Sunday, August 7, 2016

OK--What Is The Agenda Behind Cardinal Sarah and the "Ad Orientatem" Movement? VI

The Iconostasis at the Russicum
in Rome.  
The Roman Rite has a very unique genius.  The various Eastern Rites and the Rites of Northern Europe were highly influenced by the Court ceremonial of the Emperor or Kings, but Rome was ruled by the Pope and although the papal court developed its own ceremonial it was mainly liturgical and not imperial at least up to the Renaissance papacies.  And while the papal liturgies were more elaborate than the liturgy in a parish or monastic church—due to the presence of the pope—the rite, as practiced in the local churches maintained the Spartan dignity of its ancient character.  However, even the papal liturgies were more austere than the elaborate Gallican Rites practiced north of the Alps.  The vestments in Rome remained the simple dignified vesture of roman magistrates—the alb, the chasuble, the maniple and the stole. The deacon wore a dalmatic in place of the chasuble, though there were rituals in which the deacon too wore a chasuble. The vestments were almost invariably of white wool—the wearing of white being a sign of one’s Roman citizenship.  (Red came to be used, as it was in civil life, for the color of mourning.  It also was used for commemoration of martyrs—perhaps originally due to its connection with death—and for the Passion of the Lord.)  The basic structure of the liturgy: three processions (entrance, gifts, and communion) each followed by a collect remained clearly evident with the Readings placed between the first two and the Eucharistic prayer placed between the second and the third. The congregation stood through the entire liturgy, though there was seating for the clergy during the readings and homilies.  (In the east there were frequent prostrations in imitation of the courtly etiquette.)  A Byzantine priest who has taught liturgy in the seminary pointed out to me that the biblical model for the Roman liturgy is the gathering around the throne of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation singing the Thrice Holy Hymn while the liturgical model for the Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite is Christ the Priest entering into the heavenly sanctuary in the Letter to the Hebrews.  This makes some sense when one familiarizes oneself with the appropriate scriptural texts and the very different geist of each of the two rites. 
My chief objection to the ad apsidem position of the priest in the Roman Rite is that it bespeaks an ecclesiology in which the priest “says Mass” for the people rather than celebrating the Eucharist with them.  The ad apsidem position privatizes the Mass as the action of the priest when in fact it is the action of the entire assembly, priest and people together.  The East, with its very different geist, manages to include the faithful in the key actions of the liturgy despite the ad orientem position and even the presence of icon screens or sanctuary curtains.
The Byzantine—and other Eastern Rites—have developed a very different geist, one that is highly dialogical, than the Roman Rite.  The Byzantine Rite is a series of litanies sung among the (con)celebrant(s) at the altar, the deacon(s) standing at the Holy Doors, and the faithful.  There is a constant exchange of sung dialogue between the altar and the faithful. Even the Eucharistic Prayer contains one of these dialogical litanies.  And don’t forget the priest is not only standing with his back to the people, but the iconostasis blocks most views of the altar entirely.  (In fact, in the more strictly observant churches the Holy Doors are often closed, at least during penitential seasons, and the curtain behind them is drawn blocking any view whatsoever.)  Yet the sung interchange keeps the faithful aware that they are an integral part of the celebration. 
In the West, however the prayers are usually said by the priest alone.  Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei are sung together in a high Mass, but usually by a choir, and high Masses were rare: perhaps one a Sunday in most parishes with the remaining five or six Sunday Masses being a simple low or “read Mass” with only the priest and altar servers responding. 

