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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Operatio sequitur esse

Just making a few observations from a lot of liturgispeak which has taken over the Church in past decades...

For example, the reference to the altar and the Consecration of the Wine and Bread into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, making Him Sacramentally and Substantially and Truly Present, is often referred to as the "Eucharistic Sacrifice". Which is fine, but too often the word "Sacrifice" is dropped in favor of "Table".

The altar is NOT a "table". We are not going to a picnic. We are not enjoying some weird ritualized Thanksgiving Dinner with a side of cranberries. It is COMPLETELY improper to refer to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the "Eucharistic Table". To do so completely denies what is actually taking place.

Go thee and read the Old Testament, for the Catholic faith is the fulfillment of the Jewish religion. In the Old Testament, pay special attention to things like sin, atonement, and sacrifice. Because you will read over and over again how the Priest offers the Sacrifice of Atonement on behalf of the People. And you will see that the sacrifice is a Blood sacrifice, and it is made on an altar, which is raised because that is what allows the blood to drain.

And we know that Jesus was crucified, and his sacrifice was indeed a blood sacrifice, and indeed, his blood certainly did drain and was shed for our ATONEMENT.

The altar is NOT a table, but it is an altar of sacrifice, and when we kneel (as Latin-rite Catholics) during the consecration, we are kneeling before that very altar as the priest offers the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross for our atonement. There it is again. (And just to be very clear, theologically...we do NOT re-crucify Jesus. This is a heretical idea. Jesus died ONCE for our sins. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass makes the crucifixion of our Lord present to us in an un-bloody sacrifice).

Why can't we re-crucify Jesus? That's in the Old Testament, too. In Leviticus, as the people suffered in the wilderness of Sinai, God told Moses to strike the rock and water would gush out. Moses did as directed, and the water gushed outward for the people and the animals. In Numbers 20, God directed Moses to TELL the rock to yield water. What did Moses do? He STRUCK the rock. Twice. And this kindled God's anger, and He in turn delivered a judgment of His justice, that Moses would wander the desert for 40 years for his disobedience, and he would not see his people into the promised land. They would enter without him.

Why is this significant? Who is the rock? Jesus. (Yes, Peter is also the rock, but stay with me here because the Petros theology is a totally different subject.)

And we see that the "rock" cannot be struck more than order for the water (grace, Holy Spirit) to flow outward again, only words need to be spoken. Doesn't that sound familiar? Such as...the WORDS of consecration?

So we go back to the Mass. Now, consider this:

When you and a group of people go to address a person of importance, you choose a spokesperson, correct? And so when you go, you all face the same direction, that is, oriented towards your "audience", the person you honor or petetion or both. This is respectful and proper. For if your spokesperson turned his back upon the important person and spoke on your behalf but facing you, wouldn't you be shocked? Wouldn't you feel just awful? Wouldn't you just SQUIRM with embarassment?

So why aren't you squirming with embarassment at Mass? We aren't the "audience" although the current setup seems to make us so. GOD is our audience! Why is the priest facing US?

Keep in mind that the Priest is offering the Sacrifice of the Mass on Our behalf, and his audience is not us...but GOD.

So the next time you or someone you know complains that in the Tridentine Mass the priest's back is toward the people, stop and reconsider our own precarious position in relation to our Creator.

Do you really want to see reform in the Church? Do you want to see an increase in holiness both in the liturgy and the people? Then go to the Source and Summit. Go to what's important, and start there. THEN you will see the conversion of hearts.

Put the tabernacle back front and center on the altar, turn the altar ad orientem, as it was always meant to be. Contrary to popular opinion, Vatican II never decreed that the altar be moved. Doing so was a disasterous innovation that was NOT proscribed.

Operatio sequitur esse...action follows upon being.

People ask where the reverence has gone in the Mass. Vatican II is not at fault. Unfortunately, the Church is made up of human beings who err in judgment, and we are in need of reform in order to bring us into obedience with what the text of Vatican II actually stated. The goals of liturgical changes were unity, holiness, enrichment, conversion, and mission. As a Church, we overshot our goals and took the focus from Jesus and placed it on ourselves. Where is the reverence? It's still there...but if we would take the time to properly order the sanctuary, we might find our spiritual lives properly ordered as well.

Just my humble suggestion, and I'm not the first to state such a thing. I love the Mass, I have no problem with the Novus Ordo, which is fine, because it's all I know. But indeed, there are problems, and indeed, they need to be addressed. So, to those powers that be, can we PLEASE get on with the proper reforms?


Anonymous said...

The SSPX society that i mentioned before has gone as far as calling the NO Mass a 'clown' Mass, an experiment that failed, or even a 'protestanized service'.

