Sunday, May 31, 2015

THE SILENT CANON AND THE SENSE OF MYSTERY AND THE SACRED; THE PROCLAIMED CANON AND THE LOSS OF THE SENSE OF MYSTERY AND THE SACRED

Causation: I report you decide!

As some of you know, in the 1962 Missal of the one Roman Rite, the Roman Canon is prayed silently or quietly. I have to admit that when I started to celebrate the 1962 Missal eight years ago, the silence of this Mass, especially the Roman Canon, was quite disconcerting to me. I had forgotten that the Canon way prayed silently and I felt very self-conscious praying it silently before a congregation. It was not a part of my liturgical spirituality and I did not have a good explanation for its purpose so indoctrinated had I become to the idea that the Canon is a proclamation to both the assembly and to God. Sounds haughty, doesn't it! Yes, humility was the first thing to go in the revision of the sacraments.

But as I watch the EF Celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (AWESOME) a couple of posts below, I focused on the canon from the laity's point of view.

This is where there is a collision between old and new, new and improved or simply changed for the sake of change. And one must ask is there a flaw in the hermeneutic of rupture which some have the audacity to call renewal, that has led to the loss of the sense of mystery and awe and reverence in the new and improved Mass of the one Roman Rite?

The apologetic that so many liturgists, bishops, priests and religious used in promoting so much of the rupture in the revisions to the sacraments after Vatican II was a literalism that defies common sense.

For example, the ideology that standing to receive Holy Communion and on the hand rather than on the tongue is to be seen symbolically as "being raised up with Christ and more adult!" Yet, even when receiving Holy Communion kneeling, or for that matter, flat on one's back for viaticum, is not that person still "raised up in Christ?" Literalism run a muck is the apologetic for receiving Holy Communion standing and in the hand!

The apologetic given for the "spoken" canon is that it is a proclamation that must be heard. But who needs to hear it? If it is prayer, the essential One to hear it is God the Father, through Christ His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even if the sacramental priest representing the Eternal High Priest at the altar prays the canon silently, does not God still hear it? Is it not still a proclamation of prayer? The volume of it has nothing to do with it. The silence though has everything to do with the sense of awe, mystery and reverence for the congregation and the sacramental priest!

In effect the flawed apologetic of a proclaimed Canon in the revised Mass and with the sacramental priest facing the congregation is that the congregation needs to hear the canon and have their ears tickled by it.  It thus places the Canon in the same category as the proclamation of Scripture, an exercise in catechesis and instruction. The Canon is neither! It is prayer to God pure and simply--the prayer of the Church on earth, in purgatory and in heaven! It is heard by God even when the voice is mute! Silence is Golden.

What are the requirements of Catholic spirituality when participating at Mass with a silent canon?

1. Clergy and laity must understand that the silence is a symbol of being in the presence of God and barefoot. It is an entering into the "Holy of Holies." Awe, wonder, hushed silence comprise the attitude of the soul.

2. Catholic laity need not follow the words of the canon in their own missal word by word, but they do need to be familiar with the Roman Canon having read and studied it regularly, especially its structure. But at Mass, understanding the reason for the silent canon as enhancing the sense of mystery, awe and wonder, they watch the priest and make the prayer of the Church which the priest prays to God silently a part of their own spirituality and offering. Simply let the gestures of the priest be a sacred sign language and the bells to keep one focused on the progress the priest has made in praying the canon with the occasional loud voice to begin a sentence.

3. During the silent Canon, Catholics must recover a sense that this is the most SACRED part of the Mass, where the offering of bread and wine takes place and  then is consecrated and then the sacrificial offering of the consecrated Bread and Wine, the Risen Lord in an unbloody way in remembrance of Calvary takes place. The congregation also needs to have an awareness of the prayers of petition for the living and dead that the priest prays during the Canon--thus rendering the Universal Prayer after the Credo in the Ordinary Form redundant and simply more words spoken aloud to make the Mass more wordy and banal, a carnival of babble.

