Enhancing The Beauty of the Mass

These are times when many of the clergy have (properly) insisted on returning to a strict following of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).These instructions are found in two essential places: the instructions at the beginning of the Sacramentary and the red instructions interspersed within the prayers of the Mass. These last instructions are called the rubrics. Fr. Zuhlsdorf is famous for the simple instruction,  “Say the black and do the red.” That is to say, the prayers, written in black ought to be said, just as written, and the red instructions are to be followed exactly. To this I say a hearty “Amen.”

However, I would like to point to a step beyond in the celebration of the Mass wherein we celebrants might also re-learn some old habits that lent grace to the Mass, particularly in terms of the movements of the celebrant. While such suggestions are not strictly required, they can lend a real grace to the actions of the celebrant and to the Mass in general. (By the way I want to say that I just returned from giving a priest retreat and this post is NOT written in response to that. All the priests there did a fine job celebrating Mass. I had this written prior to my leaving for the retreat).

Helpful norms – I have learned these things largely by saying the Traditional Latin Mass which described the motions of the celebrant in great detail. However, I have also tired to observe what I can in the Ordinary Form of the Mass as well. If matters such as these are observed, though not in a robotic fashion, there can be a greater grace of movement and a deliberateness that lends to the solemnity of the Mass. Here are a few suggestions from the “old days” that can help:

1. When making the sign of the cross upon himself at the beginning of mass the Celebrant uses his right hand. But his left hand should not be left suspended in the air or dangling. He ought to place it on on his chest, just at the bottom of the breast bone as he makes the sign of the cross with his right hand. When finished his hands should be rejoined in the center.

2. The same is true when blessing the people at the end. The celebrant places his left hand at the bottom of his chest and he blesses the people with his right hand: fingers joined and straight. His right and left motions should reach far enough, to his left and right shoulders. Again, when finished, his hands should join in the center.

3. The hands – In general when the celebrant is standing and his hands are not in use they are joined, fingers straight and thumbs crossed at his breast. When the celebrant is seated, his hands should rest, separated, palms down, one on each thigh, near the knee.

4. When the celebrant moves somewhere in the sanctuary, he ought to turn in that direction, hands joined at the chest, prior to moving in that direction. In general simply stepping laterally to the left or right should be avoided.

5. The bowing of the head – It is appropriate at Mass to bow the head at certain times, such as after the priest says, Let us pray,” or at the name of Jesus. The simple bow of the head is accomplished entirely by the neck. The shoulder do not lunge and the torso does not move at all. The neck is like a hinge and the bow of the head is accomplished entirely at the neck and above.

6. Turning pages – When the priest is at the altar and turns the page of the missal, he does so (usually) with his left hand, while his right hand rests on the altar, not suspended in the air or dangling.

7. Epiclesis – Likewise when the priest makes the sign of the cross over the bread and wine just prior to the consecration he does so with his right hand, while his left hand rests on the altar, just outside the corporal. The left hand is not dangling in the air etc.

Well this is enough, since most of you are not priests. However, it is always good for the laity to encourage those of us who are priests when you observe reverence. We are human and can become forgetful of things in the Mass. Sometimes too we are not aware of how we come across. So, encourage us when you observe devotion and piety. Some years ago it was called to my attention that I tended to fiddle with my glasses a good bit when at the altar and that sometimes my fingers moved a lot when I was praying the Eucharistic prayer. I was unaware of these things and was (kindly) informed by the deacon.

In the end I have found some of the old “rules” helpful. They need to be done with manner that is not robotic or contrived, otherwise they may come across as affectations.

Perhaps you would like to add to the list or raise some concerns of things you have noticed at Mass. Please remember, be kind and constructive in the observations you make. Also, this need not become a post wherein we battle about forms of the Liturgy either. I am trying to emphasize matters that pertain to both forms of the liturgy.

The following video shows a priest making use of some of what we have discussed here. I am not sure exactly how I think he comes across. At one level I think he is more formal and restrained in his motions than I would be. But on him it looks good.

37 Replies to “Enhancing The Beauty of the Mass”

  1. Your mention of the epiclesis got me thinking. I have noticed a preference for using Eucharistic Prayer I among priests who want to restore greater solemnity to the celebration of the mass. While there are some obvious reasons for and benefits to doing so, the lack of a proper epiclesis in this prayer always bothers me. The epiclesis is especially important to Catholics from Eastern rite Churchs and to Orthodox Christians (with whom, it should be remembered, we are actively seeking re-unification). In the Eastern tradition the epiclesis, rather than the words of institution, are considered the high point of the eucharistic prayer. But Eucharistic Prayer I calls not on the Spirit to come down and transform the gifts, but instead for the Lord’s angel to come and take them to His altar in heaven. That really is not the same thing and it is a serious theological weakness in the prayer (as is the lack of the second epiclesis calling on the Spirit to transform those gathered into the one body of Christ). On these counts, the other novus ordo eucharistic prayers are much stronger and are more robustly Trinitarian.

