some Psalm, it wouldn’t be a “secular tune.”

        I’ve seen the assessment of “secular tune” before, and more often it betrays an ignorance about music and likely a lazy use of “secular” as a pejorative synonym for “music I don’t like.”

      6. Aaron Siering Avatar
        Aaron Siering

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        I never notice anyone leaving before the last Gospel at the EF. There are at least a couple of reasons for this: First the NO is a clumsy Mass no matter how reverently it is being celebrated and the final blessing really comese across like it was only an after thought. Second in having the celebrant say the cannon out loud and facing the people we have clearly moved closer to the realm of theatre than liturgy. The NO encourages people to feel like the Mass is there to entertain them. The psychology between the two is just very, very different because of how the cannon is performed–a NO liturgy celebrated ad orientem could close the difference between the two. However as it stands in the EF one isn’t watching the priest perform, but rather supporting him in his performance. All the liturgical actions in the NO challenge the belief in the real presence. So people actively have to struggle against the liturgy itself. All this adds up to people flying out the doors after communion in the NO. Just today, in fact, I “sat in” on a Spanish NO mass while waiting in a pre-line for confession, and I was shocked by how many people bolted right after communion before the blessing. It has been a while sense I’ve been to a NO, and at first I though it was a fairly reverential mass. However the longer I watched the more I realized it was full of Catholics who don’t really believe in the real presence…. So yes not only does everyone stay for the Last Gospel in the EF, but also for the prayers after low mass.

        Also you for your comparison you happened to pick a day of very short readings in the 1962 Missal.

  10. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    Maybe range rather than quantity is a better modality for comparison or comment. Clearly the OF adopts a wider range of Scriptural texts in an obvious fulfilment of what was mandated in Sacrosanctum concilium, yet its presentation of Scripture is often based on quite different principles from those which underpin the EF.

    An example of this would be the almost universal preference for the lectio continua of the ferial lectionary when a memoria is kept, in preference to the selection of readings from the commons. In the EF, this is not a possibility and the range of Scriptural texts associated with the celebration of saints is narrower and yet one might argue that the identification of certain scriptural texts with the celebration of certain mysteries is very ancient and might even be considered part of a primitive liturgical kerygma.

    If this is the case, then the narrower range does not necessarily mean a lessening of the importance of the use of Scripture in the liturgy but rather the presentation of a different paradigm. The combination of Sacrosanctum concilium and Verbum Dei brings a revolution in our understanding of the way in which Scripture is integral to our celebration and understanding of the liturgical mystery. My personal sense of this, as someone who regularly celebrates in both forms, is that we have a long way to go in beginning to experience many of the aspects of this important element of the liturgy as described in these two fundamental decrees of the Council.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #16:
      Range also makes better sense to me. I think we can’t discount that the situation of the world and the Church is likely entering a very critical threshhold, and that a wider range, a greater openness is very much needed at a time when believers from various perspectives are attempting to make sense of life and faith, and to integrate personally and with one another.

      A wise approach to Scripture in the Lectionary and in the Graduals would probably take into account the great spiritual and pastoral needs of the 21st century. Likely, we would also be moved off a monastic emphasis into something that retained the spirit of constant/daily prayer, but was able to engage people more deeply and effectively.

      And lastly, I think we have to take a bit more seriously texts like Isaiah 43:1-3 for example, which appear on many Catholic “favorite” lists in the guise of “You Are Mine” and “Be Not Afraid.” Liturgical reformers would do very well to attend to the Scriptural roots of those contemporary songs. Not in the sense of plunking particular modern repertoire blindly into slots, but more for a discernment of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church: what is speaking to people, and what is moving them toward faith.

      I will comment/poke that this is more of the work I would expect ICEL to be doing, and not just parroting the party line of retrenchment documents and indulging both the unreformed 1962 Missal and the grammatically impoverished 2010 edition.

  11. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    If your concern is legislation in regard to the liturgy and the formulation of the liturgical rites and texts in terms of content then I think your comments are maybe more appropriately addressed to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. ICEL’s contribution is quite simply in the process of translation into English and facilitating the publication of English texts.

