Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Liturgy: My Way

I am no liturgist, I get on with it and say Mass, if it is TLM I just get on with it, if it is the Novus Ordo I have my own way of doing it, as I suppose does every priest. In the Ordinary Form no two Masses are ever the same, it is not just the various options, it is that the rubrics are imprecise and encourage a variable product. Each of us has our own interpretation of what black is read and of how the red is done.

I'm a Benedictine arrangement sort of chap, we put out more candles (six) on Sundays and Solemnities compared to two on weekday ferias, I am told that is just my eccentricity, the neighbours generally just have two.
And take the elevation; I am a two handed man myself, I raise the host and chalice above my head but some of my neighbours do it one handed and raise the host to chin level, all we are told to do is to "show it to the people". I admit it, I am over the top, a few inches would suffice.

I tend to follow the preferred option and say the Offertory prayers silently, in most parishes that is unknown.
There are other things; I use a chalice veil and a burse. The chalice veil is "praiseworthy" but not mandatory, the burse, like the maniple, isn't mentioned but then there is rubric about "preparing the altar" at the Offertory, it keeps the corporal tidy, I spread it at the Offertory and refold it after purifying the the vessels, I do that at the altar, one of the options, though many priests do it at the credence table, or even leave it to deputed laypeople.
At Holy Communion we use a Communion Plate because its use "should be retained" which is what Red. Sac. tells us, I think I might be the only person in my diocese who does use one.

Fr Hunwicke draws attention to rubrics being either "substantial, because they prescribe the form or matter of a Sacrament; or accidental when they do not prescribe form or matter." He also remind us that they can also be preceptive, directive or facultative added into the mix we can add custom and also a certain confusion over rubrics, for example many dioceses in the UK would argue Ex Mins of H. Comm. may purify the sacred vessels because it has been customary and is done everywhere, etc. etc. There is also confusion; there are, once one has entered the sanctuary, three genuflections by the celebrant after the elevations and before the Ecce Agnus Dei but then we are also told about incidental genuflexions when entering and leaving the sanctuary and when passing before the tabernacle if one is not in a procession; some texts tells us they should happen and others they shouldn't. I have always understood those that tell us shouldn't happen stem from the time the presumption was that the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in fitting and noble chapel apart from the sanctuary.

Fr Tim recently published an article on mutual enrichment, again there is confusion, the Pope himself uses elements from the Traditional Mass. The former Secretary to the CDW happily celebrated the Novus Ordo using many of the rubrics of the Traditional Mass - I can't find a link to this at the moment. If you celebrate the TLM it is difficult not to do odd things in the Novus Ordo, I don't but I want to genuflect before and after each elevation, and after uncovering or covering the chalice, and there are time I have to struggle with a passion to kiss the altar. Now, I can't help but bowing by head at the mention of the Holy Name, the name of the Blessed Virgin and the doxology, which of course in both forms one is supposed to do but it tends to be only those who celebrate the TLM that tend to do it.

Another issue that might be worth raising here, just for devilment really, is the question of microphones. The Eucharistic Prayer is supposed to be vox clara but there is no mention anywhere of vox clara plus amplification in most churches it makes little difference but in a huge basillica its absence would render even the most stentorian of voices sotto voce would it be so wrong to reproduce that effect in a parish church?


On the side of the angels said...


JARay said...

According to (now Bishop) Peter Elliot, renowned Liturgist, The Extraord. Mins. of the H.E. may not cleanse the sacred vessels after Holy Communion but Instituted Acolytes have this privilege.
That is the way I have always understood things. I am an Instituted Acolyte and so I feel that this one thing sets me apart from the E.M.of the H.E.
I believe that I am correct in what I say.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Quite correct but the key word is "may".

Henri said...

"I don't but I want to genuflect before and after each elevation, and after uncovering or covering the chalice"
I now many Priests who do it. If you want to do it, you shouldn't retain yourself from that. It is mutual enrichment, and it is more respectful of the Sacrament.

For the little personal story, the Mass I have most liked to be at in these last years was a Requiem Mass in the Novus Ordo, in a French countryside gothic church, entirely in French, versus populum and with very poor and ugly 70's vestments and sacred vessel. But the old Priest who celebrated it used the rubrics and the "way to do things" of the TLM (he uses to say the TLM more frequently than the NO) and it has a magnificent sense of sacrality, simplicity... I had the chance to serve it, so I entered the "game" and served it as if it was a TLM. It was so wonderful, I was in total awe.
+ Pax et Bonum

MC Man said...

I wish that we could reinstate the communion plate in our parish.The Host is distributed by the Celebrant at the foot of the altar to two lines of communicants who mainly recieve in the hand they then go off to the EMCs at either side for the chalice,it would be quite a stretch for the server to reach to both lines without looking very awkward.I think that two servers with plates would crowd a minute Sanctuary,any suggestions?

Fr Francis Wadsworth said...

