Archive for liturgy
And More on Media at Homilies
ROME, SEPT. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Could you clarify why three cloths are used on the altar? We have a discussion ongoing in our parish where there are two schools of thought: Either this has a symbolic reference to the Trinity or, alternatively, has a symbolism linked to the shroud cloths of Christ. — A.F., Sheffield, England
A: The question of cloths on the altar is dealt with in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 304, which states:
“Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered on an altar where this memorial is celebrated, there should be at least one white cloth, its shape, size, and decoration in keeping with the altar’s design. When, in the dioceses of the United States of America, other cloths are used in addition to the altar cloth, then those cloths may be of other colors possessing Christian honorific or festive significance according to longstanding local usage, provided that the uppermost cloth covering the mensa (i.e., the altar cloth itself) is always white in color.”
Therefore, only one white cloth is obligatory in the present rite unlike the extraordinary form of the Roman rite (the Missal of John XXIII) which specifies three cloths, one of which covers the entire altar table and hangs down the sides almost to the floor. The other two cover at least the table or the stone containing the sacred relic.
The attribution of possible symbolic references for these cloths is not uniform and their history is often entangled. Sometimes in liturgy an object is first used for one reason, for example, covering a sacred object with a cloth as a sign of respect and care.
This was a fairly common practice in the ancient world and is not exclusive to Christianity or even to the specifically religious sphere. It was sometimes applied to civil objects such as symbols of authority or formal copies of imperial decrees.
During the Middle Ages many well-established liturgical customs were interpreted allegorically as bearing on some doctrinal aspect or representing some moment of the Redemption.
In this way some authors interpreted objects such as the altar cloths as representing the Lord’s shroud, others as the Trinity. Finally, the allegorical interpretation was sometimes reinforced by being incorporated into the design and decoration of the object itself.
The Church itself has usually refrained from granting official sanction to these allegorical interpretations. In some cases more than one interpretation might be legitimate and even useful for illustrating some particular doctrinal point. In other cases excessive use of allegory can even lead us to miss the main theological point, for example, in explaining the essentially sacrificial nature of the Mass.
Another cloth which may be used on the altar is the antependium, or frontal, which hangs down in front of the altar, usually reaching the ground.
In the Western tradition, it is white or some similar color although in some countries it follows the seasonal liturgical color. It may be adorned or embroidered according to local custom and culture. An antependium enhances the dignity of the altar and helps to clearly define the liturgical season.
Other practical cloths may also be placed on the altar such as an under-cloth and a dust cover which is placed over the altar cloth when not in use so as to keep it clean at all times.
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Follow-up: Slide Shows at Homilies
In response to our piece on slide shows during homilies (Sept. 4) a reader from Evansville, Indiana, mentioned a case which went beyond a presentation: “Once, our parish priest replaced the homily with a film. As you noted that images may remind people of television, this action by our priest reminded me of a movie theater. It was as if I were watching a movie that did not interest me. While the lights in the church were dimmed, I am sure others felt the same way and some of them may have even taken a short nap in the darkness.”
While the homily may not be the place for the use of such media as DVD’s and presentations, they can be most useful evangelization tools in other contexts such as catechesis and the continual Christian formation of adults. As another reader pointed out, such modern means are “easy to use, pleasant to view, and draw wonderfully focused lessons and applications. They are often prepared by religious sisters and are the fruit of a lifetime of professional communication in the classroom.”
If truly useful, it is even possible to use such means in the church, as it is not always possible or practical to convoke the people at other times or venues. For example, with adequate foresight the pastor could invite the faithful to remain a few minutes after Mass to view a video or presentation on some topic of pastoral or spiritual concern.
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.
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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
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.
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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.
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Readers may send questions to email@example.com. 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.
And More on the Corporal
ROME, AUG. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I am interested in the ministry of sacristan but can find no information in any detail as to what a sacristan does. It seems that each parish is different. The only thing I find is in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) at No. 105. Can you say more about this? — R.S., Fargo, North Dakota
A: The aforementioned text of GIRM, No. 105, says: “The following also exercise a liturgical function: The sacristan, who carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things necessary in the celebration of Mass.”
This is further developed in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 37.
This book spells out that the sacristan, always under the general direction of the clergy, undertakes the overall preparation of liturgical celebrations, including all that is needed for special days such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday.
