Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Blessed Be God

Preserving Christian Publications has steadily reprinted the "classic" pre-Vatican II devotional prayer book, Blessed Be God. The book is well bound in bonded leather, USA made, on "bible" paper. This being said, unlike the pre-Vatican II reprints offered by Baronious Press, PCP has not taken the time to re-typeset the volume.

Pre-Vatican II reprints are a mixed bag, much like that era (any era, really) of the Roman Church itself. Whereas Baronius Press has typically tried to reprint pre-Vatican II books that were, from a certain perspective, essential to the general forward thrust of the Council (though not falling into the new theology of the time), PCP seems to favor pre-Vatican II titles that hedge in a direction away from the council. Blessed Be God, while being a well produced volume, offers a rather dismal vision of liturgical life in the Roman rite. The prayer book is designed for use in the liturgical context, supplying prayers for before, during, and after the liturgy, including Sunday Vespers, a Latin-English ordo of the mass, and the epistles and gospels of the year. From a liturgical perspective, such a collection seriously mares the fruitful material of the pre-Vatican II Roman rite, which is typically found while following the prayer of the propers themselves - in other words, by praying the liturgy of the day much as one would the breviary.

The possibility that Blessed Be God's successive reprints could indicate a change in liturgical mentality in the Roman church reminds one of why the liturgical movement had the impulse it did (very anti-devotional back in the day) and why the reform of the Roman liturgy, rightly or wrongly, took the form it did. The propagation of primarily devotional texts put one in contact with an interpretation of the primary source, and not the primary source itself. The impetus behind the propagation of vernacular missals and popularized works of liturgical theology was to remove the devotional barrier and facilitate access to the primary source. This is a lesson well worth heeding.

For those looking for more liturgical prayer in the form utilized prior to 1970, you may want to consider the edition of the Roman Breviary offered by Baronious Press:

Though currently out of print, the second batch is expected sometime in the Fall, I believe.