If the priest and the laity at an EF Mass don't understand the spirituality and theology of silence during Mass and especially during the Canon they will find it a distraction. But go and watch an EF Mass with a silent canon and approach it as I have highlighted it above and one will appreciate it and rediscover a profound reverence, mystery and hermeneutic of piety!



27 comments:

Dialogue said...

When Paul VI published the first edition of his missal, the audible canon was simply an option. Later editions made this mandatory. Pope Benedict expressed concerns about the audible canon back in the Seventies, and as pope recited the canon in a more subdued, but minimally audible, voice.

The main pastoral concern with the audible canon is that it puts the congregation at risk of thinking the priest is speaking to them during the Institution Narrative, describing to them how "on the night He was betrayed..."

As for the Bidding Prayers, I'm not sure these are made superfluous by the Intercessions of the Canon. The Bidding Prayers, by their nature, are meant to be specific to the time and place, while the Intercessions of the Canon are constant through the centuries.

Bernard Fischer said...

I personally don't care one way or the other if the Canon is spoken out loud or not. But let's be clear: it's not understandable just because it's in the language I speak. Anyone who thinks that things in English are understandable has never read the closing documents on his mortgage. If the Canon is spoken aloud, it's still a mystery. In a sense it's still unintelligible. It's difficult to grasp the significance of the phrases and gestures if they are not explained and they never are because it's assumed that since things are in the vernacular, everyone understands it. I don't know what things were like before but that's how they are now. I can't argue that the liturgists were wrong to have the canon said outloud, but I suspect the intended consequence did not come about.

But the gestures are important too. Here's the analogy I use: say a group of children are asking an adult for something that they suspect they won't get, something they may even get in trouble for if they ask. Maybe some children are asking their parents to go to Disneyworld this summer, or maybe some kids are asking a teacher to delay a test because there's a bit game on the night before. One child will often be selected to the the spokesman for various reasons. If he's really nervous about asking he'll frequently look back to his friends to makes sure they are with him and then he makes his request.

This is somewhat like the Orates Fratres in the EF. The priest is getting ready to unite our offerings to that of Jesus on the cross for the good of the world. But he turns to the congregation and seeks their support before he gets too far. Do we genuinely offer our trials to God in love, or is this a sacriligious cosmic slot machine where we put in our money and get blessings in exchange? The congregation's response is that we're offering our sacrifice for the good of God's Church, not (just) our own benefit. We're all in it together. But that symbolism is lost if you're not at an ad-orientum mass.

Mr. Matt said...

I know in the bible God always came in the silence, the whisper. I always think that is so fitting for God to come into the Eucharist and make it truly His body and blood in the silence of the cannon.

Robert Kumpel said...

Last weekend, my oldest daughter graduated from Seton Home Study School. We attended the graduation weekend in Front Royal Virginia. Front Royal seems to be a place that has embraced the New Evangelization, as they have a vibrant Catholic presence and is also home to Human Life International and Christendom College.

Anyway, on Friday, there was a baccalaureate Mass for the graduates at Christendom College's chapel. I was quite surprised when they set up altar cards and and old Irish priest came in with the ring of the bell and offered the EF. On Saturday, there was ANOTHER baccalaureate Mass for the grads in the town's Catholic Church, this one a Novus Ordo Mass. Then, on Sunday, we attended Mass at Human Life International's chapel, where, again, it was offered in the Extraordinary Form.

The only reason I bring this up is that my one daughter who is the most rebellious and hardest to make behave was struck by the EF. To my absolute shock, she told us that she like Mass that way better than the Novus Ordo.

I'm still in a bit of shock.

jolly jansenist said...

