Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Was it wise to go from this:
to this, thus dismissing centuries of organic "mstygogic development" in the Latin Rite:
Compare how the Byzantine Divine Liturgy is more like the Tridentine Mass:
The Entrance of the Gospel procession:

The Byzantine Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Holy of Holies, isn't there a clearer correlation of this to the Tridentine Mass? (Go to minute 4 for the actual chanted consecration)

From The Evolution of the Byzantine “Divine Liturgy”
By Fr.Robert Taft S. J.

To the Westerner onlooker, perhaps the most striking quality of the rite that has evolved from the Eucharist of the Great Church is its opulent ritualization, a ceremonial splendor heightened by its marked contrast to the sterile verbalism of so much contemporary Western liturgy,(our reformed Latin Rite) where worship often seems just words. The Byzantine Mass ritual is structured around a series of appearances of the sacred ministers from behind the iconostasis or sanctuary barrier (of which the altar rail in the Latin Rite is/was a remnant). The most important of these appearances are the two solemn introits. The minor introit or “Little Entrance” of the Word service, after the opening rite of the enarxis, is a procession with the gospel, said to symbolize Christ’s coming to us in the Word. The other, major or “ Great Entrance” at the beginning of the Eucharistic part of the service, right after the intercessory prayers following the readings, is a procession bearing to the altar the gifts of bread and wine prepared before the beginning of the liturgy. It is said to prefigure Christ’s coming to us in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. Both these fore-shadowings are fulfilled in to later appearances, the procession of the deacon with the gospel lectionary to the ambo for the reading; and the procession of the celebrant to distribute in communion the consecrated gifts, after they have been blessed in the Eucharistic prayer.

Most of the ritual is taken up with such comings and goings. But liturgy is not ceremonial. It is prayer. And so these ceremonies are the ritual expression of a text. In the present-day Byzantine rite the liturgical formulae comprise two distinct levels. While the deacon stands outside the doors of the iconostasis chanting the litanies and leading the people in prayer, within the sanctuary a parallel service is proceeding. Through the open doors of the icon screen the altar is distantly visible, brilliantly lighted and enveloped in clouds of incense, impressing upon the worshipper a sense of mystery and sacredness. Before this altar, within the holy of holies stands the celebrant, his back to the people as he faces the East, reciting in silence the priestly prayers. When the priest has to bless or address the people he comes out. Inside he is talking to God.

My comments: In the centuries of organic development that led to the Tridentine Mass much of what is in the 1962 Roman Missal's ritual and symbolism evolved in much the same way as what Father Taft writes of the Byzantine Rite's organic development: "This ritual pattern is the result of centuries of slow evolution, in which many rites, at first added for a specific purpose later lost their original scope, then decomposed under the pressure of later changes and additions, acquiring in the process new mystagogic interpretations often far removed from their actual historical roots."

The Reform of the Tridentine Rite into a "new order" stripped it of centuries of organic development and symbolic meaning given to practical ritual. The "mystagogic interpretations" of the elaborate rituals of the Tridentine Mass were denigrated, mocked and removed out of the misguided desire of liturgical academics and elitists whose untoward desire for "noble simplicity" and the removal of "useless repetition" dismissed centuries of organic development in favor of the 1960's mantra of "if its new and modern" it is improved.

If that isn't modern eyes looking at historical tradition from a sterile point of view, I don't know what is! For example in the seminary we were told that the incense was used not for ritual purposes to begin with, but as "air freshener" for the fowl smells of people and livestock in the great cathedrals that were also market places. The washing of the priest's hands was purely practical since after receiving the offerings of livestock, his hands were dirty. It was only later that these actions were given spiritual, symbolic meanings, what Taft calls a "mystagogic interpretation" which the Byzantine's appreciate and would NEVER discard because these "mystagogic developments" were somehow considered by modernists as illegitimate accretions.

Even the priest facing the altar in an eastward fashion (his back to the congregation), somewhat removed from the nave, higher than the congregation and cordoned off by an altar railing was mocked by the reformers who were trying to devolve the liturgy back to the home churches of the pre-Constantine era. These organic developments in great cathedrals and churches were decried as clerical subterfuge to disenfranchise the laity and remove the liturgy from them, even going so far as to build rood screens that only had doors to the sanctuary outside of which the laity were remanded to remain. There is no such negativity about the iconostasis in the Eastern Rite, where only the clergy are allowed.