    Does this bother anyone else? Thoughts?

    1. AH! One of the great indoor sports of Liturgical Theology: finding the epicleseis in the ROman Canon! I am not sure I agree with you that the “Angeli Tui….” is the epiclesis. The EF seems to place it at the Hanc Igitur and the OF seems to place it at the Quam oblationem tu Deus……But yes, there is no calling on the HS specifically in the Roman Canon. If implicit calling is allowed then I would opt for the fact the Roman Canon’s Quam oblationem tu Deus is the epiclesis if we understand “God” here to be “God the Holy Spirit” in which case we ask Him to bless, ascribe, render and accept as rational what we offer that it may become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

      1. It is also important to note that the Epiklesis of the Holy Ghost might not be as primitive as one might think. Fortescue says the first appearance of it is in Antioch in the 4th century. When we read St. Irenaeus, he refers to the sacramental formula as an “invocation of God”, and does not call out the specific person of the Holy Ghost.

      2. Thanks. Well, for the record, I like a good, clear epiclesis, and for that reason I don’t like the shift I’ve seen recently (especially among younger priests) to a nearly exclusive use of Eucharistic Prayer I.

        Two other thoughts (one epiclesis related, one not):

        1) Some churches ring bells during the epiclesis as well as during the words of institution. I’ve always liked this for the ecumenical and trinitarian reasons I’ve already mentioned, but I honestly don’t know what the rubrics say about this. Is this allowed/encouraged/required? Do you think this practice adds beauty to the celebration of the mass?

        2) Since the orders came down from Rome a couple of years back to no longer allow extraordinary ministers to help with the “holy dishes” after the distribution of the eucharist there”ve been some logistical issues. Now, after communion there is a sometimes prolonged period where the whole congregation sits and waits while the presider purifies all the vessels. Different priests handle this differently. Some use it as a chance to add some short further reflections to their homily, others crack jokes and make light of the fact that they got stuck with the dishes, and others focus on purifying the vessels deliberately and reverently (which makes it take even longer). Any thoughts on the best way to handle this? This seems to be a fidgety time for the congregation and I often see parents heading for the vestibule with young children who have held on all mass and have finally passed their threshhold for sitting still quietly. Any thoughts?

    2. In case anyone besides ignorant me wonders what the heck “epiklesis” is, the result of my Google search:

      Epiklesis (Latin invocatio) is the name of a prayer that occurs in all Eastern liturgies (and originally in Western liturgies also) after the words of Institution, in which the celebrant prays that God may send down His Holy Spirit to change this bread and wine into the Body and Blood of His Son. This form has given rise to one of the chief controversies between the Eastern and Western Churches, inasmuch as all Eastern schismatics now believe that the Epiklesis, and not the words of Institution, is the essential form (or at least the essential complement) of the sacrament.

      Form of the epiklesis
      It is certain that all the old liturgies contained such a prayer. For instance, the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions, immediately after the recital of the words of Institution, goes on to the Anamnesis — “Remembering therefore His Passion…” — in which occur the words: “thou, the God who lackest nothing, being pleased with them (the Offerings) for the honour of Thy Christ, and sending down Thy Holy Spirit on this sacrifice, the witness of the Passion of the Lord Jesus, to manifest (opos apophene) this bread as the Body of Thy Christ and this chalice as the Blood of Thy Christ…” (Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, I, 21). So the Greek and Syrian Liturgies of St. James (ibid., 54, 88-89), the Alexandrine Liturgies (ibid., 134, 179), the Abyssinian Rite (ibid., 233), those of the Nestorians (ibid., 287) and Armenians (ibid., 439). The Epiklesis in the Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is said thus: “We offer to Thee this reasonable and unbloody sacrifice; and we beg Thee, we ask Thee, we pray Thee that Thou, sending down Thy Holy Spirit on us and on these present gifts” (the Deacon says: “Bless, Sir the holy bread”) “make this bread into the Precious Body of Thy Christ” (Deacon: “Amen. Bless, Sir, the holy chalice”): “and that which is in this chalice, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ” (Deacon: “Amen. Bless, Sir, both”), “changing [metabalon] them by Thy Holy Spirit” (Deacon: “Amen, Amen, Amen.”). (Brightman, op. cit., I 386-387).

