Rorate Caeli

The Question of Continuity of the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal: The Sunday Gospels


The question of the continuity of the 1962 Roman Missal with the Missal promulgated by Pope St. Paul VI in 1970 is important to discuss for an understanding of the liturgical life of the Church today.  That St. Paul VI assumed such a continuity is clear in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum that promulgated the Missale Romanum of 1970 as a “restoration of the Missale Romanum”. In that same document Paul VI refers several times to the Missale Romanum promulgated in 1570 by St. Pius V and makes a parallel between the “many and wonderful fruits” of the Roman Missal of 1570 and the fruits anticipated in the use of 1970 Roman Missal.


Paul VI claims as a basis for the new Lectionary for Mass, the 1989 Ordo Lectionum Missae,  the prescription of the Second Vatican Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium that “over the course of a prescribed number of years a more representative portion of Holy Scripture be read to the people”.  As to the new ordering of the Lectionary, the Pope continues: “All these things have been arranged in this way so as to arouse more and more among Christ’s faithful that hunger for the Word of God by which under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the people of the New Covenant can be seen, as it were, to be impelled towards the perfect unity of the Church.”


One can examine and compare the Lectionary of the 1962 Missal and that of the 1970 Missal in many ways, the most important being theologically based. But one can begin in a more modest way by comparing the two Lectionaries in a simple “statistical” way that reveals whether there is a basis for claiming that there is a real continuity between the two Lectionaries on a ground level. 


But numbers, while helpful, cannot be the basis of an answer to the question of the continuity of the Lectionaries of the 1962 and 1979 Missals. The more important questions to be answered in the context of continuity are among the following.


1. Exactly what does continuity mean with respect to the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal and its revisions?  In general terms, continuity demands a state of stability and the absence of disruption. Or we can say that continuity is a connection or line of development with no breaks. For those with a mathematical bent (like this author) the mathematical understanding of the continuity of a function may be helpful. In general terms a function is continuous if there is a real value for the function at every point in the function. If there is not a real value at a certain point in the function, then there is a “hole” in the function. There is no way to get from one side of the hole to the other. If there is a “hole” in the function of Tradition between the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal, then the two are not continuous. 


2. What is the purpose of the readings at Mass?  The Apostolic Constitution of 1970 assumes that the readings, especially the Gospel, are meant to feed the people with the Word of God. Is there a difference between ritual proclamation of the Gospel and personal reading of the Gospel or organized study of the Gospel?


3. What is the basis of the process by which decisions are made to include or exclude passages of Scripture to be proclaimed at Mass in the 1970 Missal?  Do the sensibilities of the particular age in which these decisions are made influence the choice of readings?


4. What role should liturgical Tradition play in drawing up a new Lectionary? 


The past decade has seen the beginnings of real scholarly work on the changes in the 1962 Missal made in the 1970 Missal in important texts of the Mass.  Dr. Lauren Pristas’ masterful work Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council is not only excellent scholarship but is important for any discussion of the question of the continuity of the two Missals. It should be read by every bishop of the Church.  


More recently Matthew Hazell has produced a series of publications that include an analysis and comparison of the Post-Communion Collects in the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal.  His recent publication, Index Lectionum: A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite (Lectionary Study Aids) is the basis for the analysis of the Gospels in the Lectionaries of the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal that follows. Mr. Hazell deserves much thanks for making this comparative information available in a detailed and clear format.


THE ANALYSIS



Sunday Gospels in 1962 Roman Missal eliminated in the 1989 Ordo Lectionum Missae

            Third Sunday after Epiphany    (significantly truncated)

            14th Sunday after Pentecost

            17th Sunday after Pentecost

            21st Sunday after Pentecost

            Last Sunday after Pentecost


Sunday Gospels in the 1962 Roman Missal used as the Gospel at Sunday Mass in the 1989 Ordo Lectionum Missae (The letters A, B, and C refer to the three year cycle of readings in the 1989 Ordo Lectionum)



