Thursday 5 June 2014

“Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish.”

St John Paul II holding the chalice with "canonical digits"
(the practice of holding the thumb and forefinger together after the consecration of the Host, so as not to touch any other surface.)

Fr Hunwicke draws attention to the "mutual enrichment" between the ancient and the newer forms of the Mass, picking up on a theme in an interview by the Abbot of Fontgombault, reported on Rorate Caeli and elewhere. The Abbot suggests: 
"Many young priests attached to the lectionary of the ordinary form, that they follow habitually, want a liturgy that is richer in the level of rites, associating more strictly the body to the celebration. Would it not be possible to propose in the ordinary form the prayers of the offertory, to enrich it with the genuflections, inclinations, signs of the cross of the extraordinary form? A rapprochement would [thus] easily take place between the two forms, giving an answer to a legitimate and, additionally, longed-for desire of Benedict XVI."
For any priest who was trained in the time since Vatican II who has discovered the richness and depth of the more ancient form of the Roman Rite, it becomes almost impossible not to just bring a similar ars celebranda into the new Mass but also, almost automatically, to incorporate some of the actions that were pared away after the changes.  Certainly the new translation of the Canon makes much more obvious the direct parallel with the Latin text and so gives more of a similar feel. 

I'm quite sure there will be those who read this who will cry, "But Father, you are not supposed to alter anything in the liturgy!"  G. K Chesterton points out that, “Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish". I venture to suggest that we have abandoned old customs for new habits and it does not serve us well.  The gestures and customs from the ancient form of the Mass have been hallowed by past generations and are not alien to the Mass itself. Indeed, Pope Benedict made it quite clear that  what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too.  Many new habits in the liturgy are to be found nowhere in our tradition nor in the present Roman Missal and are routinely tacked on to the Mass in most parishes:  strange items other than bread and wine being brought up in the Offertory procession; "children's liturgy"; the replacement of the entrance, offertory and communion antiphons with hymns (or even secular songs); dance; drama; non-Catholic laity and ministers reading or leading prayers; the routine use of extraordinary ministers as a way of "involving" laity instead of as an act of service when absolutely necessary; the abandonment of sacred vestments; the use of pottery chalices; the unnecessary use of unconsecrated places for the celebration of Mass; the admittance of non-Catholics to Holy Communion; the admittance of whole congregations unfamiliar with weekly Mass (such as school Masses) to Holy Communion; blessings at the time of Holy Communion; etc etc etc.

All these and many more are routinely accepted without murmur, so a few gestures firmly rooted in our catholic tradition shouldn't cause too many problems. Indeed, I even have an altar card for the Ordinary Form - lest I forget the words of Consecration in Latin!

An illustration of one or two of the practices that could enrich the Novus Ordo...

1 comment:

Sixupman said...

And, of course, we have widespread communion in the hand and a proliferation of emhc's. That dichotomy always amazes me, a mere layman.