Benedictus Deus

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Shifting the Gospels

Filed under: Liturgy — June 20, 2008 @ 7:11 am

There has been a lot of things I’ve wanted to post about, but I just have too much going on right now. I probably won’t be able to post much for the next couple of months. That aside…

I read in the Liturgical Year that the 4th Sunday after Pentecost used to be called Mercy Sunday (not to be confused with Divine Mercy Sunday) due to the gospel reading for that day. But sometime in the late Middle Ages that Sunday’s Gospel was moved to the first Sunday after Pentecost. How was the gap in the 4th Sunday filled? All the subsequent gospels were bumped up one week, but all the other propers stayed where they were, and the Breviary was not changed either. This probably caused some consternation because medieval scholars from the 11-13th centuries had written much on the connection between the gospel of a particular Sunday, and the rest of the liturgy (i.e. propers and breviary).  This change was made late (it’s not specific when) and was not universally adopted until the 16th century.

This certainly strikes me as the type of thing that would cause an absolute uproar among traditionalists today. But basically the Church said, “all these meditations on the connections between the gospels and the rest of the liturgy are nice, but the connection is not intrinsic.” Dom Gueranger was quick to note that the Church in no way discouraged these meditations. Indeed I am sure they were very edifying, and I’m sure they could (and have)  come up with new meditations to go with the new sequence of gospel readings.  Dom Gueranger writes that some of these explanations were far fetched, but some were indeed suggested by the ancient liturgies.

In any case, it seems important to realize that not every connection we fancy in the liturgy is actually important to the integrity of the rite.  Today we are hyper sensitive  to any change in the traditional liturgy at all.  In the current climate, that stance seems reasonable and even prudent to me.  In principle, I would be happy to see some of the more recent saints added to the traditional calender with their own proper masses.  In practice, I am very concerned about how that will actually go.  But on the other hand, there has to come a time when the 1962 missal is re-exposed to organic development, and we can’t just have knee jerk reactions against it.

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