Young people are cynical beyond their years and experience. What else could we expect from a nihilistic and amoral culture? They seek something meaningful beyond themselves…many turn to the occult, various forms of narcissistic self-indulgence, Eastern religions, fads of various kinds in which they lose themselves and do not have to confront the realities of everyday living.
Many see in the Mystery of Catholicism, best embodied and represented in the EF, an answer to their need for transcendence and a focus beyond themselves and the ephemera of our dying culture. Even if it starts out as a mere curiosity about what they may think is just another fad or self-indulgence, they often find in the Mystery the real answer and a true means of getting beyond themselves and their cynicism regarding all forms of cultural expression…it is just the "otherness" of it, the apparent incomprehensibility of it, the ritual that goes beyond anything they see on TV, the movies, or a typical protestant church service that captures their imagination and pulls them in. But, it is not just the young people that need it…everyone in this culture yearns for the same thing…something beyond ourselves, something with real meaning beyond the sound bites and faux events and encounters of our media driven, one dimensional society. Most seek it in self-destructive ways or simply give in to the current flow. The Church is NOT speaking to this and there is a real need for a call to repentance and a path back to the Mysteries of the Faith. The EF and true Catholic identity, in my opinion, are the only way back.

Michael Ortiz said...

The other day my children and I made a visit to a country Church in Maryland that used to be our parish when they were little--oldest now 21. When we walked in, there were about 7-9 folks in their, standing in front of the altar, chatting with the priest or deacon (not sure which) who did the baptism. All were talking/laughing as if they were in the parking lot. It didn't stop when we knelt to pray.

We need a strong Pope who will reverse this unfortunate and wide-spread misunderstanding and abuse. The audible canon should be abolished.

George said...


Robert Kumpel:

Many holy women in the Church's history could be characterized as rebellious and head-strong (especially given the culture of the time some of them live in). There were some who were living irresolute lives and had to undergo a profound conversion. One such is a saint who was canonized last year, Angela of Foligno. When she and the others aligned their will with God's however, something wonderful and beautiful happened. They became saints. It is about these exemplars of the Faith that our young people should be reading.

Jolly Jansenist:

I agree. Too many young people today, in addition to involved in those things you mentioned, are in large numbers either atheists or agnostics.

Anonymous 2 said...

JJ:

I agree with everything you say except for a perhaps too sweeping generalization about young people and the notion that the EF is the only way back. Most fundamentally we need to cultivate a sensibility for seeking depth of meaning and for looking look through surfaces and beyond appearances. The Catholic Mass in both Forms is certainly consistent with this notion.

Jdj said...

A2,
I agree that reclaiming our young is obviously more complicated than simply assuming that "...the EF is the only way back." The culture we live in, and that they have been formed by is a very powerful influence. One cannot assume the same "fixes" that might have been possible 50 years ago, or that are seeing some resurgence today will influence that sorely-needed awakening in our young. That being said, I also know that basic human nature is a fairly constant and unchanging--we are born needing to be loved and to love. If we are fortunate enough (and/or well-formed enough?) to encounter the grace, we are transformed by transcendent experiences of God's all-powerful love for us. We all have our personal biases about how these powerful moments occur in human lives based on our lived experience.
You are absolutely right that what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Can we find common ground? I am optimistic enough to say "yes" because there lives our hope. It is critical not only to our own survival as Church, but to our witness in winning back souls for the Kingdom, our raison d'etre.

Anonymous said...

Soooooo...

Is it true, Father M., that at Mass today you had your congregation APPLAUD an "altar girl" as it was her last day of "serving"? I heard this and found it disturbing, if true.
Father, silence is INDEED golden. Especially at the Foot of the Altar, where applause for an "altar girl" (or anyone else!) has zero business.

Pope St. Pius X: "It is not fitting that the servant be applauded in His Masters House".

Our Lady weeps...

~Denis St. Paris

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Odd that His Holiness said this given the raucous applause and cheers given popes at Mass, before and after especially in pre Vatican II times. Pope Benedict encouraged it too! Guess which pope has somewhat successfully stimied it? Pope Francis!

Sam said...

