25 April 2016

Tales from the Ordinariate (2)

I heard a story from a brother priest in the Ordinariate who had found himself lending a hand in a 'diocesan' parish. Since they did not always have a handy priest around, most weekday evenings there was a service of the Word followed by Holy Communion from the Tabernacle, all done by layfolk. Naturally (if naively) he did the decent thing and offered the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them during the period he was there. The very touching gratitude of the entire parish community for this daily privilege ...

Gratitude be d****d! There was uproar! How outrageous that he should arrogantly impose 'his' Mass on them! He was depriving them of ... etc. etc..

Dom Gregory Dix criticised the old Anglican 'Prayer Book Catholic' practice, particularly common in Cathedrals, whereby, after Cranmer's rather truncated 'Prayer of Consecration', the Agnus Dei was immediately sung. Dix's complaint was that this made it look as if the only purpose of Consecration was to confect the Eucharistic Presence. This resulted in the people having very little awareness that the Eucharist is a ... no; not a but the sacrifice.

We now, apparently, have a very similar problem, lack of awareness of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in the Catholic Church. And I blame it upon the last half century; upon the almost universal use, within a dumbed-down ritual ambience, of the pseudo-Hippolytan 'dewfall' Botte-Bouyer "we made it up at a trattoria in the Trastevere" "shall we order another bottle?" Eucharistic Prayer. That unworthy little Prayer, at about 360 words, is not vastly longer than Cranmer's (especially if you count the Humble Access), and actually contains much less talk about Sacrifice than Cranmer's Prayer did (yes, I do know he was a heretic).

Are most modern Catholics aware that at the altar they are present at the august sacrifice of Christ himself at Calvary and within eternity? Has anybody explained to them that at Mass heaven and earth are made one and our altar is united with the altar of the Lamb slain in sacrifice before all the ages? Do they understand that at the Consecration their church is filled with the adoring and wondering hosts of Angels and Archangels and the whole company of Christ's Church?

Happily, the Catholic Church now has a splendid young generation of seminarians and newly-ordained priests coming through the system. Men who really understand what their Priesthood is. I venture very, very humbly, and diffidently, to offer them a piece of advice, based upon four decades of ministry in the Church of England. Don't assume that when you've explained things once, you've done it. However well you put it! Layfolk don't assimilate things the first time they hear them. They even sometimes assume (if it's something they haven't heard before) that they can't really be hearing what you seem to be saying. (A typesetter once, in kindly good faith, deemed "Sacrifice of the Eucharist", in a piece I had drafted, to be my typo for "Sacrament of the Eucharist".) You just have to keep on dishing out the same stuff ... of course, in different ways and in different words ... year after year. And even then, only a minority of them will get it. Honest. Your task, of building up again the ruined places, will still be barely started when your ministry ends.

2 comments:

poly carped said...

"Are most modern Catholics aware that at the altar they are present at the august sacrifice of Christ himself at Calvary and within eternity? Has anybody explained to them that at Mass heaven and earth are made one and our altar is united with the altar of the Lamb slain in sacrifice before all the ages? Do they understand that at the Consecration their church is filled with the adoring and wondering hosts of Angels and Archangels and the whole company of Christ's Church?"

In a word, no. Nail. Head.

One of our more orthodox Bishops in E&W - upon taking up his See relatively recently - swiftly and comprehensively put a stop to the increasingly habitual practice of lay-led 'Word and Communion' services in the Diocese. Deo Gratias.

Richard P said...

Dear Father:
The words in red are the essence of our entire worship. No, not many modern Catholics understand very much of this. But even the most insightful among us can only comprehend perhaps ten percent of this great mystery. What a privilege to sit in His presence at every Mass! Eloquently said, Father.

Richard