Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

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“Brothers” or “Sisters”

And More on Breast-Beating

ROME, JAN. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q1: During the celebration of the Eucharist, when the Confiteor is said, I have been observing in formation houses and religious communities that if the congregation consists only of males they say, “I confess …, and to you my brothers,” and if females only they say, “I confess …, and to you my sisters.” Is this practice correct? — T. P. Shillong, India

Q2: At Mass, at the penitential rite, I have seen priests, when saying, “May Almighty God have mercy … ever-lasting life” raise their hands as a kind of blessing or absolution. Is that proper? — A.P., Margate, Florida

A: The first question involves the particularities of the English language. In many languages, the masculine form does double duty and can refer to just males or to a mixed group. Thus, for example, in Latin, Spanish and Italian it is only necessary to use the equivalent of “brothers” to refer to the whole assembly.

In English “brethren” can serve this purpose and in fact may be used to introduce the penitential rite. However, perhaps for stylistic reasons, it was not included as part of the “I confess.” Thus in the English translation we say “brothers and sisters.”

Some contextual adaptation is foreseen in the rubrics, when Mass is celebrated with only one acolyte. In this case priest and acolyte say “to you my brother” in the singular. Therefore, I think it is theoretically possible for a male community to use simply “brothers” when no women are present.

Another question is whether it is pastorally advisable to do so given that liturgical expressions are habit-forming. If, on some occasion, there are men or women from outside the community present at the celebration, then the change could easily lead to confusion.

The case is different for a female community because at Mass at least one brother will always be present, the celebrating priest. Therefore the standard formula should be used. Nor, as a general rule, should the priest change the gender of the liturgical greetings if celebrating for a women’s community.

With regards to the second question, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 51, reminds us: “Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession. The rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.”

No gesture is prescribed in the rubrics, and it is presumed that the priest will remain with hands joined. Any gesture which might imply that the words grant absolution should be avoided so as not to confuse the faithful.

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Follow-up: Breast-Beating During the Confiteor

In the wake of our opinion (see Dec. 13) that the new translation of the Confiteor (“I confess”) would allow for a triple striking of the breast, several readers pointed out an official reply from the Holy See on this topic which I had overlooked.

As one California reader pointed out: “Not that I like this responsum, but it is the final word that I know of on this. Gerunds, etc., are speculative; this is direct and clear.”

The text, published in Notitiae 14 (1978), 534-535, says:

“n. 10. In pronouncing certain formulas as in, e.g., the Confiteor, the Agnus Dei, and the Domine non sum dignus, whether on the part of priests or on the part of the faithful, the gestures accompanying the words are not always performed the same. Some strike their breast with a triple strike when saying the aforementioned formulas, others once. Which practice seems that it should legitimately be retained?

“Resp.

“In this case it will help to remember these things:

“1) Gestures and words often tend to give significance to one another.

“2) In this matter, as in others, the liturgical restoration has pursued truth and simplicity according to the passage of Sacrosanctum Concilium: «The rites should be resplendent in their noble simplicity …» (SC, 34).

“While in the Roman Missal promulgated by the authority of the Council of Trent the words were very frequently also accompanied by minute gestures, the rubrics of the Roman Missal restored by the authority of the Second Vatican Council are noteworthy for their discretion with regard to gestures.

“Having said this:

“a) The words mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa which are found in the Confiteor are introduced in the restored Roman Missal by a rubric of this sort: All likewise … striking their breast, say … (OM, n. 3). In the former Missal, in the same place, the rubric read like this: He strikes his breast three times. It does not seem, therefore, that anyone has to strike his breast three times in pronouncing those words in Latin or in another language, even if mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa is said. It suffices that there be a striking of the breast.

“It is obvious also that only one gesture suffices in those languages in which the words for showing one’s fault have been rendered in a more simple manner, as, for example, in English, «I have sinned through my own fault», or in French, «Oui, j’ai vraiment peche».

