Sunday, 22 July 2012

Let us Worship the Lord Together

Father Simon Henry’s blog Offerimus Tibi Domine is always a really good read; do visit it when you can. He writes from a part of Lancashire – my home county – that is in the Archdiocese of Liverpool.

Fr Henry published an interesting post a few days ago about his experience of offering Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. In particular, he could not help overhearing an American priest at the next altar, who was ad-libbing the new translation. Among other things, the priest replaced the word “chalice” with “cup” at the Consecration.

That bit made me recall a priest whose Mass I have attended occasionally. In many ways he is admirable, especially in the high quality of his homilies, which are doctrinally rich and inspirational. Absolutely top marks to him for that. But there is a “however”. He appears to have decided not to say “chalice” at the Consecration, in accordance with the new translation. He continues to say “cup”. From what I know of him, I’d say it was a studied decision, not an accidental slip. It’s very wrong of me to feel exasperated at this most solemn moment of the Mass, the great moment of salvation. But I dearly wish he wouldn’t say it.

There is another thing, and I don’t know how widespread this is; I don’t think I’ve encountered it anywhere else. According to him, when Mass was always offered ad orientem, the elevation of the Host and the Chalice above the priest’s head at the Consecration was necessary because otherwise the congregation could not see them. Since his Mass is now offered facing the people, they can see everything, and thus the elevation has become superfluous. I think he claimed that the rubrics do not specifically mention elevation – or elevation above the head. I don’t know what the altar-missal actually says, so I’m not in a position to argue for or against on the basis of the text. Instead, he lifts the Host from the altar with one hand, just enough to hold It in front of him, hardly at chest height. Likewise with the Chalice.

I have been struggling to find the words to express what seems wrong with this view. I dare say that others can point out its deficiency better than I can. But it has occurred to me that perhaps a positive rather than a negative approach might get to the heart of it.

One of the arguments for offering Mass facing the people is that it unites the priest and the people as a community. (I don’t agree with the implication of disunity between priest and people at the ad orientem Mass; nevertheless, it’s an argument that is used.) When the priest, in a Mass facing the people, elevates the Host, and then the Chalice, however slightly, he is presenting the Lord to the congregation for us to look up and adore Him. But even if there were no other arguments in favour, the high elevation has this to recommend it: that the priest himself is also impelled to look up and adore. In this action he is demonstrably united with us as we worship the Lord together.

Picture from, via Google Images


Ttony said...

From the GIRM:

150. A little before the Consecration, when appropriate, a
server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice.

179. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the deacon stands near the priest but slightly behind him, so that when needed he may assist the priest with the chalice or the Missal. From the epiclesis until the priest shows the chalice, the deacon normally remains kneeling.
If several deacons are present, one of them may place incense in
the thurible for the consecration
and incense the host and the chalice as they are shown to the people.

A Reluctant Sinner said...

Thanks for this post, and sharing your experiences.

I attended three Novus Ordo Masses in the past week and was presented with liturgical abuses -- of varying degrees -- in all of them.

It was really disheartening, especially when, at one of the Masses, the priest gave me an extremely 'dirty look' when I dared receive Our Lord on the tongue. He even stopped to glare at me as he was leaving the altar at the end of Mass!

It was at his Mass that the 'gluten free' (as he pointed out during the offertory) host was elevated before the consecration, and shown to all in the most ridiculously over-the-top manner with huge emphasis on the words "take this all of you". At the consecration itself, everything was done at lightening speed and neither the host nor the chalice were properly elevated. There was a very strange priest present, in choir with stole, who preached what I can only describe as the most awful and bizarre homily I have ever heard (and I've heard some odd ones in my time!). It turned out, after some investigation (basically asking members of the congregation, lol!), that this man was an Anglican clergyman!

Needless to say, I made sure I was at an EF Mass this morning -- which is a form of the Roman Rite that is far less prone to liturgical abuses and experimentation!

God bless.

Dorothy B said...

Thank you for this, Ttony. It has jogged my memory. It was a few years ago now, but I seem to recall that the priest actually used the word "show" in explaining why he did this, rather than elevating the Host and Chalice.

Dorothy B said...

Thank you, RS. Goodness me, the tales we could all tell of weird things we have seen and heard at Mass!

Anonymous said...

I sometimes feel sorry for such priests. They must have a very poor self-image as priests and seem to have a need to project themselves and their aberrant views. They appear unable to accept that a priest is a servant of the Liturgy, not its master. To be a servant of the Liturgy is a noble calling and a great privilege.