Thursday, July 07, 2016

Towards the Lord: Important, Urgent and Necessary

I've not been able to get away, I have felt really deprived by not being able to get Sacra Liturgia  Conference in London. especially as people I admire are either speaking or organising the Conference and lots of friends are there, plus many who I would very much like to be friends.

The opening speaker, the Prefect of the CDW, Cardinal Sarah presented a barn-storming address, rich in wisdom and insight, perhaps the central message was what everyone has commented on: ad orientem celebration of the Mass.

It has been the present prefects preoccupation for some time, but it was also something that concerned Cardinal Canizares before him and Cardinal Arinze before him, and even Cardinal Medina Estévez before him.

What is new is the Cardinal Sarah challenge to priests to simply get on and do it. What is new to is the sense of urgency and necessity that he sees in ad orientem worship. Perhaps this is part of his character, perhaps it is the development of popular scholarship that has really turned its back on any defence of widespread use of ad populam worship in the Patristic age, except possibly in papal churches.

For Cardinal Sarah, actually does ask, "were have the people gone?" he suggests that endless experiment has actually driven people out of Church, that rather than helping people to grow in faith, Father's little liturgical experiments have destroyed faith, and although in some cases they might have endeared a priest to a particular set of people they have for many been a real turn off.

Liturgical experimentation always tends to diminish the communication of the faith, and raises the position of the priest. the problem is of course most us priests are not up to communicating the faith, let alone providing some new insight into it.

But what is the urgency, he spoken recently, saying, "it is very important that as soon as possible we return to a common orientation of priest and people eastwards in those parts of the liturgy where we are addressing God. This is a very important step to ensure that, in our celebration of the sacred liturgy, God rather than man is at the centre of it."

As a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and as Pontifical Council for the Laity and Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Sarah has stressed a God or Nothing -the title of his latest book- approach. For him the direct connection of the Church with the person of Jesus Christ cannot be compromised, Catholic ethos, Catholic values or Catholic influence are no substitute for being Catholic, and being connected to the person of Christ.

The urgency with which he expresses himself seems to increase the more certain elements within the Church seem to want to distance the Church from Christ.  More and more priests are bewildered by the Pope or his PR people, or his psychological inability to speak or think clearly, of his often confused interpretation of Sacred Scripture. The attacks on the family prior to and during the Synod, the ambiguous messages that are coming from many bishops, appointed by Francis, regarding gender theory and homosexuality, the ambiguity regarding ecumenism and non-Christian religions, the praise of amorality and of all sorts of irregularities do serious damage. The confusion comes from the top, not just from  the Pope but from the men who are closest to him, it spreads down. Bishops and priests are at the best confused but confusion leads to division and depression, a sense of isolation and consequently becomes an attack on faith. Even Fox News expresses concern.

I think for Cardinal Sarah the urgency of re-orientating is about recapturing amongst priests and bishops a sense of proximity to Christ, it is about heightening the sense of an encounter with Christ in mystery. In his previous job he was concerned that Catholic charities could become simple NGOs, in his present position I think the Cardinal is concerned that the liturgy itself, and therefore the Church can become emptied of Christ. Turning towards the Lord, therefore is seen by him as one remedy for the Church's present situation, and the worst it gets the more important and urgent it is to turn towards the Lord.

What is perhaps significant is the Pope's support for the Cardinal.


Luke said...

I wonder how this would work in the too-many churches that were wrecked and rearranged for theater-in-the-round Masses with no focal point in particular.

Sitsio said...

Luke, it works at the Mosta dome in Malta. If you look at this picture you can see it's a rotunda (in the round) and the high altar facing ad orientem is placed at one end.

Jeremy said...

The celebrant doesn't approach the altar until the offertory in the new rite, so his time 'ad orientem' would not be unduly prolonged and considerably less than in the old rite. Therefore it should not be too difficult to implement if there is a will.

Its success will depend on the Pope, as you say. That doesn't bode well, but who knows? Liturgy matters, although for many it was taken 40 years to get the message.

Pelerin said...

As Cardinal Sarah is the Vatican's Liturgy Chief am I naive in failing to understand why he does not IMPOSE celebrations ad orientem instead of suggesting that 'it is important to return to' etc? If he does indeed have the Pope's support what is stopping him?

I attended the Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sarah yesterday at the Brompton Oratory. It was magnificent with a superb choir - a Novus Ordo in Latin with readings in English. If only that had continued to be the norm in our parishes perhaps two generations would not have been lost to the Church.