“b) The discretion of the restored Roman Missal is shown to be noteworthy also in the other texts mentioned, namely the Agnus Dei and the Domine, non sum dignus which by words of penitence and humility in one way or another accompany the breaking of the bread and the invitation to the faithful to receive the Eucharist.

“As it was said in response n. 2 of the Commentary «Notitiae» 1978, p. 301: where the rubrics of the Missal of Paul VI say nothing, it must not therefore be inferred that it is necessary to observe the old rubrics. The restored Missal does not supplement the old one but has replaced it. In reality, the Missal formerly indicated at the Agnus Dei, striking the breast three times, and in pronouncing the triple Domine, non sum dignus, striking the breast … says three times. Since, however, the new Missal says nothing about this (OM 131 and 133), there is no reason to suppose that any gesture should be added to these invocations.”

I had already mentioned in my earlier reply that a single striking was a valid interpretation, and this official response confirms this.

At the same time, I think this official pronouncement fails the reality test. More than 33 years have gone by since the response was issued and practically everybody using Latin, Spanish and Italian strike their breasts three times at the Confiteor, no matter what the rubric says or fails to say.

I think that the same is going to happen in English now that the triple form is restored, and it would be an exercise in futility on behalf of bishops and priests to attempt to oblige the faithful to do otherwise.

Nor would I consider the attempt a good thing in itself. People will naturally do this, and I believe it makes the sign of striking the breast more meaningful.

The present rubrics are clear about not striking of the breast during the Lamb of God, and the practice is now uncommon. The fact that the Agnus Dei is often sung makes it less natural to strike the breast than in the staccato beat of the Confiteor.

At the same time, there are very good arguments to defend the practice. The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for example, wrote the following in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy: “During the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), we look upon him who is the Shepherd and for us became the Lamb and as Lamb, bore our iniquities. At this moment it is only right and proper that we should strike our breasts and remind ourselves, even physically, that our iniquities lay on his shoulder, that ‘with his stripes we are healed'” (page 207).

When an Orthodox Joins the Catholic Church

And More on Deacons

ROME, OCT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the procedure for a person who was baptized Macedonian Orthodox and who now wants to be received into the Roman Catholic Church? — F.F., Toronto

A: In the vast majority of cases Orthodox Christians have been validly baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist from infancy, and thus do not have to receive any of these sacraments.

Likewise, Catholic canon law allows a Catholic priest to administer the sacraments of Eucharist, reconciliation and anointing to Orthodox Christians if their own minister is unavailable or for other just causes. (Most Orthodox Churches, however, do not approve of their faithful availing of this possibility.)

For this reason Orthodox Christians intending to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church would usually be able to participate in the Church’s sacramental life even before their formal incorporation, either in the Latin rite or in an Eastern Catholic rite.

Prior to formal incorporation, they would still require a dispensation from the bishop before entering into marriage and a man could not enter into seminary formation. Nor could they receive any formal ministry.

The specific process for incorporating a baptized Eastern Christian is covered above all in the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, canons 35 and 896-901.

Canon 896 specifies that for those adult Christians (beyond 14 years) “who ask of their own accord to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, whether as individuals or as groups, no burden is to be imposed beyond what is necessary.”

Canon 897 indicates that the Christian may be received “With only the profession of faith after a doctrinal and spiritual preparation that is suited to the person’s condition.”

With respect to individual laypersons the right to receive usually pertains to the pastor although in some cases particular law might reserve this admission to a higher authority (cf. Canon 898.3).

Canon 35, however, is important because it specifies that baptized non-Catholics entering into full communion “should retain their own rite and should observe it everywhere in the world as far as humanly possible. Thus they are to be ascribed to the Church ‘sui iuris’ of the same rite.”

When the person wishes not only to become Catholic but to change to the Latin rite, the same canon recognizes the right to approach the Holy See (the Congregation for Eastern Churches) in special cases.

Therefore, in the case at hand, the simplest thing to do is to approach the Eastern eparchy most closely resembling his original rite in order to be admitted into the Catholic Church in accordance with the dispositions of the pastor.

