30 January 2014

Lost Feasts In Lent

I said last time that the calendar reform of the early twentieth century had seen a radical cull of Lenten feasts.  Here they are, with this year's dates.  (This is the order for England and Wales.)

Friday after Septuagesima
21 Feb
The Prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Sexagesima
28 Feb
The Most Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Quinquagesima
7 Mar
The Most Holy Crown of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after First Sunday of Lent
14 Mar
The Most Holy Spear and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Second Sunday of Lent
21 Mar
The Most Holy Winding Sheet of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Third Sunday of Lent
28 Mar
The Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Fourth Sunday of Lent
4 Apr
The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after Passion Sunday
11 Apr
(The Seven Sorrows of the BVM)

(The Feast of the Seven Sorrows is in brackets as it was retained when the others were abolished, though it was subsequently reduced to a Commemoration by Pope Pius XII and has been moved to 15 September as a Memorial in the post-VII calendar.)

Losing these feasts is an impoverishment: there are seven opportunities to preach, to catechise, to meditate on different aspects of Our Lord's Passion as Good Friday draws nearer, and on the final Friday, to join Our Lady in contemplating her seven sorrows; and while there is no reason why we shouldn't mark these Feasts on their traditional days, I doubt that many of us will, mainly because they are no longer part of the geography of our lives. 

Each of the twentieth century's calendar reforms, which aimed at simplification, took away, but didn't replace.  Simplification became reduction.  In stripping away "superfluous" Feasts, the thing they commemorated was gradually forgotten.

This isn't a plea to bring back the Calendar of Leo XIII - well ... I suppose we could do worse than compare the starkly empty 2014 Ordo with what it would have looked like 110 years previously.  But I'd rather think about how the Church might revitalise catachetics and reintroduce (or more often introduce) today's Catholics to the multidimensional richness of their Faith.

22 January 2014

The Espousals Of Mary

Once upon a time - just over a hundred years ago - we would have celebrated the feast of the Espousals of the BVM tomorrow.

Insofar as we commemorate the Sacrament of Matrimony, we tend to think of the Marriage Feast of Cana, but that tends to involve preaching on the first public miracle, Jesus doing what his Mother asks, and (embarrassingly, sometimes) "there's nothing wrong with the occasional skinful".

Our Lady's marriage to St Joseph is a much deeper model, and not just for those of us who are married.  The necessity of marriage is shown in the angel's coming to tell an already compassionate Joseph faced with her pregnancy that he was to marry Mary. 

Jesus could not be born outside marriage.

This is a really important message, one I have never heard preached, but something we can bring to the once-Christian world.  Or could, but no longer so easily, because the Feast has been suppressed.

The significance of this marriage, as expressed in two of the Propers is interesting:

COLLECT: We beseech Thee, O Lord, to bestow on thy servants of thy celestial grace; that to those for whom the Blessed Virgin's maternity was the beginning of salvation, the votive solemnity of her Espousals may procure increase of peace.

SECRET: May the humanity of thy only-begotten Son be our succour, O Lord: that Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of a virgin did not diminish, but consecrated the integrity of his mother, may in the solemnity of her Espousals deliver us from our sins, and make our oblation acceptable to thee.

These are ways of looking at Jesus, who was born of a woman, a married virgin, that stop me in my tracks and make me think.

Wait until we get to the suppressed feasts of the Lenten season!

18 January 2014

Neglected Testamentary Masses

Fr Hunwicke's piece on the origins of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminded me of a contribution of his in the last edition of Catholic, the excellent newspaper of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer which is published on Papa Stronsay.  (There is, by the way, something very affecting about a member of the Ordinariate writing for former Lefebvrians, both groups having been able to reconcile themselves to the Church without the loss of the distinctiveness which now marks them out inside the Church.)

"But let us not forget the other prescription of Benedict XV: that we should offer Masses to make up for testamentary Masses neglected or forgotten. As an Englishman, I look back on the events of the Tudor period, when the government of England looted the testamentary endowments, first, of the Religious Houses, and then of the chantries in the parish churches up and down England. Other countries, I suspect, have had similar experiences: I am not an expert in French History, for example, but I get the impression that the cultic discontinuities of the l790s were fairly considerable.

Does it matter? When we read all those medieval wills, with their provision that Mass be celebrated for the testator "for ever", do we just murmur "Win some, lose some"? I think it does matter. Creation means that God created a myriad of different places; a myriad of different moments in the progress of time; a myriad of different beings living, reacting, in those places and those times.

