MAY 2003
volume 14, no. 28

The Germs of G.I.R.M.

Part Seventy-three: Cyclonic Calendar Cycles of Confusion

    "The Traditional Latin Mass is noted for its stability, as I have indicated endlessly in this analysis. There is an annual cycle of readings for Sunday Masses. This is so because the Church in her wisdom understood for centuries man's tendency to forget the lessons he has learned. We need to be reminded of the truths of the Faith over and over and over again. This is why God in His ineffable mercy gives us the length of time to live in the vale of tears that He does. He gives us just enough time to get it right, and it might take some of us the better part of fifty or sixty or seventy years to get it right. The Church used to know that the faithful can be overwhelmed with too much information. The average Catholic is not a theologian or a liturgist or a Scripture scholar. He needs to know how to save his soul and to participate interiorly in the Sacrifice of the Mass more fully so that the graces he receives in Holy Communion will be more efficacious in his daily life."

Paragraph 345 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Variety in the color of the vestments is meant to give effective, outward expression to the specific character of the mysteries of faith being celebrated and, in the course of the liturgical year, to a sense of progress in the Christian life."

Comment and Analysis: Does this mean variety in the color of one particular vestment, or, properly, the variety of colors appropriate to a liturgical celebration? Again, this is unclear. It is simply unknown why the authors of GIRM can't give a history of why the Church has used traditionally certain colors for certain feasts and certain times of the year. As a priest who has reviewed this analysis notes, "How does a variety of liturgical colors give a sense of progress in the Christian life? Another enigmatic phrase compliments of the Council."

Paragraph 346 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Traditional usage should be maintained for the vestment colors. (A) white is used in the offices and Masses during the seasons of Easter and Christmas; also on celebrations of the Lord, other than of his passion; on celebrations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels, saints who were not martyrs; on the solemnity of All Saints (1 November); the feasts of the Birth of John the Baptist (24 June), John, apostle, evangelist (27 December), the Chair of Peter (22 February), and the Conversion of Paul (25 January); (b) Red is used on Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) and Good Friday, Pentecost Sunday, celebrations of the Lord's passion, birthday feasts of the apostles and evangelists, and celebrations of martyrs; (c) Green is used in the offices and Masses of Ordinary Time; (d) Violet is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in offices and Masses for the dead; (e) Black may be used, where it is the custom, in Masses for the dead; (f) Rose may be used, where it is the custom on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent). However, as regards liturgical colors, the Conference of Bishops may define and propose to the Holy See adaptations which respond to the needs and genius of the peoples."

Comment and Analysis: To put words in the mouth of the late Oliver Norvell Hardy, "The needs and genius of the peoples, indeed. Hah!" And I'll throw in a tie-twaddle, to boot. In other words, the traditional colors can be thrown out if a national episcopal conference gets permission from the Holy See to respond to introduce some pagan practice into the choice of color for vestments used in Mass and other Catholic liturgical services.

   However, it is important to examine this seemingly innocuous restatement of the tradition of the Church a bit more fully. First of all, as will be discussed at length in the context of the revolutionary reconstruction of the liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite, the architects of our synthetic liturgy have eliminated: (a) the Sundays after the Epiphany; (b) Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays; and (c) the Sundays after Pentecost. The liturgical year in the Novus Ordo consists of Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time. As I will discuss later, the rules concerning this new calendar are from simple, and they defy the grasp of a lot of good priests (both for the praying of their daily office as well as for the celebration of daily Mass.

   In the traditional usage, green is the color of the vestments used in the Sundays (and weekdays) after the Epiphany and in the Sundays after Pentecost (these two periods have now been lumped together and called Ordinary Time). Very cleverly, though, GIRM lists black as a color for Masses for the dead, where it is the custom. A diocesan priest would be sent to a psychiatrist if he attempted to wear black vestments for what is now called The Mass of Christian Burial, where white, not violet or black, has become the color of choice. This communicates, whether directly or indirectly, that a funeral Mass is a time of rejoicing. It is not. Death is a punishment for Original Sin. It is not a time for rejoicing. It is a time to be aware of the need to pray for the dead, something that most people are not taught at Novus Ordo funerals. The vestments worn and the messages conveyed presumed the salvation, if not canonization, of almost every person buried out of a Catholic church. In practical point of fact, the traditional color of the vestments, though recited properly in this paragraph, is another thing that bishops can change to suit the needs of the geniuses in their dioceses. Nothing in the Novus Ordo is absolutely fixed, no, not even the colors used for vestments.