That said, i am fine with both forms of Masses, but am i wrong to say that the TLM has certain merits over the NO Mass? It seems undeniable to me that there is a higher level of reverence and devotion displayed by the congregation and priest during the TLM.

It is, as some bloggers have put it, the City of man versus the City of God when it comes to the NO versus the TLM.

And somehow, the receiving Communion standing up, in hand and unveiled (for women) versus Holy Communion at the rail, kneeling, on tongue and veiled really gets me.

Adoro said...

karyn ~ Well, first of all, ignore the SSPX...they are in schizm, and they don't accept Vatican II, which means they're in disobedience to the Holy Spirit. Forget about them.

You can find the Tridentine Mass in various places, and the FSSP (The Fraternal Society of St. Peter - I think?) is also very specifically celebrates this Mass.

There is a certain reverence and transcendance, indeed. But keep in mind...a reverent Novus Ordo can be as transcendent. And the Tridentine Mass can also be abused and was in the past. For example, many of the reforms cited by Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Liturgy) referenced needless elements and repetetions that were added over time.

ALSO! You can wear a veil in the Novus Ordo Mass...that's a personal devotion. I wear one much of the time. And you may also recieve Holy Communion on the tongue. I do, as do many other people.

I see the main problem, as I stated, as being the position of the altar. There's nothing wrong with using the vernacular, but we also need to come back into obedience to Vatican II and keep the Latin responses AS DIRECTED to do. We need to bring back Gregorian Chant AS VATICAN II DIRECTED we maintain it. Etc.

The Novus Ordo Mass is completely valid. And what you are citing is exactly the type of ridiculous animosity and snark you tend to see in the Catholic blogosphere...the name calling, all the stuff...but without the reasoned discourse consistent with human dignity.

Avoid the SSPX and I'm with your sponsor. Don't go there. Don't mess with the people in schizm because doing so when you have so many questions will only serve to confuse the answers you are given.

If you can find a licit Tridentine Mass near you, or even a Latin Novus Ordo...go. It's incredible. But ignore all the sniping. It's tiresome and unproductive and tends to degenerate to personal attacks, which is very un-Christlike. Believe'll be a lot healthier, spiritually, if you avoid all that stuff! :-)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Where's Adoro and what have you done with her?!

I don't remember you ever blogging about desiring the ad orientem Mass before.

You make a good case. I agree it would be better. I think we should all be appalled that the celebrant has his back to Christ. That assumes the tabernacle is still behind the altar. The tabernacle being elsewhere is a big mistake of our post VII church. I think it's too much of an out of sight/out of mind for too many people in the pews.

Melody K said...

It doesn't honestly matter to me which way the priest is facing, the meaning of the Mass is the same. However, I can rememeber how happy my Mother was when she could finally see what was going on at the altar (she was a convert). That aspect had apparently not been explained very well in her instructions. She later came to feel that some of the ligurgical reforms had gone way over the top; especially the seeming de-emphasis of the Real Presence. I'm just relating this to point out that without proper catechesis, people do misunderstand; neither the TLM or the Pauline Mass is transparently self-evident. It is also true that whatever the direction one faces, one is facing God, since He is everywhere

Anonymous said...

Great post, Adoro. We had a visiting priest who glad-handed his way down the first 3 rows of pews this morning. He also had all the EMCs standing behind him in the Sanctuary (9 people with their backs to the Tabernacle) and he handed out their Communion to them before he went back to the altar and received his. They then received theirs. In spit of this my own Holy Communion was a beautiful thing.

The nearest TLM is a 16 hour drive from here. It is likely I will never attend one. But at least I have the opportunity to assist at Mass 5 times a week. Where I used to live we had Mass once a month. Anyway, I am rambling. Thank goodness that Christ transcends it all.

Adoro said...

Cathy ~ I've mentioned it before, but I didn't jump on the echo-chamber of the Motu Propio bandwagon. What else was there to say? What I've stated here would have been lost in all that, anyway. Besides...I wanted to bring this up in proper theological terms and understanding, as opposed to just what "I think". So here I've just given my opinion on the basis of what, theologically, the Mass really IS.

Melody ~ Yes, God is everywhere, but when the tabernacle is placed to the side, it does a few things that assist in removing reverence from the Mass and dissociating the people from why they are there; it's taking the Source and Summitt of the Church (Jesus) and placing Him off to the side. Not on the altar which is the focal area of the church.