Since God did not merely create one single created Other to receive his love, we are surely to take seriously the infinite plurality of his Creation.  And that means taking seriously the myriad individual casualties within that complex Creation.  Dame Thomasina Percival, a London merchant in the early Tudor period (I select her at random because I once did some work on her) endowed chantry Masses to be said at the scala caeli near the tomb of Henry VII's mother in the great Lady Chapel at Westminster which was still unfinished. Why should it not be a willed thing in God's Providence that she should be brought to the fullness of eternal grace and glory through the power of those operations?

Englishness, or whatever the nationalness we each have, is not narrowly synchronic affection. Surely, it must also be diachronic, embracing the Dame Thomasina's as well as the bloke I can hear talking to his wife in the house next door. I can think of few more English, more appropriate, things to do, and to give Mass stipends for Masses to make up for testamentary Masses forgotten or neglected, that per haec sacramenta salutis nostrae, cunctorum remissionem Deus tribuat peccatorum: that through these sacraments of our salvation, the Lord will grant remission of all the sins of all the Faithful Departed."

This is one of those subjects which, I must confess, I have never really thought about before: not even "Win some, lose some".  Yet, the more I reflect on it, the more I come to think that it is one of the very great scandals of the Reformation (and one which Fr Hunwicke reminds us that Benedict XV encouraged us to help make up for).


Digital Nun posted here and better on the same subject. H/T Part Time Pilgrim.

09 January 2014

Did You See What They Did There?

.In a comment on one of Ben Trovato's posts about comments made by his father about the post-Vatican II liturgical changes, there is a link to the statement on public worship made by the Bishop's Conference of England and Wales in April 1975:

"The unity of the Church is endangered if the rules laid down by the Holy See for the celebration of Mass are not observed. Unfortunately there are some few who ignore the liturgical laws and continue to experiment in many different ways. The Holy See has declared that experimentation is no longer permissible and that the laws laid down in the new Missale Romanum must be faithfully observed. This means that the rubrics, now reduced to a minimum and inserted, as they are, to safeguard reverence, must always be followed. The right kind of living liturgy is to be achieved by the variation of choice available in the definitive text (eg, regarding penitential rites, canons and so forth) and not by making up our own liturgies. Some priests neglect to follow the rubrics, to wear sacred vestments or to recite authorised prayers. Great harm is done to souls by priests who virtually make up their own Mass. No blessing will fall on those taking part in Masses celebrated in defiance of the instructions of the Church."

There is more in the statement about the extent to which celebration of the TLM is (or rather isn't) authorised, but I am interested here in the way the New Mass was to be celebrated.  The statement by the Bishops makes clear that there has been a period of liturgical anarchy (some of us remember it well) and it is an effort by the Old Guard of the Bishops to try to re-impose order on the Church in England and Wales.

Mass has to be celebrated properly: there is no room for experimentation.  There is variation of choice available in the Missal and rubrics, and these are sufficient to permit "the right kind of living liturgy".

By 1980 - only five years later - there had been change at the top: Cardinal Heenan was dead and had been replaced by Abp Hume; Abp Beck had gone from Liverpool, to be replaced by Abp Worlock; Abp Cowderoy had been replaced by Abp Bowen etc etc etc.  The Bishops' Conference asked Abp Worlock to set up a National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool in 1980 which deliberated and reported on the mission and spirituality of the Church in England and Wales. The result was distilled into a document of the Bishops' Conference called The Easter People which would become the model for the Church in E&W.

Its section on the Mass, written just five years after the statement above is ... well, read it yourself:

59. Our persecuted forefathers in the faith recognised that it is the Mass that matters. Catholics in these islands have always preserved that devotion to the sacrifice of the Mass and to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist.  These are mysteries, however, so linked with our most intimate religious experience that many people can think of them only as occasions when they commune personally and individually with their Lord and God. Yet when the Second Vatican Council desired to explore for us the treasures of the Mass, it pointed at once to the fundamental truth that the liturgy is not private but to be shared, not the worship of individuals but the united prayer of a whole people. ‘The liturgy is the summit towards which all the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows.  For the goal of apostolic endeavour is that all who are made sons of God through faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper’. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n. 10). It follows therefore that the Mass is the supreme expression of what the Church is and the source of all that the Church does.  Through baptism and confirmation all members of the Church, with their distinct ministries, share in the mission entrusted by Christ to his followers.  In the same way and for the same reason all members of the Church, again in accordance with their distinct ministries, share in the offering of worship to God and in offering to the Father Christ’s one eternal sacrifice of love. This in no way denies the personal and the devotional elements in our worship but emphasises that we find salvation and individual fulfilment through our baptism into the one body of Christ, into the fellowship of the worshipping Church.

