29 November 2006

Parish Mission Statement

Fr Zuhlsdorf has a very interesting post on Mission Statements that are written by Catholic Parishes. Now with the conclusion of a number of Parish Assemblies locally, I really wonder how many can actually come close to something like this:
This parish exists…
...to provide the sacraments when called upon through dignified observance of the law while preaching the full doctrine of the Catholic Church expressed with common sense and concrete action in such as way as to help you and your neighbor live your vocation and then enjoy the glorious reward of the Beatific Vision and avoid the anguished torments of everlasting hell.

Taken from WDTPRS

28 November 2006

As the Pope Lands in Turkey...

Compiled from WDTPRS and Whispers in the Logia

From the the Enchiridion of Indulgences, #25:

A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, in a spirit of filial devotion, devoutly recite any duly approved prayer for the Supreme Pontiff (e.g., the Oremus pro Pontifice):

V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Benedicto.
R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

V. Let us pray for our Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.
R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and bless him upon earth, and deliver him not to the will of his enemies.

27 November 2006

Liturgies in Turkey Live on EWTN

29 Nov 2006 (Wed)
1730 hrs - Papal Mass at Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi in Ephesus

30 Nov 2006 (Thurs)
1000 hrs - Papal Mass at Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi in Ephesus (Re-telecast)
1500 hrs - Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar

01 Dec 2006 (Fri)
0300 hrs - Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar (Re-telecast)
1430 hrs - Papal Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul

02 Dec 2006 (Sat)
0000 hrs - Papal Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul (Re-telecast)

Complied from EWTN Television Schedule (26 Nov to 02 Dec 2006). Timings are in +8 GMT and are correct at time of posting.

EWTN Television RealVideo Streams (English): 28 to 100K, 300K, 500K
EWTN Television Windows Media Streams (English): 28 to 100K, 300K, 500K

Vatican Television Centre RealVideo Streams: Low, Medium, High
Vatican Television Centre Windows Media Streams: Low, Medium, High

1. Papal Mass at Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi in Ephesus will be in Latin but in addition, Turkish, Italian, French, English and German will also be used. Mass Propers will be that of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
2. Papal Mass at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul will be in Latin, Turkish, French, German, Syriac, Arabic and Spanish. Mass Propers will be from the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.
3. Papal Mass Chapel of the Papal Representation will be in Latin and the Propers will be that of the Feast of St Andrew. Check Vatican Television if there is a telecast.
4. Stream Videos of Apostolic Journey to Turkey will eventually be posted on Vatican Television Centre Archives

Byzantine Divine Liturgy

The Byzantine Divine Liturgy has three parts: the preparation of the priest and the gifts of bread and wine (prothesis); the liturgy of the catechumens (liturgy of the word); and the liturgy of the faithful.

A. The preparation of the gifts has two parts. First, the preparation of the priest, which includes the prayers and his clothing with the sacred vestments. In the prayers the priest asks the Lord in his mercy to make him worthy to offer the sacrifice, to intercede for the people, to call down the Holy Spirit.

There follows the preparation of the gifts of bread and wine. Although the rite of preparation is performed by the priest alone, the whole Church, in heaven and in earth, is symbolically present.

B. The liturgy of the catechumens calls for the participation of the catechumens, who are then dismissed after the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Divine Liturgy begins with an invocation of the Holy Trinity: “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”. Three litanies follow, a longer one and two shorter ones, which invoke the Lord’s mercy upon the whole world and the entire Church. Mention is made of the Church, her members and all those in need. These litanies always include an invocation to the Mother of God, who intercedes for everyone and for the Holy Church. After the second litany the christological hymn, “Only-Begotten” is sung; this is an ancient liturgical hymn that summarizes the principal dogmas of the Christian faith: the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word of God, the divine maternity of Mary, the salvation that is bestowed on us by Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. There follows the “Small Entrance”. In a solemn procession, the priest and the deacon take the Gospel from the altar, show it to the faithful and set it again on the altar, in order to indicate the beginning of the proclamation of the word of God: originally this was the entrance procession. Before the readings the Trisagion is chanted: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal…”. Two readings are then proclaimed from the New Testament. The Gospel is usually followed by a homily.

C. The Liturgy of the Faithful. The third part of the Divine Liturgy is the liturgy of the faithful, in which those who are baptized participate fully. It begins with the “Great Entrance”, the procession with the bread and wine towards the altar. The choir sings the hymn: “We who mystically represent the Cherubim…”, another ancient liturgical text in which the Church of heaven and earth is united in praise and thanksgiving to God for his gifts. The priest incenses the altar, the church, the gifts and the faithful, all of which are icons of Christ. He then solemnly takes the paten and the chalice, and after asking the Lord to remember all those who have been commemorated and the whole Church, he sets them on the altar and covers them with the veil. The priest then recites for himself and the whole Church the words of the Good Thief from his cross: “Remember me, Lord, in your Kingdom…”. The gifts, a symbol of Christ, the Lamb who was slain, are then placed on the altar, as if in the tomb from which, after the consecration or sanctification, the life-giving Body of Christ will be given to each of the faithful. After the entrance, litanies are sung, the sign of peace is exchanged, and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is recited. There follows the anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom, which has a structure similar to that of the other anaphoras of the Eastern and Western liturgies: an initial trinitarian dialogue, Preface, Sanctus, anamnesis, institution narrative, epiclesis, intercessions and conclusion.

This is followed by the Our Father, the breaking of the bread and communion. Before communion the priest pours some boiling water (called the zéon) into the chalice as a symbol of the outpouring and presence of the Holy Spirit, as well as a sign of the life which comes from communion in the living and life-giving Body and Blood of Christ himself. Communion is received under both species.

The Divine Liturgy concludes with the final blessing.

The Liturgy of the Word in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of Saint Mary

The prayers and ritual sequences making up the prayer service have been drawn from various elements of the Eucharistic celebration of the Armenian Liturgy.

Before the entrance procession in the Cathedral, in accordance with the Armenian national tradition, the Holy Father is presented with bread, salt and rose water as symbols of welcome and good wishes.

As His Holiness and His Beatitude enter the Cathedral, the choir performs the chant Herasciapar Asdvadz (“O Wondrous God”), which recounts the story of the conversion of the Armenian people to Christianity through the efforts of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

At the foot of the altar, a prayer is said. The Holy Father and His Beatitude then take their places before the sacred altar, from which the Gospel, carried in procession from the entrance of the Cathedral, is solemnly proclaimed.

The prayer service in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral expresses the joy of the Armenian Apostolic Church at the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

(Apostolic Journey to Turkey: Presentation)

Turning Towards the East

In Turkey, the Pope will soon be in Turkey and he will be attending Eastern Liturgies. Our Eastern Brethren will show us Latins how the Liturgy is to be done. Face East.

"The celebration of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, as of those of others Oriental Churches, is performed towards the East. The priest with all the faithful look towards the East from which Christ will come one day in His glory. The priest intercedes with the Lord for his people; he walks before the people towards the meeting with the Lord. There are several moments in which the priest turns towards the people: to proclaim the Gospel, in the dialog before the Anaphora, for the Communion with the Holy Gifts, and for all the blessings." - Apostolic Journey to Turkey: Presentation

24 November 2006

The Mass

Pope St. Stephen I (254-257), "Let them innovate in nothing but keep the traditions"

Language in the Roman Rite Liturgy: Latin and Vernacular

(Note: Emphasis is my own)

Taken from Adoremus


Keynote Address
Gateway Liturgical Conference
St Louis, Missouri
November 11, 2006

by Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship

1. Excelling Dignity of Liturgical Prayer

The Church which was founded by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strives to bring together men and women from every race, language, people and nation (cf Rev 5:9), so that "every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:11). On Pentecost day there were men and women "from every nation under heaven" (cf Acts 2:5) listening as the Apostles recounted the wonderful works of God.

This Church, this new people of God, this Mystical Body of Christ, prays. Her public prayer is the voice of Christ and his Bride the Church, Head and members. The liturgy is an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In it, full public worship is performed by the whole Church, that is, by Christ who associates with him his members. "From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of his Body the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can match its claim to efficacy, nor equal its degree of it" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). From the sacred spring of the liturgy, all of us who thirst for the graces of the redemption draw living water (cf Jn 4:10).

Consciousness that Jesus Christ is the high priest in every liturgical act should instill in us great reverence. As St Augustine says, "He prays for us, he prays in us, and he is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our priest; he prays in us as our head; and he is prayed to by us as our God. Let us therefore recognize our voices in him and his voices in us" (Enarratio in Psalmum, 85: CCL 39, 1176).

2. Different Rites in the Church

In the sacred liturgy the Church celebrates the mysteries of Christ by means of signs, symbols, gestures, movements, material elements and words. In this reflection we are focusing on words used in divine worship in the Roman or Latin Rite. The core elements of the sacred liturgy, the seven sacraments, come from our Lord Jesus Christ himself. As the Church spread and grew among various peoples and cultures, various ways of celebrating the mysteries of Christ also developed. Four parent rites can be identified as the Antiochene, Alexandrine, Roman and Gallican. They gave rise to nine major rites in the Catholic Church today: in the Latin Church the Roman Rite is predominant and then among the Eastern Churches we find the Byzantine, Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Ethiopian, Malabar, Maronite and Syrian Rites. Each "Rite" is an historic blending of liturgy, theology, spirituality and Canon Law. The fundamental characteristics of each undoubtedly go back to the earliest centuries, the essentials to the apostolic age if not to Our Lord Himself.

The Roman Rite, which is the subject of our reflection, is in modern times, as we have said, the predominant liturgical expression of the ecclesial culture we call the Latin Rite. You will know that in and around the Archdiocese of Milan a "sister Rite" is in use that takes its name from Saint Ambrose, the great Bishop of Milan: the "Ambrosian Rite". In certain locations and on special occasions the liturgy is celebrated in Spain according to the ancient Hispanic or Mozarabic Rite. These two venerable exceptions do not concern us here.

The Church in Rome used Greek from the beginning. Only gradually was Latin introduced until the fourth century when the Church in Rome was definitely latinized (cf A.G. Martimort: The Dialogue between God and his people, in A.G. Martimort ed.: The Church at Prayer, Collegeville, 1992, I, p. 161-165).

