Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The "Roman" custom of receiving ashes
The "American" custom of receiving ashes
The debauchery of Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) in New Orleans usually makes for interesting news for the mass media. But in reality much of Fat Tuesday in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is family oriented. And for Catholics and other liturgical Christians it is a time to "eat, drink and be merry" for tomorrow Ash Wednesday you die to self and live for Christ.

Ash Wednesday sees the imposition of ashes. In the United States ashes are smudged on the forehead of penitents. And the smudge is worn the whole day long unless of course you could to a late evening Mass.

In Europe, especially Rome, the ashes are more like granules and are sprinkled upon the crown of the head. There is no visible sign of the smudge. It is like "putting on sackcloth and ashes" quite literally.

Now, let's talk liturgy. As you know my clairvoyance as enabled me to see future liturgical reforms as many believe this will occur and that our Liturgy today will be "enriched" by the Liturgy prior to the Council but with Vatican II's sober, nuanced "vision" of what the reform of the liturgical rites would look like.

One enrichment from the pre-Vatican II Liturgy but with Vatican II sensibilities will be the placement of sacramentals and other sacraments within the Mass itself.

For example in the 1962 missal, the Rite of Marriage or the Nuptials took place as a prelude to the Mass similar to the Rite of Sprinkling or Asperges. The same was true of the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday. These were clearly separate preludes to the actual Mass. The 1965 missal reformed this and allowed these "rites" to replace the Prayers at the Foot of the altar, but to be clearly a part of the Mass not just a prelude. The 1969 missal placed these after the homily, except for the rite of sprinkling which remained as a replacement for the penitential act.

The revised 2012 English Roman Missal has a peculiar thing in it concerning the Nuptial Mass. There is the greeting of the Mass, but the rubrics clearly state that the Penitential Act is omitted but the Gloria is sung/said. There is no formula given to introduce the Nuptial Mass or easily go forward from the greeting to the Gloria.

This tells me, the clairvoyant that I am, that a future revised "Marriage Rite" (there is a separate book for this distinct from the Roman Missal)will have the actual rite of marriage with vows and blessing and exchange of rings in the place of the Penitential Act preceding the Gloria. The Nuptial Blessing will still be after the Lord's Prayer.

I'm disappointed though that the 2012 missal still indicates that the blessing and imposition of the ashes takes place after the homily and is the penitential act, thus the normal penitential act in its normal place is omitted. The missal though states that the penitential act is omitted and the priest simply greets the people after the Sign of the Cross and then prays the Collect.

The 1965 missal has a fuller explanation of what should take place and that the imposition of ashes is the "penitential act" which replaces the prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The Ashes are blessed and imposed prior to the Collect and Liturgy of the Word. There is also a specific rubric about how the priest-celebrant is to receive his ashes. If another priest is present, that priest imposes ashes on the celebrant. If there is not another priest, the celebrant imposes ashes on himself. This rubric is totally lacking in the new Roman Missal and since 1973.

So, what do you think about the placement during Mass of ashes and the rite of marriage? And if I'm not mistaken, I believe that the rite of ordination of priests and deacons took place prior to the Liturgy of the Word,(actually after the tract but before the Gospel) similar to how the Nuptials took place as a prelude to the Mass--anyone know for sure?

Finally, having been trained in the modern way of celebrating the Mass, we were taught that these other rites (except for the Asperges) were to take place after the Liturgy of the Word as a response to it. I'm beginning to question that "theology" as symbolically it would be better for a bride and groom to be married and for the very first time as husband and wife, they would hear the Liturgy of the Word together, participate in the One Sacrifice and receive Holy Communion, as husband and wife.

The same for deacons, priests and bishops, you should be ordained and then listen to the Word of God.

Just my two cents worth. But for the imposition of ashes, it should be the penitential act and in the normal place.


William Meyer said...

Father, my impression is that in many cases, the changes in the liturgy removed deeply symbolic acts, replacing them with more superficial, but perhaps more easily understood acts. I wonder whether this is tied to the near obliteration of catechism? Clearly, if one is not taught the meaning of the liturgy, then the symbols must be made simple and obvious, else they will be without apparent meaning.