      Nor is there any doubt that the Western rites at one time contained similar invocations. The Gallican Liturgy had variable forms according to the feast. That for the Circumcision was: “Hæc nos, Domine, instituta et præcepta retinentes suppliciter oramus uti hoc sacrificium suscipere et benedicere et sanctificare digneris: ut fiat nobis eucharistia legitima in tuo Filiique tui nomine et Spiritus sancti, in transformationem corporis ac sanguinis domini Dei nostri Jesu Christi unigeniti tui, per quem omnia creas…” (Duchesne, “Origines du culte chrétien”, 2nd ed., Paris, 1898, p. 208, taken from St. Germanus of Paris, d. 576). There are many allusions to the Gallican Invocation, for instance St. Isidore of Seville (De eccl. officiis, I, 15, etc.). The Roman Rite too at one time had an Epiklesis after the words of Institution. Pope Gelasius I (492-496) refers to it plainly: “Quomodo ad divini mysterii consecrationem coelestis Spiritus adveniet, si sacerdos…criminosis plenus actionibus reprobetur?” (“Epp. Fragm.”, vii, in Thiel, “Epp. Rom. Pont.”, I, 486). Watterich (Der Konsekrationsmoment im h. Abendmahl, 1896, pp. 133 sq.) brings other evidences of the old Roman Invocation. he (p. 166) and Drews (Entstehungsgesch. des Kanons, 1902, p. 28) think that several secrets in the Leonine Sacramentary were originally Invocations (see article CANON OF THE MASS). Of the essential clause left out — our prayer: “Supplices te rogamus” (Duchesne, op. cit., 173-5). It seems that an early insistence on the words of Institution as the form of Consecration (see, for instance, Pseudo-Ambrose, “De Mysteriis”, IX, 52, and “De Sacramentis”, IV, 4, 14-15, 23; St. Augustine, Sermon 227) led in the West to the neglect and mutilation of the Epiklesis.

      It should be noticed that the Epiklesis for the Holy Eucharist is only one of many such forms. In other sacraments and blessings similar prayers were used, to ask God to send His Holy Spirit to sanctify the matter. There was an Epiklesis for the water of baptism. Tertullian (On Baptism 4), Optatus of Mileve (“De schism. Don., III, ii, VI, iii, in “Corp. Script. eccl. Latin.”, vol. XXVI, 69, 148, 149), St. Jerome (Contra Lucif., vi, vii), St. Augustine (On Baptism V.20 and V.27), in the West; and St. Basil (On the Holy Spirit 15.35), St. Gregory of Nyssa (Orat. cat. magn. xxxiii), and St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. iii, 3), in the East, refer to it. In Egypt especially, Epiklesis were used to bless wine, oil, milk, etc. In all these cases (including that of the Holy Eucharist) the idea of invoking the Holy Ghost to sanctify is a natural one derived from Scripture (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21: ho an epikalesetai to onoma kyriou . . .; cf. Romans 10:13; 1 Corinthians 1:2). That in the Liturgy the Invocation should occur after the words of Institution is only one more case of many which show that people were not much concerned about the exact instant at which all the essence of the sacrament was complete. They looked upon the whole Consecration-prayer as one simple thing. In it the words of Institution always occur (with the doubtful exception of the Nestorian Rite); they believed that Christ would, according to His promise, do the rest. But they did not ask at which exact moment the change takes place. Besides the words of Institution there are many other blessings, prayers, and signs of the cross, some of which came before and some after the words, and all, including the words themselves, combine to make up the one Canon of which the effect is Transubstantiation. So also in our baptism and ordination services, part of the forms and prayers whose effect is the sacramental grace comes, in order of time, after the essential words. It was not till Scholastic times that theologians began to discuss the minimum of form required for the essence of each sacrament.
      The controversy
      The Catholic Church has decided the question by making us kneel and adore the Holy Eucharist immediately after the words of Institution, and by letting her old Invocation practically disappear. On the other hand Orthodox theologians all consider the Epiklesis as being at least an essential part of the Consecration. In this question they have two schools. Some, Peter Mogilas, for instance, consider the Epiklesis alone as consecrating (Kimmel, Monumenta fidei eccl. orient., Jena, 1850, I, 180), so that presumably the words of Institution might be left out without affecting the validity of the sacrament. But the greater number, and now apparently all, require the words of Institution too. They must be said, not merely historically, but as the first part of the essential form; they sow as it were the seed that comes forth and is perfected by the Epiklesis. Both elements, then, are essential. This is the theory defended by their theologians at the Council of Florence (1439). A deputation of Latins and Greeks was appointed then to discuss the question. The Greeks maintained that both forms are necessary, that Transubstantiation does not take place till the second one (the Epiklesis) is pronounced, and that the Latin “Supplices te rogamus” is a true Epiklesis having the same effect as theirs. On the other hand the Dominican John of Torquemada defended the Western position that the words of Institution alone and at once consecrate (Hardouin IX, 977 sqq.). The decree of the council eventually defined this “quod illa verba divina Salvatoris omnem virtutem transsubstantiationis habent,” ibid.; see also the decree for the Armenians: “forma huius sacramenti sunt verba Salvatoris” in Denzinger, 10th ed., no. 698-old no. 593). Cardinal Bessarion afterwards wrote a book “De Sacramento Eucharistiæ et quibus verbis Christi corpus conficitur, 1462, in P.G., CLXI, 494-525), to whom Marcus Eugenicus of Ephesus answered in a treatise with a long title: “That not only by the sound of the Lord’s words are the divine gifts sanctified, but (in addition) by the prayer after these and by the consecration of the priest in the strength of the Holy Ghost.”
      The official Euchologion of the Orthodox Church has a note after the words of Institution to explain that: “Since the demonstrative pronouns: This is my body, and again: This is my blood, do not refer to the Offerings that are present, but to those which Jesus, taking in His hands and blessing, gave to His Disciples; therefore those words of the Lord are repeated as a narrative [diegematikos], and consequently it is superfluous to show the Offerings (by an elevation) and indeed contrary to the right mind of the Eastern Church of Christ” (ed. Venice, 1898, p. 63). This would seem to imply that Christ’s words have no part in the form of the sacrament. On the other hand Dositheus in the Synod of Jerusalem (1672) apparently requires both words of Institution and Epiklesis: “It [the Holy Eucharist] is instituted by the essential word [remati uparktiko, i.e. Christ’s word] and sanctified by the invocation of the Holy Ghost” (Conf. Dosithei, in Kimmel, op. cit., I, 451), and this seems to be the common theory among the Orthodox in our time. Their arguments for the necessity of the Epiklesis as at any rate the perfecting part of the form are:

      •that the context shows the words of Institution to be used only as a narrative;
      •that otherwise the Epiklesis would be superfluous and deceptive: its very form shows that it consecrates;
      The first and second points are not difficult to answer. The words of Institution are certainly used historically (“qui pridi quam pateretur, sumpsit panem…ac dixit: hoc est enim corpus meum,” as well as all Eastern forms, is an historical account of what happened at the Last Supper); but this is no proof that they may not be used effectively and with actual meaning too. Given the intention of so doing, they necessarily would be so used. The second point is already answered above: the succession of time in sacramental prayers necessarily involves nothing but a dramatic representation of what presumably really takes place in one instant (this point is further evolved by Fortescue, “The Orth. Eastern Church,” pp. 387 sq.). As for tradition, in any case it is only a question of Eastern tradition. In the West there has been a great unanimity in speaking of the words of Institution as consecrating, especially since St. Augustine; and the disappearance of any real Epiklesis in our Liturgy confirms this. Among Eastern Fathers there is less unanimity. Some, notably St. Cyril of Jerusalem, refer the consecration to the action of the Holy Ghost in a way that seems to imply that the Epiklesis is the moment (St. Cyril, Cat. xix, 7; xxi, 3; xxiii, 7, 19; cf. Basil, On the Holy Spirit 27 sqq.); others, as St. John Chrysostom (Hom. i, De prod. Iudæ, 6: “He [Christ] says: This is my body. This word changes the offering”; cf. Hom. ii, in II Tim. i), quite plainly refer Consecration to Christ’s words. It should be noted that these Fathers were concerned to defend the Real Presence, not to explain the moment at which it began, that they always thought of the whole Eucharistic prayer as one form, containing both Christ’s words and the Invocation, and that a statement that the change takes place by the power of the Holy Ghost does not necessarily show that the writer attaches that change to this special prayer. For instance St. Irenæus says that “the bread which receives the Invocation of God is not common bread, but a Eucharist” (Against Heresies IV.18.5), and, yet immediately before (IV.18.4), he explains that that bread is the Body of Christ over which the earlier part of the Anaphora is said. The final argument against the Epiklesis as Consecration-form is the account of the Last Supper in the Gospels. We know what Christ did then, and that He told us to do the same thing. There is no hint of an Epiklesis at the Last Supper.
      It may finally be noted that later, in the West too (since the sixteenth century especially), this question aroused some not very important discussion. The Dominican Ambrose Catharinus (sixteenth century) thought that our Consecration takes place at an Epiklesis that precedes the recital of Christ’s words. This Epiklesis he thinks to be the prayer “Quam oblationem.” A few others (including Renaudot) more or less shared his opinion. Against these Hoppe (op. cit. infra) showed that in any case the Epiklesis always follows the words of Institution and that our “Quam Oblationem” cannot be considered one at all. He and others suggest a mitigated theory, according to which the Invocation (in our case the “Supplice te rogamus”) belongs not to the essence of the sacrament, but in some way to its (accidental) integrity. John of Torquemada at the Council of Florence (Hardouin IX, 976), Francisco Suárez (De Sacram., disp. lviii, 3), Bellarmine (De Euch., iv, 14), Lugo (De Euch., disp. xi, 1) explain that the Invocation of the Holy Ghost is made rather that He may sanctify our reception of the Holy Eucharist. This is a theoretical explanation sought out to account for the fact of the Epiklesis, without giving up our insistence on the words of Institution as alone consecrating. Historically and according to the text of the old invocations they must rather be looked upon as dramatically postponed expressions of what happens at one moment. There are many like cases in our rite (examples quoted in “The Orth. Eastern Church,” loc. cit.).

