Ecclesial Equality

Quote of the day from Rory Cooney:

Only if everyone submits to the new translation will it demonstrate the ecclesial equality of the children of God. The ritual of the Eucharist is a roadmap and rehearsal script of service and Gospel life, in which all receive the life of the Spirit as God’s gift and, as the Body of Christ, render back to God the “sacrifice of praise.” But in order for the equality to be apparent in the ritual, everyone has to play by the rules. If one person (the presider) is improvising, riffing on the texts as so many are doing with the 1973 text ,… then we’re not equal. If I’m stuck with “And with your spirit” but the priest can say “The Lord is with you” or “The Lord be with each and every one of you” or “Good morning,”… well, we don’t have ritual equality. That very priest might imagine himself to be a champion of lay leadership and collegiality, but in fact every ritual word he speaks undermines the foundation of the ecclesia.

From Rory Cooney, “All Together Now,” Pastoral Music 34:3( March 2010) 11-13. There’s more here worth quoting and which we will be quoting – watch this space.   — Ed.


  1. YES!

    Whether or not you’re a fan of the new version, the old version, or some other version, “stick to the script.”

    If you want- write a letter, sign a petition, or start a blog- do what you want to stop or delay their promulgation, but once they are promulgated- speak the speach, I pray you- trippingly on the tongue.

    Liberal Catholics (I’m in that group, BTW) seem to have little problem disregarding doctrine or moral teachings of the Church. When asked, then, “So- what keeps you Catholic?” the answer is usually, “I like the Liturgy.” But, actually- they usually don’t like that, either. They like a version of the liturgy that suits them, and they are happy to modify and fiddle as they see fit.

    I have some real problems with the RotR people, but one thing I think we do need to learn from them is respect for the text of the public prayer of the mass. We can argue about translations, but ANY translation is better than whatever you just made up off the top of your…

    1. I think Adam’s next word was supposed to be “head.”

      And I agree — to a point.

      Whenever I have the chance, I take the so-called “Rite III” option in the Book of Common Prayer, the “Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist.” This rite opens the door to improvisation writ large. (Although it “requires” the use of one of two partially-filled outlines, those exist to guarantee that all the necessary components of eucharistic praying appear in the prayer. Arguably, for those who actually know how to structure the prayer, they can bypass the outlines.) I take the option because I am confident that I understand what an Eucharistic prayer is, what it must contain, etc., and I am confident that with the Holy Spirit’s help I can improvise such a prayer as occasion may warrant.

      And yes, I realize that this is not an option open to my Roman Catholic brothers. And I also realize that this fact hasn’t stopped some of them.

      I have met many clergy who can and do achieve this well — whether a whole prayer, or a simple pastoral introduction to a rite; I have met more who think they can (and do all over the place), but who really can’t — and shouldn’t. Sadly, they’re the ones who seem to do the most improvising.

  2. Fr. (Rev.? Forgive me – and please correct me – if I got the title wrong) Unterseher makes a good point. But the problem is that they don’t know that they can’t or shouldn’t. Well, they know that they can’t or shouldn’t because they know or should know that they are breaking the common rules that bind us all in the Catholic Church. But they probably don’t know that they can’t or shouldn’t for the other reason that they’re not very good at it. Which is why the rules are there in the first place. Speaking as a ‘bum on pew’, the lay person shouldn’t have to play liturgical roulette depending on which priest offers the sacrifice of the Mass. The priest acts as an ‘alter Christi’, not a rival to Him, so it should not make any difference who the priest is. A good priest should be like a good waiter – unobtrusive. You should remember the good service, not the waiter.

    1. I prefer Father, actually, though I’m just as happy with “Cody”. My identity as a priest is bound up in my baptismal identity — which is why I avoid “altar Christus” language: all have been Christened, all Chrismated –> made “other Christs.” I’ll happily use in persona Christi capitis in reference to the ministry of priests, but that’s another post all together!

      Fr. Stephen Gerth, rector of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Times Square, NYC (affectionately known as “Smokey Mary’s” on account of the amount of incense used), is a priest whose presidential style I truly admire. Reverent, unobtrusive, transparent — but never cold, distant or aloof. Fr. Gerth manages to be present to the assembly as himself, without ever getting in the way of the liturgy. He embodies what he’s been known to teach to his curates, at clergy conferences, etc.: Priests in the liturgy are “stewards of the sacraments and servants of the assembly.”

      Now, that’s something to strive for (!) and I’m fortunate to have seen him in action.

  3. I am reminded of the “for you and for all men” in the words of consecration back in 1973. Lots of bishops and priests left the word “men” out because it was needlessly offensive to people sensitive to the inclusive language issue. Eventually the Vatican approved the change. I wonder if they would ever have changed it if bishops and priests had not taken the initiative. I have no problems with changing words to make them comprehensible, or to avoid needless language that excludes. I’m certain I’m able to avoid compromising theological accuracy. I’m pretty convinced that unity does not always demand uniformity.

    1. … except where uniformity is explicitly called for by the Church. For example, the requirements of bread and wine are uniform. The bread can be leavened or unleavened according to particular ecclesial tradition, not pastoral whim. In the Roman Rite, the bread is uniformly unleavened.

      While the Church’s various Rites are not uniform, they are united. One would expect, though, a greater degree of uniformity within an individual Rite. Documents like ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’ seem to give a good idea of the unity & uniformity the Church desires.

      (And if unity does not always demand uniformity, would you please let those priests who refuse to let people kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer, or for Communion, know that? Again, that smacks of clericalism.)

      Ian, would you say (as I hear some priests say), “Happy are we who are called to this supper” instead of whatever is printed in the Missal?

  4. But Ian – isn’t the key to lobby for the change and to refrain from implementing it unless and until approval is obtained? “Men” doesn’t appear in the Latin original anyway and so never should have appeared – but then again nor should “all”!

    I would be equally annoyed with a priest who tried to implement the current changes before they are officially in effect as one who refused to implement them after they are.

    Once again, it’s not the priest’s, or any one individual’s liturgy.

  5. In the current missal there are places where the priest can legitimately improvise, (in these or similar words). I think though that some priests do go way beyond what is allowed and follow not the expressed canons of the liturgy, but what their favorite “liturgical” theologian is suggesting be done during the liturgy. The whole issue of presumed “sexist” language is a case in point, yet anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the liturgy in and of itself is inclusive even when in English the term “man” in the generic sense is used and is quite permissible even outside of religious circles. I think most priests would be horrified if the laity started to make it up as they go with their hymn singing, responses and posture. Clericalism reigns supreme when priests improvise where they shouldn’t and “laitiism” reigns supreme in many places too. Again, it really is the sin of pride isn’t it, the old Adam and Eve trick.

  6. This is the point I’ve been making for quite some time too. If the priest can make up the liturgy as he feels like it as he goes along, why can’t I? Or, if the priest can feel free to deviate from the Church’s prescriptions, why should I be discouraged from adhering to them?

    I agree with Rory that there is an equality in the liturgy, although I would shy away from mentioning “equality” so many times in quick succession (4 times in 6 sentences) without also mentioning the liturgical hierarchy as well. The equality is one of, among other things, obedience, not of function or ability. But I digress.

