Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Ordines Romani

Often we hear arguments about what was the authentic form of the Mass taken from hsistory and tradition. Is it the Extraordinary Form (the Roman Rite according to the books used at the Second Vatican Council) as celebrated in some areas, or the Ordinary Form developed following the Council (sometimes called the Novus Ordo?).

Like everything its about going back to the sources. Most "liturgists" hang onto St Justin Martyr's account of Mass being celebrated in the second century AD. However, we know that the Mass in both the Eastern and Western parts of the Roman Empire went through a considerable state of flux subsequent to this. Justins account is very brief so it does not give very much of a flavour of what went on.

This is why a series of documents called the Ordines Romani become important because they not only outline what was said in liturgies but also what people did in the liturgy. The Ordines Romani were a series of documents with the first ordo (Ordo I) believed to have been written before the end of the seventh century AD, and final set written by the 15th century. We will focus on Ordo I with some reference to a 9th century AD ordo - Ordo III. The purpose of these ordo's seem to be as a guide to what was done in at a Solemn Pontifical Mass in Rome for people who wanted to learn liturgy but could not travel there.

What I intend to do in the next few weeks (God willing) is briefly go through the various elements of the Ordo Romanus, because I do not think that a comparison with both of the modern forms (1962 and 1970 missals) have been done. What it shows clearly, is that the Ordo of the original Roman Rite contains elements of both and truly is the father of both. Conversely neither can lay claim to be doing "what the early Christians did", which often is an obsession of liturgists these days.

The other thing with the Ordo is that it shows up the reason for some obscure practices in our modern liturgies, so this little study should inform the tradition. Some pics from visits of actual churches and basilicas where these ceremonies were enacted give a bit of the flavour.


Terra said...

A focus on what really happened in the early Church may be interesting to historians, but any notion that it should influence what should be in the liturgy today is merely archeologism.

The better principle is that the liturgy should develop organically, and we should respect the development of tradition over the centuries.

Stephen said...

Of course liturgy should develop over time, but it doesnt hurt to retrace the path. There are a lot of elements in the liturgies in the first millenium that would appear strange to us AND we have to realise that they were in a different social and theological context - something that modern "liturgists" tend to forget.

The post on Deaconesses shows there is really no going back. As Roman rightly pointed out our understanding of ordination has evolved so that you would not sensibly re-introduce them. One of the shortcomings of the Novus ordo Mass was that people used it to try to turn back the clock to suit their idea of a "pure" church. Communion in the hand for instance just doesnt match our modern understanding of the Eucharist.