Thursday, May 08, 2014

Are The True Intentions of the Council being Followed?

Recently in CNS, Cardinal Burke, a figure who I'm sure is known to most readers, strongly cautioned against the widespread overuse of concelebration in the Latin Rite since the council.

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke believes that the “excessive” use of concelebration – the practice of priests saying Mass collectively – can result in their unique role in the sacred liturgy being obscured.

“I don’t think there should be an excessive encouragement of concelebration because the norm is for the individual priest to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass,” the head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura told CNA July 9.

“If it is repeated too frequently, it can develop within him a sense of being another one of the participants instead of actually being the priest who is offering the Mass.”
Despite the common practice to the contrary, Cardinal Burke is simply explaining the council's wishes in the area of concelebration. In the council's primary document concerning liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, concelebration was extended as an option for both Masses on Holy Thursday (Chrism Mass and the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper), Masses at councils and synods, Mass for the blessing of an abbot, and optionally, conventual Masses and Masses at priest meetings, all under the guidance of the Diocesan Bishop, but always allowing for a priest to celebrate his own Mass, if he wishes.

Clearly, the intentions of the council, given the limited permissions suggested, are that concelebration be used on very limited occasions, and because of the loophole given to bishops ("The regulation, however, of the discipline of con-celebration in the diocese pertains to the bishop"), instead of implementing the ideas in the council of a limited expansion of concelebration, it is expanded so much to the point that it is the default arrangement when two or more priests are gathered. And despite the council's wishes, in my many hours spent in sacristies as both a musician and a master of ceremonies, I have seen pressure on more than a few occasions for priests to to concelebrate, despite the council's explicit point that any priest is free to celebrate his own Mass (except on Holy Thursday). Unfortunately, Cardinal Burke gets branded as a loon because he speaks of what the text of the council actually says instead of the common (and erring) application of it.

Concelebration, when done well, can be very appropriate, particularly at ordinations and other occasions, as mentioned above by Sacrosanctum Concilium. But so often, when the concelebrants do not have the proper attitude and demeanor of offering sacrifice, it turns into another way to place undue emphasis upon the horizontal community of the parish with the “presider” simply speaking for the community of priests, instead of holding the celebrant in the proper place of Christ (in persona Christi), offering sacrifice on behalf of the people of God as the high priest.

The role of the celebrant of the Mass is not the role of a cleric, minister, or pastor. It is the role of the priest, who stands in the person of Christ, the great high priest who offers himself continually to the Father on our behalf, and to us on behalf of the Father.

Likewise, we see an almost identical dynamic in the council's application of communion under both forms (ie, precious blood being distributed instead of just the host). The council suggested that communion under both kinds could be granted for newly ordained at the ordination Mass, newly professed at the Mass of their religious profession, and the same for newly baptized at the Mass following their baptism, but in the end gives the final decisions to the Diocesan Bishop. All in all, the council envisioned communion under both forms in very limited circumstances for very limited groups of people, just as it envisioned limited concelebration. And also again, Bishops who restrict communion in both forms such as Bishops Olmsted and Morlino (my own bishop) get ridiculed and attacked instead of lauded for actually following the wishes of the council.

These same attitudes of permissiveness to the council's intentions extend to music and liturgical language. The documents of the council specifically laud gregorian chant, latin and the pipe organ as the ideal of the liturgy in the latin rite (SC 116, 36.1 and 120) with other music and languages being admitted in smaller ways. Also, the post-conciliar document discussing music, Musicam Sacram, reinforces the traditional importance of the Mass itself being sung. Yet priests who focus on these things are frequently ridiculed as "turning back the clock" or "going against the council" when in reality they are doing exactly what the council asked for and envisioned.
“I still remember very well how after several radical proposals a Sicilian bishop rose and implored the fathers to allow caution and reason to reign on this point, because otherwise there would be the danger that the entire Mass might be held in the language of the people — whereupon the entire hall burst into uproarious laughter.”
-Cardinal Stickler Reminiscing about the Council
It is very easy to forget sometimes that despite what happened, the intention of the council was to preserve our rich liturgical heritage, as Cardinal Stickler points out. But despite that, the church, filled with fallen humans, has veered off track liturgically. But praise God, thanks to the tireless effort of so many priests, musicians, and faithful laity, we have began to recover so many of our rich traditions that had been lost, truly beginning to restore our sense of the sacred to the liturgy.

Easter morning Mass (Ordinary Form) at my parish, where we do our best
to implement the texts of the council, not the spirit

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