The Roman Rite has spread in most of what was known as Western Europe and the continents evangelized largely by European missionaries in Asia, Africa, America and Oceania. Today, with an easier movement of peoples, there are Catholics of the other rites (roughly identified as the Oriental Churches) in all these continents.

Most rites have an original language which also gives each rite its historical identity. The Roman Rite has Latin as its official language. The typical editions of its liturgical books are to this day issued in Latin.

It is a remarkable phenomenon that many religions of the world, or major branches of them, hold on to a language as dear to them. We cannot think of the Jewish religion without Hebrew. Islam holds Arabic as sacred to the Qur'an. Classical Hinduism considers Sanskrit its official language. Buddhism has its sacred texts in Pali.

It would be superficial to dismiss this tendency as esoteric, or strange, or outmoded, old or medieval. That would be to ignore a fine element of human psychology. In religious matters, people tend to hold on to what they received from the beginning, how their earliest predecessors articulated their religion and prayed. Words and formulae used by earlier generations are dear to those who today inherit from them. While a religion is of course not identified with a language, how it understands itself can have an affective link with a particular linguistic expression in its classical period of growth.

3. Advantages of Latin in the Roman Liturgy

As was mentioned above, by the fourth century, Latin had replaced Greek as the official language of the Church of Rome. Prominent among the Latin Fathers of Church who wrote extensively and beautifully in Latin were St Ambrose (339-397), St Augustine of Hypo (354-430), St Leo the Great (+ 461) and Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). Pope Gregory, in particular, brought Latin to a great height in the sacred liturgy, in his sermons and in general Church use.

The Roman Rite Church showed extraordinary missionary dynamism. This explains why a greater part of the world has been evangelized by heralds of the Latin Rite. Many European languages which we regard as modem today have roots in Latin, some more than others. Examples are Italian, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese and French. But even English and German do borrow from Latin.

The Popes and the Roman Church have found Latin very suitable for many reasons. It fits a Church which is universal, a Church in which all peoples, languages and cultures should feel at home and no one is regarded as a stranger. Moreover, the Latin language has a certain stability which daily spoken languages where words change often in shades of meaning cannot have. An example is the translation of the Latin "propagare". The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples when it was founded in 1627 was called "Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide". But at the time of the Second Vatican Council many modern languages use the word "propaganda" in the sense in which we say "political propaganda". Therefore there is a preference in the Church today to avoid the expression "de propaganda Fide", in favor of "the Evangelization of Peoples". Latin has the characteristic of words and expressions retaining their meaning generation after generation. This is an advantage when it comes to the articulation of our Catholic faith and the preparation of papal and other Church documents. Even the modern universities appreciate this point and have some of their solemn titles in Latin.

Blessed Pope John XXIII- in his Apostolic Constitution, Veterum Sapientia, issued on February 22, 1962, gives these two reasons and adds a third. The Latin language has a nobility and dignity which are not negligible (cf Veterum Sapientia, 5, 6, 7). We can add that Latin is concise, precise and poetically measured.

Is it not admirable that people, especially well trained clerics, can meet in international gatherings and be able to communicate at least in Latin? More importantly, is it a small matter that one million young people could meet in the World Youth Day Convention in Rome in 2000, in Toronto in 2002 and in Cologne in 2005, and be able to sing parts of the Mass, and especially the Credo, in Latin? Theologians can study the original writings of the early Latin Fathers and of the Scholastics without tears because these were written in Latin.

It is true that there is a tendency, both in the Church and in the world at large, to give more attention today to modern languages, like English, French and Spanish, which can help one secure a job quicker in the modern employment market or in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their country. But the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI to the students of the Faculty of Christian and Classical Letters of the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome, at the end of the Wednesday General Audience of February 22, 2006, retains its validity and relevance. And he pronounced it in Latin! Here is my free English translation: "Quite rightly our predecessors have urged the study of the great Latin language so that one may learn better the saving doctrine that is found in ecclesiastical and humanistic disciplines. In the same way we urge you to cultivate this activity so that as many as possible may have access to this treasure and appreciate its importance" (In L'Osservatore Romano, 45 (23 Feb. 2006, p. 5).

4. Gregorian Chant

"Liturgical action is given a more noble form when sacred rites are solemnized in song" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 113). There is an ancient saying: bis orat qui bene cantat, that is, "the person who sings well prays twice". This is so because the intensity that prayer acquires from being sung, increases its ardor and multiplies its efficacy (cf Paul VI: Address to Italian Schola Cantorum on 25 Sept, 1977, in Notitiae 136 (Nov 1977) p. 475).

Good music helps to promote prayer, to raise the minds of people to God and to give people a taste of the goodness of God.

In the Latin Rite what has come to be known as the Gregorian Chant has been traditional. A distinctive liturgical chant existed indeed in Rome before Saint Gregory the Great (+ 604). But it was this great Pontiff who gave it the greatest prominence. After Saint Gregory this tradition of chant continued to develop and be enriched until the upheavals that brought an end to the Middle Ages. The monasteries, especially those of the Benedictine Order, have done much to preserve this heritage.

Gregorian Chant is marked by a moving meditative cadence. It touches the depths of the soul. It shows joy, sorrow, repentance, petition, hope, praise or thanksgiving, as the particular feast, part of the Mass or other prayer may indicate. It makes the Psalms come alive. It has a universal appeal which makes it suitable for all cultures and peoples. It is appreciated in Rome, Solesmes, Lagos, Toronto and Caracas. Cathedrals, monasteries, seminaries, sanctuaries, pilgrimage centers and traditional parishes resound with it.

Saint Pope Pius X extolled the Gregorian chant in 1904 (Tra le Sollecitudini, 3). The Second Vatican Council praised it in 1963: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as proper to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 116). The Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, repeated this praise in 2003 (cf Chirograph for Centenary of Tra Le Sollecitudini; 4-7; in Cong. for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Spiritus et Sponsa, 2003, p. 130). Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the International Association of Pueri Cantores when they met in Rome at the end of 2005. They give a privileged place to the Gregorian chant. In Rome and throughout the world the Church is blessed with many fine choirs, both professional and amateur, that render the chant beautifully, and communicate their enthusiasm for it.

It is not true that the lay faithful do not want to sing the Gregorian chant. What they are asking for are priests and monks and nuns who will share this treasure with them. The CDs produced by the Benedictine monks of Silos, their mother house at Solesmes, and numerous other communities sell among young people. Monasteries are visited by people who want to sing Lauds and especially Vespers. In an ordination ceremony of eleven priests which I celebrated in Nigeria last July, about 150 priests sang the First Eucharistic Prayer in Latin. It was beautiful. The people, although no Latin scholars, loved it. It should be just normal that parish churches where there are four or five Masses on Sunday should have one of these Masses sung in Latin.

5. Did Vatican II discourage Latin?

Some people think, or have the perception, that the Second Vatican Council discouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. This is not the case.

Just before he opened the Council, Blessed Pope John Paul XXIII in 1962 issued an Apostolic Constitution, to insist on the use of Latin in the Church. The Second Vatican Council, although it admitted some introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the place of Latin: "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36). The Council also required that seminarians "should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences and the documents of the Church as well" (Optatam Totius, 13). The Code of Canon Law published in 1983 enacts that "the eucharistic celebration: is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved" (Canon 928).

Those, therefore, who want to give the impression that the Church has put Latin away from her liturgy are mistaken. A manifestation of people's acceptance of Latin liturgy well celebrated was had at world level in April, 2005, when millions followed the burial rites of Pope John Paul II and then, two weeks later, the inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI over the television.

It is remarkable that young people welcome the Mass celebrated sometimes in Latin. Problems are not lacking. So, too, there are misunderstandings and wrong approaches on the part of some priests on the use of Latin. But to get the matter in better focus, it is necessary first to examine the use of the vernacular in the liturgy of the Roman Rite today.

6. The Vernacular: Introduction. Extension. Conditions.

The introduction of local languages into the sacred liturgy of the Latin Rite is a development that did not occur all of a sudden. After the partial experience gained over the preceding years in certain countries, already on December 5 and 6, 1962, after long and sometimes impassioned debates, the Second Vatican Fathers adopted the principle that the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of advantage to the people. In the following year the Council voted to apply this principle to the Mass, the ritual and the Liturgy of the Hours (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36, 54, 63a, 76, 78, 101).

Extensions of the use of the vernacular followed. But, as if the Council Fathers foresaw the likelihood that Latin might lose more and more ground, they insisted again and again that Latin be maintained.

As already quoted, article 36 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy began by enacting that "particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite". Article 54 required that steps be taken "enabling the faithful to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them". In the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours "in accordance with the centuries old tradition of the Latin rite, clerics are to retain the Latin language" (SC, 101).

But even while establishing limits, the Council Fathers anticipated the possibility of a wider use of the vernacular. Article 54 indeed adds: ''Wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Article 40 of this Constitution is to be observed". Article 40 goes into directives on the role of Bishops' Conferences and of the Apostolic See in such a delicate matter. The vernacular had been introduced. The rest is history. The developments were so fast that many clerics, religious and lay faithful today are not aware that the Second Vatican Council did not simply introduce the vernacular for all parts of the liturgy.

Requests and widenings of the use of the vernacular were not long in coming. At the urgent request of some Bishops' Conferences, Pope Paul VI first allowed the Preface of the Mass to be said in the vernacular (cf Letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State, 27 April 1965), then the entire Canon and the prayers of ordination in 1967. Finally on June 14,1971, the Congregation for Divine Worship sent notice that Episcopal Conferences could allow the use of the vernacular in all the texts of the Mass, and each Ordinary could give the same permission for the choral or private celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (on the whole development, see A. G. Martimort: The Dialoque between God and his People, in A. G. Martimort: The Church at Prayer, I, p. 166).

The reasons for the introduction of the mother tongue are not far to seek. It promotes better understanding of what the Church is praying, since "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy... (and which) is their right by reason of their Baptism" (SC, 14).

At the same time, it is not difficult to envisage how demanding and delicate the work of translation must be. Even more difficult is the question of adaptation and inculturation especially when we think of the sacredness of the sacramental rites, the centuries-old tradition of the Latin Rite, and the close link between faith and worship encapsuled in the old formula: lex orandi lex credendi.

We turn now to the thorny question of translations into the vernacular in the liturgy.

