Monday, October 24, 2011


There is much ferment on how the Mass should be celebrated. Suffice it to say that we'll have two forms of the one Roman Rite for some time. But it seems to me that understanding the OF Mass by using the EF Mass as the basis to do so will go a long way in helping everyone to understand that the two Masses do not diverge in theology or dogma although these do in how these are celebrated.

First the Mass is prayer to God, regardless of the orientation of the priest, although the ad orientem stance makes it clear that the priest representing the laity whom he joins in facing the altar are praying to God and not one another . There is no need to see the face of the priest as he prays although this has been the case for some odd reason since the reforms of the EF Mass in the middle 1960's. Facing the people makes it look to the uncatechized and the non-believer that the priest is speaking or praying to the congregation. Of course that would be idolatry, the priest representing the laity prayers to God through Jesus Christ and by the Power of the Holy Spirit. He does not pray to God through the people. I think that would be heretical!

The Liturgy of the Word as celebrated in the OF is superior in my mind to the EF's, but that's my opinion. I don't see that changing in any way whatsoever. I find it odd that one would face away from the Congregation to read the Scriptures; It is read to the People.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the sacrificial aspect of the celebration of the Mass. It's focus is the priest in prayer reminding God of what His son accomplished on Good Friday for our salvation but using Holy Thursday as the paradigm to remember that one Sacrifice which God brings forward during the Eucharistic prayer for our salvation in the present. In other words, by the grace of God that one Sacrifice is re-presented on the altar in an unbloody way for God's people in the present. When some priests consecrate the Eucharist, when facing the congregation he gestures toward them as though the congregation is the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. That is heretical since the 12 apostles are the only ones at the Last Supper and they are the first priests. The Eucharistic prayer is a stylized prayer recalling how the priests of the Church would memorialize the Sacrifice of the Cross and reminding God that this is how Jesus did it for the apostles to do!

On Holy Thursday, Christ ordains the apostles as priests (bishops) to be the priests of the new covenant with all the allusions to the Jewish priests in the temple with one major difference, Jesus washes their feet (the High Priest par-excellence that the ordained priest only shares) showing that the new Covenant priest must be willing to minister to the needs of others regardless of ritual purity. In other words he is to get his hands dirty ministering to the outcast, unclean, sinner and sick and dying. The inherited cultic priesthood of the Old Testament would not include that. The New Covenant Priests does not inherit his priesthood, it is a calling and commissioning!

The Rite of Holy Communion after the Eucharistic prayer is properly the "meal" aspect of the Mass. If the Eucharistic Prayer correlates only to the function of the ordained priest established by Christ on Holy Thursday and the need for the ordained priest to complete the Sacrifice by eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ, the Rite of Holy Communion correlates to the Feeding of the multitudes prior to Holy Thursday, the feeding of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus through the Breaking of the Bread and John's Gospel on the Bread of Life Discourse which was written for a Christian community already receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in their Sunday Eucharist (as it was written between 90 AD to 150 AD).

I have no problem with the laity receiving both Forms of the Body and Blood of Christ from the Host or from the Chalice as it is the oldest tradition of the Church maintained by the Orthodox for 2000 years (and Eastern Rite of the Church for the same period of time). I prefer intinction for hygiene reasons and also to reduce the need for the number of Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. That's my opinion, feel free to disagree!

The Rite of Dismissal is our commission to go forth to where we live our lives and evangelize the world with our words and good deeds!

One solution for the OF Mass in terms of Ad Orientem is to keep the Introductory Rite at the Chair as well as the Concluding Rite. Have the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated Ad Orientem. However after the Through Him.. and Great Amen, the priest goes to the other side of the altar facing the people for the Our Father, Lamb of God, breaking of the Bread, the Ecce Agnus Dei and Communion of priest and people since this is the "meal" portion of the Mass, not the Eucharistic Prayer!


Marc said...

Great post! I like your suggestion for incorporating ad orientem prayer into the Mass. I think it'll happen one day soon (well, soon in Catholic Church terms)! A return to ad orientem and kneeling while receiving on the tongue - that is a very simple one-two punch that would make a HUGE impact in the Church.

I'll throw this out for possible further discussion and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, Father:

I think there is a divergence of opinion, particularly in the EF, as to whether the readings are actually "read to the people," as you suggest in this post. I have heard it argued that the readings were read in Latin facing away from the people because the words of Holy Scripture are the sacrifice of the Catechumens. Therefore, the Sacred Language (Latin) is used in this offering to God. This makes the phrase "Mass of the Catechumens" make since because a true sacrifice is offered - the words of Scripture.

