31 August 2008

Who does the Intercession?

Interesting days; as we reconsider, with a glorious new open-mindedness, rules laid down in the post-Conciliar period, and customs that have grown up since then, we find ourselves reviewing what, for more than a generation, we have taken for granted.

Who should do the Intercession? The Pauline Rite says that the 'priest' is in charge (moderari); that he invites the Faithful to pray; that he concludes it with a collect (oratione). But it is suitable (expedit) for the 'intentiones' to be done by the Deacon, a cantor, 'vel ab alio'. It has been the custom in televised papal liturgies for a variety of laypeople in a variety of langages to give the intentions. Common Worship cheerfully regards 'leading the prayers of intercession' as part of 'The ministry of the members of the congregation'.

In the earlier Roman Rite, the Solemn Prayers (surviving on Good Friday) were done by the Deacon giving the people an intention; after a silence the Pontiff sang a collect. The Deprecatio papae Gelasii divided the giving of the Intentions between Deacon and Schola - and the people responded Kyrie eleison. But at one stage it appears that within the Eucharistic Prayer the deacon read the Memento and Memento etiam. In the Byzantine Rite the Deacon proclaims the Intentions and the people reply with Kyrie eleison.

I would be interested to know what conclusions others would daw from this or from other evidence. It seems to me that the practice, common among modern Anglicans, of leaving the Intercession to some lay person both to write and to deliver and allowing it to be done in some less than formal place within the church, receives little support from ancient precedent or from modern Roman legislation. The celebrant should be in charge and the the rite should not be regarded as a moment of informality in the Mass: as though we heave a sigh of relief and thank God for giving us a few moments of freedom in which we are not dominated by hieratic ministers and hieratic ritual. The Intercession should be conspicuously part of the official worship of the Church.

My own reading of the Tradition suggests to me that it should have a formal shape and wording and be integrated into the ritual activity of Priest or Deacon or Schola or Reader.


gengulphus said...

My own reading of the Tradition suggests to me that it should have a formal shape and wording and be integrated into the ritual activity of Priest or Deacon or Schola or Reader.

Hear, hear!

The various historical examples that you cite are at least consistent in suggesting that 'doing the intercessions' is not to be regarded as an opportunity for allowing articulate and opinionated members of the congregation to give an airing to their personal agendas.

My experience leads me to conclude that 'lay-led' intercessions are invariably wordy, worthy, focusing on the particular at the expense of the universal, and much, much too long. They are only only exceeded in badness by the celebrant who mistakenly believes that he has the 'gift' of performing this part of the liturgy extempore but who succeeds only in giving the disconcerting impression of an aeroplane lost in a fog and looking for somewhere to land.

John F H H said...

I wonder if the root of the problem is that the Prayer of the Faithful has become not a series of "intentiones" but of voiced prayers.
The intention of the GIRM seems clear, that the tradition of a norm of only the celebrant addressing the Almighty on behalf of the faithful is maintained: in the Prayer of the Faithful "Totus coetus vero precationem suam exprimit sive invocatione communi post intentiones prolatus, sive oratione sub silentio". The specimeb prayers in the Missale itself are all of this form.

Yet even Roman Catholic publications have blurred the distinction, turning the intentions into prayers.
What GIRM envisages is what was known in England as "the Bidding of the Bedes", dealt with at length by Brightman in his Appendix.
This form is perhaps best known today in the Service of Lessons & Carols, though the traditional place was before or after the sermon at Mass.It also featured as part of a separate rite, and before "stand-alone" sermons,and I believe is still retained in this way on the ancient universities? [Fr.Hunwicke will know!]

Gengulphus may care to know that turning biddings intpo prayers is nothing new: Puritans were noted for it in the 17th cent, so that at the Savoy Conference in 1661 the bishops replied to the "Exceptions of the Ministers" desiring that "great care be taken to suppress those private conceptions of prayers before and after sermons, lest private opinions be made the matter of prayer in public." The row was to rumble on for another century and a half.

The Bidding of the Bedes might provide a useful model for regularisation such as Fr.Hunwicke suggests, but the model prayers are already there, at the back of the Missale and in the English translation, The Roman Missal.

John UK

Christian said...

I get the impression from your writing that you are under the impression that the 'intersesions' really did exist in the Early Roman Rite. I am afraid that little evidence can be offered for that as the only document recounting there existence could just as easily be referring to the petitions during the first half of the Roman Canon. The modern iintersessions' are thus really little more than yet another invention of the Bugnini crew.

John F H H said...

Not sure if Christian is referring to myself, Gengulphus, Fr.John or to all of us?

Justin Martyr [c.150] and Hippolytus [c.200] make clear the position of the Prayer of the Faithful between the dismissal of the catechumens and the Offertory, which, as Fr.John wrote, survives in the Good Friday Prayers.
What St.Bernard calls "illa universalis oratio ecclesiæ" and Cranmer rendered prayer for the whole state of Christ's Church is a feature of all rites, eastern and western, from the earliest times, surviving in the Missal of 1570 with redundant greeting and 'Oremus' before the offertory verse.

Apart from Good Friday, these seem to have faded in favour of a Litany type intercession.
By the 9th.century in France, England and Germany vernacular biddings were enjoined, which survived the Reformation in both Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

John UK

Rubricarius said...

The late (and IMHO great) Fr. Ronald Silk used the Prones adapted from the Sarum rite at his Masses in Cambridge. Rather beautiful, very dignified and effective.

The modern practice lacks structure and consistency in my view; surely (in the UK) there should be a petition for the Sovereign and Parliament, the church etc. The Slavonic practice seems to get that right to me.

Let me add my voice to yours Father as to who should be leading the intercessions; certainly the deacon if there is one but please not Mrs. Miggins waddling up the sactuary steps to a lectern.

Pastor in Valle said...

In my churches, the Deacon, when present, always leads the intercessions. A lector may do so when the deacon is not present.
Occasionally, 'for pastoral reasons' (at a funeral or wedding, for instance) an exception might be made.