7. On Translations into the Vernacular

The translation of liturgical texts from the Latin original to the various vernaculars is a very important consideration in the prayer life of the Church. It is a question, not of private prayer, but of the public prayer offered by holy Mother Church, with Christ as the head. The Latin texts have been prepared with great care as to sound doctrine, exact wording "free from all ideological influence and otherwise endowed with those qualities by which the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language to prayer, and worthy worship is offered to God the Most High" (Liturgiam Authenticam, 3). The words used in the sacred liturgy manifest the faith of the Church and are guided by it. The Church, therefore, needs great care in directing, preparing and approving translations, so that not even one unsuitable word will be smuggled into the liturgy by an individual who may have a personal agenda, or who may simply not be aware of the seriousness of the rites.

Translations should, therefore, be faithful to the original Latin text. They should not be free compositions. As Liturgiam Authenticam, the major Holy See document that gives directives on translations, insists: "The translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language" (n.20).

The genius of the Latin Rite should be respected. The triple repetition is one of its characteristics. Examples are "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa"; "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison". "Agnus Dei qui tollis...", three times. A close study of the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" also shows "triplets". Translations should neither kill nor flatten out such a characteristic.

The Latin liturgy expresses not only facts but also our feelings, our sentiments, for example, in front of God's transcendence, majesty, mercy and boundless love (cf Liturgiam Authenticam, 25). Expressions like "Te igitur, clementissime Pater", "Supplices te rogamus", "Propitius esto", "veneremur cernui", "Omnipotens et misericors Dominus", "nos servi tui", should not be deflated and democratized by some translating iconoclast. Some of these Latin expressions are difficult to translate. The best experts in liturgy, classics, patrology, theology, spirituality, music and literature are needed so that translations beautiful on the lips of holy Mother Church can be worked out. Translations should reflect that reverence, gratitude and adoration before God's transcendent majesty and man's hunger for God which are very clear in the Latin texts. Pope Benedict XVI in his Message to the meeting of the "Vox Clara" English Committee on 9 November 2005, speaks of translations which "will succeed in transmitting the treasures of the faith and the liturgical tradition in the specific context of a devout and reverent Eucharistic celebration" (in Notitiae, 471-472 (Nov-Dec 2005) p. 557).

Many liturgical texts are steeped in biblical expressions, signs and symbols. They resonate with prayer patterns that date back to the Psalms. The translator cannot afford to ignore this.

A language spoken by millions of people today will undoubtedly have many shades and variations. There is a difference between English used in the Constitution of a country, that spoken by the President of a Republic, the conversational language of dock workers or students and the conversation between parents and children. The manner of expression cannot be expected to be the same in all these situations, although all are using English. What form should liturgical translations adopt? No doubt liturgical vernacular should be intelligible and easy to proclaim and to understand. At the same time it should be dignified, sober, stable and not subject to frequent change. It should not hesitate to use some words not generally in use in every-day conversation, or words that are associated with Catholic faith and worship. Therefore it should say chalice and not just cup, paten and not plate, ciborium and not vessel, priest and not presider, sacred host and not consecrated bread, vestments and not dress. Therefore Liturgiam Authenticam says: "While the translation must transmit the perennial treasury of orations by means of language understandable in the cultural context for which it is intended, ... it should cause no surprise that such language differs somewhat from ordinary speech" (n.47).

Intelligibility should not be pushed to mean that every word must be understood by everybody at once. Just look carefully at the Credo. It is a "symbol", a solemn summary statement, on our faith. The Church has had to call some General Councils for an exact articulation of some articles of our faith. Not every Catholic at Mass will immediately understand in full such normal Catholic liturgical formulae as Incarnation, Creation, Passion, Resurrection, Consubstantial with the Father, Proceeding from the Father and the Son, Transubstantiation, Real Presence, Transcendent and omnipotent God. This is not a question of English, or French, or Italian, or Hindi, or Kiswahili. Translators should not become iconoclasts who destroy and damage as they go along. Everything cannot be explained during the liturgy. The liturgy does not exhaust the entire life activity of the Church (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium, 9). There is also need for theology, catechetics and preaching. And even when a good catechesis has been delivered, a mystery of our faith remains a mystery.

Indeed, we can say that the most important thing in divine worship is not that we understand every word or concept. No. The most important consideration is that we stand in reverence and awe before God, that we adore, praise and thank him. The sacred, the things of God, are best approached with sandals off.

In prayer, language is primarily for contact with God. No doubt, language is also for intelligible communication between us humans. But contact with God has priority. In the mystic, such contact with God approaches and sometimes reaches the ineffable, the mystical silence where language ceases.

There is therefore no surprise if liturgical language differs somewhat from our every-day language. Liturgical language strives to express Christian prayer where the mysteries of Christ are celebrated.

As if putting together these various elements needed in order to produce good liturgical translations, let us quote from the address of Pope John Paul II to American Bishops from California, Nevada and Hawaii during their 1993 ad limina visit to Rome. He was asking them in translations to guard the full doctrinal integrity and beauty of the original texts: "One of your responsibilities in this regard is to make available exact and appropriate translations of the official liturgical books so that, following the required review and confirmation by the Holy See, they may be an instrument and guarantee of a genuine sharing in the mystery of Christ and the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi. The arduous task of translation must guard the full doctrinal integrity and, according to the genius of each language, the beauty of the original texts. When so many people are thirsting for the Living God -- whose majesty and mercy are at the heart of liturgical prayer -- the Church must respond with a language of praise and worship which fosters respect and gratitude for God's greatness, compassion and power. When the faithful gather to celebrate the work of our Redemption, the language of their prayer -- free from doctrinal ambiguity and ideological influence -- should foster the dignity and beauty of the celebration itself, while faithfully expressing the Church's faith and unity" (in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVI, 2 (1993) p. 1399-1400).

From the above considerations, it follows that the Church needs to exercise careful authority over liturgical translations. The responsibility for the translation of texts rest on the Bishops' Conference which submits them to the Holy See for the necessary recognitio (cf SC 36; CLC Canon 838; Lit. Authenticam, 80).

It follows that no individual, even a priest or deacon, has authority to change the approved wording in the sacred liturgy. This is also common sense. But sometimes we notice that common sense is not very common. So Redemptionis Sacramentum had to say expressly: "The reprobated practice by which priests, deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy" (Red. Sacramentum, 59; cf also General Instruction on Roman Missal, n. 24).

8. What is expected of us?

As we seek to conclude these reflections, we can ask ourselves what is expected of us.

We should do our best to appreciate the language which the Church uses in her liturgy and to join our hearts and voices to them, according as each liturgical rite may indicate. All of us cannot be Latin speakers, but the lay faithful can at least learn the simpler responses in Latin. Priests should give more attention to Latin so that they celebrate Mass in Latin occasionally. In big churches where there are many Masses celebrated on a Sunday or Feast day, why can one of those Masses not be in Latin? In rural parishes a Latin Mass should be possible, say once a month. In international assemblies, Latin becomes even more urgent. It follows that seminaries should discharge carefully their role of preparing and forming priests also in the use of Latin (cf October 2005 Synod of Bishops, Prop. 36).

All those responsible for vernacular translations should strive to provide the very best, following the guidance of relevant Church documents, especially Liturgiam Authenticam. Experience shows that it is not superfluous to remark that priests, deacons and all others who proclaim liturgical texts, should read them out with clarity and due reverence.

Language is not everything. But it is one of most important elements that need attention for good and faith-filled liturgical celebrations.

It is an honor for us to be allowed to become part of the voice of the Church in her public prayer. May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh whose mysteries we celebrate in the sacred liturgy, obtain for all of us the grace to do our part to join in singing the praises of the Lord both in Latin and in the vernacular.

20 November 2006

More on Pro Multis...

Taken from WDTPRS

Let us remember with fondness this Protocol Number:

Prot. n. 467/05/L

Here is something very important in the letter His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze wrote to the bishops (conferences) through the whole world. My emphasis.

Rome, 17 October 2006

Your Eminence / Your Excellency,

In July 2005 this Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to all Presidents of Conferences of Bishops to ask their considered opinion regarding the translation into the various vernaculars of the expression pro multis in the formula for the consecration of the Precious Blood during the celebration of Holy Mass (ref. Prot. n. 467/05/L of 9 July 2005).

The replies received from the Bishops’ Conferences were studied by the two Congregations and a report was made to the Holy Father. At his direction, this Congregation now writes to Your Eminence / Your Excellency in the following terms:...

This is not the decision of either the CDWDS or the CDF. This was the Pope’s decision. As I have written elsewhere, the translations of sacramental forms are reserved to the Pope alone.

We find this in the Holy See’s official instrument of promulgation, Acta Apostolicae Sedis for 28 February 1974 (AAS 66 (1974) 98-99). Here we find a circular letter dated 25 October 1973 over the signature of then Secretary of State Jean Card. Villot, countersigned by Archbp. Annibale Bugnini (my translation from the Latin): “The Supreme Pontiff reserves to himself the power of approving directly all translations into vernacular languages of the formulas of sacraments.”

There is no appeal against this decision.

Pro Multis!

Finally! The clarification about pro multis vs pro omnibus. The Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments has stated very clearly that the words of consecration do not read "take this all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It shall be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven."

Instead it is supposed to read "take this all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It shall be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven."

Now if only the Nicene Creed reads "co-substantial" instead of the banal "one in being".

Taken from CWN Dossier

[To their Eminences / Excellencies, Presidents of the National Episcopal Conferences]

Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum

Prot. N. 467/05/L

Rome, 17 October 2006

Your Eminence / Your Excellency,

In July 2005 this Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to all Presidents of Conferences of Bishops to ask their considered opinion regarding the translation into the various vernaculars of the expression pro multis in the formula for the consecration of the Precious Blood during the celebration of Holy Mass (ref. Prot. N. 467/05/L of 9 July 2005).

The replies received from the Bishops' Conferences were studied by the two Congregations and a report was made to the Holy Father. At his direction, this Congregation now writes to Your Eminence / Your Excellency in the following terms:

1. A text corresponding to the words pro multis, handed down by the Church, constitutes the formula that has been in use in the Roman Rite in Latin from the earliest centuries. In the past 30 years or so, some approved vernacular texts have carried the interpretive translation "for all", "per tutti", or equivalents.