      1. Next, I had to look up “Euchologion.”

        The Greek word ευχολογιον literally means “book of prayers.” The Slavonic word Trebnik literally means “book of needs.” This type of service book varies widely in contents and arrangements. The most comprehensive edition is the ευχολογιον το μεγα or Great Euchologion contains the prayers of the priest, deacon, and reader for Vespers, Orthros, and the Divine Liturgy; the six remaining sacraments, and other services of blessings (which in the west are often referred to as sacramentals).

        The Slavonic Great Book of Needs consists of two parts:

        1.The sacraments and other sacred rites, which accompany a man from birth and counsels him at his departure into eternity.
        2.Short prayers for various needs. There is also a calendar and the “Alphabetic Classification of Names,” the latter being a list of Christian names.
        There are also a variety of more concise editions, that contain only the most commonly done of these services. These texts are often called the Small Euchologion (mikron euchologion), and usually contains the forms for the mysteries (sacraments) other than the Eucharist and ordination, and other common services.

        The Small Book of Needs is excerpted from the Great Book of Needs for the purpose of convenience, in order to have a small book for the performance of needs, especially those needs which must be served outside the temple.

        There is also a Supplemental Book of Needs in Slavonic, which contains within services such as the orders for the consecration of a temple and the consecration of things pertaining to the temple, such as the church utensils, vestments, icons, and so forth. This Supplemental Book of Needs is often combined into one book with the Small Book of Needs.

        What distinguishes the services found in the Euchologion is that they are generally services that are not appointed to be done at any given time according to the Church calendar, but are done as the need arises (e.g., funerals, weddings, baptisms, the consecration of a new church, etc.). Some services are associated with the liturgical calendar, however, such as the blessing of candles on the Feast of the Presentation, the blessing of Palms on Palm Sunday, etc.

        The Ieresky Molitvoslov contains some services that are considered Trebnik services, however, this is more of a devotional book for priests than a service book for public services.

        In English, there are various editions of the Small Euchologion, but only one (4 volume) edition of the entire Euchologion, published by St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press under the title The Great Book of Needs. This collection of the Trebnik services attempts to organize these services in a more logical sequence than the Slavonic Trebnik has been historically published in.

        Volume One contains the services associated with the 7 sacraments.

        Volume Two contains services for the sanctification of Ecclesiastical items, icons, crosses, etc; and services associated with the liturgical year.

        Volume Three contains prayers for various needs, general blessings, and services connected with death, funerals, burials, and commemorations of the departed.

        Volume Four contains Moliebens, services of supplication, and other services of blessing.

    3. The epiklesis does not belong in the fully developed Roman Rite, and the prayers artificially inserted in the “Novus Ordo” do not constitute a proper epiklesis as such. The reason for this is that in the Byzantine liturgy the epiklesis IS the true moment of consecration when the gifts offered become the Body and Blood of Christ, rather than the Words of Institution as in the Roman Rite. In order for the Roman “epiklesis” to be a true epiklesis it would have to occur after the Words of Institution, since both form one single act by which the gifts are consecrated (if the Novus Ordo “epiklesis” were a true epiklesis, than those words alone would consecrate the Eucharist and the Words of Institution would be superfluous, which is clearly not what the Catholic Church teaches). This is the theology which the Eastern Church has in practice adopted, refusing to adopt the decadent Latin tendency to focus strictly on the bare minimum necessary for validity (a “reduction of vision whose origin lies in an erroneous development typical of the West but quite unthinkable in the Eastern Church,” as Pope Benedict wrote in “The Nature and Mission of Theology” p. 112), despite some objections such as St. Peter Mohila who was educated by Jesuits from whom he unfortunately received a lot of scholastic leanings. There is no Eucharist without the Words of Institution, but in the Eastern Church it is the epiklesis that actually consecrates. (Terms like “essential form” and “essential complement” are completely alien to Greek theology and are meaningless and irrelevant to this question.)

      And, for the record, I am not an “Eastern schismatic”; I am a Catholic in full communion with the Pope, and this is the teaching of our Orthodox faith. The Dominican explanation that it just “sanctifies our reception of Holy Communion” is pure scholastic sophistry, like most Dominican theology. (If we are deified by the grace of baptism and we have not lost that grace through sin then receiving our God HAS to be a holy act. Positing another prayer to “sanctify our reception of it” is as nonsensical as the blasphemous notion that God gives impotent “efficacious grace” which is incapable of doing anything unless God gives another grace so that we can act on it, or that God could “physically move” our souls to perform a “free” act.)

