Today was our turn to cook breakfast at a local shelter, and this evening we plan to participate in the Easter Vigil. It was not possible to provide a worthwhile Holy Saturday post for today. However, I am providing a link to a first millennium Holy Saturday sermon, which is part of the Church's present day Office of Readings. My prayers and thoughts are with all of you wherever and however you celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
56. The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly, this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation.
It struck me today that we are into the second year of the Sacrosanctum Concilium or Saturday Sacraments stream here at the Café, and there is about one more year to go. This post and next Saturday’s are the final two on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. From there the document takes us to the other sacraments, the sacramentals, the Liturgy of the Hours, sacred music, and a number of other topics you may find fascinating. There are 130 paragraphs in the entire Constitution, and this link will take you to the full text of Sacrosanctum Concilium if you want to browse ahead to the remaining 74 items, some of which are not directly applicable to parish life and which I will pass over.
Those in my generation [70+] have experienced the liturgical reform in significantly different ways from those who were born into the Church after 1960 or thereabouts. My formative years, up through my mid-teens, were spent worshipping in the Latin Tridentine Rite. Vatican II concluded in 1965 when I was 17, and life in the seminary and many local parishes and schools gave me an excellent seat to both observe and assist in the process described in para. 56, most notably that pastors “insistently teach them [parishioners] to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligations.” And, in approaching my golden years—though they sometimes feel more leaden—I see certain groups spending a great deal of time and money to restore the pre-Vatican II Mass, the Rite of Pope Pius V in 1570.
From the vantage point of the shuffleboard court, it strikes me that para. 56 attempts to do two things which no one realized might be so difficult. The first was to impart a sense of unity in the Mass which did not exist before. The missals and catechisms of my youth were careful to lay out the Mass in two distinct stages, “The Mass of the Catechumens” and the “Mass of the Faithful.” Even para. 56’s wording, “the two parts…” cannot escape the double-rite thinking. The “Catechumens’ Mass” corresponded to our Liturgy of the Word and gets its name from the ancient practice of allowing those preparing for baptism to be instructed during the Liturgy of the Word, given that the first half of the Mass was based upon the Bible only.
Catechumens were expected to leave before the Offertory when the Church got down to its serious business of consecrating and distributing the Body of Christ. The pre-Council Mass was weighted toward the Eucharistic elements, possibly at the expense of the Scripture. Subsequent directives on para. 56 attempted to unify the Mass, and architectural guidelines stated clearly that the ambo [the furniture bearing the Sacred Word, the pulpit] and the altar should dominate the visual scope of the sanctuary.
Vatican II in Sacrosanctum Concilium was proposing a change in basic assumptions for Catholics, that the Mass be understood as a celebration of Bible and Eucharistic meal. Catechisms even today still speak of the Mass as the sacrificial act of Calvary, and indeed this is true. But, like the two disciples on the Easter road to Emmaus, the ignominious death of Christ on the cross—the sacrifice which the Mass perpetuates—does not make sense until Jesus and his Church explain the entire Old Testament, as Luke 24:27 makes eminently clear. It is only after this exhaustive opening of the Scriptures that the two disciples recognize Jesus in the Eucharistic formula of the Mass, when he broke the bread for them and their eyes were opened.
There is, then, a preeminence of Word in the human sequence of time. We cannot worship the Savior in the Eucharistic bread unless we know him from revealed Scripture. I am presently reviewing Catholic Parishes of the Twenty-First Century (2017), an exhaustive study of American Catholic attitudes and practices. [It is available on Kindle as well as other formats.] In a survey of those who attend Mass and what they look for, the highest rated expectation was fellowship and warmth at 68%, a well-executed liturgical rite at 62%, a helpful homily at 60% and artistic surroundings. Far down the list, in the 30% range, do we find the kinds of things that make good liturgy possible: adult education and Scripture study. My own read on the numbers is that we approach liturgy to receive and be served, and less to engage in the work that makes this happen. The book’s chapter on Church finances adds credence to my opinion: the average Catholic household contributes 1.1% of income to the Church; this figure has enjoyed the constancy of pi for my entire adult life. The average of all other Christian households is 2.2%. Neither figure is stellar, and the permanence of the percentages suggests that many church goers are content with the performance-cost ratio.
What would rock the boat are the hard teachings of Scripture and clear-headed preaching, expounded in the Mass, parish and group adult formation, and perhaps most of all, an intimate relation between bible and reader. The reformers at the Council assumed a strong dynamic between Liturgy of Word and Liturgy of Eucharist. But even present-day Church architecture undermines the principles of para. 56; the newly consecrated $31 million cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee, is designed as an elongated Eucharistic reservation structure, and not in an optimum way to celebrate the life-giving forces of both Word and Meal.
At least in the United States, there is still much work to do regarding the awakening of Catholics to the Word of God, and it will not be as easy as pi.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
55. That more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice, is strongly commended.
The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact , communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism.
Para. 55 introduces the specific discussion of Eucharistic participation in the act of sharing the consecrated bread and wine. The overarching principle of this section is unity in symbol: that all present share the one bread and the one cup.