So the issue for me really is this: is the Eucharist something the priest does on behalf of the people or is it something that the entire Body of Christ—the Church assembled—does together with the priest, as a sacramental presence of Christ in the assembly, does in unity.  The Tradition of the Church, as found in the Fathers of the Church, make it clear that the Liturgy is the work of the entire People of God albeit in their different functions. The versus populum position of the priest at the altar, which is the authentic heritage of the Roman Rite, preserves this in the face of a rite that would otherwise reduce the People of God from exercising their baptismal royal and priestly dignity to mere recipients of grace through the mediatorship of the ordained priest.  There is no way that I want to go back to that faulty ecclesiology, nor do I believe the vast majority of the faithful want to revert to being strangers at the Table of the Lord.  My experience of those seminarians and clergy who wish to go back is that they have a need to dominate and control others that stems from an underdeveloped psycho-sexual self-identity and want to use the Liturgy for their own aggrandizement.  They become, at least in their own minds, the indispensible mediators of grace through whom alone we can approach the Throne of Grace and without whom we would be bereft of the Love of God.  Pray for them for the judgment will be severe.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

OK--What Is The Agenda Behind Cardinal Sarah and the "Ad Orientatem" Movement? V

The Bishop prepares to enter the
altar through the HolyDoors in
the Russian Rite.  
Sorry for the long time between posts--it has been a busy week with lots of summer visitors.  Hope you all are enjoying your summer as well.  
 Let me begin by saying that I don’t have a problem with the ad orientem (or even ad absidem) position of celebrating the Liturgy where it comprises an authentic liturgical tradition.  From an aesthetic point of view (as opposed to a theological/ecclesiological perspective), I even prefer it. I often attend or even concelebrate Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite in which the liturgy is invariably celebrated with the celebrant’s back to the people—but for legitimate reasons. 
First of all let’s distinguish between ad orientem and ad absidem.  All ad orientem liturgies are ad ad absidem but not all ad absidem liturgies are ad orientem.  Ad orientem refers to the worship space itself faced eastwards towards the rising Sun.  This was an ancient custom prevalent through the east from at least the fourth century and through the west—excepting Rome and a few other places south of the Alps that never adopted the practice.  The idea of ad orientem is for the worshippers to face the rising Sun, symbol of the Resurrected Christ, as the Eucharist was celebrated at Sunday Dawn.  Curiously in some places, again particularly in Italy and notably in Ravenna and Lucca, while the churches were usually oriented, the older custom, drawn from Rome, with the priest facing the people over the altar (Mass versus populum) was retained as we can see at San Vitale and at San Apollinaire in Classe.  Indeed even when one examines the remaining pre-Vatican II altars in the Cathedral of Florence, Siena, Orvieto, one notices that they were all constructed after the liturgical Reforms of the Council of Trent to replace older free-standing altars.  This is no proof that ad orientem celebration was only introduced to much of Italy in the late 16th century, but it is a significant indication that the question should be studied in more depth.
If the purpose of the ad orientem position being for priest and faithful alike to face the rising sun, where the worship space itself is not oriented it makes absolutely no sense for the priest to face away from the congregation unless it is part of the tradition of the rite itself.  Such a position is not ad orientem but ad apsidem (facing the rear wall of the church, the apse).  As shown in earlier postings, the traditional position of the presider in the Roman Rite is to face the people over the altar.  Since the sun rises in the east, the concept of some mythical “liturgical east” is patently ridiculous.  East is east—where the sun rises, any other point on the compass is either North, West, or South. 
