Thursday, June 21, 2012


Fr. Z at WDTPRS has some very good comments on the Ecclesiology of the Post Vatican II Mass as he makes comments about a post at Pray The Mass where Fr Evan Harkins has a reflection "sacred space" in Catholic Churches, well, not really, on sanctuaries being distinct from the nave of the Church, the holy of holies of the "sacred space" that is the church building.

My First comments: Normally Catholic Churches are divided into several parts with a hierarchy of importance:

1. Vestibule or narthex (decompression chamber from the profane world to the sacred)

2. Nave, the location where the laity participate in the Sacred Mysteries

3. Sanctuary or Presbyterium (aka, holy of holies) where the clergy participate and preside and offer sacrifice to God, complete the Sacrifice by consuming it and then giving a portion of the Sacrifice to the laity in the nave. This holy of holies can be distinct from the congregation through the use of altar rails or making the sanctuary elevated, higher than the nave.

4. Sacristy where the clergy and lesser clergy vest before the Sacred Rites of the Church.

Excerpts from Fr. Z's elucidation on this article that shows forth the ecclesiology of Vatican II and the reformed or Ordinary Form Mass:

First, a church is a sacred place, made sacred by consecration. The whole church is sacred. Within the holy space, there is a “holy of holies”, just as there was in the ancient Temple.

From another point of view, it is useful to consider what St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) explained concerning Christ speaking in every word of the Psalms. For Augustine, sometime Christ speaks with His voice as Head of the Body which is the Church, sometimes He speaks as the Body. At times He speaks as Christus Totus, the Body with the Head, together.

The true Actor of the sacred action of Holy Mass is Jesus Christ the High Priest, who through us His members having different roles, raises words and deeds to the Father. Sometimes He acts and speaks in the person of the alter Christus the priest (Head), sometimes in the words and actions of the congregation (Body), sometimes when the priest and people act and speak together (Christus totus). Christ makes our hands and voices His own in the sacred action, but He is the actor and speaker.

The older, Extraordinary Form of Mass may demonstrate more clearly how the priest is the head of the liturgical body and can speak alone for the whole. On the other hand, perhaps the Ordinary Form shows more clearly the three-fold dynamic of Head, Body, and Christus Totus.

The church building itself should manifest this three-fold distinction.

The sanctuary, at the head of the floor plan, is the place where Christ the Head of the Body speaks and acts, the nave is the place of the congregation, the Body. A communion rail is not only practical. It defines the holy of holies. Some might claim that the Communion rail then becomes a barrier for the laity in the congregation to keep from away from the holy of holies. I don’t see it that way at all. That rail helps to point out that, in the church building’s layout, the congregation has its own proper character and dignity that must not be compromised or violated by “invasion”, so to speak, by the priest – except in those defined moments such as the Asperges or Vidi aquam we have now in Easter season.

The lack of a clear delineation of space blurs all our roles.

If the priest and people are invading each others space and roles, then proper worship is crippled. Lay people receive mixed signals which erode their identity as and the priest devolves into a mere “presider”.

The congregation has its own important role and this is defined in the building. Dragging lay people into the sanctuary is a clericalism of the very worst sort. It signals to lay people that they have to be given the duties and place that pertain to the priest in order to elevate their status. “You aren’t good enough unless you are permitted by me to do what I can do.” I hate that clericalist attitude.

Kneeling at the Communion rail is not only a sign of reverence in the Real Presence before reception of Communion, but – for that close encounter of priest (head) and congregation (body) – is a reverent acknowledgement of the Christus totus in action in the sacred mysteries.

This is a useful way to understand in a healthy way something more about the outward expression of “active participation” during Holy Mass, and the meaning of altar rails and sanctuaries.

This is yet another reason why Summorum Pontificum is so important. We need its gravitational pull. We need what the older form of Mass – and all that goes with it – to revitalize our Catholic identity which flows first and foremost from our baptism and liturgical worship.

My final comment:
The EF Mass and the OF Mass have something to say to each other and that is both are needed for the proper ecclesiology of the Church symbolized at Mass and in Church buildings.

Father Z says it perfectly and I believe that both forms of the Mass can do exactly what he writes but work has to happen on both forms in other to make way for the third form of the Mass coming down the pike:

The older, Extraordinary Form of Mass may demonstrate more clearly how the priest is the head of the liturgical body and can speak alone for the whole. On the other hand, perhaps the Ordinary Form shows more clearly the three-fold dynamic of Head, Body, and Christus Totus.


Joseph Johnson said...

Check this out (ytc, you'll just love this!) The video on Fr. Z about "Crossed stole vs. Crossed up Catholic." Watch these feminist "Spirit of VATEKEN TEW" nuns and a community organizer argue with a very solid and traditional (clothes can telegraph attitudes--notice the amice and crossed stole) young priest. We need more priests like this Fr. Ted Martin!

Andy Milam said...

So....maybe I'll catch some flak for this, maybe I won't, but I feel that it needs to be said.

