Some years ago, Liturgical Press advertised an about-to-be-released “Book for the Chair.” This was to be a handy book for the Opening Prayer and Postcommunion Prayer, while the big sacramentary would be used at the altar. I don’t recall whether the Book for the Chair also had General Intercessions including celebrant’s opening and closing parts.
The Holy See got wind of it and put the kibosh on it. No one may produce a new genre of liturgical book for the Roman Rite, the integrity of the sacramentary/missal must be preserved, and so forth. Of course LitPress promptly complied and called the whole thing off.
BTW, Solesmes’s edition of notated Latin prefaces and eucharistic prayers, Ordo Missae in Cantu, for use in conjunction with the Latin missal and approved by the Holy See, can be purchased here. But never mind.
The LitPress episode comes to mind as I think about producing the new English missal in book form. The ruling has come down: everything must be in one volume as in the Latin missal. There may not be a missal for Sundays and a missal for weekdays (like the German-speakers now have), nor may there be a Book for the Chair and an altar missal missing collects and postcommunions. No one may produce a new genre of liturgical book for the Roman Rite, the integrity… and so forth.
Fine. But start counting up the pages. Have you ever seen how huge the 2002 Latin missal is? Then add in all the national propers (Thanksgiving, Independence Day, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton….). Then consider that all 80-plus prefaces have to be notated in the English edition because of the widely varying accent patterns of the English language – unlike Latin, where only some 22 of the prefaces are notated. (Although you can buy a fully notated Latin … oh, never mind.)
Altar servers: start exercising your arm muscles. You’ll need it.
It is technologically possible to produce a book of any size whatever –check out the historic volumes in the Rare Books collection of the nearest university. We can do it, but we might be left with a book that almost no one can carry or hold. Will religious supply stores start advertising big honking missal stands to set next to the presidential chair? That’ll look nice.
Nowadays they make paper which is both strong and thin. (The ELCA Lutherans needed that as their new hymnal got bigger and bigger.) The price goes up, the weight goes down. But the text on the reverse side bleeds through. That looks nice. Or one can use thicker paper. Legibility goes up, and so does the weight. Do you think legibility will be an issue for celebrants trying to proclaim these complicated texts? One can reduce the total weight by reducing the size of the book and shrinking down all the fonts. But do you think celebrants will want to squint at a small text they’re trying to proclaim well? Did I mention that the text is rather complicated? So the choice will be: small enough to lift but too small to read; big enough to read but too heavy to lift.
If anyone out there has technological solutions, please share them.
Meanwhile, here’s what I predict. (Liturgy police, please note: I’m not advocating any of what follows, I’m merely stating what I think will happen.) The missal as we know it will die as a liturgical book. In many places the three-ring binder will take over. People will photocopy and three-hold punch the orations from the 2011 missal. Or from the 1974 sacramentary – it’s so hard to grab the right book from the shelf, did I grab the wrong one again? Or maybe priests will read prayers from Kindles and palm pilots. Or improvise the orations? Or perhaps they’ll read the orations from a missalette – that’ll look nice.
But at least we will have preserved the integrity of the Roman missal. I expect some folks will be heartened by that.