As I have pointed out in previous posts the practice of ad orientem has been of very ancient origins in the East. We need remember that Sicily and much of Southern Italy (as far north as Naples) and the area around Ravenna was under Byzantine Rule until the 12th century.  The Greek Rite was used in the churches of this area.  In northern Europe ties between the Court of Charlemagne and the Emperor at Constantinople introduced much Greek ceremonial into both the royal court as well as into the Church.  Liturgy developed far more elaborately in Northern Europe, particularly in France than it did in Rome which kept to its simple, almost Spartan, liturgical tradition.  The various dioceses of France, Britain, the Rhineland, the Low Countries all developed their own particular customs over the 8th through the 14th centuries. These rites are collectively known as “Gallican Rites.”  The Spanish church as well developed its own unique and elaborate rites.  Most of these rites were renounced in favor of the 1570 Missal of Pius V after the Council of Trent, however many customs—the number of candles on the altar, the use of specific liturgical colors—were not only retained but found their way into the Missal of Pius V replacing older Roman practices.  Before the revisions of Pius V, missals for the various rites concentrated mostly on the liturgical texts and often did not include detailed rubrics; at the time of the Council of Trent, however, rubrical conformity became a real priority and the lack of detailed rubrics in the Roman books was supplemented by rubrics borrowed from the various medieval rites.  Also Pius V himself was a Dominican and the Dominicans had a very elaborate and detailed rite, predisposing the pontiff towards abandoning Roman simplicity in favor of a more baroque approach to worship that matched the architecture of the churches being built—or renovated—in Rome at the time. 
When May 24, 2003 Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos celebrated the Tridentine Mass in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the first celebration according to the Missal of Pius V since its being superseded by the Missal of Paul VI in 1970,many of the pilgrims who had come were outraged because the Mass was celebrated versus populum and not ad apsidem (remember, Saint Mary Major’s faces north, not east, thus not ad orientem).  What they totally ignored is that it is not possible to celebrate ad apsidem at Saint Mary Major’s as the altar stands over the open confessio that leads down to a niche containing the presumed manger in which the Christ child was placed after this birth and upon which the altar is built to enshrine.  Consequently the high altar is approachable from only three sides.  Indeed the papal altars in all four major basilicas are all designed for versus populum celebration and even before Vatican II, the popes celebrated facing the congregation over the altar. 
I am not opposed to ad orientem or even ad apsidem celebrations in general.  Certainly in those rites to which they an inherent part of the tradition they make sense.  Indeed in some Eastern Rites that have latinized to the point of versus populum celebrations, ad orientem should be restored.  When permission is granted for one or another of the north-European rites: Sarum, York, Rite of Paris, for example, it makes sense to used the ad apsidem position.  The same would go for the medieval rites of the religious orders—the Dominicans, the Carmelites, the Carthusians.  On the other hand these rites are meant not for pastoral care of the faithful but are used out of historical or antiquarian curiosity and should be fairly limited.  But where the Roman Rite should be used, it should be used in its integrity which includes versus populum celebration.

