October 10, 2019

Liturgical Books and Our Sense of Time

[Original post, July 12, 2010]

Anyone who has used a hand missal or a breviary is familiar with the chart of movable days somewhere in the front. I find it interesting to note how far they go into the future, because I suspect it says something about our sense of time and change.

My hand missal for the ordinary form, published in 2003, goes up to 2010, suggesting that the editors imagined one would use it for seven years. Perhaps it was a good guess, given that we expect the new and improved English translation of the 2002 Missale Romanum one of these days. [As we know, it arrived for Advent 2011.]

My Baronius Press hand missal for the extraordinary form, published in 2007, has a calendar that goes up to 2066, suggesting a much longer sense of how long someone might use it.

My 1976 American English Liturgy of the Hours goes up to 1999, while the 2000 typical edition Liturgia Horarum goes up 2022, about the same span of years. My 1962 Breviarium Romano-Seraphicum goes a little bit longer, to 1992.

The 2002 Missale Romanum contains a liturgical calendar that goes up to 2023, about the same span as the breviaries. The 1954 Missale Romano-Seraphicum, however, has a calendar that goes up to 2003, more than twice the span. The editors imagined it being used almost long enough to come back as an option after forty years of Novus Ordo exclusivity!

I'm sure there's a dissertation to be written here, but on the face it one might guess that folks used to imagine liturgies (and books!) as lasting longer than we do now.


2019 update: On a recent visit to the Specola Vaticana, the Vatican Observatory, the Brother Astronomer showed me a volume of the work of Christopher Clavius, SJ, who was one of the main authors of the Gregorian calendar reform, promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Just on the page that was open, his calculations for the date of Easter, etc.--in the sixteenth century!--go up to 2031. I don't know how far the charts went after that. So it goes to show that sixteenth century Jesuits (at least) had a longer view of the calendar than any of the liturgical books I mentioned in the original post.


Rachel said...

"on the face it one might guess that folks used to imagine liturgies (and books!) as lasting longer than we do now. "

Interesting. It's easy to understand... changes were so slow and gradual till recent decades!

Rachel said...

Haha, good ideas! I'd like to be the mayor of my parish, St. Peter Chanel, but there are so many other pious folks who'd have me beat. And of course if any of the priests who *live* there chose to compete for the title, the rest of us would have no hope.