Monday, September 1, 2014

AD ORIENTEM AS THE BEST KEY TO THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE MASS ON THE PASCHAL MYSTERY RATHER THAN THE HORIZONTAL ELEMENTS



The New Liturgical Movement blog has a story on ad orientem Masses in the Ordinary Form. You can read the full story there by pressing HERE.

It seems to me that the entire article is a "no brainer" and one wonders why the emphasis today is not shifted by those of us in the "new liturgical movement" not away from the EF Mass, but more toward celebrating the OF Mass well.

St. Mary Church in Greenville, SC has had its Ordinary Form Mass celebrated in an ad orientem way since 2008! I don't believe they celebrate the EF Mass there. Shouldn't this be the focus of parishes? Shouldn't we really strive to celebrate the OF Mass properly and being scrupulous in following this Missal's GIRM and rubrics, but with the Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientem?

At St. Joseph Church, now for more than two years, our 12:10 PM Mass like all our Masses is celebrated the best way we know how and with attention to detail and having well trained and sincere lay ministries allowed in the form of the Mass, as well as Holy Communion under both forms of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Our 12:10 PM Mass is exactly the same as the others except for the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated ad orientem. I feel it makes a huge difference, although in reality there is no difference, in focusing us away from self-referential ideologies in the Mass towards God, clergy and laity together and facing the same direction for the eschatological aspect of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It brings the focus to the Paschal Mystery and this event exclusively!

The following excerpt from the New Liturgical Movement article on ad orientem caught my attention. My comments follow:

" Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was one of most thoughtful and respected critics of the unintended consequences which flow from the priest and people facing each other across the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. Ratzinger argued that this arrangement, in addition to being a novelty in Christian practice, has the effect of creating a circle of congregation and celebrant closed in upon itself rather than allowing the congregation and celebrant to be a pilgrim people together turned towards the Lord. And this closed circle, in turn, too easily renders the Eucharist more of a horizontal celebration of the congregation gathered than a vertical offering of the sacrifice of Christ to the Father. This flattening of divine worship into a self-referential celebration is, in part, why too many Catholics experience Mass as much less than the source and summit of the Church’s life, and the remedy for this malady is to open the closed circle and experience the power of turning together towards the Lord."

My Comments: I think Pope Benedict's teachings on ad orientem echo what is reported by the outgoing head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, that the celebration of the Liturgy, even using the revised Books initiated by Pope Paul VI should be celebrated in such as way that the primary focus and spirituality of the clergy and laity is toward the Paschal Mystery.

As I have mentioned recently and consistently over time, the post-Vatican II Church through a series of unbridled reforms beginning with Liturgy but moving to other areas of Church life has focused not on Jesus Christ and the Father and Holy Spiirt, but rather in a self-referential way about all the things that have distracted Catholics since the late 1960's even to today. 

For example, most Catholics hear or heard about Vatican II and reference to these documents more so than Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law (morality) in the last40 years. They have heard more about the "nature of the post-Vatican II Church's so called "ecclesiology" which is far from a defined dogma to say the least but has focused people in the Church on distracting elements of the Church rather than the Paschal Mystery.

Spirit of Vatican II post-modern liturgists don't talk about the Paschal Mystery. What is important to them is female clergy, females in the various ministries of the Mass and the absolute need for lectors, Communion Ministers and the laity to feel as needed and as important as the so-called "president" or "presider" of the "Eucharist." Thus churches have to be renovated or designed anew with no altar railings, the altar in the center of the congregation with pews or moveable chairs angled around it and the altar not placed in a high or distant position from the assembly.  This makes way for a "low Christology" as Jesus as nothing more than a friend, buddy and dead hero of the past, not as Lord, King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Supreme Being, Creator of all!

There can be no so-called distractions to the altar and the action of the assembly to include in a egalitarian way the "presider." So no candle sticks, except two on the altar, no crucifix on the altar and no statuary or artwork that would take away from what the so-called "action" that the people do during the liturgy in a horizontal way, so to speak.

Where is the "Paschal Mystery" in all of this gobalygook?  Where is Jesus Christ, the God and Savior of the Universe? Where is the Holy Sacrifice re-presented in an unbloody timeless way at every Mass and the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of The Lord received first by the priest who completes that Sacrificial offering by His exclusive consumption of the Holocaust and then by the laity who do so free of mortal sin and in a state of grace and proper disposition to recieve worthily?

I will make a bold statement. I think the focus on the Paschal Mystery, with the Mass completely ad orientem, in Latin, with the clergy "doing" all the so-called formal ministries of the Mass to include reading or chanting the Scriptures and distributing Holy Communion was more of the focus of the Church prior to Vatican II than afterwards. As well, pleasing God, showing devout reverence and a strong, healthy fear of The Lord and sorrow for one's sins, not so much because of the dread of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because our sins offend God who is all good and deserving of all our love!  These sentiments were shared by at least 90% of Catholics prior to Vatican II.

