Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Paleo-Christian Basilica of St Simplician in Milan

On the Ambrosian calendar, today is the very ancient feast of a group of three martyrs called Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander. They were originally from Cappadocia in Asia Minor, but in the days of St Ambrose, came to Milan, then the de facto imperial capital. At that time, all of northern Italy belonged to the ecclesiastical province of Milan, and St Vigilius, the bishop of Trent, had asked his metropolitan for assistance in evangelizing his region. The mission was entrusted to the three Cappadocians, Sisinnius being ordained deacon, Martyrius a lector, and Alexander a porter. In the valley of Anaunia to the north of Trent, they were able to make a good number of converts, and build a church in one of the villages. (All the photos in this article are by Nicola de’ Grandi.)

The relics of St Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander in the basilica of St Simplician in Milan. 
Here, they were attacked by the local pagans on the day of a festival, and Sisinnius was beaten so badly that he died a few hours later. In the letter describing their martyrdom, St Vigilius notes that Martyrius was able to hide in a garden attached to the church, but he was unwilling to abandon the sacred place; when he was discovered and taken the next day, the pagans had to fix him to a stake in order to drag him away. Before they could get him to the idol before which they would have sought to compel him to offer sacrifice, he died from being dragged over the sharp stones on the route. Alexander was also taken, and having resisted all attempts to make him repudiate the Faith, he was thrown alive in the fire on which the bodies of the other two were being burned. As happened with many other martyrs, the faithful carefully gathered up the Saints’ ashes, and brought them to Vigilius, who later built a new church on the site of the martyrdom. On two different occasions, Vigilius sent relics of the martyrs to a fellow bishop, once to St Simplician, St Ambrose’s personal friend and later successor, and again to St John Chrysostom; the letters which accompanied them both survive. (Simplician, by the way, was the priest of Milan chosen to complete Ambrose’s instruction in the Faith when the latter, still a catechumen, was chosen bishop by popular acclamation. He outlived his famous student, even though he was older than him, but only by a few years.)

During his time as bishop of Milan, St Ambrose had built four basilicas at roughly the four cardinal points of the city, dedicated to the Apostles, the Prophets, the Martyrs and the Virgins, as a way of reinforcing the city’s Christian character and placing it under the protection of the Saints. When the relics of the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius were discovered, they were placed in the Basilica of the Martyrs on the west side of the city; St Ambrose then arranged for himself to be buried there with them, and the church has subsequently been renamed for him. The same happened with St Simplician, who placed the relics of the three martyrs of Anaunia in the basilica of the Virgins on the north side of the city, arranging for himself to be buried there, and the church is now renamed for him.
The relics of St Simplician in the same church.
As is almost always the case with such ancient churches, the building has undergone many transformations since its original construction. However, the basic structure of the chapel made to house the martyrs’ relics survives; recent archeological study has confirmed that it dates to the very late 4th or early 5th century, the period of Simplician’s episcopacy.

Photopost Request: Corpus Christi 2024

Our next major photopost will be for the feast of Corpus Christi, whether celebrated tomorrow or on Sunday; please send your photos to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org, and be sure to include the name and location of the church, and any other information you think important. As always, we are very glad to receive images of celebrations in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form, or the Ordinariate Use, as well as Vespers and other parts of the Office. Feel free to send in other events recently celebrated at your church such as Pentecost or first Masses.

Last year, this series got up to a record-smashing six posts, and the sixth post somehow became the single most viewed post ever on our Facebook page, by a gigantic margin. Let’s see if we can match or even beat that, as we keep up the good work of evangelizing through beauty!

From the first Corpus Christi photopost of last yearthe first Corpus Christi photopost of last year: the procession from the Oxford Oratory makes a station at the church of their Dominican neighbors at Blackfriars.

From the second post: Adoration at the church of the Annunciation in Imperia, Italy.

From the third post: night-time procession from the cathedral basilica of Nossa Senhora do Pilar, in São João Del Rei, Minas Gerais, Brazil, sent in by one of our most faithful contributors, Mr João Melo.

From the fourth post, a special edition dedicated to just the city of London: a station at the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile.

From the fifth post: the annual streets-of-New-York shot by the mighty Mr Arrys Ortañez, at the procession from the church of the Holy Innocents.

