Saturday, 18 April 2015

Mozarabic liturgy...

The New Liturgical Movement has reported that Mozarabic liturgy is to be celebrated in the Pagan Archbasilica of the Vatican on 16th May by the Archbishop of Toledo. That presents an interesting historical anomaly. Skipping lightly over whether the music or the rite itself will be authentically Mozarabic, just think what pope Hildebrand would have thought! He despised the Mozarabic Rite and called it "the Toledan superstition." Why? Who can say? Probably because it differed in many important ways from the abridged (hence "breviary") liturgy he himself celebrated and it was the nature of this megalomaniac to think that whoever thought, worshipped, and acted in any way contrary to the way he thought, worshipped and acted was a heretic. The Mozarabic liturgical books had been approved in Rome in 1065 but this clearly wasn't enough for Hildebrand, the driving force of whose pontificate was absolute uniformity and centralization and the acknowledgement of his temporal (or at least feudal) authority. And so he attempted to have the Mozarabic liturgy abolished by pressuring the Hispanic lords and sending his Romanising Cluniac monks over the Pyrenees. Alfonso VI of Castile, whom to-day we might call European, perceived that attempts by the reformers to supplant the venerable Mozarabic liturgy were met with popular resistance and so he put the matter to trial by combat, pitting Roman and Mozarabic champions against each other. The Roman champion was defeated and this was clearly not to the king's liking and so he caused a great fire to be kindled in Burgos, and declared that whichever of the Roman or Mozarabic books thrown into the fire and was unscathed, that rite would be accepted. According to legend, the Roman missal smouldered whereas the Mozarabic missal flew out of the fire unharmed. Then wrath mastered the king and he kicked the Mozarabic missal back into the fire, saying: "Let the horns of the laws bend to the will of kings!"

Clearly God favoured the Mozarabic Rite! However, Alfonso VI appealed to Hildebrand who was determined to impose the Roman Rite and so he sent his legate Cardinal Ricardo to Castile where at the Synod of Burgos in 1080 the Roman Rite was enforced throughout León and Castile and the Mozarabic Rite solely restricted to Toledo. I don't know how this was achieved but I expect it was by force of arms. Such was the organic development of the Roman Rite in Spain. It's interesting to compare the contemporaneous ecclesiastical reforms of Lanfranc in England and the later Norman Conquest of Ireland but which most history books would pass over as insignificant "reforms of the church." Or, going back to Charlemagne's time, compare the suppression of the various Gallican uses in his zeal for Romanitas. Or, nearer to Rome, the riots in Milan in 1442 when Eugenius IV launched an abortive attempt to impose the Roman Rite on the Milanese. But the suppression of the Mozarabic Rite in Spain exemplified a tendency, accelerated by the Council of Trent four hundred years later, of centralization and uniformity, all under the aegis of the Papacy. It is intolerant, arrogant and stupidly wrong to suppose that just because a rite has not its uttermost origins in the pope's chapel it is of its very nature heretical, suspect and in need of reform. But such has been, for the most part, the history of the popes and their relationship with the native uses and rites of the West. And the irony is that the old rites and the old uses of the West contain many antient features that have been lost in the Roman Rite. Mozarabic vespers, for example, contains an obvious allusion to the old Lucernarium in the preces, even so:

Κύριε, ἐλέησον
Χριστέ ἐλέησον
Κύριε, ἐλέησον
Pater noster, &c.
℣ In nomine Domini Iesu Christi, lumen cum pace.
℟ Amen.
℣ Hoc est lumen oblatum.
℟ Deo Gratias.

Just imagine being in attendance as the lamps were lighting. It would certainly call to mind Egeria's experiences in the Holy Land. But no! This is Toledan superstition!

I wonder what pope Francis thinks of this Toledan Archbishop celebrating Adoptionist, reformed liturgy in his church?


  1. Well the Mozarabic liturgy was "brought up to date" after Vatican II by John Paul II, so I would imagine that Rite is what will occur. I believe John Paul II himself offered it after publishing the new Mass ritual.

    1. I know almost nothing of Mozarabic liturgical reform, custom or history. All I know is that, like the Ambrosian rite, it has come dangerously close to extinction throughout its long history. And for no cause but the will of popes.

    2. I know nary a thing about it as well; I am simply going off New Liturgical Movement's post on the subject. Is there not a blog out there (perhaps now defunct? I do not remember) about the Mozarabic liturgy?

  2. This website has a great deal of information about the Mozarabic Missal in use today.

  3. Well, the almost complete extinction of this glorious (as a Spaniard, I must underline it) rite has more to do with the will of the kings than that of the popes, and with current politics that with religious issues. Indeed, that liturgy did not die in the XI century even in the north: I've been told (but not able to check the fact) that still ca. 1200 Innocence III wrote to Alfonso IX, king of León, complying that most of the Leonese churches still celebrated according to the "hispanic use", and menaced him on political grounds because of that.

    On the other hand, I am quite pessimist on the restoration of this Liturgy: in fact, by the Middle Ages it had splitted into two traditions, A (the Northern one, that of the kingdom of León) and B (that of the Mozarabic people under Islamic rule), which had different calendars and Mass and Office propers. In addition, the order of the Mass is lost: what we call "Mozarabic order" is actually the order of a hybrid rite (the Toletan one) with just some genuine Hispanic relics. Last but not least, the 1980s reformers mixed at will elements from the two traditions (whose remains are indeed scarce) while suppressing those which were too different from the novus ordo Roman rite. So the new Mozarabic liturgy has almost nothing to do with the old, genuine one, of which we know just some basic features.

    Sadly its restoration is nowadays impossible, I think...

  4. Sadly, this obsession with liturgical uniformity isn't restricted to Rome. There was a similar 'We are the Borg' tendency in Byzantium. Also, remember the fanatical oppression of the Old Believers in Russia.

  5. Vlad is quite correct. When one compares Rome to Byzantium, Rome seems to flourish as a paragon of liturgical diversity. There is absolutely no liturgical diversity in Byzantium at all.

    1. Not sure what you mean by this, Dale. There variants between Russian and Greek, and even Antiochian praxis,even in priestly vestments (high Russian and low Greek phelonions e.g.) and different saints are commemorated according to their various ranking in different jurisdictions.

      As to diversity, the rubrics for promoskedia are much the same, whether one uses a large prosphora or five smaller ones. Ah diversity!

      Still I can't see your pumping 'no liturgical diversity' thing here.
      And then there is the music, and various ways of doing the Great Entrance.
      My humble OCA parish goes all around the church whilst 'real' russians go out the north door and sneak in the middle doors. Ho hum.
      Rdr. James Morgan
      Olympia WA
      why not just go back to being Anglican and leave us easterners alone?