Saturday, August 11, 2012

Catholic Humour

An important aspect of human life is not to take it too seriously.  We ought have a sense of humour!  With this in mind, I recall some amusing Catholic jokes:
  • "For the sake of historical fashion..." (A Dominican's version of a certain popular chaplet!)
  • "Salvation by good taste alone" (His own explanation of Anglican soteriology)
  • Opus Dei, qui tollis pecunia mundi, dona nobis partem.  (Opus Dei, who takest away the money of the world, give us some!)

Just another reference to Sacred Sleep

A reader has alerted me to a recent Dominican posting (no doubt extracted from the Summa Triviæ) which seeks to answer that burning question, Whether naps are necessary for salvation?

Doubtless it is a blessing for these wise Black Friars, to uncover some of the wisdom of their close relations in holy religion, the Dormitionists.

Do make sure you find out the answer to this burning question – your eternal rest could depend upon it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fit for Purpose?

Anglicans now coming into full communion bring with them a rich Patrimony, one worthy to share with the wider Church, as the very Vicar of Christ has written in his invitation to them.  One aspect of this – and perhaps the most problematic – is their liturgical Patrimony; and in particular, the form of their Eucharistic liturgies.

I refer now, not to the style of these celebrations – though their solemn chanting, their fine vestments, their beautiful sacred music, their reverent posture and gestures, their eastward celebrations, their kneeling communions and so forth are all excellent and much to be imitated, just as once they developed those practices in holy imitation of Catholic worship in better days – but to the particular texts and prayers used therein.

Now, High Church Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, have often pinched all manner of prayers, rites and rituals from Catholic sources (there are tales of nineteenth and early twentieth century vicars taking holidays in Belgium, scouting out the practices of the churches therein, and promptly putting them into practice back in their parishes, to the amazement of their parishioners); but I will not be commenting on that particular practice, especially as the NLM and the Anglo-Catholic have been discussing the pros and cons of adopting for official Catholic use what is essentially the old Latin Mass put into Cranmerian English – and which was never officially approved for Anglican use in any case, since Anglo-Catholics just did it without authorization.

Instead, I will rehash what I have discussed before, looking at the 1662 English BCP and its descendent, the 1978 (weirdly named) An Australian Prayer Book, to see what if any of their prayers for use at Holy Communion are fit for purpose, if transposed for use as part of a Catholic Mass.  It must be borne in mind that, unlike in Canada or the U.S. or Scotland, the Australian Anglican milieu was more Low Church overall, with the baleful influence of Sydney Evangelicalism outweighing whatever the High Church country dioceses may have wanted (and I have seen, at Wangaratta's Anglican Cathedral, a side altar complete with altar cards in English that were evidently put there for a celebration according to the English Missal, that is, the Latin Mass in English; just as a former Anglican priest, now a Catholic, once showed me his English Missal, which he used in Queensland many years ago).

Let us then turn to the Book of Common Prayer.

The 1662 BCP Holy Communion Service began with the Lord’s Prayer.  Then followed the Collect for Purity (Cranmer’s beautiful Englishing of the ancient Latin prayer Deus cui omne, used in the Sarum Rite and also found amongst the collects in the Preparation for Mass in the Roman Missal).  The Ten Commandments were recited next, with a response after each.  Then came the Collect for the Queen, before the Collect of the Day – it seems awfully Erastian to put her before such topics as the salvation of the world, but the reason that for the Sovereign precedes the prayer of the day is one of mere convenience, to avoid too many turnings to and fro in the service book.

What of any of this is Anglican Patrimony worthy of preservation?

More recent Anglican practice has been to drop the prefatory Our Father, but at all costs to retain the Collect for Purity – I was once in attendance at a Low Church Anglican service which began with that Collect, and then passed at once to the readings!  Reading the Commandments has become unpopular also (particularly given recent Anglican avoidance of the harder of them), except among the staunchest Low Churchmen.  Even in the nineteenth century it was observed that the number of times the Queen was prayed for at Anglican services was rather excessive, so few now read the Collect for her any more.  That leaves the Collect of the Day – Cranmer’s versions of the traditional Latin orations are generally excellent, though they would need correcting in places, and translations of collects left out by him or introduced after his day would need to be added.

