Saturday, February 8, 2020


Progressive liturgists after Vatican II became flamboyant literalists and fundamentalists when it came to the "sign" and "symbols" of the liturgy.

For example, real bread and lots a wine had to be consecrated at every Mass. Big loaves had to be broken into small portion, consecrated wine had to be poured into chalices (Christ body broken for us, His Blood poured out for us is what they wanted symbolized).

 People had to be drenched in Holy Baptism. At the Asperges, the priest had to soak the congregants forgetting that the aspersges is actually symbolic not literalist in the since every single person has to get drenched.

The laity had to be front and center and gathered around the altar as concelebrants of the liturgy.

I could go on and on, but what happens in this scenario is that the signs and symbols become more important that what they point to or signify or become. The focus is on the sign not Jesus Christ!

Is this an exaggeration? I remember this Mass when it happened in the USA in Iowa or Idaho, can't remember. I thought to my self: Woe!!!!!


rcg said...

A local aspect of the consecration, that I believe may be a Protestant influence, is to pause dramatically during the elevation then SNAP the bread in two. I wondered about this until I attended a service at a local Protestant church that is known for its ‘High’ or traditional service. They broke what appeared to be a loaf of my sourdough bread with the excellent crust. It sounded like a branch breaking in a storm. I am not sure if that is where that came from but it made me concerned for the particles or real consecrated host that might scatter in the sanctuary.

John Nolan said...

Frisbee-sized wafers are gross. What was JP II thinking of? Did he really consecrate a poppadom?

I understand that in some places at the Lavabo the priest makes a point of washing his entire hands (not just his fingers) and drying them on a large towel. No doubt he thinks he is emulating Pontius Pilate. The original reason for the Lavabo was a practical one - the celebrant washed his fingers after handling incense. Later it took on a symbolic meaning.

In the traditional rite when the priest turns to the people and says or sings 'Dominus vobiscum' he keeps his eyes downcast and extends his hands to the width of his body. In many performances (I don't dignify them as celebrations) of the Novus Ordo he flings his arms wide, eyeballs the assembly and says portentously 'The LORD be with YOU.'

Such absurd histrionics should have no place in the liturgy.

Anonymous said...

John Nolan, I think you have to give Pope John Paul the Second a pass on that. When the Popes travel to other countries, I believe the bread, wine, incense, vestments, music, etc. are all provided by the hosts and out of respect, they use them, even if different from what they're used to (and even if in the case of vestments, gaudy). If you are invited to someone's house for dinner for example, would not you eat what was served and use the host's tableware instead of bringing your own?

As to the washing of hands: The practice of the priest washing his hands is ancient. Washing has always had the practical purpose of the removal of dirt to be sure. There was certainly a practical aspect to this washing in earlier days of the Mass. After handling the many gifts brought forward, the priest’s hands would easily be soiled and this washing thus had a practical aspect. But for people in times gone by, it was also a symbol of purification. The Jewish faith prescribed many ritual washings and included washings that took place at or in proximity to the meal. So when the priest washes his hands he says rather unusual words from Psalm 51: “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Notice there is nothing in these words about the body at all. The washing of the hands is a symbol of the priest’s need to have his soul cleansed that he may undertake a holy task. He may or may not have dirty hands, but this is really not the essential point which is that he should have a desire for inward purification before daring so holy a task.

Bob said...

The photo reminds me of a Christmas service at my mother's Methodist church while visiting for the holidays, their service not interfering with my own Mass attendance.

The pastor held up a loaf of bread that diameter, but also about half that diameter (radius, for the obsessed) in thickness, and am fairly sure our illustrated illustrious worthy would have been able to military press the thing overhead, and it would likely have required a clean and jerk.

When everyone went up for communion, I sat utterly amazed as they all went forward, the pastor cradling the loaf as a baby or maybe battering ram, except braced against each person ripping a chunk out of it amidst a cascade of crumbs hitting the floor, it reminding me more as wolves with a carribou than anything else...

We will not talk about "The World's Largest Chalice" except that I do want to assure everyone that it was NOT insulated.

John Nolan said...


Regarding your first point, it is true in part, but when B XVI visited Britain in 2010 the proposed music for the two open-air Masses was vetted by Guido Marini and changed at the last minute, and Benedict insisted that Latin be used from the Preface to the Pater Noster. At the Westminster Cathedral Mass the vestments for the Pope and the many concelebrants were brought from Rome for the occasion. When JP II visited in 1982 he brought his own vestments. I believe the super-sized wafers owe more to Piero Marini than to local custom.

The Lavabo prayer you quote, adapted from a verse of Ps. 50 (51), occurs in the Novus Ordo. In the older rite the priest recites verses 6-12 of Ps. 25 which does actually mention hands (Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas ...). However, as you correctly point out, it is a symbolic gesture and so the priest is enjoined to purify the tips of the thumb and forefingers with which he will touch the sacred species.

The original discussion was about the exaggeration of symbolic gestures. I haven't actually seen a priest washing his hands at the Lavabo, but I'm told it goes on in certain places. It might be due to a literal reading of the GIRM, which has 'manus lavat', but I cannot but conclude that the Novus Ordo, at least in its vernacular and versus populum manifestation, encourages literalism, exaggeration, exhibitionism and histrionics.

