Armor and Armament Abandoned: Priestly Prayers Purged (Part I – Júdica Me)

JudicaMe-1

A critique of the 1965 Order of Mass, in three parts

A recent online discussion of more reverent Catholic liturgy has revived consideration of the 1965 “transitional” Roman Missal and its similarities with the 1962 Roman Missal (called the Vetus Ordo, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, or the Traditional Latin Mass). As a professional Catholic church musician and an amateur liturgical scholar and historian, I have been aware of the existence of the 1965 Missal for many years; but besides regarding it as superficially closer to the intentions set forth by the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium—most clearly illustrated by its limited allowance of the use of the vernacular languages—than the Missal that followed it (the 1970 Missal, called the Novus Ordo Missae or the Ordinary Form), I paid it little to no attention.

So when this this latest discussion of the 1965 Roman Missal surfaced, I noted well the objections laid out by its opponents. Three objections which dealt with the revised texts of the Order of Mass were of particular interest to me:

  • The elimination of the recitation of Psalm 42(43) by the priest and servers at the foot of the altar;
  • The elimination of the recitation of John 1:1–14 by the priest at the end of Holy Mass followed by the servers’ thanksgiving;
  • The change in the words that accompany the administration of Holy Communion.

At first glance each of these alterations seems in line with Sacrosanctum Concilium 50:

The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.

For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary.

However, in light of this public-record comment from the principal author of the liturgical alterations of the latter half of the twentieth century

 “We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.”

– Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, L’Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965

I now believe that they constitute an abandonment of spiritual armor and armament from not only the priest acting in persona Christi but also the faithful who constitute Christ’s Mystical Body. It is with this lens provided by Archbishop Bugnini that I examine these three alterations—or disarmaments—that feature prominently in the Ordo Missae of the 1965 Missal.

 

The elimination of Psalm 42(43)

In the 1962 Missal and prior editions, the priest assisted by his servers is directed to recite at the foot of the altar the antiphon Psalm 42(43):4a, Psalm 42(43) in its entirety, the minor doxology, and the antiphon.

Priest. I will go in to the altar of God.

Server(s). To God who gives joy to my youth.

Priest. Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation which is not holy: from the unjust and deceitful man deliver me.

Server(s). For you, O God, are my strength: why have you cast me off? And why do I go sorrowful while the enemy afflicts me?

Priest. Send forth your light and your truth: they have guided me and brought me into your holy mountain, and into your tabernacles.

Server(s). And I will go in to the altar of God: to God who gives joy to my youth.

Priest. To you, O God, my God, will I give praise upon the harp: why are you sad, O my soul, and why do you groan within me?

Server(s). Hope in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance and my God.

Priest. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Server(s). As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Priest. I will go in to the altar of God.

Server(s). To God who gives joy to my youth.

The 1965 Order of Mass eliminates the psalm and retains only the antiphon:

Priest. I will go in to the altar of God.

Server(s). To God who gives joy to my youth.

More informed souls than I have contended that the notion of Holy-Mass-as-Sacrifice was a stumbling block to Protestants reinforced by the recitation of Psalm 42(43) at the foot of the altar, and thus was removed according to the motive elucidated by Abp. Bugnini above. If so, it was massively successful in the eyes of this layman, as it certainly appears to represent a severe weakening of the understanding of Holy Mass as Sacrifice, retained vestigially by the recitation of the antiphon “I will go in to the altar of God…”.

It is reasonable to believe that the recitation of Psalm 42(43) at the foot of the altar provides the well-disposed priest heavenly armor and ammunition against, say, a hostile congregation upon which he is planning to preach a controversial—that is to say a Catholic—homily. If its recitation does in fact arm and protect the priest to faithfully face a “nation which is not holy”—a nation that happens to populate the pews from time to time (often? always?)—the elimination of its recitation from the 1965 Order of Mass disarms the priest and leaves him exposed to lethal spiritual force.

The recitation of Psalm 42(43) at the foot of the altar reminds the priest that in God—and in the heavenly Jerusalem of which he is granted an intimate foretaste in the Sacred Liturgy—is his only joy. It reminds him to remind the flock under his care that in God is their only joy. It not only prepares the priest for any persecution from his flock within the offering of Holy Mass, it also informs the servers who recite it with him (who, if male, may well end up priests themselves) that Holy Mass is a Sacrifice and that the priest is to sacrifice absolutely everything in persona Christi—even, in the case of a well-delivered, loving Catholic homily that causes a riot to break out in the nave, the desire for human esteem (a false joy). (Given that the desire for human esteem appears to run rampant among many of the highest ranking hierarchs in the Church, most of whom celebrate only according to the Ordinary Form—which, like the 1965 Order of Mass, lacks the recitation of Psalm 42(43)—the suppression of this psalm appears to be a massively deleterious feature of both Orders of Mass.)

The importance of Psalm 42(43) is further amplified by the arc of the liturgical year. In the 1962 and 1965 Missals, the text of the antiphon Introibo ad altare Dei—“I will go unto the altar of God…” is sung as the Communion chant for Sexagesima Sunday in pre-Lent, where it takes on significance not only with regard to the approaching Lenten season of mortification, but it recalls—especially when sung in conjunction with the verses of Psalm 42(43)—how the Passion that Our Lord is presented anew within His Own Liturgy with every unworthy reception of Holy Communion…

Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation which is not holy: from the unjust and deceitful man deliver me. For you, O God, are my strength: why have you cast me off? And why do I go sorrowful while the enemy afflicts me?

…and the vindication that will belong to Him and His Beloved at the end of time:

Hope in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance and my God.

Psalm 42(43) features prominently as the Introit “Judica me” for Passion Sunday, the first day of Passiontide. Using a wider lens to examine the liturgy, one sees with clarity that the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar recall the liturgical season of Passiontide, and by extension the truth of Holy Mass being the unbloody re-presentation of the bloody1 In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass, “Introibo” is the Communion for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, which is not always observed in the case of an early Ash Wednesday. “Judica Me” is the Introit for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, which is not called Passion Sunday; unlike “Passion Sunday”, “The Fifth Sunday of Lent” is not an especially evocative name. In common Ordinary-Form practice, both of these chants are suppressed in favor of a hymn or a song. sacrifice on Calvary. Furthermore, on Passion Sunday statues are veiled. One who associates that practice with the Introit of Passion Sunday—and then makes the connection to the recitation of Psalm 42(43) at the foot of the altar—comes to realize that however subjectively gloriously a particular Holy Mass is celebrated (or not), such glory pales in comparison to the objective glory of Holy Mass veiled from our dulled senses.

Remember: This one brief psalm from the 1962 Order of Mass that allowed for these and more insights to be made by attentive cleric and laic alike was struck from the 1965 Order of Mass. The question that is raised by this is: to what end? 

In the next part of this series, I will focus on the elimination of the Last Gospel from the conclusion of the 1965 Order of Mass and the deleterious effect its elimination inflicts on the priest.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass, “Introibo” is the Communion for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, which is not always observed in the case of an early Ash Wednesday. “Judica Me” is the Introit for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, which is not called Passion Sunday; unlike “Passion Sunday”, “The Fifth Sunday of Lent” is not an especially evocative name. In common Ordinary-Form practice, both of these chants are suppressed in favor of a hymn or a song.