  2. Crack for traddies. Here we go. A few additions:

    1. When the priest is in the “Orans” position, the hands should be high and tight to the chest, thumb meat perpendicular to the chest. The head should be slightly bowed.

    2. When the priest processes in or out of the sanctuary, the head should be slightly bowed, and the hands clasped in prayer (right thumb over left thumb, fingers flat against each other) high and tight.

    3. It’s not a bad idea to have the middle finger, index finger, and thumb together in a Trinitarian grasp when giving a blessing

    4. Highly important: the priest should make every effort not to un-clasp his thumb and index finger from the consecration of the body of our Lord until the ablution of his hands after communion. This is made immensely-easier with a long-stemmed ciborium.

    5. Praying in the manner of (2) should be done during the entire Gospel reading.

    6. There should be a pronounced pectoral thrust during the “mea culpa” in the Confiteor and the “nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the Canon. These are meant to be seen by the assembly.

    7. Bowing, raising eyes to heaven, etc. should be done with gusto during the consecration.

    8. When purifying the chalice after communion, the priest should make a “cobweb” over the mouth of the vessel (thumb and forefinger clasped, the two angles meeting in the middle).

    9. The maniple was never suppressed–it was made optional. Use one if available. During the homily, you may take it off without violation of the GIRM.

    Hope I didn’t steal anyone’s thunder. Traddie crack, indeed. Happy Friday.

    1. 1. OK
      2. OK
      3. I don’t think so. That is not called for in any norm old or new.
      4. I think canonical fingers are not called for in the new in the sense that the silence on this matter is the norm. I use canonical finger for the old but not the new rite. I don’t tink its forbidden but would seem to me to be idosyncratic since it is no longer required unless the clebrant ahs some notion that particles are adheared to his fingers.
      5. Does this imply that the deacon is reading?
      6. Agreed.
      7. Avoid words like gusto. Histrionics are to be avoided. However I agree that the rubrics should be followed in a visible way that bespeaks humility.
      8. A bit extreme but OK

      9. OK. But I am not sure the maniple should be worn in the OF I doubt it is forbidden but custom has some place here. Love the maniple in the EF. Not sure in the OF
      Thanks for an upbeat response. I am aware we may differ on a few points but this is a discussion.

      1. #3 is an Eastern rite practice and seems to have been carried over into the Roman rite by those who either attend Eastern rite liturgies or who are bi-ritual.

      2. LOL at Blake’s “bi-ritual.”

        Completely OT but Blake reminded me of this story from my friend PJ who taught elementary-school music:

        One afternoon PJ was in his “classroom” when he was approached by several of his fifth-grade students.

        Student: Mr J, do you play tenor saxophone?
        PJ: Yes, I do.
        Student: Mr J, do you play alto saxophone?
        PJ: Yes, I play that, too.
        Student (to his buddies): See? I TOLD you that Mr J was bi-saxual.

        PJ was impressed with the student’s planning to set him up as a straight man. All that was lacking was a ba-da-bump *chink*

      3. I second wht Blake said. I learned it from an Orthodox friend. I use it myself (I am not a priest, so who cares, right?) to remind me of our Trinitarian faith and what the Creed means, and my wife asked me about it, so now she uses it, too.

        It would be pointless for a priest to use it without actually telling the parish what it meant, unless it was for his own reminder.

  3. Fortunately I’ve never felt scandalized or had qualms with the way a Priest celebrates Mass in our area. God bless our Priests and any of their mannerisms that serve to remind us of our Savior’s Sacred Humanity when they are acting Persona Christi.

    However, it’s the laity’s apparent loss of the sense of the sacred and lack of reverence that I find scandalous. Recently on a nationally (worldwide?) televised EWTN Mass at the National Shrine, a camera caught a close up of a teenage girl approaching a priest to receive Communion. She had both hands at her side, she reached up with her right hand and pretty much snatched the Host from the priest waving the Host in the air as she walked away before she consumed. My memory may exaggerate a bit, but I was scandalized and embarrassed for our Church to say the least.

    I believe the loss of Communion rails and kneelers is a major factor contributing to the loss of the laity’s reverence and sense of the sacred in many Parishes. One of my greatest hopes is that Priests will follow the Holy Father’s example and return to distributing Communion while Communicants are kneeling once again.

    1. Communion sometimes _does_ look like a drive-thru experience, doesn’t it?

      I, too, prefer to receive Communion while kneeling. That momentary pause while receiving the Body and Blood of Christ makes for a more humble reception than *shuffle shuffle shuffle* *snatch* *hustle away*
      Unfortunately drive-thru everything is part of our popular culture. (I understand that some pharmacies are offering drive-thru flu shots!) There is an unwritten edict, and not just in Catholic parishes: Mass Shalt Not Exceed One Hour.

