Friday, October 7, 2011


(Click once or twice on photos to enlarge)
Looking at these first two pictures, and focusing on both the priest and the laity, does not this orientation of both of the priest and the laity configure the laity more closely to the priest and a "better" sign value of the laity's role in the priesthood of Christ which both the priest and the laity share through the Sacrament of Baptism? With the priest vested as he is and the various ritual actions that belong to him exclusively, but not overly touted in a flamboyant way, does not the ministerial quality of the priest by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and his exclusive role in offering the sacrifice "in persona Christi capitis" come across with very noble simplicity and in a humble way? Compare this to what most laity observe each Sunday in regard to my two points above.

These next three pictures depict the Mass also. In theory, there is suppose to be no difference in the dogma, doctrine and theology of the Mass which Vatican II confirmed and did not breach or rupture. However in reality what do these pictures convey about the laity and the ordained priest and how does it differ in visual from the two pictures above and convey perhaps a different emphasis if not theology or doctrine?

The following is a portion of the article,The Sacraments: Sign and Reality
Posted by Revd. Fr. Christopher Smith (copied from Chant Cafe)

...The way in which the priest who confects the Eucharist in the sacrifice is different from the way the faithful share in the fruits of the sacrifice in communion. Because the Eucharist is not just an object but a liturgical action, the Paschal Mystery, re-presented in the Sacrifice of the Mass, requires that the Priest not only validly confect the sacrament, but he must also consume the sacrament.

In the post-Tridentine period, the validity of the confection of the sacrament (the union of the matter and form) was considered apart from the validity of the Mass considered as a sacrifice. The cycle by which bread wine were transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ was completed by the consumption by the priest of the transubstantiated elements. To incarnate the sign value of the one bread and the one cup, the priest consumed one entire host and the contents of one entire chalice. This was considered so necessary for the validity, not of the Communion given as the fruit of the sacrifice, but of the Mass, that another priest had to come in to “finish the sacrifice” if the priest happened to die or be taken ill between the consecration of the elements and his reception of them.

The enactment of this entire cycle, from consecration to consumption, was not considered necessary for the faithful. The priest had to complete this entire cycle for the validity of the sacrifice, of the Mass considered as the liturgical action accompanying the sacrifice. The faithful, on the other hand, did not participate in the sacrifice in the same way. They shared in the fruit of the sacrifice, the Holy Communion.

Because the priest stands in persona Christi capitis during the Mass, his actions must be entirely in conformity with the form, matter, intention, reality, and signs on all three levels. When the LORD commanded His disciples, “Take and eat, take and drink,” at the Last Supper, the sign of eating and drinking, as united to the reality of the sacrifice and the sacrament the LORD was giving to His disciples, was considered necessary for the validity of the sacrifice as re-presented in the Mass.

Catholic doctrine teaches that the sacrifice of the Mass is inseparable from the priesthood which offers the sacrifice. So she has seen the Last Supper as in some way constituting the disciples as priests of a different order to perpetuate a sacrifice of a different kind from the order of the Mosaic priesthood and the sacrifices of the Law. The apostolic succession would guarantee the perpetuation of that one same sacrifice until the consummation of the world. The LORD Jesus would often in the Gospels put some of His disciples, the chosen Twelve, in the position of intercessors between Himself and His People. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, for example, He performs the miracle, but He then asks the disciples to distribute the miraculously multiplied gifts from God. In this way Christ prepared the Church for the role of the priest to participate in the sacrificial actions of Christ in a unique way, and then distribute the fruits of those sacrificial actions to the faithful.

The faithful are not united to the sacrifice in the same way as the priest is. They do not pertain to the validity of the sacrifice at all. But they share in the fruits of the sacrifice. How they share in the fruits of the sacrifice does not have to take the same form as the way the priest does, dictated as the latter is by the direct command of the LORD in the context of the establishment, not only of the Sacrament of the Eucharist as sacrifice and communion, but also of a priesthood to perpetuate the sacrifice which would be different, not just in degree but kind from the priesthood of the faithful who share in, but do not confect the sacrifice.