The tabernacle is not empty during Mass, and so the priest quite literally will have his back to the True Presence of Christ in some way while he caters to the people. And the people then end up unwittingly playing into this lateral theology that has taken over the Church, creating terms like "table" when they are talking about the altar of sacrifice that redeemed us! So, in fact, by the priest facing ad popularum (sp? I need more coffee!), he is in fact turning his back on God who is really present. And that lends to comments like yours stating that God is everywhere. Indeed He is, but with a huge factor missing...we're not Protestant, and so while we know that God is present everywhere, we especially know that God is also Sacramentally, Substantially, and Truly present in the Tabernacle. What message is sent when the priest seems to be doing everything for our "entertainment"? It makes us think the Mass is about us, when in reality, he's addressing God!

I agree...better catechesis is needed, and that's entirely possible. And you know what would get people to actually COME to learn about this? Turn the altar around. They'll be so shocked and ticked off at not being catered to (those who don't understand) they'll go to sound off....and they'll talk themselves right into conversion when they begin to realize the true reasons for the theological truth we are called to live out during the Mass.

Yeah, I'm an idealist, somehow it hasn't been jaded out of me.

Sanctus Belle said...

I couldn't agree with you more Adoro on the use of altar over table. To call the Altar of Sacrifice a table is confusing at best, scandalizing at worst. I remember when awaiting the baptism of my third child, we waited in the side chapel. The assistant curtly instructed us to NOT use the altar is a changing table for the baby!! I was shocked - "You mean people actually use the altar to change baby's diapers??" "Yes, all the time" O how woefully poorly catechised we are!!

Hidden One said...

Amen, amen, and amen, Adoro.

Anonymous said...

I am a new visitor to your blog. If this post - and the one the other day on the snarky blogosphere - are representative of what you do here, I will be returning. The snarky business is exactly what turns me off from so many of the blogs written by "Catholics" .... who otherwise seem orthodox.

On this particular post, I agree with the comments of Melody and a few others. Ultimately, the placement of the tabernacle doesn't matter quite as much as some insist. I prefer that the tabernacle command a prominent position in the sanctuary, because in it reposes the Blessed Sacrament.......Source and Summit of our life. (I have to admit that the terminology "Source and Summit" means something to me personally, and I was struck by seeing it used on your blog.) I suspect that one of the reasons that many, if not most, churches moved it to one side, or into a seperate Blessed Sacrament chapel, was precisely because of the confusion and awkwardness of where the priest is standing. Obviously, for the Tridentine rite, it is proper for the priest to be facing with the faithful, and preferably toward the tabernacle. However, what is most important in the Mass is what the priest does, and that culminates in the Consecration, which is the re-enactment of Calvary. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I've always thought that the Church, with the Novus rite, was attempting to place even greater emphasis for the faithful on the action of the priest. We hear and see exactly the miraculous Sacrifice that is taking place before us. How many priests realize the miracle that they are participating in? How many of the faithful realize that following the Consecration the bread and wine cease to exist? We know that there have been obvious abuses and attempts (and sucess) at indoctrinating an entire generation with mistaken notions about what the Mass is, but there have always been places where proper reverence can be found in the Novus Mass, or indult Tridentine Mass. It remains to be seen how the freeing up of the Tridentine rite, by Moto Proprio, will effect the future of the Church. Praise God that we are able to live in such an important time in the Church.

Adoro said...

Sanctus ~I nearly spit all over my keyboard when I read your comment! SHOCKING! Even in this day and age of the uncatechized!

Michael ~ Thanks for your comments, and welcome. As far as the recent samplings, well, I'm not sure if you'd call them typical or not, but if you peruse my posts generally you'll get a decent cross-section of the decent, the bad, and the ugly.

As for your comment:

However, what is most important in the Mass is what the priest does, and that culminates in the Consecration, which is the re-enactment of Calvary. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I've always thought that the Church, with the Novus rite, was attempting to place even greater emphasis for the faithful on the action of the priest.

Not exactly. The Novus Ordo mass which was the Mass after Vatican II, called for certain specific elements. NOT to have anything to do with the priest, but rather, to assist the faithful in full and active particpation. What had happened is that in the TLM, people were praying the rosary, they were reading other devotions, etc., and they weren't spiritually engaged in what was happening. The Mass itself had a lot of useless repetition, things that had been added for no good reason over time, and didn't have a lot of scripture in the readings. Vatican II called for more emphasis on scripture, not just in the Mass, but outside of Mass as well.

The Liturgy, you see, is the "face" of the Church; it's what is most recognizable about us. It is of course, also our heart.

So the things that changed were the addition of the vernacular (although the Latin responses were supposed to be retained, as well as Gregorian Chant), this was to facilite the engagement of the people. The priest was supposed to connect the scriptures, thus proclaiming the Word of God in a teachable way during the homily..this is enrichment. And of course, the culmination in all of this, with the proper engagement of the people, the proper catechesis via more understanding, etc, was to lead them to greater unity in praying the Mass, recieving the Sacraments with greater understanding, which leads to an increase in holiness. This, of course, also enables these holy faithful to take the Church beyond the walls and into the world where it is a lived faith.