    I wasn’t aware that citing two major decrees of Vatican II could be considered “just parroting the party line of retrenchment documents” but I am prepared to accept that others may see things differently. I don’t think the intelligent discussion of the relative characteristics and merits of these two forms of the Roman Rite is necessarily aided by such negative value judgments.

    Certainly the exchange and dialogue concerning these matters relies on being prepared to accept that as individuals our own perceptions are not necessarily infallible. It is for that reason that that the liturgy is always a gift we receive from the Church rather than something we make according to our own individual lights.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #19:
      To clarify: in approaching Liturgiam Authenticam and Redemptionis Sacramentum, I think I have less of a “negative value judgment,” and more a criticism along the lines of both theology and pastoral practice. I certainly think the continuation of the 1962 Missal is a dangerous and divisive innovation.

      I would certainly agree with your last paragraph. And yet, I don’t discern individuals in the CDWDS and Vox Clara as being in the circle you describe. At least not in the sense of that wider sense of tapping the wisdom of a broad section of liturgy and music people. The lack of consultation, just to name one very well documented stumble, suggests to me you may be better off preaching to a different group.

  12. Sean Whelan Avatar
    Sean Whelan

    This is only addressing 22 – but House of the Rising Sun is actually a folk tune that became popular by way of the “oldie” on the radio. I believe it was John Bell who set Psalm 37 to the tune – “Do not be vexed” from GIA, as a recent example. I imagine one would need to catechize the assembly before having the choir sing it!

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Sean Whelan – comment #23:
      I’ve only used it as an informal piece of humor. Among musicians. We laugh, then move on.

      My objection is when people denigrate composers from Ray Repp to John Foley in suggesting that music particularly written for liturgy (or even, in the case of Mr Repp, for catechetical purposes) is “secular.” It suggests they don’t even know what the term means.

  13. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
    Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

    As I coordinate the process of consultation in relation to texts in English throughout almost 800 diocesan bishops in 11 conferences, I can assure you that each of them is entirely free to consult whom they wish in their own diocese. The fact that all do not consult to the same extent is also evident. In addition, we have also always been happy to receive individual commentaries from people who choose to communicate with ICEL directly.

    As you know, the Holy See remains the final authority in determining how the text develops in the process prior to its publication and implementation. These are the parameters of the consultation process as presently constituted and the basis under which the work of ICEL is carried out. We do not determine any of these considerations ourselves, they are established by the conferences individually and collectively in discussion with the Holy See.

    I had misunderstood the reference to ‘retrenchment documents’ to refer to Sacrosanctum concilium and Verbum Dei as these were the documents I had mentioned in the thread on which you commented. I had not appreciated that you were going on to make a further point concerning Liturgiam authenticam, Redemptionis sacramentum and Summorum pontificum – documents of widely different scope and purpose.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #26:
      Thank you Msgr Wadworth for your replies.

      I think that “individual commentaries” are somewhat less fruitful in that they lack a direction and often (but not always) a communal exchange of ideas and experiences.

      Additionally, I think that the “evident” lack of consultation is more a miss in terms of the responsibilities of ICEL & CDWDS & Vox Clara. Less perhaps of a “right” of clergy and laity to have input.

      Circling back to the Scriptures, not only should we be talking about a “range” but also an effective program of preaching, as well as applications to the spiritual life outside of liturgy. Think big, think hopeful, but a discussion for another day …

      1. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth Avatar
        Msgr Andrew Wadsworth

        @Todd Flowerday – comment #27:

        I understand your desire for a wider application of the principle of consultation but do consider for a moment the practical implications of its administration – our Secretariat in DC has a full-time staff of six people who deal continually with every conference that uses liturgical texts in English and every publisher worldwide who publishes liturgical texts in English. Vox Clara is a consultative body that meets for a week a couple of times a year and offers advice to the CDWDS on English texts.