Luke wonders how our wreckovated churches would cope with bringing in ad orientem worship. You yourself, Father, have proved it can be done and even the modern church in Shoreham was able to accommodate ad orientem worship for the EF a few years ago. I remember thinking at the time that if Shoreham can do it then any church could!

Fifty years ago our church designs did not stop the advent of Mass facing the people. Ways were found which included the smashing up of sacred altars and altar rails. So much damage was done to our churches and this in turn contributed to the destruction of the Faith for so many.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Pelerin, I'm glad a member of the parish was there.
The problem with the Prefect imposing, is the doubtfulness of getting the Pope to support his imposition. I suspect His Holiness might well encourage the Cardinal in private but in public may be not quite.
I get the impression he likes to watch people fighting.

Liam Ronan said...

I thought the Cardinal's urgency was almost palpable especially when he said:

"'Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’.”

"And Who will not delay" was the most striking part to me.

Unknown said...

As I posted over at Mark Lambert's: "...were any of the E&W hierarchy present, even if only as a sign of fraternal respect, and, if yes, did any of them have anything to say about Cardinal Sarah's suggestion? Whilst I have huge respect for His Eminence, and don't disagree with him if his remarks are considered based on an assumption of 'Novus Ordo as norm' (not an assumption I share), isn't this essentially just another sticking plaster? Will turning to the East really be effective as a strategy for opening the minds of the largely brainwashed and semi-protestantised faithful to see the liturgical revolution of the 1960s for what it was, how it was the fundamental keystone of a larger strategy to essentially destroy the Faith, and will it lead to a return to the ‘Mass of Ages’? Perhaps it will be – or at least the catechesis that accompanies the change - I truly hope so. But I have to say I'm deeply sceptical. In times when even the Roman Pontiff is sowing confusion and error among the faithful on a daily basis (most of whom wouldn't even notice, let alone care, sadly), 'rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic' seems rather pointless, don't you think? I would be interested to hear what you and others think. But, all that said, God Bless this good Cardinal who stands out like a jewel among most of his brethren."

Tony V said...

You'd think, now that the priests face the congregation instead of the tabernacle, that they'd notice how empty the pews are. But so many of a certain age just don't can't accept the notion that the liturgical innovations may have been a mistake. The post-conciliar changes are, in their view, utterly infallible, even when they fail.

I'm not holding my breath: I don't expect any parishes here in Southwark to change their way of doing things. (If you want to see 'wreckovation', drop into the Catholic church in Canterbury.)

Christine Tan said...

My son-in-law belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church. When my granddaughter was baptized in that church, the priest offered her to the Blessed Trinity ad orientem in front of the tabernacle of a side altar before immersing her in the baptismal font in front of the altar.
During the casting out of Satan and his works, he turned to the opposite direction, to the west, toward the people.
At that moment I was wondering if our priests facing the faithful at a Novus Ordo Mass is in reality facing the Devil instead of God.

Jacobi said...

We must get back to continuity in liturgy, Father.

The Church has from earliest times looked to the Second Coming which we are assured will be from the East and it is to the East that the Mass should be said, whether we are in Rome or in Peking.

Particularly where there is a central tabernacle, that the priest turns his back on it is wrong, as well as bad manners.

I like Cardinal Sarah's suggestion to priests just to get on with Ad Orientem. The odd person might get up and walk out and the odd one grumble. I suspect the majority would not notice. But Christ will!

And given the rapidly declining number of priests world wide, I doubt if many bishops would object.

John Nolan said...

What I did notice about Cardinal Sarah's Mass at the Oratory was that he did not appear all that familiar with the Novus Ordo in Latin. At first I wondered why he did not turn to the people at the Orate Fratres. The reason became clear later on when he had to have the texts of the Ecce Agnus Dei and the episcopal Blessing held in front of him.

I also found his sermon long-winded, repetitive and lacklustre, although I accept that English is not his first language.

Matthew Roth said...

I’ll give him the Ecce Agnus Dei; the addition in the Novus Ordo version is difficult.

Matthew Roth said...

Sarah can’t impose ad orientem because that reinforces the notion that Rome is the master of liturgy.

Liam Ronan said...

@ John Nolan,

"I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge." 2 Corinthians 11:6

Newman said...

Dear John I fell was after a hard days work..he has a sonorous voice...lovely man though. Wish our uncle Vincent was like that

Newman said...