2. There is no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of Masses celebrated with the use of a duly approved formula containing a formula equivalent to "for all", as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already declared (cf. Sacra Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Declaratio de sensu tribuendo adprobationi versionum formularum sacramentalium, 25 Ianuarii 1974, AAS 66 [1974], 661). Indeed, the formula "for all" would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord's intention expressed in the text. It is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5,14-15; Titus 2,11; 1 John 2,2).

3. There are, however, many arguments in favour of a more precise rendering of the traditional formula pro multis:
a. The Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26,28; Mk 14,24) make specific reference to "many" (πολλων = pollôn) for whom the Lord is offering the Sacrifice, and this wording has been emphasized by some biblical scholars in connection with the words of the prophet Isaiah (53, 11-12). It would have been entirely possible in the Gospel texts to have said "for all" (for example, cf. Luke 12,41); instead, the formula given in the institution narrative is "for many", and the words have been faithfully translated thus in most modern biblical versions.

b. The Roman Rite in Latin has always said pro multis and never pro omnibus in the consecration of the chalice.

c. The anaphoras of the various Oriental Rites, whether in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, the Slavic languages, etc., contain the verbal equivalent of the Latin pro multis in their respective languages.

d. "For many" is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas "for all" is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.

e. The expression "for many", while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one's willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the "many" to whom the text refers.

f. In line with the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, effort should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.
The Bishops' Conferences of those countries where the formula "for all" or its equivalent is currently in use are therefore requested to undertake the necessary catechesis for the faithful on this matter in the next one or two years to prepare them for the introduction of a precise vernacular translation of the formula pro multis (e.g, "for many", "per molti", etc.) in the next translation of the Roman Missal that the Bishops and the Holy See will approve for use in their country.

With the expression of my high esteem and respect, I remain, Your Eminence/Your Excellency,

Devotedly Yours in Christ,

Francis Card. Arinze, Prefect

A Wedding Homily

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of two of my friends. And if only the Homily went along these lines instead.... (Taken from Domine da mihi hanc aquam)

Sacrament of Matrimony: Marci Strauss & Joseph Lee
Genesis 2.18-24; Ps 145.8-9; 1 Cor 12.31-13.8; John 2.1-11
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

Love is patient. Love is kind. And it is not jealous or rude or pompous. Love is gentle and giving. And it is messy. Sometimes horribly messy. Love is often difficult and strange. Almost always it is impractical, risky, and hazardous to one’s health. Love makes us generous, forgiving, and blind. It makes us stupid, a little nuts, and it makes almost perfectly human. We love because God made us in His image and likeness. And God is Love. For this reason—Deus caritas est—Love never fails.

If love is messy and dangerous and often makes one stupid, why bother with it at all? We have no choice. We can no more fail to love than we can fail to breathe and live. We might fail to love this person or that one, but if we live and move and have our being in God, we love. Passionately. Distantly. Eagerly. Reluctantly. Or even grudgingly. But we love. And in loving we become more and more like God Who is Love. This perfection, this growing more fully into the image and likeness of God is our salvation; it is how God says to us: “You are healed; you are saved; you are loved. Now, become love for one another!” Hazardous, wasteful, and downright dumb, yes; but loving one another is worth the price of insuring against a long life of short passions and a too early grave so late in living.

Without love we are dead in the heart—just waiting to be buried. Paul writes to the Corinthians: Present your spiritual gifts for inspection! Speak in tongues, prophesy, explain the mysteries and teach all knowledge, trust and move mountains, sell everything and walk the world stripped naked in poverty. Do it all! But if you do not love…you are noise, discordant racket. You are nothing. Thankfully, we have been given a more excellent way: love bears every burden, trusts every promise, hopes for every gift, and endures and endures and endures. Love rejoices in the truth and never fails…even when, no, especially when we fail to love one another.

So there he is in Cana. Mingling. Chatting. Sipping a decent wine. His disciples are there too. Mixing and drinking. Having a good time at this wedding. Then disaster strikes! The wine is almost gone. Mary finds Jesus in a circle of friends telling stories about playing hide and seek in the temple and scaring his parents to death. Mary pulls Jesus away from his fun and says to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus replies, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” You can almost see Mary getting That Mom Face—relaxed but stubborn, sure of getting her way but patient about it. Then Jesus says something completely unexpected: “My hour has not yet come.” Mary knows what this means. It is not yet time for him to reveal himself as the Messiah. So, like any good mother dealing with a stubborn son, Mary ignores him completely and tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus changes the stone jars of water into stone jars of wine and the wedding party goes on! Why now? I mean, why did Jesus choose a wedding to reveal his divine Sonship? Why did he pick a marriage rite to say publicly, “I am the promised messiah; I am the Anointed One”? By performing this miracle, the gospel says, Jesus “revealed his glory” and that “his disciples began to believe in him.” Simply put: Jesus picked this time and place and event to reveal his divine mandate to preach a good news to the children of Israel because it is at a wedding that we celebrate the coming together of two people in one flesh. Jesus announces that he is here to heal the breach between his Father and his Father’s nation. They would be “one flesh” in him—human and divine, a healed injury, a forgotten anger, and a revelation of God’s love. That’s what a marriage is: the completion, the perfection of a man and a woman in one flesh so that God’s love may be revealed to the world and in the world, more fully proclaimed and better understood.

We are not here this afternoon to participate in a wedding. This is not a wedding feast. The liturgical books say that we are participating in the “Rite of Marriage within the Mass.” The lectionary says that this liturgy is the “Conferral of the Sacrament of Matrimony.” Sacrament. We are here to witness Joseph and Marci confect a sacrament. They are enacting God’s grace, our Father’s invitation to live with Him now and forever. When they say “I do” they become one flesh, one body and their lives together become one witness to God’s love for us, His children, His church. And this is why the Church teaches the indissolubility of marriage: Love never fails, God never fails. What God has brought together, let no one destroy.

As witnesses to this sacrament, this public sign of God’s grace, we are all charged with saying “Amen.” Do not say “amen” lightly. It requires a commitment. It is not enough for us to show up, take our places, and sip the good wine afterwards. By being here and by our “amen” we are committing ourselves to what at first might seem like an easy task—supporting Joseph and Marci in a long, happy marriage. The sacrament is not done when the wedding is over. We have been preparing them for a marriage not a wedding; for a sacrament not a ceremony. The sacrament of marriage is not a magical ritual that wipes away all faults, all warts; gets rid of every complaint, every hardness of heart and all anxiety. The sacrament confers the grace necessary for Joseph and Marci to live as one flesh in the world as a sign of God’s love for the world. But it does not confer moral perfection, angelic virtue, or heroic endurance. That’s our job—those here who say “amen”—that’s our job: to be a perfecting influence, a virtuous refuge, an encouragement to endurance through the jagged days. With all of our own faults, our own problems, we are called by this sacrament to stand with these two today and celebrate their love for one another. And we are called to stand with them when they need us in less celebratory times.

Joseph and Marci: listen for the “amens” today. Hear them all. There are people here who love you and who are standing with you today, tomorrow, and on into whenever. You are a sensible pair. Well-prepared to meet the rough spots. You both laugh easily. You both give generously and take gratefully. You are practical and creative. Meticulous and free. You are smart, passionate, and your love for one another is plain to see.

I will end with this exhortation: be patient with one another and kind; do not be jealous or arrogant, puffed up or mean-spirited; take care of one another when things are good and not so good; seek the other’s happiness and will the best; bear together, trust together, hope together, and endure, endure, endure.

Remember: Love never fails.

19 November 2006

Vatican Radio Liturgical Programs

Taken from NLM

On the Vatican Radio's Liturgical programmes you can tune in each day to hear Mass in Latin, but also the Divine Office in Latin as well (Lauds, Vespers and Compline).

In addition, an NLM reader tells me, by way of Sandro Magister apparently, that the Mozart 'Coronation' mass is being sung by the Vienna Boys Choir accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic in St Peter's Basilica tomorrow, with Cardinal Schönborn celebrating. This is being done at 10:00am Roman Time (which is, I believe, 6 hours ahead from Eastern Standard Time in North America). Apparently this Mass will be broadcast live on Vatican Radio.

Further, the Cantori Gregoriani are chanting Mass at Sant'Abbondio in Cremona at 11:00am Roman time, and this will be broadcast on RAI Uno.

18 November 2006

Active and Conscious Participation

The Vatican II document, Sacrosactum Concilium calls for active and conscious participation in the liturgy. But what really is it? Many times we hear what its not. Its not the use of rock music in the Mass. Its not the substitution of a lay sharing for the homily. Its not the Priest creating his own Eucharistic Prayer. Its not the substitution of the text of the Sanctus. Its not the creation of a new response to the Mysterium Fidei. Its not the use of crystal patens and chalices. Its not the hand-holding for the Pater Noster. Its not the Priest coming out of the sanctuary for the sign of peace. Its not this, its not that.

This would the active and conscious participation in the liturgy called for by the Second Vatican Council: Traditional Latin Low Mass With Meditation by St. Eymard

While this video is show the Classical Roman Rite, the same standard of participation in the liturgy applies for the Missal of Paul VI. This kind of meditation very clearly is active and conscious participation. How frequent is this kind of active and conscious participation taught?

Note: this video may not be the best example of the Classical Roman Rite, just concentrate on the meditation.

17 November 2006

The Word in Sacred Music

Taken from NLM

The following is an essay which I developed from the opening lecture to a six week course I gave on the history of sacred music for one of the parishes in which I've worked. This was given in October 2004. I suppose I was a bit roundabout in making the point (my intuitive thought processes sometimes get in my own way), but the general thesis is that, while the text is important, in addition to the text, the music itself can express important ideas and is very important in the worship of God.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made....and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."[1]

Here in these passages from the Gospel of St. John, we find a scriptural starting point for an understanding of sacred art, and, more specifically for our purposes, sacred music. The universe, or cosmos, in all its splendor was created by God through Christ, Who is the Word.

"Cosmos" means order--mathematical order, to be exact, and beauty comes from inner order, an internal, organizational logic.[2] This order of the cosmos has its basis in the mind of the Creator, the Word.[3] Creation, therefore, by virtue of its order, declares the truth of its Creator. Its beauty, which comes from this order, declares the glory of God.[4] How many times has the beauty of nature been used to refute some doubt in the existence of God?

