Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stripping of the Ceremonies: a Novus Ordo Problem

Fr Mark wrote sometime ago agreeing with me on Eucharistic adoration; we both think it is a good thing, we are just worried about it becoming casual, detracting from worship of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle; but read Father Mark's rather good article.
Recently, he wrote comparing the two different "Forms" of Mass, he speaks about the "latreutic finality of the Mass", basically what he is saying is that the older form is more evidently about worship, latria, and he gives plenty of practical examples.

There are some excellent priests, and even bishops, going around basically saying every problem of today's Church will be solved by getting the Blessed Sacrament out of the tabernacle and into a monstrance on the altar. Then we will have vocations, committed marriages open to life, prayerful priests and people, etc. etc. but interestingly they point to places where this actually happens. Certainly it seems to have an effect but I am still suspicious about it. What I suspect it is all about is latria; Exposition makes up for the absence for the absence of latria in the Novus Ordo.
I can't help wondering whether the great weakness of the Novus Ordo is that in the decade or so when it was composed, was actually a time the Church was having a crisis with the notion of worship. The brilliant young liturgical scholar Fr Uwe Michael Lang gave us a brief history of the Liturgical Movement at the CCC Colloquium, he seemed to have been suggesting that worship, beyond texts, was not one of its priorities, that academic liturgists have not been very interest in the "performance" of the Liturgy. Thus orientation, signs of reverence and worship were stripped away without much protest but these were the very thing that were most noticeable to the ordinary Catholic and formed their liturgical, theological, spiritual and even moral consciousness.
I suspect more than that happened, the stripping of the ceremonies led very directly to a theology that tended to strip God of his divinity, There is a very interesting heresy in this years Tablet lecture, some American journalist says of VII, "they didn’t come up with a new understanding of God. Still one God, two natures, three persons"  which the great Fr Z points out. It is obviously a slip of the tongue but in many ways it illustrates the Tablet's and others default heresy: that of seeing God, even in his Triune nature as being like us, rather than the Second Person alone having two natures. If God shares our nature then we need not genuflect, kneel, humble ourselves in his presence, ultimately there is no need for the Incarnation, the Church,  Salvation. Is that not really why we need a Synod on Evangelisation? because we have lost an understanding that Man must worship.
The problem is the Novus Ordo does not demand we worship with anything more than words!

I must admit I tend working on the principle of "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful" I tend to use at least some of the signs of reverence in the newer Form from the older Form, at least to the point of genuflecting each time I cross before the tabernacle. I am tempted to genuflect before and after each elevation. It was certainly the reason for our decision to celebrate most Masses here according to the clear rubrics of the Missal: ad apsidem (incidentally this is a priest's choice, as much as the choice of Eucharistic Prayers, the CDW has wrapped several Bishops across the knuckles for attempting to interfere in such a choice).


Physiocrat said...

Yes, innovations like communion in both kinds, the Blessed host received in the hands whilst standing, from lay ministers, seem almost like a deliberate de-sacralising. The process is reinforced by the use of the vernacular, something which many of the other world religions have carefully avoided by reserving an ancient classical language such as Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit or Pali, for liturgical use. This is sound practice, not least because vernacular languages are politically loaded. The English language and the way it is used is closely tied to the class system and Britain's colonial legacy. One does not need to look any further than across the Channel to Belgium to see how divisive language can be.

Do not forget the influence of the NO on the music. In the EF, hopefully, at least the Introit will be sung to the tune of the day, and the other seasons have their settings for the Ordinary, as well as the seasonal hymns. Thus over the year there is a succession of music which reinforces the church's narrative teaching.

The worst of it is that some, probably most, of the post V2 settings are egregious, ranging from the infantile to the downright unpleasant and comparable to the kind of sounds that set teeth on edge. There is a particular problem with the English language because English texts sung to Gregorian tunes tend to end up with the emphasis exactly where it makes no sense, resulting in an absurdity, as here; in the first line of this setting of the Creed, the three-notes that fall on "Deum" are now on the word "one". This is not inevitable - this alternative setting here is successful.