From the sixth post: Adoration before the procession at the abbey of St Bernard in Cullman, Alabama, celebrated by then newly-ordained Fr Paschal Pautler.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pictures of Churches in Prague from Fr Lew (Part 2): the Cathedral of St Vitus

Earlier this month, we shared two posts of images by our long-time contributor, photographer extraordinaire Fr Lawrence Lew, the first set related to one of the city's patron Saints, John Nepomuk, and the second a selection of images from several different churches. Today we return to the cathedral of St Vitus, where St John's relics are kept. The church was begun in 1344, the third on the site, but was not actually completed and consecrated until 1929. It is, of course, full of artworks and side-chapels, and could easily merit a blog of its own, but Fr Lew captures some of its most salient features very beautifully, as always.  

The external view of the apse.
A mosaic of the Last Judgment on the outside.
The main façade

Stained glass windows of the first part of the 20th century, showing the conversion of the early Bohemians, those who bordered the Germans, and were thus baptized by Latin rite bishops, as opposed to those converted by the early missions of Ss Cyril and Methodius.

A Report from the Chartres Pilgrimage

Our thanks to Mr Charles Bradshaw for sharing with us this write-up of the annual Chartres pilgrimage. The pictures were taken by his father-in-law, Mr Joseph Thurrott, who, due to the crowds, was unable to get near the cathedral on Monday, but still, they provide a glimpse into what the pilgrimage looks like “on the ground” with one of the Chapters.

The recent Chartres pilgrimage reached an important milestone that even the French National secular media were not keen to miss: a month before the pilgrimage even began, bookings were closed due to record numbers, and on Saturday, May 18, some 18 thousand pilgrims (at an average age of 21) set off on the road that separates Paris from Chartres. The Pentecost Sunday Mass in the pre–Tridentine Dominican rite was broadcast live on CNews, the French equivalent of Sky News, whilst BFM TV gave their morning news slot over to the story, to name but a few of the media outlets covering the event.

Yet more importantly than numbers and coverage, is the question that needs to be raised and addressed both on the continent and this side of the Channel. What is it that year after year keeps more young people coming?

Notre Dame de Chrétienté is a lay led organisation that has risen to the challenge of the current times without shying away from the elephant in the room (Traditiones Custodes) or backing down. Rather they’ve chosen to do what the French have always done: carry on and, to make light of the situation by producing a T-shirt with “guardians of tradition” proudly printed on the back. In fact, there are lessons to be learnt: under pressure from the French bishop’s conference to use the reformed missal, rather than keeping the advertised Masses quiet or reserved to a small few, instead of backing down, they have raised their voice louder, and this in no small way explains the success of the pilgrimage. The Traditional Latin Mass is not the preferential option of a small group of people, but the rich heritage of the Universal Church, as Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007 made clear. It wasn’t, isn’t and shall never be the exclusive property of a fee paying few. Furthermore, this Rite of the Church was never abrogated, and if logic is required, then the same must hold true today. If numbers are needed, Chartres provides: the organisers estimate some 60% regular attendees of the Traditional Mass, 30% attending both forms, and 10% not even Christian.
So, what brings that 10%? Nothing other than the power of Truth. This is the second key to the success of the Chartres pilgrimage: sound doctrine and the unashamed preaching thereof. Pick up the pilgrim handbook, and as the pages of the Mass unfold, so does the catechetical teaching that accompanies it, compiled by the monks of Fontgombault, who even teach priests to say it in vast numbers. Doctrine is not just a question of liturgy: it naturally flows from it, but it is a rich whole. As the Chaplain of the Chartres Pilgrimage, Fr de Massia put it, “it is the only reality worth living”.
But there’s another side to this story that keeps getting missed: the French fighting spirit. Integrity and downright brutal honesty are part of the French DNA. Some call it pride, others the sheer determination not to be beaten down. It is the Faith of a people who have taken the Gospel literally, and that means living it to the full. It is that authenticity that the pilgrims sing “chez nous, soyez Reine”, Mary be Queen of our homes! It is belief that is not afraid to upset or challenge. Therein lies the third key to the Chartres success story.
In short, it is none other than living the threefold demand which French writer Jean Madiran addressed to the Pope in those turbulent years after the Council: “give us back the Mass, the Catechism and Scripture”. What lessons must we learn? That it is time to live the Mass, love the Mass, share and defend the Mass, not hide it, lock it up and mute what it stands for. Yes, at whatever cost.
As the 42nd Chartres pilgrimage drew to a close on Pentecost Monday afternoon, before Pontifical Mass began, the President of Notre Dame de Chrétienté addressed the now twenty thousand strong packed Cathedral and square for a brief moment in English, urging the “étrangers” to take Chartres home and in direct partnership with them start such initiatives themselves. Isn’t it about time “Christendom Pilgrimage” was born in England’s land? The 43rd Chartres pilgrimage will take on the challenging theme of “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” celebrating 100 years since Quas Primas and the social reign of Christ the King. “Regnavit a ligno Deus” is not outmoded, you see, or impossible to realize: it just takes integrity and will power to do so! Chartres t’appelle!