As to the readings, maintaining the traditional Epistles and Gospels ought be an option; however, many if not all Australian Anglicans have moved to use some form of the modern three-year Lectionary in any case (including those Continuing Anglicans in the T.A.C., from what I have observed here in Tasmania).

After the Epistle and Gospel comes the Creed (its wording is acceptable if “Holy”, strangely omitted, be replaced as one of the adjectives describing the Church).  Then follow any relevant notices and the sermon or homily. 

The Offertory begins with the reading of one or more Sentences of Scripture, generally relating to the duty of almsgiving and the like.  I suspect those High enough to consider full communion with the Catholic Church omit that as rather too Protestant, not to say Pelagian, turning the Offertory into the oblation of the sons of men rather than the preparation of the Oblation of the Son of Man (as Dix trenchantly put it; Dearmer, too, remarked on the odious idolatry of elevating the alms-dish).  Obviously, if any Sentences ought be read, the old Offertory antiphons would be preferable; also better would be selected passages relating to the offering up of sacrifice.

Next comes the Prayer for the Church Militant.  The words “militant here in earth” would need to be deleted at the outset.  Likewise the antique cast of the petitions for “Christian Kings, Princes and Governors; and specially thy Servant ELIZABETH” would need editing, and – to avoid Erastianism – the petition for “all Bishops and Curates” would need to be placed first after that for the Universal Church, with the Pope included at the head of those clergy prayed for.  At the end, the thanksgiving for the faithful departed would need to be enlarged and changed into a prayer for the dead and a commemoration of the saints.  But all this has been done in various more recent Anglican adaptions of this prayer in any case, together with dividing it up into parts to each of which the people may give some such reply as “We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord” (as the Litany puts it).

The rarely-read Exhortations come next: if used at all, they would need to be reworded to make them fully Catholic in sentiment.

The Invitation, general Confession and Absolution follow.  Some light editing and rewording of these, and in particular the Absolution, changing it from the second to the first person plural (to avoid it sounding like sacramental absolution), would be required.  After these the Comfortable Words ensue: these are perfectly acceptable, though the Book of Divine Worship (containing the currently existing Catholic form of the Mass according to the Anglican Use) wisely extends the last “word” or quotation of I John 2:1 to broaden the context, reminding all that Christ is “the propitiation for our sins” – immediately adding, “and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.”

The BDW transposes the preparation of the bread and wine for use at the altar from before the Prayer for the Church to this point, where (somewhat awkwardly) it inserts the Novus Ordo offertory prayers, for some supplementation of the Anglican service is needed here.  Leaving aside the issue of whether or not to use the two modern prayers at the offering up the bread and wine (for all but that pair are in fact to be found also in the Extraordinary Form, more or less), at the very least the Orate fratres and the Secret ought be added – as High Church Anglicans often have in any case.

Next come the Sursum corda, Preface and Sanctus.  As has often been done by Anglicans, to this “The Lord be with you” should be prefaced, and the Sanctus extended with the Benedictus, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord…”.

Here the Anglican service’s greatest, grossest deficiencies manifest themselves: the Prayer of Humble Access – though devout and godly – is bizarrely placed before the Prayer of Consecration, rather than directly before Communion (since Cramner’s Zwinglian view of the Eucharist made him strive to sever any apparent connexion between eating and drinking Christ’s Body and Blood on the one hand, and the mere bread and wine on the other!).

Similarly, the Prayer of Consecration is gravely deficient from a Catholic viewpoint, being unfit for purpose as a proper Eucharistic Prayer.  Anglicans of a Catholic sensibility have historically adopted several methods of remedying the felt lacuna: to use the Roman Canon instead; to read all of the Roman Canon silently, but to omit the central part and substitute the Anglican form of the words of Consecration (the ugly “sandwich rite”); or to fiddle with the Prayer of Consecration by reverting to earlier forms thereof, combining it with the 1549 Anamnesis and Prayer of Oblation (found, truncated, after Communion in the 1662), as the American Episcopalians have long done, and even – as amongst the Scottish Episcopalians – with the Prayer for the Church at the end.  