    2. Speaking of that, a pastor in our diocese (who happens to be friend of mine) needed to remodel the sanctuary (the roof collapsed). The diocean plan for the altar/tabernacle would have cost nearly $60K. So he proposed to take the reredos, high altar and communion rails from a closed church (nothing too extravegant, just simple, beautiful, and reverent). This proposal would have cost $5K (mainly for transportation). The Diocesan liturgy commission nixed it because it was too “antiquarian” and “backwards”. So, now the parish has to come up with an additional $55K.

  4. As a conservative catholic, I found the advice “say the black, and do the red” very sound advice indeed. It would go far to curtail the histrionics that some priests are inclined to, while greatly helping “new” celebrants avoid errors(intentional or otherwise). On a completely different subject I have a question that ive never gotten a satisfactory answer to. Why were the “communion rails” completely removed from the churches? If there is a sound , logical reason I surely would like to know. Anyway, enjoy your column greatly and look forward to it. Yours In Christ,
    John mARMAUD

  5. I think obedience is beautiful enough. But it is said that some priests regard disobedience to Rome as a right. Pray for them, correct them.

  6. As for the priest being “formal and restrained” … a little fyi: he has been ordained only 6 months. Give the guy some time to loosen up a bit!

  7. The rules – or, perhaps, social norms or good manners – that I’d like to see priests encourage or enforce are:
    1. The congregation to arrive on time. If coming late, sit at the back. If coming after the readings, wait for another Mass.
    2. Manage the sign of peace properly. Don’t wander all over the church kissing and hugging everyone (including strangers who do not want to be hugged). Encourage people to say “Peace be with you” and not “Hey Bill, see the game last night? Any plans for lunch?…” Encourage people to respect the Mass by being ready to focus on the altar as the priest proceeds with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
    3. Limit the announcements. Every parish has a bulletin. No need to repeat everything in it.

    1. Amen, Terence, on managing the Sign of Peace! The priests at every parish can do much by word and example to model reverence for the laity.

      If certain abuses are mature in a parish, then gentle – but explicit – reminders should be used.

      Regarding the Sign of Peace, I’ve been to a couple churches in which the priest-celebrant has the congregation exchange the Sign during the Introductory Rite. I’m not sure if that is allowed by the rubrics of the Mass, but it seems to work. The Sign seems to interrupt the “flow” of the Mass, inserted as it is just after the Consecration and immediately prior to Reception. At that point in the Mass, the entire focus has shifted towards the majestic and the miraculous. This intermission where we turn to each other to exchange a “sign of peace” seems an abrupt return to Earth from Heaven.

      1. At our parish’s daily Masses, the Sign of Peace lasts only as long as it take Father to walk to the Tabernacle and remove the reserved Sacrament and return to the altar…30 seconds, tops. Our pastor’s Sunday Mass Signs of Peace are even shorter. Many don’t even shake hands anymore…its great!

  8. Dear Monsignor Pope,

    I agree and am glad that you have these opinions about the way that priests ought to perform their role in the Mass.

    his dictis, I as a layman would rather not be privy to such instructions. I actually do think that the priest is not just another Catholic doing the same thing that I’m doing. I think his role in the Mass is quite different from mine. I think of these roles as more like the roles of actors and audience in a classical understanding of theater, in which the audience’s role is not a passive one, but an essential and participatory factor (with actors and text) in creating the event of the play. But these are just opinions, of course. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  9. I’ve noticed some priests – most notably our Father Book who heads the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdioces of Atlanta – who during the Eucharistic Prayer, will join the tips of the pinky, ring and middle finger while keeping the tips of the thumb and index finger of each hand together. It’s as if they are making the “OK” sign with each hand or clasping something between the thumb and index finger of each hand and then placing each hand together. Does this description make sense?

    I’ve also seen priests place the first four fingers together at the tips while touching the back of the thumbs together, as if to seperate the palms rather than placing the palms in direct contact with each other.

    I’ve always wondered why the priest manipulates the postion of the thumbs and what significance this has, rather than the iconic palms together prayer pose. I’ve also wondered if it is something I should be doing in the pew!

    Anyone who could answer this would solve an enigma for myself and my family.


  10. Msgr. Pope, As I always, I enjoyed your recent post. I agree with your call for more reverence and dignity in the Mass and I think priests should lead the way. This means they should pay closer attention to the General Instruction and to some of the fine points you recommended. I question, however, the wisdom of exhorting the faithful to “encourage” the priests in this area. From what I often see and hear, this usually involves moderately informed armchair liturgists harassing their local priest over how far he is holding his hands apart in the Orans posture, whether he allowed too much of his fingers to touch the Host during the consecration, and other minute details. Maybe a reminder of humility and basic Christian charity would be in order here.

    1. You just can’t make a religious exhortation without someone dreaming up the ways in which it *might* become offensive or abusive, and then warning you not to be offensive or abusive (whether you’ve presented the exhortation in this way or not).