Once admitted, he should continue to practice the faith in the corresponding Eastern rite. But he may also freely practice in the Latin rite for a just cause, for example, if there were no churches of his own rite within a reasonable distance.

In order to formally switch rites, he would need to recur to the Holy See as mentioned above.

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Follow-up: What a Deacon Can Do

Two readers offered friendly criticism of an expression used in my Oct. 2 column on what a deacon can and cannot do.

One wrote: “Father McNamara says that the deacon is of a ‘lower grade’ of order than a priest. While such a designation might be accurate in terms of reflecting the liturgical faculties associated with the diaconate, it seems to suggest that a deacon is in some way subservient to a priest, which I believe is a trivialization of the ordained ministry of service. Rather than a strict hierarchical construct in which the line might be a straight one from bishop to priest to deacon, my understanding of the diaconate, traditionally and in our contemporary context, is that the ordained deacon is directly accountable to the bishop. That is, of a class of order unique to itself.”

Another added: “You state that the deacon is a lower grade than a priest. ‘Lumen Gentium,’ No. 29, does indeed say ‘at a lower level of hierarchy are deacons,’ but it does go on to say ‘in communion with the Bishop and the presbyterate.’ So though there is a hierarchical difference between deacon and priest, and of course bishop and priest, there is also a fundamental unity and communion. Talk of lower grades by itself does not seem to me to do justice to this understanding of Vatican II.

“I do not think priests would welcome being told they are a lower grade than bishops, full stop. That would again not do justice to a proper understanding of priesthood and their share in the high priesthood of Christ to which a bishop is ordained.” The writer went on to say that a deacon is an ordained minister, who, like a priest, shares in the apostolic ministry of the Church “but with a distinct, different and differentiated but not lesser ministry than the priest.”

While I appreciate both the interest and the sincere friendliness of these observations, I believe that the term is technically accurate from the point of view of the sacrament of orders. Bishop, priest and deacon are not three separate sacraments but different levels (or grades or degrees) of the one sacrament of holy orders.

Each level has its own value and its proper sphere of ministry and specific liturgical functions. Yet, they are not simply three distinct modes of orders but are indeed hierarchically structured. The deacon has many particular functions, but insofar as he is at the service of the Eucharistic mystery his ministry necessarily depends upon and is related to the priestly ministry, not as subservience but as service.

Given that the Eucharist is the center and lifeblood of the Church, all other possible diaconal ministries such as celebrating baptism and matrimony ultimately flow from the priest’s Eucharistic ministry.

However, the priest’s Eucharistic ministry, and hence the deacon’s relatedness to him, in turn depends on the bishop and finally upon Christ himself as the foundation of all the sacraments.

In this sense of sacramental and hierarchical communion and interdependence, it is no slight to a deacon to state the fact that his is a lower grade of the sacrament of orders, just as the priest’s dignity is in no way demeaned by saying that he is at a lower grade of orders compared to the bishop. This is implied in the Latin text of the prayer of priestly ordination which asks that the candidate receive the second grade or degree of priestly ministry.

For this reason I believe that our first correspondent’s affirmation regarding the deacon and priest’s direct accountability to the bishop confuses two distinct spheres. One thing is that all clerics depend directly upon the bishop with regard to assignments and ministries; another is the specific liturgical functions, which depend on the nature of the sacrament itself.

As stated in the previous article, among the practical consequences of this sacramental reality is that the deacon should not ordinarily preside over the assembly whenever a priest is present and available, just as a priest should not normally preside over the assembly in the presence of a bishop.

There may be some legitimate exceptions to this general rule, but I believe that it is important to recognize that this rule is grounded in the nature of the sacrament and is not a mere question of protocol and human criteria.



Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

 

And More on Devotions During Mass

ROME, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Our parish has one Mass in Spanish. None of the priests and deacons is a native Hispanic, but the priests make every effort on their part to say Mass in Spanish. They are improving. I am one of the deacons and am fluent in Spanish, having lived in Spanish-speaking countries for several years. The pastor has his English homilies translated into Spanish. I read the Gospel in Spanish and sit down while a native Spanish-speaking layman reads the homily. Another priest has his English homily translated also, but he reads it himself. Is it permitted for the layperson to read the homily? — R.M., Huntersville, North Carolina

A: In first place, one must duly recognize the zeal and effort made by many English-speaking priests in the United States to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Spanish-speaking population.

