History of the Roman Liturgy
Jan Paul S. Lugtu History of the Roman Liturgy On the Eve of the Reformation (14th – 15th Centuries) This period in the historical development of the Roman liturgy, vis-à-vis the period that served as prelude to the Reformation, is characterized as a time of gradual and eventual decline. The Black Plague (1380) and Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453) induced in people a sense of pessimism. The Fall of Constantinople (1453) rocked the confidence in the existence of a Christian world. The Autumn of the Middle Ages, as some historians viewed this period, would only mean that the time of winter for the Roman liturgy would soon to come. What caused this decline in the development of the Roman Liturgy? First, clericalism, which forced the assembly to resort to private devotions during Mass. With the composition of the plenary missals, the presider did everything by himself and privately, regardless of the assembly. Second, overemphasis on the theology of transubstantiation confined the attention of the clergy and the faithful to the moment of consecration. Consequently, people came to Mass with the intention to see a miracle similar to the one reported in Bolsena in 1236. Third, exaggerated allegorism, that presented the Mass to the assembly as a mere occasion to remember aspects of Christ’s life. Fourth, misplaced devotion to the Mass that limits its value to gaining its “fruits”; as well as multiplication of Masses to comply with the obligation arising from the stipends offered by the faithful, and several repetition of the parts of the Mass before reciting once the canon of the Mass. Fifth, a form of spirituality that dispensed with the liturgy as its source; with the exception of Gertrude of Helfta (+1301), few knew how to nourish their spiritual and mystical life with the liturgy. Sixth, the loss of an ecclesial sense caused by individualism, i.e., the birth of the devotio moderna among the religious. This is a spirituality of a mystical type influenced by Master Eckhart (+1327), purely personal or un-ecclesial in the style of Thomas a Kempis (+1471), and strongly affective in expression. At the Time of the Reformation Martin Luther (+ 1546) criticized the use of indulgences, the exaggerated cult of the saints, and the liturgical practice that had become pompous and removed from the people. He wrote the treatise The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, containing his interpretation of the sacraments: As the Jews were sent away from Jerusalem into captivity under the Babylonian Empire, so in Europe, Christians were sent away from the Scriptures under the oppression of a papacy that has misused the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The treatise exposed three aspects of the Church’s slavery, i.e. The denial of the chalice to the laity The doctrine of transubstantiation The doctrine of the sacrificial character of the Mass
Luther called for the abolition of private Mass and private confession, for a vernacular liturgy, and for the emphasis on the priesthood of the baptized. The Liturgical Reforms of the Council of Trent The Council of Trent sought to correct some of the liturgical abuses witnessed and commented upon by the reformers. It even encouraged pastoral sensitivity regarding liturgical concerns such as the vernacular. In attempting to challenge what was seen as a rampant subjectivity of the liturgy, a rigid uniformity was enforced. It dealt primarily with the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. With the promulgation of the disciplinary decree De Observantis et evitandis in celebretionis Missae (22nd session, September 17, 1562), it sought the elimination of the most serious liturgical abuses: Mass should be celebrated only in consecrated places Magical treatment of the consecrated host was to stop Disrespectful and inappropriate liturgical music was to cease Bishops were to keep an eye on their priests regarding stipends Superstition around the number of fixed Masses should cease Pius IV delegated the task of reforming the missal and the breviary to a commission, whose goal was the reform of both the breviary and the missal: Return to tradition, to the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, and a cleansing of the liturgical calendar: Allowing for greater attention to feasts and seasons The removal of unnecessary or inappropriate texts added to the breviary and missal over the centuries The topic of liturgical music was also included in the agenda of the council. Prior to the council music was often used inappropriately in the liturgy: as background during the Eucharistic Prayer, while the presider prayed the prayer privately. The council permitted only such music that had a particular function in the liturgy. Preference was given to communal/conventual Masses over private Masses devoid of music and other ministries. The solemn celebration of the Mass was to become the normative eucharistic liturgy Tridentine reforms sought to bring about a liturgical uniformity both in theology and practice. Rubrics were printed for the first time at the beginning of both the breviary and the missal. During the conciliar deliberations, the following issues were discussed: – The importance of Communion by the assembly during Mass – Discussion on the possibility of the use of the vernacular – Discussion on offering of chalice to the assembly during Mass – Liturgical readings and the mystery of the Eucharist should be explained to the people during Mass, at least on Sundays and feasts.
The Council reaffirmed the following positions: – Reaffirmation of the doctrine of the real presence – Reservation of the sacrament in churches for veneration and care of the sick – Preeminence of the Eucharist over other sacraments and the doctrine of transubstantiation – Affirmation of the propitiatory nature of the eucharistic sacrifice – Christ offered himself in bread and wine to reveal his own priesthood in the order of Melchizedek. – The Roman Canon proclaimed free from error – Priests were reminded that water was to be mixed with wine in offering the chalice as already prescribed in the Council of Florence. – Revision of the liturgical calendar and the Roman martyrology – Establishment of the Congregation of Sacred Rites by Sixtus V ((1588) The establishment of the Congregation of Sacred Rites by Sixtus V ((1588) served the following purposes: Care for the celebration of the rites Restoration and reform of ceremonies Reform of liturgical books Regulating the offices of patron saints Canonization of saints Celebration of feasts Reception of dignitaries to Rome Solution to liturgical difficulties raised by local circumstances To assist the goal of liturgical unification throughout the western world To see to it that the newly instituted Roman rubrics were being faithfully observed The Baroque Period This period is remarkably known for a religious culture of joyful celebration and feasting with pilgrimages and processions in richly adorned costumes. With a flamboyant church architecture and orchestral music wherein the visual and audio were of paramount importance. Ironically, it was also a period of rigid unification in the liturgy and rubricism. Decline in liturgical activity gave way to a growth in eucharistic adoration. Baroque architecture was theatrical, known for its flamboyant movement, color and detail. The artistic accomplishments of baroque music entertained liturgical assemblies, but congregants remained passive spectators and had little role in the liturgy itself. The Chinese Rites controversy received a great deal of attention from the Congregation of the Sacred Rites.
The Age of Enlightenment The enlightenment’s emphasis on rationalism and logic was not a great help to the reform of the liturgy. The essential logic of the liturgy was sought in order to assist in personal moral foundation. Despite liturgical scholarship and attempts at reform, rigid liturgical rubricism continued, with the exception of the local liturgies of the French church. The Synod of Pistoia (1786) called for a return to the pristine liturgy of the early Church, and encouraged active liturgical participation of the faithful. This can be made possible by: o Introducing use of the vernacular o Eliminating Masses taking place simultaneously in the same place o Centrality of the Sunday and parochial Eucharist, where the presider should proclaim the prayers in a a clear, loud voice o Communion given to the faithful must be consecrated at that same Mass However, the measures enacted were far too ahead of its time, that ten years after most of the decrees were revoked, and it would only in the Second Vatican Council that such dreams were to be realized.
Reference: Introduction to the Liturgy by Anscar Chupungco, OSB