God continues His creation in this world through artists, who bring new form out of already existing material. A sculptor uses stone, a craftsman uses wood, and a musician uses the physical laws of sound. All of these materials and tools were first created by the Word, Who fashioned everything out of nothing. Therefore, the artist creates solely through participation in God's creative power. In this context, we can easily understand why Dante called art "God's grandchild."[5] Shouldn't it follow, then, that we ought to strive to make our artistic creations accord entirely with the order of the cosmos? If, after all, a work of art reflects the order of creation, it declares the truth. Perhaps this is why so much of sacred art strengthens our faith; it speaks directly to our intuition because it is in perfect harmony with creation. It resonates with us.

I would dare to say that a work of art is good and true and beautiful insofar as it relates to the order of creation. This measuring stick would require that art be judged outside the realm of personal taste and that it be more than mere entertainment. A true work of art must be well-conceived and well-fashioned. It must have its own logical construction, just like creation. This is the only approach that can be used if artists are to fulfill their highest obligation, which is the revelation of the infinite in definite form.[6]

This is not how most artists today view their vocation. As a consequence of the so-called Age of Reason, artists now more often than not consider their work to be some mode of self-expression, and nothing more. The fact of the matter, however, is that art and religion have been married for thousands of years, even since pre-historic times.[7] Only after art was divided into sacred and secular realms did this marriage suffer, and the chasm between art and religion widened[8], and we began to create art for art's sake.

In this circumstance, much art has become God-less, and it is then that art becomes potentially dangerous. This may be what fuels suspicion on the part of many in the Church toward art and artists of all stripes. Perhaps this is also why many have said that the arts in the Church are not needed, even undesirable. Little wonder that Pope Paul VI said in 1964 that the Church has abandoned the artists, and the artists have abandoned the Church.[9] We are, then, urgently required to remind the whole Church that art comes from faith and is meant to lead us back to it, so we must continue to create, and create accordingly.

The idea of bringing the infinite into definite form is one that is unique to Christianity. Other monotheistic religions take very literally the commandment that thou shalt not make a graven image. Many other religions, particularly from the East, ultimately reject tangible material as an illusion at best, and some consider earthly matter to be evil. Christians, however, know that the Word who created the cosmos became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus took on human form. He was both God and man, and it is through the mystery of His Incarnation that the Father is revealed to us.[10]

Sacred art is analogous to this mystery. In sacred art, we take earthly materials and raise them to a higher purpose. In this way, it can be said that we spiritualize the material.[11] As a work of art takes shape, it brings some element of the faith into the grasp of our senses, albeit in a less than perfect way. In this respect, an artist executes a "materialization of the spirit."[12] Therefore, sacred art, as a spiritualization of matter and a materialization of the spirit, acts as a conduit for us between heaven and earth. This is a most important relationship in the Mass, at which we participate in the Heavenly Liturgy, which makes present the saving acts of God--past, present, and future.

That sacred music plays an important part in worship is less of a contentious issue than the question of how it ought to function in this role. What approach should today's church musicians adopt in order to see to it that our sacred music corresponds to the Word of all creation? After all, it is He who is the Supreme Artist. If modern liturgical praxis is any indication, it seems that most today would say that the music should provide for an understandable text. This is a worthy goal, and the Church has, in the past, addressed this concern with beautiful consequences, specifically in the dictates of the Council of Trent.[13] However, of late, it seems that we have gone too far with this, and the music which serves as a mere utility for communicating a text falls well short of inspiring contemplation on the mysteries of the faith.

One can anticipate arguments to the contrary: "How can the Word be served if there is no understandable text? What use is all of this beauty if there is no intelligible message?" Indeed, there must be a certain cooperation between musical ornateness and clarity of text, as can be found in the Gregorian chant repertoire. Isn't it true, however, that, given what we've already discussed, a musical composition that participates in the order of creation, regardless of the intelligibility of the text, serves the Word, through Whom all things were made? How else could instrumental music be allowed in the Church? In thinking on this, it is important to remember that sacred music is an integral part of the liturgy, which, as a work of art ordered in the cosmos, worships God, who understands all the modes of human expression just as easily as he understands the language of the tongue.

Few in the modern Church require a discourse on the virtues of music that dutifully spits out the text. Because it is most uncommon and tremendously underappreciated, I would like to focus on music which takes the opposite approach, for oftentimes words simply cannot do the message justice. Let us take, for example, this Alleluia for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year.

"Sing well unto Him in jubilation."[14] This is what you have just heard, a jubilation, or jubilus. St. Augustine asks, "What does a 'jubilation' mean? It is the realization that words cannot express the inner music of the heart."[15]

In this Alleluia, the long melisma, the jubilus, is set only to one syllable, so that this incantation very nearly becomes text-less. In fact, the jubilus, which had its roots in folk music outside the ecclesiastical environment[16], may indeed have originally been text-less.[17] Augustine follows this up: "If folksingers jubilate from earthly exhilarations, ought not we to sing the jubilation through heavenly joy, what words cannot articulate?"[18]

"Alleluia!" This word comes from the Hebrew language, and it means, "Praise the Lord." But in our usage, "Alleluia" has seemingly come to have a special connotation that transcends this definition and summons not just an attitude of praise, but one of joyous praise, of exultation. In the season of Lent, we do not sing "Alleluia," but we still sing various versions of its definition before the Gospel, e.g. "Praise to you, Word of God, Lord Jesus Christ."[19] Having buried the Alleluia before Ash Wednesday, we chant it again at the Easter Vigil, where it sounds forth in celebration of the Resurrection. How appropriate it is, then, that we should jubilate to this text, "not with the din of the lips, but with the affection of the heart,"[20] in this "form of expression which is not that of daily life!"[21]

Augustine's love of the jubilus would surely be viewed as strange in the minds of most of our contemporaries. In this age, we pride ourselves on reason, science, and technology. We tend not to believe anything that cannot be demonstrated in scientifically acceptable terms, which usually require wordy explanations. Science has attempted through the years to explain the order of creation, but what is one to say when he comes into contact with this glorious work of the Lord? Who among us can do justice with our words to the majesty and glory of this universe which God created? Even scientists who claim to know the "how" of nature most certainly cannot explain the "why."[22]

How do we sing of the mysterious glory of God and of His creation that can be loved even if it cannot be fully understood? Sing the jubilus. [23]

It was stated earlier that the beauty of creation is derived from its form, from its internal order and logic. It was said, too, that works of art ought to relate to this order if artists are to serve their true purpose, which is the revelation of the infinite in definite form.

As it turns out, even this Alleluia, with all of its seeming capriciousness, has form, which illustrates the way in which this piece relates to the order of creation.

In the first place, by virtue of singing the Alleluia, the verse, and repeating the Alleluia, an overall A-B-A structure is achieved. This is shown in the link above. The fact that the jubilus is stated in full not only at the end of the Alleluia but at the end of the verse as well also seems to contribute to this three part form. Moreover, smaller motifs lend quite a bit of organization to this chant. The beginning of the verse makes use of the same musical material as the Alleluia. Several sections in the verse make use of small parts of the jubilus. All of these motifs hold the chant together. They are evidence of a logical writing process.

St. Paul tells us that we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that "the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."[24] The jubilus indeed functions as these sighs, these inexpressible groanings, as we sing of the salvation that was won for us by the Word, through Whom all things were made. May we always recognize him as the Supreme Artist, the source and the object of all our musical endeavors.


1. John 1:1-3, 14
2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, _The Spirit of the Liturgy_ (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000) 152.
3. Ratzinger 153.
4. Ps. 19:1
5. Rudolph Graber, "Religion and Art." _Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform after Vatican II_, Ed. Johannes Overath. (St. Paul, MN: North Central, 1969) 44.
6. Graber 41.
7. Ibid. 36.
8. Ibid. 37.
9. Ibid.
10. John 14:9 "He who has seen me has seen the Father."
11. Graber 40.
12. Ibid.
13. Karl Gustav Fellerer, "Liturgy and Music." _Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform after Vatican II_, Ed. Johannes Overath. (St. Paul, MN: North Central, 1969) 75.
14. Robert A. Skeris, _Divini Cultus Studium: Studies in the Theology of Worship and of its Music_ (Altoetting: Gebr. Geiselberger, 1990) 81.
15. Skeris 81.
16. Ibid. 73.
17. Ibid. 72.
18. Ibid. 73.
19. _Psalms and Ritual Music: Music for the Liturgy of the Word, Year A_ (Schiller Park, IL: World Library, 2001) A176.
20. Skeris 67.
21. Fellerer 72.
22. Skeris 75. St. Augustine asks, "But who can fathom the whole creation?"
23. Ibid.
24. Rom. 8:26

Praying “Ad orientem versus”

Taken from WDTPRS

This was an editorial article in Notitiae of May 1993, which I translated from the Italian original. The translation was published in the Winter 1993 issue quarterly journal Sacred Music. I wrote a commentary on it as well.

The editorial was "pirated" some years ago and put on line in various places without the permission of Sacred Music, or so the former editor Msgr. Richard Schuler told me. So, I feel entirely free to pirate it right back since I wrote it. I have cleaned it up a little, changing some of the "orthography" away from Sacred Music’s 1990’s stylesheet. The online version was a mess and a half. If you don’t read Sacred Music, you ought to.


(Published as an editorial in Notitiae 332, Vol. 29, No. 5, May 1993, pp. 245-249, this article was translated from Italian by Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf.)

1) The Eucharistic celebration is, by definition, connected to the eschatological dimension of the Christian faith. This is true in its most profound identity. Is this not perhaps the sense of the wondrous change (mirabilis conversio) of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord of glory, who lives always with the Father, perpetuating His paschal mystery?

2) The sober description of the Acts of the Apostles in the first summary concerning the life of the community speaks of the "joy" (agalliasis) with which those joined in the assembly (epi to auto), broke bread in the homes. This term (agalliasis) is the same that Luke used to indicate eschatological joy.

3) There is a logic of Ascension in the Eucharist: "This Jesus that you have seen ascend into heaven, will return. . ." In the Eucharist the Lord returns; He anticipates sacramentally His glorious return, transforming the profound reality of the elements, and He leaves them in the condition of signs of His presence and mediation of communion with His own person. It is for this that the various liturgical families underscored a common point in different ways: with the Eucharistic prayer the Church penetrates the celestial sphere. This is the meaning of the conclusion of the Roman prefaces, of the chant of the Sanctus and of the eastern Cherubicon.