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Lie That Was Told to Over 2,000 Council Fathers at Vatican II

One of the most debated questions at the Second Vatican Council was the language in which the Mass and other rites would be celebrated for Western (aka Latin) Catholics. Everyone who was at the Council testified that there was a battle royale over this topic; there’s no one who disputes that fact. I have collected abundant testimonials in two articles here at NLM:

The majority opinion was certainly against total vernacularization; when someone said that Latin was in danger of disappearing, everyone burst out laughing. In all of the drafts of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the normativity of Latin was always stressed: that’s how we ended up with SC 36:
1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. 2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.
Some Council Fathers were worried about the loopholes. But the relator, that is, the rapporteur tasked with speaking to the assembly on behalf of the committee working on the document, reassured them that total vernacularization was out of the question.

Here is where the research of Fr. Gabriel Díaz-Patri is invaluable. In his essay “Cristina Campo and the Petition of 1966” (chapter 9 in the immensely fascinating book The Latin Mass and the Intellectuals: Petitions to Save the Ancient Mass from 1966 to 2007 edited by Joseph Shaw and published by Arouca Press towards the end of last year), Fr. Díaz-Patri pulls together the relevant passages buried in the gigantic tomes of the acts of Vatican II. [1]
 
Fr. Díaz-Patri writes (pp. 114–18):

« The Council, which, in fact, was still in session [when Inter Oecumenici appeared in 1964], had clearly decided on the preservation of the Latin language for the liturgy of the Latin rites. Indeed, from the very beginning the normative place of Latin in the liturgy was reiterated in no. 24 of the Schema (the official draft of the Constitution), which received the approval of the Council and became article 36 §1 of Sacrosanctum Concilium. The expression is clear: “Linguae latinae usus . . . in Ritibus latinis servetur” (“the use of the Latin language in the Latin rites must be preserved”). The subjunctive “servetur” clearly expresses a command, and not a mere recommendation.

The Acta synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani Secundi, where the minutes of all the discussions that took place in the conciliar hall are officially transcribed, records that some of the Council Fathers suggested changes in the wording to weaken the principle, but their proposals were defeated. The clarity of the principle is confirmed both by the later commentary of Fr. Carlo Braga, and by the official rapporteur, Bishop Jesus Enciso Viana of Mallorca, whose task was to clarify for the Council Fathers the meaning of the texts, who stated in a later debate: “To completely exclude the Latin language from the Mass would contradict the principle already established [by the Council] in Article 36.”

Nevertheless, the Constitution then goes on to state that “since it is not unusual for the use of the vernacular language to be very useful to the people,” it may be given an appropriate place.

There are important nuances in this text that are worth considering with the help of the Acta Synodalia. The initial schema stated categorically “amplior locus ipsi in liturgia tribuatur” (“a wider place must be given”) [no. 24 §2] to the vernacular, but, contrary to what happened in the previous case, this time the Council decided to correct the subjunctive of the expression that had originally been proposed by the drafters, replacing it with the more moderate form “amplior locus ipsi tribui valeat” (“a wider place may be given”), which was approved by the Council Fathers as paragraph §2 of art. 36 of the Conciliar Constitution.

