Thursday, November 03, 2011

An Authentic Celebration According to the Roman Missal

New Liturgical Movements has a set of photographs of the priestly ordination of Father Edward  van den Bergh, a priest of the London Oratory, who was ordained to the priesthood this past October 22nd by Archbishop Vincent Nichols. There are more photographs here.

Archbishop Nichols was the celebrant, the Ordination was celebrated in the Ordinary Form in Latin and strictly according to the Roman Missal, that is with the clergy facing the same direction as the priest, according to the rubrics.

Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, following his talk at the Colloquium of Catholic Clergy UK, mentioned that one of the larger Episcopal Conferences, presumably Nigeria or the US, wanted to remove the six places in the Missal where it says, "the priest turns to the people and says". He said he had to remind the bishops that ICEL was there to translate the Roman Missal not to change the Latin "typical" edition of the Missal. At the Colloquium Mass was con-celebrated ad apsidem, the altars at the Oratory school all face "east".
Looking at the photographs it strikes me that the London Oratories interpretation of Roman Missal is more authentic than what happens in most parishes or cathedrals. Rubrics aren't a suggestion, they are the law of the Church, which most of us tend to flout, or "interpret", "turns to the people" can't be seen as a metaphorical "turn" which really means "looking at" or "having eye contact with".

The rubric that says "the altar should be freestanding, so that Mass can be celebrated facing the people, which is always desirable." The "desirability" is not the facing the people but the altar being freestanding.

It was good to see the Archbishop celebrating Mass celebrating facing "east", but isn't it about time he started doing it in his own cathedral. It was such a good idea of his to get rid of the temporary portable secondary altar, perhaps now with the new translations it is time for a more authentic interpretation of the Missal.

Here, we have more building work on the sanctuary, a new floor is being laid, the altar has been moved into the nave and there is no room for the priest to stand behind the altar. I am not sure anyone at all minds.

My congratulations to Fr van der Berg on his ordination to the Sacred Priesthood - ad multos annos.


Amfortas said...

'The rubric that says "the altar should be freestanding, so that Mass can be celebrated facing the people, which is always desirable." The "desirability" is not the facing the people but the altar being freestanding.'

I wish you were right Father but the rubric clearly favours 'facing the people'. This is what is seen as 'desirable'. To read the sentence any other way is wishful thinking. I favour facing 'eastward' but to claim that the rubric is referring to the desirability of a freestanding altar just isn't credible. That's not what the sentence says. Shades of Tract 90 here I fear.

Physiocrat said...

Having experienced both NO and EF masses in Latin several times in the past few weeks, it seems to me that the EF is more accessible. It also has the benefit that the choir is singing while the priest is reciting the consecration prayers silently, instead of the prayers being read out aloud in Latin after the choir has finished singing the Sanctus.

I cannot understand why it would be desirable for an altar to be free standing if the priest is standing ad orientem. Catholic churches since the Counter Reformation have always had the altar attached to the reredos, have they not, sometimes with an ambulatory behind the reredos - perhaps that is what is meant by "free standing".

Jacobi said...

Lets have more of this,Fr.

Personally, I would like to see fewer churches (60% decline in Catholics),

with one priest in charge of one church (and not two or three others),

with the 9.30 Mass (suitable time for young families)said as Vatican 11 intended i.e. ad orientem, main parts in latin, and without the distracting clutter of "lay involvement".

The 11.00 o'clock Mass could then be said as our ancesters have for well over a millenia as the Traditional Latin Mass.

Some complain that the two would be almost indistinguishable to most Catholics. Well, if that that is all we will have to worry about in the future......

Fr Mark Lawler said...