Learning a new language is never easy, and doing so when one is already advanced in life is yet more daunting.

That said, I do not believe that having a layperson read out a translation of a homily is a viable solution. It is likely to cause confusion and leave the impression that the layperson is actually giving the homily itself, a practice which has been repeatedly prohibited.

Also, a homily is more that just a text that is read; it is closer to a conversation, a personal communication in which the ordained minister explains God’s word and exhorts the faithful to live in accordance with what they have heard. Therefore the personal element is very relevant to the efficacy of the communication itself.

With this in mind the best solution is always that the priest read his prepared text. My experience with Spanish speakers is that they are almost universally grateful and edified when the minister makes the effort to speak in their language. They are also very tolerant and forgiving of errors and slip-ups.

While having the deacon read the text avoids the problem of confusing ministerial roles, it is still an imperfect solution from the personal communicative point of view.

Since the deacon may also give the homily, it would probably be better that the pastor entrust him with this task until he acquires a sufficient dominion of the language. Of course, the pastor could indicate to the deacon the principal ideas that he would like the deacon to develop in the homily he delivers.

Another, less perfect, but legitimate, solution would be to deliver the homily in English while someone else, either the deacon or a layperson, either simultaneously translates the homily or reads a prepared text afterward. This kind of solution is more common when the Mass is celebrated by a foreign ecclesiastical dignitary who preaches in a language unknown to most of the hearers.

There might, however, be some extraordinary cases when the homily may be simply read by someone else due to some impediment on the part of the celebrant. This was the case in the final years of Pope John Paul II when his ability to speak clearly was increasingly impaired by illness.

There are many useful pastoral resources available on the Internet for priests and deacons. One of these, ePriest, has a special section offering Spanish-language homilies in text and audio.

* * *

Follow-up: Novenas and Devotions During Mass

In the wake of our column on mixing devotions and Mass (Aug. 28) a priest from Conway Springs, Kansas, asked for a clarification.

I had written: “[I]t is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass.” Our correspondent asked: “Could you clarify the difference between ‘non-liturgical litanies’ and ‘liturgical litanies’? Are the only ‘liturgical litanies’ those in the sacramentary (e.g., at the Easter Vigil or an ordination)? I was taught that certain litanies, such as of the Sacred Heart, were approved for use within a liturgy of the Church.”

By “liturgical litanies” I referred to the various litanies specifically found in the liturgical books for the celebration of Mass as well as other sacraments (such as baptism, ordination and anointing of the sick) and sacramentals, such as the crowning of an image of Our Lady.

These would be the only litanies used as a specific rite within Mass, although some other forms of prayer, such as the prayer of the faithful and the Kyrie, are also technically litanies.

As our correspondent says, there are other approved litanies that may be used in public worship, such as during exposition (if consonant with the aims of adoration) and other public devotions and novenas. The principal approved litanies are found in the Roman Ritual and are also listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences (concession 22.2 partial indulgence).

The litanies (liturgical and devotional) thus universally approved are the litanies of the Holy Name, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Precious Blood, Blessed Virgin Mary (those of Loreto and the Queenship, which is used as part of the order of crowning an image), St. Joseph and All Saints.

Many other litanies have been approved either for private use of the faithful or in some cases for particular groups.

Among such litanies are the litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim, much beloved by Pope John Paul II, and the litany of Divine Mercy, both of which are often prayed in common. Others, usually prayed privately by individuals, include the litany of the Holy Spirit, of the Infant Jesus, of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Passion, and for the souls in purgatory.

The distinction between private and public use derives above all from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1259.2). It forbade the public recitation of litanies that had not been approved by the Holy See. This prohibition included not only the public recitation of unapproved litanies by priests but extended to particular groups of the faithful who prayed in common without an ordained minister present.