The first section stresses the importance of receiving Eucharistic bread consecrated at the Mass one is attending. I have never heard this principle discussed from the pulpit or in catechetical texts, and I suspect most Catholics are not aware of it. Given that the Mass is defined as a reenactment or living memorial of the Last Supper, there is Biblical appropriateness to everyone receiving from the one loaf. In the Eucharistic narratives in the Scriptures, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, and gives it to his assembly—the Last Supper and the post-Resurrection meal on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples immediately come to mind.
Now I am presuming here that most readers are in the United States and attend Mass in large settings, as in my own church which seats at least a thousand. So, the issue of practicality—mundane as it may be—deserves a place at the table, no pun intended. It is impossible in most of our churches to consume a portion of the large host elevated by the priest. You may notice that when the celebrant breaks the large host before the distribution of communion, an ancient rubric called the fractio panis (“breaking of the bread”), he does usually put pieces of the large host into the other vessels of consecrated bread. This is an attempt to honor the intention of tradition and para. 55, but the reality behind the symbol is rarely grasped.
As the Church grew in numbers over time the principle of receiving “of one bread” became problematic, though it seems that celebrants consecrated several loaves, not just one, and broke them at the fractio panis. In Rome, for example, the fractio was very lengthy, and I have come across sources from the mid to late first millennium that speak of the announcements being read as the communion bread was broken. [One wonders what parish announcements consisted of in 700 A.D.]
The development of the circular hosts we are familiar with today is a long tale for another day. Immediately after Vatican II there was a movement in some communities to locally bake loaves of bread suitable for use at Mass. The idea had some merit—the sign of the sacrament is better expressed in eating substantive bread, not the manufactured “Styrofoam wafers” as some mischievous souls put it. However, Canon Law is clear that the only ingredients permissible for communion bread are wheat flour and water; in the 1970’s and 1980’s I can recall endless debates over recipes and additives, but at the end of the day the amount of work to create a better symbol than the manufactured host has overwhelmed any wholesale move in that direction.
[The manufactured hosts have a long but not indefinite shelf life. I was celebrating the TV Mass for my diocese at a local studio when, during the fractio, the large celebrant’s host shattered in my hands. Thankfully there was no YouTube in those days.]
The second paragraph addressed the practice of “communion under both species,” or distribution of the consecrated bread and wine. I was quite surprised to learn some years ago that the Council of Trent (1545-1563) had not forbidden the practice. It is possible that reception of the cup was not revived after Trent because many Catholics viewed as a Protestant innovation, and the right of the faithful to have access to the cup was a rallying call of earlier reformers such as Jan Hus of Czechoslovakia, who was executed at the Council of Constance in 1415.
Medieval theologians developed the technical term “concomitance” to define the full presence of Christ in each of the Eucharistic species, bread or wine. Thus, one who receives communion under the form of bread alone receives the full Christ. Doctrinally speaking, it is not necessary to drink from the chalice. However, para. 55 reopens the discussion from the aspect of full liturgical reform, which includes the principle that sacramental rites should be as plain and direct as possible. Consequently, if the Scriptures speak of eating the bread and drinking the cup, the Mass presents a most suitable sacramental sign where full participation in the sacred meal is experienced, under the forms of bread and wine.
Vatican II did not drop this directive from the skies. Liturgists for nearly a century before the council had been studying the question of communion under both forms. The statement and directives in para. 55 were new to the public in 1963, however. The specifics of para. 55—the occasions when the laity might receive under both forms—are limited and tentative. The reservations were probably a combination of the theoretical and the practical. Picture the reaction of Cardinal Spellman of New York to the idea of offering the cup to the thousands who process through St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral.
There was and still is a sizeable faction in the Church that opposes regular offering of both the bread and the cup. The 2006 Vatican statement “Doctrinal Formation and Communion Under Both Kinds” is the most recent official instruction to address pastoral difficulties and dangers inherent to the practice. This statement probably did not satisfy all opponents of communion under two species; some feel that the Eucharist is so sacred that the only proper way to receive the sacrament is via consecrated bread alone on the tongue. It is true that the Eucharist is sacred, but our entire Redemption rests upon the reality of Jesus immersing himself completely in the human condition, which will always be imperfect and messy.
It is hard not to believe that at least some of the Fathers of Vatican II saw para. 55 as the first step toward universal practice, overseen by national conferences of bishops. While my minor seminary (1962-1968) did not offer the cup at the main conventual Mass, it became common practice for Masses of small groups—retreats and class masses, for example—to receive the cup. The practice transferred to parishes more slowly, mostly due to practical difficulties. My own parish today, with thousands of families, did not adopt the practice till the 1980’s. When I travel, I notice that a fair number of parishes do not provide the option. I suppose it comes down to pastoral will and full catechetical understanding, as the 2006 Vatican statement discusses. In one case I am aware of, the Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire, has discontinued the use of the cup for the laity, but in checking the media coverage, I believe there are some sorts of isolated agendas here that are best restricted to Manchester.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless, steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.
And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.
