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Dom Prosper Gueranger’s seven principles of liturgical reform May 7, 2013

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Dallas Diocese, disaster, Ecumenism, episcopate, error, General Catholic, Latin Mass, Liturgy, reading, scandals, secularism, Tradition.

The great Benedictine Dom Prosper Gueranger was the father of the modern liturgical reform.  In France, he sought to restore the liturgy, which had been devastated by the twin blows of radical Jansenism and the predations of the French Revolution.  In actuality, the first of those two was far more damaging than the latter, at least to the liturgy. For the Jansenists posited a brutally simplified liturgy, which in many respects encompassed the same changes as were made 515LeBKnh4L__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_after the most recent Council.  Before I provide Gueranger’s principles, I will give you a brief description of the Jansenist’s severe changes to the Mass, which were inspired by their crypto-Calvinism and much “enlightenment” thinking.  The following description comes from Dom Alcuin Reid’s The Organic Development of the Liturgy, pp. 41-42:

[Abbe Jacques Jube, one of the principle architects of the Jansenist liturgy, but whose reforms were very typical…..] …wanted no more than one altar in his church.  “The words Sunday Altar were inscribed upon it for no one was to celebrate Mass there except on Sundays and feast days. Once Mass was over this altar was promptly and completely stripped, just like all the altars in the Latin Church on Holy Thursday after the morning office. At the actual time of celebration the altar was covered with a cloth, but even there were neither candles nor a cross. [Jansenists, like the protestants they so frequently imitated, were very nearly iconoclasts. They stripped churches bare of religious art and decor. I should add that the altar was frequently a bare table-type altar] It was only in going to the altar that the priest was preceded by a large cross, the same which was carried in processions and the only one in the church. Arriving at the foot of the altar, he said the opening prayers, and the people answered in a loud voice. He next went to a chair at the SAMSUNGepistle side of the sanctuary. Here he intoned the Gloria and the Credo, without, however, reciting either of them through; nor did he say the Epistle or Gospel. He only said the collect. [The implication is that either the choir, or others completed these prayers and readings. In some Jansenist Masses, the laity performed some of the readings, and these were almost always in the vernacular]. He did not usually recite anyting that the choir chanted. The bread, the wine and water, were offered to the celebrant in a ceremonious way, in which there was nothing blameworthy; for this was a long-standing custom in many of the churches of France. But to these offerings of the sacrificial elements was joined that of the season’s fruits. In spite of inconveniences these fruits were placed upon the altar. [This is something commonly seen in more “progressive” parishes] After they had been offered, the chalice, without veil, was brought from the sacristy. Both deacon and priest held it aloft, reciting the Offertory prayer together……..but they recited the formula aloud to show that their offering was being made in the name of the people. The entire Canon, as might be expected, was likewise recited aloud. [Again, to show that the Sacrifice was being made in the name of the people] The celebrant let the choir say the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The blessings which accompanied the words: Per quem haec omnia…….were made over the fruits and vegetables on the altar, and not over the bread and wine.”gesu e maria 2009 xii

As can be seen, the Jansenist Mass contained many elements which predated the changes made with the Novus Ordo by 300 years. The Jansenists eventually became numerous enough to hold their own, illicit synod, at a town called Pistoia.  This synod, and the changes to the Mass it recommended (some of the above, vernacular readings, other “enlightened” changes) were strongly repudiated and condemned by the Holy See.  At that time. But 200 years after the Synod of Pistoia, many of the same changes were formally endorsed by the Vatican.

dedication_sarasota_003These Jansenist changes were illicit on several grounds.  One, they were frequently made without episcopal approval (though, as this heresy went on, many bishops did sadly come to endorse it, especially in France).  Secondly, they were sudden, violent changes, imposed often against the will of the people.  They were not, then, truly organic changes to the liturgy, which should normally be small steps taken over time, with general approval and episcopal oversight. Thirdly, as was pointed out by the Holy See, these changes were actually offensive to Catholic theology on numerous grounds. The Mass really became very anthropocentric, focused on man, and the focus shifted away from God. Finally, the Mass became less a Sacrifice of propitiation offered to God for the forgiveness of our constant sins, but became more a tool of instruction and for sharing Scripture. Again, that reveals the marked protestant influence (and Calvinism was raging in France at the time), as well as foreshadowing the deliberate focus on instruction and Scripture in the Novus Ordo.