This canon has not been retained in the present code. And while the law today is somewhat more flexible, it does not necessarily mean that all litanies formally approved for private use can now be publicly used.

There were and are good reasons for not multiplying the number of public litanies. Canon 839.2 of the 1983 Code directs the local ordinary to assure that “the prayers and pious and sacred exercises of the Christian people are fully in keeping with the norms of the Church.”



Slide Shows at Homilies

Slide Shows at Homilies

And More on Sacristans

ROME, SEPT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are there guidelines for slide shows shown during the homily at Mass? Are there guidelines for who (pastor/bishop) can authorize slide shows? Are there guidelines for the music played during a slide show? Is it OK to have a slide show and no homily? — M.M., Howell, New Jersey

Q: Each year, in our archdiocese, on two Sundays the homily at all the Masses is replaced by a recorded fund-raising appeal, one for the archdiocesan annual appeal and one for Catholic Charities. The celebrant does not give a separate homily. In the past it has been an audio recording; one year it was to be a video. I am not at all opposed to giving money to the archdiocesan appeal and Catholic Charities, but this seems like an abuse of the rubrics for Mass. — B.W., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

A: The most recent norms regarding the homily are found in the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum.” Here are two key norms:

“[64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, ‘should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.’

“[67.] Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other rite of the Church. It is clear that all interpretations of Sacred Scripture are to be referred back to Christ himself as the one upon whom the entire economy of salvation hinges, though this should be done in light of the specific context of the liturgical celebration. In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.”

It is clear, therefore, that the priest or deacon who gives the homily must be physically present. Thus, tapes or videos cannot replace the homily.

Likewise the proper place for an appeal is preferably after the post-Communion prayer, although in some cases a priest may effectively tie in a direct appeal with the themes of the liturgy during the homily. If a taped appeal is to be made, a priest may shorten his homily so as not to prolong the Mass.

It could be argued that when the bishop himself makes the tape or video, it is merely a modern version of a pastoral letter. These letters, which the bishop addresses to the whole diocese as its pastor, usually deal with matters of particular concern. Because of their importance they are sometimes read out at Mass in place of the homily.

A case could be made for this argument, but I believe that when dealing with regular annual appeals, and not some particular pastoral concern, it is still better to place them at the end of Mass and not replace the homily.

I am unaware of specific norms regarding the use of slide shows or presentations. But the norms above would certainly exclude the substitution of the homily by a presentation.

Another question is if they may be used as aids to the homily. The question has been debated among pastoral liturgists and I find the arguments against their use more convincing.

Images tend to remind people of television and thus they tend to induce a passivity that distracts from the core message being transmitted by the words.

Some would argue that “an image is worth a thousand words,” but this is a fallacy for whatever message is suggested by an image is understood in words by our linguistic intelligence. We think and hear in words, and nothing is understood without words. The spoken word is indispensable for all interpersonal communication.

Faith, as St. Paul said, is transmitted above all by hearing — which is one reason why preaching has always been privileged in Church practice.

* * *

Follow-up: A Sacristan’s Duties

After our piece on the duties of the sacristan (Aug. 21) a priest kindly notified us of a useful resource for sacristans. He wrote:

“Here is another resource for you in reference to the sacristan question. There is a manual called ‘The Sacristy Manual,’ published by Liturgy Training Publications, by G. Thomas Ryan. It gives some valuable information.”

It is worthwhile mentioning that several Catholic publishing houses have issued useful liturgical guidebooks and resources addressing various aspects of liturgical service. For example, Paulist Press published this year W.T. Ditewig’s “The Deacon at Mass,” a very recommendable theological and practical guide to what the deacon should and should not do.

I would probably quibble with the author regarding a couple of minor technicalities, but then liturgists are wont to quibble over such things.

* * *

Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.