I suspect that the use of Protestant hymns is more damaging than is generally appreciated. Because the quality of the music is often high, for example by composers such as Goss, Watts, Wesley, Hassler and Neander, it is difficult to fault them on musical grounds. But they are infused with a Protestant sensibility and they do their damage slowly and subtly.

Annie said...


Here in the U.S. for some bizarre reason they've kept the custom of kneeling after each elevation. I assume they were so busy throwing everything else out that they overlooked it. A few Sundays ago there was a priest who only knelt after he had done both elevations and it jarred a number of people from their comatose condition (yours truly included).

Along these lines, I also saw - for the first time in 42 years - a priest face the tabernacle and kneel before he turned to the Bible and held it up prior to the Gospel reading. I haven't seen a priest do that ever at a Novus Ordo Mass.

Long-Skirts said...

Physiocrat said...

"Yes, innovations like communion in both kinds, the Blessed host received in the hands whilst standing, from lay ministers, seem almost like a deliberate de-sacralising."


I'm Eucharistic
At Mass I dress
In style
You act as though
That's sinister
I lead all down
The aisle.

I see my son
But twice a year
He prays and studies
In cassock-black
Men laugh and jeer
Though mocking
Just empowers.

I'm Eucharistic
At Mass I dress
In style
You act as though
That's sinister
And loyal
I'll dance awhile.

Empowers him
To pray say yes
Receive and be
These other Christs lay hands
And bless

I'm Eucharistic
At Mass I dress
In style
You act as though
That's sinister
Why we're priests
Rank and file.

Through Masses, rosaries
Teary eyes
If Christ calls all
My boys
They'll go but not
Support your lies
A meal with lots
Of noise.

I'm Eucharistic
At Mass I dress
In style
You act as though
That's sinister
We're having fun
Just smile.

Three years he's slaved
Four more to go
Each year he's
Farther away
And that's so we
Can learn and know
His life for Christ
He'll lay.

I'm Eucharistic
At Mass I dress
In style
And all can be a minister
To beguile!

Matthew Roth said...

Father, excellent as usual.
What do 'latria' and 'ad apsidem' mean?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Latria = worship

We honour the Saints with dulia - devotion / veneration /reverence
We honour Our Lady with hyper-dulia
To God alone we give latria.

Ad Apsidum = toward the apse or liturgical east

Fr Ray Blake said...

Annie, The priest must genuflect (bend the knee) rather than kneel, wherever the Roman Missal is used, after each consecration.

In the Old Rite he does so before and after each elevation.

Православный физик said...

Very good post Father

Physiocrat , To be fair for the music criticisms, they are not of the 1st order, or prime of place, the prime of place are the propers that the Church gives us in the Graduale. Most parishes however don't use them. If hymnody was illegal and each parish had to sing the propers, I think the NO would better express our Faith, and while certainly everything else remains...I think the first thing we need to do is get rid of all hymns during Mass.

There is a priest who always genuflects whenever he passes the Tabernacle for the OF in my hometown, and I absolutely love it. I'm glad that you do too Father. Keep up the good work.

Jacobi said...


Your point about worship of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle strikes a note with me.

The Novus Ordo in my parish is actually well conducted and if anything becoming more so with periods of silence and better liturgical music.

But this morning when the priest left the sanctuary the place,if I may use that term, descended into a shambles with everyone chatting, hugging,laughing, charging around and creating a noise level that almost hurt my ears - and all of them completely ignoring the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the central tabernacle!

JARay said...

As one who grew up with fasting from midnight before reception of Holy Communion and then saw that whittled down to three hours and finally whittled down to one hour, I recently had the following exchange with someone when I was on a group Pilgrimage in Turkey. I must add that we were whisked from site to site to meal etc. with Mass happening along the way.
Me..."Do you intend receiving Holy Communion when we stop for Mass in 20 minutes or so, given that you are now eating a banana?
Other person...."Yes, of course! Why not?"
I made no further comment!

Anita Moore said...