    And Fr. Cory, how would you respond to Mark Galli’s (Episcopalian) take on improvisation/spontaneity in the liturgy? See:

    (That’s not a challenge, by the way; I’m genuinely interested in your take on the matter.)

    1. I’ve read Galli’s book, and I was mostly impressed overall, though it seemed clear to me that he was writing from the position of someone who has grown into an appreciation of the liturgy from a more evangelical experience of Christianity (which, in fact, is the case.)

      That I take the “Rite III” option when I can doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the set forms of the liturgy — quite the opposite is true. When I have those opportunities to take Rite III — which are rare, and usually occasioned by pastoral circumstance — the reality is that I still rely on the ordo of the liturgy and the ordo of the particular prayers. Collects are composed in a certain way — the so-called “you-who-do-through” pattern. Eucharistic Payers have a Preface Thanksgiving, Sanctus, Post-Sanctus Thanksgiving, Institution Narrative, Anamnesis/Oblation, Epiclesis, Supplication and Doxology — in more or less that order. Even when improvised (and such improvisation relies on a lot of boilerplate and is, in some sense, already rehearsed), it always conforms to ordo.

      I think the bigger problem is impromptu interjections, on the spot changes clumsily handled, etc. Remember the old buttons that GIA was circulating a few years ago? “Stick to the script: banter is for gameshow hosts.” I really am of that school.

  7. I think there are a few disconnects here – Fr Unterseher is talking about where ‘improv’ is permitted (but it is never ever required!) – Ian Larson is talking about ignoring clear requirements in the rubrics. Perhaps we should distinguish the two so as not to get confused.

    1. Quite right.

      But even then, when improvisation is permitted outside the liturgy — say, the meal prayer at a wedding reception — one can often tell if a priest has learned how to pray extempore or not.

      “O God, the giver of all good gifts, who have brought us together to celebrate the marriage of N. and N.: bless this feast, the hands that have prepared it and the earth that has given it, and grant that we who share it here, in honor of this earthly marriage, may come at last to feast at the wedding banquet of the Lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God in glory everlasting.”

      Yes, I really did just make that up. But usually what I hear at weddings is something like this:

      “Father God, we just want to thank you so much because you’re so good to us, and we want you to please bless us and this meal, and bless N. and N. as they start their new life together. May it be a long life together, a happy life together…” — continuing like that for 2 or 3 minutes.

      It’s not a “gift” so much as training, and priests are not always well-taught how to pray. And yes, that training (or lack thereof) does overflow into the liturgy — whether as inappropriate interjection, illicit modification, or poor use of the vel similibus options.

  8. I have noticed that most of the “these or similar words” options have disappeared in the upcoming sacramentary… I also agree that too many priests change the words of texts with no apparent reason, other than to be original. It is definitely a form of clericalism. But at the same time, rubricism is to be avoided – the slavish and absolute adherence to rubrics. I agree with the canonists who point out that rules forbidding changing anything in the liturgy on one’s own authority are to be interpreted, and are generally not absolute. The pope, bishops and priests (even the priests of EWTN) change things in the liturgy on their own authority, most likely to suit their own pastoral tastes. I see it as a form of rubricism to insist that minor adjustments to words cannot be tolerated, even when done out of sensitivity to the needs of people in the assembly.

    1. I too have seen priests of all stripes adapting the liturgy as they see fit. A certain RotR blog enjoys calling out liberal “innovations” and throw in their favorite line, “no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” Yet when Father so-and-so of the super-high-church Latin parish mixes in various words, gestures, rituals and vestments from the Tridentine Mass into the Novus Ordo they just beam with pride. Double standard?

      1. Yes, quite a double standard. In my previous parish I had a former Episcopal priest, married, as the parochial vicar, very strong personality sort of man, who also happened to be bi-ritual in the Greek (Byzantine) Rite of the Church. He pastored a very small Greek Catholic Church in Augusta. But he would at times drag (God forbid) Episcopal customs into the Latin Rite Mass and less egregiously, some Byzantine rite customs. I had to remind him not to mix the rites. I think we need to remind those who mix the EF and OF not to do that either, although I do admit that when I pray the Roman Canon in the EF, I am wearing a microphone and they can hear me quite well speak the Canon in a low voice. Is that so wrong?

  9. Improvising is still around, though I see it more with priests formed in the 1970s and 80s. The younger ones seem to have a deeper understanding of the composed prayers and don’t feel the need to spice them up.

    But there’s an old problem that’s still alive and well: rushing through the ritual texts. Granted, it’s hard to say the same words 1000s of times over the years and still speak them with clarity and intention. How many times have we heard: Thuyrgoodnsswehavethisbreadtaofferwhichearthzgivnnyumanandsvmade…? I’m sorry, was that a prayer or were you mumbling your grocery list? I couldn’t tell.

    1. In the particular case you mention, one of the Prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts, I can understand — comprehend — why it would be “mumbled” and rushed. First, it may be spoken sotto voce, as a semiprivate apologetic. (It may also be spoken aloud, with a congregational response — it’s unclear in this instance which is the case, but neither one nor the other is preferred, strictly speaking, by the rubrics of the RM.) Second, and I suspect more to the point, a lot of clergy feel rushed during the Preparation, particularly when there isn’t music to cover the ritual action. That’s no excuse, but it does go a long way toward an explanation.

      It becomes a real problem when it’s “Lorduroilyndeedthufutonovaloilyness. . . .” One of the best preachers that I’ve ever heard, an archbishop who I’ll not name, rushes through the presidential prayers, including the Eucharistic Prayer, like it’s the end of the world — I’ve never been able to figure that one out.

    2. I believe that anything worth saying in the Mass is worth saying with clarity and conviction. I’ve experienced parishes where the resident pastor rattles off the prayers like an auctioneer. Then when a guest priest comes in who speaks every word with intentionality, the people notice how “prayerful” the Mass was. I’m not calling for scrupulosity where every syllable has to be perfect lest the magic not happen (HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM). But let’s try to pray like we mean the words we’re saying and not like we’re trying to sprint through this Mass to get to the next committee meeting.

  10. Why are we assuming that a priest–or anyone else–who improvises is guilty of ‘the sin of pride’? I am one whom other contributors to this conversation would no doubt regard as a serial improviser. No doubt base motives creep in sometimes; no doubt I am sometimes lacking in appropriate skill and judgment. But the attempt is to exercise appropriate pastoral discretion and leadership to ensure that the liturgy communicates with people appropriately. It is just rude to say, ‘we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you’ if the only person in the place of worship who is standing is the presider. Now: one does such things carefully, as unobtrusively as possible, sensitively and sparingly–for many of the good reasons mentioned above. It will often be a judgment call between conflicting goods. But to exclude the possibility is a kind of fundamentalism–and neglects the principle that the sacraments are for the people, not vice versa.