4) In analyzing the origins of the Eucharistic prayer one is struck by the typically Christian variant introduced in the initial dialogue. The greeting, Dominus vobiscum, and the invitation, Gratias agamus, are common to the Jewish berakha. Only the Christian one, beginning with the first complete redaction that we possess-the Apostolic Tradition-inserts the Sursum corda. Habemus ad Dominum. For the Church, in fact, celebrating the Eucharist is never to put into action something earthly, but rather something heavenly, because it has the awareness that the principal celebrant of the same action is the Lord of glory. The Church necessarily celebrates the Eucharist oriented toward the Lord, in communion with Him and, through His mediation, toward the Father in unity with the
Holy Spirit. The priest, ordained in the Catholic and apostolic communion, is the witness of the authenticity of the celebration and at the same time the sign of the glorious Lord who presides at it. Just as the bread and wine are the elements that Christ assumes in order to "give Himself," the
priest is the person that Christ consecrated and invited to "give."

5) The placement of the priest and the faithful in relation to the "mystical table" found different forms in history, some of which can be considered typical to certain places and periods. As is logical when
treating liturgical questions, symbolism took on a noteworthy role in these different forms, but it would be difficult to prove that the architectural interpretation of such symbolism could, in any of the forms chosen, have been considered as an integral and basic part of the Christian faith or of the profound attitudes of the celebrating Church.

6) The arrangement of the altar in such a manner that the celebrant and the faithful were looking toward the east-which is a great tradition even if it is not unanimous-is a splendid application of the "parousial" character of the Eucharist. One celebrates the mystery of Christ until He comes again
from the heavens (donec veniat de caelis). The sun which illuminates the altar during the Eucharist is a pale reference to the "sun that comes from on high" (exsultans ut gigas ad currendam viam) (Ps. 18:6) in order to celebrate the paschal victory with His Church. The influence of the symbol of light, and concretely the sun, is frequently found in Christian liturgy. The baptismal ritual of the East still preserves this symbolism. Perhaps the Christian West has not adequately appreciated this, given the
consequence of having come to be known as a "gloomy place." But also in the West, at the popular level, we know that there remains a certain fascination for the rising sun. Did not Saint Leo the Great, in the fifth century, remind the faithful in one of his Christmas homilies that "when the sun rises in the first dawning of the day some people are so foolish as to worship it in high places?" He adds: "There are also Christians that still retain that it is part of religious practice to continue this
convention and that before entering the Basilica of the Apostle Peter, dedicated to the only and true God, after having climbed the stairs that bear one up to the upper level, turn themselves around toward the rising sun, bow their heads and kneel in order to honor the shining disk" (Homily
27, 4). In fact, the faithful entering the basilica for the Eucharist, in order to be intent on the altar, had to turn their backs to the sun. In order to pray while "turned toward the east," as it was said, they would have had to turn their backs to the altar, which does not seem probable.

7) The fact that the application of this symbolism in the West, beginning from very early on, progressively diminished, demonstrates that it did not constitute an inviolable element. Therefore, it cannot be considered a traditional fundamental principle in Christian liturgy. From this it also arises that, subsequently, other types of symbolism influenced the construction of altars and their arrangement in churches.

8) In the encyclical Mediator Dei, Pius XII regarded as "archeologists" those who presumed to speak of the altar as a simple table. Would it not be equally an archeologizing tendency to consider that the arrangement of the altar toward the East is the decisive key to a correct Eucharistic celebration? In effect, the validity of the liturgical reform is not based only and exclusively on the return to original forms. There can also be completely new elements in it, and in fact there are some, that have been
perfectly integrated.

9) The liturgical reform of the II Vatican Council did not invent the arrangement of the altar turned toward the people. One thinks concerning this of the witness of the Roman basilicas, at least as a pre-existing fact. But it was not an historical fact that directed the clear option for an arrangement of the altar that permits a celebration turned toward the people. The authorized interpretors of the reform-Cardinal Lercaro as the president of the Consilium-repeated from the very beginning (see the
letters from 1965) that one was not dealing with a question of a liturgy that is continuing or passing away (quaestio stantis vel cadentis liturgiae). The fact that the suggestions of Cardinal Lercaro in this
matter were, in that moment of euphoria, little taken into consideration, is unfortunately not an isolated case. Changing the orientation of the altar and utilizing the vernacular turned out to be much easier ways for entering into the theological and spiritual meaning of the liturgy, for absorbing its spirit, for studying the history and the meaning of the rites and analyzing the reasons behind the changes that were brought about and their pastoral consequences.

10) The option for celebrations is coherent with the foundational theological idea discovered and proven by the liturgical movement: "Liturgical actions are celebrations of the Church. . .which is
the holy people of God gathered and ordered under the bishops" (SC 26). The theology of the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, "distinct in essence, and not in degree" (essentia, non gradu) and nevertheless ordered to each other (LG 10) is certainly better expressed with the arrangement of the altar versus populum. Did not monks, from ancient times, pray turned toward each other in order to search for the presence of the Lord in their midst? Moreover, a figurative motive is worth
underscoring. The symbolic form of the Eucharist is that of a meal, a repetition of the supper of the Lord. One does not doubt that this meal is sacrificial, a memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ, but from the figurative point of view its reference point is the supper.

11) Furthermore, how does one forget that one of the strongest arguments that sustain the continuance of the uninterrupted tradition of the exclusive ordination of men, lies in the fact that the priest, president in virtue of ordination, stands at the altar as a member of the assembly, but also by his sacramental character, before the assembly as Christ is the head of the Church and that for this reason stands there in front of (gegenuber) the Church.

12) If from the supports we pass to the applications, we find much material for reflection. The Congregation of Divine Worship, taking into consideration that a series of questions has been rising up in this regard, proposes now the following guiding points:

1. The celebration of the Eucharist versus populum requires of the priest a greater and more sincere expression of his ministerial conscience: his gestures, his prayer, his facial expression must reveal to the assembly in a more direct way the principal actor, the Lord Jesus. One does not improvise this; one acquires it with some technique. Only a profound sense of the proper priestly identity in spiritu et veritate is able to attain this.

2. The orientation of the altar versus populum requires with great care a correct use of the different areas of the sanctuary: the chair, the ambo and altar, as well as a correct positioning of the people that preside and serve in it. If the altar is turned into a pedestal for everything necessary for celebrating the Eucharist, or into a substitute for the chair in the first part of the Mass, or into a place from which the priest directs the whole celebration (in almost a technical sense), the altar will lose symbolically its identity as the central place of the Eucharist, the table of mystery, the meeting place between God and men for the sacrifice of the new and eternal covenant.

3. The placement of the altar versus populum is certainly something in the present liturgical legislation that is desirable. It is not, nevertheless, an absolute value over and beyond all others. It is necessary
to take into account cases in which the sanctuary does not admit of an arrangement of the altar facing the people, or it is not possible to preserve the preceding altar with its ornamentation in such a way that another altar facing the people can be understood to be the principal altar. In these cases, it is more faithful to liturgical sense to celebrate at the existing altar with the back turned to the people rather than maintain two altars in the same sanctuary. The principle of the unicity of the altar is theologically more important than the practice of celebrating facing the people.

4. It is proper to explain clearly that the expression "celebrate facing the people" does not have a theological sense, but only a topographical-positional sense. Every celebration of the Eucharist is praise and glory of God, for our good and the good of all the Church (ad laudem et gloriam nominis Dei, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae). Theologically, therefore, the Mass is always facing towards God and facing the people. In the form of celebration it is necessary to take
care not to switch theology and topography around, above all when the priest is at the altar. The priest speaks to the people only in the dialogue from the altar. All the rest is prayer to the Father, through the
mediation of Christ in the Holy Spirit. This theology must be visible.

5. At last, a conjectural consideration that is not to be left in silence. Thirty years have passed since the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. "Provisional arrangements" cannot be justified any longer. In the re-organization of the sanctuary if a provisional character is maintained which is either pedagogically or artistically badly resolved, then an element of distortion results for catechesis and for the very theology of the celebration. Some criticisms of certain celebrations that are raised are well-founded and can only be taken with seriousness. The effort to improve celebrations is one of the basic elements to assure, in so far as it depends on us, an active and fruitful participation.

Turning the Tables

Taken from WDTPRS

This was an commentary on an editorial article in Notitiae of May 1993, which I translated from the Italian original. The translation was published in the Winter 1993 issue quarterly journal Sacred Music and this commentary appeared in Spring 1994.

The article was "pirated" some years ago and put on line in various places without the permission of Sacred Music, or so the former editor Msgr. Richard Schuler told me. So, I feel entirely free to pirate it right back since I wrote it. I have cleaned it up a little, changing some of the "orthography" away from Sacred Music’s 1990’s stylesheet. The online version was a mess and a half. If you don’t read Sacred Music, you ought to.

by Rev. John T. Zuhlsdorf

In his book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, recently published in both French and English translations, Monsignor Klaus Gamber said:

During the past twenty years, we have experienced a change in the accepted meaning of the Sacrifice. Personally, I believe that the introduction of the "altar of the people," with the celebrant of the Mass facing the people, is of much greater significance and poses greater problems for the future than the introduction of the new missal.

In the May 1993 issue of Notitiae, the publication of the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, there is an editorial concerning the orientation of altars and celebrations of the Mass facing the people (See Sacred Music, Vol.120, No. 4, p. 14-17). In light of the increasing discussion overthese very matters, it is opportune to comment on this editorial.

It must be noted that Notitiae is the official publication of the Congregation. It relates various speeches of the Holy Father, minutesof plenary sessions of the congregations, various continuing scholarly studies accepted in manuscript or undertaken by the Congregation concerning the liturgy; provides the ordinary prayersfor newly beatified or canonized saints to be used in the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours; publishes decrees of the same congregation;from time to time responds formally and publicly to questions raised about the liturgy with official clarifications or interpretations;and also provides editorials or opinions. While some of the things in Notitiae have an official character, such as a decree or clarification, an editorial has no authority other than that derivedfrom the strength of its arguments and ability to persuade. People often mistake opinion for authority, especially in the liturgy. This leads to terrible problems for the use of music, observance of rubrics, construction/destruction of churches, and the like. In this number of Notitiae, one notes in the index the title of the editorial in question, but there is no indication that it is in fact an editorial until one glances at the top of the next page. While this may have been an oversight, it could lead to confusion and is best clarified.