A little further on, in a parallel context, the same procedure was followed with the subjunctive of the expression “congruus locus tribuatur” (“a congruent place must be given,” sc. to the vernacular languages), proposed in that case by the drafters of the schema, which was changed by the Council to the weaker “congruus locus tribui possit” (“it may be given an appropriate place”), as we find in §54 of the document officially approved by the Council Fathers.

The incorporation of these modifications into the original schema was explained in the following way by the rapporteur in the Conciliar Hall so that the meaning of the points upon which they had to vote would be clear to participants.
We have wished to express it in such a way that those who wish to celebrate the whole Mass in the Latin language do not impose their opinion on the others; but that, in the same way, those who wish to use the vernacular in some parts of the Mass do not oblige the former to do so. [!] Therefore, according to what had already been established in no. 36, we have granted a suitable place for the vernacular languages; but we do not say “must be given,” but “may be given,” which we had already taken care to do in the aforementioned no. 36.
On the other hand, the above-mentioned term “congruus” used in no. 54 is not accidental either: if the conference of bishops decide to permit the use of the vernacular, the place and mode of application were to be clearly delimited: first, it is clear that the vernacular was to be used only in Masses with the people (“in Missis cum populo celebratis”), and secondly, the use of the vernacular language was to be limited to certain parts of the celebration, and these parts should be specifically enumerated in each case.

These parts could be, in principle (“imprimis”), the readings and admonitions (“in lectionibus, admonitionibus”), the “common prayer” or “prayer of the faithful” which had just been reincorporated into the Roman Mass, as well as some prayers and chants (“in nonnullis orationibus et cantibus”). In addition, when local conditions made it advisable (“pro condicione locorum”), this could also be extended to those parts of the Mass that pertain to the people (“etiam in partibus quae ad populum spectant”). However, the enumeration of various possibilities in no way implied a universal authorization whose application could be decided individually by the celebrant, but it was up to the competent territorial authority (and, if applicable, after having heard the opinion of the bishops of neighboring regions speaking the same language) to establish, first of all, whether the vernacular language would be allowed or not, and if it was allowed, to what degree, after approval and confirmation by the Apostolic See.

On the other hand, the enumeration of the various possibilities for the use of the vernacular in the Instruction does not mean that all must be authorized; rather, it represents the limits within which the competent authority may authorize.

Fr. Braga also explains that, if we follow the Conciliar Constitution, the parts that are sung or said by the celebrant should be only in Latin. However, the same Constitution adds that if, in some place (“sicubi”), after careful and prudent consideration (“sedulo et prudenter”), it seems opportune to allow an even wider use of the vernacular to include also some of the parts (“aliquae ex his partibus”) said by the priest, an indult should be requested from the Holy See according to the norms given in no. 40. However, prayers recited in secret by the priest are always excluded [“semper excluduntur”]: these must be only in Latin.

When the language issue was discussed again, in the Congregatio Generalis XLIII, the rapporteur explained the proposed text:
We are therefore leaving open two doors: the door is not closed to anyone who wishes to celebrate the whole Mass in the Latin language; and the door is not closed to anyone to use the vernacular language in specific parts of the Mass.
In this way, the only door that was completely closed by the Council, according to the text approved and in light of this explanation given by the rapporteur, is that of being able to say the whole Mass in the vernacular. On the other hand, as the rapporteur points out, the only thing that is commanded in this article is to be found in a text added to the original schema by the Council Fathers, namely, that the faithful should be taught to say or sing in Latin the parts of the Mass that correspond to them. »
Print by Mathieu Lauweriks, 1935 (source)

Let us summarize in five points what SC teaches according to the official relator:

  1. Latin must be kept in the liturgy; this is not optional.
  2. A liturgy in Latin only will always be possible.
  3. The vernacular may be used, at the discretion of episcopal conferences and with the Holy See's approval.
  4. But the vernacular is to be used for only some portions of the liturgy, not for all.
  5. The people must be instructed in Latin Gregorian chant.