I have previously argued that if any Anglican Eucharistic Prayer would be allowable, the Scottish version is the only one that comes close; but it is far more likely that none will be allowed, and at this point the Roman Canon (or, optionally, one of the other modern Roman Rite Eucharistic Prayers) will be prescribed instead.

Again most bizarrely, the 1662 BCP at once proceeds to the distribution of Communion, placing the Lord’s Prayer (with doxology) afterward!  This piece of Zwinglian excess committed by Cranmer (as also his addition of “Take and eat / drink this in remembrance…” to the words of administration, which is heretical and ought be deleted) must be reversed.

The BCP Holy Communion service offers either a truncated Prayer of Oblation, or a Prayer of Thanksgiving, to be said after (the Lord’s Prayer and) Communion.  The Prayer of Thanksgiving is usable with light editing.  To round out the service with praise, the 1552 BCP first moved the Gloria in excelsis from the first to the last part of the liturgy, and this the 1662 maintained.  However, I understand that most Anglicans long ago reversed this peculiar (though innocent and arguably fitting) usage.  The service then concludes with the blessing, “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding…” and this beautiful prayer – which in all essentials is already found as an option in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Mass these days – is indeed wholesome and worthy of retention.

So much for the 1662 BCP – now, to the awkwardly-named An Australian Prayer Book of 1978.  Its “First Order” for Holy Communion is a conservative revision of the 1662, with minor improvements: 

  • allowing a psalm, hymn or anthem to be sung at the start of the service (as was commonly done anyway), or a Sentence of Scripture;
  • starting with “The Lord be with you”, and using this at the Gospel also;
  • providing the Summary of the Law as an alternative to the Ten Commandments (or the Kyrie, on weekdays);
  • permitting a psalm, hymn or canticle to be sung between the readings, of which there may be three (as is the modern custom);
  • allowing the sermon to be preached before the Creed (now including “holy”);
  • including a few more fitting Offertory Sentences, plus permitting an offertory hymn;
  • allowing different forms of the words of administration of the Holy Communion, including more Catholic phrases, and again allowing for hymn-singing and the reading of a relevant Sentence of Scripture (i.e. a Communion Antiphon).

As to the 1978 Second Order, it allows for the Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis to be sung at the start of the service, together with a general Confession and Absolution; it also provides other forms of intercession in place of the Prayer for the Church (though these new forms are hardly Patrimony, being closer and closer approximations to contemporary Roman intercessions ad lib.); likewise, a place for “The peace of the Lord be always with you” is provided, before the Eucharistic Prayer, and even a prayer for the presentation of “the gifts of the people”, transparently copied from the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is provided.  Other changes are simply moves in the direction of the format of the modern Roman Mass, while remaining quite Protestant in character; none of its suggested “Thanksgivings” (Eucharistic Prayers) would be suitable for Catholic use, nor are they even specimens of traditional Anglican piety.

I pass over the still more recent revision of Australian Anglican liturgical worship, with its multitude of options, and its limited approximation to some Roman forms (including use of the Benedictus at last, the Agnus Dei and of a form of the Domine non sum dignus) – primarily because liturgy amongst Anglicans here has become more and more variable, disintegrating into a liberal Protestant mishmash; as mentioned, I once was constrained to be present at a very Low Church service, which seemed degenerate and incoherent even in comparison to the official Anglican forms I have just critiqued.

So, of all this, what remains as fit for purpose?

The Collect for Purity and the Prayer of Humble Access, above all.

For those who retained a greater amount of love and affection for Anglican forms, as opposed to an adoption more or less enthusiastically of either traditional or modern Roman ones, further items can be rescued and recycled:

  • the Commandments or Summary of the Law, with response;
  • the Anglican wording of the Kyrie and Gloria in excelsis;
  • the Collects in traditional language;
  • the traditional system of readings (for such as still use them);
  • the Anglican wording of the Creed;
  • the Prayer for the Church, amended;
  • the Penitential Act, comprising a lightly edited Invitation, Confession and Absolution (non-sacramental, of course);
  • the Anglican wording of the Sursum corda, Preface, Sanctus and Benedictus;
  • the Catholic first half of the words of administration of the Sacrament (though this is all but identical to that found in the traditional Roman Mass);
  • the long Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion;
  • the final blessing, “The Peace”.

