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   Later Medieval Liturgies

We have now arrived at the present state of things. It remains to say a word about the various medieval uses the nature of which has often been misunderstood. Everyone has heard of the old English uses -- Sarum, Ebor, etc. People have sometimes tried to set them up in opposition to what they call the "modern" Roman Rite, as witnesses that in some way England was not "Roman" before the Reformation. This idea shows an astonishing ignorance of the rites in question. These medieval uses are in no sense really independent rites . To compare them with the Gallican or Eastern Liturgies is absurd. They are simply cases of what was common all over Europe in the later Middle Ages, namely slight (often very slight) local modifications of the parent Rite of Rome. As there were Sarum and Ebor, so there were Paris, Rouen, Lyons, Cologne, Trier Rites. All these are simply Roman, with a few local peculiarities. They had their own saints' days, a trifling variety in the Calendar, some extra Epistles, Gospels, sequences, prefaces, certain local (generally more exuberant) details of ritual. In such insignificant details as the sequence of liturgical colours there was diversity in almost every diocese. No doubt, some rites (as the Dominican use, that of Lyons, etc.) have rather more Gallican additions than our normal Roman Liturgy. But the essence of all these late rites, all the parts that really matter (the arrangement, Canon of the Mass and so on) are simply Roman. Indeed they do not differ from the parent rite enough to be called derived properly. Here again the parallel case of languages will make the situation clear. There are really derived languages that are no longer the same language as their source. Italian is derived from Latin, and Italian is not Latin. On the other hand, there are dialectic modifications that do not go far enough to make a derived language. No one would describe the modern Roman dialect as a language derived from Italian; it is simply Italian, with a few slight local modifications. In the same way, there are really new liturgies derived from the old ones. The Byzantine Rite is derived from that of Antioch and is a different rite. But Sarum, Paris, Trier, etc. are simply the Roman Rite, with a few local modifications.

Hence the justification of the abolition of nearly all these local varieties in the sixteenth century. However jealous one may be for the really independent liturgies, however much one would regret to see the abolition of the venerable old rites that share the allegiance of Christendom (an abolition by the way that is not in the least likely ever to take place), at any rate these medieval developments have no special claim to our sympathy. They were only exuberant inflations of the more austere ritual that had better not have been touched. Churches that use the Roman Rite had better use it in a pure form; where the same rite exists at least there uniformity is a reasonable ideal. To conceive these late developments as old compared with the original Roman Liturgy that has now again taken their place, is absurd. It was the novelties that Pius V abolished; his reform was a return to antiquity. In 1570 Pius V published his revised and restored Roman Missal that was to be the only form for all Churches that use the Roman Rite. The restoration of this Missal was on the whole undoubtedly successful; it was all in the direction of eliminating the later inflations, farced Kyries and Glorias, exuberant sequences, and ceremonial that was sometimes almost grotesque. In imposing it the pope made an exception for other uses that had been in possession for at least two centuries. This privilege was not used consistently. Many local uses that had a prescription of at least that time gave way to the authentic Roman Rite; but it saved the Missals of some Churches (Lyons, for instance) and of some religious orders (the Dominicans, Carmelites, Carthusians). What is much more important is that the pope's exception saved the two remnants of a really independent Rite at Milan and Toledo. Later, in the nineteenth century, there was again a movement in favour of uniformity that abolished a number of surviving local customs in France and Germany, though these affected the Breviary more than the Missal. We are now witnessing a similar movement for uniformity in plainsong (the Vatican edition). The Monastic Rite (used by the Benedictines and Cistercians) is also Roman in its origin. The differences between it and the normal Roman Rite affect chiefly the Divine Office.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX
Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York