Thus, at a busy urban parish in England or the USA one might envision a Sunday schedule something like this (not that I'm recommending it, but merely envisioning what might follow from the foregoing norms):
  • two low Masses in Latin, one of them a dialogue Mass;
  • one low Mass with the changing parts in the vernacular;
  • a high Mass chanted in Latin by the choir trained on Ward Method;
  • a high Mass in Latin, with English hymns and readings.
That, I suggest, is the mental picture that most closely resembles what all the bishops and superiors of the Catholic Church voted in favor of. As Fr. Díaz-Patri shows, the Council Fathers were solemnly assured, prior to voting on the text, that its meaning could not be construed as endorsing or even allowing total vernacularization, and that the rights of Latin would be respected to such an extent that some part of the Mass would always remain in Latin, and the whole of it could remain in Latin for those who wished it. And Paul VI promulgated this document as thus presented.

In the meetings of the Central Preparatory Commission prior to the Council, Cardinal Montini gave a speech in which, after appealing to the other members of the CPC to broaden the use of the vernacular for certain parts of Mass, he then stated: “In the rest of the Mass, the Latin language will be kept, except perhaps for the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), which is, as it were, the summit of public prayer, and is the best preparation of souls for Communion.” At the Council itself, Cardinal Montini stated even more clearly: “Especially when it comes to the language to be used in worship, the use of the ancient language handed down by our forefathers, namely, the Latin language, should for the Latin Church be firm and stable in those parts of the rite which are sacramental and properly and truly priestly.

All the while, the main advocates of liturgical reform—and their leader, Cardinal Montini, with his new friend Annibale Bugnini, whom he quickly sized up as the right man for the job, as Yves Chiron narrates in his biographies of both figures—had no intention of honoring this stipulation. Msgr. Bugnini was an enemy of Latin liturgy all his life. Famously, in a 1969 response to Hubert Jedin who had lamented the damage to Church unity from the almost total disappearance of Latin, Bugnini showed his cards: “Do you believe there is a deep and heartfelt unity amid lack of understanding, ignorance, and the ‘dark of night’ of a worship that lacks a face and light, at least for those out in the nave?”

It would appear that many who worked with Bugnini to draft Sacrosanctum Concilium and later staffed the Consilium felt the same way. Yet they knew they could not ask for too much, too fast. This is why Bugnini said, in what is among his most notorious utterance (speaking to a small number of fellow SC drafters on November 11, 1961):

It would be most inconvenient for the articles of our Constitution to be rejected by the Central Commission or by the Council itself. That is why we must tread carefully and discreetly. Carefully, so that proposals be made in an acceptable manner (modo acceptabile), or, in my opinion, formulated in such a way that much is said without seeming to say anything: let many things be said in embryo (in nuce) and in this way let the door remain open to legitimate and possible postconciliar deductions and applications: let nothing be said that suggests excessive novelty and might invalidate all the rest, even what is straightforward and harmless (ingenua et innocentia). We must proceed discreetly. Not everything is to be asked or demanded from the Council—but the essentials, the fundamental principles [are].
Part of what he already had in mind here was total vernacularization, which he knew would have been massively voted down by the Council Fathers. So, we mustn't tell them that... we must utter some "fundamental principles"... and, if needed, grease the wheels with a few untruths... it wouldn't be the first time that one had to tell a noble lie for the good of the people...

After the Council, the moves toward this goal were rapid, as Fr. Díaz-Patri well documents in the aforementioned book. There was Inter Oecumenici of 1964; the first Italian Mass by none other than Paul VI in March of 1965; the Missa Normativa of 1967; the infamous papal general audiences of 1965 (March 17) and 1969 (November 19 and November 26), in which Paul VI bare farewell to Latin and Gregorian chant. [3]

If we step back and view this whole elaborate picture, what do we see?

Quite simply this. Montini, Bugnini, and all who belonged to their camp wanted to move away from Latin into the vernacular long before the Council. But they made sure to present to the Council a document sufficiently conservative and sufficiently vague to allow over 2,000 bishops to sign off on it—and, what is more, made sure everyone was given the false assurance that Latin would remain in place, even though their actions immediately after the Council make it abundantly clear they never had any intention of honoring these reassurances. Within a few short years, Latin was nearly entirely gone from the Church’s public worship—or rather, it had been actively excluded, banished.

How then can one attempt to justify this gigantic bait-and-switch?