I am generally not a fan of microphones in churches. However I was pulled up by one of my parishioners for turning off the microphone for the Eucharistic Prayer because it was linked to the loop system for the hearing impaired. So now i have adopted the practice of keeping the microphone on and lowering my voice to just above a whisper for the Canon and this produces a quiet hush over the church. i call it the almost silent canon.

FatherTF said...

My own practice is very similar, Father - though we leave the six candles on the altar and have two other, smaller candles for Masses that are not sung. Also, I would either carry the chalice in at the beginning of Mass and unfold the corporal at the beginning, or have it on the altar beforehand, with the corporal already unfolded, as per Missa Cantata.

Purifying the vessels at the altar has the advantage that it provides a time of silence for people to make an initial thanksgiving for Holy Communion. As a way of observing the Novus Ordo silence after Communion (in Italy, they used to call it the "pausa") I say the Placeat tibi before continuing with the Communion antiphon and postcommunion.

(Incidentally, the rubrics are vague about the purification, so I think it is legitimate to carry out the ablutions in the traditional manner.)

I agree with you about the microphones and have come across the objection that Fr Wadsworth mentioned. In fact, the prayers said secreto are less discriminating to the hard of hearing because everyone is in the same boat. Microphones were only invented relatively recently in terms of Church history. For most of the Church's life, people would only have been able to hear what was sung or what was bellowed from under a sounding-board at the pulpit.

Many thanks for the link.

Mike said...

What on earth has all this mumbo-jumbo to do with Jesus of Nazareth!

Gigi said...

This blog becomes ever more fascinating a read!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Is that the same Jesus of Nazareth, who Catholics worship as Lord and God? The one through whom we worship the Father?
It has a great deal to do with Him, who is the High Priest of out religion.

Try reading Hebrew!

Gigi said...

Well said Father. Mike, I think "mumbo jumbo" is a bit strong!The sacraments are clothed in ritual, which is both comforting and familiar and still preserves the sacredness.

Mike said...

Try reading the New Testament. The ritual and pomp of these mummified forms bears no resemblance to the early gatherings for breaking bread and fellowship.
What is it that makes you resist the Second Vatican Council so vehemently? Your descriptions remind me of the Anglo-Catholics who seem to love dressing up, making their churches blue with incense.To a simple RC they appear to crave theatre over content. What is described in this blog is pantomime not sincere worship and spirituality.It tempts me to cross the Tiber.

Fr Ray Blake said...

1. "The ritual and pomp of these mummified forms bears no resemblance to the early gatherings for breaking bread and fellowship."

I suggested you read Hebrews for a "high" and liturgical understanding of the Paschal Mystery. Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, would suggest there was never an understanding of non liturgical, non ceremonial breakings of bread in the ancient Church.

2. "What is it that makes you resist the Second Vatican Council so vehemently?"
Like many I believe VII must be read in the context of continuity not rupture.
We, not you, am being faithful to its interpretation!

Gigi said...

...and one could indeed read a lot of Hebrew whilst crossing the Tiber.

Anonymous said...


Yes I've always regarded the Transfiguration as a trifle low key and found the common execution of the Son of God lacking in drama. Those miracles have me narcoleptic.

What gives you the right to peer into other mens' souls and judge the sincerity of their worship? Hold your tongue, sir!

The Church is a living tradition, deepening in the wisdom of the Holy Ghost whom Our Lord sent after Him. All the greatest saints and bishops have aspired as the highest ideal merely to hand over, undefiled, what they received.

I recommend you read Josef Jungmann SJ on the early liturgy and Peter Brown on early Church history - neither post conciliar 'traditionalists'- to help disabuse you of your apparently protestant criticism of orthodox Catholic divine worship.


Giles H

Mike Cliffson said...


Have you ever heard the joke about the Dominican who asked his superior permission to smoke while he prayed, and was refused,how could he dream etcetc? whereas he met a J who had asked permission to pray while he smoked, and been told but of course, how do you need to ask, we are told to pray at all times etc.?
A piece of advice if you're genuine as opposed to trolling.Whereas,in Holiness and Godliness I doubt not you'd beat me hollow, and,if Fr is no liturgist, I'm off the zero side of the scale- yet YOU call into question not the details but rather the SERIOUSNESS, as such, the gravity, in itself, of the issue, which seriousness many of us, by God's grace ,have an inkling of. Forgive me if this be eggsuction to ancient forebears:If you are in, or can get into, the habit of personal prayer, not exactly the same as the liturgy, you'll find the points in the joke above germane.
Jesus Christ our Lord, True God and True man,and a long etc, is EQUALLY REALLY present at any and every mass, at a subdued utterly stripped down publicly held in secret mass in a concentration camp, with a concealed thimbleful of water a stolen raisin has been steeped in and three crumbs of stale bread stolen from the guards´ rubbish (this happened, and I supect still does),or at mass said by Fr W, with a more beutifully executed, impossible, traditional mass with no holds barred, not a detail wrong, , or by fr X, in the running to win a prize in the fastest weirdest and sloppiest mass in western christendom competition, or at the plastic-hippy rite yuf mass in Noochurch Stlite's, or the simple relaxed "early christian " housemasses said by the PP of St Blue jeans the laid back - Mrs Blurther really CAN´T bake bread, the homeproduced consecrated hosts are---hmm--distracting--- to engulf , and her cats should be kept out during mass , but never mind. Or ..