How about today in the so-called new springtime of the Church? Where do we stand with the primary focus on the Paschal Mystery and the Most Holy Trinity and worship that is open to God in a vertical way rather than in a sociological/horizontal way to bring about social change and a false egalitarian ideology?

17 comments:

Bernard Fischer said...

Liturgist sand many people in the Chancery office don't really like the faithful. They see the liturgy the same way a zookeeper sees the task of feeding the snakes: we'll give the beasts what we think they should have and if they don't like it, they'll chance their minds when they get hungry enough. And besides: they're just animals.

The purpose of the liturgy, according to them, not to celebrate the Paschal Mystery but to show off our new inclusive bilingual hymns, and mourn the loss of our inclusive translation of the Missal. The liturgy without the liturgists makes as much sense as going to a concert if the band doesn't show up.

I keep reading that priests celebrate the Mass with extreme reverence, but it's like stories of El Dorado. You'd like to think its true but you know you'll never see it. Our Mass is like the folk singers in A Mighty Wind, crooning their hippy hymns for 20, 30 years in a row. Distinguishing between new and old Marty Haughan the way some distinguish between The Beatles before 1967 and after.

rcg said...

Great post, good idea. For about the 10,000th time.

Why is so difficult? Vatican II is complex. It was handed out for all and sundry to read, digest and interpret. Many got it wrong for any number of reasons. The rest, it seems couldn't tell what sex that puppy was so just went along with whatever was pressed out by the 'experts'. It seems we are now 'discovering' that what we were told was in there, at least as it pertains to Liturgy, was not. What a mess.

The Vatican does need to establish leadership by example and review the way Mass is offered in a Latin Diocese when it varies from the 1962 missal. Why? Because that is what Vatican II allowed. When the deviation is done right, the bishop responsible for that Mass gets a pass from the IG. If it is wrong, then the bishop gets to review the error, fix it, and show the new Mass for another eval. When he has it right, then he can be certified to do the same for his Parishes. That could be done for the entire planet in five years a leisurely pace.

JBS said...

Bernard Fisher,

The reality is that an "extremely reverent" priest is dismissed by most laymen as having some sort of personality quirk. Most laymen simply do not interpret liturgical reverence as a value. On the other hand, a liturgically "hip and happening" priest is beloved and well-supported by the laity. Chanceries respond to the sentiments of the laity.

As for ad orientem, if there were anything even approaching a groundswell of support for it from the laity, then it would happen. However, no such groundswell exists, and few bishops will tolerate ad orientem until such support materializes. That's the hard reality, like it or not.

Joseph Johnson said...

To get that groundswell of support, enough people have to be exposed to this kind of thing and be catechized and have time to reflect on it.

One of the ways to begin this process of readjustment in the mindset of the laity is to make the EF Mass available to them on a regular basis. While a majority of the people in any given parish might not attend it, it creates a critical mass of people (oftentimes some of the most active and serious parishioners) who can then assist in the winning of hearts and minds (through their casual personal contact with other parishioners) so that the majority of parishioners won't be totally blindsided when a courageous and right-thinking priest dares to exercise the lawful option of ad orientem celebration of the liturgy of the Eucharist in the OF Mass. This is, I believe, part of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's thinking in promulgating Summorum Pontificum.

I'm not saying that it cannot be done without the tool of the EF Mass but the EF gives a sense of perspective on where we were before and during VII when Sacrosanctum Concilium was formulated and, also, the starting point before the Concilium formulated the OF Mass after the Council.

People need to be reminded (or learn for the first time) where we were coming from rather than traveling on half-truths or downright dishonest and partisan distortions of our liturgical history (such as the loaded expression: "The priest has his back turned to the people"). People deserve the truth and they deserve a liturgy that is an honest reform in continuity with the Tridentine Mass. We have to re-educate people (and some clergy) to do this.

Anonymous said...

"Liturgist sand many people in the Chancery office don't really like the faithful."

"Any comment that is vitriolic and disrespectful of the laity in general, and Pope Francis, bishops and priests in particular will not be posted!"

The FARCE continues.

rcg said...

yargh! I am just sitting here in the pews, so I may be full of it, but I have to share something: This situation was created by the education of the laity, many of whom do not know that Summorum Pontificum exists. This is a reality constructed by people who wanted to do away with the Latin Mass. Of course there is no ground swell, the people who were dedicated to it were LIED TO and told it was forbidden. They were run off in droves early on adfter Vatican II when the first big drop in attendance happened. Then the persisitent ones lost heart over time as the altar rails were ripped out, the art removed or painted over, and the tabernacle removed from sight then they were mocked for even mourning that loss. There is no one left who knows any better. We have, at best, the grand children of the people who left 50 YEARS AGO!!!

The education camps have done their job and not even the history is visible except on tours in Rome.

Here is the strange part: if you just whip everything back facing east and tell everyone to kneel and put away that damned banjo then the place will be empty the next Sunday. But oif you teach them about WHY it was done that way and that it is OK despite what they were told in RE they will look for it, read about it and come back asking for it in droves. Some individuals will be lost, but we know the truth about how the TLM parishes are growing still and vocations for them are still growing. That has to tell you something, anecdotally, if not statistically.

