Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vertical vs. Horizontal part II

Last time I talked about how the Mass has two dimensions, vertical concentrated exclusively on God, horizontal as a community with "God in us."
Now I must admit from the outset that I have horizontal inclinations. I enjoy hearing the Mass in my native tongue. I like being able to say the creed in a language that I can understand, so that I can cognitively attest to what I believe.
But I also realize that those who talk about bringing "balance" to the Mass are missing the point. There should never be balance in the Mass. It should always be more about God than it is about us.
What many fail to realize, though, is that reform of the Mass predated Vatican 2. Many thinking members of the Church were already concerned that the Mass had become too vertical, that it was too much a prayer between the priest and God, with the rest of us unnecessary to the worship.
The alter boys would say, usually from rote, the parts that in centuries past all the people said.
The reform of the Mass was suppose to result in more scripture being read at Mass, and it did. It reintroduce practices, such as the responsorial psalm, which had been part of the Mass in the centuries before Trent, but had fallen out of use. It was intended that some of the Mass would be said in the vernacular, not that the use of Latin would be abandoned.
As often happens it seems that the reform went too far. The Mass became too horizontal. Somehow the fact that some things were changed caused some, many of them priests or other higher ranking celebrants, to believe that they had license to make their own changes to the Liturgy. Thankfully that period slowly seems to be ending.
We have a faith and a Church that measures its history in millennia. In such a time scale the Church can afford to be methodical in its actions. So what is the Church doing to ensure that they keep the horizontal without losing the all important vertical? What do you think?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vertical vs. Horizontal

I've been reading a lot about the Mass lately. Part of the reason is SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, of course. The other is the almost constant talk of a motu proprio, that is (of his own accord,) to be issued by the Pope on the Mass. The words motu proprio signify that the provisions of a document were decided on by the pope personally, that is, not on the advice of others, but for reasons which he himself deemed sufficient. For months those who desire that the pre-Vatican II rite of the Mass, the Tridentine Mass, which is said in Latin, to be more widely available have hoped and prayed that Benedict, who is know to be sympathetic to the saying of the Mass in Latin, would issue a motu proprio "freeing" the Tridentine Mass. At the present time it requires an indult to celebrate the Mass using the Tridentine missal. An indult is a special permission to do something which is not normally permitted in Church law. So why is the Tridentine prohibited? At the Council of Trent the Church decided that there would be only one Latin Rite Mass. At the time it was what is now known as the Tridentine Mass. At Vatican II it was decided that the rite of the Mass would be revised. The new rite, sometimes called the Novus Ordo, which means simply "new order" or new rite was intended to replace the old, or Tridnetine Mass.
Certain members of the Catholic Church have problems with the the N.O. and requested from the Vatican an indult to allow them to continue celebrating Mass using the Tridentine Missal. Most people who prefer the Tridentine Missal do not deny that the Novus Ordo is a valid Mass in and of its self. The criticism of the N.O. generally falling into two categories.
The first criticism is that the N.O. lends itself to liturgical abuse. What is liturgical abuse? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is pretty specific about what is and is not allowed in the celebration of the Mass. Unfortunately some celebrants and parishes ignore the requirements of the GIRM. Because some parts of the N.O. allow the celebrant to choose from different authorized rites some people feel that it is easier to a priest with the inclination to ad lib or substitute during the liturgy when a Mass is celebrated under the new rite than it would be if the Tridentine Missal was used. After all how many people can ad lib in Latin?
A much more theologically based criticism is whether the Mass should be horizontal or vertical. What does this mean? Vertical worship is concentrated exclusively on God. We say the Mass to worship God. Primarily only the priest speaks during the Mass. He speaks in God's language, Latin. The priest stands before the people, with his back to them, because he stands in Jesus's place, representing the people to God. When the host is concencrated and becomes the body of Christ only the priest may touch it, he delivers it directly to the tongue of the recipient. Certain types of music, primarily organ and certain types of song, chant and polyphone primarily, are reserved for use in worship and other types of music, which also have profane uses, are not used. Because we are worshiping God we should dress in a manner that is respectful, as if we were going to meet the president or going to some other very special occasion.
Now proponents of a more horizontal form of worship see the Mass as community. We come together as a community to worship God. So God is not only present in the Real Presence of the host. He is also present in the community. The Mass is said in the language of the people, most often in English or Spanish in the Unites States, but sometimes in other languages. The priest faces us because he stands in the place of Jesus, and just as the Apostles sat at table with Jesus when he said the first Mass, so do we sit at table with Jesus in the person of the priest. Music is performed for God's glory and sung by both the choir and the community assembled at Mass. We dress as we would when going to a friends house or to an informal celebration with out family.
So if there are so divergent opinions on the proper way to celebrate Mass which side is right? Not a simple answer and one for another day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

