Wednesday, May 16, 2018

New Liturgical Provisions from Abp. Sample

The Catholic Sentinel, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, published an article yesterday by Archbishop Alexander Sample, titled “Reverence for Our Eucharistic Lord.” It concerns two new liturgical provisions which His Excellency is enacting, aimed at increasing reverence for the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. The first is a return to the practice of kneeling after the Agnus Dei.

“The priest at that moment is about to hold up before the congregation our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist and proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It seems most fitting that we be on our knees before the Lord for such a proclamation of faith. In the Book of Revelation, when the Lamb of God (Christ) is presented before the throng of heaven, all fall down in worship before him. The Mass is a participation in this heavenly liturgy.”

The second is a prohibition on Communion services held without a priest on weekdays, except in cases where there is a real pastoral need, such as in nursing homes, where it may not be possible to have Mass on Sundays.

“There is an intimate and intrinsic link between three realities that is essential in this context. They are the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest who ministers in the person of Christ, and the distribution of Holy Communion. These are not to be separated except for serious reasons and pastoral need. As long as the faithful have the opportunity to participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion on Sunday, there is no such pastoral need to receive Holy Communion outside of Mass.

When we go to Mass, we are there to do much more than just receive Holy Communion. We participate actively and consciously in the offering of Christ, the Paschal Victim, through the hands of the priest, who ministers in the very person of Christ at the altar. From this sacramental offering, we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, thus culminating our participation in the paschal mystery being celebrated. ...

I am confident that (these changes) will lead us to a more profound reverence for the most precious gift of the Holy Eucharist, and a more informed, conscious and active participation in the Holy Mass. And a greater love for our Lord in the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament will lead to a greater love of neighbor and service to the poor.”

This second provision reminds me of an article which I read many years ago in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, which I believe was by its long-time editor Fr Kenneth Baker, SJ. This was in the days before the internet; at the time, it caused a good deal of stir and comment in the Catholic press. The article described the situation where due to the shortage of priests, some churches might have Sunday Mass only once a month; a large number of extra Hosts would therefore be consecrated at the monthly Mass, and reserved. On the other Sundays, delegated lay people, or at best a deacon, would preside over a kind of para-Mass, with a “service of the Word” essentially indistinguishable from the regular order of Mass, and then distribute Communion. Fr Baker pointed out that it was only a matter of time before a church where this had become customary would discover one Sunday that it had run out of pre-consecrated Hosts. The temptation would inevitably arise (given the lunacy of the 1970s and ’80s, which only started to die down in the ’90s) for the lay leader to hold the service as usual, and then invoke some kind of blessing over the bread and wine, and distribute this non-Communion as it were the real thing. All of this would serve only to divorce the faith and devotion of the congregation even further from the Catholic understanding of the Mass, the Sacrament and the priesthood, and of course, contribute to perpetuating the vocations crisis.

In a similar vein, just a few years ago, a visitor to Rome said to me as we passed though Piazza San Pietro that she and her friends had been there the previous day at the Pope’s Mass. I explained to her that what they had attended was actually not a Mass, but the regular Wednesday public audience, at which she seemed a little surprised, but then answered, “Well, it was Mass enough for us.”

I make bold to suggest that provisions such as these enacted by Archbishop Sample will encourage among the faithful a greater understanding of the nature and the importance of the whole Mass, and, in addition to what His Excellency says above, will also thereby encourage vocations to the priesthood. Oremus!

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