Sounds like a Baptist church service...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, those dang Papal Masses!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, those dang Papal Masses!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, those dang Papal Masses!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, those dang Papal Masses!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, those dang Papal Masses!

John Nolan said...

Fr AJM

There are no female servers at papal Masses. Pope Francis might not like the camera-clicking and 'Viva il Papa' shouting but he should still bless the congregation on the way in and out, as all bishops should. I get the impression from your posts that you disagree with most of the post-Novus Ordo accretions yet tolerate them in your parish because you don't want to offend anybody. Is this a form of cowardice?

Anonymous said...

Psalm 150: Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. 5Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals...

Zephaniah 3: Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Psalm 33: Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.

Job 38: When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Psalm 98: Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;

Psalm 65: The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing. The meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

Timbrels, dancing, LOUD cymbals, SHOUT for joy, CLAP your hands... But we must be silent in worship of God...?

Applause is a legitimate form of demonstrating approval. Or we could demand that it end and have silent, vigorous head-nodding in its place...

Lefebvrian said...

Anonymous, Catholics do not believe in sola scriptura proof-texting. We have a liturgical tradition stretching back over 2,000 years. In that tradition, there is no applause during the liturgy.

jolly jansenist said...

Well, why not high fives, shout outs, dapping, wolf whistles, cat calls, and foot stomping?

Anonymous said...

Father, I read once that the reason for a silent canon is because that part of the mass is a conversation specifically between the priest and God - beautiful idea I think. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains it further:

"There are also mystic reasons for the silent prayers of the Canon. They are thus shown to be purely sacerdotal, belonging only to the priest, the silence increases our reverence at the most sacred moment of the Mass, removes the Consecration from ordinary vulgar use, and is a symbol of our Lord's silent prayer in the Garden and silence during his Passion (Suarez, disp. lxxxiii, I, 25)."

Just a comment on clapping at Mass - the only comment I have read from Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) is:

"Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 198.

And I read too that St Pope Pius X said when he was received with applause upon entering St. Peter’s Basilica:

“It is not fitting to applaud the servant in the house of his Master.”

I don't see that any clapping is appropriate at Mass which should transcend the mundane - there are usually cups of tea afterwards where achievements can be mentioned and duly clapped.

That is why today - like the young people referred to above - prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass because it takes us away from the ordinary mundane life into the realm of the sacred.

Jan

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous above, who cited all the pro-noise Scripture, it needs to be understood that all the cymbals, banging, noise and dancing are perfectly well and good, but NOT at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!

Literally, at the Foot of the Cross, what would Our Lady have thought had a dancer appeared with cymbals and clapping?! As Our Lord is being sacrificed, would we applause for ANY reason? Put yourself there on Good Friday. What is appropriate behavior that sorrowful day?

And Father M, do you not AGREE with Pope Saint Pius'' quote?!

-Denis St. Paris

jolly jansenist said...

Anonymous, you need to read up a bit on metaphorical language. Those passages can in no way be interpreted to mean applaud in Mass….here's one for you…"The Lord is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth keep silent."

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder, how does a priest go from praying the TLM to clapping for an altar girl? I have been there for your Latin Masses and I was there yesterday for the clapping. It's sincerely confusing how there are two worlds under one roof, choreographed by one man.
It seems like the church building itself keeps the parish rooted.

- Color Me Trad

Lefebvrian said...

Color Me Trad, never forget that the men who started the liturgical revolution exclusively offered the Traditional Mass. The restoration isn't about doctrine for everyone -- sometimes it is offered merely as another choice on the buffet that is modernistic "Catholicism."

John Nolan said...

The point about the silences in the traditional Roman Rite is that they are 'filled silences'. The artificially imposed silences in the Novus Ordo are 'empty silences', akin to the two minutes' silence at 11 a.m. on Armistice Day but with less meaning. 'We'll all sit and meditate for two minutes on the homily we have just heard.' Why? Was it so profound and meaningful? Usually not.