Gregory DiPippo, recently named editor of New Liturgical Movement, has a very interesting piece about the Neo-Gallican preface for Advent. The preface itself is quite lovely, as we’ll see in a second, but DiPippo gives us a neat summary of the history of the Neo-Gallican liturgical books. In short, the Church in France, especially the Archdiocese of Paris, kept on doing its own thing despite St. Pius V’s Tridentine reforms. The French had various reasons for their innovations, and, as all liturgical innovators do sooner or later, they made some archaizing arguments. But the amazing thing is that this state of affairs continued for hundreds of years after Quod a nobis and Quo primum. Indeed, the preface DiPippo quotes was written for the Parisian Missal of 1738. That is to say that, almost 170 years after Quo primum was issued, Ventimille, the archbishop of Paris, promulgated a new missal with new prefaces.
The preface itself is lovely (this translation was provided by DiPippo, though there are a couple other translations floating around out there):
Vere dignum … Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Quem pérdito hóminum géneri Salvatórem miséricors et fidélis promisisti: cuius véritas instrúeret inscios, sánctitas justificáret impios, virtus adiuváret infirmos. Dum ergo prope est ut veniat quem missúrus es, et dies affulget liberatiónis nostrae, in hac promissiónum tuárum fide, piis gaudiis exsultámus. Et ídeo etc.
Truly…through Christ, Our Lord. Whom in Thy mercy and fidelity Thou didst promise as Savior to the lost race of men, that His truth might instruct the ignorant, His holiness justify the wicked, and His power help the weak. Therefore, since that the time is nigh that He Whom Thou art to send should come, and the day of our liberation should dawn, with this faith in Thy promises, we rejoice with holy exultation. And therefore etc.
We particularly like the reference to the perditum hominum genus—the lost race of men—which points up the gravity of the situation immediately before the Nativity. (This is perhaps something we lose sight of in Advent occasionally.) The three parallel clauses pointing to three different attributes of Christ—whose truth might instruct the ignorant, whose sanctity might justify the unholy, whose strength might help the weak (our translation)—tell us how God is going to save the lost race of men. It’s nothing particularly elaborate or complicated, but it a nice, elegant expression of a fundamental truth: without the Incarnation, mankind would be doomed.