   Lacking, obviously, in GIRM is any explanation as to why these colors have been used traditionally. You see, it is this deficiency of GIRM in providing explanations, when coupled with its provision of exceptions based upon the "genius of the peoples," that leads priests to reject that which is traditional as they have no understanding of tradition whatsoever. Here are the explanations found in Father Lasance's Missal:

    "White: is the symbol of purity. It is used on all feasts of Our Lord except those relating to His sufferings; on Feasts of Our Lady; on the feasts of saints that are not martyrs. Red: is the figure of blood and fire. The Church assigns it to the feasts of the martyrs and apostles; to Pentecost Sunday; to feasts connected with the Passion of Our Lord; Green: is the symbol of hope. It is used on the Sundays from Epiphany to Septuagesima and on the Sundays after Pentecost. (The Sacred Congregation of Rites permits the use of gold vestments instead of red, white or green, provided the material to be cloth of gold.) Violet: the penitential color, is used during Advent and Lent on the Vigils of the greater feasts. . . . Black: the sign of mourning, is used on Good Friday, and in Masses of the Dead."
In the new rite, red has replaced black on Good Friday. And a perfunctory sense of making gratuitous references to tradition without any explanation at all.

   Finally, as the new calendar abolished Passion Week and combined Passion Sunday with Palm Sunday, it disposes of the old Passion Sunday (where purple or violet is worn) entirely. Oh, well, who knows anything about that today, huh? Not anybody who reads GIRM without a grounding in liturgical history.

Paragraph 347 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Ritual Masses are celebrated in their proper color, in white, or in a festive color; Masses for various needs and occasions are celebrated in the color proper to the day or the season or in violet if they bear a penitential character, for example, nos. 31, 33, 38. Masses in time of war or conflict, Masses in time of famine, or Masses for forgiveness of sins; votive Masses are celebrated in the color suited to the Mas itself or in the color proper to the day or the season."

Comment and Analysis: A new, polyglot category, "Masses for various needs and occasions," has been created to lump together and to re-name some of the Masses offered traditionally for special needs. However, at least one has been abolished altogether. Wouldn't you like to have a priest celebrate a Mass Against the Heathen? Well, a priest who celebrates the traditional Mass can do so. However, no such Mass exists in the Novus Ordo. The heathen are in control of the liturgy. And as a priest who has reviewed this analysis asks, "What is a festive color? Bright orange, perhaps yellow with bright blue balloons!"

Paragraph 348 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Besides vessels and vestments for which some special material is prescribed, any other furnishings that have a liturgical use or are in any other way introduced into a church should be worthy and suited to their particular purpose."

Comment and Analysis: Who decides what is "worthy and suited" to the purpose of liturgical use? Again, it appears that this subjective consideration is determined by the local pastor or liturgy committee or bishop or national episcopal conference, not tradition.

Paragraph 349 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "In a particular way, care must be taken that liturgical books, especially the Book of the Gospels and the Lectionary, which are intended for the proclamation of the Word of God and hence enjoy special veneration, in the liturgical action be truly signs and symbols of supernatural things, and hence be marked by true dignity, beauty and distinction."

Comment and Analysis: It was a given in the past, where there was a concern at all times for dignity and beauty consonant with the beauty and dignity of the Mass and of the Church building itself, that the Missal was noted for its beauty as a matter of course. Now, however, there has to be a reminder to maintain beauty. (And, as has been pointed out before, there was no such thing as a Lectionary in the past. All of the readings were included in the Missale Romanum.)

Paragraphs 350-351 of G.I.R.M. read as follows:

    350: "Furthermore, every care must be taken with respect to those things which are directly associated with the altar and the Eucharistic celebration, such as the altar cross and the cross used in procession."

    351: "Even in minor matters, every effort should be made to respect the canons of art and always to combine a noble simplicity and cleanliness."

Comment and Analysis: The past was ostentatious. Bad. We are simple. Good. The art and the appointments of the past were difficult to clean because they were ostentatious. That which is simple will maintain its cleanliness. In other words, what we say goes. We say the past was bad, that means it was bad. We say that our simplification of the liturgy and the appointments and the vestments is good, thus it is good. This is liturgical positivism writ large.