Once the action of the Mass is stopped, signified by the priest's removing the maniple, the readings are then directed to the people in the vernacular, etc.

It seems the Holy Father does not agree with this interpretation of the Mass of the Catechumens (in the EF) since he has declared the readings can be read only once and in the vernacular. It is unclear whether the readings should still be done facing away from the people...

Anyway, personally, I am indifferent regarding which direction the reader faces for the Old Testament reading and Epistle in the OF. In addition to the books being moved from one side of the altar to the other in the EF, I very much like the symbolism of the Gospel being proclaimed to the North (the direction from which the heathens come, as we all know [Canada!]).

So, for what it's worth, why not adapt this in the OF - read the Old Testament and Epistle readings toward the people and then read the Gospel toward the North following the procession of the Book of the Gospels? It seems like we've done this at St. Joseph on occasion - by having an acolyte kneel and hold the Gospel Book as it is read...

pinanv525 said...

Whatever is going on in that first pic, I'm sure glad I wasn't there.

Templar said...

Here's what clearly needs to happen to correct "whatever" is officially determined to be wrong with the OF.

Anonymous said...


I have always thought intinction a good idea, and an acceptable "Byzantinization" of the Roman liturgy.

However, I believe it is good for the priest to remain ad orientam after the eucharistic prayer. Why? It is quite profound in the OF to have the priest turn to the people and say to us "Lord, I am not worthy . . ." It should be even more profound with the new translation.

Now, just a rant, Father:
1.) I hate how "professional" liturgists use the terms celebrants, or presider instead of priest, and it seems to me to be a deliberately strategy of attacking the ministerial priesthood. Of course, these morons, who claim they are doing it for us John and Mary Catholics, fail to see the connotations of the words they use: Celebration brings to most people's minds a party -- perhaps this is where the clown mass has its roots? The priest may be a celebrant, per se, but he is a priest first and that is why he is the celebrant. So, let us just use the term priest instead of something that will make many young people think of a kegulator. As for presider, that to me is a Town Supervisor, or for that matter, any chairman, presiding over a board meeting with Robert's rules of order.

2.) Why do we use terms such as assembly in place of congregation, or, more pleasantly, people? We are people who come to church. Congregation is a more useful and understandable term, but many people think of their local political assembly, as that is what they are taught in the public schools. In the end, we are people, not assemblers. Assembly is such a dehumanizing term the way "professional" liturgists use it. UUGGHH!
Just my two cents, Father. Thank you.

James Ignatius McAuley
(we are people, not things and terms such as congregation sound dreadfully impersonal and assembly makes me think of my local assemblyman

Frajm said...

Good points. The term assembly came into vogue in the 1970's and I think it was Father Eugene Walsh who promoted it or at least used it extensively.
I don't like the term any more and will not use it and I don't like the term presider or president to denote the priest who "presides" at Mass. One reason is that when a bishop "resides" at Mass, that means he is not the celebrant nor is he a con-celebrant. He wears choir dress and kneels when the "congregation" kneels. Celebrant and Con-Celebrant are the better terms. We don't say Con-Presider unless we mean that he is a con-man! :)

Now for the designation of priest and people. I don't like that either because as a priest I'm a "people" too! :)

Ave Verum said...

Excellent post, Father, and excellent, respectful comments as well (sometimes the comments here are so disrespectful that I wonder if we are still Christian, let alone Catholic!) --thank you.
We are "saved" in an ongoing active process as a community of believers who come together at least once a week to worship our saving Trinitarian God. The worship is key to our salvation. The Church is the vehicle via the liturgy; from the liturgy (true corporal worship) flows the inherent consequence of loving our neighbor. We don't have to force the love of neighbor by focusing on the people--it is a natural consequence of the love of God expressed in the worship itself. Jesus Himself gave us the formula in the great Command, but we often misinterpret and think we have to force God's holy work. When one TRULY loves God, love of neighbor is the result. One flows from the other as a continuum. You don't have to artificially force it. If love of neighbor isn't happening, you can be sure true love of God is not there.

Bill Meyer said...

Father, the term presider, suggesting as it does that the priest is no more special in the Mass than one of the congregation, sets my teeth on edge. I prefer Celebrant, but my uncle, who is 16 years my senior, is bothered by that, as well. I can't think right now what term he grew up with. His own pet peeve is the non-mention of the Mass as a sacrifice, which also makes me a little crazy. My parish appears to have elected in favor of form B at the mystery of faith. Most of the congregation are 70s touchy feely communal meal people. sigh...