Friday, July 22, 2016

OK--What Is The Agenda Behind Cardinal Sarah and the "Ad Orientatem" Movement? IV

The versus populum altar
at San Giorgio in Velabro
There was an interesting line in letter to the New York Times this morning (July 19th).  It had nothing to do with the question at hand: ad apsidem vs. versus populum for the celebration of the Mass-indeed, it was in the context of the role of historians in commenting on the current presidential election.  But despite the context, the principle is the same.  Historians keep our collective past in focus as an aid to determine our present (and future) choices.  Whether it be our cultural history, our political history, or our ecclesiastical history we often fall victim to vague generalizations, popular myths, and incorrect data all if which leads to wrong conclusions. 
Paris is one of my favorite cities and to see Paris from the air is a thrilling site. You can see the great ship of Notre Dame sailing eastwards up the Seine towards the rising sun.  Other great ships—Saint Eustache, Saint Germaine des Pres, Saint Sulpice, Saint Gervais accompanied by a flotilla of smaller sanctuaries such as the Sainte Chapelle, Saint Julien le Pauvre, Saint Étienne du Mont, Saint Séverin, Saint Merry, and countless others following in its wake are a reminder that Parisian Churches face east.  The same could be said for countless other cities in once-Catholic Europe—Prague, Vienna, Munich, Bamberg.  But curiously, it cannot be said for Rome. 
The orienting of the Churches was a widespread practice in the medieval world and, from the earliest days, an all-but-universal practice in the Christian East.  In these churches the congregation—and usually the priest—stood facing the Rising Sun to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice which that Rising Sun signifies.  But in Rome the ancient churches face every which way on the axis of the globe.  Saint Peter’ and Saint John Lateran face west!  (Of course, that does permit the bishop, when presiding versus Populum, at the main altar, to face east.)  Saint Mary Major’s faces north.  Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls on the Via Ostia is the only major basilica to face east—but even that church, in its original construction, faced west.  4th century San Martino ai Monti faces Northwest as does near by Santa Praessede.  Also nearby, Santa Croce in Gerusalmme, also 4th century faces southwest.  Santa Maria in Cosmedin faces southwest while nearby San Giorgio in Velabro faces almost due north. Across the Tiber, the very important 4th century basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere faces almost due west.  Santa Maria ad Martyres, better known as the Pantheon, faces south.  The incontrovertible historical/architectural evidence is that the orienting of churches was not  part of the tradition of the Roman Rite.
But the question of versus populum was not simply a matter of the direction of the church building.  Today when visiting the four great papal basilicas one can see before the central altar a large open well sunk into the floor and into which pilgrims can descend to venerate the relics that lay beneath the altar.  The position of this well, known as a confessio, makes it impossible for the presider to stand at the altar with his back to the people.  The confessio is not limited to the basilicas but can be found in other churches where as well.  Another common arrangement found at San Giorgio in Velabro and Santa Maria in Trastevere, features the altar flush with the front wall of an elevated presbyterium.  Again, the space on the people’s side of the altar is nothing but open air and it is clear that these altars were designed for versus populum celebrations. 
Altars built for Mass versus populum were not limited to Rome—they seem to have been common in Ravenna, seat of the Imperial exarch as well, despite the dependency of Ravenna on Constantinople where ad orientem was a very important theological principle.  North of the Alps the ad orientem tradition took hold and it was only after the Reforms of the Council of Trent where many non-Roman features were introduced into the liturgy that the Roman Rite began celebrating with the priest facing away from the people.  In Rome, the papal altars continued to face the people for the celebration of Mass and in those ancient churches that were built for Mass versus populum the practice continued without comment or interruption.   In some churches such as San Martino ai Monti new altars were built that enabled the priest to celebrate ad apsidem, that is facing the rear wall of the church.