Dear Amfotas,

I'm afraid that you are wrong & Fr Ray is right in his reading of the rubric. Here is what Cardinal Ratzinger had to say about the rubric in question:
"There is nothing in the Council text about turning altars towards the people; that point is raised only in postconciliar instructions. The most important directive is found in paragraph 262 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, the General Instruction of the new Roman Missal, issued in 1969. That says, 'It is better for the main altar to be constructed away from the wall so that one can easily walk around the altar and celebrate facing the people (versus populum).' The General Instruction of the Missal issued in 2002 retained this text unaltered except for the addition of the subordinate clause, 'which is desirable wherever possible'. This was taken in many quarters as hardening the 1969 text to mean that there was now a general obligation to set up altars facing the people 'wherever possible'.

This interpretation, however, was rejected by the Congregation for Divine Worship on 25 September 2000, when it declared that the word 'expedit' ('is desirable') did not imply an obligation but only made a suggestion. The physical orientation, the Congregation says, must be distinguished from the spiritual. Even if a priest celebrates versus populum, he should always be oriented versus Deum per Iesum Christum (towards God through Jesus Christ). Rites, signs, symbols, and words can never exhaust the inner reality of the mystery of salvation. For this reason the Congregation warns against one-sided and rigid positions in this debate." (Foreword to 'Turning Towards The Lord' by Fr Lang)

Seems clear to me!

This is an important clarification. It sheds light on what is relative in the external symbolic forms of the liturgy and resists the fanaticisms that, unfortunately, have not been uncommon in the controversies of the last forty years. At the same time it highlights the internal direction of liturgical action, which can never be expressed in its totality by external forms. This internal direction is the same for priest and people, towards the Lord-towards the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. The Congregation's response should thus make for a new, more relaxed discussion, in which we can search for the best ways of putting into practice the mystery of salvation. The quest is to be achieved, not by condemning one another, but by carefully listening to each other and, even more importantly, listening to the internal guidance of the liturgy itself. The labelling of positions as 'preconciliar', 'reactionary', and 'conservative', or as 'progressive' and 'alien to the faith' achieves nothing; what is needed is a new mutual openness in the search for the best realisation of the memorial of Christ.

Michael1 said...

A point often forgotten is that Mass should be followed by the people - this was one of the reasons that Trent opened up the Mass to the people by sweeping away the rood-screens and other traditions (and not, as far as I know, specifically sanctioning altar rails, which grew up as a custom subsequently). It was a Council that must have seemed far too revolutionary for many traditionalists at the time...

I think Amfortas is absolutely right in his reading of the rubric: by the rule of proximity, the 'which' applies to the preceding clause, and it is wishful to imagine otherwise. In any case, one would think someone in Rome could clear up the point authoritatively.

If people are to follow Mass, it is important to remember that overlooked group, the deaf. They cannot lip-read an ad orientem Mass, and feel especially excluded. How are these to be dealt with, or are they simply to be left to their own silence?

The question for Father Blake is whether he will be polling his congregation on ad orientem masses - which would lead to informed discussion. Silence by a congregation does not necessarily imply informed assent to a practice.

A priest said...

Dear Fr Ray,

You write:

"Rubrics aren't a suggestion, they are the law of the Church, which most of us tend to flout"

And you then proclaim that you have broken the law that states:

"the altar should be freestanding, so that Mass can be celebrated facing the people".

I do hope that you had permission from your bishop to do this.

If not, it looks as if you think it is ok to break a church law that you don't like.

Not a good idea!

Fr Ray Blake said...

"A Priest",
"Broken a law", which?

Savio said...

Why were priests who are not bishops wearing and or otherwise displaying on their vestments the colour red?

Stevey said...

Can't celebrate facing the people due to construction. You would do that, Fr Ray! I wish my parish would have a "problem" like that...

A priest said...

Dear Fr Ray,

In your post you wrote:

"The rubric that says "the altar should be freestanding, so that Mass can be celebrated facing the people..."

You then added that in your church "the altar has been moved into the nave and there is no room for the priest to stand behind the altar".

Therefore you have reordered your church so that Mass cannot be celebrated facing the people.

You had already written that "Rubrics aren't a suggestion, they are the law of the Church... "

So, according to your own definition, you have broken a law of the church!

It may be that your bishop has given permission for you to do this.