    1. Dear Fr. Philip, you must be my age or older because we were taught to improvise in the seminary at St. Mary’s in Baltimore in the 1970’s, and the example you use was one of the “selling points” for it. But really, I must ask you, do you think people who are kneeling at that point are offended that we say during the second Eucharistic prayer, “We thank you for counting us worthy to STAND in your presence and serve you?” Don’t you think that is a metaphor for what we should be doing throughout our lives and not just in the Liturgy, where we also kneel and sit? Perhaps we could improvise at that point, “We thank you counting us worthy to stand, sit, kneel, bow, hunch over, day dream, sleep and be absent in your presence and serve you.” Where does it stop? It doesn’t and so it is prideful to make it up as you go. Sin is a part of whom we are, and acknowledgment of our sin, sorrow for it and confession and penance and a firm purpose of amendment are the remedy.

      1. Thank you for your comment–I’m probably a little younger than you. I continue the substantive discussion below. But the obvious point does need to be made that the new translators have abandoned their devotion to formal equivalence at just this point, presumably because somone has seen fit to excise a reminder that traditionally the Easter people stand in the presence of the Lord at the Eucharist.

      2. Dear Fr. Philip, if you’re younger than me (I’m 56), you must have been taught by Jesuits and others my age and older. We were very well schooled in the art of improvisation and exacerbating our pride. 🙂

      3. I can understand that some people have though that the reference to standing in Eucharistic Prayer II is rude or confusing. What has puzzled me is why the second half of that line was lopped off all together. The original text upon which Eucharistic Prayer II is based, the so-called Apostolic Tradition once attributed to Hippolytus, reads: ” . . . giving thanks to you, who have made us worthy to stand before you and to serve you as your priestly people. . . .” Standing + priestly people = he’s definitely talking only about himself? Or standing + priestly people = hierarchical confusion?

      4. Cody, I very much like this line of thought, but I once heard John Baldovin say that, alas (he didn’t like this either), the meaning in the original probably was “we the clergy, the people who are priests.” Do you know more about the original text? It’s complicated for ApTrad – according to Max Johnson in Rites of Christ. Intit. we can reconstruct three historical layers in the evolution of this text.

      5. Anthony,

        I was really just thinking out-loud about the ecclesiology that underlies the use of that prayer — and the improvisations that one sometimes hears on it. I’d have to defer to Max Johnson on the evolution of the text prior to the 19th/20th century. (Given the questions raised about its authorship and provenance, the running joke around here [Notre Dame] is that it was actually a conspiracy of Gregory Dix and Bernard Botte, something akin to Morton Smith’s Secret Gospel of Mark. Totally untrue, of course: ApTrad is an ancient text — but great for a laugh, particularly when there are church history folks around: you should see their looks!)

        When ApTrad was all the rage, it was adopted wholesale for the ELCA’s Lutheran Book of Worship (Prayer IV) and the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Great Thanksgiving G), while the MR and the BCP shredded it — nearly beyond recognition in the latter. Again, I have to ponder what ecclesiological considerations influenced the shaping of this text as it appears in these books.

      6. From the English translation of the Hippolytan anaphora here – – I read “giving thanks to you, who has made us worthy to stand before you and to serve as your priests.” (4:11)

        In my opinion, the celebrant speaking these words is referring to himself and the other clergy at the altar. Why do I think this? Because of the context of this Eucharistic Prayer!

        This anaphora (which, first of all, was offered simply as a model or example for prayer, cf. 9:4-5) was said by a bishop at the Divine Liturgy of his episcopal ordination, with the elders and bishops at the altar. It seems logical to me that, keeping with the tone of the celebration, the bishop would say these particular words specifically referring to the ordained, ministerial priesthood.

      7. All right, I’ve done some checking — and answered a few questions of my own. First, in the Latin redaction of the prayer (the original Greek is lost), the line reads only “because you have held us worthy to stand before you and minister to you.” (Little wonder then that the rest of the line disappeared in Eucharistic Prayer II).

        The Ethiopic reads “made us worthy to stand before you and serve you as priests.” The redaction of the prayer in Apostolic Constitutions VIII has the same, but “priestly service,” while Testamentum Domini says “serve you in priesthood.”

        The most recent authoritative commentary, after rehearsing the variety of positions taken on this by various commentators concludes that “most scholars, however, have understood it to refer … to the ministry of the whole priestly people of God” ; see Paul F. Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson and L. Edward Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 48. For the quoted translations above, see ibid., 40-41.

    2. It’s only rude to say that if one takes a very fundamentalist-literalist approach to language.

      Unauthorized improvisation is, however unintentionally, an exercise in privilege and clericalism for the precisely the reason Cooney says. It’s not progressive.

      However, if a presider is willing to submit his intended improvisations to the community to be considered subject to a consensus (not a mere majority) of the community at large (and not a cherry-picked subgroup thereof), then I might reconsider the objection of privilege and clericalism (it would still be “unauthorized”, of course, but it would loose its un-progressive character).

  11. In the OF Form Mass, the parts that “may” be said in a low voice are now associated with the parts that are really less important, such as any private prayers of the priest and especially now the preparatory prayers. But in the EF Mass, some of the most important parts of the Mass are said quietly, such as the Secret (Super Obalta) and Roman Canon. The silence adds to the solemn importance of the prayers. Of course, like the preparatory prayers in the OF, the EF’s Roman Canon is it, so people actively participating by using their personal missal don’t have to figure out which Eucharistic prayer the priest is using. After a number of years the laity know the canon by heart that is said silently. Again, I need not remind anyone that when Mass is in a dead language, like Latin, there is no improvising and hardly any clericalism of that sort, just impossible, to the wailing and gnashing of many teeth.

  12. One of the biggest problems with the improv style of Mass is that it is very rarely just one word or phrase. It may start that way but after one “pastoral decision” to change one word, there is the temptation now to change another phrase, or action, or ministry…Which leads to what I call the “please think of the next guy principle.” When Fr. Improv leaves the parish and Fr. by the book comes in, the people get up in arms because the new priest is “changing everything.” He takes the “blame” for doing nothing wrong and the people assume that the former priest’s way is correct. When I go to another parish to celebrate Mass, I may have to figure out certain “local customs”–like where do I sit, where do we process from, etc. I shouldn’t have to be a quick study in a completely different Rite.

  13. Fr Allen: Where I live it is normal for communion to be received standing and in the hand. When someone coming up to communion makes a prophetic and transgressive gesture in the name of ‘reverence’, for example kneeling, or sticking their tongue out at the Lord and at the priest, I am tempted in my bad moments to regard this as exhibitionist, a manifestation of spiritual pride. But I try never to act on that reaction, because I’m committed, at least up to a point, to the principle that a healthy church must allow some transgressive behaviour, otherwise growth and change will never occur.
    Slippery slope arguments have their place; but if you are controlled by them, you will never do anything significant or creative. The principle here is that the texts are given us for an end. If we are in a situation where they do not serve that end, we make appropriate and sensitive adjustments–it’s the sensitivity here that stops us sliding too far down the slope. This is intelligence and prudence, not (or at least not necessarily) pride. Fidelity is more than mere conformity.

