04 September 2010

While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people. When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.

John Henry Newman was the greatest master of English letters in his century of brilliant English, but he gave no countenance to his vernacular replacing the sacral tongue. That is another matter for another day. But he knew the meaning of cupio dissolvi, and he taught that without such self-abnegation the gift of personality reduces the Passion to pantomime. It was because his priestcraft was also soulcraft, that he solemnly invoked the Sacred Heart at the altar in order to speak "heart to heart" with the people in the street:

'Clad in his sacerdotal vestments, [the priest] sinks what is individual in himself altogether, and is but the representative of Him from whom he derives his commission. His words, his tones, his actions, his presence, lose their personality; one bishop, one priest, is like another; they all chant the same notes, and observe the same genuflections, as they give one peace and one blessing, as they offer one and the same sacrifice.

“The Mass must not be said without a Missal under the priest’s eye; nor in any language but that in which it has come down to us from the early hierarchs of the Western Church. But, when it is over, and the celebrant has resigned the vestments proper to it, then he resumes himself, and comes to us in the gifts and associations which attach to his person.'"


--Fr. George Rutler, The Liturgical Experts’ Long Tassels

The article is worth reading in toto.
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