If this material looks familiar, it is drawn from two previous sections of Sacrosanctum Concilium as indicated in the text itself. The difference is that the previous articles on language appeared in the “general principles” section of SC applicable to all sacraments; para. 54 is situated in the specific instructions for the Mass itself, and it is located at the very end of the Liturgy of the Word sequence, after the Prayer of the Faithful article 53 of last week. I would just add one quick observation on para. 54, that the instructions here are applicable “in Masses which are celebrated with the people,” which presupposes that a priest offering a private Mass retains the right to celebrate the sacrament in its entirety in Latin.
All the commentaries on Vatican II agree that the discussion on the reform of the Mass was, for want of a better word, compelling. Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, the leading prelate in the United States, took the position that nothing of the Tridentine rite of 1570 should be changed, and he was not alone in this belief. The Tridentine Mass was built upon the principle that Christ, in the person of the priest, was repeating the sacrifice of himself in an “unbloody sacrifice of Calvary,” facing the crucifix upon the altar and winning the same grace and favor of the first Good Friday. As the Church entered the 1960’s, then, the paradigm of the Mass was the priestly action of sacrificing Jesus to his Father once again. While the salvation of Catholics rested upon their attendance at the holy sacrifice, their “participation” was a holy reverence of silence. The Mass was a reenactment of Good Friday.
The competing paradigm, derived from study of the Scripture and early history, was the model of the Last Supper, with Jesus surrounded by his apostles and sharing the bread and wine with them “until he comes again.” Three of the four Gospels describe the first Mass as a Passover, which celebrated sacred scripture within its rite. The model for the Mass presented by the periti (theologians) and advocated by other bishops envisioned a Eucharist involving word and meal. While the priest would continue to exercise his unique ministry of leadership, the Mass would be considered the “source and summit” of the life of all the baptized, and the reformed rite would bear this into account.
The Last Supper model, or “the Eucharistic banquet motif,” would eventually carry the majority support of the Council, though the matter is not quite as black and white as it seems. Para. 54 reflects the stress of changing paradigms. The text does not demand the abandonment of Latin; “a suitable place may be allotted to their [the congregation’s] mother tongue, citing the Scripture readings and the Prayer of the Faith. It adds, if conditions warrant, “those parts which pertain to the people.” It was explained to me in the late 1950’s when I was learning my altar boy Latin, that I was representing the people in my responses. Presumably para. 54 is suggesting that the parts assigned to the altar boy might be better rendered by the entire assembly in the mother tongue. I have a link here to a 1962 altar boy card with the server’s (and eventually, the congregation’s?) appropriate responses, which are considerable.
Interestingly, para. 54 seems to reverse itself in its second section, calling for “steps…so that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” Not to be psychological here, but the somewhat conflicting directive involving Latin and the mother tongue reflects a natural desire among the Church fathers to embrace a reform without letting go of a familiar past. Those of us who lived through this period of transition all experienced an ambivalence on a very personal level about the liturgical changes. The late blogger Michael Dubriel posted a sad scene from the day that Pope Paul VI discovered that Ordinary Time had replaced the week-long octave of Pentecost:
The story goes that on the Monday after Pentecost in 1970 His Holiness Pope Paul VI rose early and went to his chapel for Holy Mass. Instead of the red vestments he expected, green ones were laid out for him. He asked the Master of Ceremonies, “What on earth are these for? This is the Octave of Pentecost! Where are the red vestments?” “Your Holiness,” replied the Master of Ceremonies, “this is now The Time Throughout the Year. It is green, now. The Octave of Pentecost is abolished.” “Green? That cannot be,” said the Pope, “Who did that?” “Your Holiness, you did.” And Paul VI wept.
Stresses notwithstanding, para. 54 opens the door for greater use of the mother tongue, with reference to para. 40 on the appropriate chain of command in making major liturgical decisions, such as celebrating an entire sacrament in English. I commented on para. 40 back last October on the challenges of language against the backdrop of declining Mass attendance. The text of para. 40 is detailed and seems to address radical reform of liturgy quite seriously and gravely. The curious thing is the rapidity of embracing a fully vernacular English Mass in the United States; most of the Eucharistic celebration was permitted to be observed in the vernacular as early as 1965, and the Canon or Roman Eucharistic Prayer in 1967. The new Missal of Paul VI was not promulgated till 1970. I think that better preparation of the faithful might have eased the transition, but given the circumstances, Catholics today are better engaged in the Mass celebrated in the common tongue.
It is hard for me to imagine that most Catholics today would embrace the simple changes in section one of para. 54 instead of the full vernacular Mass we have grown accustomed to over nearly 50 years. In fact, the “liturgy wars” of the present day are being fought over much bigger issues than just language, with some in the Church believing that the Missal of Paul VI is invalid, that the Missal of Pius V (1570) is the only true rite for the Mass, theologically speaking. Those who maintain the priority of the Tridentine Mass argue that the new Mass has led to an exodus from Sunday Mass observance. On the other hand, it can also be argued that Catholics who now hear the Word and the Eucharist in clear language—everything that the Mass calls us to be—can make more honest internal choices about their depth of faith to the mysteries of the altar.
Thoughts on all aspects of Catholic worship and sacraments.