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  • Les “apologies” de l’Ordo Missae de la Liturgie Romaine: Sources—Histoire—Théologie by Alain-Pierre Yao
  • Uwe Michael Lang
Alain-Pierre Yao
Les “apologies” de l’Ordo Missae de la Liturgie Romaine: Sources—Histoire—Théologie
Ecclesia orans. Studi e Ricerche 3
Naples: Editrice Domenicana Italiana, 2019
393 pages. Hardbound. €45.00.

The Frankish adoption and adaptation of the Roman Rite of Mass in the early medieval period included a shift towards a more personal and emotive approach to the liturgy. This is exemplified in the incorporation of specific prayers in the first person singular or plural, to be said in a low voice by the celebrant at different moments of the Mass. These prayers, known as “apologies” (apologiae), express sorrowful recognition of the priest’s (or bishop’s) personal sinfulness as well as joyful trust in God’s mercy and calling to offer the acceptable sacrifice for the salvation of souls. Liturgical scholarship in the first half of the twentieth century tended to see in the dramatic style of these texts an infelicitous departure from the sober character of the Roman Rite. Consequently, the priest’s personal prayers were considerably reduced [End Page 311] in the post-conciliar liturgical reform. This study by Father Alain-Pierre Yao, a priest of the archdiocese of Bouaké (Ivory Coast), based on his doctoral dissertation at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo in Rome, shows that we are now in a better position to appreciate the historical development, theological significance and spiritual benefit of these prayers in the Mass. Above all, Yao argues that, despite its general acceptance, the term “apologies” is misleading, because many of these texts do not have the character of confession or self-accusation. This insight provides him with a hermeneutical key to review the historical evidence.

The first chapter (33–122) offers a lucid and instructive presentation of the origins and historical development of “apologies.” Of particular interest is the author’s discussion of the Byzantine tradition, where the introduction of the prayer “No one is worthy” (Οὐδεὶς ἄξιος) into the Divine Liturgy may date from the early eighth century. While Yao briefly reviews non-Roman Western traditions, the major part of this chapter is dedicated to the Roman Rite and concludes with the Tridentine missal of 1570. The main sources for “apology” prayers are the collections of the recurring parts of the Eucharistic celebration that developed into a distinct liturgical genre, the Ordo Missae. Although much progress has been made in this field since the seminal contribution of Bonifaas Luykx, still more work remains to be done. In the first place, not all of the known texts are available in a critical edition. Moreover, the prayers of the Ordo Missae are not always organized in a distinct section but may be dispersed throughout a liturgical manuscript. Such prayers can be found not only in sacramentaries or missals, but also in handbooks for priests or collections of prayers (libelli precum). Hence more examples of the Ordo Missae are likely to be discovered and require a revision of Luykx’s widely-accepted typology. In this context, Yao points to the Cluniac Ordo Missae, which is distinguished from other ordines, both diocesan and monastic, by its sobriety and restraint (44). While this book cannot attempt a comprehensive and systematic study of the Ordo Missae, it presents the reader with the current research on this important chapter in liturgical history.

Following Adrien Nocent, the inclusion of “apologies” in the celebration of Mass is often seen in connection with the development [End Page 312] of tariff penance. In the Carolingian period, it became possible to commute an imposed penance into a specific number of “penitential” Masses to be offered. The priest was seen to identify with penitents both living and deceased and this would explain the strongly penitential character of his private prayers. Yao, however, argues that “apologies” resulted from an increasing preoccupation with ritual purity. There is certainly evidence in support of this argument, but the difficulty with Yao’s proposal is its reliance on the overstated theory of Arnold Angenendt about the importance of “cultic purity” (kultische Reinheit) in the early Middle Ages.

The substantial second chapter...


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