Unsurprisingly, all this, barring the traditional one-year cycle of readings for such as want it, can already be found in the current Book of Divine Worship for the Anglican Use, albeit in the particular wording found in the U.S. Episcopalian tradition, drawing on the U.S. 1928 and 1979 B.C.P.’s.

The BDW incorporates all these elements into the general structure of the modern Roman Mass, with some more traditional features, such as "The Lord be with you" immediately before the Collect, not at the start of the Mass as in the Ordinary Form.

It is reported that the forthcoming new edition of the BDW will be updated to conform to the new translation of the Prayer over the Gifts (now called the Prayer over the Offerings) for each Mass, the Offertory prayers, the Memorial Acclamations, and above all the new phrasing of the words of consecration; this should take away that most unpleasant feature of the BDW, the clunky fashion in which the language used slips from sacral to banal and back again.

Finally, what portions of the BCP's Communion service, though theoretically desirable if thoroughly Catholicised, are unlikely to ever be permitted?  The problematic Prayer of Consecration and Prayer of Oblation, which are found conjoined in the Scottish and American Episcopalian traditions, but which have not been found worthy.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Prayers for the Ordinariates


While there is a longer set of suggested prayers for the Ordinariates (drawn up by Bp Elliott, I believe – see this link), I prefer simply to add the following after the Angelus:

V/. Pray for them, O holy Mother of God.
R/. That they may be one in the Church of thy Son.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for them.
Our Lady of the Atonement, pray for them.
Our Lady of the Southern Cross, pray for them.
St Joseph, pray for them.
St John the Baptist, pray for them.
St Peter, pray for them.
St Augustine of Canterbury, pray for them.
Bl John Henry Newman, pray for them.

The versicle is intended to pray for all the incoming "groups of Anglicans", while the six invocations are intended as prayers for the nascent Ordinariates three, invoking the titulars and the patrons of each – but, as the U.S. Ordinariate has Our Lady of Walsingham as patroness, after whom the U.K. Ordinariate is named, and as historically U.S. Anglicans came into Catholic unity under the patronage of Our Lady of the Atonement, I prefer to invoke Our Lady under these three titles, rather than twice under the same one.

NB I have just added St Joseph – patron of Canada – and the Baptist to the list of intercessors, since (as of 7th December 2012) a distinct Canadian Deanery, under the latter's patronage, of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter (whose territory has been extended to Canada) has been erected for incoming Anglicans there.  Hopefully in due season it will be constituted a distinct Canadian Ordinariate.

This little addition is short enough to be doable, I feel, each time I say the Angelus.

May Our Lady and all the saints intercede for all incoming Anglicans, that drawn by the Spirit indeed they may be made one in Holy Church united, and made worthy of Christ's promises, to the glory of God the Father.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

To M.C. in Hobart

I will drive down to Hobart this afternoon, in order to act as M.C. at our monthly Missa cantata to-morrow, for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Cum clamarem.  The Gospel of the day is the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican: God grant our prayers and hearts resemble those of the latter!

500% Increase

On Our Lady’s Birthday, the 8th of September, His Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne will ordain eight men, four of whom will be ordained for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross:
  • James Grant, 
  • Neil Fryer, 
  • Ramsay Williams, and 
  • Christopher Seton.
Their ordination (just over a month away) will extend the Australian Ordinariate from Western Australia to Victoria, and quintuple its number of priests.  No doubt their ordination, consequent upon formal reception into full communion, will be paralleled by the reception also of many of their parishioners, resulting in much good for souls.

Now, who are these good men?  For a start, they are all from the mainstream Anglican Church in Australia...

There is a James Grant who is a retired Anglican bishop, but I suspect he’s not the one making the jump!  I find a newspaper article (available online) quite critical of compromised modern Anglicanism by one James Grant, “departing priest of Jika Jika” in Melbourne’s northern suburbs… is this the one who will soon be part of the Ordinariate’s clerical ranks?  The website of his (former?) parish – last updated in February – talks of its worship being in the tradition of the Catholic revival, with vestments, candles, even incense…  This same James Grant is described as “ordinariate-bound” in an article by Bp Robarts posted on the website of Fr Stephen Smuts (a TAC priest in South Africa).