    1. Fr. Philip, I live in an area where the majority of people receive standing and in the hand also. But a few desire to receive on the tongue and an even fewer will kneel. No matter my preference though, this is not transgressive exhibitionism for anyone but an option that Easter people should and do have. In fact, today, those who do kneel are the creative ones. I really do think we can legitimately offer these options to the faithful. Keep in mind, we are also a people of the incarnation, passion and death of Christ as well! But super-creativity and making it up as you go disregards the entire Church at prayer in which one’s little part of the world is intimately connected to the whole. Yes, the Sacraments are for the people and so is our ministerial priesthood. And finally, the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer II is: “…giving thanks that you have held us worthy
      to BE (not stand)in your presence and minister to you.” When I use to improvise in the 80’s, I also use to say, “…Keep us free from all “undo” anxiety” thinking that some anxiety was actually good! How dumb! And yes prideful. Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea maximum culpa! 🙂

      1. the Latin of the relevant part of EP 2 runs gratias agantes quia nos dignos habuisti astare coram te et tibi ministrare.
        ‘Astare’ means ‘stand’. The text suggests that standing is the appropriate posture, and the new translation suppresses this point.

      2. From what I gather from Fr. Cody and Fr. Anthony above, the standing refers to the celebrating ordained priest, not the priestly people, who could well be kneeling or sitting if they have bad knees. Of course the Eastern Rite for the most part have always stood for the Eucharistic Prayer, but not so in the Latin or Western Rite. Shouldn’t we respect our rites and isn’t the Prayer II really from the Eastern branch of the Church? So the new translation seems to take into account that the priest is standing and the people are kneeling, therefore, “to be” in your presence. But in Europe, people stand after the Mysterium Fidei, so Catholics there would be standing, but here no.

    2. Receiving on the tongue is exhibitionist and transgressive? Wow! I normally receive in the hand, but it would never in all my years consider reception on the tongue in such a light.

      And, while I receive standing, I understand that for a priest to deny someone reception while they kneel is expressly forbidden: it never helps to match pride with pride.

      1. I do also recall as a teenager when priests where trying to convince us that it was better to stand for Holy Communion rather than kneel and to receive in the hand and that the communion rail was an unnecessary accretion that divided the clergy from the laity and that we should all receive alike, that those who actually liked the 1500 or more years of kneeling to receive our Lord were ridiculed as being “pre-Vatican II” (which was just about the worst kind of insult you could hurl against a Catholic back then), rigid, stupid and childish. Easter people stood, dammit! We’re raised up in Christ! Stand you idiot. Of course I’m improvising on the language used, but in reality this is what they were saying to us in muted tones, I believe it is called sotto voce?

  14. So are those who celebrate the liturgy as the Church envisions “not pastoral” and don’t care about the people? Or perhaps they can be pastoral, but not as pastoral as those who make the effort to really customize the words of the liturgy to their own parishes? I can’t answer this question as I just follow along blindly with what the Church tells me to do, not realizing that perhaps I am truly more intelligent and pastoral than the wisdom of the Church.

    1. Fr. Costigan,

      I wouldn’t consider observing the rubrics of the liturgy and adhering to the received texts as following along “blindly.” Clergy, after all, are called to “full, conscious and active participation” no less than the rest of God’s people — and if we take that first of all to mean “converted” participation, then following along “blindly” may be less than full or conscious. I’ve known more than one priest who never takes an option, never uses more than one Eucharistic Prayer (usually III, I’ve found), rushes through everything, and relies on an opus operatum justification for it all — “all that matters is that I do it right.”

      I would suspect, though, that your adherence to the rubrics and the received text is intelligent and critical, and relies on a number of “pastoral” and practical decisions every time you celebrate — always within the permitted framework of variation and improvisation, of course. I wouldn’t call that following blindly: I’d call it “full, conscious and active” participation, according to your role as pastor and character as priest.

  15. I am perplexed by Fr Endean’s assertion that receiving on the tongue and/or kneeling is somehow transgressive. I was raised solely with the NO but taught , by the Society of Jesus among others, to receive on the tongue kneeling. Later, standing and in the hand was allowed but never required.

    I understand that receiving in the hand is an indult while on the tongue remains the juridical norm. I also understand that the Vatican allowed reception standing as the norm in the US on condition that any faithful who desired to kneel be allowed to do so.

    I am but an average layman but if my statements above are wrong perhaps one of the priests on here can correct me.

    I have experimented with receiving in the hand and standing but it did not feel right for me so I choose to continue as I first started.

    I understand His Holiness has a preference for the faithful to receive on the tongue kneeling from him.

    Is His Holiness transgressive? Am I?

  16. Ceile De said: where ‘improv’ is permitted (but it is never ever required!) and this isn’t the first time she or he (forgive me for not knowing which gender you may be) has opined in this way. I am unhappy with this line of argument (permited but never required) because the rubric specifically says “in these or similar words”. That seems to me to require the person reading this rubric to exercise a pastoral judgment, not to say “It doesn’t tell me I must do such-and-such, so I won’t”, which comes dangerously close to being childish. It’s the same case as SC 11: “Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration” and (continued in next post)

    1. Paul: I am a man (Christian name’s Donal) – not enough women around here! I use “Ceile De” (a bit presumptiously) – it is an old Celtic Church term.

      I do agree that a priest should, where given an option, consider if there is a good reason to exercise it or not. A good reason he may choose not to could because he is one of those pastors to whom Cody referred – he may (mercifully for his parishioners) be aware that he is not good at it.

      My take is easy – where given an option, consider it and choose as best you can. however, where not given an option – well, you are not given an option. As a lay congregant, am I reasonable in expecting we all follow the common rules of whatever communion we belong to?

      For my part, if I am given an option to receive Holy Communion in a certain way, I will consider the matter too – and where not given an option, naturally, I won’t (even if I do not particularly like it).

      Following the common rules is much like following a common set of rules of the road – it helps to avoid collisions!

  17. (ctd) GIRM 20: “Because, however, the celebration of the Eucharist, like the entire Liturgy, is carried out through perceptible signs that nourish, strengthen, and express faith, the utmost care must be taken to choose and to arrange those forms and elements set forth by the Church that, in view of the circumstances of the people and the place, will more effectively foster active and full participation and more properly respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful.”

    In other words, the whole question of permitted versus required needs to be moduated. It’s not black and white. It requires pastoral savvy. GIRM 20 is saying that if you just stick to the book you are actually not doing your job properly: you have to select and arrange what the Church has proposed in order to facilitate the spiritual welfare of the faithful. And furthermore, you must use the utmost care in so doing. That’s a mile away from sticking to what’s in the book. What’s in the book is a skeleton, one on which you are obliged to put flesh in order to make it live. It’s a totally different world from the rubricism of the preconciliar era, and many people including some posting here have not yet “got it”, alas.

    1. The GIRM you mention concerns music, degree of solemnity and the various choices in the current OF Missal, i.e. which opening collect, which preface, which Eucharistic Prayer. It has nothing to do with improvising any of the prayers or gestures. The Ordinary Form has options galore compared to the EF. The EF’s rubrics are more stringent, but that doesn’t mean we don’t follow the OF’s rubrics which are quite simplified and easy. There are degrees of flexibility in the OF in terms of music and solemnity. Do we sing the Gloria with this congregation or not. What about the Sanctus? The Credo? Whereas with the EF, you just have low, no singing, except maybe some hymns extraneous to the actual Mass, or you sing the Mass, meaning all parts and then maybe some hymns or anthems. In the OF you might use incense or you might not and you might choose where to use the incense and where not. But for the texts of the Mass–absolutely no improvisation is foreseen except in “commentary” areas.

