Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Holy Mother Church should not engage in a burlesque type strip tease and certainly pictures of it on this blog would be inappropriate. But that's exactly what many liturgical theologians and bishops in high places forced Holy Mother Church to do when it came to the Liturgy of the Church and her magnificent treasury of spirituality, devotion and the official prayers in English of the Mass. These photos and stripped prayers are shocking and are rated "R"! If you are offended by such photos and stripped prayers look away!

Look at the photo below. You can click on it to enlarge it. Apart from the fact that the EF Mass is being celebrated on the original high altar and your eyes are drawn to that celebration and that altar, please look, though, at the post Vatican II altar that has been placed in the main aisle of this beautiful chapel in England.

This arrangement is what we had in my seminary in the 1970's at St. Mary in Baltimore. A portable altar was placed in the aisle (we had monastic or choir seating as in this chapel) and in front of the altar and facing it in a confrontational way, but some distance back, was the ambo. In the picture below you can barely see this arrangement but the ambo with an eagle on it (symbol of John's Gospel) peeks out. The altar had one rinky dink candle on it and the ambo had a floor candlestick by it. Apart from the old crucifix some distance back still hanging over the old altar, there was no sign of a crucifix anywhere near the new and "improved" altar.

Our seminary chapel had the traditional altar in the sanctuary with a magnificent canopy over it, similar to the one over the papal altar at St. Peter Basilica. The marble of this massive altar which did not have a reredos, but rather a curtain behind it, was covered in a similar green color fabric as the curtain, but made of corduroy in order to make it "unseen" but in fact it was certainly not invisible, but simply unseen!

When as a first year seminarian I first stepped into that chapel in 1976 and noted the original altar, now stripped, and the actual altar used for the reformed Mass, I could not but feel that our understanding of the Mass, how we celebrate it and what it represents had been stripped too. I felt empty as I felt that the new and supposedly improved altar arrangement and the decor of things was empty compared to a previous era.

Look at the post Vatican II altar and tell me how you feel when you view it.

And now a comparison of prayers in the Mass. Below you will find first the 1973 version of the opening collect of the Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent. Below it you will find the revised 2010 version of the very same prayer. Keep in mind that the original Latin prayer in the 2002 Roman Missal in Latin has not changed over the course of years only the method of translating it into English has changed. For the first, which like the modern altar below is stripped of its glory and the humble attitude that we who pray this prayer to God should have before the Most Holy Trinity, we begin to realize that the Vatican made a miserable mistake in the late 1960's when it directed English translators to use "equivalency of English words for the Latin words" not a "literal translation of the Latin words" when translating the Latin prayers into English.

The revised English translation follows, but not slavishly, the very same Vatican who offered an indirect "mea culpa" in regards to the method of translation it first proposed in 1968 or so, when it issued a new document called Liturgicum Authenticum which called on English translators to be more literal in translating the Latin prayers and adhering to the spirituality and tone of these Latin prayers which the Church offers to God in humble thanksgiving and in awe and wonder for the majesty of the Most Holy Trinity.

Please offer me your insights on the stripped down English version of the Latin Prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent and the new and improved more faithful English version to the Latin version of the very same prayer:

CURRENT: God our Father,
help us to hear your Son.
Enlighten us with your word,
that we may find the way to your glory.

FORTHCOMING: O God, who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.


Anonymous said...

The new version certainly removes the subjectivity. The first seems to have a degree of latitude the second does not.

It's a good thing. There is a difference between leading people and telling them what to do.


Henry Edwards said...

Excellent analogy, Father. Altars and prayers stripped with the one and the same intent, to dilute and strip faith and liturgy.

Frajm said...

Thanks Henry and also for your comments on other more progressive blogs!

Henry Edwards said...

Actually, Fr. McDonald, I think “southern orders” is a very progressive blog---in the literal and positive sense of favoring constructive change and improvement. I recall that, back in the 60s and 70s, anyone expressing reservation about the latest wacky innovation was met with the damning charge that “You’re just opposed to all change.” Now those same (though now grayer) folks appear to be simply opposed to all change, devoted entirely to negative obstruction rather than positive suggestions.

PS. I must confess that for the past week I’ve been trying to keep an already broken new year’s resolution to refrain from comment at a certain “more progressive” blog where I saw one of yours this morning, because the principal promoters of that blog clearly have no interest in any serious exchange of views. It occurs to me that we now have a whole class of those “professional Catholics” that Pope Benedict referred to recently, folks who in previous ages would have had the decency to leave the Church, but in our age have instead stayed in it---and even on its payroll---to fight the Church from within.

Frajm said...

Henry in that earlier time in the late 60's and early 70's the worst insult that could be hurled against any Catholic, bishop,priest or laity, was that they were "pre-Vatican II" in their approach to things. This obviously presumes that being Vatican II in their sight meant a total rupture with the past, which Pope Benedict has so eloquently repudiated.
I think you are right about Catholics who want to rock the boat and change things rather than become Episcopal or Methodist or whatever homemade brand of Christianity that is out there. We've had priests leave the Catholic Church for the Episcopal Church (two Irish ones at that) and I was certainly dismayed by it but at least they were honest enough to go rather than remain and cause havoc in their Catholic parishes.

SqueekerLamb said...

The new altar in the photo looks like a snack table...where are the cookies and coffee?

The Current version of the prayer cuts to the chase better.

Peter Bowron, Sydney Australia said...

If you are still blogging in 2016:

With respect (5 years later when I found this,) I disagree, but understand the issues you bring up. We do not, and should never have "Holy Mother Church" as a thought, other than guidance by humans who spend their lives dedicated to living Gods' word. Jesus spent far more time with the sinners than in the synagogues, and when in the latter was rather revolutionary in his attitude towards them. His promise to us was whenever two or three were gathered in His name, he would be with us.

(As an aside, I suspect that he would walk through the structures of "Holy Mother Church" and cast large portions of it aside, along with those peadeophiles who have led the little ones astray, and those who continue to protect them because they are too attached to "Holy Mother Church" rather than to His sheep.)

So the point of having an altar at the centre of the congregation invites all of us to share this. The old style prior to Vatican II, which is seen as priest celebrating at the altar with his back to us, in a foreign language, with us barred by the altar rails, sent a very strong message to the faithful: You are sinners, we are the elect, and here are some crumbs.

I don't think that God cares one whit about how we worship. He cares that we do, not because He needs our praise but we do. "Authentic" language is a fake, unless we have the authentic words He spoke, in Hebrew or Aramaic, I'm not scholar enough to know.

If having majestic structures and words make you pray better, then I am glad that it works for you. Just remember that there are many ways to Jesus.