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Carmelite rite

CARMELITE RITE

Until the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, CARMELITES had their own rite in the sense that they celebrate the liturgy according to liturgical books that were edited on their own authority, with approval granted by the Holy See.

The Franco-Roman liturgy, brought to Jerusalem by the Crusaders (1099) and adapted to the particular needs of the Holy City, was probably imposed on the Carmelites by Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, when he wrote their rule (c. 1207). However, when the Carmelites moved to Europe and their order changed from an eremitical to a mendicant one, the new situation brought a need for uniform liturgical celebration. The Jerusalem rite was too local in character; it could hardly be followed outside the Holy City itself. In the beginning there was disagreement as to what adaptation should be made. The solution imposed by authority in 1281 and 1294 prescribed the rite of Jerusalem according to the old Ordinal, with exceptions only for whatever was universal practice. It seems that these exceptions were indicated by special rules for simplification. Very likely, the old Ordinal, together with these rules, was at the basis of the new Ordinal, which was composed by Sibertus de Beka in 1312 and was the official code for the Carmelite liturgy until 1580. A more radical solution, however, was proposed in another Ordinal, made probably in England. This Ordinal greatly reduced the local elements of the Jerusalem rite and presented a structure of the Divine Office that was both strictly canonical and clearer. Though not accepted by the order at first, except perhaps in England, this Ordinal was adopted in 1584 and has remained the basic form of the Carmelite liturgy ever since.

Sibert’s Ordinal followed the Jerusalem rite rather closely but eliminated some of its characteristic elements, such as processions. While the Ordinary of the Mass was similar to that of the Dominicans, the Proper reproduced the Jerusalem rite. However, there was an important difference: from being a memorial to the Holy Land, the rite became an expression of Carmelite spirituality, especially its devotion to the Mother of God. Uniformity was difficult to maintain because of varying devotions and the influence of local customs. After several attempts to reintroduce uniformity, Carmelite service books after 1544 tended to follow the Roman rite more closely.

The General Chapter of 1580 finally decreed a radical reform, which Petrus ab Apostolis implemented by adopting the Ordinal elaborated in England in the 13th century. Historians have claimed that this Ordinal was taken over from the Dominicans. Although the Carmelite and Dominican rites are similar, there are too many differences to allow such a simple solution. Some saints proper to the Jerusalem rite, its commemoration of the Resurrection, and many of its liturgical texts have been retained in the Carmelite rite. The structure of the 1580 rite was completely different from that in Sibert’s Ordinal. The 1580 reform resulted in a new and more logical Office: superfluous texts were eliminated, commemorations of the Resurrection were reduced, and a better correspondence between liturgical texts was worked out. Few changes were made in the Missal: The Italian text (unfortunately, not the best tradition) was adopted, the order of the Gospels after Trinity Sunday was changed, and the rubrics were further adapted to the Roman rite. But despite the alterations introduced, one can still speak of continuity with earlier Carmelite tradition. There was a constant endeavor on the part of the order’s authorities to adopt the Roman rite as the Discalced Carmelites did, but the Congregation of Rites was opposed. Yet in 1648 the Order was obliged to observe all feasts introduced into the Roman Missal.

From the beginning of the 20th century the authority of the prior general over the liturgy of the order was recognized. Roman feasts were no longer automatically introduced. New service books were printed, one of which, the Ceremonial of 1906, eliminated all the changes made since 1580. The reform of Pius X gave the order the opportunity to return to its calendar of 1580 with but a few exceptions. After Vatican II a decision was made to adopt the Roman Rite in place of the Carmelite Rite.

Bibliography: A. A. KING, Liturgies of the Religious Orders (Milwaukee 1955) 235–324. J. BOYCE, Praising God in Carmel: Studies in Carmelite Liturgy (Washington, D.C. 1999). P. KALLENBERG, Fontes Liturgiae Carmelitanae (Rome 1962).


[H. SPIKKER / J. SULLIVAN]

New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2003. Vol. 3. P. 125-126.

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