    2. So what you are saying is that you can twist a passage from the GIRM to in some run-around way go against what the Missal says explicitly. But let’s look at the section your quote, the utmost care must be taken to choose and to arrange those forms and elements set forth by the Church.” Ad libbing is in no way a form or element set forth by the Church. It is a form or element set forth by an individual who apparently knows better than the Church.

  18. It so happens that I played the organ for a Mass in a church last Sunday where I did not hear the Gospel of the fig tree because the pastor had taken the pastoral decision to use the Year A readings to go with the scrutinies. No, he was not obliged to make that choice but Yes, he took a pastoral decision to do so (and it was correct, even though the scrutinies were not taking place at that particular Mass: the whole parish was made aware that it was praying for the catechumens that weekend. He also took various other pastoral decisions ─ e.g. to use the alternative opening prayer, as provided in the Sacramentary.

    I think GIRM 20 refers to a state of mind. For example, reducing the number of readings (as permitted by the Directory on Masses with Children). GIRM 20 says specifically “select and arrange” (to use a former translation) “the forms and elements proposed by the Church”. It does not specify how or what.

    The Latin of GIRM 1969 said “Forma Typica” ─ a typical form, not the typical form.

    (Continued in next post)

  19. The great liturgist Joseph Gelineau used to talk about the liturgy as being like a house. You need four walls, a roof and a door, but once you have those you can decorate the interior of the house in any way you like. And, he said, as long as everyone knows where the bathroom is, and as long as you don’t put the fridge behind the front door so that no one can get in, you can also arrange the furniture and the rooms according to what is necessary. Bedrooms on the 1st floor and living rooms on the second floor if you wish, for example.

    This is a postconciliar vision of liturgy which rubricists, who feel safe within the confines of rules and regulations, have difficulty in understanding. The fact is that pastoral needs can be the guiding principle for much more than people realize. It is a liberation, not an abuse.

    What this also means is that you need to know what is changeable and what is not. For example, scripture and the four-part shape of the Eucharist would be givens. A lot of other things would come under the heading of paint, wallpaper and furniture.

    1. Paul, you are correct in all your ascertions. As a matter of fact, the retired pastor here chose to read the “Woman at the Well” last Sunday at a non-RCIA Mass. I guess that was his perogative, but he didn’t tell anyone else, including the music director. Yes, there are options galore in the OF Mass, but the rubrics still stand, they are not open to improvisation. But again, my assertion is that you can’t change the formal prayers of the Mass, no matter how many options there are. I would also caution not to pray the Preface of the Man Born Blind if you use year C’s Gospel of the Prodigal Son. But I suspect some priests will choose that Year A preface even though year C Readings are read, because they like that preface or simply see above it, 4th Sunday of Lent!. Yes, care must be taken, great care in the OF Mass!

    2. Nice metaphor, but implementation of it in practice is still subject to both the norm of SC and the ritual books that clarify where improvisation may be made with authority and where it may not.

      A priest who wishes to avoid the apt charge of privilege and clericalism in in in engaging in unauthorized improvisation should at a minimum submit to the discerned judgment of a consensus of his entire community (not merely the leadership group he has gathered round him, which will very strongly tend to be vulnerable to confirmation/selection bias), renewed from time to time.

      Doing Vatican III in a Vatican I ways (by clerical unilateralism) looks more like Pio Nono than John XXIII.

      1. As an aside, Karl, little old Macon, Georgia has a main thoroughfare named, “Pio Nono”! But true Maconites pronounce it, “Pine None ah”. I think those darn Jesuits who use to run my parish had something to do with the naming of it and improvising its pronunciation. Enculturation I guess! 🙂

    3. Yes, because that Gospel is a legitimate choice foreseen by the Church. You were free to use the Gospel from Year A or Year C. However, you were not free to use the Gospel from Year B, no matter how “pastoral” you may feel it is.

  20. My real concern in my contributions here has been to question the assumption that any use of discretion by the presider is, ipso facto, a matter of pride. I was in no way denying that people could receive holy communion kneeling and/or on the tongue, or advocating that they should be refused. I was noting that such behaviour can easily be disruptive when only a minority do it, can attract undue attention to itself, and can lend itself to interpretation as itself a form of ‘spiritual pride’. I think such an interpretation basically lacks charity, and as such should be avoided, at least a priori. I am merely suggesting that the knee-jerk branding of any move beyond the printed page as exhibitionism is in the same category. The question is not about the agent’s disposition, but rather about the appopriateness of the action.

    1. Well, receiving on the tongue is normative, even if it happens to be a minority practice in a given community – it remains normative universally in the Roman rite. Your very words imputed to that practice the adjectives of transgressive and exhibitionist – you also used an extreme description of it as sticking one’s tongue et cet. Overall, your choice of words was offensive. And I am a fellow progressive. Are you withdrawing those words or not? I can’t tell if your explanation is a withdrawal or a rationalization of what you wrote.

      1. A clarification rather than a withdrawal or rationalization. As a private individual, I think the practice of communion on the tongue is distasteful, insanitary, and grounded in theological misunderstandings about the nature of grace and the Eucharist. As a member and minister of the Church, I have to recognise that the practice is sanctioned by venerable tradition, and act accordingly. I also have to recognise that the boundary between exhibitionism and authentic prophecy is not an easy one to draw, and that it’s normally good to give the benefit of doubt. Because I’m Catholic, I think we are in the quest of truth together; therefore, short of manifest moral failure, one relativises one’s own opinions. But it doesn’t mean one doesn’t have such opinions; and it does mean that we should be wary of undue uniformity.

    2. Though I don’t claim to be a canonist, I think that “normative” is overstated. The ecclesial reality is that Communion in the hand is the most common practice by far for the people of God in the US. Technically this is an indult from universal law, but given the ecclesial reality, that is really an abstract technicality known only to specialists.

      1. Actually, a fair bit of non-specialists appear to be aware of it too.

        But my point really involves a difference in legal culture between Rome and the Anglosphere. In the Anglosphere, especially in the US, we tend to think that exceptions from legal norms are themselves norms; this arises from our deep distrust of discretion in the application of the law – so we tend to write laws narrowly, and with a host of provisions to deal with individual cases. The Roman way is rather different: norms remain norms, even if compliance is dispensed with by the discretion of the legislator-sovereign-judge (no separation of powers in the American sense) or his delegate (a bishop, for example) – the exception though does not itself become a norm.

        Progressive Catholics toggle opportunistically back and forth between the Anglospheric view of norms and a more Roman view, and often don’t recognize the tension we are developing internally thereby. This discussion reveals some illustrative touches of that tension. But we mostly try to avoid talking about it because talking about it would require us to triage our principles and pastoral application, and that would expose more internal contradictions and tensions that most appear comfortable with having so exposed. (Mind you, traditionalists and conservatives also have this very same dynamic going on, but revealed in slightly different ways.)