As for the others, a comment on Smuts’ blog reveals them to be: Fr Neil Fryer, retired priest from All Saints, East Saint Kilda (the last true Anglo-Catholic church in Melbourne, as the commenter described it); Fr Ramsay Williams, former Parish Priest also from All Saints, East St Kilda; and Father Christoper Seton, Parish Priest of All Saints Kooyong (and a leading member of Forward in Faith Australia) – the latter has been forcefully in favour of accepting the Papal invitation for years, and, one prays, will be bringing many with him: he certainly will, if his reported comments from 2009 about his parishioners badgering him to lead them home to Rome prove fruitful.

I find also that Neil Fryer was received into the Church on the 2nd of April this year, as a handy online parish bulletin notes – as it says it was “through the ‘Personal Ordinariate’” he has the rare distinction of joining it before it had even been established!

Eureka!  On the excellent Melbourne Archdiocese website, I find an account about Ramsay Williams: he was first a journalist, then for 38 years an Anglican priest, and was received into the Catholic Church last year; happily, he has been part of the Mentone parish, whose priest, Fr Walshe, is an excellent mentor and a model pastor.

God bless these men as they prepare for ordination and priestly service in Our Lady's Australian Ordinariate: as they are to be ordained on her Nativity, well may we regard them as a birthday gift to her – and from her, for all her spiritual children.  Our Lady of the Southern Cross, pray for them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is it Lawful?

Is it lawful to kick the server if he fall asleep at Mass?  This question long ago arose in Dormitionist circles.  While the rubrics of their Missal are clear on this point, the niceties of the issue were debated among the later scholastics, and their conclusions may be found among the myriad beguiling articles of the Summa Triviæ:

Is it lawful to kick the server if he fall asleep at Mass?

Objection 1.  It would seem it is never lawful to kick the server at Mass, whether or not he have fallen asleep, and this for three reasons.

First, on the part of the agent: it is forbidden for a cleric to shed blood, who ought rather confer spiritual life than death; and for this reason the law of the Church doth forbid clerics to wield swords and such weapons when in battle, much less to kill a man at any time.  But to kick is to inflict injury, even to draw blood, even to slay, “so passing from deep sleep to death” (Judges iv, 21); and so a priest may never kick his server.

And likewise on the part of the recipient: it is against the law of the Church to strike a clerk in holy orders or a religious bound by vows, who is a holy person; and as it is an evil thing to put forth one’s hand against the Lord’s anointed (I Kings xxiv), how much more so would it be to thrust one’s foot out against such. Therefore, no server may be kicked (unless he be but a layman only).

Still less is it opportune to kick anyone in the holy of holies, before the very altar of God, lest the hallowed place be defiled.

Objection 2.  Rather than kicking him, the celebrant ought attempt to wake him by some other method, as by smiting or striking him.  For when Saul, that is, the Apostle Paul, displeased Ananias the high priest, Ananias gave command that Saul should be struck (Acts xxiii, 2); and when Our Lord at the time of His Passion gave a reply to the high priest that scandalized the Jews, one of the servants standing by dared strike Him (S. John xviii, 22); therefore, how much more justly should a slumbering server be corrected by a blow. 

Therefore, “that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (S. Luke xii, 47.)

Objection 3.  Again, if the server have fallen asleep while in the Lord’s service, the priest ought rather rouse him to wakefulness by gently calling him, as the Lord did call unto the child Samuel as he lay sleeping in the temple of the Lord (I Kings iii, 1-10).

To the contrary, it is written “suffer thy foot to be moved: neither let him slumber that keepeth thee” (Ps. cxx, 3) and again, “let all things be done decently, and according to order.” (I Cor. xiv, 40.) Therefore it is lawful to kick the server in order to wake him.