An interesting exception in Rome is the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.  The church was built when the papacy returned from Avignon and it was built by the Dominican friars.  The Dominicans had their own rite and like most medieval rites oriented the churches whenever possible.  Santa Maria Sopra Minerva was thus build facing east and presumably the altar was constructed for the ad orientem Mass.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

OK--What Is The Agenda Behind Cardinal Sarah and the "Ad Orientatem" Movement? III

First of all, before we get further into this discussion, let me lift—though only a bit—the veil of anonymity that I keep drawn so tightly about myself.  At the time I began this blog, I had both a desk job in Rome (though not at the Vatican proper) and a teaching position on a theology faculty. I also had a number of Krazies after me from various books, articles, talks, tapes etc. that I had done over the years.  In fact I began the blog primarily as a way of differentiating for the blog-audience the difference between authentic Catholic Tradition and 1950’s style American Catholic traditionalism represented by a variety of blog sites managed by under-catechized self-appointed arbiters of Catholic orthodoxy. It was important that I be very discreet as not to compromise either my bosses in Rome or my teaching position.  Well, I gave up my Rome job about eight years ago and more recently have retired from teaching.  I am still not willing to let “my reading public” know my exact identity, but let me say that I am a Roman Catholic priest in good standing and a member of a religious Order.  I have been a professed religious for just shy of fifty years and a priest for forty of those years.  As I am still active in priestly ministry with full faculties and in a somewhat unpredictable diocese—or rather, a diocese with a somewhat unpredictable bishop—I am not ready to give my exact identity or location.  I also want to point out that while I had never admitted to being a priest or religious, I had never said anything that denied it—though, some of the things I wrote implied that I was one of you (lay people, you know, the Church’s ο πολλοί, the Great Unwashed).  Anyway, I think we can now move on. 
 I am old enough to remember the Mass as it was before Vatican II.  I was an altar boy for that Mass.  I attended that Mass almost daily from the time I was eleven or twelve.  The first changes in the Liturgy after Vatican II took place in my sophomore year of high school but they were pretty minor—mostly some English during the Liturgy of the Word.  Now that I think of it however, that may have been the fundamental shift that passed unnoticed.  We used to speak of The Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful and now it had become, almost but not quite exactly corresponding to the above The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  In the “old Mass” there were no lay readers to do the readings.  There were no “Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist” to help with Holy Communion.  There were no Leaders of Song to facilitate congregational singing—there was almost never congregational singing.  When there was music, which was relatively rare, it was performed by the choir or some old warbler up in the loft squeaking through the Agnus Dei.  There were no ministers of hospitality.  (There were ushers but their job was limited to taking up the collection.)  The only lay helpers were the altar servers who were, for the most part, boys (sometimes men but never women or girls) dressed up as little priests with cassock and cotta.  (The Italian word for an altar server is cherichetto which means a “little cleric.”)  
The liturgy itself was in a language which relatively few—perhaps in an educated society like our own, 10%—could understand.  Moreover the prayers were recited, for the most part, in a sub secreto voice.  Granted, books could be purchased with vernacular translations but relatively few people bothered with these and busied themselves with private prayers of either a devotional or “meditation” nature while the priest “read Mass.”  Those in the sanctuary, especially the priest(s), were dressed very differently than those beyond.  While Catholics tended to dress better for Church in those days (though never as respectfully as our Protestant neighbors) the priestly robes were most often over the top with elaborate lace surplices and albs and outer vestments of silk, brocade, or even velvet. 
In the old Mass the liturgical action was confined to a space segregated from the faithful.  The area around the altar was walled off from the people by a boundary wall formed by the altar rail.  It was mean to be a boundary wall—the legislation was very clear that the space was to be enclosed, even where there was no communion rail, by a wall “of at least chest-height”—to keep out those who were not essential to the sacred action.  Women were rarely permitted within the sacred space—generally on their wedding day but otherwise no, though nuns (and in parishes, widows) could be permitted in to clean.  In other words, everything in the liturgy and its environment made it clear that the laity were there as observers of a sacred action which the clergy performed on their behalf. 
The Mass was a drama in which the priest approached God on behalf of the people, interceding for them, bringing them assurances of the Divine mercy, and feeding them (literally feeding—from his hand to their mouth) with the Bread of Life.  All depended on the priest.  He was the intercessor, the mediator of grace.  From his sacred hands salvation was dispensed.  The welfare of the people, indeed their only hope for eternal life, was literally at his hands.
And so the Fathers generally lived in comfortable rectories built to give each priest a suite of rooms.  They were provided three cooked meals a day.  There was a housekeeper for their laundry and to keep their quarters clean.  They drove comfortable black sedans, wore good suits with straw hats in summer and homburgs in winter.  Should Father condescend to visit your home—in some places they were not allowed to save to bring communion to the sick or anoint the dying—he was offered the best food and beverage you could provide and he never left without an “Irish handshake” that left you ten or twenty dollars lighter in day in a day when that was real money. 
To be fair, if privileged, the life of a priest was not necessarily easy. There were poor parishes and rural churches to which troublemaking priests could be assigned without the comforts of life in an established and staffed rectory. Pastors ruled the roost and often bullied their assistants with ridiculous rules and curfews.  Once the morning Masses were over there was precious little to do.   This was before the era of liturgy committees, parish councils, finance boards, baptismal preparation classes, school boards, and other collaboration with the parishioners in parish matters.  A night out might mean an Altar and Rosary Society meeting or leading the rosary at a wake.  Days off were one a week—and not an overnight; it began after your morning mass and ended at the time the pastor’s curfew designated.  And, of course, a day off usually meant a day with Mom and Dad—maybe doctors’ appointments or going along to visit childless great-aunt Bea who was rumored to be worth “a couple hundred thou.”  No wonder alcoholism was rampant. 

But still it was a charmed life of being admired and kept comfortably away from want or need.  My experience is, however, that very few priests who experienced that life want to go back to it but there are those younger clergy who see that today you could have the privilege without the restrictions.  The trick is—how to recover the magic and reendow the priesthood with it.  One way, of course, is the Pope Francis way for the clergy to once again earn the respect of the faithful by giving the example of a life rooted in the gospel we preach.  The other way, the Cardinal Sarah way, is to make the Liturgy once again a magical act within the sole power of the priest and upon which all are dependent for salvation.  Magic is so much more fun—and far less hard work—than the Gospel.