And I am sure that it is within his competence to grant a dispensation from this particular liturgical law.

Fr Ray Blake said...

"A Priest",
I am still not quite sure what you are expressing concern about.

As I point out, and Fr Lawler too, that rubric is about the separation of the altar from the wall; it is about the architectural integrity of the altar, which offers the possibility of offering Mass facing the people.
What is desirable, according to Card Medina Estevez writing as Prefect of CDW, was the separation of altar and wall, not saying Mass facing the people.
Both are now legitimate options, though facing "east" is more ancient and deeply rooted in both east and west.
See Fr Uwe Michael Lang's Turning Towards the Lord, as Fr Lawler suggests.

Sussex Catholic said...

To "A Priest",

It is perfectly clear from what Fr.Ray has written that he is describing a temporary situation whereby he has moved the altar into the nave to enable the relaying of the Sanctuary floor, and that the lack of space between the pews and the temporary building site which is the Sanctuary means that this temporary altar arrangement does not allow the celebrant to stand behind it. Once the Sanctuary floor is completed I think it is reasonable to assume that the altar will be positioned there in accordance with the relevant passage in the GIRM 2002. It is a shame that you have chosen to miscontrue what Fr.Ray has said in an apparent attempt to catch him out when it is so clear from any casual reading of his posting what he actually says. But then I suppose wilful misconstruction of apparently clear instructions is what this posting is all about.

Amfortas said...

Fr Lawler, I stand corrected and apologies to Fr Blake if my tone was a little stiff. I was reacting to the plain sense of the line from GIRM in English. Is this a question of how the GIRM was translated into English? How did the subordinate clause creep in? Was the intention on part of the translators to establish 'facing the people' as the norm? I'm clear that there is nothing in SC about the desirability of 'facing the people' and I am strongly in favour of the Eucharistic Prayer in the OF being said ad orientem'. I welcome the clarification. We now have a more accurate English translation of the mass. Let's hope we get a better translation of GIRM (one which does not require clarification and is not open to contradictory interpretations).

Physiocrat said...

"A priest" - the altar has been moved temporarily so that new flooring can be laid in the sanctuary.

More generally - the arrangement in the Oratory is what became standard after the Council of Trent. It is clear and logical both from an architectural and theological point of view. There is a linear progression from secular to sacred: nave, then sanctuary, marked by a change in level and altar rails, then further steps leading to the altar, then reredos with the tabernacle in a raised position in the centre, the whole surmounted by, and culminating in, the crucifix and three flanking candles on either side.

The sacredness of the sanctuary is further emphasised by a change in flooring materials and rules concerning who is permitted to be there and what clothing they should wear.

It would be difficult to think of an architectural form that could more clearly express Catholic theology. This architectural and ceremonial use of differences to present teachings of a profound nature, is, as Claude Lévi-Strauss explored in his development of structural anthropology, a common thread in all human societies. Neglect it at our peril.

Sixupman said...

As a mere layman, perhaps some of your more erudite contributors might explain the point of the NOM being in Latin, because I certainly do not.

I regularly attend Celebration of both TLM and NOM at The Holy name, Manchester. They have mastered both genre's with great effect.

But my question remains!

John Nolan said...

@ savio

The vestments are white and gold, one of many fine sets possessed by the Oratory. The linings and the ribbons which secure them at the neck happen to be red, which is of no liturgical significance whatsoever.

John Nolan said...

@ Sixupman

The title Novus Ordo Missae explains it. It is a Latin Mass, the full text of which is to be found in the Missale Romanum (Editio Typica Tertia). However, by the time it was introduced in 1970 the Mass in most parishes was already in the vernacular and had undergone considerable changes in the previous six years, particularly as regards rubrics. The publishers of the new hand missals did not see the need to include the Latin texts, and it was not until 1977 that the CTS produced a Latin-English version of the Ordinary, including the new Eucharistic prayers, and until the appearance of the Solesmes Gregorian Missal in 1990 it was no easy matter to access the Latin Propers.