I respond, saying, a distinction must be made between kicking to hurt and kicking to help.  Wilfully to injure another would be to break the Lord’s New Commandment of love; but to provide a kindly prod with the foot is to fulfil the commandment, and to grow in charity, as it is written “The beloved grew fat,” – which may be glossed as “in charity” – “and kicked” (Deut. xxxii, 15).  Thus, to kick a server out of love for Christ, that he awake to perform his duties, is to act decently and according to order, granting a blessing not a curse, while imparting a due and salutary admonition.  For as the Apostle teacheth, “that which is less, is blessed by the better,” (Heb. vii, 7) and “if you be without chastisement, then are you bastards, and not sons.” (Heb. xii, 8)

God hath  “ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wis. xi, 21), and likewise it appertaineth to His ministers, “the priests,” to “have the charge… of every weight and measure.” (I Paralip. xxiii, 29)  But to adjudge the right pressure to be applied, that it hurt not, nor harm, but rather assist and bless, is indeed the art of arts: for the direction of souls is the art of arts; and such is the especial office of priests.  Therefore it belongeth to the priest to kick.  And the Apostle was told this by the Lord, when He said twice over, “It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.” (Acts ix, 5 & xxvi, 14)  For the incompetent slumbering server, a “wicked and slothful servant” (S. Matt. xxv, 26). may be regarded as a goad, as a sting in the flesh, even an angel of Satan; from such as these priests oft pray for deliverance – as did the Apostle, yet his prayer was not heard (II Cor. xii, 7).  Such deserveth a good kick.

Reply to Objection 1.  If a priest so kick his server that he wound him, shed his blood, or slay him, his action would indeed be a deadly sin and contrary to his office as a dispenser of saving grace; but if he do so for his spiritual good and that of all the people, that he awake to assist him at holy Mass, his action would be supremely lawful, for “the salvation of the people is the supreme law”.  In any case, kicking doth not directly shed blood, and so is permissible to the priest, just as the priest or bishop may wield a mace in battle (as did Odo of Bayeux at the Battle of Hastings).

And likewise, even if the server be a religious or a cleric, while harshly to kick him out of cruelty would be to pile sin on sin, to administer a helpful prod with the foot would be no violation of one set apart for the Lord alone, but rather a bestowal of godly discipline.  Indeed, so far from being a cause of offence, such a wake-up is as it were a knock at the door of the cell of one’s body, to which such a one should mystically reply “Thanks be to God”; as is the custom in divers houses of those in holy religion.

And so far from being improper at the holy altar, did not the angels of God scourge Heliodorus within the very Temple, that he be corrected (II Mach. iii, 26)?  Moreover, first “there appeared to them a horse with a terrible rider upon him: and he ran fiercely and struck Heliodorus with his fore feet.” (II Mach. iii, 25) Thus even to kick the server in the sanctuary at Mass is permissible by analogy with that manifestation of divine wrath, so long as it be done with Christian charity.

Reply to Objection 2.  It is evident that neither St Paul nor our blessed Lord deserved the blows meted out to them; hence the comparison faileth.  Furthermore, in neither case did the high priest himself smite either; and it is therefore likewise evident that, if to strike one serving at the altar is ever right, it ought only thus be done at Pontifical, or at least High Mass, when the celebrant – whether the bishop, that is, the high priest, or at least the priest, as the bishop’s delegate – is accompanied by many ministers, both greater and lesser; and then the greater would more fitly discipline the lesser, as noted above, even by blows (as the M.C. may direct).

It is also clear that the priest’s feet, as baser instruments, are left free to prod the server, while both his hands, as nobler instruments, are occupied with the things of God.  (Just so the tale is told of the Irish priest who, having no server, elevated the Host with his hands while ringing the bell by kicking it all the while.)  For as Holy Church commandeth, the priest at the altar may not alter the posture of his hands, now joined, now extended, now with conjoined digits, and so may not himself slap, hit or punch; but the rubrics say nothing of the posture of his legs, aside from the occasional command to genuflect.  Indeed, he could the more easily kick while genuflecting, and to do so would be simpler – as the proverb saith, to kill two birds with one stone.