The sacristan thus arranges the books needed for the celebration, marking all of the divisions. He or she lays out the vestments and anything else needed for the celebration, such as cruets, chalices, ciboria, linens, oils, processional crosses, candles and torches.
He or she also takes care of the ringing of bells that announce the celebrations. The sacristan should ensure the observance of silence in the sacristy.
The sacristan in harmony with the pastor also makes sure that the vestments, church furnishings, liturgical vessels and decorative objects are kept in good condition and, if necessary, sent for gilding or repair.
Other practical indications apart from these official recommendations are that the sacristan ensures that the things necessary for worship are always available. There should be a ready supply of fresh hosts and of duly authorized wine, sufficient clean purificators, corporals, hand towels, incense and coals.
In this context the sacristan is responsible for making sure that those who wash the altar linens do so according to the indications of the missal and that the water for the first wash is poured down the sacrarium or to the earth. The sacristan also takes care of burning old linens and other objects that are no longer suitable for liturgical use.
He or she also makes sure that the sanctuary lamp has sufficient oil, that the altar cloths are changed regularly, and that the holy water stoups are clean and replenished frequently.
The pastor may also decide to entrust other responsibilities to the sacristan. This might include coordinating others who help with the general decor of the church, such as cleaners and flower arrangers. The sacristan might also maintain the practical dealings with external agents such as funeral directors and photographers so that proper decorum is maintained at all times.
In order to carry out these duties, the sacristan needs to have a fairly good idea of the content and norms of the principal liturgical books and an understanding of the intricacies of the liturgical calendar.
A good sacristan is a boon to any parish and, as the GIRM says, the post fulfills a true liturgical function. As the Ceremonial of Bishops states: “The adornment and decor of a church should be such as to make the church a visible sign of love and reverence toward God” (No. 38).
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Follow-up: On Changing the Corporal
Several readers wrote for further clarifications regarding the proper use of the corporal (July 17).
A deacon commented: “I often find particles remaining on the corporal after Mass. This is a concern to me, because the corporal is left on the altar, and then the book of the Gospels is placed on top of the corporal … so I always clear any particles, some which can be substantial in size, from the corporal before or after Mass. Your response to the initial question on corporals indicates that the corporal may be folded up, and set aside to be reused at a later Mass. Presumably, the corporal would thus sit in a cabinet in the sacristy until the next Mass. But, if, in fact, particles are remaining in the folded-up corporal, as is often the case, it does not seem that a cabinet or other storage drawer is the proper place to leave the Eucharist. Of course, it is better than leaving the corporal on the altar … but if the purpose of a corporal is to ‘catch’ particles of the host, then why would we not treat those particles with the same care as we do the particles which remain in the vessels we purify?”
Any visible fragments remaining on the corporal should be removed and placed in the chalice for purification. Yet, liturgical practice has generally considered that the careful folding and opening of the corporal is sufficient and that no disrespect is shown by carefully keeping the corporal in the sacristy.
Until recently, however, between Masses the corporal used at the Eucharistic celebration was enclosed in a special holder called a burse out of respect and this custom may be maintained.
With respect to its care, Trimeloni’s preconciliar 1,000-page compendium of practical liturgical norms recommended a monthly wash for corporals — and that at a time when hosts were placed directly upon the corporal itself.
Another reader asked about the correct way of folding a corporal. Here I defer to the indications provided by Monsignor (now Bishop) Peter J. Elliott in his practical ceremonies manual:
“a. Take the corporal (from the burse, if used) with your right hand, and place it flat at the center of the altar, still folded, approximately 15 cm. (5 inches) from the edge of the altar, or further if a large corporal is being unfolded.
“b. Unfold it, first to your left, then to your right, thus revealing three squares.
“c. Unfold the section farthest from you, away from yourself, thus making six squares visible.
“d. Finally, unfold the crease that is nearest to you, towards yourself, thus making all nine squares visible. Adjust the corporal so that it is about 3 cm. (an inch) from the edge of the altar.
“If there is a cross embroidered on one of the outer center squares, move the corporal around so that the cross is nearest to you.
