3 May 2009

It takes all sorts ...

On May Day the distinguished compiler of the S Laurence Press Ordo visited me and, after serving my EF 11.30, told me over coffee about its history ... and his clientele. He convinced me of the comparative richness of the old propers for S Joseph in Eastertide, which were abolished when the rather superficial celebration of S Ioseph Opifex was invented. And, looking at his Ordo, which now has an honoured place in my sacristy just under the picture of Benedict XVI, and realising that today we would have been celebrating the (Prayer Book) festival of the Invention of the Holy Cross, I wondered whether there was indeed something to be said for a feast of the Lord's Passion in Eastertide, so that we can, as it were, look upon those glorious wounds suffused with Resurrection light. I've probably got this all confused, but didn't S Margaret Mary report the desire of the Lord for his Sacred Heart to be celebrated on the Friday in Easter Week?

And after our Syrian Orthodox guests had finished their Liturgy, I was gossipping with Father; he told me, in tones of great disapproval, that he had heard that Roman Catholics did not observe the Eucharistic Fast. The disapproval darkened when he reported to me that R C priests sometimes even celebrated Mass twice on the same day. "The Lord was born once, crucified once, rose once, and will come in judgement once", he observed with emphasis.

I've got a feeling he's right. But however can we hope to reconnect with these instincts, sanctified as they are by loyalties both synchronic and diachronic? Given the distance we've travelled away from them since Pius XII (has anybody ever made a sedeprivationist case against him?), and given the complexities of modern life?


Maurice said...

I say Mass 4 times every Sunday. No choice. Big church. Lots if people. It's for them. Not for me.

Pastor in Valle said...

Me too! Three churches over a wide area.

Chris Jones said...

No choice. Big church. Lots of people.Maybe the church is too big. Maybe instead of one church so big you need four masses, you should have four or five churches small enough that all of the faithful can gather at one mass. It is a witness to the unity of the Church.

Somehow the Orthodox have managed to respect the canonical rule of one liturgy offered by one priest for one congregation on any given day for a couple of millennia. It can be done.

BillyD said...

"Somehow the Orthodox have managed to respect the canonical rule of one liturgy offered by one priest for one congregation on any given day for a couple of millennia. It can be done."

Part of their success lies in having a canonical rule forbidding the offering of more than one Liturgy per altar per day.

Andy B. said...

And frankly, the sheer numbers of Catholic communicants in the West (with their lack of priestly vocations) as compared to the smaller numbers of Orthodox communicants, makes a comparison of the two a little unfair during these times.

Andy B.

Chris Jones said...


The unfair comparison is the one between the numbers of Catholics in the West with the small numbers of Orthodox faithful in the West. I think the numbers of Orthodox in traditionally Orthodox lands is quite comparable to the numbers of Catholics in the West.

If the Orthodox in Russia (for example) can respect the one-liturgy-per-altar canon, why cannot the Catholics in the West do the same?

(with their lack of priestly vocations)Rem acu tetegisti! Precisely the point I was referring to (however obliquely) in my original comment.

Rubricarius said...

Thank you Fr. John for the kind compliment. It was a pleasure to meet you and I trust it will be the first of many meetings.

We do seem to have moved so much from what we once shared in common with the Eastern Churches. Something everyone now takes as normal such as evening Mass is perhaps a good example - a practice virtually unheard of in the East and when it does happen in a tiny number of places for Ascension the celebrant (and communicants) have fasted from midnight. The change to the ancient practice of fasting in 1953 struck Dr. Keat (I trust I have the spelling correct) in Cambridge as so revolutionary that he (as an Anglican!) gave up his public ministry and declared that it was the end of Western Christianity.

I agree with Chris Jones about the number of Orthodox communicants. Having watched some services via the Internet from Moscow there were thousands of communicants at the Patriarch's liturgy.

The West followed one liturgy per altar once too - one suspects this was the reason for the arrangement of multiple churches at Jarrow. Contrawise I have heard (rarely) of some Orthodox using a different antimens in order to have two liturgies on the same day.

Fr. John D. Alexander, SSC said...

It seems that the ideal towards which we might aim as a distant objective comprises three related but distinct ideals:

(1) One altar per church building
(2) One liturgy per altar per day
(3) One liturgy per priest per day

The actual question addressed in Fr.'s posting is (3) above, while (1) and (2) have are implicitly caught up in the comments. I believe that (1) is still normative in the East, though was one of the first principles to be sacrificed in the West.

Sometimes we end up sacrificing fulfillment of one of these principles in order to fulfill another. For example, my church has *five* altars, two of which are in regular use. If I put my mind to it, it would be an easy thing for me to arrange things so as to fulfill (2) above, but at the continuing expense of (1).

Another question is "How many church buildings, how big, and how close to each other in relation to the availability of priests and the geographical distribution of the worshiping population?" For example, is it better to have one liturgy per day celebrated by one priest in one big church, centrally located, with a scattered population of worshipers traveling longer distances to attend Mass, *or* four small churches served by one priest, each having one liturgy per day, at the cost of the priest traveling to all of them and celebrating four times?

Maurice said...

Chris Jones

If I follow your advice I'd still be saying 4 Masses. What's the difference? We need more priests. My Church is bug -but not big enough for me to lose a Mass. What am I to do? Pehaps I could use a number of local Anglican Churches?

BillyD said...

(1) One altar per church building
(2) One liturgy per altar per day
(3) One liturgy per priest per day
Father, even the Orthodox don't necessarily stick to ideal 1 all the time. Back in the 70's the Orthodox cathedral in Dallas had a portable altar they would bring in for a Spanish-language Liturgy, and I believe that I remember a chapel with its own altar in the cathedral in Tokyo.