60. As always, when we reflect more deeply on the themes of the Congress, we find ourselves thinking about baptism. Because of our baptism we are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God’ (1 Pet 2:9). All members of the Church share in the priesthood of Christ and in the Mass they ‘offer the divine victim to God and themselves along with it’ (Lumen gentium, n. 11). Whilst this is a shared offering, there is still within the same action a distinction of ministries: priest and people are united but fulfil different functions (cf. Lumen gentium n. 10).   There can never be, however, any justification for relegating the laity to the role of spectators, required passively to observe all that the ordained minister carries out on their behalf.  Just as we seek from men and women the most active participation possible in the saving and sanctifying mission of the Church, so we must aim at achieving the most active participation possible of both men and women in the preparation and the celebration of the liturgy.

61. In the International Synod of 1971, the bishops explained: ‘The eucharist forms the community and places it at the service of men’. Through the eucharist we become more profoundly the church and we are sent as a Church to fulfil our mission in and for the world. In our efforts to achieve renewal we have not been conspicuously successful in establishing this truth. We need to discover the link between Mass and mission, between worship and a way of life. We have to implement to the full a liturgy which is flexible and sensitive to local needs and which draws on the often untapped wealth of alternatives already offered in the official norms of the Church. We have to become aware of the existing possibilities in the Iiturgy for evangelising ourselves and others and for communicating the gospel message in all its richness.

62. This heightened understanding of the liturgy is nor achieved spontaneously. There is need for a sustained programme of liturgical education and formation. The bishop is at the heart of the local church's prayer and offering and has responsibility for every aspect of public worship in the diocese. Priests are co-operators and sharers in the bishop's office and it is on them that he depends for the continuing liturgical formation and education of his people. Normally he will seek advice and co-operation from a diocesan liturgical commission which adequately represents clergy, religious and laity.  Such a commission can be invaluable in promoting education in the liturgy and the necessary formation of people and priests. It can give service to the parishes of the diocese and perhaps maintain contact with representative groups established at deanery level. There is much experience to be shared between parishes and it is often within the parish that an effective sharing of experience and ideas can be carried out. A parish liturgy group, working with the priest, can help greatly to ensure the development of full participation by all members of the community in parish worship. In this way also much can be done to relate the real concern and spirit of the people to the celebration of the parish Mass.

There is more - there really is LOTS more - but that gives enough of a flavour.  (The capitalisation is that of the original, by the way.)

A wonderful conjuring trick has taken place.  The worthiness of the celebration of the Mass in the 1975 statement derives from the priest's adherence to the rubrics.  He is to say the right prayers, read the right readings, wear the right vestments, use appropriate vessels.  He has enough choice in the Missal and its rubrics to be able to say Mass worthily, in a manner appropriate to the occasion of its celebration.

Five years later, however, the manner of celebration of Mass is no longer just a concern of the priests.  Lay people have an equal (if separate) role with the priest in "implementing ... a liturgy which is flexible and sensitive to local needs" and should play their part in diocesan liturgical commissions which in turn will have a part in "the necessary formation of people and priests".

As Joseph Shaw pointed out, first here, then here, what was happening is the disenfranchisement of the largest group of Catholics from their Mass: first, as condemned in 1975, by priests who treat it as their personal property; second in 1980, by a hierarchy which opted to share ownership with a self-selecting group of activists.  The sociological study cited is of its day describes this in terms of the Old Mass and the New Mass, of disenfranchisement of working class Catholics by middle class Catholics, but the Church in E&W has been reinforcing failure for another generation now, and the problems are much deeper.  Imagine that we have come to a point where Catholics will share with each other information about parishes where Mass is always said reverently.

There is a lot to be said about the liturgical reforms of the twentieth century (and I will happily say my bit), but the discussion often hides the ecclesiological and sociological changes which were imposed, and which survive in a sort of English and Welsh approach to Catholic Mission, developed on our behalf by people who don't know what we think or what we want.

I asked if I could join my parish's liturgy group and was told I could, as long as I did an approved course first which would teach me how parish liturgies should be celebrated.  I asked whether in that case the priest couldn't just look up the rubrics in the GIRM. I was told that there probably wasn't going to be another course for a while.  I got the message.