I think that how the word participate is being used is exactly how the Holy Father doesn't want it to be used. That is part of the misconception of Vatican Council II. The way that it is being used in the post assumes that the faithful are somehow sharing in the ministerial action of the Mass, that they are somehow participating in the celebration of the Mass. That is participatio activa. And that is not to be the primary function of the Mass for the faithful.

I think that properly speaking one shouldn't talk about participating as if it were a verb, but rather one should speak about HOW one participates. What is it that the faithful do in the nave? They do more than just participate. They worship! That is what they do. To simply say that the faithful participates is to sell their inner action short. It is to bring it to the level outward actions only. To say that one worships is to give a fuller sense of the word and to be demonstrable in how the faithful participate.

I have been going round and round for almost 20 years trying to figure out what the issue was with the term participation. It has never really sat right and we're seeing that now with how it is being addressed by some high powered theologians. One of the big issues that has existed since the Council with regard to participation is how to properly state what one is doing? Is it inward, is it outward, is it both? The amount of confusion which exists because of that word is immeasurable.

If we stop using the word as an action verb and use it as a passive verb, then I think that it becomes much easier to deal with. So, rather than say, "Nave, the location where the laity participate in the Sacred Mysteries." Isn't it much more complete to say, "Nave, the location where the laity worship during the sacrifice of the Mass." Because that is their proper role. That is what they are called to do, before anything else. Worship is the proper term for full, conscious and active participation. But the term "worship" is so outdated that the liberals decided to come up with a much more complex and convoluted way of describing what they actually do. Participatio actuosa = worship for the laity.

The same thing can be applied in our application of the clergy and lesser clergy. I think that to speak about participation is to level the playing field, where the playing field shouldn't be leveled. The ministerial role of the priest is not the same thing as the role of the faithful.

I think that we have to rethink how we speak of participation. I don't think that it serves the proper purpose to simply state that we are participating that then turn around and talk about the clergy participating. What is the difference? Where is the distinction? But, if we talk about the faithful as worshiping and the clergy as offering or celebrating. It is just a more complete and clear view of how we participate.

As an aside, the term presider just chaps my chiggers. To call a priest a presider assumes that the faithful celebrate the Mass and the priest is merely the president of the assembly. The priest is not. He offers the Mass, his role is not equal to the faithful. He is not presiding, he is ministering and the Mass is his offering. The priest offers the Mass on behalf of the faithful. One of the best ways to look at it is that as the priest celebrates the Mass, the faithful take their petitions and place them at the foot of the altar and the priest collects them at the collect and the offering begins....but that is an outdated view, right? ;)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Maybe it would be better to say "active participation in the worship of the Church during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" or whatever liturgy is being celebrated.

Participation does have a secular sound to it. Worship should include our total being, mind,heart, body, soul, spirit, etc.

Templar said...

The lines between Laity and Clergy are not just blurred but trampled in the OF when we have lay lectors getting out of their pews and entering the sancturay; lay gift bearers processing to the sanctuary; lay EHMCs entering the sancturay during the Angus Dei and standing like Clergy while the rest of the congregation kneels.

Pater Ignotus said...

All language is analogous. Therefore, words, such as "participation," do not have any meaning save what we give to them.

Candle, basilica, oblation, miserere - these and, I suspect, all the words were use to understand the mysteries of Faith, had secular lives before they were sacralized.

Participation is, in my view, a perfectly good word to use regarding the liturgy. As the Apostles participated in the ministry of Jesus, as the larger community of believers participated in the proclamation of the Good News in the first century of the Church's existence, as the bishops of the CHurch participate in the Teaching Office of the Church, so the laity participate actively in the celebration of the Eucharist, in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Henry Edwards said...

Although we all refer to the participation, active or otherwise, in the Mass, the term may be misleading because it does not apply literally.

Not if saying that I as a member of the congregation take part (the literal meaning of participation) in the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass implied that it would not occur without some action on my part.

Whereas the Sacrifice of the Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross by Christ Himself, and this re-presentation by Him (with the priest "merely" in persona Christi) takes place with or without me.

My personal role in the Mass is to be present and receptive to this re-presentation, so as to receive its spiritual benefits. Like Mary at the foot of the Cross, I do not do anything; my role is to be there. So I wonder whether it might be more accurate to call this "passive participation" instead of "active participation".

While realizing that this passive participation requires that we be fully conscious of and prayerfully united with the action of the altar, and of the Sacrifice being made present to us, else our participation is neither active nor passive, but none at all.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

PI, "words have no meaning except what we give to them..."

OK, then:
Sanctuary= horse barn
Tabernacle=scrambled eggs

How's that?

ytc said...

Great post, And. I say we just stop using "participation" and instead just use "worship" from now on.

Yes, Joseph, I did see the video of the priest. It was great, and the best thing is that Father basically burned them in the most charitable of ways. I also like his stole, and not just because it was crossed--which is fantastic of course--but because it was a bit wider than normal.