Finally, to get to Dom Prosper Gueranger’s seven principles of liturgical reform, these are taken from the same book, pp. 29-30:

  1. A liturgical form drawn up to satisfy the requirements of literary pretensions can never last.
  2. The reform of the Liturgy, if it is to last, must be brought about, not by the learned, but must be done with due reverence, and by those invested by competent authority. [It should, in other words, really trickle up from below, rather than being imposed from the top down]
  3. In the reform of the Liturgy one needs to guard against the spirit of novelty, restoring ancient forms that have become defective to their original purity, and not abolishing them.
  4. Abbreviation is not liturgical reform: the length of the Liturgy is not a defect in the eyes of those who should devote their lives to prayer. [I have been told apocryphal stories of 20 minute Low Masses in the pre-Novus Ordo days. I have never seen that. I have seen 15 minute Novus Ordos, and even 30 minutes on Sunday. The shortest TLM I’ve been to was right at 30 minutes, on a weekday, with no sermon. Sunday High Masses typically last an hour and a half, or more. The average for a weekday Low Mass is about 40 minutes.]
  5. To read large quantities of Sacred Scripture in the office [or the Mass] does not satisfy the whole obligation of priestly prayer, because to read is not to pray.
  6. There is no foundation to the distinction between public office and private office because there are not two official Prayers of the Church…..
  7. It is not an evil that the rules of divine worship are numerous and complicated, because the cleric is trained with such diligence that he is perfectly able to accomplish the great Opus Dei……… [and, the laity can follow along quite well in the Latin/vernacular missals provided for that purpose]

The corollary to these liturgical principles, which are founded on respect for Tradition and plain reason, is Gueranger’s denunciation of the anti-liturgical heresy.  This post is already quite long, so I won’t go into that much here, except to say that the Novus Ordo as it is presently offered in most locales is in many respects quite contrary to both the positive principles espoused above, and the negative proscriptions of the anti-liturgical heresy Gueranger denounced 150 years ago. Traditional Latin Mass_Jim

The imposition of the Novus Ordo was an enormous novelty, the first time in the 2000 year history of the Church that an entirely new Liturgy, fabricated by a small committee of self-anointed experts, was imposed on the Church.  Some may point to the Council of Trent as doing something similar, but Reid and many other students of the liturgy note that is not really the case. First of all, Trent allowed venerable Masses with a long Tradition (200 or more years) to remain. For the first two decades after the Novus Ordo, there was no such “indult” granted to the Traditional Mass.

Secondly, all Trent really did was codify and slightly simplify the dominant Gallico-Roman Mass being offered throughout most of the Catholic world.  It did not impose a new Mass which was very different from what had gone before.  There was an elimination of some of the long sequences which had proliferated during the Middle Ages, sequences which made the Mass frequently approach or exceed 3 hours on certain feast days, and a rationalization of some of the Propers which had been distorted over time, but that’s about it.  So, the core of the Mass, I would say well over 95%, remained exactly as it had been before. This includes the ancient Canon, now completely removed from the Novus Ordo (Eucharistic Prayer 1 being quite different from the Canon), which dates back to at least the 3rd century in essentially the same form as today.  It is very possible the Canon has carried forward from apostolic times in essentially the same form as today, or at least with great similarity.

One final note. As Dom Reid points out, it is very possible for liturgical reform to fail. There have been reforms of the Breviary and the Mass which have not succeeded in the Church’s long history.  Those reforms which were made along the lines of Gueranger’s principles have almost universally been long lasting and successful. But those which deviated from those principles, like Cardinal Qugnonez’ 16th century changes to the Breviary and the Jansenist changes to the Mass, have tended to die out.


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