Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Plausible Reforms

Pursuant to my notes about those prayers most easily omitted from the Ordinary Form Mass, I was reminded of some plausible reforms that I have mused on – some returning to the more traditional forms, some more radical:

1. For a start, the "Glory be to the Father" formerly an interal part of the Introit should be restored to its proper place accompanying the Entrance antiphon. No opportunity to praise the Trinity should be lost.

2. The Penitential Act, currently in three forms that overlap somewhat confusedly with the Kyrie, ought be made into one combined form: first, always the Confiteor and Misereatur; then, the two versicles "Have mercy on us" and "Show us"; then, the Kyrie, either troped or untroped.  God knows we need more reminders to do penance in this proud Pelagian age.  Also, all this business of options is disastrous in a culture afflicted by liturgical minimalism – because the shortest, easiest, and least unsettling will be chosen always.

3. Abolishing the ill-considered provision of the Apostles' Creed as alternative to the Nicene (how horrendous!) is imperative.  Perhaps, as a compromise, on days when the Creed is not now said (i.e. on weekdays not solemnities) the Apostles' Creed could be given as an option? Given the decline in popularity of the Rosary (when layfolk most commonly said the Apostles' Creed), and the removal of the Apostles' Creed from Prime and Compline about fifty years ago (in one of the last preconciliar simplifications of the Breviary), one suspects that the real motive behind inserting the Apostles' Creed into the Mass was to ensure it not utterly perish! - and hence allowing its use on lesser days at least would be a real gain in more ways than one.

4. As an English bishop so piously began to do, the insertion by custom of a "Hail Mary" at the end of the Prayer of the Faithful, before the priest's concluding prayer thereof, should be sanctioned and indeed made compulsory.  She is Mediatrix of Grace, after all, and deserves hyperdulia.

5. The Offertory antiphon should be reinserted in the Missal, in order to be said or sung at least when nothing else is, on the model of the other such, the Entrance and Communion antiphons.

6. What I mentioned in a recent post below as a timesaving but illicit reordering of the modern offertory prayers could – this is radical – be allowed: first the priest could wash his hands, before mixing the wine with water in the chalice (research has demonstrated that such a prefatory handwashing, as reserved later to solemn pontifical Mass, is the earlier position for it in the offertory rite, for the second handwashing, the Lavabo proper, developed later), and then offer up paten with host and mixed chalice together with a single prayer, compounded of the two in the current Missal, before the (censing and) In spiritu humilitatis, and continuing with the Orate fratres.  This would be simpler and more direct.

[UPDATE: How embarrassing – I have just been reading over the paperwork of the committees that drew up the modern Mass, or rather that portion of their documentation about the Missa normativa or first draft of the Ordinary Form, prepared in 1967, together with their drafts of the new Eucharistic Prayers (quite interesting if your Latin is up to it); and what do I find?  Their draft proposal for the offertory was: before all else, for the priest to wash his hands at the chair (saying nothing), and, after the altar had been readied, for him to go to it and wait to be handed the paten with host, which he would offer up, saying quietly Sicut hic panis erat dispersus et collectus factus est unus, ita colligatur ecclesia tua in regnum tuum. Gloria tibi, Deus, in sæculum. Then, having mixed wine and water in the chalice (again, saying nothing), he would quietly offer up the chalice, saying Sapientia ædificavit sibi domum, miscuit vinum et posuit mensam. Gloria tibi, Deus, in sæcula.  He would conclude with the In spiritu humilitatis, cense the oblations (but nothing else – the altar and the people were to have been censed at the start of Mass instead), and pray aloud the Prayer over the Offerings, completely omitting the Orate fratres (which was only rescued and put into the Novus Ordo at the behest of Paul VI).  So it appears I think like a 1960's liturgist; oh dear.]

7. The Prayer over the Offerings should have the long ending restored – the Secret (as it used to be called) always had such; and it is appropriate that all Three Persons be mentioned prior to the Preface dialogue, for, whereas in the Western Rites, after the long ending of the Secret, comes Dominus vobiscum, Sursum corda, &c., in the Eastern in place of the Dominus vobiscum comes "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit..." (inserted as an optional form of greeting at the start of the modern Roman Mass).