Novenas and Devotions During Mass

And More on “Sin” and “Sins”

ROME, AUG. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I have seen novenas prayed together by the congregation, led by the priest directly after the Gospel of a weekday Mass. Is this correct? — C.H., Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Q: I was wondering if it is appropriate to insert the Chaplet of Divine Mercy into the liturgy? Our parish recited this after the homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, led by our pastor. It seemed as if a beautiful, but optional, devotion was forced on a captive congregation. — L.S., Hutchinson, Kansas

A: This topic referred to in these two questions is dealt with in the December 2001 document “Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy,” published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

No. 13 of this document states: “The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.

“On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.

“Since, on the other [hand], pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of ‘liturgical celebration’ on them are always to be avoided.”

Therefore it is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass; this mixing respects neither the nature of the Eucharistic celebration nor the essence of the pious exercise. Novenas or non-liturgical litanies may, however, be recited immediately before or after Mass.

Some readers ask if devotions may be carried out during Eucharistic adoration. The above-mentioned directory suggests in No. 165: “Gradually, the faithful should be encouraged not to do other devotional exercises during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” It adds, however: “Given the close relationship between Christ and Our Lady, the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption.”

Although the rosary is the only devotion specifically mentioned, it is possible that other devotions that can likewise be given a Christological orientation. These include novenas in preparation for Christmas and other feasts, which could be used as vocal prayers and acclamations immediately before Benediction.

This would not be the case for a novena or devotion to a particular saint.

* * *

Follow-up: Gloria’s “Sin” and Agnus Dei’s “Sins”

Pursuant to our debate (July 24) on whether the Latin “peccata mundi” should be translated “sin” or “sins” of the world, an Indian priest from Mumbai sent in the following reflection (excerpted here) which I gladly share:

“There has always been confusion among quite a few on the singular and the plural aspect of sin. The English text of Scripture, which is faithful to the original, always uses the singular aspect of sin when it talks of the role of Agnus Dei (John 1:29,36).

“There is a sin which is referred to in the singular sense and there are sins which plurally mean the many areas of sins we as human beings commit. The singular normally refers to the original sin committed by our first parents and now through conception passed on to us.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to destroy this work of the devil (1 John 3:8), that is,

1) The darkness of evil that prevents us to have a right knowledge of God. Jesus repairs this flaw by revealing to us God as Abba Father and giving us his Spirit that bears witness with our spirit, even calling God Abba Father.

2) His shedding of blood and death is that ransom taking us out from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his beloved. This for us is the beginning of a new life sealed with Christ’s life in baptism that has to now struggle against the concupiscence of sin.

“The proclamation of the Gospel is an invitation to faith and reconciliation and is made complete through baptism. The sacraments, especially of reconciliation, are primarily our constant struggle against the concupiscence of sin. This is where the dividing line of sin and sins diminishes, where ultimately they are one reality.”

* * *

Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.




Veneration of Altar at End of Mass


And More on Concelebrants From Different Rites

ROME, JULY 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the procedure for the veneration of the altar by concelebrants at the end of Mass? Do all concelebrants venerate the altar, or is this only reserved for the main celebrant? When concelebrating, I merely bow to the altar, but have noticed that many others kiss the altar. — M.C., Durban, South Africa

A: This topic is dealt with succinctly in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 251: “Before leaving the altar, the concelebrants make a profound bow to the altar. For his part the principal celebrant, along with the deacon, venerates the altar with a kiss in the usual way.”

Thus the principal celebrant kisses the altar, and simultaneously all concelebrants bow deeply. This norm presupposes that the concelebrants remain standing at their seats.

After making this bow, the concelebrants may leave the sanctuary in several ways, depending on the numbers involved and the logistics of the movements.

If there are many concelebrants, and the tabernacle is not present in the sanctuary, the bow they made as the principal celebrant kissed the altar may be considered as sufficient, and they begin at once to leave their places in an orderly way, following the acolytes.

If the tabernacle is present in the sanctuary, then, after kissing the altar, the main celebrant goes to the front of the altar and all the concelebrants, remaining at their places, may genuflect along with him before beginning the exit procession. If this is likely to cause logistical difficulties, or if there is no space in which to genuflect, then it is sufficient for the principal concelebrant to make the genuflection.

