Pierre-Marie Gy, OP
The liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council was influenced in a powerful way by a man who was one of the most widely read liturgical scholars of our times, Père Pierre-Marie Gy, OP. Born on October 19, 1922, he was influenced in his scholarly formation by Dom Bernard Botte, OSB, of Louvain and Père Yves Congar, OP. During the start of his career he also had contact with Dom Gregory Dix, OSB and Father Andreas Jungman, SJ.
In the great Dominican intellectual tradition, Père Gy began medieval studies at the famous School of Chartres in Paris. His doctoral dissertation was on the theology of the ritual of the Sacraments. In 1949, one year after his ordination, he began teaching sacramental theology and liturgy at the Dominican Faculty of Theology of Le Saulchoir. From 1949 until 2001, he was a member of the Center of Pastoral Liturgy, which in 1964 became the official liturgical center of the French Episcopal Conference.
In 1956, under Dom Bernard Botte, Père Gy was named assistant of the new Institut Supériur de Liturgie founded at the L’Institut Catholique in Paris. He succeeded Botte as director until 1987, when he became director of doctoral studies of the entire faculty of theology. In 1990, he celebrated his retirement.
Over the years, he edited, first, the Dominican Revue des Sciences Philosophique et Théologique and then the extremely important liturgical journal, La Maison Dieu. As a writer of numerous articles, bulletins and book reviews, he was the third president of the Societas Liturgica, an ecumenical and international association of liturgical scholars.
He led us all to a greater appreciation of the unity between sacramental theology and the Church’s liturgy, both as historically understood and as celebrated. On December 20, 2004, Père Gy was called by the Lord to Himself.
(Pere Pierre Marie Gy was one of the principle liturgist-theologians, one of those who wrote the Vatican II document on the Sacred Liturgy and an influence in the subsequent revision of the Roman Rite. Among other things, he was an advocate of what is called "Mass facing the People". It is a myth that, somehow, Pope Paul VIth was by-passed in the revision. He was a very vocal participant, largely responsible for the offertory prayers and for the final version of Eucharistic Prayer III. It is a myth that there is some kind lack of connection between what was passed in the council and the subsequent revision after the council. Pere Gy is just one of the people involved in both. It is a myth that Tradition was ignored by those who revised the Roman Rite. No one doubts the knowledge that pere Gy and Cyprian Vaggagini OSB had on Catholic liturgical Tradition nor their concern to remain within the boundaries set by Tradition. Indeed, one of the principal motives for having new Eucharistic prayers was to combat the impoverishment caused by the world-wide use of the Roman Canon to the detriment of other, equally authoritative Catholic traditions. - Fr David)
source: Catholic Sensibility
The principal architects of Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy) were Johannes Wagner, Aimé-Georges Martimort, and Pierre-Marie Gy. Père Gy, a French Dominican who passed away in 2004, gave a rambling Père Marquette Lecture in Theology at Marquette University on the Feast of the Presentation, 2003, on a topic that interests us all: “The Reception of Vatican II: Liturgical Reforms in the Life of the Church.” But, first, a humorous story.
When the question of Episcopal vestments was raised at the commission in charge of liturgical reform at Vatican II, a European archbishop, thought to be a well-known liturgist, argued that the vestments should remain “as they always were.” Nobody was willing to question him. Wishing to press his point, the archbishop then noticed that a Japanese bishop was seated opposite him and added, “Episcopal vestments for us are like the kimono is for you” (vestes episcoporum apud nos sunt sicut kimono apud vos). The Japanese bishop replied, “The kimono for us is like pajamas are for you” (Kimono apud nos est sicut pajama apud vos).