8. "Harmonizing" the Eucharistic Prayers, by ensuring that all feature such items as an explicit petition for the benefit of the prayers of Our Lady and the Saints (at present, only Eucharistic Prayers I and III have this; the others merely commemorate them) and so forth would be a good idea.  (For example, E.P. II needs a somewhat longer introduction like that of E.P. III, whereas the overlong recital of the history of salvation with which E.P. IV is saddled could be easily abbreviated – ditching its invariable Preface too would make it a far more popular prayer.)  This would have the added benefit of equalizing the length of them, so that E.P. II doesn't remain the de facto majority choice by reason of its brevity.

9. Ditching those Memorial Acclamations would be a marvellous idea (our friends the Carthusians have never admitted them into their Mass, even now); failing that, moving them from after the Elevation of the Chalice (where they seem to distract somewhat from the worship of Christ made present) to after the Anamnesis (where they would reinforce the truth that remembering the saving acts of the Lord, we offer His Sacrifice, the making present the power of His Cross), as even a modern liturgist has suggested, would make better sense of them and their texts.

10. Just as, in the Roman Canon (E.P. I) the celebrant bows low and then crosses himself at the Supplices te rogamus, so should the celebrant be instructed to do at the analogous part of each of the other Eucharistic Prayers (at the part technically termed the communion epiclesis, praying the Holy Spirit render our reception of the Body and Blood most fruitful).  I'm told this is seen and done by priests in Rome already.

11. Given that the Prayer for Peace "Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your Apostles" is said aloud in the modern Mass, as a sort of lead-in to "The peace of the Lord be with you always" and the Sign of Peace, why not make the Pre-Communion Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God" a like preface to the "Behold the Lamb of God" and the distribution of Communion?  The Lord knows we need every aid to increase our devotion to the Eucharist that is His Body and Blood.  All that would be required would be to change the rubric from "Then the Priest... says quietly" to "Then the Priest... says aloud", and to pluralize the prayer, by changing "me" to "us" and "my" to "our", as well as adding the expected conclusion "Who live and reign for ever and ever" to which the congregation would reply "Amen", just as with the Prayer for Peace a little earlier.  (The priest could still say the second alternative prayer, "May the receiving of your Body and Blood" (Perceptio) as his own private preparation ere he receive the Sacrament.)

12. It would be better for the Prayer after Communion to end with the long ending "Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son..." rather than the short ending "Through Christ our Lord" – until the reform of the liturgy, the Postcommunion always had the long ending (and in the Carthusian Mass it still does to-day).

13. Finally, as many times I've noted (following all tradition and precedent, and the example of the modern Carthusian Mass), when the priest kisses the altar at the end of Mass, that most significant prayer Placeat tibi sancta Trinitas ought be reinserted as most expressive of the Sacrifice of the Mass and his true role as sacramental offerer thereof, in persona Christi capitis.


Blackfriar said...

Dear Josh,

Regarding n. 10, you may be aware that the Eucharistic Prayers II - IV were originally published (in 1968, I think) with rubrics directing the priest to bow at these places (but without the sign of the cross as I recall). These were removed when the full Missal came out in 1970.

- Martin (The Blackfriar)

Joshua said...

Thanks for this, Fr Martin, and best wishes for the New Year! – given what you report, that may be why, as I noted, some priests do this already.

One thing I didn't mention, but which I have seen, is priests, after the consecration, quite unselfconsciously lowering their outstretched hands to point at the Host and Chalice when referring to them in the words of the Eucharistic Prayer. As the postconsecratory crossings made over the Host and Chalice in the Roman Canon (EF) are thought to have developed from a stylization of such a spontaneous gesture, do you think that, as time goes on, such gestures, even redeveloped into signs of the cross, may return to the Roman Rite (OF)?

Obviously, I am just an overliturgical layman; I'd be interested to know whether any of my points are plausible, or just plain daft - only a priest who stands at the altar knows from experience what would work and what definitely wouldn't, after all.

I hope you're managing to put up with the old ICEL translation for a little while longer; though surely within the Priory you could be already using the new version, to the delight of your eager brothers in religion, and in particular the zealous students you are forming! ;-)