        The consultation you speak of has to be administered more locally through the structure of the local Church (i.e.diocese), hence the notion of encouraging Bishops to consult as widely as they wish. The Church places on Bishops in particular the responsibility of providing texts for their territory, ICEL assists them in meeting that responsibility.

        What is most helpful in any consultation is the commonality of responses and commentaries across a wide geographical area, this helps to give some sense of the constituency for particular views or perceptions in relation to the text and this information is then communicated to the Bishops of our Commission who will know whether a particular observation has been made by a single commentator or many and from a single territory or many.

        The focus of this discussion has been the liturgical text but you rightly extend a consideration to elements such as preaching, one could also usefully and importantly add music. Much food for thought and as you say, a discussion for another day…

  14. Fr. Jan Michael Joncas Avatar
    Fr. Jan Michael Joncas

    I would like to endorse heartily (I would normally have written “to heartily endorse,” but I don’t know what ICEL’s position is these days on split infinitives :-)) Msgr. Wadsworth’s comments in the final paragraph of #16. If I understand his notion of “range” correctly, it might be more useful to come to appreciate the underlying methods by which scripture was appropriated in all of the rites (not just the OF and EF of the Roman Rite). We might also be more careful in our comparisons: it is one thing to compare the number of verses from individual Gospels proclaimed on Sundays in a one-year vs. a three-year lectionary cycle, but it is different to compare the number of scriptural allusions found in the collects of the one-year sacramentary/Missal cycles (especially since we’d have to find some way to agree on how to determine when such allusions [as opposed to citations] are present). Similarly, it is one thing to compare the Sunday Graduals from the MR1570-1962 with the 3-year set of proper Sunday Responsorial Psalms from the MR1970ff (almost always multiple verses of the psalm in addition to the antiphon) but a very different thing to compare limited range of scripture found in the assigned chants (overwhelmingly taken from the Book of Psalms) to the range of scripture found in the lectionary. I know that this thread specifically compares Roman Rite OF and EF, but having read the Pray Tell comments on art. 51 of SC, it seems that we might also want to explore the range and underlying principles of selection in some of the other [reformed] Western and Eastern rites for what they might tell us.

  15. John Behr Avatar
    John Behr

    You don’t list psalm verses for the propers. The Chant Cafe post reasonably asserted that using propers creates several responsorial psalms, so this would probably win the tongue-in-cheek character count… where do they come from? From past experience with OF communion antiphons I know I could create mischief by picking verses (e.g. Ps. 103’s roaring lions thanking God for supper looks like fair game), so surely verses must be prescribed somewhere. ‘Simple English Propers’ has some last week, so I guess the problem is now solved, but in times past I rarely found them in places like Liber Usualis.

    1. Richard Skirpan Avatar
      Richard Skirpan

      @John Behr – comment #30:
      The verses for the Communion antiphons are optional, and are specified (suggested) in the 1974 Graduale Romanum.

      Since you mentioned the Liber Usualis, the verses in the EF are found in the 1962 Versus Psalmorum et Canticorum, which also includes additional verses for the Introit beyond the single one given in the Graduale and/or Liber Usualis.

      1. John Behr Avatar
        John Behr

        @Richard Skirpan – comment #31:
        thanks for the patient pointers, both sources help

  16. Will Bloomfield Avatar
    Will Bloomfield

    I appreciate this discussion. I offer one comment regarding the Propers in the EF (a comment which would, of course, also be valid if the Propers were recited or sung in the OF): The Propers are usually an antiphon from one of the psalms. I recall Dom Prosper Guaranger expaining in one of his books that originally, the full psalm was recited. Over the years, this was then abbreviated to simply an antiphon, but the intention is that the faithful have suitable knowledge of the full psalm and call the full psalm to mind. Obviously, many Catholics have lost their appreciation or knowledge of the psalter. With a renewed appreciation of the psalms, the Mass Propers should call to mind a great deal of scripture, and certainly more than simply the verse included in the antiphon.