As such, the signs which accompany the sharing in the fruits of the sacrifice by the faithful can be changed by the Apostolic See for a variety of motives. The mode for the distribution of the fruits of the sacrifice, of communion, has often changed throughout the centuries. The faithful have received from both leavened and unleavened bread; they have received the Precious Blood by drinking directly from a chalice, through a tube, or not at all. They have received the Sacred Host alone, having been dipped into the Precious Blood, or by a spoon dipped into the Precious Blood. The dizzying variety of the practices by which the faithful have received communion contrasts with the uniform way in which the priest completes the cycle of the sacrifice by his mode of reception of the elements in obedience to the LORD’s command.

It could be argued that, for the faithful to unite themselves as closely as possible in every way to the sacrifice, their communion should take the same form as the priest’s. But the very fact that the priest communicates himself while the faithful are given Holy Communion points to another truth. The priest communicates himself in virtue of his being in persona Christi capitis at that moment. The faithful are given the fruits of the sacrifice in Communion as a gift, as the Body of Christ, the Church receives all it has from Christ. This explains why the Priest gives Holy Communion as an ordinary minister, because he is Christ giving to His Body, the Church, the gift of Himself.

But no matter how the faithful receive Communion, the mode by which has often changed throughout the centuries, their participation in the Mass and indeed in the priesthood of Christ is different in kind, not just in degree, from that of the ministerial priest. The signs have value. They should never be interpreted without generosity. But the relationship of the signs to the sacrifice in the ministerial priesthood and the relationship of the signs to the communion which is the fruit of the sacrifice for the faithful are two different species of relationship. Either way, the way the signs are interpreted by the Church, or modified, or lived, does not in any way affect the reality of the sacrament. No fuller expression of the sign value will increase sanctifying grace, because it is not the sign, but the reality, which accomplishes that. The reception of Holy Communion under both kinds may have a fuller sign value, just as the submersion of the body in the saving water of Baptism may have a fuller sign value. But fuller sign value is not equivalent to the grace given, and not pointed to, by the reality.


Joseph Johnson said...

Ad orientem celebration is the most important external feature of the EF Mass which, I believe, can and will change the way people understand the Mass. It accents and more clearly shows the proper role of the priest in leading worship directed to God and in offering prayers and sacrifice on behalf of the people to God.

This is why, after experiencing the Mass (under either form) ad orientem, I see Mass facing the people as something which gets in the way of, or detracts from, conveying the true meaning and Mystery of the Mass to the faithful.

pinanv525 said...

What Johnson said.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the first picture in the second set -- it looks like Chinese fortune cookies in the "ciboriums" or a bad taco salad.

What we forget, is when mass was first done facing the people (here in the Buffalo Diocese, it started in the fall of 1964), the altars often had tabernacles placed between the priest and the people. This point in never brought up in the debates over ad orientam. I am sure you remember some church like this, Father JIM.

I think the presence of tabernacles on the altar, initially, helped to keep some of the focus properly on the sacrificial nature of the mass. However, I am not advocating for a return to this, I would prefer we go back to ad orientam.

In any event, I agree that when the OF is done ad orientam, it becomes more mystical, more priestly, and less like a bad public presentation by a high school science teacher.

James Ignatius McAuley

pinanv525 said...

Mr. McAuley, "...bad public presentation by a high school science teacher." LOL! Does that bring back memories! Our chem teacher was demonstrating (at a science fair) the reconstitution of copper sulfate from anhydrous to hydrated. So, he heated the pretty blue crystals in the dish over a burner and poured the gray ash into his palm to show everyone. Then, he added water back to the ash to make the pretty blue again...only he added the water with the ash still in his palm! He burned himself pretty badly and said some things not in the chem glossary...

Ron Rolling said...

Father, have you been following the discussing in the combox regarding this post (and another one also by Fr. Smith)? If so, what is your take?

Father Shelton said...

I like his "Rev'd". Very old school!