It ain't television; why did they try to make it similarly ordinary?

Marc said...

It is interesting how the Spirit of Vatican II resulted in everything being transformed into a "Liturgy of the Word."

At any rate, here is the 1962 Ordination Rite: http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/resources/books-1962/rituale-romanum/40-the-sacrament-of-holy-orders-rite-of-priestly-ordination.html.

It seems to take place between the Mass of the Catehumens and the Mass of the Faithful, which enables the newly ordained priests to concelebrate the Mass.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, thanks for that link. Actually the ordination takes place after the Epistle and gradual but before the Gospel! So when the Gospel is read, they are already ordained.

Vox Cantoris said...

I agree that these should all be moved to before the actual Mass.

In the pre-1955 Holy Week, the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday was also done before Mass or even at a different time of the day, for example, in monasteries.

The Reformed Holy Week inserted the Washing of the Feet after the Readings/Homily. Clearly, this then spread to the Nuptial, Ash Wednesday and Confirmation Rite which were also before the actual Mass.

I think that these other Sacraments or Sacramentals would have been seen as an intrusion within the Mass itself. In fact, they can all be celebrated without Mass.

If you notice the recent Consistory, the Pope did not have it within the context of a Mass which was an innovation which gave the impression that it was another "ordination."

Innovations, experimentation and tinkering, too much of it has happened and needs to be corrected.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Vox, I didn't make the connection with the consistory and the papal changes to it this time around which confirms my clairvoyance concerning the direction of future revisions to our current missal and other "rites."

Anonymous said...

At our wedding, we had the litany of the saints. It was something very moving from the rites surrounding religious profession of vows that we wanted to incorporate into our marriage - and the pastor agreed. There's nothing quite like placing one's marriage in the context of all the angels and saints, the cloud of witnesses to pray for you!

Templar said...

In my youth I never realized the ashes were supposed to be placed upon one's forehead in the shape of a cross. Me and all my friends usually to received what amounted to a thumb print or a smudge on our heads. Obviously the same sloppiness that applied to everything in 60s and 70s was applied to this as well.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Actually, Templar, the manner of receiving ashes on the forehead in the form of a smudge or cross was the way it was done in the USA prior to Vatican II--there is continuity in other words with that aspect of ashes in this country.

Marc said...

You're welcome for the link, Father. I didn't have time to read the whole thing myself. That is a helpful cite generally because they have all the old documents translated into English (including the Rituale Romanum, etc.).

As the question at hand, I don't think there is a theological reason for having these various rites take place during the Mass proper. The Mass is the Mass and devotionals are devotionals and sacramentals are sacramentals. All are sources of grace, but in different ways and scales. The older form of having these things prior to Mass makes perfect sense and simply because there is a previous imposition of ashes doesn't mean the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar should be excluded - honestly, why shouldn't we always be penitential before approaching the altar?

I believe one reason why these things were not done in the context of the Mass is so the Mass would always remain standardized. As mentioned by another commenter, there is way too much change going on here! Let's go back to the pre-1955 way of doing things and start over!

Carol H. said...

When I lived in Arizona, ashes were given at the end of Mass, after communion. Why? Because too many parishoners would exit immediately after receiving their ashes- giving them at the end forced them to stay for the whole Mass.

Sad, but true.

Henry said...

In regard to the traditional form of ordination, it may be of interest to mention that the two priestly powers -- of offering sacrifice and of forgiving sins -- are bestowed separately and explicitly. Whereas in the new form these are neither explicit nor separate. Immediately after the anointing of the hands (before the Gospel) in the EF comes the

Bestowal of the Power to Offer Holy Mass
"Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Mass for the living as well as for the dead. In the name of the Lord. Amen."

This is where the ordinand receives his folded chasuble. If the ordination stopped here, he would be a "priest simplex" who can offer Mass but cannot hear confessions. (These are few if any nowadays, but used to be more common, for instance, in cases where the priest could not master dogmatics sufficiently to hear confessions.) Later, in the continuation of the ordination following Holy Communion, comes the

Bestowal of the Power to Forgive Sins
"Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins thou shalt forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins thou shalt retain, they are retained."