At a time when the old Mass was virtually prohibited, the only way to avoid banal English and dreadful music was to find somewhere which did the NO in Latin, which wasn't difficult if you lived in London but almost impossible if you didn't. Even with a vastly improved translation and the prospect (if it is ever realized) of better music, the Latin NO will still be important, a) as a benchmark as to how the normative (for the time being) liturgy should be celebrated, b) to emphasize the universality of the Church in space and time, c) to curb abuses and exaggerations all too often associated with vernacular celebrations, d) to make use of the Church's treasury of sacred music, in particular Gregorian Chant, and e) to show that the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite are not as dissimilar as they might first appear.

A priest said...

To A Sussex Catholic.

Thank you. I stand corrected. I had not realised that Fr Ray was referring to a temporary situation.

I do assure you that it was not some "wilful misconstruction" on my part.

That will teach me not to post comments late at night - or when I am in a rush!

parepidemos said...

When the Benedict XVI celebrates Mass in public, he always does so facing the people. As has been said several times on this blog, he is leading by example. The issue is whether or not our clergy will follow.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Michael 1, thank you for mentioning the Deaf. I regularly celebrate Mass in Sign Language in Bacolod City, Philippines, where I live. But a priest friend of mine, a member of an Italian congregation whose ministry is to the Deaf, never signs during the consecration. He sees this as a way of drawing the Deaf into the mystery of what is taking place. In the Old Mass, the Canon was said in silence. Many followed with their bilingual missals.

One thing I find sadly lacking at Mass in the Philippines, and indeed in my native Ireland, which I’m visiting at the moment, is the lack of silence. At Masses with the Deaf in the Philippines I ask the choir to keep singing to a minimum, eg, only one hymn at Communion time, and sometimes invite the hearing people at those Masses to enter into a prayerful silence, a silence that will also bring them in touch with the world of the Deaf. Filipino bishops and priests seem to be allergic to silence. Holy Hours are cluttered with long prayers and hymns. Yet on the occasions when I have been able to introduce people to silent prayer they have appreciated it.

I now regularly celebrate Mass ad orientem when it is possible. I explain why when I do so with a group for the first time. In one convent of religious sisters, nearly all young, where I have a weekly Mass, I suggested we have Mass that way one morning. Ever since, they have prepared the chapel for an ad orientem Mass without my asking them to do so.

Fr Ray Blake said...

"When the Benedict XVI celebrates Mass in public, he always does so facing the people."

Well, no!

Annually he celebrates Mass in the Sistine Chapel ad apsidem. He often celebrates Mass in the Apostolic Palace for smaller groups in the Chapel of St Paul always ad apsidem and of course his private chapels in both the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo are orientated for ad apsidem celebration.
JPII had the chapel Paul VI had arranged for Mass facing the people re-orientated to face east.

KeithH said...

Surely this is a highly illicit celebration dressed up to look like the old rite?

The 1895 Caeremoniale expressly says that in the absence of real deacons (diaconi veri) priests are to carry out their function but to be vested as priests - c.f. Pars 1,Cap 2,#22; Pars 2, Cap 1,#122 etc.

Perhaps someone could tell me where it says an assistant priest in cope is required? The rubrics talk of concelebrating priests.

As you say beneath the flag father it is important to recognise dissent for what it is.

Brian said...

The current rubrics do not forbid such practices.

Why be so minimalistitic, with a practice that is evidently part of our Tradition?

KeithH said...


My apologies. A typo, I should have written 1985 - the current C.E.

A great pity the dissidents refused its prescription.

Brian said...

This rubric had never stopped any Pope from being assisted by Bishops taking on the role of deacons and vested as deacons.
It is within that context that this rubric has to be read. It is after all to the Pope (and his Curia) we look for interpretation of the Law.

John Nolan said...


Telling the fathers of the London Oratory that they don't do liturgy properly is akin to telling the Guards they can't do foot drill.

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