Anyway, Père Gy begins by noting the direct involvement of Pope Paul VI in the reform of the liturgy, especially regarding the question of the vernacular – of which the then-Cardinal Montini had spoken in favor at the very beginning of the Council. Paul VI was also careful to listen to minorities – Père Gy’s friend and fellow Dominican, Yves Congar, would remember how, when going to Castel Gandolfo, the Pope would bring along the main arguments offered by the minority to whatever conciliar document happened to be the most contentious at the time. Another humorous story. The cardinal and bishops of the liturgical commission accepted, for the Ritual of Marriage, the words, “I, N., take you, N., for my lawful wife (husband), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Paul VI asked whether it was right to say “for richer or poorer,” wondering, “If these words were adopted and then used in Calcutta, could they be understood to suggest that Christianity wants to make people poor?” Père Gy says, “I agreed that we could safely leave out these two words.”
Père Gy also helps us clarify the question of “active participation.” Before Vatican II, it was thought that the sole celebrant of the Mass or Divine Office was the presiding priest or bishop. This was understood according to Canon Law’s incorporation of the Roman notion of a public person – persona publica – who had the power to act in the name of the people, the populus. Furthermore, the first liturgist to apply the word “celebrant” in an exclusive sense to the priest was Lothario di Segni. And he just happened to become Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). A bit later, “the chief novelty of the Tridentine Missal, according to (the great Austrian Jesuit liturgist) Jungmann, was the way in which it considered the private Mass as the fundamental form, the Grundtyp, of all eucharistic celebration.” In a recent article in America, Fr Keith Pecklers, SJ, writes that, “the priest had become such a predominant figure in the celebration of Mass that several bishops at the Council of Trent (1545-63) went on record with a startling proposal. Perhaps it would be better, they suggested, if the laity just stayed at home and let the priest say his Mass without the distraction of a congregation.” At least their proposal wasn’t adopted.
Vatican II restored the idea of the Ecclesia, or Christian community, as the integral subject of the liturgy. This restored the importance of the text of the Eucharistic Prayer, in which the grammatical subject has been in the plural – “we” instead of “I.” The new Roman Missal in 1975 consequently replaced the word “celebrans” (celebrant), with “sacerdos-celebrans” (priest-celebrant), a specification that emphasizes that the laity too are celebrating, “offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him” (SC 48).
Already, on the First Sunday of Lent, 1964, everywhere in Italy, this “sacerdos-celebrans” had turned to the congregation, and, instead of saying “Dominus vobiscum,” said, “Il Signore sia con voi.” The whole congregation then responded, “E con il tuo spirito.” The growing use of the vernacular – now far past the greeting – has led, Père Gy claims, to greater comprehension of the liturgy. In 1954, he had come to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and was told that American altar boys all thought that at the beginning of Mass, towards the end of the Confiteor, they were to say, “me a cowboy, me a cowboy, me a Mexican cowboy.” The use of the vernacular has even benefited those who can translate “Mea maxima culpa” – now, for instance, the congregation can understand the Communion antiphons.
The antiphon for the First Sunday of Easter, “Extend your hand and see the places of the nails” (Jn 20:25), can now be heard at the same time as communicants open their hands for the Eucharist, an ancient practice formally approved in the United States in 1977. And, concerning the Divine Office (the “Liturgy of the Hours”), Père Gy points out that in many religious orders, the tradition since the Middle Ages had been that the lay brothers recited the rosary during the choral office, because they did not know Latin. Now, says Père Gy, “the vernacular has opened to them a new and marvelous participation both in the liturgy and in the religious life of their order.”
Père Gy cautions us to remember that liturgical reform takes time. At the time of the Council of Trent, the faithful very rarely took communion at Mass. Pope Pius V’s liturgists realized that all post-communion prayers were in the plural and moved to restore communion at Mass for the faithful. The first implementation of the new rubric did not take place until the 18th century, and really had to be encouraged by Pope Benedict XIV. So, patience. Père Gy’s last words in the lecture are, “If we look back to the last half century of the Church’s liturgical life in our various countries, could we not say that, in spite of a few divergences and the lack of sufficient time needed to understand the liturgical reform deeply enough, the main effect of Vatican II on our spiritual life has been our experience of a deeper participation in the liturgy?”
Well, could we?
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