  17. Father Anthony Cekada Avatar

    One point about the Pauline lectionary seems to be missing from this discussion:

    While quantitatively, the revisers added more VERSES to the lectionary, their much-vaunted program of “restoring the lectio continua” was a fraud. Comparing NT texts with the lectionary itself reveals that the reviser dealt with certain “unpopular” theological themes in individual verses by (a) excluding the use of the offending verses on Sundays, (b) making them optional, or (c) keeping them out of the lectionary altogether.

    The “difficult” verses concerned divine wrath, punishment in this life for sin, condemnations of impurity, the “narrow gate,” hell, condemnations of the spirit of the world, anti-ecumenical passages, the role of women, punishment for receiving the Eucharist unworthily and — wait for it! — condemnations of any man who “takes away from the words of this book of prophecy.”

    So under the guise of presenting MORE scripture, the new lectionary actually presented LESS of the scriptural message.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      @Father Anthony Cekada – comment #35:
      Gong! Wrong, facile, answer. The Pauline lectionary contains plenty of references to punishment for sin, impurity, hell. What appears to bug you is that those references may get lost amid the other references that have now been included in the expanded lectionary. A more subtle concern, that needs to be considered more soberly.

  18. Father Anthony Cekada Avatar

    Mr. Saur @36

    Read what I wrote: the revisers didn’t TOTALLY remove these themes. If they had, they would have had no lectionary.

    Rather, they promised us one thing (Restored lectio continua! All the “treasures of the Word of God” spread on the table!) and delivered another (Deep-six the really “negative” stuff that modern man can’t abide by omitting verses, making them optional, or consigning them to weekdays when modern man doesn’t go to Mass).

    The method is the “adroit choice” Dom Guéranger criticized in the adherents of the anti-liturgical heresy, who pass over in silence texts that oppose “the errors they want to prevail,” and “bring to light mutilated passages which show only one side of the truth, while concealing the other from the eyes of the crowd.”

    History, alas, repeats itself.

  19. Matthew Hazell Avatar

    I personally share some of Fr Cekada’s concerns about the OF lectionary. It does seem that a fair proportion of the more “difficult” texts that were in the 1962 Missal have been moved to weekdays in the OF, where far fewer people hear them. “Difficult” texts in one Gospel are also only heard once every three years, as opposed to those heard year on year in the EF, which perhaps makes it slightly easier to either forget or minimise them.

    I am personally very opposed to longer and shorter reading options – and not just because the shorter reading option allows for the circumvention of harder bits of the passage (e.g. Sun 6A in OT). It ends up trivialising those parts of the scriptures not in the shorter form of the reading. E.g. Sun 9B in OT (Mk 2:23-3:6 or 2:23-28) – if 3:1-6 can be omitted at the whim of the celebrant, why is it even in the lectionary? It’s obviously not vital for the faithful to hear it, otherwise there wouldn’t be the option to omit it! And how is it more pastoral to hear less scripture read from a lectionary formed on the principle that the faithful are to be provided with more scripture at Mass (SC 51)?

    As far as omissions go, the obvious example is the second reading on Corpus Christi – the EF has 1 Cor. 11:23-29 as the lesson, but in Year C the OF chops off vv. 27-29, which is the section about eating and drinking judgment upon oneself. In fact, as far as I am aware, 1 Cor. 11:27-29 is not in the OF lectionary at all! It’s pretty important, so why is it not in there?

    Some of the principles for the selection and composition of readings in the OF are outlined in the General Introduction to the Lectionary 73-77. It would be great if there was some documentary research available as to how these principles were applied by the Consilium, and also how they arrived at them in the first place, but there don’t seem to be any books written about this at all. Does anyone know of any such research?

    1. Gerard Flynn Avatar
      Gerard Flynn

      @Matthew Hazell – comment #38:
      You describe the pastoral discretion of the presider as a whim!

      Your second paragraph begins “I am personally very opposed to…..”

      When is a whim not a whim?

      Would suggest you google Rev Cekada.

      1. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        @Gerard Flynn – comment #39:
        When I belonged to a church served by two priests it certainly seemed like their choices were whims rather than pastoral discretion. I knew if I saw Fr X it would mean penitential rite A, more singing, incense, and the long form of readings, if it was Fr Y there would be less singing and ceremony and always the short readings and shorter options.

