Sunday, 1 February 2015


Today, in the traditional calendar, is Septuagesima. 

This begins the count-down to Lent and Easter: so, for example, there is no Gloria in today's (EF) Mass, and Alleluia is not used in the liturgy. The Alleluia before the Gospel is replaced by the Tract; today's is:

From the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord; Lord hear my voice.  
Let thine ears be attentive to the prayer of thy servant.  
If thou shalt observe iniquities, O Lord, Lord, who shall endure it?  
For with thee is propitiation, and by reason of thy law I have waited for thee, O Lord.

Curiously, while Quinquagesima is indeed 50 days before Easter as its name would suggest, Sexagesima and Septuagesima are not 60 and 70 days before Easter, because they fall on Sundays, 

This period of pre-Lenten preparation has been replaced in the new Calendar by a few Sundays of Ordinary Time; these are then resumed after Pentecost, as a further set of Ordinary Time Sundays.  In former times (and still, if one celebrates according to the traditional calendar) these were the Sundays after Pentecost.

In my view, these changes are an impoverishment.  The seasons of the Church year used to be a constant reminder of one or other of the great mysteries of our Faith.  It seems particularly ironic that in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, when we were all supposed to be so much more aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church today, we should have removed the reference to the descent of the Holy Spirit in our counting of the Sundays after Pentecost, and replaced them with 'Ordinary.'

If I had my way, we'd call them Ghostly Sundays, in honour of the Holy Ghost, and because it would be such a great name!

However, Bugnini and his allies had other ideas:
The Septuagesima season is suppressed, and the three Sundays making it up become Sundays of Ordinary Time.
Also suppressed, as a title, is "Passiontide." The whole of it now becomes, even externally, part of Lent.
This seems to my to typify much of the impoverishment of Bugnini's changes. Instead of the emotional crescendo of Septuagesima - Lent - Passiontide - the Triduum, we now have a binary system: Ordinary time to Lent.  Likewise with the suppression of the Octave of Pentecost, we have Pentecost, then Ordinary time.

It is all very logical and all very much poorer.

What we lose is what I call resonance, and relates to what I blogged about here, regarding a symphonic analogy for liturgy. There is a richness and a depth to traditional liturgy, in the same way there is a richness and a depth to family customs and rituals around birthdays and Christmas.  The way the Mass had developed, organically, over the years led to many such felicities.

The writing of a new Mass by committee, and particularly a committee that took such a reductionist and mono linear approach, stripped all these away. They seem to have been actively hostile to popular piety, and to anything that did not conform to a rigid, and simplistic, analysis of the structure of the ideal Mass. The analogy with architecture is also relevant (cf my extended metaphor here).

Anyway, to start our preparation for Lent, here is the hymn Attende Domine:

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Ad te Rex summe, omnium redemptor, oculos nostros sublevamus flentes: exaudi, Christe, supplicantum preces. 

Dextera Patris, lapis angularis, via salutis, ianua caelestis, ablue nostri maculas delicti.
Rogamus, Deus, tuam maiestatem: auribus sacris gemitus exaudi: crimina nostra placidus indulge. 

Tibi fatemur crimina admissa: contrito corde pandimus occulta: tua Redemptor, pietas ignoscat. 

Innocens captus, nec repugnans ductus, testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus: quos redemisti, tu conserva, Christe.

Hearken, O Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against Thee.

Crying, we raise our eyes to Thee, Sovereign King, Redeemer of all. Listen, Christ, to the pleas of the supplicant sinners. 

Thou art at the Right Hand of God the Father, the Keystone, the Way of salvation and 
Gate of Heaven, cleanse the stains of our sins. 

O God, we beseech Thy majesty to hear our groans; to forgive our sins.

We confess to Thee our consented sins; we declare our hidden sins with contrite heart; in Thy mercy, O Redeemer, forgive them.

Thou wert captured, being innocent; brought about without resistance, condemned by impious men with false witnesses. O Christ keep safe those whom Thou hast redeemed. 

1 comment:

Sig Sønnesyn said...

Sad but true, ut vulgo dicitur. I have lately realised how much was lost when the allegorical interpretation of the liturgy was phased out. The medieval monks I read for a living knew full well the rich spiritual message to be derived from how the liturgy of Septuagesima was constructed, and we are the poorer for having lost (or mislaid) their insight. The potential for medieval spirituality to enrich traditional Catholicism has been seriously undervalued.