The question is , just as with personal prayer, which and what enables thee or me, creatures not the creator, and in my case at least, a great sinner, which or what liturgical style and practice will enable us the better, to quote
Kiko Arguello, to approach the utterly the same throne of grace with a bucket as opposed to a sieve? What will we take awy from mass? on the mission to the rest of the world we are dismissed with, how much grace, bucketfuls or sievefuls,unmerited, have we aboard to present Jesus Christ in us, through us, to the rest of the world the rest of the week, even to save our own souls?
Rather than think about it, pray about it. Then think.
God bless

parepidemos said...

Father, I think that Mike is possibly concerned about the whinging and negativity that are (in my observation) becoming increasingly apparent on certain Catholic blogs (sadly, I must include yours in this number).

The loosening of the shackles concerning the EF, is something to be cherished as many people find this form of the Roman Rite to be edifying - when it is celebrated reverently, rather than mechanically, as Mike has indicated does indeed occur.

I remember that a while ago you came in for some flack (and a very nasty comment from one person) when you invited us to mock the way charismatics worshipped. That particular post of yours both shocked and saddened me as I found it quite unChrist-like. My point in recalling this, is that perhaps Mike is trying to say that sincerity in worship is vastly more crucial than the way the ceremony is conducted. Scripture does warn us, several times, regarding great spectacle performed by those with empty hearts.

Last year, I had the great honour of accompanying the priest who baptised me on a 'business' trip to Africa. The liturgies were full of life, singing, joy and utter reverence. I don't think that the format of EF would be appropriate in such areas.

Father, one of the enjoyable things about your blog is that you share your own spiritual journey with us; for this I thank you.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think where I have encouraged others to "mock" charismatic worship, maybe you might show me where.

As for the EF in Africa, I might once have shared your view but I spoke to priest from Gambia who regularly celebrates in the EF, he reminded me that that was the form of Mass that inspired 19th cent African martyrs and was the mainstay of African worship, just like Europe, until 1968.

We Europeans can too easily decide what is best for Africa by imposing our narrow view of what is African on a huge continent.

santoeusebio said...

To get back to the subject! Father Tim Finigan's article is well worth reading and the concept of mutual enrichment seems admirable to me.

On one minor point I think the English translation of the Latin Notitiae is extremely loose. It translates "non sunt interandi" as meaning "are not to be resumed". I would have thought a more accurate translation would be "do not have to be followed" i.e. when there is no instruction in the new rite you do not have to follow the old rite rather than it is forbidden to follow the old rite.

My take on all this is that there is a danger of polarisation between those who support the EF and those who support the OF. There is a danger of extreme positions being taken in celebrating both forms. I would like the OF to be enriched from the EF. We seem to have lost so much beauty from the liturgy and some Latin etc would be very welcome.

On the other hand I remember witnessing a huge crowd mostly not Christians in a third world country having the Passion read out to them in Latin. It struck me as a missed opportunity!

One of the problems of the traditionalists who try to be orthodox is that they are caricatured as being antiquarians only concerned with the past and arcane rites. A continuity from the past into the new would help to dispel this.

Nicolas Bellord

Fr S.A. said...

Fr. Blake:

Well written! The importance of the externals are to raise our minds to God and to give God our very best. The more solemn the Mass, with the use of beautiful vestments, reverential movements, etc., the more we are disposed to receiving even more graces. This has always been done as you describe here, not, as Mike seems to think, by trying to imagine what things were like in the early days of the Catholic Church. Popes have warned in the past of the errors in this way of thinking. As you say, when I celebrate in the extraordinary form, I just get on with it, so there is no question of doing something differently. This is only a question with the ordinary form, with the various options, etc.

Again, well said, and I enjoyed the article by Father Finigan.

Father John Boyle said...

Father Ray

I daresay you also find yourself bowing your head at the name of the Sovereign Pontiff? As I now do?

When people ask, "Why is such and such done/not done in the old Mass?" I tend to reverse the question: "Why is such and such no longer done/now done in the new?" The presumption should be that it is the change from old to new that must be justified, not the reverting from new to old.

Take the removal of the pall from chalice. The GIRM indicates this should be done before the priest stretches his hands over the gifts at the epiclesis, as if the pall somehow gets in the way of the Holy Spirit! The seamless nature of the priest's actions is completely lost. What is the priest to do with his left hand as he removes the pall with his right? All was and is so beautiful in the old.

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