After several introductory paragraphs (14), which establish the obvious point that all liturgy is oriented toward God, the editorial begins to address its topic. A clear attempt is made to argue that, at least in part, the arrangement of the altar, people and celebrant is historically and culturally conditioned. The motive here seems to be this: to prepare the reader later in the editorial to accept as preferable the theological/cultural criteria provided for a positioning of the altar in contrast to any historical/cultural criteria that would agrue for a different arrangement. In otherwords, if it can be shown that altars ad orientem are the result of historical or cultural conditions, rather than an organic outgrowth of Christian spirituality and theology, then the arrangement of the altar versus populum can be claimed as superior once a theological basis for it can be established.

However, the editorial’s argument reveals the first of a series of weaknesses. We read that "symbolism" as expressed in architecture is only proved with difficulty to be "an integral and basic part of Christian faith." While this is the first salvo designed to undermine support for an ad orientem altar, it likewise weakens support for a versus populum altar if convincing theological and spiritual arguments cannot be provided. Moreover, this is founded on a premise that is hard to admit, namely, that the historical or cultural influences on the development of the altar are to be set in contrast with the theological. Basically, the editorial has begun its bid to finesse the reader into being persuaded by what will, at its end, be admitted to be a matter of symbolic emphasis and even taste. It is furthermore ironic that later in the editorial numerous appeals will be made to "symbolism" to support a versus populum altar.

There follows a secondary section that continues to associate the ad orientem altar with historical and cultural conditions, even pagan influences. The editorial makes a particularly strange use of one of the fathers of the Church, St. Leo the Great. However, at the end of the paragraph, we find probably the real causa movens behind Notitiae’s apologia:

In fact, the faithful entering the basilica for the Eucharist inorder to be intent on the altar, had to turn their backs to the sun. In order to pray while "turned toward the east", as it was said, they would have had to turn their backs to the altar, which doesn’t seem probable.

This is an unmistakable reference to the thesis of Klaus Gamber in his recently and posthumously re-published works that have all but dismantled the archeological arguments favoring the versus populum altars that have been the rage of liturgists and the bane of architectural integrity for decades. In Zum Hernn hin![1] Gamber argues very effectively that, regardless of the physical orientation of the building, the priest and people faced the same direction at Mass, symbolically facing the east. The fact that in Roman basilicas the altars were set between the priest celebrating and the people is not sufficient evidence for an ancient practice of versus populum celebrations in the modern sense. Put briefly, it is Gamber’s thesis, founded on historical evidence and well-documented, that at a certain point in the Basilica of St. Peter, the people literally turned around and faced the east with the result that the priest and people face the same direction, this time with the priest behind the assembly. As time went on and the practice of turning around faded,there were still no versus populum Masses (in the modern sense) in the Roman basilicas because of the presence of barriers between the congregations and the altar, screens, curtains, etc.[2]

Though revolutionary, Gamber’s well-researched argument is far more convincing than what has been provided in past decades. It is clear that he has frightened not a few people, even in the Congregation for Divine Worship. If Gamber is right, the destruction of countless altars, the violation of sanctuaries, the pain and "disorientation" as it were of the Catholic faithful, will have proved to be a sham founded on a false argument. Some of the people who pushed the reforms after Vatican II are still around, of course, and their spiritual offspring can be found still in the Congregation that provided the editorial in . But the full impact of the editorial remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it is patent that this editorial is a response to Gamber and his growing posthumous influence.

After having attempted to associate the ad orientem altar with aculturally conditioned practice that eventually faded away, the next paragraph goes on to state that, since the practice deriving from that outdated and even pagan symbolism diminished, the celebration of Mass ad orientem cannot be considered an "inviolable element" or a "traditional fundamental principle of the liturgy." Following this, the editorial uses Pius XII to show that a desire to perpetuate an ad orientem altar is merely archeologizing, and therefore unsound, even bad. This is a further attack on the thesis of Gamber. While appealing to Pius XII seems to be a rather blatant citation of a pope much revered by traditional Catholics, there is a yet more curious point to this. Gamber himself also cites the 1947 encyclical, Mediator Dei, which says that "one who wants to change the altar into the old form of the mensa is going down the wrong road."[3]

Changing tacks, the editorial goes on to give us this:

In effect, the validity of the liturgical reform is not based only and exclusively on the return to original forms. There can also be completely new elements in it, and in fact there are some, that have been perfectly integrated.

To this assertion several responses must be made. First, we can seehow nervous the defenders of the versus populum Mass (clearly the position taken by the editorial writer!) have become if they are now beginning to back-peddle on the very argument by which they justified their altar "revolution" in the first place. "Go back to the original forms!" they once cried, thereby casting aspersions on anything that organically and legitimately developed during more than a dozen intervening centuries. Now they say that a return to the original forms is not the point? Gamber has shown that they are probably wrong in the first place about what they thought original forms were. No wonder they say that the original forms are not the point…now. It remains for them to make that assertion on a scholarly level, however. Until then, gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

Second, it seems that they (in the Congregation) are afraid that Gamber was right and that they have no evidence to the contrary. Why else would they now attack the "previous forms" argument when before they lionized it? The whole editorial shows that the proponents of the versus populum altar are now being forced to go fishing for a theology to support their projects. But isn’t that what they say happened in the intervening centuries of organic liturgical development? Liturgical reformers were ever ready to say that all those developments in the Mass were merely historical encrustations that were later justified with subsequent theological explanations. To this writer’s mind, the Notitiae editorial is doing precisely the same thing, but with a difference. Whereas the developments in the liturgy unconsciously acquired theological explanations over the years, the Congregation seems to be consciously stitching one together, ex nihilo.

Third, this editorial has surely and openly admitted that completely new elements were added to the reform of the liturgy and has implicitly placed the versus populum altar among them. Is this anything other than a tacit admission that, while they don’t like Gamber’s argument, they have to accept it? Whether these new elements in the liturgy have been "perfectly integrated" or not must be balanced against the concrete fruits that they have produced for the two or more generations of Catholics since they were introduced.

It is important to note the phrase, "The option for celebrations versus populum is coherent with the foundational theological idea discovered and proven by the liturgical movement…" The Italian implies the notion of "option" in the sense of "choose." One could say "the choice in favor of celebrations" or even "the choice to celebrate versus populum." The editorial is again tackling Gamber, who comments on these points.[4] At least Gamber went back somewhat farther than the last few decades (a century at best) of the liturgical movement. Why the author of the editorial would want to favor the recent liturgical movement, a clear example of the intertwining of cultural influence on the form of liturgy, over the practice of the ancient Church is puzzling at best, especially since he has gone to such lengths to undermine the historical and cultural criterion arguing for the altar’s orientation. Once again the specter of prejudice seems to be raising its head. Why do certain lines of argumentation concerning liturgical questions inevitably prefer the modern over the ancient, oppose the old to the new, create conflict between different periods of Christian expression? It is as if the authentic liturgy began only recently after centuries of benighted wandering and aberrations.

The last few paragraphs of the editorial have the flavor of a very self-conscious apologia. This section begins with the dramatic statement that "the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council did not invent the arrangement of the altar turned toward the people." This is odd in light of the next paragraph’s discussion of the "liturgical movement." It also seems to be protesting innocence when there had been no accusation.

Moreover, while this paragraph seems in one moment to defend the post-conciliar entity, Consilium and its Cardinal Lercaro, the interpolation of their names in this context has the side effect of drawing our attention to just exactly what they did after the Council. The editorial justly uses the argument abusus non tollit usum. Still, is this any better than the finger-pointing cry of "its their fault?"

Besides this, what can one make of the statement, "Changing the orientation of the altar and utilizing the vernacular turned out to be much easier ways for entering into the theological and spiritual meaning of the liturgy…" This is greatly to be disputed. One could conversely charge that changing the altar and eliminating Latin created confusion and ignorance. While running the risk of extremism, one could argue effectively both ways.

All of this begs the question, however, of why it is necessarily preferable to make everything "easier." Why reduce the sacred and the mysterious always and everywhere to the common denominator? At the beginning of the editorial it was correctly stated that "celebrating the Eucharist is never to put into action something earthly, but rather something heavenly." How does a versus populum altar and the vernacular facilitate that fundamental concept better than the previous forms? If once it was not "easy" to "enter into" the liturgy’s meaning at all its levels, it can hardly be stated that centuries of saints and martyrs, billions of unknown lay people, clergy, and religious throughout the world were unable to imbibe of the spirit of the liturgy which reflects the eschatological presence of the Lord of glory simply because Latin was used or the altar was ad orientem! The editorial’s statement is specious. In fact, the older form of liturgy proved itself by its fruits, and the newer form has yet to prove anything by the fact that we haven’t as yet seen it authentically implemented.

It has been said that the Church has bequeathed two things to humanity as its rightful heritage: art and saints. The centuries long use of the older form of liturgy certainly inculturated the Christian faith and gave thousands of generations a foretaste of our heavenly promise. This cannot be disputed. We have yet to see what the new-easier-form of the liturgy will give us. Despite the editorial’s disclaimer of abuses, if we have seen "something" since the introduction of the reforms, including the "new elements" cited, we have hardly seen a flowering of Catholic art and saints. Time will tell. We must give an authentic reform the chance to bear its own fruits.

The argument that a versus populum altar is verified because monks pray facing each other is ridiculous. Going on, the editorial reveals a clear theological bias even though a nod is given in the direction of the sacrificial nature of the Mass (which seems adequately expressed by an ad orientem altar) the notion of the supper and the meal is put in high evidence (favoring the versus populum). More absurd, and hardly to be understood, is the contention that the versus populum altar is "one of the strongest arguments sustaining the uninterrupted tradition of the exclusive ordination of men." One is almost embarrassed by this last point. After several blatant appeals to things revered by traditionally minded Catholics, Fathers of the Church, Pius XII, etc., now the need is felt to tack on a reference to male priesthood as something favoring a versus populum altar.

Moving from "theory" to "pastoral application," the final paragraph introduces what the Congregation proposes as "guiding points." First, the use of the title "Congregation" does not change the fact that Gamber’s argument has not been systematically addressed.

