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Premonstratensian rite

PREMONSTRATENSIAN RITE

The liturgical usages proper to the Premonstratensian Order. They are not properly a rite.

History. Liturgical reform was integral to the reform of religious life in all medieval communities from Cluny to the mendicants. Thus, the particular forms of expression for consecrated life from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries—the eremetical (CARTHUSIANS), the monastic (CISTERCIANS), the canonical (PREMONSTRATENSIANS) and the mendicants (especially DOMINICANS and CARMELITES) — legislated and enforced liturgical reform as strictly as the other aspects of their ritualized life. Liturgical uniformity was seen as necessary to the success of reform in these orders. Contrary to the prevailing opinion held throughout the twentieth century, liturgical uniformity among the Premonstratensians was not as strictly enforced as it was among the Cistercians. The early growth of the Premonstratensians was as much due to already existing canonical and collegiate chapters accepting the ordo vivendi praemonstratensis as it was to new foundations. These existing communities already were united by usages proper to the non-monastic liturgy of canons. They could not be expected to jettison their liturgical libraries immediately upon accepting the Premonstratensian way of life.

In the course of the second half of the twelfth century, the long and increasingly centralizing administration of HUGH OF FOSSE, successor to the founder St. NORBERT and first abbot of Premontre, the influence of Cistercian government and liturgy on the Premonstratensians and papal encouragement towards uniformity all contributed to greater, but never complete, liturgical uniformity throughout the order.

The oldest Ordinarius or basic description of the order’s liturgy dates from the last quarter of the 12th century. In the Middle Ages it was a strong factor in maintaining continuity and solidarity throughout the order and served as a principal source for the spiritual formation of its members.

The liturgical books of the order were revised in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the wake of the Tridentine reform of the liturgy, all orders having a liturgical tradition of less than two hundred years were obliged to follow the revised Roman rite. In 1574 and 1578, during the administration of Abbot General Jean Despruets, the processionale, breviarium, and missale of the order were reprinted on the basis of authentic medieval manuscripts. In the same period, however, it became more and more the tendency to imitate the new Roman rite. The general chapter of 1618 voted to maintain the order’s liturgy, but did adapt more Roman elements (breviarium of 1621, missale of 1622 and Liber Ordinarius of 1628). This hybrid liturgy was further adapted in 1739 and remained in force until the end of the 19th century.

In response to the liturgical renewal initiated by SOLESMES and PIUS X, the order decided to review and reintegrate elements of its medieval liturgy. A chant commission was established in 1904 and new liturgical books published: a graduale in 1910, a revised calendar in 1924, a breviarium in 1930, a processionale in 1932, and an antiphonarium in 1934. Throughout this period, the general chapters debated the value of an integral reintegration of medieval usage against one adapted to 20th–century life, especially in the many parishes served by Premonstratensians. The more adapted reintegration marks the Liber Ordinarius published in 1949.

The General Chapter of 1976 decided to retain its right to proper usages, but in conformity with the principles of liturgical renewal set forth by the Second Vatican Council. A revised calendar was approved in 1977 and a Thesaurus Liturgiae Praemonstratensis for the celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours appeared in 1988. In practice, almost all communities follow the Roman liturgy according to the order’s calendar.

Description. The order’s liturgical tradition places heavy emphasis on the celebration of the paschal mystery. In the pre-Vatican II usages, the expulsion of penitents and their reconciliation on Holy Thursday were solemnly celebrated. The Easter octave was celebrated with the greatest solemnity. Post-baptismal Easter Vespers was celebrated each day of the octave. The Order had an eighth ‘‘O antiphon,’’ O Virgo virginum. The medieval Christmas sequence, Laetabundus, was retained. The rites of the Ordo Romanus Antiquus (c. 950) were retained in the celebrations of Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, and the Rogation Days. Some elements in the rites for the dying and burial went back to the Carolingian period. The older Mass rite was a canonical adaptation of the Carolingian version of the Ordo Romanus primus (Andrieu’s Ordo Romanus 5) and was an important witness to the Romano-Germanic tradition of the Western liturgy. The order retained a proper chant dialect that was largely retrieved through the work of the chant commission established in 1904.

The most important change in the order’s liturgy since Vatican II has had to do with its spirit. The hallmark of Premonstratensian liturgical prayer has shifted from that of splendor cultus to ecclesial prayer in medio populi. Throughout the twentieth century many Premonstratensian abbeys in Western Europe, especially Berne in the Netherlands and Tongerloo and Averbode in Belgium, were centers of liturgical renewal.

Bibliography: A. D. CIFERNI, The Post-Vatican II Discussion of the So-Called Premonstratensian Rite: A Question of Liturgical Pluriformity, Ph.D. dissertation (Notre Dame 1978). P. LEFEVRE, La Liturgie de Premontre (Louvain 1957). A. A. KING, Liturgies of the Religious Orders (Milwaukee 1955). B. LUYKX, ‘‘Essai sur les sources de l’Ordo Missae premontre,’’ Analecta Praemonstratensia 23 (1947) 35–89. L.C. VAN DYCK and HERMAN JANSSENS, Woordenlijst betreffende de Orde van Premontre (Averbode 2000) 35.

[A. D. CIFERNI]

New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2003. Vol. 11. P. 664-665.

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