        I’m sure sometimes it is pastoral discretion, but most of the time it just seems to be what the priest likes better regardless of the congregation.

      2. Matthew Hazell Avatar

        @Gerard Flynn (#39):

        My point was that if the option of the short form was eliminated, there would be no opportunity for anyone’s whim! And, like Jack (#41), I have experienced it as a whim – it is not a word I use lightly.

        And I am fully aware of Fr Cekada’s viewpoints and canonical status. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything – to judge his arguments purely on, e.g., his sedevacantism strikes me as unfair and prejudiced. What’s that famous phrase… even a broken clock is right twice a day! 🙂

        @Todd Flowerday (#40):

        I’m not advocating a “rose-colored Tridentine universe” – there are occasions where the OF lectionary is superior to the EF. But in dismissing the concerns that Fr Cekada has and, to an extent, I share, you’ve not dealt with the criticisms. Why is it that the Corpus Christi reading for Year C chops off vital verses? Why are “difficult” texts often confined to weekdays? Why are Fr Cekada’s opinions in this matter merely “deck chair rearranging”?

        I have a feeling your ideas about the improvement the OF lectionary needs and my ideas don’t really match up. The last thing I think the OF needs is more choice! But we’re not going to get anywhere by dismissing other people’s arguments out of hand as (e.g.) “intellectual narcissism” without any backup.

    2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Matthew Hazell – comment #38:
      ” … the shorter reading option allows for the circumvention of harder bits of the passage …”

      Not a few feminists have the same objection: the excising of Eunice and Lois from Timothy’s faith heritage being one example that comes to mind.

      There’s no question the Lectionary in the modern Roman Rite could use improvement. Most likely along the lines of a continuing expansion of its “range.” Most certainly not backtracking into some rose-colored Tridentine universe.

      That said, there is a ministry of the Word that continues to need considerably more attention, today as it did a half-century ago. Preaching. An expanded Lectionary doesn’t bear its full fruit unless clergy (or even lay people) are properly prepared to preach an effective message. Fr Cekada’s concerns strike me as little more than deck chair rearranging: an intellectual narcissism that dodges the more serious needs in the Church today.

  20. Paul Ford Avatar

    Steve Adams : Hasn’t Paul Ford also done the math? I remember a presentation of his a few years ago with a chart and the percentages. But maybe that was comparing something else.

    I did. I counted every use of every verse of the psalms and canticles in the EF Missal and the OF missal. In the EF missal I counted every use of every verse of the psalms in the Ordo Missae, and every use of every verse of the psalms and canticles in the introits, graduals, tracts, alleluias, offertories, and communions. In the OF missal I counted every use of every verse of the psalms and canticles in the introits, responsorials, gospel acclamations, and communions. I did not count the possible additional verses in the communions and introits in either form.

  21. Paul Ford Avatar

    Matthew Hazell :

    People may find some of the work I have done on my blog handy if they want to do some comparisons between the Missals in this regard. I have gone a step further than Fr Just (his website is really great, not just for lectionary stuff!) and compiled a table of all the propers and readings in the EF, organised by the liturgical year, as well as a scriptural index for the same.

    The PDF files and other resources can be found in the right-hand side bar at catholiclectionary.blogspot.co.uk. Everything is free to download and use – I hope people find it helpful!

    My quick take on Fr Ruff’s question would be that typically, there is more scripture in terms of quantity at the OF, but since the propers are often omitted in the OF, there is more variety at the EF.

    Matthew, your work is very helpful. Thank you.

    I think you would agree with me that our discussion isn’t about the quantity of the scripture quoted in either form of the Mass. Our discussion also isn’t about the range of the scriptures used (as Msgr. Wadsworth notes in #16).

