In the beginning of May, Shawn Tribe of The New Liturgical Movement suggested to the readers of his blog that they attempt a theoretical revision of the Roman Rite.1 The idea intrigued me and so I set about doing just that. I've not given not submitted what I originally worked up, though I may do so yet. I've been following the discussions and I've found them illuminating if somewhat frustrating. One of the things that I admire about Shawn's blog is the wide readership and the vast cross section of comments that one finds there. I don't assume to speak for Shawn but I think that some of the commentors have entirely missed the point of the exercise. As I understood the "assignment" it was both a look at what sort of liturgy really is the outcome of the application of solid litugical principles and an exercise that allows one to reflect on the practical aspects of reforming the liturgy. To this end I believe that the idea was to look at a variety of opinions that could contribute to our understanding of the liturgical reform as it happened and to provide constructive criticism and discussion among his readership for whatever submissions are published. While some have criticized even the very attempt at producing theoretical missals for review, the process of so attempting has been fruitful and instructing for this reader.
I've always thought of myself as being solidly within the 'reform of the reform' camp. Ostensibly, this meant to me that I am neither for the continuation of current liturgical practice (as regards certain aspects of both the rubrics and the text) nor am I in favor of a wholesale return to the 1962 Roman Missal or its previous editions. I now see that while I have become quite adept at criticizing the reforms as they happened, my own efforts at creating a positive contribution in this regard fall apart under my very own criticisms of the current missal. I found it quite hard to restrain myself once I began the process of looking at just what a theoretical missal might look like. Allow me to outline in brief my thought process as I looked towards creating a theoretical missal.
The Prayers At The Foot Of The Altar
One of my criticisms of the Missa Normativa is that these prayers (Introibo, Judica me, Confiteor and versicles) are recognizable only in a form that is analagous to how a Pontiac Fiero resembles a Ferrari once it has been fitted with one of those ridiculous body kits. (My apologies to anyone reading this who drives one . . . and my condolences.) The separation of what is now called the Penitential Rite into options A, B and C are undesirable in my opinion and they are no longer said before ascending to the altar. The older prayers are developments to the Roman Rite around the 11th century and have their beginnings before this time in private and yet unscripted or unmandated customs. These prayers express the preparation of the priest and ministers before approaching the altar and all the rites of which I am aware have some form of a preparation even if their forms vary.
Taking my cue from the 1965 Roman Missal, I thought it no loss to drop the Judica Me entirely while leaving the Introibo antiphon and the Adjutorium nostrum. The Confiteor I thought to leave intact in form as found in the 1962 with the exception of the addition of "et omissione" as it is found in the Mozarabic, Carthusian, Dominican and other liturgies. However, I reduced the Confiteor to a single recitation by all but with the priest saying the Misereatur (nostri, nostris, nos) and Indulgentiam. I left intact the whole of the following versicles and responses. But the whole of this I moved to after the Introit or rather I should say that I moved the Introit to the actual procession after which these prayers are said before ascending to the altar.
It may be difficult to imagine the text above as I have layed it out, which is why I will probably submit it or make it available here. At this point I was quite happy with myself thinking that I had in large part maintained a close continuity with tradition and successfully incorporated these prayers in a more recognizable manner than the 1970 reform. Upon further reflection I think that the result was no less a concocted production than that of 1970. It is quite true that there are other venerable forms of the prayers at the foot of the altar which do not include the Introibo antiphon (Dominicans, Carthusian, Carmelite) but they have some other versicle and response in its place. Psalm 42 is recited in the Bragan and Mozarabic rite although it is not recited in the Gallican (Lyons) or Ambrosian even though they have the Introibo antiphon. In the end while I had tried to retain a traditional flavor through the selection of texts based upon the various traditional rites what I had drawn up was neither Roman nor did it conform to the useages of the other traditional rites. It was innovation pure and simple.
What was the necessity of these alterations of the Roman Rite? What liturgical principle had I been following? I think two things, at least, were at work in this theoretical revision. The first was a sincere desire to keep these laudable prayers in some form. It may help to know that these are the private prayers I use for my preparation when serving Mass (although I include the Judica me when I have sufficient time and always in Latin). So personal preference played a role even though I took a detailed look at various liturgies when considering what revisions I might make. This realization was for me quite shocking. My guiding principle: subjectivism (i.e. what I personally prefer). The second was I think simplification for the sake of simplification. I was approaching the missal with the intent to simplify its rites rather than seeking to simplify what only was necessary to simplify. For example, a good case can be made to drop the redundancy of the priest reciting the introit after the choir has sung it and such practices. What I had done here I cannot see as being innovations that are certainly and genuinely required for the good of the Church (SC, 23). In retrospect I think their are two ways to approach this either going the route of allowing the people to make the responses with the servers (already set forth by Pius XII in 1958) or in the interest of shorting the rites (SC, 34) maintaing their mandatory status but having them said in the sanctuary or merely omitting the Judica me. Though I think the former is more preferrable than the latter. In this way the text survives intact or almost so if the Judica me is omitted and remains a development of the Roman Rite rather than an entirely new ritual at the foot of the altar.
Other alterations that I made were largely the same process of borrowing from another liturgy with slight tweaks. For example, I replaced the Suscipe sancte Pater and the Oferrimus tibi at the Offertory with the Ambrosian prayers as well as replacing the Roman Rite version of the Veni Sanctificator with the Sarum Rite version. In addition I did alter the Roman Canon but only by allowing the addition of the names of saints in the Communicantes and Nobis quoque, subject to the recognitio of the Holy See. In any case, the exercise was for me quite worthwhile and gave me a healthier respect for the kind of problems that are too easily encountered when attempting to make revisions to the liturgy.