      2. And, by common experience, people don’t know about Latin, Gregorian chant, ad orientem, etc. Why don’t they know about this? Because they’ve never been told about it and/or they’ve never made the effort to look this information up.

        I didn’t know about it until three years ago. I had read the documents for myself.

        The question is: what do we do about it? Do we simply ignore the actual norms and drift along with the status quo, or do we make the effort to educate our brothers and sisters in Christ?

  21. I would be interested in hearing from the priests and ministers whether they feel that the congregation has the expectation of extemporizing and verbal spontineity. Most of the illicit changes to the text of the mass (I’m not talking about licit extemporizing) often strike me as changes simply for the sake of change, devoid of pastoral value or theological improvement. Do the ordained contiributors on this string feel that the congregation expects a kind of sincerity or talking from the heart that spontineity or extemporizing suggests? Is there a perceived risk of coming off as canned, insincere, overly-scripted if one sticks to the official text? If this is so, has anyone explicitly addressed this expectation in a homily or bulletin note? My hunch is that most of those in the congregation have little if any idea that the text is more than arbitrary words compiled by distant, isolated Vatican officials.

    1. I experience a rather different type of problem. I hope I’m not too legalistic here, but I’m not fond of lots of extemporizing. I suppose I’m overly influenced by my monastic context where literally not one word of the Office can be improvised, and I find it a blessed relief.

      What I experience is not lots of change for the sake of variety, but rather, individual celebrants always deviating in the exact same way because they’re in a rut. Their original rite is generally (with some exceptions) not an improvement on what’s in the book.

      1. Indeed! Yes.

        The rubrics/norms/whatever you wish to call them] are, as a practical matter, a way to free people up from the slavery of re-invention. Having spent years in communities that were very much fond of, uh, shall we say, customization, I was stuck forcefully over time by the realization that the process was one where what seemed to be creative freedom in reality was an insidious form of gradual but deepening enslavement. I also got to see how extemporizing priests very much resisted accountability to those on whose behalf they imagined they were extemporizing. I would suggest that if a priest who wants to extemporize would find such accountability unwelcome, then it’s a good warning flag that he may well be engaged in a rationalized behavior rather than something authentically principled.

      2. Stuck in a rut, yes, and that needs to be distinguished from a habitual mode of celebrating within the norms — or according to a critical decision to do otherwise.

        For instance, one of the Eucharistic Prayers added to the Episcopal repertoire after the publication of the BCP 1979 makes reference to Mary giving birth to “Jesus, the holy child of God.” Most clergy I know (including myself) change the words to “Jesus, your holy child,” because the prayer is addressed to God the Father — the line as published/promulgated/ authorized makes no sense in context.

        Potential reaction — “yes, well, an Episcopalian priest can do that whereas a Roman Catholic priest can’t.” Yes and no: apart from the extempore forms of so-called “Rite III,” the rules around the Prayer Book liturgy are almost as firm as they are around the Roman Missal. (And from what I’ve seen in both churches, plenty of clergy — left, right and center — do that sort of thing, some for the better but most for the wost, as I’ve already suggested above.)

  22. One of the attributes of the Catholic Church is “unity”…nowhere is “uniformity” listed as an attribute. We express our spiritualities differently, so our worship cannot be made uniform in that it values some relationships with God and not others…language that is harmful to people & their relationship with God should not be tolerated…

    Two quotes might, if actually taken to heart, keep the powers that be from imposing uniformity on everyone & to realize that Jesus did not impose a ritual on his followers…

    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
    Leonardo da Vinci

    God made so many different kinds of people; why would God allow only one way to worship?
    Martin Buber

    1. Well, that tells part of the story, but not all of it. His followers chose over time to develop greater uniformity and one would be hard-pressed to say that necessarily was not of the Spirit. Lest we overidealize the early followers of Jesus, let us remember how harshly they dealt with their brethren who sinned after baptism….

      The forms of extemporizing that are intended to redress “language that is harmful to people and their relationship with God” is always quite capable of offending not only other people but the very people it on whose behalf it is supposedly undertaken. I remember well hearing that rigorous so-called “inclusive” language offended some because they felt deeply patronized, but also that they needed positive father-brother language for their relationship with the Trinity precisely because their own childhood father-brother relationships were so wounding. One must always consider the many ways a cure may be worse than the disease.

      1. All comments & rules are for naught if the liturgy does not both reflect & encourage people’s relationship with God…uniformity does not fit all people…we can be unified in our worship, but we will never be uniform in it…why? because we are people at different points in our relationship with our God…before getting so minutely picky about rubrics/rules/translations, we should remember the Bible says “I do not desire your words or your sacrifices”…God wants our hearts…the rest counts for nothing if we forget that!

      2. Lynne – which is why the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy says:

        But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

        It is, as is the case with most things in Catholicism, not a case of either/or, but both/and: BOTH careful observation of liturgical laws AND pastoral care of the faithful so that they know what they’re doing.

  23. This really isn’t that hard. Why do we have to over-complicate everything? There are tree types to statements in the Missal that the priest says. First, where is says to say those words. In that case, we say what is written. The second is where is says “in these or similar words.” In this case we can use the words given or use words similar to them. Note is does not say “these or any words you want.” The similar words should be just that–similar. If it’s 2 sentences about a topic the similar words should be around 2 sentences on that topic–not 5 minutes on something completely unrelated. The third grouping of words are those that appear IN LARGE BOLD CAPITALIZED PRINT. That means, “Attention. This is a sacramental formula. It is really important you say this exactly as it is written or the sacrament may not take place.”

  24. One of the difficult realities of our cultural context is that various Catholics have quite different starting points for what good liturgy is and what the role of authority is. (BTW, culture has always shaped liturgy, so that’s nothing new. The way our culture[s] do that today is new.) I hear some people repeating arguments over and over which follow from THEIR starting points (a la “everyone should follow the rules as I understand them”), seemingly without noticing that there are other starting points and thus their arguments are unpersuasive. As if it will be convincing if I just say it enough times. My problem with this is not that I disagree with all the conclusions – I prefer a by-the-book liturgy – but that the manner of argumentation is so ineffective, and therefore, not interesting and not really a challenge to anyone. I wish for a higher level of discussion where the arguments were stronger because others’ positions were understood more deeply.

  25. But Dom Anthony, if the instructions provide in one place “Say A” and elsewhere provide “Say B or similar words” (e.g. B1, B2, B3…), it is not a subjective opinion but an objective fact that “Say A” still means “Say A” and is not (in contrast to B) an invitation to say A1, A2, A3. A high school student would be expected to understand the distinction or face the consequence in his or her grades. If “or similar words” were intended in respect of A, that invitation to improvise would appear there.
    I understand the debate here is the extent to which a priest should or should not blindly either follow the set text or improvise in the case of example B. But surely no one is claiming he is free to improvise in the case of example A? If anyone is, by what authority is such a claim made?

