From Benedictine Culture 4 (2011)
Rationales for Liturgy Curricula:
The Pontifical Institute of Liturgy, Rome
The Pontifical Institute of Liturgy began in 1950 as a research institute for the study and publication of critical editions of Latin liturgical texts in the series entitled “Rerum ecclesiasticarum documenta” under the general direction of Leo Cunibert Mohlberg. The major series of publications included the Sacramentarium veronense edited by Mohlberg with the assistance of Leo Eizenhöfer and Petrus Siffrin in 1955. There followed the Missale francorum (1957), Missale gallicanum vetus (1958), Sacramentarium gelasianum vetus (1960), Missale gothicum (1961), Corpus antiphonalium officii edited by R.-J. Hesbert in 6 volumes (1963), among others. The minor series began with the publication of the Canon missae romanae (1954) followed by a series of concordances. The key to our curriculum is thus the primacy of the liturgical books and the liturgical texts themselves. The students have to acquire a familiarity with both the historical and the modern sources of the liturgy in the original languages.
The Pontifical Institute of Liturgy as a teaching institution was set up by the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities in 1961, the year Pope John XXIIImandated the Second Vatican Council, with the charge to organize specialized courses toward a license (SLL) and doctorate in liturgy (SLD). Many of our original faculty served in the preparations of the document on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium and in the various groups (coetus) of the post-conciliar Consilium for the preparation of the revised liturgical books of the Roman rite and the Hispanic rite. Our curriculum, therefore, is closely tied to the ordinary rite of the Roman Church. The history of the development of the Latin rite and of its historical books is studied using principally the historical-critical method of research.
Another key element of the approach of the PILis the emphasis on the languages needed to be in contact with the original texts. If a prospective student cannot pass the entrance exams in Latin and Greek, he or she must do a propaedeutic year concentrating on acquiring the necessary competence in the classical languages to read the texts. Besides knowledge of Italian, which is tested at the beginning, every student must pass an oral exam in two of three modern languages (French, English or German) to demonstrate an ability to read and understand materials written in these idioms in order to obtain the license.
The requirement of a sufficient knowledge of Greek points to another important facet of our curriculum, namely the aspect of comparative liturgy that derives from the school of Anton Baumstark and Bernard Botte. The student not only studies the Roman Latin liturgy in depth, but also the liturgies of the other Latin rites, of the seven eastern churches and some aspects of the liturgies of the churches of the Reformation. The doctoral seminar “Comparative Liturgy” is taught by an expert in the liturgies of the eastern churches, especially the Byzantine rite.
The curriculum of the PILis meant to be comprehensive, explicitly treating all of the sacraments: Eucharist, Christian Initiation (including Confirmation), Reconciliation, Matrimony, Orders, Anointing of the Sick. There are courses on the “Liturgy of the Hours”, the “Liturgical Year”, “Religious Profession”, “Funeral Rites”, and the “Sacramentals” (including exorcisms). All the major areas treated in Sacrosanctum Concilium deliberately form part of the curriculum. In accord with the conciliar document on the Sacred Liturgy there is also a semester-long treatment of the theology and practice of inculturation – a question of great importance especially for our students from Asia and Africa. Because many of our graduates become teachers at some level or “general” liturgists in a diocese or religious community, the curriculum was structured to provide a well-rounded and full acquaintance with all the liturgical celebrations of the Church.
Required courses include: a “Scientific Research Seminar”; two other seminars requiring individual research, presentations and a lengthy written paper; year-long courses in “Criticism and Hermeneutics of Liturgical Texts” and in “Reading Latin liturgical Texts”; a semester of liturgical readings in the fathers, Greek and Latin. Athorough knowledge of Latin grammar and syntax is presupposed.
The liturgical theology of the individual sacraments and rites is drawn from the texts and rituals, per ritus et preces (SC 48), supplemented by general introductions to the theology of the liturgy both eastern and western. Sacred Scripture, pastoral praxis, spirituality and anthropology come to the fore in all the considerations of the sacraments and other liturgical celebrations. The PIL requires a mastery of special topics like “Bible and Liturgy”, “Pastoral Liturgy”, “Liturgical Spirituality”, “Liturgy and Anthropology”, although the human and social sciences apart from liturgical anthropology do not have a significant place in our curriculum.
A problem for many students is the language of instruction: Italian. To consider sometimes complicated questions of content and interpretation of the Latin liturgical texts in a language that is often only very imperfectly understood by students from approximately forty different countries is difficult and discouraging for many. It is also discouraging for the professors who see how little is sometimes comprehended by a sizeable group of non-Italian students.
If I am allowed to say so, the rationale for the curriculum of the PIL is Sacrosanctum Concilium. Iwould simply explain the rationale in a series of key words: liturgical texts, languages, historical-critical method, comprehensiveness in liturgical rites studied, loyalty to the magisterium, research with freedom into all questions of liturgy