So no, the liturgy is not about the priest or what He is doing, but about GOD and worship of HIM.

The altar was not supposed to be turned around. I'll admit I haven't researched WHY it was turned around, but I can state very definitively, having just finished a paper on Sacrosanctum Concilium, that this document certainly didn't call for that particular...ahem.."reform".

While it is good that we understand what the priest is doing, it's not necessary that, while he stands as God's instrument, that he faces the people and caters to us. This is the holiest moment in the Mass...and we need to be conscious of that, not what actions the priest is taking.

A lot of the problems we see in the abuse of the liturgy is this lateral theology that de-emphasizes God in favor of the people. This is not why the Church exists...the Church is here to make us holy. And with decentralizing the tabernacle, turning the altar around, and striking so many perfect elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it has instead given the impression that holiness and union with God is not our objective; glad-handing our neighbor is. As you know, this is very wrong. For when we as a people become holier, that holiness spills out and upon our "neighbor", whether someone in the pew or the non-Catholic living next door to us.

There are no easy answers to the problem of holiness as we all have the freedom to accept or reject what God is calling us to do, and certainly, we can become holy even in a bad environment...but it would be much better for everyone involved if we had the proper setting and perspective!

OK, I'm going to get off my soapbox now....sorry about that...

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, Adoro. This is why I would miss you if you stopped blogging.

I am old enough to remember when the priest changed from ad orientem to versus populum (if I've got my Latin straight--probably not, I never learned Latin). I didn't like it, but I've adjusted to it. I do think it would be better if the posture had not changed. I also think that possibly the worst thing that we did was to rip out the altar rail and begin to receive Holy Communion standing. Kneeling means something---it shows reverence and humility, both of which are in sadly short supply. That said, the Mass is still the Mass. Jesus is present, and that is the most important thing.

(BTW, any chance that you'll get to write any more on your novel? I really enjoyed the chapters I read, particularly as my daughter and I recently bought an Arabian gelding. He is the most beautiful and smart horse I've ever known.)

Anonymous said...

Mary Margaret ~ the Mass is indeed still the Mass, and I agree with you on the altar rail! The first time I ever experienced kneeling for communion was quite literally...heavenly. That was actually not at a rail but I don't have time to explain here. But my first experience kneeling at the RAIL was at the Latin Novus Ordo High Just wow.

As far as the novel goes...well, I'd love to continue it but with grad school reading and papers, I just don't have time OR inspiration to put towards it. But if something strikes me, there will be more and I'll post a link to it. :-)

How awesome you got an Arabian. What color? How old? Just for riding or as a show horse, etc?

~ Adoro

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

Excellent post, Adoro. It's about time I added you to my regularly-read blogroll.

About the liturgispeak trend... I recently had to defend (on the Catholic Answers Forum) the term "celebrant" (over "presider") for the priest at Mass. The overemphasis of the Eucharist as a meal (because that was its original setting) and the de-emphasis of the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice is another problem. The setting of the first Eucharist, by the way, is not what the Mass is a re-presentation of. The Mass is a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross... the same sacrifice which Jesus pre-presented to the Apostles at the Last Supper.

Regardless of the language spoken during the Mass, either one (or both) of these two changes would help correct these mistaken notions: a) celebration of Mass (or at least the Liturgy of the Eucharist) ad orientem, or b) a silent Eucharistic Prayer.

Anonymous said...

thank you, Adoro, for this wonderful post. I agree that the Tabernacle, where Jesus lives, should be front and centre. Ours is at the side door of the church, and people come and go constantly w/out even looking at the Lord, much less genuflecting before Him! As to Communion in the hand, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would have the privilege of holding the Body of Christ, and even after many years, it fills me with awe to do so. Not everyone who receives Holy Communion in the hand is unaware of the One they're holding! I too remember the pre-VII Mass, and while the current rite (NO) has its good points, now that I know more about the extraordinary form, I'm getting more and more interested in going to a Mass celebrated according to this rite. Thanks again, and have a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow! Regards from Canada.

Anonymous said...

Adoro, We just fell in love with their beauty and intelligence. He's not a show horse--we got him for riding (and as a pet, because we just like horses!). He's a bay, and is 5 years old. Just a youngster, but he's coming along nicely. His name is Orion.

Aside from my belief that it means something to receive Holy Communion while kneeling, many of the altar rails were also beautiful. Don't even get me started on those high altars that were ripped out! Hopefully those days are behind us.

Happy Thanksgiving!