    1. Ceile, I’m trying to understand a position I don’t hold myself so I may not get this right. My point is that some people interpret everything you wrote differently because they don’t share your starting point that the text must be followed because the Church says so. Maybe they believe that (their understanding of) the Gospel is a higher authority, or the pastoral good of the people is a higher value, or a living, dynamic celebration (as they understand it) is more important. Maybe they reject your analogy because student to teacher is not the same as priest to approved liturgical book because the priest should have a different –collaborative, mutual, creative, whatever – relationship to church authority based on what Jesus said about the first being servants and not lording it over others. If I may gently suggest so, your comment is an example of precisely the thing I was talking about.

      1. But apart from the teaching authority of the Church, there’s no real reason to believe that the the Gospels contain anything that Jesus really said. The Gospels aren’t very reliable historical documents on their own.

      2. Ioannes,
        I believe that and I think of St. Augustine, “If it weren’t for the authority of the Catholic Church I would never believe in the Gospels.” But this isn’t an absolute. A third helpful factor is the ‘ratio’ of scholarly historical research. The Church used to think that all the words attributed to Jesus were said by him, but the Pontifical Biblical Commission [PBC] has since declared otherwise. Some of the Church’s statements on the Bible have been just plain wrong – see the decree of the PBC before Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943, most of which has long since been contradicted and rendered obsolete by later decrees of the PBC.

  26. I have a question for those who agree with ad libbing for “pastoral reasons.” Please do not take this as sarcasm. If one or several parishioners would come up after Mass and say that the constant changing of the words distracts them from prayer and hinders their full, conscious, and active participation, what would be the reaction? Again this is not sarcasm but a legitimate question.

    1. By way of a contrast, when I attend the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic Church, and Eucharistic Prayer IV is used, I hear:

      “Father, we acknowledge your greatness: all your actions show your wisdom and love. You formed man in your own likeness and set him over the whole world to serve you, his creator, and to rule over all creatures. Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death, but helped all men to seek and find you. Again and again you offered a convenant to man, and through the prophets taught him to hope for salvation. …”

      And for me, having internalized gender neutral horizontal English as the norm, this is nothing but a distraction — and knowing that it will not be going away, and has no legitimate reason behind it except that “the Church” (and not the Latin!) says so, I find not only distracting but offensive, even verging on being sinful.

      And I’ve never figured out why the very next line reads “Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior” — if it can be an inclusive plural there, why can’t it be throughout. Contrary to L.A., English has changed and “man” is no longer an inclusive singular.

      1. For the sake of being comprehensive, I should add the translation of that section of Eucharistic Prayer IV from my own church’s Book of Common Prayer (where it’s “Eucharistic Prayer D”):

        “We acclaim you, holy Lord, glorious in power. Your mighty works reveal your wisdom and love. You formed us in your own image, giving the whole world into our care, so that, in obedience to you, our Creator, we might rule and serve all your creatures. When our disobedience took us far from you, you did not abandon us to the power of death. In your mercy you came to our help, so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation.

        “Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. …”

        Regularly hearing and praying the gender inclusive plural heightens my awareness of the masculine singular in the Roman Prayer.

      2. Inclusive language is not – descriptively – yet the universal usage. Far from it. It is most widely used in academic and certain institutional settings but I daily encounter non-inclusive usage in the talk of ordinary people and even by NPR announcers, just for example. 10 to 15 years ago, I thought this non-inclusive usage would have faded more by now than it actually has.

        The vernacular of liturgical texts will tend to lag the vernacular of ordinary usage by some considerable length of time. It’s not yet clear that inclusive language as you and I (who spent many years in the trenches on behalf of inclusive language) understand it will in fact become as universal as we might like.

        Proponents of inclusive language (myself included) have inadvertently confused descriptive vs prescriptive use of inclusive language. That is, we’ve asserted the language has changed to reflect how we think it ought to change, but the assertion is not yet proven sufficiently.

      3. I think that’s as much a matter of administrative commitments as it is a matter of thing being just the way they are. In this case, Rome has spoken out against inclusive language — that’s quite clear from L.A. My own church has taken a different position, and acts accordingly.

        Most of the time, when a guest in the Roman Church, I can ignore the occasional “man/men” (except perhaps in the Creed, again a point of difference between the churches). Eucharistic Prayer IV is particularly distracting because of the frequent repetition of male pronouns.

        I held that up here, as a foil for Fr. Costigan’s comment.

        Some people will complain when the celebrant does everything by the book; some people will complain when the celebrant alters texts or extemporizes.

        And to a statement like that, one of my dear professors from St. John’s SOT•Seminary at Collegeville (and a monk of the abbey there) would be known to add, “Yes, and some people will complain if their ice cream is cold.”

      4. I think the problem of trying to please people, appease them or impress them is the sin of “pride” that I’ve commented on previously. As Catholic priests, we have made a promise of obedience to our bishop/superior. Part of that obedience is to pray the Church’s liturgy as prescribed. If those who I minister to don’t like how the Church has translated something, that really is their problem and not mine at Mass. I can try to minister to them afterward and explain it. But if I hold to what the Church prescribes, they’ll probably not like me. The same is true with Latin. It was not eradicated by Vatican II although many mistakenly believe it was. When we use Latin, those who don’t like it won’t like me either. But is that the criteria we use as Catholic priests at public prayer? It really isn’t about us priests is it? It’s about obedience to the Church and her official prayers which is required of all of us whether we like it or not.

  27. Christopher Costigan: The third grouping of words are those that appear IN LARGE BOLD CAPITALIZED PRINT. That means, “Attention. This is a sacramental formula. It is really important you say this exactly as it is written or the sacrament may not take place.”

    (a) I want to see you write this again when you are faced with saying, in about 18 months from now, “This is the chalice of my blood”. Will you tell yourself that ‘the sacrament may not take place’ if you continue to say “This is the cup of my blood” ? I somehow doubt it.

    (b) Interesting that the sacramental form is not printed in large capital letters in, for example, the middle of the prayer over the candidate(s) at an ordination liturgy, or the baptismal formula.

    My point here is that adducing theology from typographical conventions is very shaky ground.

    (Continued in following post)

  28. (ctd) Without wanting to derail this discussion into a previous thread, the use of capital letters in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer tends to perpetuate the ‘magic moment’ syndrome as opposed to a theology which views the entire prayer as consecratory.

    1. I do believe that if I omit the words of institution in our Latin Rite that the entire Eucharistic prayer is no longer consecratory or valid. I also know that some obscure Eucharistic prayer from the East omits the words of institution and the Vatican still considers it valid, but we’re Latin Rite with our own set of protocols and theology concerning the Eucharist. I think the larger print highlights the dignity that these words have in the Latin Rite and as the “black hole” if you will of eternity. Say it slowly, lift it highly and ring the bells loudly. Never heard or saw any of that diminishing or destroying anyone faith in the Real Presence!

      1. That is the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, used by the Chaldean and Assyrian Churches of the East. It should be noted that, while in recent centuries those churches are small relative to the rest of Christianity, for much of the first millennium, even up to the Mongol/Timurid invasions, they were at least as large, perhaps larger, and in some ways more vigorous and dynamic than Western Christianity was for much of that period.

