I was in Spain recently and there came across a newly published liturgical book, the 2018 Libro de la Sede or Book of the Chair. This book is edited and published by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference as part of their Third Edition of the Roman Missal (ISBN: 978-8492586981, 1196 pages, €60). It succeeds a similar book that was keyed to the second edition of the Missal and enjoys great popularity among the Spanish clergy (it was in use in every church I visited).
It is a very dignified liturgical book and is quite beautifully produced. More details and pictures of the book, including the efforts to print it in an ecologically responsible way can be found at the website for the Diocese of Santander’s Bookstore. The table of contents is also available on-line.
Number 5 of its introduction explains how it contains “the proper official texts of each of the Mass formulas which the principal celebrant sings or says from the chair: the entrance antiphon, the collect, the prayer after communion, the prayers over the people and the solemn blessing. This book also offers other texts that can be used optionally (ad libitum), such as introductions to the Mass, alternative forms of the penitential rite and the prayer of the faithful; all of them prepared for the liturgical seasons and the main liturgical feasts. In some of these formulas there are brief introductions to the recitation or singing of the Gloria and the Creed.”
While I applaud this book, I must admit that I am somewhat jealous that as an English-speaker nothing similar is available to me. I have written on PrayTell before underlining some inconsistencies in the application of liturgical law ( here and here ) and I feel that what one region or language is allowed in their liturgical books, should be likewise allowed in other regions.
Although there was a Book of the Chair published by Dwyer/Costello/Liturgical Press in the 1980’s permission for other editions or reprints was not forthcoming in the 1990’s or 2,000’s. Finally after the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal the Congregation for Divine Worship allowed English-speaking bishops to publish a similar book.
But there were restrictions. The English book could not contain anything other than prayers contained in the Roman Missal proper (some details of the editing of the current US book are available here). Additionally the CDW insisted that the English-speaking bishops could not use the name Book of the Chair, but instead give their book the elegant title: Excerpts from the Roman Missal: Book for Use at the Chair. In 2015 a US edition was published and in 2018 a UK edition . The US edition covers the whole year, whereas the UK edition is only for “for Sundays and feast days” (I don’t have access to that particular volume, so I can’t confirm that it doesn’t contain the formulas for the weekdays of the liturgical seasons). The bishops of New Zealand published a Companion to the Missal which came in the same package as the Missal itself in 2012 (although I am not sure if it is any different to the US or UK edition).
It is true that many different resources with prayer of the faithful and different options to help foster a reverent celebration of the Eucharist are available. These are composed and published by independent publishers and it is undoubtedly a benefit to having a variety of such resources available. However, a bishops’ conference should also be able to compose an official edition of a Book of the Chair for their territory with additional resources being optional (ad libitum) as the Spanish edition. I believe that this would be a good example of the “collaboration” between a Bishops’ Conference and the Apostolic See in keeping with Pope Francis’ Audience last February with participants in the Plenary of the CDW:
In ecclesial communion both the Apostolic See and the Bishops’ Conferences operate in a spirit of cooperation, dialogue and synodality. In fact, the Holy See does not replace the bishops, but works with them to serve, in the richness of the various languages and cultures, the prayerful vocation of the Church in the world. The Motu proprio Magnum principium (3 September 2017) follows in this line; in it, I intended to promote, among other things, the need for “a constant collaboration filled with mutual trust, vigilant and creative, between the Episcopal Conferences and the dicastery of the Apostolic See which performs the task of promoting the sacred liturgy”. The hope is to continue on the path of mutual collaboration, aware of the responsibilities involved in ecclesial communion, in which unity and variety are united. It is a question of harmony.
In this sense, I think that a Book of the Chair for weekday Masses would be particularly helpful. Many parishes prepare their Sunday liturgies with a team working on the composition of the Prayer of the Faithful, the selection of suitable songs, etc. But the weekday Masses often fall between the cracks. If a body like a bishops’ conference, was to use its resources to prepare a suitable selection of supplementary material for weekdays and produce a nice volume combining it with the texts of the Missal it could be a very helpful resource for many worshipping communities.