Gene said...

Well, for Methodists it is just bread, anyway.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Symbols are created by us to communicate. In order to communicate, they must be perceived - in most cases, seen.

A stop sign is designed in such a way and placed in such a place so that it effectively communicates to drivers the necessity of stopping.

McDonalds locates their arches 50 or 60 or 70 feet in the air along the interstate so that those arches will effectively communicate their meaning to travelers.

We need - indeed we must have - the signs that point us to and invite us to focs on Jesus Christ. Why do we need them? Because Grace Builds On Nature.

Our symbols communicate best when they are simple and clear. The stop sign is octagonal, red with four white letters. The Golden Arches are just that - no added words, no frilly edging.

Baptism by immersion is, I would suggest, a more effective sign of the transformation that takes place in us in that sacrament. We have, I hope, given up the idea that, after making a rather small smear of Chrism on the head of the baptized, it is necessary, then, to wipe off that oil with a cotton ball. The "taking back" of the sign just given is odd, at best.

The visibility of signs matters. Personally, I think the host being elevated by the Holy Father is oversized. In general, though, we do better by our symbols when we create them with simplicity and boldness, allowing them to communicate effectively.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Perception is not always reality. A small host elevated in a large cathedral looks larger than it is due to the perception of the eye which makes it bigger than it is.

We don't need to exaggerate signs or symbols, our eyes will do it for us as we perceive them.

Brother Robert who decorated the cathedral told me one time that when he created his famous nativity scene in the cathedral, he would put smaller statues further and higher back in the set because the eye would perceive it to be larger than it was but further away though.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

With all due respect to Brother Robert, placing small objects farther away does not make them appear larger.

If you think it does, place a quarter on the edge of the dining room table in front of you. Place another quarter on a stack of books on the far edge. The more distant quarter does not look larger than the closer.

There is such a thing as "forced perspective." One of the most well-known examples is the photo some tourists take of a friend "holding up" the leaning tower of Pisa. With the friend much closer than the tower, the perspective is "forced," giving the false impression that the friend's hands are on the tower, keeping it in place.

Another example is the painting of the Last Judgment on the wall above the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Christ's left knee seems to be closer to the observer while, in fact, it is farther away due to the curve from the ceiling to the wall. It was Michelangelo's genius in forcing perspective by painting the thigh and knee significantly larger than the rest of Christ's body. This is accomplished because the thigh and knee ARE much larger.

We do need to exaggerate symbols if we want them to be seen. McDonald's could put a two foot tall set of Golden Arches on a 70 foot sign pole, but, at that distance, the symbol would be virtually invisible. In your church you do not have a 2 foot crucifix on the wall above the tabernacle precisely because you want it to be perceived - seen.

Fr Martin Fox said...

This mindset was still in fashion when I was in the seminary, and it was reflected in how I was taught to offer, er, "preside at" Mass, er, Eucharist. My classmates and I were encouraged to make exaggerated gestures. "When you kiss the altar, really smooch it!" (And, yes, that really was the quote.) As far as the fraction, we used large hosts for practice -- which break down into 17 or so individual portions, and which are still available today -- and the priest who showed us how to do the fraction urged us to hold it very high, and make a dramatic gesture of breaking it in two.

As happened at the church Bob visited, this gesture guarantees particles flying everywhere. Right then and there, I decided I would not do it that way, ever.

It is a very strange mindset that says the "sign value" -- of expansively and dramatically breaking the Eucharist -- is actually more important than the Sacrament itself -- such that the scattering of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus all over the altar (and likely beyond) is of secondary importance. As if the faithful, observing all those bits of Jesus being flung in all directions, don't draw any conclusions from the "sign value" of such obvious irreverence!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I did not realize, Fr. Fox, how many fragments went flying until I attempted to break many of those large hosts into the smaller parts as scored (at my desk so these could be used at Mass to use them up). I had my black trousers on and when I was finished, I was covered in spots and spots of bread crumbs.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In addition, those smaller scored triangle hosts have edges with loose particle, thus those receiving in the hand have many particles attaching to their palms. I doubt they lick their palms or realize there are fragments of Holy Communion being discarded everywhere including their clothes.

Anonymous said...

"It is a very strange mindset that says the "sign value" -- of expansively and dramatically breaking the Eucharist -- is actually more important than the Sacrament itself -..."

I'd be interested in reading the documentation that supports the claim that some have a mindset that the sign value is more important than the sacrament itself.

(I won't be waiting for that, btw)

Fr Martin Fox said...

Anonymous said...

"It is a very strange mindset that says the "sign value" -- of expansively and dramatically breaking the Eucharist -- is actually more important than the Sacrament itself -..."

I'd be interested in reading the documentation that supports the claim that some have a mindset that the sign value is more important than the sacrament itself.

(I won't be waiting for that, btw)

Don't be so difficult. I told you my experience: I was encouraged to emphasize the "sign value" of a huge host, lofted high and extravagantly fractioned, sending shards of the Sacrament hither and yon. The "sign value" was judged more important than accounting for all those particles. What "documentation" do you insist on? A signed affidavit?