Monday, 27 May 2013

Bugnini on the Lectionary (3)

This is the final post* in my series, which began here, looking at the Gospel passages missing from the new Lectionary.  In the most recent post, I summarised what Bugnini said he (and the Consilium) were doing, and promised a final post assessing what they actually did against those claims.

It feels as though the series, which has taken some months (and many hours of work) to publish should reach a great climax here.

However (and perhaps this is appropriate) it is not going to.  By and large, Bugnini's intentions were so large and imprecise that it is hard to evaluate his achievements against them.

In fairness, he did deploy more reading from holy Scripture... more varied, though whether more apposite is up for discussion.

On the other hand, one could make a strong case for saying that he failed in making clear:  that the entire Old Testament is presupposed in the Lord’s preaching, his actions and his passion; by the omission of so much of the story of St John the Baptist, who is surely the great bridge between the Old and the New.

But for the rest...

However,  I think what one can say is that he did more than he claims.  Whether deliberately or not, he (or the process he ran) was selective in what was included in ways that are not laid out in Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor described in his apologia.

As noted here, there are several themes that seem to have been deemed appropriate to omit (or substantially under-present) in the Lectionary, and none of these are explained in the rationale given for the revision.

Bugnini also did something else: he put into effect (though certainly did not invent) a particular interpretation of the purpose of Scripture reading in the Mass.

That is, he treats the readings as solely there for the education of the Faithful.

It may seem obvious to us today that that is precisely why the readings are there; but it may be obvious because we have been used to the approach Bugnini championed for so long.

I am not saying the readings are not there for our edification; but I dispute that that is their only function, and I think the assumption that it is typifies the rather thin, logical way of viewing liturgy that Bugnini exemplified.

I see the liturgy primarily as prayer, not schooling.  If we read God's word, we are, at least in part, reading it to Him.  It is as though my kids come rushing up to me, asking some favour, or for the honouring of some promise, and pull out their phones and read back a text I'd sent to me: 'But Father, you said:...' They are reminding me of promises, not refreshing their own memory or understanding, though it may be doing that too.  

This may be poor theology, and is almost certainly laughable in the eyes of liturgists, but I think that it has some merit as an analogy.  We are children approaching our Father, imploring and entreating Him for forgiveness, for mercy, for graces; and thanking Him, too for all these; and offering Him, as He has commanded, the supreme Sacrifice.  The Mass is not a community gathering, so much as a family one.

But I think such pious sentimentality, and such multi-stranded (and not always schematic) understanding,  is very much what the reformers had in their sights; and it was accompanied  both with that contempt for popular piety and tradition that is so evident in Bugnini's writing, and a tremendous sense of their own worthiness for the task they were undertaking.  That applies to their approach to the whole of the liturgy, not just the Lectionary.

And we continue to pay the price for that.


*Post Script: actually, almost certainly not the last. I continue to think about this and feel at least one more post brewing...

1 comment:

Part-time Pilgrim said...

It’s been an interesting series Ben. Thank you for the time and effort.
I would say that you have established that the new lectionary was introduced in a hurry, was based on the personal views of a few, insufficiently scrutinised (especially by Pope Paul VI) and was done partly in a spirit of disdain for what went before (and perhaps disdain for the popular piety of the ordinary faithful too). In those circumstances it is very likely that the result will be imperfect.
However your conclusions about Old Testament and New Testament links and the downplaying of the idea of scripture as prayer are unfair in my view.
One aspect of the new lectionary you have not touched on is the inclusion (outside Easter) of an OT reading linked to the Gospel making the prophetic nature of the OT explicit. I would argue this more than offsets the removal of much about St John the Baptist.
Secondly the inclusion of a Responsorial Psalm (even though they are always oddly redacted) in response to the OT reading is an explicit use of scripture as prayer and seems to be longer and therefore include “more” scripture than the Gradual it replaced.
It’s certainly true that we view the scriptures as experienced in Mass as instruction but I don’t think this is Bugnini’s fault. (Although perhaps it is – maybe the inclusion of the sermon is really the innovation that is to blame). This part of your post has really got me thinking. I really like you analogy for scripture as prayer and have been thinking about it a lot. The conclusion I have come to is that all prayer is instructional as well as devotional. If prayer is raising the mind and heart to Almighty God then it will have an intellectual impact as well as a conversion of the will and affections. The weakness in your analogy is that not all prayer is intercessory, some is thanksgiving and some is praise. All of this is present in the Mass and all of it is possible through reading the scriptures prayerfully.
It’s an interesting project and I am glad it is not your last post on the matter.