The Orthodox and the Eastern Rite of the Church understand clearly the symbolism of the holy of holies and the sacramental role of the ordained priesthood that is exclusive to him. In other words there is no post-Vatican II erasing of the unique role of the ordained priest or making the laity into ordained priests during the liturgy as though there are no distinctions between clergy and laity. Our post-Vatican II Latin Rite modern architecture for churches betrays again this "devolvement" of even the ordained ministry of the priest and his unique role in the liturgy which in and of itself also had centuries of organic development that post Vatican II liturgical and sacramental theologians denigrated in their apologetic for radical change in the Catholic Church!

In other words, the post-Vatican II reformers of the Mass had and have a great disdain for the organic development of the Liturgy of the West up until Vatican II. They wanted and want a liturgy, a modern liturgy, with sterile verbalism and reduced ritualism that approximates the iconoclasm of the Protestant reformers' version of the Lord's Supper, closer in detail and ritual to what Jesus did at the Last Supper in a home setting and at a family table. Post Vatican II liturgical development is inspired by puritanical sensibilities and disdain for "Romeish, popeish, European cultural accretions" imposed upon the liturgy over the centuries.

At the same time they wanted to make large and grand the signs of the liturgy, dunking for baptism, bread and wine that was more like what one would eat and drink at a table meal in the home where the preoccupation of the various signs made them into gods themselves rather than pointing to the hidden God under sacramental signs, which in the Tridentine period were sober and noble in simplicity, obscuring the sign in order to ritually point to the One hidden who alone should be adored!

The way to recover our Latin Rite's organic development that occurred over centuries is to recover the ethos of the 1962 Roman Missal, allow for some vernacular and look at the parallels of the Byzantine understanding of its highly symbolic liturgy and realize that in the Latin rite before the reform we had the same symbolism, especially with the altar railing, the elevated ad orientem altar and the canon prayed quietly (although the post-Vatican II recovery of the chanted canon accomplishes in an audible way what the quiet canon accomplishes silently, a sense of the holy of holies!) It wouldn't take much to have an organically developed Tridentine Mass with very little revision that the laity can understand in a positive light respecting the unique role of the ordained priest as he enters the holy of holies to pray on their behalf, to be a priest for them as Latin Rite Catholics should understand the role of the ordained priest!

As well, what we have recovered in the reformed liturgy, that of the Gospel procession and the procession of the offerings of the people can be given the ritual significance found in the Eastern Liturgy also. This is true of the universal prayer (Prayers of the Faithful) after the Creed as well.

So what are my humble suggestions for the recovery of liturgical tradition and centuries of organic development in the Latin Rite?

Have a vernacular Mass using the revised Roman Missal, but the 1965 missal's slight revisions to the order of the Mass and its rubrics. Keep the modern calendar which the additions of the "gesima" Sundays, Passiontide and the After Epiphany and After Pentecost designations. Maintain the modern lectionary but evaluate and make changes to that lectionary and make adaptations to allow for an added one year cycle that is the Tridentine Lectionary for Sundays.

Eliminate some of the options for the Eucharistic Prayer and mandate that it be prayed quietly if spoken but with the preference of it being chanted and the entire Mass being chanted with the vernacular clearly an option that should be viewed as an organic development.

We need to recover the plan of the Tridentine sanctuary although the Liturgy of the Word and the priest's presiding chair should be what the modern liturgy had recovered and that too should be viewed as organic development with symbolic and ritual meaning.

In practice, this means the recovery of ad orientem at an elevated altar decorated in the Tridentine tradition, and altar railing where Holy Communion is brought in procession to the laity who receive by intinction the Body and Blood of our Lord kneeling in humble adoration to receive their Savior hidden under these sacramental signs.


qwikness said...

Those are great suggestions Father. I have heard it said that at a Divine Liturgy, Heaven comes to Earth and at mass Earth is raised to Heaven. Heaven and Earth meet at both our liturgies. I don't know if I have experienced the latter but I feel I have in the former.

William Meyer said...

