THE division of the official literature of the Roman rite into six books the Missal, Breviary, Pontifical, Ritual, Ceremonial of Bishops and the Martyrology is not primitive, although it is very ancient; for in primitive times there were no liturgical books properly so-called. The Bible was all-sufficient; and while it yielded the psalms, canticles and lessons of the Office, the essential formulae of the mass and the sacraments were handed down by oral tradition. Nevertheless the discoveries of liturgical science during the last few years have established beyond doubt and discussion that some of these formula were already written down before the beginning of the fourth century and traces of them can be found in the third and even in the second centuries. If we except certain ante-Nicene formularies, and also the Sacramentary of Serapion (fourth century) and the Apostolic Constitutions (fourth and fifth centuries), the oldest known examples of liturgical books are the Sacramentaries which go back in their primitive forms to the seventh and eighth centuries. These contained the fonnulce and prayers of the mass, and sometimes also "blessings, rites of ordination and the prayers of the canonical Office. A Sacramentary such as these, then, supplied in one book the place of the Missal, Pontifical, Ritual, and even Breviary and Office books. Later there appear side by side with the Sacramentarles other books in their separate forms: The Breviary (known in those days as the Antiphonary), the Ritual, and the Pontifical. Especially since the XVlth century the individuality of these books has become entirely clear; each has assumed a particular character and function, and interchangeability became a thing of the past. The Ritual (Latin ritus, rite) is the book containing the fonntilie and rules for the administration of the sacraments and certain blessings. It is a manual for parish priests and missionaries-for those, in general, who have the cure of souls. At first sight, then, there may be some strangeness in the title, " The Layfolk's Ritual"; but the idea of such a book is none the less a most happy one. The beauty of liturgical prayer and its superiority to any other forms is becoming more and more recognized. The liturgical revival of the last few years in France and Belgium has not lacked inBuences and results in this country; and in general the laity are beginning to take a real interest in those venerable rites and formula which possess eloquence at once simple and profound and which contain theological teaching, drawn from the very fountain-head of antiquity, of surpassing clearness and precision.! It is surely enough, then, to point out that the forms and ceremonies set out in this book are those employed in the actual administration of the sacraments, and to ask. if anything can be of higher importance than to achieve a better understanding of these glorious rites. The Rituale Romanum is composed of two parts: (I) The Ritual properly so-called. (2) An Appendix of special blessings. The first, which is the essential part, has six divisions, called 'tituli,' concerned with the administration of Baptism, Penance, the Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Burial. Marriage, blessings in general, processions and exorcisms. The second part is supplementary, an appendix, in which certain special blessings and other devotions find their place. It is chiefly from the first part that the matter for this edition has been drawn, for the object of the publishers has been to make available those rites at which the faithful are assistants or witnesses. Their choice has been a judicious one; and the book has been made more useful for devotional purposes by the addition of the Ordinary of the Mass, with the Preparation and Thanksgiving. The Layfolk's Ritual is thus a devotional book of practical utility as well as a manual for special, albeit frequent, occasions.
Catholic Church, Brother Hermenegild TOSF, Paperback, ISBN 10: 1517796660, ISBN 13: 9781517796662