Monday, April 27, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 14

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Third Sunday of Easter and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


The Communion Rite, Part III
When we share a meal with family and friends, we are likely to hear at some point a welcome invitation to dine – Come to the table … a comer [co-mair] … mangia! [man-jeeh] The same happens at Mass. Over the past several weeks we have seen how the Eucharistic meal is prepared, and how we prepare to receive it. Now, the invitation comes as the priest elevates the chalice and host and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He then proclaims words from the book of Revelation, “Blessed are those who have been called to the Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). We respond in words that express both humility and confidence: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). We are invited to look at the Eucharistic Bread and to express reverence, confidence and faith. 
The celebrating priest receives the consecrated bread and wine first before distributing the Lord’s body and blood to each communicant. When distributing communion, the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of holy communion shows the host to each person and says, “The Body of Christ,” to which the communicant responds, “Amen.” A similar formula – “The Blood of Christ” – precedes reception from the chalice. It is important to remember that we always receive communion; it is never permitted for a communicant to simply take the Body and Blood of Christ from the altar. It is received from a priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. 
Up to the eleventh century, the norm was to receive communion under both kinds: both the Precious Body and the Precious Blood. Over the centuries, a practice developed of not receiving from the chalice, except in special circumstances. The Second Vatican Council initiated a gradual extension of the ancient practice of receiving the Eucharist under both kinds. Thus, receiving both the consecrated bread and the chalice is now permitted at all Masses. 
Another ancient practice - receiving the Eucharistic bread in the hand – has been revived in recent years.  Communicants now have the option of receiving either in the hand or on the tongue. Receiving from the chalice brings out the fuller meaning of the Eucharist. 
In the United States, the norm is for communicants to receive Communion while standing, although kneeling, while not encouraged, is permitted by those who choose it. As a sign of reverence, we make a slight bow before receiving the Eucharistic Bread and the chalice. No genuflection should be made. 
Since the earliest centuries, it has been the custom to sing a psalm during the Communion procession. The communion song, expressing unity, encounter with the Lord, and joy, should begin when the priest receives the Sacrament and should continue as long as is convenient. When there is no song, the antiphon found in the Missal is recited by the faithful, a lector or by the priest himself. To foster participation of the faithful, there should only be one hymn during the Communion Rite, although if the Communion procession is lengthy, an additional piece of music may be permissible. There may be a choral piece during the period of reflection.

After every meal, someone must do the dishes. After Communion, there must be a reverent cleaning of the vessels used during the Mass. Any consecrated hosts that remain may either be consumed or placed in the tabernacle. Any consecrated wine that remains must be consumed by the priest, the deacon or the extraordinary ministers. It may never be disposed of in any other way. In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the priest or deacon purifies the vessels with water, at the credence table. Care must be taken that no fragments of consecrated hosts are left on the altar. 
The Eucharistic meal concludes with the Prayer after Communion. It should be preceded by a period of silence and is introduced with the words, “Let us pray.” This prayer is not a prayer of thanksgiving but, rather, asks for the spiritual effects or fruits of the Eucharist.  It always concludes the Communion Rite, and only after this prayer may other activities follow, such as brief announcements.

Of all the reflections, this is the one which just doesn't sit well with me at all. Not that it isn't an adequate description of what is happening. My objection is the same as some of the faithful who show a more pious attitude and have a better understanding of what the Mass is than I. It is the seemingly deliberate obstructing of the Mass as sacrifice in favor of a meal. The obscuring of Calvary in favor of the Upper Room. The emphasis of the horizontal expression of this liturgy over the the vertical. The focus on the temporal instead of the spiritual. It is the complaint of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani echoing since 1969.

It also highlights two other contentious issues. The first is reception under both kinds and how it has made some kind of a comeback. (It also ties into the abuse of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, but that is another issue.) The second is the physical postures of receiving the Body of Christ. Are the both anachronisms? I leave a thought about that for later, for there are some other tie-ins.

Yes, this reflection is told as an analogy. But it is as accurately told as possible?