Some of the post-conciliar changes were just silly; others were disturbing in their impact. Apart from the Apart from the Haugen/Haas/Schutte school of banality, the thing which bothers me most is the variability, parish to parish, and even priest to priest. We have a new Missal, and with it was to come deliverance from ad libs and embellishments, I thought. Sadly, they are back.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The bishops of this country have to wrestle the promotion of banal music away from Catholic publishing companies and the industry that it has become. It is a scandal. They have to insist on what the Church expects for its music, but in the reform of the reform mentality. They also have to exert they authority over priests and make sure they pray the Mass by saying the black and doing the red. If the bishops don't do this as the primary liturgists of the diocese and if the pope doesn't insist on it with the bishops, nothing will change!

Anonymous said...

Those are good suggestions Father, but vernacular is clearly not an organic development in the Roman Rite or any rite of the Latin liturgical tradition. I firmly believe that the Ordinary (Kyrie, etc.) parts of the Mass should always be in the sacral Latin/Greek, as well as the Order of Mass (Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo, Orate fratres, Sursum corda, etc.), the reason being that they never change, and so it really is no problem as once people know it, they know it forever.

I will concede that the vernacular does, in fact, have a place in the Roman liturgy. Its place is preeminently the readings and Prayers of the Faithful, as SC says. These should always be in the vernacular, but perhaps with the Prayers of the Faithful having a Latin invocation and response ("Te rogamus audi nos"); I think that would work well. Additionally, on solemn occasions like Christmas, Easter and ordinations, the Gospel could be in Latin. I think, however, for all masses with music, the readings should be chanted regardless of if they're in the vernacular or Latin.

I think additionally that EP III and EP IV should be removed, suppressed, completely stomped out. I think the Roman Canon should be made mandatory for use on all Sundays, Solemnities, Feast days, Nuptial and Requiem Masses, Ordinations and Consecrations, and a choice between the Roman Canon and EP II for Memorials, memorials and ferias, but with the Roman Canon preferred even for those days. I think there is a genuine "pastoral" *coughcough* concern for weekdays, as many people like to go to mass on those days but also have to work. However, these time constraints are considerably less on Sunday masses, and the Roman Canon barely adds just a few minutes onto a mass versus EP II. The fact remains that only the Roman Canon has any historically-supported patrimony in the Roman Rite, and the "EP II is older" thing has been debunked. Besides, isn't the, "____ is older, ergo better," archaeologistic argument dead yet? I am on the fence about the language of the EP. I think perhaps it should be required to be in Latin for all "special day" (see above) masses, ergo, the Roman Canon would always be in Latin on days it is required to be used, with it in Memorials, memorials, and ferial masses being allowed, but not required, to be in the vernacular.

I think hymns should be completely and unequivocally banned from replacing the propers. However, they would be allowed as a processional and recessional, as they always have been, since these are not part of the mass technically.

I think ad orientem or the "Benedictine arrangement" should be the two altar choices, with ad orientem preferred. Then, perhaps in twenty years or so, ad orientem should be mandated.

I furthermore think that a complete program of re-examining the rubrics of the EF needs to be undergone, comparing the OF's to them, going through those one by one of the EF and asking if they should have been removed in the OF, and if the answer is "No," then return them to the OF. Perhaps a slight simplification is a legitimate concern, like the number of Signs of the Cross over the oblations, but I think the OF is embarrassingly and abuse/mistake-beggingly devoid of rubrics right now.

I finally think the mortal/venial sin stuff needs to come back. As in, if a priest **knowingly** does something blatantly contrary to what he should have done at mass, then it should be specifically enumerated in the texts that he has committed either a venial or mortal sin, depending on the severity.

Rant over.

William Meyer said...

OCP and GIA are thorns in my side. My own parish uses "Breaking Bread" and the nearest parish to us since we moved uses "Gather".

But Father, really, adjacent parishes vary so greatly in their liturgy as to be very disorienting.

Marc said...

Fr. McDonald: "If the bishops don't do this as the primary liturgists of the diocese and if the pope doesn't insist on it with the bishops, nothing will change!"

So... don't expect anything to change anytime soon!