    Among the most important differences between the forms of the Mass are their theologies of the Liturgy of the Word, indeed of the Word itself. This seems to be the point that Msgr. Wadsworth is making in the same reply:

    The combination of Sacrosanctum concilium and Verbum Dei brings a revolution in our understanding of the way in which Scripture is integral to our celebration and understanding of the liturgical mystery. My personal sense of this, as someone who regularly celebrates in both forms, is that we have a long way to go in beginning to experience many of the aspects of this important element of the liturgy as described in these two fundamental decrees of the…

  22. Paul Ford Avatar

    . . . Council.

    Not enough is made of the 1981 addition of sixty-five paragraphs to the beginning of the Introduction to the Lectionary of the Mass, one of the most important documents of the liturgical reform:
    3. The many riches contained in the one word of God are admirably brought out in the different kinds of liturgical celebration and in the different gatherings of the faithful who take part in those celebrations. . . . For then the liturgical celebration, founded primarily on the word of God and sustained by it, becomes a new event and enriches the word itself with new meaning and power. Thus in the Liturgy the Church faithfully adheres to the way Christ himself read and explained the Sacred Scriptures, beginning with the “today” of his coming forward in the synagogue and urging all to search the Scriptures.
    4. In the celebration of the Liturgy the word of God is not announced in only one way nor does it always stir the hearts of the hearers with the same efficacy. Always, however, Christ is present in his word, as he carries out the mystery of salvation, he sanctifies humanity and offers the Father perfect worship.
    Moreover, the word of God unceasingly calls to mind and extends the economy of salvation, which achieves its fullest expression in the Liturgy. The liturgical celebration becomes therefore the continuing, complete, and effective presentation of God’s word.
    The word of God constantly proclaimed in the Liturgy is always, then, a living and effective word through the power of the Holy Spirit. It expresses the Father’s love that never fails in its effectiveness toward us. [emphases added]

  23. Justin Reany Avatar
    Justin Reany

    I am 50/50 on the revision of the lectionary after Vatican II. Both have their pluses and minuses. The new lectionary has objectively a greater scope and breath of the Sacred Scriptures. Undoubtedly! A great resource in conjunction with the Office or Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours on raising biblical knowledge and fluency so lacking in Catholics. So now no excuses Catholics!

    One major drawback is that now there are so many Readings and alternations from year to year that memorization/familiarity with regular Sunday Readings is completely lost. My father to this day can tell you what the readings are in the old lectionary because he was the head altar server and served for decades. Catholics used to hear the same texts every Sunday year in and year out. That has been lost. The new lectionary, in being completely rewritten, has severed itself from the rich and copious resources of commentaries available to the faithful based on the old lectionary (I.e. – Divine Intimacy, Sunday Sermons of the Father’s, Pius Parshe, etc.). I think, in my opinion, much of the post-conciliar reform was to distance itself and break from the pre-conciliar era which is greatly lamentable and has created very devastating consequences as a result.

    My other great gripe with the post-conciliar lectionary is that it has been tainted by modernist biblical scholarship! What do I mean? The excessive and novel use of Mark’s Gospel in the modern lectionary. In liberal Protestant biblical scholarship of the 1940’s-late 1950’s the modernist notion that St. Mark’s Gospel was the predominant and primary Gospel was en Vogue. It is from this travesty of amateur scholarship that the retarded ideas of “Q-theory” and extreme late dating of the New Testament writings came from. This began to infect Catholic scholarship in the late 1950’s and sadly was enshrined in the new lectionary. I love St. Mark’s Gospel but the excessive use of this Gospel is unjustified from tradition or continuity. It is novel completely.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB


      The Roman Catholic magisterium has long since affirmed what you call “modernist biblical scholarship,” dating to 1943 under Pius XII. Let’s put a stop to the nonsense all over the Catholic internet that “modernist” is a curse word. “Modernist,” in the sense accepted by the magisterium, simply means “looking at the facts of history and the ever-developing insights of scholarship.” There is nothing amateur about this – to say so is simply slander.

      Or course there are novelties in the new lectionary, including innovations not done historically. The same is true of the Second Vatican Council. If you’re fighting the Catholic magisterium of the past 50 or 70 years, including the last ecumenical council, fine with me. Just don’t expect to get too far in the Roman Catholic Church – or on this blog!


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