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 13

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


The Communion Rite, Part II

The Liturgy of the Mass is rich with signs of communion with Christ and each other. One ancient sign of unity that comes right after the Sign of Peace is “the breaking of the bread.” In fact, the entire Eucharistic rite was once simply known as “the breaking of the bread.” By participating in the one bread that is broken and shared, we express symbolically the reality of being one in Christ. 
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says: “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor. 10:16b-17) 
The unity Paul speaks of is highlighted by the priest breaking the large consecrated host and sharing at least some of the fragments with those present. The deacon also may assist in the breaking of the bread. While it is desirable that as many as possible share in the bread that is broken, the use of the smaller hosts consecrated at the same time is a practical necessity at most Masses. 
The sign of our unity with Christ expressed by the breaking and sharing of bread continues as the priest adds a small piece of the consecrated host with the consecrated wine. This gesture, introduced in the eighth century, signifies the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation. A prayer, dating from the middle of the eighth century, is spoken inaudibly by the priest and requests the fruits of Communion for everyone present. 
Because the breaking of the bread was especially lengthy in the earlier celebrations of the Mass, it was accompanied by a chant. This later became what we call the “Agnus Dei” – the Lamb of God. The words “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world” are taken from the acknowledgment given Jesus by John the Baptist (John 1:29). It acknowledges that Christ is the Paschal Lamb who has conquered death. The chant was originally sung by the people and was repeated for as long as necessary. As the time required for the breaking of the bread became briefer, it gradually was reduced to the text as we know it and is usually sung only three times, although it may be repeated, if necessary. From the tenth century on, it has always ended with the words “grant us peace,” linking it to the Sign of Peace. Today the “Agnus Dei” is a litany-song of the choir, cantor and congregation, and may be repeated as often as necessary, but does not include the priest who is engaged in breaking of the bread. 
After the Lamb of God concludes, the people kneel and prepare to receive Communion. The priest prepares himself by a prayer said quietly while those celebrating with him do so by praying silently. With these prayers, all are ready to receive Communion.

My apologizes for not posting this on time. I had a little difficultly finding the article on-line (the search engine at the newspaper's website doesn't seem to work that well) and then life got in the way of 'blogging. Again, props to those who make their living by writing.

Interesting information regarding the liturgical history of this section. The "breaking of the bread" actually first refers to the Gospel passage of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). The development of the Agnus Dei would also explain why I have encountered "extended" versions of it in some Mass settings in the past twenty years. Anachronism rearing its ugly head again?

Still, it's good information.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

2015 Easter Card

May our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, having freed us from the power of sin and death, bring us everlasting joy. May we, His adopted sons and daughters, find in Him the peace that surpasses all understanding. May we continue to know, love, and serve Him all the days of our lives.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Happy Easter, everybody!

April 2015 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
Universal Intention - Scientists. That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person. 
Evangelization Intention - Contribution of Women. That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.
Reflections for these intentions are found here.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

"...A Pillar Of Fire..."

Tonight is the most glorious liturgy Holy Mother Church has to offer. With its unique opening, the multitude of readings, and the conferring of the Sacraments of Initiation, this is what is meant by the Eucharist being "the source and summit" of our Christian living. Everything flows from and to the happenings of this night.

St. John in the opening chapter of his Gospel, mentioning Christ as both Word and Light, especially comes into play during this continuation of the Triddum Liturgy. Picking up where we ended at the Good Friday Liturgy, in darkness and silence, both are broken. Prayers of blessing over the fire and the Pascal Candle and the lighting of both are experienced. A procession, different in substance from any in which we have participated during Holy Week, yet similar to the Procession of the Cross from Good Friday, is undertaken, interrupted with interjections of thanksgiving.

Finally, when the Pascal Candle is situated in its proper place, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving is intoned on behalf of the People of God, the New Israel.

This is the Christian's completed joy.

This is the Exsultet.

The Latin and English texts are provided for your contemplation.