An you thought fish was bad...

I've got to pass this on. Jimmy Akin writes about a Lenten practice in Michingan.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Well it's finally out: SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS the Post-Synodal Exhortation on the Eucharist. Not much Earth shaking here, but a wonderful teaching document. While your on the Vatican site take a look at Redemptionis Sacramentum the document from the Congregation for Divine Worship. Combined with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) these documents clearly define how the Liturgy should be said and, just as important, how it should not be said.
If you're a catechist, youth minister or lay minister serving in the liturgy in any capacity you should be familiar with all of these documents.
Things you might not know:
  1. While it requires an indult to say the Tridentine Mass, the Mass celebrated in Latin from the pre-Vatican II 1962 Missal, a priest can choose to say the so called Novus Ordo in Latin without getting permission from anyone. As a matter of fact, at international gatherings, except for the scriptural readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, which may be said in the vernacular, it is preferred that the Mass be celebrated in Latin. The excepted parts are the same parts that would always be said in English should your parish priest choose to celebrate the Mass in Latin.
  2. Active participation is a matter of disposition, not of exterior manifestation. One can be in active participation by being attentive to the liturgy and approaching the Eucharist in the proper state grace.
  3. Not all music is appropriate for Liturgy. Conversely liturgical music need not be limited to organ, chant and polyphony. That being said, those three musical forms enjoy a special place in liturgical music and should not be excluded in favor of other styles.
  4. Individual reconciliation is preferable to general absolution, which is permitted in only a small number of specific circumstances. Local priests have a duty to make reconciliation available to the faithful.
In this regard, it is important that the confessionals in our churches should be clearly visible expressions of the importance of this sacrament. I ask pastors to be vigilant with regard to the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation...
The entire document is well written and seems to have taken much of its content from the fifty proposals submitted by the Synod of Bishops to the Pope, a clear case of the Magisterium of the Church.
Go read it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Girl/Guy Retreat

Amazing Girl/Guy retreat this weekend. We concentrated on the four Cardinal Virtues this year. It was the usual suspects, with a few additions. One always hopes more will attend and am always surprised by the unexpected attendee.
So the Four Cardinal Virtues:Temperance, Prudence, Justice and Fortitude.
As in many things some of the best examples of the Cardinal Virtues can be found by looking at the lives of the saints. Just look at the saints whose commemoration have been celebrated in the last week.

“A saint is a sworn enemy of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He is locked in mortal combat with principalities and powers. A saint is a friend and lover of the world. He kisses this sin-cancered world with the tender lips of the God of John 3:16. A saint declared God’s war on this world, sinking the Cross into the enemy-occupied earth like a sword, hilt held by heaven. At the same time he stretches his arms out on the very Cross as if to say, “See? This is how wide my love is for you! A saint is higher than anyone else in the world. A saint is a real mountain climber. A saint is also lower than anyone else in the world. Like water, he flows to the lowest places, like Calcutta. – Peter Kreeft