Did I say sonorous.........I meant somniferous......

Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

With due respect to His Eminence, I think it is a little simplistic to suggest the fall in numbers in Mass congregations is due only or even mainly to experimentation by some priests in the Ordinary Form. I am not convinced that had the Mass not changed after the Vatican Council, the situation re faith and numbers would be different from what it is now. Young and older Greek and other Orthodox Christians are staying away from the Divine Liturgy in droves. What is more, most priests I have known and worked with over the last 45 years, have been obedient to the rubrics of Mass. Nor am I convinced that a change in the Celebrant's orientation will make a great difference to people's faith or size of the congregation. It is unfair to compare a Solemn High Mass in the extraordinary form to Sunday Mass in the ordinary form. And however beautiful solemn High Mass may be with fine vestments and music, Mass with the priest facing the congregation is much more suggestive to me of the Last Supper. Whenever I see photographs of congregations attending the Extraordinary form, there are lots of empty places in the pews. Just a thought.

Liam Ronan said...

@ Newman,

"Somniferous"? How's this:

"And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, being to depart on the morrow: and he continued his speech until midnight.

And there were a great number of lamps in the upper chamber where we were assembled. And a certain young man named Eutychus, sitting on the window, being oppressed with a deep sleep, (as Paul was long preaching,) by occasion of his sleep fell from the third loft down, and was taken up dead." Acts 20: 7-9

It turned out just fine for the boy in the end, Newman. Peace!

Fr Ray Blake said...

I have sympathy for te points you raise, but i think HE's point about 'fraternal meal' is borne out by youur remark about the Last Supper, that is only part of the Mass, it is also the proclamation of his death and resurrection and the promise of his coming again, pretty basic, pretty scriptural but, I think, lost on many because of the orientation

Pelerin said...

John Nolan mentions Cardinal Sarah's homily on Wednesday. I had decided to sit near the impressive large pulpit there in order to hear him clearly and was very disappointed when the Cardinal preached from the small ambo on the Sanctuary and I was unable to hear him clearly at all in spite of the microphone which tends to distort voices if one is at a distance.

Does anyone know if his homily is online anywhere?

There was only one other disappointment for me - I had expected Cardinal Sarah to walk down the aisle after Mass so that one could see him close up. Who knows he might one day be a future Pope? However on leaving the Sanctuary they all turned to their right and promptly left the main body of the church.

John Nolan said...

Actually, the last cardinal I heard celebrating at the London Oratory, HE Cardinal Pell (on St Philip's day this year) was a disappointment in that he refused to sing his parts. I know that this is allowed, although discouraged, in the Novus Ordo but all the same it detracts from the solemnity of the occasion.

I attend the Oxford Oratory one Sunday a month and it is interesting how the (to me) remarkably youthful Fathers are so at ease with Latin and chant. Where have their elders missed out?

Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

Dear Fr Ray,
When I say that the manner in which we celebrate the Ordinary Rite is more evocative of the Last Supper, and you comment that the "meal aspect of the Eucharist is just one part of it, are you suggesting that the Last Supper is not a Memorial of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary and His Resurrection? I include this absolutely in my understanding of the Last Supper. Blessings, Fr Ronan Erem. Dio.

Physiocrat said...

"Mass with the priest facing the congregation is much more suggestive to me of the Last Supper."

That is part of the problem, especially when a lot of the parishioners are ex-Lutheran. It spreads a misunderstanding of the sacrificial aspect of the Mass.

We have both forms, both sung and as Low Masses.

The EF has a number of practical advantages.

People are more likely to follow the printed text if they have it in front of them and are not at the same time trying to listen, which is often a struggle, given the acoustics of many churches, the poor quality of the PA systems, the poor setting-up and adjustment of the PA, the poor standard of reading, etc. The EF is also helpful if the congregation consists of people with different first languages.

The overall result is that at the EF the congregation are more focussed on the text in front of them. It then becomes a group meditation on text and action - precisely the kind of attentive participation which V2 was trying to promote.

I suspect that this is in part a result of familiarity with the NO Mass which may give lay people in general a better sense of the structure of the Mass than perhaps they had before V2.

The two forms belong together, but the EF needs to be celebrated much more frequently than it usually is, amongst other things to rescue it from the people who claim it as a political totem.

It also needs to be associated with the frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance, which also goes with the Mass.

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