Sunday, 22 December 2013
Authentic expression of the Faith in the Novus Ordo...again...
I related here those aspects of the Missa Normativa (Novus Ordo or so-called ‘New Mass’) which leave me unsatisfied with it as an expression of our Faith. I stated in that post that “I may be alone in saying the New Missal can be seen as an authentic expression of the Faith, but I find it hard to believe that sincere and holy Popes such as John-Paul II and Benedict XVI did not find the Novus Ordo poor enough to warrant significant alteration”. I have been asked how I can still see an authenticity when there are significant differences, such as “the direction the priest faces; the use of readers, extraordinary ministers, reception of Holy Communion in the hand while standing and the use of English all give a very different feel to the New Form of Mass”. Since these are significant differences in the experience of the Mass, I attempt a reply...
On the Orientation of the priest:
I find the orientation of facing of the people difficult to accept because it makes the priest the focus of the people and the people the focus of the priest, with God getting somewhat overlooked. The argument that people should see the liturgical action is, I suggest, nonsense, since there is no change in the elements to be seen and no difference in the elevation. In that several genuflections and many signs of the cross over the elements have been removed in the Novus Ordo there is in fact, less to see than there was before: “let them see what you are doing, but do significantly less”.
On the Use of Lay Readers:
Though it has no place in the liturgical tradition of the Church I can accept this since, if the people have the task of proclaiming the word in the world, it can be given expression in the liturgy. That said, Sacrosanctum Concilium sought to improve our reverence for the Scriptures and I think this was better achieved by reserving it to clerics.
On the Use of Extraordinary Ministers:
I find this very difficult to accept. The priest enables Christ to carry out through him the four-fold action Christ performed at the institution of the Holy Eucharist: i.e., to take, bless, break and give. To situate the ‘giving’ elsewhere (the extraordinary Minister) is to divorce one element of the four-fold action from the rest.
On Holy Communion in the hand:
I find this difficult to accept because it [a] amounts to communicating oneself and [b] is reminiscent of receiving a ticket on a bus. Further, it is not clear that Our Lord gave the Holy Eucharist even to His Apostles on the hand (He dipped the bread into the chalice before giving it to Judas (John 13v26), and one does not place soggy food in a guest’s hand. Indeed, it has been noted that the custom at the time and place of the Last Supper was to feed honoured guests directly into the mouth, I support Communion on the tongue because it shows [a] that we are receiving something at Mass which is unique; [b] our dependence upon God in that we are receptive to His grace; and is [c] reminiscent of lovers placing a portion in their loved one’s mouth as a loving or romantic gesture. On an ecclesial note, Communion in the hand as we have it today was initiated by the Reformers as a denial of the Real Presence, and is therefore not something we should be imitating.
On the use of English (i.e., the vernacular):
I find this acceptable and perhaps even laudable for the readings, which are instruction for the people of God, and the Intercessions, but I find it a poor choice for the Ordinary of the Mass. Like Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 54), I expect “the people be able to say or sing in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them”: The Confiteor, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Domine non sum dignus. If we take seriously the Church’s unity in universality, then we require a universal language to express that unity. Further, the experience of that unity by a common language is a psychological (and therefore a pastoral) benefit to the people.
I can still say the Novus Ordo can be seen as an authentic expression of the Faith however, because none of the above are intrinsic to the Novus Ordo: the vernacular was determined by Vatican II for the readings and General Intercessions; the orientation of the priest in the GI and rubrics is toward the altar, and neither Extraordinary Ministers or Communion in the hand are even mentioned (the latter was introduced illegally, and on consultation with the whole episcopate by Pope Paul, was rejected by of the world’s Bishops -the same Bishops who four years earlier had sat at Vatican II cf. Memoriale Domini (1969):
1. Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving Holy Communion on the hand should be admitted?
Yes, but with reservations: 315
Invalid votes: 20
2. Is it your wish that this new rite be first tried in small communities, with the consent of the bishop?
Invalid votes, 70.
I must note that I am unhappy with the loss of the silent Canon, the silence conveying a sacredness the spoken word cannot (‘silence speaks volumes’, as the saying goes), and the reduction in the number of genuflections seems a clear diminishment of adoration. Hardest to accept it is the replacement of the Offertory with a grace before meals, since this gives a Protestant slant to the Eucharist in that it corresponds to their understanding of the Eucharist as a remembrance of the Last Supper; it does not correspond with Catholic understanding of the Eucharist as Sacrifice. We now rely upon expressions of the Sacrifice in the Canons themselves, with the Preparation of the Gifts relating more to the distribution of the Sacrificial Lamb in Holy Communion than to the whole Eucharistic movement.