    Advent I                 Advent I C

    Advent II         Advent III A

    Advent IV                 Advent II C

    Sunday after Christmas Holy Name of Jesus January 3

    Epiphany January 6         Epiphany celebrated on Sunday

    Holy Family Holy Family C

    Second Sunday after Epiphany Second Sunday of the Year C

    Lent II                 Lent II A

    Septuagesima         25th Sunday of the Year A

    Lent IV         17th Sunday of the Year B

    Palm Sunday         Palm Sunday A

    Easter         Easter Vigil B

    Pentecost         6th Sunday of Easter C

    Pentecost IV 5th of the Year C

    Pentecost VIII         25th of the Year C

    Pentecost X         30th of the Year C

    Pentecost XI 23rd of the Year B

    Pentecost XII         15th of the Year C

    Pentecost XIII         28th of the Year C

    Pentecost XV         10th Sunday of the Year C

    Pentecost XIX         28th Sunday of the Year A

    Pentecost XXII         29th Sunday of the Year A

    Christ the King         Christ the King B





Sunday Gospels in the 1962 Roman Missal that are no longer assigned to Sundays but appear as readings in the 1989 Ordo Lectionum Missae for daily Masses, Propers of Saints, Votive Masses and Ritual Masses


    Advent III         January 2

    Fourth Sunday after Epiphany Tuesday 13th week of the year

    Fifth Sunday after Epiphany Saturday 16th Week of the Year    

    Sixth Sunday after Epiphany Monday 17th Week of the Year

    Sexagesima         Saturday of the 24th Week of the Year

    Quinquagesima         Monday of the 33rd Week of the Year

    Lent III         Friday of the 27th Week of the Year

    Lent V (Passion Sunday)         Thursday after Lent V

    Second Sunday after Easter Propers of Saints, Votive Masses

    Third Sunday after Easter         Thursday of the Sixth week of Easter

    Fourth Sunday after Easter         Tuesday of the Sixth week of Easter

    Fifth Sunday after Easter Saturday of the Sixth week of Easter

    Sunday after the Ascension Monday of the Sixth week of Easter

    Trinity Sunday         Baptism, RCIA

    Pentecost II         Tuesday of the 31st Week of the Year

    Pentecost III Thursday of the 31st Week of the Year

    Pentecost V         Votive Masses

    Pentecost VI Saturday of the 5th Week of the Year

    Pentecost VII         Wednesday of the 12th Week of the Year

    Pentecost IX Thursday of the 33rd Week of the Year

    Pentecost XVI         Friday of the 30th Week of the Year (partial)

    Pentecost XVIII         Thursday of the 13th Week of the Year

    Pentecost XX         Monday after Lent IV

    Pentecost XXIII         Monday of the 14th Week of the Year


                    Numerical Analysis:


                    Gospels from 1962 Missal eliminated in 1981 Ordo Lectionum    9.6%

                    Gospels from 1962 Missal used as Sunday Gospels in 1981 Ordo Lectionum  44.2%

                    Gospels from 1962 Missal used  in the 1989 Ordo Lectionum as Gospels for weekday Masses,                     Propers of Saints, Votive Masses and Ritual Masses:  49.2%

                    Gospels from 1962 Missal eliminated or not used as Sunday Gospels in Ordo Lectionum                            1981:  58.8%


Commentary


That almost 60% of the Sunday Gospels in the 1962 Roman Missal do not appear in the 1989 Ordo Lectionum Missae as Sunday Gospels raises questions about the continuity of the Sunday Gospel readings of the 1962 Missal and the 1970 Missal of St. Paul VI and the following versions of that Missal.  It is obvious from this data that in the formation of the post-Vatican II three year cycle of Sunday Gospel readings, the Gospels of the Ordo that has been handed down from before the time of St. Gregory the Great were not treated as part of the liturgical Tradition and therefore were not given “pride of place” in the development of the post-Vatican II Ordo Lectionum Missae.


Given this data it would be very difficult indeed to assert that there is a continuity with respect to the Ordo for Sunday Gospels in the 1962 Roman Missal and the 1989 Ordo Lectionum Missae for the Missal of 1970 and the several revisions to the present day.  The question of whether the development of a three year cycle of Gospels for the post-Vatican II Missal was a positive development or not is beyond the scope of this study.  


Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla


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