The new priest's chasuble is then unfolded.

pinanv525 said...

Templar, In your youth...that was when the ashes were from the camp fire you roasted the Brontosaurus leg over, wasn't it? LOL!

Pater Ignotus said...

One - Maybe the Church, in her wisdom, understands marriage to be a "penitential act." Thus it replaces the usual calling to mind of sin... JUST KIDDING!

Second - you often say "symbolically it would be better for a bride and groom to be married and for the very first time as husband and wife, they would hear the Liturgy of the Word together, participate in the One Sacrifice and receive Holy Communion, as husband and wife."

Why would this be better?

Marc said...

Pater, I was wondering the exact same thing. I could come up with probably a handful of theological reasons for both placements. So, I don't think one is better than the other. I'm intrigued to hear why Fr. McDonald feels his idea is better...


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I never thought about it before I experienced the enrichment of the Extraordinary Form of the Nuptial Mass. I wrongly thought before I studied it that the exchange of vows and rings were a part of the Nuptial Mass, but no, it is seperate then followed by the Nuptial Mass. So the first Full Mass that the married couple experiences in matrimonial bliss is the complete nuptial Mass with its nuptial blessing after the Pater Noster. A good revision of this procedure would be to include the nuptials in place of the penitential rite and have the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

Ah, an excuse to say how much I hate the Penitential Act. If I were Pope for a Day, I'd remove it ASAP and place something like it after the Prayer of the Faithful...and I would also, but without such passion, move the Pax so that it followed it.

In its current place and form, it is a bad piece of Protestant worship, empty, merely formal, derailingly introspective and jolt to the flow of the Entrance. Not just its placement but the introduction by the Priest as a communal act.

Yeah, I hate it.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The penitential act is a mere shadow of the prayers at the foot of the altar. Technically the ef mass begins with the introit and sung Kyrie, the prayers at the foot of the altar are purely prelude or devotional in nature.,

Pater Ignotus said...

I understand that you like it better, but what theological reasoning, in your opinion, makes it better?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

What I said, hello, that the couple is married and for the first time as husband and wife listen to the word of God--how wonderful is that?

Pater Ignotus said...

Well, it may be, in your opinion, wonderful, but how it is better than hearing the Word of God as a single person?

If we're going to make changes in the liturgy, ought we not have a solid, theological reason behind it?

pinanv525 said...

Ignotus, What are the "solid theological reasons" for clowns in the Mass? What is the "solid theological reason" for emphasizing the "meal" aspect of the Mass aboive the Sacrifice?
What is the solid theological reason for holding hands during the Our Father or for the laity using the oracular gesture mimicing the Priest? What is the solid theological reason that churches tore down high altars and altar rails? Oh, and what is the solid theological reason for versus populum, while we are at it?
How is hearing the Word of God as a married couple better than hearing it as a single person..see Mk. 10:5.

Henry said...

But Pin, of course you know that all the things you cite are (variously) distortions, abuses, or perversions of the Novus Ordo, not parts of it.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin - I am not advocating any of the things you mention.

Henry - I never, not once, cited a distortion, abuse, or perversion of the Novus Ordo.

Good Father McDonald has suggested a liturgical practice, so I presume he has some theological reason for doing so.

pinanv525 said...

Ye\s, Henry, I know. But, they have become de facto parts of it.

Ignotus, you were asking for solid theological reasons for Fr.'s suggestion. I am asking for solid theological reasons for other, far more disturbing changes in the Mass. You like the NO and you frequently quote dissident, off-beat, mod kooks in response to Fr. and others here. Judging from your past posts here and your enthusiastic, even self-righteous support of the female Episcopalian Bishop (you know, the one that doesn't believe Jesus is the son of God...remember?), you are kinda "Catholic light." So, you haven't answered my question...typically. So, "solid theological reasons"...anyone, anyone?