Paragraph 352 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration will be heightened if the texts of readings, prayers, and songs correspond as closely as possible to the needs, religious preparation, and aptitude of the participants. This will be achieved by an appropriate use of the broad options described in this chapter. In planning the celebration, then, the priest should consider the common spiritual good of the people of God, rather than be concerned about his own inclinations. He should also remember that choices are to be made in consultation with those who have any role in the celebration, including the faithful in regard to the parts that more directly belong to them. Since a variety of options are provided for different parts of the Mass, it is necessary for the deacon, readers, psalmist, cantor, commentator, and choir to be completely sure beforehand of those texts for which each is responsible so that nothing is improvised. Harmonious planning and carrying out of the rites will help dispose the faithful spiritually to take part in the eucharist."

Comment and Analysis: Certainly, there are options provided priests for the choice of Masses and even Mass texts on ferial days or on days of simple feasts in the Missal of Pope Saint Pius V. Priests may choose a panoply of Votive Masses, Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Eucharist, the Precious Blood, the Sacred Heart, and a number of others. However, everything is spelled out in the Missal itself. There is no need to have endless planning sessions for the celebration of Sunday Mass, for example. Again, the deacon and subdeacon and altar servers and members of a schola cantorum should be well prepared beforehand for the celebration of a Solemn High Mass. However, they are under the direction of the priest. In the Mass of Pope Paul VI, you see, even the faithful themselves are given some role to play in the planning of Mass and in the choice of the texts for a Mass. This is novel. And the extent of the options provided the "participants" in the new Mass is also novel - and frequently bewildering.

   The Traditional Latin Mass is noted for its stability, as I have indicated endlessly in this analysis. There is an annual cycle of readings for Sunday Masses. This is so because the Church in her wisdom understood for centuries man's tendency to forget the lessons he has learned. We need to be reminded of the truths of the Faith over and over and over again. This is why God in His ineffable mercy gives us the length of time to live in the vale of tears that He does. He gives us just enough time to get it right, and it might take some of us the better part of fifty or sixty or seventy years to get it right. The Church used to know that the faithful can be overwhelmed with too much information. The average Catholic is not a theologian or a liturgist or a Scripture scholar. He needs to know how to save his soul and to participate interiorly in the Sacrifice of the Mass more fully so that the graces he receives in Holy Communion will be more efficacious in his daily life.

   The new Mass has thrown all of this out of the window. There is a three year cycle of readings for Sunday Masses and a two year cycle for weekday Masses (although the Gospel reading is the same each year for the weekday Masses). This has been done so as to include almost every passage of the Bible in the Lectionary to be read at some Mass during that three year period. (There are significant omissions in the Lectionary, however, including Chapter 1, Verses 18-32, of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.) As a diocesan priest once noted for his very public devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass said to me a decade ago, many of the Scripture readings contained in the new Mass require extensive explanations. The Mass is not the place for detailed Scriptural exegesis. An adult education course offered by a genuine Scripture scholar (or a knowledgeable priest faithful to the Deposit of Faith) is the place to review the Bible cover to cover. Some of the selections chosen for weekday Mass in the Novus Ordo, for example, are so extensive that they detract from the celebration of the Mass itself, making it appear as though the Liturgy of the Word is superior to what is called now the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

   To be sure, there are times in the traditional calendar, such as the Rogation Days and Ember Days, when there are large numbers of readings to be found in the Traditional Latin Mass. However, these are the exceptions. It is more than a little ironic that a Mass that claims it is recovering a simpler form of worship actually winds up making the celebration of the Mass and the life of the average Catholic far more complex than they were in the past.

   The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not an exercise in community planning. It is not supposed to be "planned" according to the dictates of the equivalent of a parish town hall meeting. As noted, those participating in a Solemn High Mass should be prepared to do so. There will be choices to be made concerning the particular musical settings to be used, to be sure. The Mass itself, though, is what it is. It is not the product of committee planning. While the priest and the schola cantorum may choose a particular setting for the Gloria or the Credo or the Sanctus, the texts are what they are.

   Not so, though, in the Mass of novelty, the Mass of "active participation," the Mass of egalitarianism, the Mass that reduces the priest to but a bit player frequently in the events leading up to his "presiding" over the community's "faith-filled" worship experience.

   A young man from a foreign country, who was unused to seeing all of the variety of breakfast cereals available to us in the United States, gawked and gawked and gawked as he saw the brands and types of cereals on display in a supermarket in the Midwest. He was paralyzed by the options available to him, unable to make a choice. Too many options are a bad thing frequently. And they are very bad in the context of the Mass, where stability, not unpredictability, is meant to convey the stability of God and His Holy Truths, the stability of our need to seek Him constantly and strive ever more fully to scale the heights of personal sanctity.

Paragraph 353 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "On solemnities the priest is bound to follow the calendar of the Church where he is celebrating."

