Saturday, 23 July 2011

Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described

 I am currently enjoying  a book kindly lent to me by Dr Matthew Doyle: "The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite described" by Dr Adrian Fortescue. It is amazing! It includes detailed instructions for just about any ceremony celebrated in the traditional liturgy; this includes pontifical, solemn and low Mass, Vespers, Holy Week and the liturgical year, the sacraments, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, funerals, episcopal visitation (yikes!) and lots more. Although it was originally written in the First World War, it has been brought up to date to try to take into account some of the changes which have occurred over time, like new saints being canonised, the 1983 revision of Canon Law, reform of indulgences etc.
I especially like the diagrams and symbols used, which look like escaped figures from a game of chess...But before you start wondering what kind of man could have written such a detailed book, here is a bit of the introduction to this new edition, taken from a letter Dr Fortescue wrote, which shows he was not exactly having the time of his life while writing it:

  "Try to imagine for one solid year of my life...I spent all day comparing Merati&Martinucci&Le Vavasseur, to find out where the thurifer ought to stand before the Magnificat, who takes off the bishop's left glove, what sort of bow you should make at the Asperges. I had to look serious, and discuss the arguments for a ductus duplex or the other thing, whatever it is called, at each candlestick, when you incense the altar. Conceive a man, said to be made in the image of God, spending his time over that kind of thing.Even now that the burden is over it fills me with rage to think of those days. I could have learned a new language easily in the time. I could have gone every day to the cinema. I could have read the complete works of Maria Corelli. My cat was spending his time in sane and reasonable pusuits, chasing birds in the garden, climbing trees, or sleeping in his basket, while I was describing the conduct of the second MC at pontifical Vespers not at the throne. And they affect to believe that we lead a nobler life than the beasts."

And again when asked to revise it:

"...my dreadful ceremonies book. Does it want more revision?I had so hoped that I had done with that filthy job forever. However, if there are still corrections to be made in it(and I have no doubt there are), I suppose I must make them...You cannot conceive how I loathe the idea of going into all that horrid business of the minutiae of tomfool modern ceremonies once again. I do not think there is any possible subject that seems to me more utterly devoid of interest or of any scientific attraction. It is always, of course, merely a matter of seeing what some footling Congregation of incompetent idiots at Rome has said we are to do. Not one halfpennyworth of principle or of historic research is affected by the question  whether the thurifer should stand on the left or the right at any given moment. I would just as soon spend hours verifying the hours at which trains start on some railway line that I shall never use."


It is funny that, when Dr Fortescue died in 1923, the publishers asked Canon J.B. O'Connell to revise the book. Canon O'Connell loved ceremonial and rubrics; it was his life's work and he had even criticised the first edition of Dr Fortescue's book as being "careless" and "indifferent".
So it is interesting that even two authors of the same book should have such different approaches.

And guess what! If you would like to
purchase it through this link
 I get 5% of the cost in amazon credit.
( And Matt might get his book back!)

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