Reply to Objection 3.  The priest at God’s altar may not utter his own words, but only those placed on his lips by Holy Mother Church; and while he may speak as the Spirit move him when declaiming his sermon, it is clear that sermons rather move men to sleep than keep them awake, as even the example of the Apostle doth prove, when he preached so long that one of his hearers, the young man Eutychus, fell out of the window dead (Acts xx, 9).  Therefore it is both unlawful and most vain to attempt to gain the attention of servers by softly calling unto them, as all men know (even M.C.’s).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rubrical Notes

For mystical reasons, sevenfold are the gestures of the celebrant at Low Mass according to the Roman Missal when reciting the Gloria in excelsis:
  1. at the opening exclamation, Gloria in excelsis Deo, the priest extends, raises and joins his hands, before devoutly bowing his head at Deo;
  2. at Adoramus te, he likewise bows his head in worship of the Almighty;
  3. at Gratias agimus tibi, he again bows his head in awefilled thanks;
  4. at Jesu Christe, he bows his head in honour of the Holy Name of Jesus;
  5. at suscipe deprecationem nostram, he humbly bows as a suppliant before Lord, that our prayer be accepted, our prayer for mercy;
  6. when he repeats Jesu Christe, he again bows in adoration;
  7. he makes the sign of the cross at the closing words in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.
(Dominican priests, be it noted, do not cross themselves at the end; for mystical reasons, that their gestures be sevenfold, it may be noted that instead they begin the Gloria at the middle of the altar, then move back to the Epistle side to continue it.  Dormitionists do likewise.)

But it must be asked, why is it that, at the twice-prayed words miserere nobis, the celebrant does not strike his breast?  Certainly at these same words during the Agnus Dei he does so.

It will please, therefore, those souls anxious for orthopraxy (an alas! uncommon yearning in these unrubrical days, when to say Mass aright is looked on as affectation or worse), who wonder at such seeming omissions, to know – as was not mentioned earlier, owing to an oversight – that when the grave Dormitionist fathers offer the Holy Sacrifice, observing their own proper rite, they do in fact strike their breast at each repetition of miserere nobis during this, the Major Doxology.

Furthermore, is not this Dormitionist peculiarity most fitting?  For is not this canticle the Angelic Hymn, its opening quoting the glad cry of the heavenly hosts above Bethlehem that happy morn long ago, and the words following, devoutly composed, making various references to Scripture, by some Greek of the Primitive Church, fortunately put into better Latin by none other than St Hilary, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor?  Yes, in veneration of the nine choirs of the Holy Angels, the Dormitionist at the altar performs nine significant gestures during this, their hymn.

It is a wonder that more mediæval Mass-plans for sundry dioceses and Orders did not command the same, given the predilection of the Middle Ages for such numerical symbolism.


It may also be noted that the Dormitionists observe to perform certain like gestures during the Lord's Prayer at Mass.  As is the custom at Milan, their priests bow their head at Sanctificetur nomen tuum, that even by their comportment they hallow God's ineffable name.  Likewise, following the practice at Hippo of old (as St Augustine reports), these Mass-saying penitential religious strike their breasts at Et dimitte nobis debita nostra.

(As they do not do so at all during their proper Agnus Dei, neither do they at the outset of Mass – having no Confiteor at that point – these men fulfil the expectations of God and nature by such a tunsio pectis, that speechless avowal of contrition, at two different points, not to mention during the Canon's Nobis quoque of course.)

As the rubrics direct, they say the Pater noster gazing in love and fear upon the Host, for Jesus Christ, truly present within the sacramental veil that conceals and yet reveals His Real Presence by its sacramental sign, is the visible consubstantial Image of the unseen God; and it is a devout custom of many to pause momentarily after the words Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, that the words Jesum Christum may be added mentally, as an aspiration of the heart's longing.

However, as their closely-related religious brethren the Friars Preachers do not cross themselves at the end of the Gloria in excelsis, neither do the Canons Sleepers make the signum crucis at the end of the Pater noster (a practice attested in England, at least amongst some schismatics).


It would, of course, be ridiculous and unseemly to strike one's breast nine times at the Kyrie eleison.  Such an affected display of piety would seem hypocritical, and quite unworthy the sober austerity of the Roman liturgy.

"Mass should be frigid in its solemnity," as an old choir master of mine averred in outraged tones.