Comment and Analysis: GIRM begins a discussion at this point of the "restored" liturgical calendar, which is, obviously, a revolutionary rejection of the traditional calendar of the Roman Rite. Almost everything has been changed, including the language that is used to refer to the seasons of the year and the very feasts on the Church's calendar.

   And insofar as this particular paragraph is concerned, it is a sign of how far things have degenerated as a result of the chaos inherent in the Novus Ordo and its mania for "options" that priests have to be reminded to follow the liturgical calendar of the dioceses where they are celebrating Mass (in some countries, for example, the Annunciation is a Holy Day of Obligation, not the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven). Indeed, it is more the norm than not for priests to arbitrarily ignore what are now called Feasts and Obligatory Memorials in favor of a ferial Mass. Sometimes this is the result of malice. More frequently, though, it is the result of sloth and ignorance, indicative of a priest who is not even attempting to follow, no less live, the liturgical life of the church.

   Here is the traditional Classification of Feasts in the Traditional calendar of the Roman Rite: (1) Doubles, which fall into four ranks: Doubles of the First Class, Doubles of the Second Class, Double Majors, Double Minors, which are called merely Doubles. (2) Semi-Doubles. (3) Simples. As Father Lasance explained, there is a rank-ordering of feasts as follows:

    "Those relating to our Lord and the mysteries of our Lord and the mysteries of His life. Then follow the feasts in honor of the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Apostles, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and the other Apostles, the feats of the National Saints, Holy Patrons of dioceses and parishes, feasts of the dedication of churches, of martyrs, holy Popes or Bishops, Doctors and Fathers of the Church, Confessors of the Faith, Holy Virgins and other Holy Women."

   Given the richness of the traditional liturgical calendar, many more days of the liturgical year featured some kind of feast to remind us of the Communion of Saints than is the case today. And priests considered it a great privilege to celebrate that rich liturgical calendar, uniting themselves and their people with the treasury of witnesses given to us by Holy Mother Church to imitate in our daily lives and to rely upon by means of their intercessory power.

   As will be discussed shortly, many of the saints included in the traditional calendar were removed by Bugnini and his fellow revolutionaries. "They clutter up the calendar," we were told. "There's not enough truly known about some of these saints to include them in the calendar," they protested all the more. "Too many feast days distracts our attention from Our Lord," some said when all else failed to convince the faithful that saints who had been venerated for centuries and centuries no longer have a place in the calendar of the Church. The sophisticates of modernity know better, obviously.

   Well, as one who has made the transition from the new calendar to the old in recent years, my interior life has been greatly enhanced by living the liturgical calendar that was observed by so many saints and martyrs, including the North American Martyrs. What I have found especially beautiful about the traditional calendar is the fact that it provides for the commemoration of multiple saints on the same day. Thus, there are two (or three) Collects, Secrets, and Postcommunions. To call to mind the fact that saints in the early years of the Church, long forgotten by so many today, have the power to intercede for us is to remember that the Church is divinely founded and that we have to prove ourselves faithful in the midst of our own circumstances at the beginning of the Third Millennium.

   As I have noted in an earlier segment in this series, the wonderful tradition of Octaves has been eliminated almost entirely. Only Christmas and Easter are celebrated with Octaves. Christmas has its own octave in the Mass of tradition, but so too do the feasts of St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents (although they are Simple Octaves). The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ has a Privileged Octave of the Second Order. Ascension Thursday has a Privileged Octave of the Third Order. Whitsunday has a Privileged Octave of the First Order. Corpus Christi has a Privileged Octave of the Second Order. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has Privileged Octave of the Third Rank. Who but a cynic would not want to have more time to celebrate and to contemplate the events in salvation history and the lives of the saints commemorated by means of octaves?

   Finally, the mania for a particular mass on every weekday, which is the case in the Novus Ordo, of the year is new in the life of the Church. On those weekdays on which no feast occurs, the traditional rite specifies that the Mass of the preceding Sunday is to be celebrated, thereby giving us yet another chance to meditate upon the lessons in that Mass. The only weekday Masses with their own readings and propers in the Mass of tradition are Lenten weekday Masses and the Ember Days and Rogation Days that fall at various points in the calendar.

   I will offer more comment on the paragraphs in the next installment. However, a new calendar has created confusion and robbed the faithful of the rich liturgical history of the Church.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

For past installments of G.I.R.M. Warfare in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

MAY 2003
volume 14, no. 28
The Germs of G.I.R.M.

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