If there are few concelebrants, then they line up with the principal celebrant and servers in front of the altar and all bow or genuflect together as the case may be.

Monsignor Peter J. Elliott describes some other particular cases in his ceremonies guide, in Nos. 449-450. He states:

“If a long recessional hymn is being sung, the concelebrants may come before the altar in twos and bow or genuflect in pairs. In this case, the servers leading them to the sacristy should move slowly, so as to avoid breaking up the procession. If there are many concelebrants, and they are arranged in positions away from the sanctuary area, they may remain in their places until the principal celebrant and other concelebrants and servers have left the sanctuary and follow in a separate procession. However this is not ideal as it diminishes their role.

“On arriving in the sacristy, if there is room for them, the concelebrants should line up facing the crucifix or image or the processional cross, held by the cross bearer, and so as to allow the principal celebrant to come to the center of the room. All make the customary reverence together and then proceed quietly to the designated place or vesting room where each concelebrant un-vests, in a spirit of recollection and peace.”

* * *

Follow-up: Concelebrants From Different Rites

Along with the recent question on priests of different rites concelebrating (June 26), other queries have asked about the concelebration itself.

One priest asked for a clarification as to the concept “principal celebrant.” He wrote: “To me it seems that one is either a celebrant or not. This is particularly annoying in vesture. To distinguish between the celebrants seems to confuse the idea of a hierarchical liturgy. I understand the practicality of the distinction, but it seems that with the frequency of concelebration, concelebrants seem like ‘secondary’ ministers not equal in dignity to the celebrant — the bishop being a different matter altogether is understood.”

Of course, except in the case of a bishop, all priest concelebrants have the same dignity and all equally celebrate. This is emphasized by such details as the priest who reads the Gospel not asking for a blessing from another priest as he would from a bishop.

However, when the Church restored the practice of concelebration it decided that the model for all concelebrations would be the Mass presided over by the bishop.

This principle, as well as the need to preserve the unity and dignity of the celebration, resulted in the decision not to divide the principal rites and prayers among several priests. Rather, only one of them would carry them out, except for some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer.

This priest, who is called the principal celebrant, also establishes the basic rhythm of the celebration to which the other priests adjust.

Since it is he who presides over the assembly, it is congruous, but not strictly necessary, that he wear a different chasuble if all celebrants are fully vested. If the other concelebrants are wearing just an alb and stole, then he must wear a chasuble over the alb and stole.

This brings us to another related question from the Philippines: “Does the rule of wearing a proper vestment (alb, chasuble and stole) during concelebration apply to a Mass celebrated at a private chapel of the residence of priests? Will it be proper for a priest just to participate in the Mass without concelebrating?”

The Mass, even if celebrated in a private chapel, is always a public action of the Church and therefore the same rules apply everywhere.

The Church highly recommends daily Mass to all priests even if no congregation can be present, but it does not oblige the priest to celebrate. In this way a priest may simply attend a Mass.

Nevertheless, unless the priest has another Eucharistic celebration the same day, it is much better that he concelebrate rather than merely assist. In this way he can obtain more graces for souls in need, and thus more fully exercise his pastoral charity.

Concelebrants From Different Rites

And More on Consecrated Hosts

ROME, JUNE 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Are there special norms for the celebration of Mass when priests of different rites concelebrate? — A.E., New York

A: The 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite is silent regarding this subject, but it was specifically addressed in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated in 19–

Canon 701 of this code states: “For a just cause and with the permission of the eparchial bishop, bishops and presbyters of different churches ‘sui iuris’ can concelebrate, especially to foster love and to manifest the unity of the Churches. All follow the prescripts of the liturgical books of the principal celebrant, avoiding any liturgical syncretism whatever, and preferably with all wearing the liturgical vestments and insignia of their own Church ‘sui iuris.'”

Unlike most canons, this one lists no sources for its indications in earlier documents, thus confirming that it was specifically composed to address a relatively new situation. As it is the only norm available, its indications are also applicable to Roman-rite priests.