      We see the same kind of thing preventing the Red Team and the Blue Team from agreeing on anything downtown.

  11. After offering Mass ad orientem a number of times the last year, I have become aware at how few times the rubrics call for the priest to turn and face the people. The following dialogues do not call for the priest to look at the people: the preface dialogue, the introduction to the Our Father and the invocation to pray at the opening and closing prayers. In most Masses facing the people, the priest does engage them, contrary to the spirit of the rubrics. In addition, the priest is not to look at the people as he prays the Eucharistic prayer (which is addressed to the Father). I have found that by following the rubrics, even when facing the people, the Mass has become more prayerful and transcendent, both for me as the celebrant and for the people attending.

  12. I’d be curious, Msgr. Pope, to read a similar post on the actions of the laity and how to inspire further reverence in the Mass. I really enjoyed this post. I myself have noticed, for better or for worse, that a priest’s general “attitude” during his celebration of Mass can affect how reverent my own actions are.

  13. Thank you for a very important article! It should be published in as many places as possible to cause reforms in the mass. God bless and preserve you!

  14. Funny you should post this just now, as I was reading the second chapter of “A Man Approved,” by Fr. Leo Trese, and he wrote:

    “[…] Maybe I *can* say Mass rapidly and still offer it with great piety and awareness. But it is robbing others if I race through the Mass at a pace that these others cannot follow. I am robbing them in an even more foul way if my haste seems to belie the majesty and the wondrousness of what I am doing; if my slip-shod, jerky, or hasty movements lessen the esteem of the Mass in the hearts of those who see me.”

    It is not for me to judge the disposition of the priest offering Mass, but as a human, it’s difficult not to do exactly that on some level. There’s a priest at my parish who alone always uses Eucharistic Prayer #1, the more elaborate one, and he does so with great care. After much consideration, I’ve decided that it’s his comportment during Mass, the way he carries himself, that makes all the difference, and his specific choice of the Roman Canon is secondary.

    Is this important? It shouldn’t be, but for me (alas) it is, and I find myself seeking his Masses and avoiding others (their schedule is published) on account of it. Being there to assist this particular priest keeps me focused, while I’m too often distracted at others’.

  15. Yes,

    I very much agree with you. The actions conducted during mass have meaning precisely because they are symbolic. They are important and should be adhered to. They are to direct the thoughts and hearts towards God.

  16. Excellent post to which I can add nothing. However if I may make a comment: It seems in my parish (to which I recenty moved) there are not afew people in the pews that assume an orans position during the Our Father and I believe somewhere hearing/reading that no one other than the priest should do this…at any time during the Mass.
    Personally I find it distracting even somewhat of an affectation (when done by the laity) Even some of the EM will do this, not all, which is very distracting. Monseignor Pope, what is the correct position of the hands during the Our Father for the laity? Is the Orans position ever correctly used at mass by the laity? Thank you …and thanks also for this post.

  17. Thank you, Msgr, but what happened to the reverence at Mass? I refer to the Mass at the Shrine last week to commemorate the centennial of Catholic Charities, with Cardinal George as Celebrant. We often watch the EWTN replays of daily Masses at midnight and happened to catch this Mass at the sermon. Then, and we found this disturbing, there was jazz piano music during the Offertory (it would have been delightful in a club, but not at Mass!), followed by an unusual Eucharistic Prayer, said by Cardinal George. I thought in the rubrics, there were only a few Eucharistic Prayers authorized, and this one was not familiar. Hope I’m wrong on this one, but if not – if this is how the rubrics are followed now, what will happen with the “New” Missal due out next year??

  18. Dear Msgr Pope, I read the posts about priests leading the laity into more reverent participation of Mass and i think the posters were quite right that priests should lead by example. In our church it seems so much is done to downplay that worshipful attitude toward the Eucharist. We finally have two big candle sticks (that stand on the floor) beside the altar but they are not lit before the concecration is started. The ” book” is carried in at the beginning of Masss and carried hight to the ambo for the reading of the Gospel but the Chalis is put on the table at the side before Mass and draped with a little white cloth .It looks very forlorne. It seems to be a thing tolerated because we need it for communiun and the altar always looks dreary to me. And then everyone comes like a line of theatre goers fo recieve Our Lord. So many “little things” are done during mass that the priest ignores but that set my nervs on edge and some activities that seem done just to give someone something to do but have no real place but increase “participation”. Thank you

    1. In trying to be reverent, I pause for about 30 seconds after the Epiclesis. The people love it and it helps them to refocus. However, I have been told that it is wrong. Any thoughts of this?

  19. In St Alphonsus de Ligouri, Volume VI The Holy Eucharist, under Sacrifice of the Mass are two sections: Short Explanation of the Prayers at Mass and Hearing Mass. Powerful stuff. If more (priests and laity) read these, I think a lot of “shortcomings” would be overcome.

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