Sunday, May 12, 2013

THE EPISITLE SIDE OF THE ALTAR AND THE GOSPEL SIDE OF THE ALTAR FOR THE EPISTLE AND GOSPEL AT POPE FRANCIS' OUTDOOR MASSES IN SAINT PETER'S SQUARE

The Epistle side:

The Gospel Side:


Since the Inauguration of his papacy, the Bishop of Rome, Francis, has allowed the Liturgy of the Word at his outdoor Masses in Saint Peter's Square to have two locations for these readings. The Old Testament lesson and the Epistle are read from the people's right side of the altar, traditionally called the Epistle side of the altar. The Gospel is proclaimed from the people's left side, the Gospel side of the altar.

I have not yet seen an explanation for this from the Vatican nor have I read from the normal suspects in the more progressive liturgical wing of the Church decrying this turn of events.

So it appears that having the readings from two distinct ambos during the Ordinary Form of the Mass is quite legitimate if the Holy Father, Francis himself, models it for the world. But the question remains, how wise is it and is it practiced anywhere else apart from the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Oddly enough, at the Vatican website's OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF there is an article on the Liturgy of the Word for both the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the Ordinary Form of the Mass and a comparison of both. You can read the entire article by PRESSING THIS ENTIRE SENTENCE.

Here are some excerpts from the section on the Ordinary Form's Liturgy of the Word:

OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF

The Priest and the Liturgy of the Word at Mass

Continuity Seen Between the Two Forms of the Roman Rite


The Ordinary Form

The Liturgy of the Word in the Missal of Paul VI kept different elements of the Missal Pius V, even if others have been suppressed and some added. The language of the proclamation has not been changed since Latin has remained the proper language of the Roman liturgy even in the post-conciliar reform, the reason for which the new lectionaries (now printed in books separate from the Missal) were published in Latin in 1969 and 1981.

On the other hand, the “editio typica” has been translated into the various national languages and these translations are what are generally used. The “Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani,” The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) sets down the general norms of the Liturgy of the Word in sections 55-71.

A first difference between the two forms of the Roman Rite we see in the fact that, even in the daily Mass, celebrated in a non-solemn form, the possibility of other readers proclaiming the biblical passages - except for the Gospel - is foreseen [5], even if it remains possible for the priest to read all the texts of the Liturgy of the Word [6].

A second change is in the fact that, on Sundays and solemnities, there are three readings (first and second readings and the Gospel) besides the responsorial Psalm, which takes the place of the Gradual. The selection of biblical texts has also considerably increased in the ordinary form. [7]

A third element that is new is the reinsertion of the Prayer of the Faithful, which takes place after the Gospel and homily. The homily is recommended for every day of the year and is obligatory on Sundays and holy days of obligation. [8] It is significant that in the norms established by the GIRM there is a section on silence:

“The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily.”[9]

The GIRM dictates that the biblical readings are always read from the ambo [10], so even when they are read by the priest, it is never done “with the back to the people.” In the ordinary form too the priest recites a silent prayer before he proclaims the Gospel. In the rite of Paul VI, at the end of every reading a formula is said to which the faithful respond.[11]

The Psalm is called “responsorial” because a response is said by the faithful after each strophe. Even if it does not often happen, the norms allow for the singing or reciting of the Psalm without a response, or for it being substituted by a Gradual.[12]

The Gospel is proclaimed with the same gestures as those used in the Mass of Pius V although the GIRM does not specify where the priest should place his hands or similar things. [14] This is also the case for the recitation of the Creed, although the norms say that there is no genuflection but a bow of the head at the words “Et incarnatus est.” [15]

A second change is in the fact that, on Sundays and solemnities, there are three readings (first and second readings and the Gospel) besides the responsorial Psalm, which takes the place of the Gradual. The selection of biblical texts has also considerably increased in the ordinary form. [7]

A third element that is new is the reinsertion of the Prayer of the Faithful, which takes place after the Gospel and homily. The homily is recommended for every day of the year and is obligatory on Sundays and holy days of obligation. [8] It is significant that in the norms established by the GIRM there is a section on silence:

“The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to promote meditation, and so any sort of haste that hinders recollection must clearly be avoided. During the Liturgy of the Word, it is also appropriate to include brief periods of silence, accommodated to the gathered assembly, in which, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the first and second reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the homily.”[9]

The GIRM dictates that the biblical readings are always read from the ambo [10], so even when they are read by the priest, it is never done “with the back to the people.” In the ordinary form too the priest recites a silent prayer before he proclaims the Gospel. In the rite of Paul VI, at the end of every reading a formula is said to which the faithful respond.[11]

The Psalm is called “responsorial” because a response is said by the faithful after each strophe. Even if it does not often happen, the norms allow for the singing or reciting of the Psalm without a response, or for it being substituted by a Gradual.[12]

The Missal of Paul VI continues the use of the “Sequentia” on some occasions. It is only obligatory on the days of Easter and Pentecost [13] and, furthermore, it is recited before the Alleluia verse rather than after.

