12 August 2008

Blessed be God for ever

As we take advantage of the new English Order of Mass to rethink what we what we get up to at Mass, I think a reconsideration of how we do the Offertory is in order.

At the moment, it seems almost universal at Mass to hear the Blessed be God ... prayers, with the congregational response at the end of each. In some Anglican churches, at a sung Mass, the celebrant actually waits until the end of the singing, then says the prayers (I'm not sufficiently familiar with RC Novus Ordo liturgy to know if that happens in the RC Church). But look back at the rubrics. The first option presented is that the priest says them silently; that is, the congregation neither hears nor responds. This is what, rubrically, must happen at Sung Masses. But if there is no singing, the priest may say the prayers audibly; if he does, it is not prescribed that the congregation respond, although it may do so. So, in effect, what very commonly happens today is that the final option ... the one, so to speak, at the end of the cul de sac ... is thought of as normative. It is not.

It is my view that these prayers, based on Jewish table blessings (berakoth), are essentially the celebrant's private prayers which may be done publicly. I feel they are better not done publicly for the following reason. No reader of this blog could doubt my enthusiasm for reading Christian liturgy in terms of its Hebrew roots. But that means understanding that since our Christian Jewish tradition parted company with that Jewish tradition which became Rabbinic Judaism, we have possessed and developed our tradition in the Church, the Body of God's Messiah, in an integral and authentic way. For us, the blessing of the holy Name of YHWH Creator and Redeemer is the Eucharistic Prayer. It begins 'Let us give thanks to YHWH our God' and carries on as we laud and magnify that glorious Name by singing Holy holy holy YHWH God of SBAOTH. The berakoth which Bugnini and Co worked up into Offertory Prayers redundantly duplicate that Great Prayer (and also detract from the authentically traditional Oratio super Oblata). Being liturgically Hebrew does not mean borrowing your neighbourhood Rabbi's Prayer Book and flicking through the pages to find some formulae you can paste into the next committee-produced make-it-up-as-you-go-along aren't-we-clever neoliturgy; it means being grounded in and fed by the unbroken 4,000-year-old Judaeo-Christian worship-tradition which we have inherited and which is our possession.

Enough of ranting. I repeat: I am not suggesting ignoring the rules of the post-Vatican II liturgies; what I am proposing is looking again at what those rites actually require and selecting what is the first option offered: doing the Offertory in silence or under the cover of singing.


Bishop of Ebbsfleet said...

Was it Fr Mannion in Beyond the Prosaic who suggested that the Gallican prayers said secretly ought to be interchangeable with the Berakoth said aloud in any Reform of the Reform? Seemed a sensible suggestion for the merger of the Uses, should that ever begin to happen (though, of course, the biggest task is calendrical and lectional).

+ Andrew

Shawn S. said...

Such is the practice at St Paul's K Street - that is, at sung and solemn masses the berakoth are offered by the priest whilst music is sung. At daily low masses, the priest says the prayers audibly and people respond.

Unknown said...

Many of the better Roman clergy say the old prayers. The present prayers are, as you say, silly and odd. They are the single worst thing in the New Rite from a theological point of view. A litmus test for traditionalism in the Roman Church is one's thoughts on them.

Anyho, I know for a fact that the 'berakoth' can be said silently at any mass (and it is recommended if there is singing). Hence how one can (if one is being naughty) say the old prayers.