Perpetua and Felicity suffered martyrdom at Carthage in 203. Read the story of Perpetua, she wrote in a journal during her captivity, so we are fortunate to have much of her story in her own words. She and her companions showed Fortitude.
John of God founded the Order of Hospitallers of Saint John of God. His charity to the poor and sick was the virtue of Justice in action.
Frances of Rome was both a wife and mother and a religious. After raising a family as a widow she gave her goods to the poor and started the Congregation of Oblates under the rule of Saint Benedict. She cultivated the virtues of humility and patience. As a mother she almost certainly practiced Prudence and taught Temperance to her children.
So what are the gifts of these virtues?
Temperance is discipline. The ability to restrain your desires and set your appetite on God and what is good.
Prudence is wisdom, which comes from God. The word prudence comes from the Latin prudent, to foresee. Prudence means acting with thoughtfulness and wisdom. So if someone calls you a "prude" thank them, they've just given you an compliment, whether they know so or not!
Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give to others their due. Secular justice is concerned with retribution and fairness. Not so God's Justice. It consists of giving others their due as creatures of God. It deals not so much with worth, because who of us is worthy, but with service to others.
Fortitude is spiritual strength. In the face of obstacles Fortitude allows one to remain firm and pursue good. It resists temptations. It conquers fear.
So how do we cultivate the four Cardinal Virtues? As one of the participants of our retreat said, "Prayer is always the right answer." And so it is. Cultivate friendships with those you know who exhibit the Cardinal Virtues.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.
Sirach 6:15
Another way is to read about the saints, or even better read what the saints have written. Just as we often learn by emulating our older siblings so we can learn by emulating our elder breathren, the saints.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

So what's all the hype??

I'm certain everyone has heard about the pathetic psuedo-archeological tripe being passed off by the Discovery Channel and James Cameron as The Jesus Family Tomb. Many Catholic and other Christian blog sites have deconstructed the evidence, so I'm not going to get into that. Jimmy Akin has an excellent post, should you need to tear down this paper tiger to some of your non-Christian or weakly Christian friends.
At the heart of it is the article of faith held by Christians that Jesus was raised from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. This is the single most relevant point of the whole of Christianity. For as Paul says to the Corinthians
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.
So this is little more than an effort to undermine the very cornerstone of our faith.
Now the bible gives no proof of Christ's resurrection. True, there are eye witness accounts of the results; The empty tomb. The women, who were the first to be told. The Apostles. But these are second hand accounts. Peter never writes of his actual experiences at the tomb, or even, in detail of his talks with the Resurrected Christ. Paul never saw the empty tomb, that we know of. Paul did not see the Resurrected Jesus until after his Ascension.
That makes the Resurrection a matter of Faith. We believe the Resurrection took place. Either because we have been told so by people we trust, the Evangelists, our Catechism teacher, the teaching authority of the Church , or because the Holy Spirit has spoken to us, as it did to Peter, when he perceived Jesus as the Messiah.
Now reason also helps us in this regard. Of the Eleven, ten were martyred, most in very painful, horrendous ways. It's hard to believe that they would have went to their deaths thusly for something they made up. If there had been a body why wouldn't the Romans or the Sanhedrin have discredited these pesky Christians by producing the body?
Faith informed by reason, practically the mantra of the Catholic Church.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was a great saint of the twelfth century. He was an advocate of Pope Innocent II, and an abott of the Cistercian order of monks. The Cistercians were known as the White Monks, from the color of their habit. They take their name from the Latin name of Cîteaux in France, where their first Abbey was located.
Saint Bernard was a Doctor of the Church and an advocate of Scholastic Theology, which we will discuss another day. Bernard is also credited with having written the Memorare. Like many ancient prayers the Memorare takes its name from the first word of the prayer, Remember.

Memoráre, O piísima Virgo María,
non esse audítum a sæculo,
quemquam ad tua curréntem præsídia,
tua implorántem auxília,
tua peténtem suffrágia esse derelícta.
Nos tali animáti confidéntia ad te, Virgo Vírginum, Mater, cúrrimus;
ad te venímus;
coram te geméntes peccatóres assístimus.
Noli, Mater Verbi,
verba nostra despícere,
sed audi propítia et exáudi.

Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection,
implored Thy help or sought Thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto Thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother;
to Thee do we come, before thee we kneel, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in Thy clemency, hear and answer me.
This prayer seems especially appropriate during this season. So this year I've added the Memorare to my daily prayers for Lent. I have also urged my Middle School students to pray it.