The Gospel is proclaimed with the same gestures as those used in the Mass of Pius V although the GIRM does not specify where the priest should place his hands or similar things. [14] This is also the case for the recitation of the Creed, although the norms say that there is no genuflection but a bow of the head at the words “Et incarnatus est.” [15]

Some Annotations

From what has been said, one sees the substantial continuity between the way of celebrating the Liturgy of the Word in the two Missals, unity and changes, some enriching, others more problematic. The continuity has different aspects. The first and principal is that the Liturgy of the Word of the Mass gathers into itself only biblical texts (Old and New Testament).

It is thus a denaturing of this part of the celebration to insert non-biblical texts, even if they are taken from the Fathers, from the great Doctors and Masters of Christian Spirituality. There is all the more reason then not to read from profane texts or the sacred writings of other religions. [18] The second aspect of continuity is the structure of the Liturgy of the Word, which is similar in the two forms of the Roman Rite.

There are also various aspects that are evidence of change. In the Rite of Paul VI the selection of biblical passages is much richer than in the older Missal. This fact is undoubtedly something positive and responds to the indications of “Sacrosanctum Concilium.” [19] Nevertheless it would be appropriate to shorten many passages that are too long. [20]

The norm that specifies that the readings are proclaimed from the ambo and therefore that the readers face the people is also something positive. This position is also more suitable for the Liturgy of the Word. [21]

With respect to the office of readers, the ordinary form permits that not only ministers expressly instituted by the Church for this task read but also other lay faithful. The priest’s role, in this case, is no longer that of reading the biblical passages in first person, but that -- more distant -- of assuring that these readers are truly qualified. No one can just ascend to the ambo and proclaim the Word of God in the liturgy. If there are no persons who are adequately trained, the priest should continue to assume in first person the role of reader when truly qualified readers cannot be found.

MY COMMENT: HERE IS ONE OF THE CLEAREST INDICATIONS OF ALLOWING THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS TO EXERT INFLUENCE OVER THE ORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS DUE TO ITS LACK OF PRECISION IN DIRECTIVES WHICH IS CLEARLY SEEN AS A DEFICIT:

Finally, an element of change that represents an impoverishment is the lack of precise indications about the bodily dispositions that the priest should assume in the act of reading (especially the Gospel). Nevertheless, this represents a fundamental decision on the new Missal, which is much less precise than the older one about these aspects, leaving the field open to different celebrative attitudes.

One can remedy such a deficiency by applying the usages of the old rite to the new one, there where it is possible, though those indications that are not explicitly excluded by the current rubrics, such as folding one’s hands at chest-level during the proclamation of the Gospel. That contributes to the dignity of the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and can represent an example of the reciprocal influence between the two Missals hoped for by Benedict XVI, when he wrote that “the two forms of usage of the Roman Rite can mutually enrich each other.”

In this way too “[t]he celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.”
[24]


2 comments:

John Nolan said...

There seems to be some confusion here. Since the altar in St Peter's Square, like the altar in the Basilica itself, is orientated towards the east (which in this case means versus populum) then the epistle side is to the left as the people look at it, as is the credence table, since liturgically service is from the right. I know of one church where the PP decided to celebrate ad orientem (liturgically speaking) but left the credence table where it was since the ambo was on the opposite side; he is also left-handed and incenses as such, so one gets the impression of a mirror-image Mass.

As far as the OF is concerned, the rubrics are not specific as to which side the ambo is placed, so unless you revert to the ancient practice of having more than one ambo, I don't think it's an issue. I have also attended EF Solemn Masses in modern churches where both epistle and gospel were sung from a fixed ambo facing the people; this isn't in the 1962 rubrics since the ambo was a 1964/1965 restoration, but it certainly makes sense liturgically.

Victor said...

"A third element that is new is the reinsertion of the Prayer of the Faithful"
Not sure what you mean by "reinsertion". It was never there in the Roman Mass. The Roman Canon contains these prayers, and so having these before the Offertory is redundant when this Eucharistic prayer is used.