Nevertheless, as faithful Roman Catholics, it is still praiseworthy to consider and draw upon that which Roman Congregations publish, even if only at the level of an editorial. It is useful then to look at these five "guiding points" in order, and then consider their implications for our pastoral use. These "guiding points," reduced to their core and commented on here are as follows:

1. Priests need to acquire a better liturgical technique, based on asound faith and theology, since celebrating facing the people isharder to do.

This is hardly to be disputed. Would that the Congregation had insisted on this point over the last thirty years since Sacrosanctum Concilium. If, on the other hand, it is true that one does not easily acquire a liturgical "presidential" style for Masses coram populo, the same is to be said for those ad orientem. It is not to be assumed that celebrating Mass with one’s back to the people is automatically easier. Still, this remains a very good point, even if it is partly a response to what Gamber says about the liturgical style prone to the turned-around altar.[5] In addition, one can use this point to draw many implications for other related issues of training for clergy.

2. The altar itself is not a mere table, and its placement makes a difference in how the sanctuary is used.

Certainly this is directed at the abuse or disregard of the altar’s special character. The very fact that a guiding point is given on this, shows how vulnerable to abuse the versus populum altar is. Also, if the position of the altar versus populum requires a rigorous and careful use of sanctuary space, this is no less the case when the altar is fixed to the wall and the sanctuary is more open. The other part of this problem is that the comment arrives at a time when, more often than not, people are asking "what’s a sanctuary?," so many have been eliminated. Also, the carefully worked out rubrics of previous missals are certainly more in line with this "guiding point" than the usual chaos seen in most sanctuaries today. This is partly because of the ambiguity of the rubrics remaining in the new books. If the Congregation wants a better liturgical presider and a better use of the altar and sanctuary, then it could start by giving us a clear and detailed ceremonial, even though one shudders at the idea of what we might get.

3. The principle of the unicity of the altar is theologically more important than the practice of celebrating facing the people.

Although this should be an obvious point, in its own way it is the single most important point of the whole editorial. Here the entire argumentation of the editorial falls away only to reveal what everybody already knows, and has known all along. Despite all the talk of historical conditions and previous forms, aside from the theological dance done to persuade the reader that a turned-around altar is to be preferred, in the final analysis the versus populum celebration, and therefore all of the editorial’s argumentation, is not of absolute value. There are legitimate and obvious reasons why one should have an ad orientem altar. This is a most singular statement to find in Notitiae after the years and years of polemics throughout the world over this issue!

Reviewed briefly, the reason for this "point" is as follows. If the architectural layout or the artistic value of the versus ad orientem altar doesn’t allow space for a turned-around altar, keep the old one. The main idea is to defend the focus of attention on one altar. What implications does this have for the table altars that have been set up in churches both large and small where the clear architectural intention was to create lines of sight such that the worshippers’ eyes were directed to the high altar and the tabernacle? What conclusions are to be drawn from this "point" for cathedrals and basilicas, richly and beautifully decorated, that have placed a table altar in front of an artistic treasure that dominated the whole sanctuary? What does this mean for overly crowded sanctuaries that have coram populo altars squeezed in so that the space is cramped and the main altar, if still extant, turns into the shelf for plants? When in a church one sees nothing else but the high altar, beautifully decorated and by its location at the center of every attention, what implications can be drawn for the little table set up so that the priest can face the people? More sadly, what does this mean for all the altars, artistic treasures, architectural "wholes" that have been destroyed for the sake of versus populum?

In addition to momentous practical implications, this "point" has a legitimate and convincing theological aspect too: the one people of God should focus on one altar in their church. This does not mean destroy side altars, which also have significance. The artistic values and architectural space and integrity of altars and churches must be respected. Thus, common sense, theology and good taste converge at last.

4. Do not confuse topography with theology.

In a way, this "guiding point" extends point No. 3, above. Here we read that, theologically, every Mass is facing God. This is an attempt to say that an altar coram populo and one ad orientem accomplish virtually the same thing, provided, of course, that the celebrant knows what he is doing (point No. 1), the space is used well (point No. 2) and the practical and artistic aspects have been properly handled so that the people are focused on one altar (point No. 3). While this point tries to participate in the clear advantages of an ad orientem altar for all situations, it is a good principle and hardly to be disputed, even though the Congregation’s editorial keeps saying that versus populum is better.

5. "Provisional arrangements" cannot be justified any longer.

Thirty years after Sacrosanctum Concilium it is time to settle down. There are at least two ways to read this "guiding point," one superficial and one more reflective. First reading: movable tables should be quickly fixed to the floor as permanent altars, lest something happen and the table altar versus populum goes out ofstyle. In this way it will be harder to get rid of and just might weather the storm. Second, a comprehensive reading that takes into consideration some other principles provided by the editorial itself is possible. Take stock of how the liturgy is being celebrated: improve your celebrant’s style, get your ceremonies worked out, study your church’s design and the artistic value of the main altar and/or the table altar. If, when there are two altars present, the versus populum altar is clearly overshadowed and doesn’t work harmoniously with the space, get rid of it; use the high altar, and celebrate together facing God, priest’s back to the people. This would be the case with most older churches where the sanctuaries have not been "reformed." If on the other hand the versus populum altar is clearly harmonious with the space and there is no altar ad orientem, then keep things the way they are. This would be the case with most newer churches, designed to have a coram populo altar. Here priest and people could celebrate facing God, while facing each other. It is obvious that in churches where there is only one altar ad orientem and it works well, and that a versus populum altar would disturb the space’s organic whole, it should be shunned. Alas, too late for many…

This leaves unclarified the case of the older church in which the sanctuary has been reformed or the internal floor plan has been rearranged. In this case the high ad orientem altar may have been removed and a versus populum altar been introduced, but the result is a confusion of architectural lines and artistic styles that try to force the building to do something it was not designed to do.

Using the editorial’s guidelines, the Congregation seems to be saying that the church should be put back the way it was so that the space’s artistic and architectural harmony can favor the unicity of the altar and the people’s focus on it for the purpose of celebrating facing God. On the other hand, as Cardinal Ratzinger says, after all the upheaval endured in the last years and throughout all the various "renovations" that have been done, maybe it is prudent to give things a rest before putting them back the way they were. Many people already have the idea that the Church is no longer stable because of the last thirty years. Let us not contribute to that by rushing into "denovation" projects too quickly.

After looking at the strengths and weaknesses of this editorial in Notitiae, and reviewing with comments the "guiding points" it provides, a final word is in order.

The Congregation, startled into action by the thesis of Klaus Gamber to which it reacts in this editorial, has clearly been forced into a massive retreat. If the Congregation is seen as perpetuating the innovations of the Consilium, then the article in Notitiae is doubly astonishing, like a trusted rifle backfiring, exploding. If the Holy See’s Notitiae can be argued to be the balanced and genuine "central line," neither too conservative, nor too radical, then the liturgists of the world will still have a great deal of thinking to do. In fact, it probably lies somewhere in between. Nevertheless, the "experts" of the Congregation have gone back on the principle of returning to original forms, because it is clear now that the forms don’t bear out what has been done in their name. While trying to state that historical conditioning is not a central criterion for the arrangement of an altar, they have referred to the liturgical movement of the past few decades. This is a great contradiction. Abandoning historical criteria, they set out to create a theology in order to justify a celebration facing the people, the same organic process which was the bugbear of reformers concerning the older form of liturgy. Having lost every other support, they are reduced to defence of the "unicity" of the altar, in whatever form, in order to salvage the versus populum. "Point," set, and match.

Notwithstanding all of the above, the "guiding points," though they have no authority themselves, can provide food for thought to all those who for so long have thought themselves to be secure in their exclusive use of a versus populum liturgy. It seems to be a gentle way of breaking the news and giving some guidance.

This editorial of Notitiae was in a way an immense concession to those who for decades have been saying that the Church’s artistic treasures must be respected and used wisely. Although it deals mainly with the position of the altar and the celebrant, the editorial opened itself up to wider considerations when it brought up the vernacular and various "new elements" in the liturgy. Therefore, we can conclude that if the "guiding points" given can be applied to altars, we can also apply them to liturgical language as well. If the liturgy reflects heaven and not earth, mystery and not commonplace, then the position of the altar, the language used, and the music and other arts employed must foster this. If they do not, they should bechanged. This is a solid argument for the use of Latin and the treasury of sacred music at our disposal, so intimately joined to Latin and the liturgical space itself.

The great works of sacred music that we have inherited over the centuries were conceived and born into a certain kind of liturgical space, namely, one that was open, acoustically favorable, and adequate for a solemn liturgical function proportioned to the lofty values and the greatness of the music’s own artistic expression. Therefore, the discussion of the altar and Latin are themselves central to the music, for they impact on the space and the language in which the music is performed.

Even the notion given in "guiding point" No. 2 is vital and applicable to a discussion of Latin and music. If a good liturgical style is important to celebrations, and if it must be worked on, practiced, studied, acquired by training, it is even more important to have the Church direct the training of priests particularly in Latin, music, and the other arts. Without Latin, how can a Latin rite priest function authentically? How can he know what music is suitable for the liturgy? Similarly, if the Church does not assure that there are justly paid church musicians with the proper training in their special field, as well as some work in Latin, architecture, theology and liturgy, how can any of our "liturgical spaces" realize what the Congregation says in the fourth paragraph of the editorial:

celebrating the Eucharist is never to put into action something earthly, but rather something heavenly, because (the Church) has the awareness that the principle celebrant of the same action is the Lord of Glory.

The Second Vatican Council could provide the background for a new renaissance in the third millennium of the Church’s pilgrimage toward the Lord of Glory in the heavenly Jerusalem to come. Editorials such as the one in Notitiae, though conditioned as they are by many factors, reveal Rome’s unchanging desire to guide us, get us to admit mistakes and use common sense, roll up our sleeves and then… just do what the Council asked.

Reverend John T. Zuhlsdorf


1. This is published in English as Facing the Lord: On the Building of Churches and Facing East in Prayer in a single volume together with another work (which gives the title to the volume) The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: its problems and background, Una Voce Press, 1993.

2. op. cit., pp. 159-161.

3. ibid., pp. 142-3.

4. ibid., pp. 142 sq.

5. ibid., pp. 171 sq.