  29. There are so many good points being made. The liturgy is certainly not absolute; there are higher authorities, and there is certainly creative tension among them. Truth is far from transparent. What I object to is the passive-aggressive scenario, in which rather than confront the perceived inequalities and sins in the church and in people’s lives directly, we just change the language. Rather than preach and live equality in the parishes, we change a few words in the readings, and pretend we’re doing justice, substituting liturgy for life. Then there’s the secondary scenario, which I think really does border on hubris, where a presider will change or improvise a collect in order to reflect his homily. The trouble with this is, no matter how good a homilist he is, it’s bad catechesis. The prayers might or might not reflect the readings of the day, but they do (especially the communion prayers) pray for unity and doxology from the heart of the church, and not the priest’s particular…

  30. …cause du jour. I’m rattling on, sorry. My main point is that a translation is not something to start a schism over. Those who can do it, in conscience, should make an effort to do what _is_ possible in the church. As a monk once at St. John’s once told me, “Take the 10,000 year perspective.” Things seem critical because our time is so limited. Of all the critical things the Church ought to be doing, wasting too much energy on this translation is not one of them. Every effort up to the recognitio to squash it has been worth it, in my opinion. If and when that comes, then we need to take a deep breath and reprioritize our objectives as members of the body of Christ.

  31. I’ll just say that when I go to confession I would feel much better if the priest says, “God the Father of mercies…” instead of “Your sins are forgiven; Jesus loves you” or anything else except the formula.

  32. “The Latin of the relevant part of EP 2 runs ‘gratias agantes quia nos dignos habuisti astare coram te et tibi ministrare.’ ‘Astare’ means ’stand’. The text suggests that standing is the appropriate posture, and the new translation suppresses this point.” (Philip Endean)

    “From what I gather from Fr. Cody and Fr. Anthony above, the standing refers to the celebrating ordained priest, not the priestly people” (Allan .J.MacDonald)

    Father Allan, as you can see the main participle is plural and the subject in the noun clause is also plural. So also, for that matter are the subjects of the surrounding sentences. Therefore from a semantic analysis of the passage, the standing refers to the people.

    If someone finds such a semantic analysis of a straightforward text difficult, so that they have to rely on others to interpret it for them, is it legitimate to ask how they manage to understand the text of the Tridentine usage, especially the preces that vary from celebration to celebration, at least on a weekly basis, or, in view of the difficulty, what attraction the language has for them?

    1. Gerard, the context of this Eucharistic Prayer (the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus) is the Divine Liturgy celebrated by a newly-consecrated bishop standing at the altar with many other ministers:

      With the assent of all, the bishops will place their hands upon him, with the council of elders standing by, quietly. … Then the deacons shall present the oblation to him, and he shall lay his hand upon it, and give thanks, with the entire council of elders, saying…

      I’m not saying the congregation wouldn’t be standing also, but the context could point to the bishops and priests (elders) standing at the altar ministering.

      1. Now, this is what I call raising a relevant point.
        I have heard many references “astare”, but this is the first which has mentioned this possible interpretation.
        Time to think carefully.

      2. Except that the context isn’t the Apostolic Tradition anymore, nor is it an ordination liturgy, nor is our text intended to be an ordination text. The explanation you’ve presented is one that is being offered today by some people, ex post facto, to justify a practice which they like and which the text does not really support, namely having the assembly kneel throughout the canon. No one is seriously advocating Hippolytus who uses this explanation. How do I know? Because you will never, ever, hear any of the same people saying we ought to do thus-and-so because AT said so in any other respect.

        Furthermore, when the Eucharistic Prayers were being written, the reformers did not feel constrained to reproduce verbatim the ancient texts from which the prayers were derived. In all sorts of particulars they varied from them. If they didn’t want to use the word astare, they would have changed it.

      3. For the record, I think the translation of “to be in” rather than “to stand in” is a terrible choice.

        For the record, I think the tradition of kneeling during from the epiclesis through the consecration is a praiseworthy one, and one we should keep in the Roman Rite. The local tradition of kneeling for the whole Eucharistic Prayer is another matter. (And these words “to be/stand in” are said after the consecration, when it is reasonable to expect the congregation is standing.)

        Furthermore, when the Eucharistic Prayers were being written, the reformers did not feel constrained to reproduce verbatim the ancient texts from which the prayers were derived. In all sorts of particulars they varied from them. If they didn’t want to use the word astare, they would have changed it.

        From what I’ve read, some people wanted the Hippolytan anaphora to be used pretty much verbatim, without the Sanctus and all that. And wasn’t the Basilian anaphora intended to be added as-is, as a possible Eucharistic Prayer? So it seems to me that some of the reformers did want to “reproduce verbatim the ancient texts.”

        I’d like to know what they considered when confronted with the phrase from the A.T. in question. I don’t know if I’ve seen the Greek text of the anaphora, but I have access to a few English translations. I’m interested in what word is used for “ministering”.

      4. For the record, I think the tradition of kneeling during from the epiclesis through the consecration is a praiseworthy one, and one we should keep in the Roman Rite. The local tradition of kneeling for the whole Eucharistic Prayer is another matter. (And these words “to be/stand in” are said after the consecration, when it is reasonable to expect the congregation is standing.)

        The actual Roman tradition (as found in the approved authors writing on the Roman custom in the extraordinary form) is more complex. One attending Mass in choir (and by extension the people) would normally stand after the consecration, but one would continue kneeling until “Amen” (and also kneel for the collect and postcommunion) on penitential days (e.g. ferias in Lent, ember days) and at Requiems.

      5. This is a side question, but what is “Roman tradition”? Is it commentaries on the 1570 missal? Or the practice of the entire medieval era in Rome and elsewhere where the Roman rite was celebrated?


      6. Well “tradition” in this case, as Jeffrey used it, means something more like “custom,” which word I would have preferred.

        The custom of Rome has varied from time to time, but in this case, I’m referring to that account set down by the approved authors (e.g. Martinucci, De Herdt, Favrin, Schober, Stehle) and the rulings of the Sacred Congregation of Rites before the upheavel of the 1960s to the present day.

      7. I apologize for my imprecise language. “Custom” would have been the better word. I am referring to the posture specified by the IGMR:

        43. […] Genuflectant vero, nisi valetudinis causa, vel ob angustiam loci vel frequentiorem numerum adstantium aliasve rationabiles causas impediantur, ad consecrationem. Hi vero qui non genuflectunt ad consecrationem, inclinationem profundam peragant dum sacerdos genuflectit post consecrationem. […]

        179. Durante Prece eucharistica, diaconus stat prope sacerdotem, aliquanto tamen post ipsum, ut, quando opus sit, ad calicem vel ad missale ministret. Inde ab epiclesi usque ad ostensionem calicis diaconus de more genuflexus manet. Si adsunt plures diaconi, unus ex eis ad consecrationem immittere potest incensum in thuribulum atque ad ostensionem hostiae et calicis incensare.

        So whatever the appropriate term, the rubrics of the modern Roman Missal call for the deacon to kneel from the epiclesis through the elevation of the chalice after the consecration of the wine, and I think it is reasonable to infer from #179 that #43 directs the faithful to kneel at those same times (that is, including the epiclesis).

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