“Although Hosts no longer rest directly on the corporal, it is still useful in the event that fragments may fall on it at the fraction or during the purifications, etc. Therefore, never flick a corporal open or shake it open in midair. Such an action would also show a lack of respect for the most sacred altar linen, which must always be used wherever a Mass is celebrated.
“To fold a corporal, reverse the above steps. Therefore fold the front three squares away from you, then fold the back three squares towards you and finally bring the right square and the left square onto the remaining central square to complete the process.
“If the corporal is brought to the altar in a burse, this may be placed flat, traditionally on the left of the corporal, away from the place where the missal rests. But it may be more conveniently placed on the right of the corporal, or a server may take it back to the credence table. When Mass is celebrated facing the altar, the empty burse traditionally rests upright against a candlestick or gradine (altar shelf), to the left of the corporal.”
And More on Concelebrants
ROME, JULY 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: A question has come up regarding the use of the word “sin” in the Gloria and “sins” in the Agnus Dei. Would you please explain the theological reason for this? — S.G., Colorado Springs, Colorado
A: I would be at a loss to explain the theological reason for this difference for the simple reason that I don’t believe there is much difference.
The difference is in the translation, not in the original Latin. The Latin in all three cases (counting the “This is the Lamb of God” that is said by the celebrant) uses the same plural form “peccata mundi.”
There is a discussion among the experts as to the best translation of this formula. Some sustain that it is best translated as a simple plural “sins.” Others render it as an abstract singular “sin,” meaning the totality of sin in the world.
This difference is seen in some other versions. The Italian missal translates the expressions each time as sins, “i peccati,” whereas the Spanish conveys it as sin, “el pecado.”
The first translation is perhaps closer to the literal sense and, being more concrete, it tends to includes not only the sins but in some way also refers to the sinners.
The second translation might lay greater stress on the universal and even cosmological effects of redemption, in the sense that Christ’s death and resurrection has also restored a certain sense of order to creation itself. It could be said that all things are recapitulated in Christ, to use an expression of St. Paul (Ephesians 1:10) which was later theologically developed by St. Ireneus of Lyon.
Both translations, however, essentially express the same underlying reality. It may be that the English translators Solomonically divided their options. But it might also mean no more than that different people were responsible for different parts of the missal and never got together to iron out the creases.
The most important thing is that Christ, the Lamb of God who died and rose for us, is the source of all salvation and has the power to effectively take away our sins, and all sin from the world. This power is exercised above all through the sacraments, especially the re-enactment of his paschal sacrifice that is the holy Mass.
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Follow-up: When Concelebrants Exit
Our July 10 column on ending a concelebrated Mass brought to light a couple of related topics.
A reader in Kuwait asked: “In India, it has become a common practice that instead of kissing the altar before and after Mass, priests touch the altar by their hands (fingers) and then touch their face with the fingers. Is this permitted?”
I must confess ignorance as to whether it is explicitly permitted, but I can help to find the answer.
The general norms for adaptation allow bishops’ conferences to propose changes to some rites and gestures of the Mass if a particular gesture common in Western culture is judged unsuitable or liable to misinterpretation in a different cultural context. Likewise the bishops could propose a different gesture which conveys the same meaning as the one replaced.
If two-thirds of the bishops vote in favor of the change, and it is later approved by the Holy See, it becomes particular liturgical law for the country in question.
In that case the change or adaptation must be incorporated in some way into the missal. This could be either as an addition to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), an appendix with local norms, or in the rubrics.
If there is no mention of any such change in the missal or in any published decrees of the bishops’ conference, then one may presume that it is a case of private initiative on the part of priests.
The priests are always free to propose to the bishops any worthwhile adaptation. But in the meantime they should return to approved norms.
A reader from Kalisz, Poland, asked: “Paragraph No. 275 of the GIRM says that ‘a bow of the head is made when the three divine Persons are named together and at the name of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Saint in whose honor the Mass is being celebrated.’ What about a case of a concelebrated Mass, when one of the concelebrants (or the main celebrant) recites his part and comes upon the name of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary or of the saint in whose honor the Mass is being celebrated — do all the concelebrants (and the main celebrant) bow their head at that moment, even though they are not reciting that particular word? Or does this norm only apply to the priest who recites the particular word in a given moment?”
Only the priest who recites the text makes the bow at this moment. When a bow is foreseen in prayers said by all together, then all make the bow.