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 12

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


Reflection 12 – The Communion Rite, Part I 
The Liturgy of the Eucharist might be compared to a great symphony, with one movement leading harmoniously to the next, rising and falling, only to rise again to a new level. In the Eucharistic Prayer we reach a spiritual crescendo as the words of consecration are spoken, followed by the Great Amen as we prepare to receive Communion – the Body and Blood of Christ. The transition to the next high point of the Mass is the Lord’s Prayer, and it is fitting that it should be a part of our liturgical worship since it is the prayer Jesus gave us. 
The petitions of this model Christian prayer are closely linked to the Eucharistic Prayer – asking for bread and forgiveness. We ask for the bread of the Eucharist as well as for bread to satisfy our daily needs, both physical and spiritual. And we ask to be reconciled with one another so that we might share our bread worthily at the Table of the Lord. The Lord’s Prayer helps us look forward to Communion where we will receive the Bread of Life. 
After the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the priest offers a petition for perfect peace. This additional request is referred to as the “embolism” from the Greek meaning an “insertion” and acts as a transition to the doxology – “for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours …” proclaimed and sung, if possible, by all the faithful. These words were probably added at an early date so that the Lord’s Prayer would end on a positive note, rather than “deliver us from evil.” 
In recent years, different postures for praying the Lord’s Prayer have appeared – some prefer to pray with hands raised in what has traditionally been called the orans or praying position, harking back to early depictions in the catacombs at Rome. Some prefer to hold hands, symbolizing unity, while others prefer to keep a respectful distance, perhaps praying with hands folded and eyes closed. None of these ways of praying is either recommended or forbidden by the instructions for the Mass. 
The reconciliation and unity that we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer find further expression in the Rite of Peace, or what has been traditionally called “the kiss of peace.” This rite, which the priest initiates with the words “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles …” has over the centuries been placed at different points in the liturgy. It is closely linked to the reception of the Eucharist and has always been viewed as a sign of mutual love required by Christ. 
After the priest extends the sign of peace to those assembled and the words “And with your spirit” are heard, the deacon or, in his absence, the priest, invites everyone to share the sign of peace with one another. But it must be kept in mind that the Rite of Peace is a sign, a sign that need not be exhausted by trying to give this greeting to everyone or even a great number of those present. The celebrant must be especially mindful of this limitation, since a more elaborate or extended exchange of peace can become a distraction. It is best to limit the sign only to those who are nearest. Except on special occasions, such as a wedding or a funeral, the priest should remain within the sanctuary so he does not disrupt the celebration. 
The exchange of Christ’s peace is not of value if we see it as simply a “Hello” to people we know and care about. It is more than that; it continues our preparation for Communion by reminding us that we desire for others the perfect peace that Christ promised us. This simple gesture is truly a complex sign – a greeting, a prayer, and a reminder that we are always seeking for the unity that we are about to experience when we receive Christ’s Body and Blood. Indeed, the sign of peace symbolizes that just as Christ gave himself for us, so too I desire to give my life for you.

Of all the parts of the Mass in the Ordinary Form, it is this section which seems to cause the most distraction within this rite, and because of it, controversy. The Diocesan Liturgical Committee sees fit to include these observations in their discussion. That just makes it easier for me to comment, since I was going to mention these topics as well.

As Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has noted, there is nothing in the way of rubrics for the congregation during the Our Father other than to stand. I remember growing up when the Ordinary Form was in its infancy people would adopt the "orans" position here because they had no idea how to behave and looked to the priest during the Mass for guidance. (Another strike against "versus populum", perhaps?) The holding of hands probably grew out of that, as well as some raising their hands either as an individual or a group at the Embolism. My question about all these practices would be if the "orans" position is really proper for the laity to use in the context of a liturgy or could it symbolize an ever so slight blurring of the line between the ministerial priesthood and common priesthood of the baptized.

I might have to cut the Committee a little slack about the Rite of Peace. This series of reflections were probably written about the same time as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments came out with their circular letter regarding this rite. This section may or may not have been edited to reflect the current wishes of the CDW-DS. My point is not that but the statement this rite has moved around in the liturgy. Is this true or another anachronism?

I can understand why people believe these are distractions. We are in our final preparations for the ultimate act of "full, conscious, active participation"--the receiving of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How does what some consider to be extraneous movement help our focus on what is to come?