24 July 2017

Concelebration in the Roman Colleges (6)

The great Catholic Anglican theologian, Dr Eric Mascall, writing at the time when Concelebration was the new sexy -ation among trendy Western liturgists, put in a spirited defence of the practice of the Private Mass. I particularly commend to you its Catholic understanding of "Corporate", so very much more Pauline than the naively infantile understanding of the term which we find in the Roman draft Working Paper we have been considering. Mascall, in truth, is simply unfolding the teaching of Pius XII in Mediator Dei " ... this Sacrifice , always and everywhere, necessarily and of its very nature, has a public and social character. For he who offers it acts in the name both of Christ and of the faithful, of whom the divine Redeemer is the Head ...".

If, Mascall wrote, you want to make "anybody understand wherein the corporateness of the mass really consists" the best thing you can do is to take him into a church with lots of simultaneous private masses going on, and tell him that "the different priests saying their different masses at their different altars are doing not different things but the same thing, that they are all taking part in the one eternal Liturgy whose celebrant is Christ and that their priesthood is only a participation in his ... the multiplication of masses emphasises the real unity of the mass and the true nature of the Church's corporate character as nothing else can ... what makes the mass one and corporate is not the fact that a lot of people are together at the same service, but the fact that it is the act of Christ in his body (corpus) the Church ... 'Look at those men at their various altars all around the church, each of them apparently muttering away on his own and having nothing to do with the others. In fact, they are all of them doing the same thing - the same essentially, the same numerically - not just a lot of different things of the same kind, but the very same identical thing; each of them is taking his part as a priest in the one redemptive act which Christ, who died for our sins and rose again for our justification, perpetuates in the Church which is his Body through the sacrament of his body and blood'".

Professor Mascall's description fits the Church of S Mary Magdalene in Oxford, then a busy Anglican Catholic centre but now sadly lapsed. It was there that, except when he was on the rota to celebrate in Christ Church Cathedral, he said his daily Mass, old style, Introibo ad Altare Dei through to Et Verbum caro factum est. Not infrequently, every altar in that church was occupied by a priest offering that same eternal sacrifice. One thinks also of the Anglican Shrine Church at Walsingham, its twenty or so altars all abuzz with Sacrifice at the height of the pilgrimage season. Come to think of it, that's probably why the lower basilica at Lourdes has an altar to each of the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary. One can imagine palmy days when priests were queuing up on rotas to say their masses and (if there were a shortage of trained servers) making, each of them, the then customary arrangement with the priest just before him or the one just after, to serve his Mass in return for him serving yours. This was the time of my adolescence before the Council when churches which are now empty or even closed or demolished were full of busi-ness; alive and electric with sacramental and devotional life.

And, after the contempt into which the Private Mass fell in the decades after Vatican II, we should  welcome with unconfined joy its increasing return to the main-stream repertoire of every-day Western Catholicism. When there are laypeople needing a Mass, it is obviously the first duty of a priest to serve that need (and a desire to say an additional Mass solo would not be a sufficient reason for binating). But we should remember that Vatican II did preserve inviolate the right of every priest to celebrate a Private Mass, with a couple of caveats (not during a concelebration within the same church; not on Maundy Thursday). And subsequent magisterial documents, including the Code of Canon Law, have repeated this right. And successive editions even of the Novus Ordo Missal have provided (and, most recently, substantially revised) the rite for celebrating the 'New Mass' privately.

According to one prominent Vaticanologist, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, from which emerged the draft Working Paper we have been considering, is the current pope's closest friend in the Curia. It seems strange that such an important and well-connected man, apparently, knows (or wishes to know) so little about the teaching and praxis of the Catholic Church.

God will, in Pope Benedict's words, win in the end, even if the boat, full of water, seems about to capsise!


Matthew Roth said...

There is great humility in serving a Mass when one is a priest. The same is true when the priest who is not the superior & rector or pastor does not say Mass at all on Holy Thursday, instead serving as deacon or subdeacon as required.

As far as the limitation to when a concelebrated liturgy occurs in the same church, does is this defined anywhere? It seems pedantic, but I won’t be fussy if a priest says Mass in a side chapel or on an altar far away from the body of the faithful. If what is technically a private Mass is concelebrated, such as on a pilgrimage, the sacristans aren’t going to stop another pilgrim from saying his Mass, no? So this would in practice only apply to regularly scheduled or previously announced Masses of that church.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

It may also be helpfully explained to the young, alongside your example the many altars around a single church, though perhaps less so to the old, that time is suspended in this reality of the One Sacrifice. The Mass offered this morning at 8 o'clock in New York is one and the same substantially as that offered at 8 o'clock in London: neither Time nor Space separates them into two independent actions. A young mind, uncorrupt by modern logic, has no trouble with this.

And yet Our Lord calls for us all in the Church to remain forever young.

Anita Moore said...

Father, I hope you have a good vacation. I cannot help putting in my $.02 here. This concelebration issue calls to my mind a remark I heard years ago, attributed to one of the recent predecessors of my current bishop, to the effect that he was out to eradicate "unnecessary Masses" in the diocese. I believed the report, because of the source and because of what I knew of that particular bishop; and because that attitude seems very widespread in the Church. Charity has grown cold in our time, and many Catholics, even in the hierarchy, behave as though they have rejected the Catholic faith. I don't know what else can account for the idea that a parish, or a local church, or the Church Universal, should be run on strictly business lines, or for the notion that there can possibly be such a thing as an "unnecessary Mass."

Unknown said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,
You mentioned the oblation in your Cranmer post, and I thought: At last, I may have found somebody to explain a phrase that appeared (I think) in the '28 version of the oblation: "vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine." What are gifts and creatures of bread and wine? In what way are bread and wine creatures? No one has ever explained it to me. If anyone can, it is surely you.
Best, A Fan (Charlotte Hays in Washington, D.C.)

Ben of the Bayou said...


I have been flowing this series with interest and I thank you for having packed it with weighty considerations. I particularly wish to ponder more Dr Mascall's illustration of "corporate-ness".

I wish to ask you a question related to the quote you gave out from the same. He mentions that all the Priests at their various altars, singularly offering the Sacrifice, were nonetheless, "In fact, they are all of them doing the same thing - the same essentially, the same numerically...." It is just this part about "numerically" that I am asking about. In what sense does he mean numerically one (or the same)? I ask because I have in mind the Tridentine assertion that each Mass is singularly as distinct offering of the one, irreparable Sacrifice. Are you willing to expand on this?

Sincere regards,


Melinda said...

St Peter's Basilica, appropriately, also has that hum of masses early in the morning when it first opens around 7am. It is a beautiful thing to behold.

motuproprio said...

It is surely not insignificant that every morning at 7am St Peter's Basilica is abuzz with priests proceeding to every altar, both in the main basilica and in the crypt, either individually or in small groups, to offer the Holy Sacrifice; some in the OF, some in the EF, and some in one of the other rites of the Catholic Church including I am sure the Ordinariate Rite.

motuproprio said...

Replying to 'Unknown' 24 July.
Creatures simply means created things.