Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"The Organic Development of the Liturgy"

 "Charlemagne instructing Louis the Pious" artist unknown,  
from the Grandes Chroniques de France, France, Paris 
(BnF Français 73, fol. 128v) 9th Century AD

Another interesting perspective on liturgical reform from Alcuin Reid's "The Organic Development of the Liturgy"-

Charlemagne was a Frankish king who understood the advantages of establishing his empire upon a Roman model.  Charlemagne thought it would also be a good idea to align the Liturgy celebrated within his domains with the Liturgy as celebrated in Rome.   So, at the end of the eighth century AD, Charlemagne sent to Rome for liturgical books so that he could have copies made and distributed throughout his realm.  Charlemagne was the most powerful ruler in Western Europe, and the protector of the pope, so when his request for liturgical books reached Rome, scribes immediately began racing to complete the job.  Their haste shows in the finished product, which is full of copyists' errors.  Also, the liturgical book they sent to Charlemagne contained only texts for liturgies celebrated by a pope, omitting liturgies celebrated by ordinary priests.

Rome had done its best, however inadequate the result, so Charlemagne realized he would have to fix the book's shortcomings himself.  Charlemagne gave the job of correcting the liturgical book and supplying the omitted liturgies to a scholar in his court (probably the English monk Alcuin).  This scholar had many liturgical texts to draw upon in doing his work, and went about his job with scrupulous care.   In "The Organic Development of the Liturgy," Alcuin Reid notes the following five principles evident in the editor's work:

1. a necessity for the development (the sacramentary supplied was inadequate; further texts were required);
2. a profound respect for liturgical Tradition (insofar as possible the compilation of required texts using elements already belonging to the Tradition, in this case Roman;
3. little pure innovation (the editor collects rather than composes);
4. the tentative positing of newer liturgical forms alongside the old (his preface accepts that they may be considered a "superfluity");
5. the integration of the newer forms following their acceptance over time.

The end result was not liturgical uniformity in the Carolingian empire, but increased liturgical unity.

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