I am fortunate to have, within a 15-mile radius of where I live, not less than three (3) parishes that have perpetual adoration. We have had perpetual adoration for probably close to a decade. I do not know how many other cities in my diocese have it (my diocese encompasses an entire American Pacific Northwest state) but I do know we haven't had a huge vocations boom. A few years ago it was considered a bumper crop when we had six priestly ordinations; usually we are lucky to have one or two in a year. This year we have had none. We have had a few vocations to the religious life recently, but they are all leaving the state because the few religious congregations we have here are off their rockers. (One monastery here has had two (2) postulants in the last 20 years, and both were middle-aged. There's a reason for this.)

I agree that probably the biggest problem is the state of our worship. It is uniformly horrible here. There is not a single EF Mass within 300 miles of the see, except the SSPX. A carnival atmosphere reigns at Mass, and all too often the priest plays the crowd like a fourth-rate night club act. (I agree with Physiocrat's analysis of music.) The fact is that we are not giving God His due, and I think as long as that's going on, we will always have few vocations and a great deal of disorder.

Victoria said...

Pope Benedict refers to the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass and the Ordinary Rite of the Mass; I think that we should use these terms also and not those of our own making.

Aaron S-C said...

Thank-you for this Fr. I'm glad to have read this: I think you do the Church a great service by your constant reminder and promotion of the beauty, dignity, and solemnity of the Usus Antiquior.

I like Dom Kirby's point about the "latreutic finality of the Mass"; I think, from my own reflections, that the Usus Antiquior orders and involves the body in the "latreutic direction" of the Mass: everyone, laity and Priest, comes before the altar facing God, facing Christ on the Cross. The Mass itself becomes a vehicle for worship: becomes itself an act of worship, a solemn prayer to God. The body itself becomes involved in and a part of the worship of the Church with the signs of the cross, the genuflecting in the Creed, and the kneeling.

The New Rite of course hinders this, obfuscates it; the New Rite seems almost afraid of silence, of prayer, of what might happen if the laity are left alone to adore God.

When I was at Mass this-evening Fr listening to the Priest's prayers it genuinely felt as though the Priest was speaking, along with the Church (the laity) to God: we were speaking to God. We had come together to implore God's mercy. When I attend the New Rite I feel as though the laity are involved in a conversation with the Priest: we speak, and then the Priest speaks, and then we speak.

One final point: where is the solemn veneration of Mary in the New Rite? The solemn prayers to Our Mother at the end of the Old Rite highlight her role as Theotokos, Advocate, Mediatrix of all graces...what will happen to Catholic worship and belief - especially in my/ the younger generation- if we forget to praise Mary in the Mass as we adore her Divine Son?

God bless you as always Fr.

GOR said...

”The problem is the Novus Ordo does not demand we worship with anything more than words!”

Yes Father, as The Bard noted somewhat earlier: ”Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath bring…”

In our youth we were taught always to genuflect when passing before the Tabernacle in church. It didn’t matter whether you were passing before it as an altar boy in the Sanctuary or at the back of the church – you genuflected every time. Upon entering the church and before getting into the pew everyone genuflected - and you maintained a reverent silence. It was an acknowledgment of Our Lord’s Presence there, that this was God’s House and that we should always respect that.

The substitution of bows for genuflections in the Novus Ordo detracts from this acknowledgment. In post-Vat II liturgical ‘exegesis’ reservation of the Blessed Sacrament was denigrated. The Mass was the most important thing, and veneration of Our Lord in the Tabernacle was deemed a distraction from it – a pious practice redolent of simple faith and unworthy of ‘grown-up’ faith.

Placement of the free-standing altar compounded the ‘distraction’. After the Consecration, Our Lord was now present in front of you and behind you. Which way to genuflect? The ‘solution’ was to either move the Tabernacle out of the Sanctuary or to restrict genuflections. In many cases, both happened – to our loss and to the loss of acknowledgment and reverence for the Real Presence.

As results have demonstrated, it was not an improvement…

Annie said...

Fr. Blake,

Oops! I meant "genuflect" instead of "kneel" - thanks for the correction.

It's good to know that priests are required to genuflect after each consecration at the Novus Ordo. Now I have to think of a way of approaching the priest about it, which is tricky - generally, he seems like a good priest and years ago, when I knew him from another parish, he definitely did it the right way. What made him change is anyone's guess; although at every Mass sooner or later he's checking his watch so maybe he always has someplace else to be and is trying to speed things up.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...