I have done search and rescue and others like me will tell you that people will sit down and watch searchers walk by and not even speak out, not because they can't, but because they have given up. But if you spot them, and talk to them and cheer them up, they will often help get themselves out. You boys are SHEPHERDS. Don't ask the sheep where it is lost, look for it and let it know where you are. It may actually get up on its own and follow you out.

John Nolan said...

I don't remember the laity being consulted back in 1964 when the priest started facing the people. They certainly had no say when the Mass was drastically changed (1700 years of tradition overturned in just three years).

Why are the minority who remain suddenly so all-fired important?

John said...

The real problem is lack of faith among clergy. Lord only knows how hight it goes, this lack of faith in the supreme prayer of the Church: the Mass. I am convinced that V-2 had nothing to do with the destruction of the Mass it was engineered by AB Bugnini et al later. Paul VI was compelled to promulgate it in the same manner Benedict XVI was compelled to resign.

The spirit of the age captured the movers and shakers in the Church and the subsequent responsible leadership simply failed to find the remedy for a botched project. Benedict XVI tried but was beaten dawn for his trouble. If P. Francis also fails, at least in the short term, say the next 100 years, things will go from bad to worse yet. However, I am convinced that God is in charge and eventually he will rescue us again. We are in a sort of Babylonial captivity for Christians. Christe Eleison!

Bernard Fischer said...

I said that liturgists and those in power look down on the laity and JBS says it's because we are no good. Awesome

JBS said...

Bernard Fisher,

In what way are the laity "no good"?

Henry said...

JBS: "However, no such groundswell exists, and few bishops will tolerate ad orientem until such support materializes."

I wonder whether episcopal acquiescence to ad orientem celebration might depend not on expressed support for it, but on an absence of expressed opposition to it.

After "forty years of versus populum in the desert", it would surely be unrealistic to expect a spontaneous groundswell of support for ad orientem. However, a careful low-key period of catechesis and experimentation--perhaps beginning with a single weekly ad orientem daily Mass, or a single Sunday one monthly--framed not as a clerical imposition but as an opportunity for parish discussion and decision, such as Fr. Newman carried out over a period of months at St. Mary's Greenville, might serve to assuage natural fears of sudden change that have so often burned so many in recent decades. With the result not that parishioners are writing to bishop to demand ad orientem, but at least he's not besieged with letters of complaint.

My guess--and it's only that—is that many or most bishops are non-ideological regarding ad orientem or versus populum, but are more sensitive to dissent and division. Especially when, in periods of parish and diocesan expansion with the capital funding drives they require, the principal concerns of the bishop must be financial, and he cannot afford parish dissent that suppresses donations.

So why would a typical bishop oppose ad orientem celebration when, as I understand is the case at St. Mary's and Prince of Peace parishes in Greenville, it goes hand in hand with growing congregations and collections.

JBS said...

Henry,

All I know is that a certain bishop has instructed certain priests not to introduce Latin, ad orientem, Roman chasubles, etc., because these things "confuse the faithful".

There can indeed be a groundswell of support if interested laymen educate each other and cause interest to spread. Indeed, the only way forward is for laymen to take the reigns by educating each other and advocating reform.

Priests have a promise of obedience to the bishop, so as long as the bishop isn't requiring heresy or immorality, the bishop must be obeyed. If the bishop says, "don't do 'A.'", a priest can't very well go around promoting 'A.'. Laymen, however, have considerable freedom to pursue liturgical reforms.

rcg said...

Henry is on to the answer. If the bishop presents information about the Latin Mass, ad Orientem, kneeling for communion, etc, in an informative way and let the laity explore it the response will be appropriate. Vatican II seems to have wanted people to explore and expand their spirituality. Where it went off the rails is when priests and "lay liturgist" began exploring their spirituality for the entertainment of the congregation.

There will be resistance because people have come certain conclusions, e.g. The right to have communion in both species, that will need some work.

Cameron said...

JBS I wonder who this bishop is.

Joseph Johnson said...

Fr. JBS,
Those three things that you mentioned at 12:44 would not "confuse the faithful"--they might cause more of the faithful to ask questions and become more educated on these matters!

Tevye said...

Ad orientem. Ad nauseam

Joseph Johnson said...

OK, let's see:
The liturgists and some priests and bishops have told us that we're big ol' grownup adults now and that we should stand and up receive Communion in the hand (the idea being that that is a more "adult" way to receive) but, on the other hand, we need to be protected from bad ol' things that might "confuse the faithful" because we might not be able to handle such things as ad orientem, Latin or varying styles of chasubles which are part of the Roman Rite tradition.

Something's not quite honest here (telling us were "adults" when it suits the promotion of [dated] "progressive" liturgical practices but forbidding the use and promotion of more traditional practices on the grounds that it might "confuse" us).

Sorry, the bishops may be our shepherds, but I think we can handle these things. I resent the patronizing "protection" from these "dangerous" things . .