To this may be added the injunction of the instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” No. 113: “Where it happens that some of the Priests who are present do not know the language of the celebration and therefore are not capable of pronouncing the parts of the Eucharistic Prayer proper to them, they should not concelebrate, but instead should attend the celebration in choral dress in accordance with the norms.”

Therefore a priest, with sufficient dominion of the language, may receive permission to concelebrate in a Mass of a rite different from his own. This permission may be for a specific situation or habitual, as may be the case of some Eastern priests studying or residing in Latin-rite institutes or priestly residences.

The priest should normally participate in the vestments of his own rite, as was clearly visible in Pope John Paul II’s funeral and Benedict XVI’s installation Mass where each of the Eastern cardinals who concelebrated wore his own proper vestments.

Canon 7–2 of the Eastern code, however, allows for exceptions to be made to this rule if proper vestments are unavailable. This could easily happen to an Eastern priest traveling in Europe or America or, less likely, a Latin-rite priest in an Eastern country. In such cases he may concelebrate using Latin or Eastern vestments.

As the canon says, there should be no attempt to syncretize or mix elements of different rites. Only one rite may be followed.

The texts and rubrics of some Eastern rites have been translated into several languages. In some cases these translations are for study purposes only, and priests may never concelebrate using a translation that has not been formally approved for liturgical use by the proper authorities.

* * *

Follow-up: When a Host Isn’t Swallowed

Some readers took umbrage toward the affirmation in our June 12 column on corruption of the host: that Christ’s real presence would no longer subsist in a microscopic fragment of the host.

A clarifying link to an earlier reply was provided in the earlier piece. However, given that not all of our readers have access to the Internet, I will restate the essential point here.

My reply was principally based on an application of the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologiae” III pars q — In the corpus of the fourth article of this question, “Whether the sacramental species can be corrupted,” the Angelic Doctor affirms:

“An accident can be corrupted in another way, through the corruption of its subject, and in this way also they can be corrupted after consecration; for although the subject does not remain, still the being which they had in the subject does remain, which being is proper, and suited to the subject. And therefore such being can be corrupted by a contrary agent, as the substance of the bread or wine was subject to corruption, and, moreover, was not corrupted except by a preceding alteration regarding the accidents.

“Nevertheless, a distinction must be made between each of the aforesaid corruptions; because, when the body and the blood of Christ succeed in this sacrament to the substance of the bread and wine, if there be such change on the part of the accidents as would not have sufficed for the corruption of the bread and wine, then the body and blood of Christ do not cease to be under this sacrament on account of such change, whether the change be on the part of the quality, as for instance, when the color or the savor of the bread or wine is slightly modified; or on the part of the quantity, as when the bread or the wine is divided into such parts as to keep in them the nature of bread or of wine. But if the change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have been corrupted, then Christ’s body and blood do not remain under this sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the species of bread or wine no longer remain.”

Thus, our discussion dealt specifically with the theme of corruption of the host by reduction “to fine particles … that the species of bread no longer remain.”

This is a different question to that of Christ being really present in small particles or fragments of a host while retaining the species of bread. So long as the species of bread remains, Christ is really present and it is even possible to administer Communion to the sick or persecuted using very small pieces of hosts or even drops of Precious Blood.

Thus, while Christ would certainly not be present in microscopic or no longer visible fragments, it is almost impossible to establish a dividing line when dealing with small but visible particles — and the Church has never wished to pronounce on this theme.

In part this is due to the objective difficulty and danger in making such a demarcation, but also so as avoid giving any justification whatsoever for a lackadaisical manner of treating the sacred species.

Even when specifically asked about this question in the 1960s, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith merely recalled the necessity of observing due reverence for all fragments by carefully following all Church norms regarding the purification of sacred vessels and altar linens as well as the proper procedure for cleansing the area if a host should happen to fall to the floor.

I hope that this clarifies Church doctrine on this matter for our concerned readers. As for me, my intention is always to coincide with the Church’s teachings.