William Meyer said... occurs to me that my last complaint might be misconstrued as positioning me in opposition to the changes you are making, Father. Not so. The variability which I find disturbing is, in all cases, departures from the Missal.

Unknown said...

Wonderful suggestions but some nuances are in order. First, the priest facing the altar (notice how it is said) is not because the priest is "praying for the people" but essentially because "we are all facing God (East)" in our sinfulness seeking redemption. The private prayers of the priest in the sanctuary (the Holy Place)are intercessory prayers for the people (including the priest). The icon screen (iconostasis) reveals and obscures IE it reminds us that "we see through a mirror dimly". Divine revelation is not exhaustive nor can we understand it exhaustively. But this is not merely intellectual-it reminds us we are creatures and there is one Creator. Consisting of doors for the processions, the screen is "held up" by the central (Royal) doors that always has the icon of the annunciation. These Royal Doors are "passed through" (Emmanuel)for the reading of the Gospel and administering Communion by the clergy and strictly for a "good" reason. The point here is that even recognized sacred space cannot be abused by clergy. Two more things. There is no kneeling except during Lent and kneeling means lowering to your knees, bending at the waist so your forehead touches the floor (I think the Muslims learned it from Middles Eastern Christians). The recognized position of servant-hood is standing at attention so to speak (the deacon chants several times during the Liturgy "Let us be attentive!)and this true even for receiving Holy Communion. There is no genuflection but bowing (a small prostration). Finally, the Tradition is that the Liturgy is always in the vernacular with some use of Greek, Slavonic or Arabic depending on the cultural origin of the jurisdiction or parish. This is not always followed especially with the Greeks where you will find many parishes using completely Greek or a few Russians using Church Slavonic (these treat the language of their cultural origins like some Westerners treat Latin!). The recognized norm is the vernacular. I think there are many points of connection between East and West. The new English translation of the Roman Missal reminds me of that (syntax!)but I'd be a little careful making too much of a "this for that" comparison. If the law of prayer is the law of belief, then the respective liturgies should reflect and support the theological and mystical emphasis of each "lung of the Church". We shouldn't be afraid of legitimate orthodox diversity.
Fr. Miguel

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr.Miguel, thanks so much for this reflection. I don't know if you have been to an EF Mass, but would you say that its spirituality and ethos is more similar to the other lung of the Church than the OF Mass is?
My contention isn't that the OF Mass should model the Eastern Rite or that the Latin Rite have an iconostasis, but we did have an altar railing and a more profound sense of the priest's role as seperated but united to the laity in the EF Mass and that acting as priest on behalf of the people (both in persona Christi but also in the persons of the laity) the priest is the one offering the sacrifice and the priest must first complete the sacrifice by his consumption of the Sacrificial Victim (Holocaust). And then he processes with the Body and Blood of Christ to give Holy Communion to the faithful.
Our tradition of kneeling should be viewed within our cultural context just as your tradition of standing must be viewed in the same way. But I would say that the EF Mass has to influence our OF Mass and sooner than later and then the Mass of the Latin Rite will have clearer parallels with the spirituality and theology of the Eastern Rites, but each being using its own lung, so to speak.
Just some thoughts!

Gregorian Mass said...

I pray to see this in my lifetime. So much of what is suggested is already assumed or the norm. Enforcing seems to be the thing that no one in the Church can do. The longer the Holy Father waits the longer that the inorganic development continues until it is such an abberation that it is no longer recognizable. Which has already happened in many a place. With each passing year we get further and further from what is remembered. Tradition slowly slips away. If the Church really wants to recover and expose the Faithful to it, then she really has to do more to enforce and mandate some of her own norms. Leaving it to the Liturgy committee has gotten us nowhere, fast.

Mark of the Vineyard said...

Just an aside, but I don't think we should refer to baptism by immersion as "dunking" - our Eastern brothers still do it, and it was actually a very common practice in my country up intil the late 18th century for children. It is part of our liturgical heritage, and as such we should not refer to it so disparagingly.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Mark of the V, agreed!

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Tridentine mass can be given in the vernacular. The whole thing. I think if Vatican II had just done that and stopped there, it would accomplish most of what they had sought to do ... make the faith more accessible. As for the silent prayers of the priest, that can remain in Latin. Nobody really hears it.