Well, predictably, it is turned into pious hagiography, an unexpected victory of Divine Providence over minds as yet insufficiently enlightened at the Council. In the words of Cavadini, Healy, and Weinandy:

As we have seen, the Council Fathers desired that the Latin language be preserved, especially in the people’s responses, although they readily acknowledged that the vernacular was frequently advantageous to the people. What they did not anticipate was the enthusiasm with which the vernacular was accepted by clergy and laity alike. Bishops’ conferences around the world voted to expand the use of the vernacular and requested and received permission to do so from Rome….
        The vox populi had spoken and had been affirmed by the Church—vernacular it would be. This ecclesial affirmation undercuts one of the most common arguments against the Novus Ordo: that the wholesale adoption of the vernacular, and the reformed liturgy more broadly, is illegitimate because it went beyond what the Council intended. What this fails to note is that Church’s magisterium, in the persons of Paul VI and John Paul II, confirmed these developments, judging them to be authentic liturgical developments that were in accord with the aims of the Council, even if the Council had not explicitly called for them.
Given all that we have seen, this interpretation is the very height of tendentiousness. Such an approach, where the vox populi plus the papal rubberstamp equals “legitimate development,” is really no different from the move of progressives who say that “the Spirit” outstripped the limited mental faculties and theological categories of the Council Fathers and paved the way for outcomes that far exceeded their wildest dreams (or nightmares, as the case may be). In both cases, the past is left behind, buried beneath the rubble of its own deconstruction, and replaced with a “new Catholicism” that must sound different, look different, be different, than it was for every prior century of its existence. [4]

One cannot learn about a bait-and-switch of this magnitude without souring on the Council-as-event, the governance of Paul VI, the ideology of Bugnini, and the good faith of the entire Consilium. There is no room for a naively optimistic narrative. There was deviancy, plotting, mendacity, and betrayal. That is the milieu out of which the liturgical reform arose. As children bear the traits of their parents, so the reform bears the traits of its treacherous origins, and carries them forward with daily ruptures, like a garment torn inch by inch.

This is why I say in my books that the difficulties in the reform are not cosmetic but genetic: they have to do with the principles of its construction, design, and execution, not the superficially mutable aspects of its instantiation here or there. And this is why restoration, not reform, is the only path to a satisfactory and stable liturgical future for the Catholic Church.

NOTES

[1] In the interests of space, I will leave out the extensive footnotes—a good reason to make sure you pick up a copy of this book, among the best books I read in the whole of 2023.

[2] For both quotations, and their Latin originals, see this article by Matthew Hazell.

[3] For the texts with commentary, see this lecture. These speeches are the reason why it is impossible to claim that "the Novus Ordo was meant to be done in Latin, with chant, but it was hijacked," etc. See this article.

[4] For a thorough refutation of the Cavadini, Healy, and Weinandy series, see the anthology Illusions of Reform.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sacred Liturgy as a Source of Trinitarian Doctrine in the Early Church

Though we live in an age when few points of doctrine are completely safe from the ravages of “dialogue” and “further study,” one doesn’t hear much argument about the nature of the Blessed Trinity these days. Though this is surely a sign of the generalized postmodern indifference to things metaphysical, interest in Trinitarian theology, at least in the West, started waning long ago.

The modes of thought that predominated during the eighteenth century were hostile to “irrelevant” doctrinal details that had no bearing on the utopian society soon to be ushered in by scientists and secular philosophers. This trend continued into the nineteenth century, despite a renewed appreciation for certain aspects of medieval religion and culture. A revival of sorts—of course accompanied by sterile debate and dubious speculation—began in the twentieth century and has continued into the twenty-first; Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, both highly influential theologians, published works on the Trinity and helped to move trinitarian doctrines away from the periphery and toward the center of Christian theology. This revival is mostly an academic phenomenon, but it nonetheless gives us a small sense of affinity with the early Church, which prayed and studied and labored tirelessly in response to that most fundamental of Christian questions: How is God both One and Three?

A fourteenth-century illumination depicting the Holy Trinity as Father, Lamb, and Dove.

The Three Centuries before Nicaea

The First Council of Nicaea, convened in 325, did not entirely dispel the obscurity surrounding man’s understanding of the Trinity. Nothing ever will, for as Augustine and Aquinas recognized, it is the very nature of the Deity to be three-in-one, and nothing in the material or psychological realm supplies an analogy that makes such a nature fully comprehensible to the human mind. Nevertheless, Nicaea was a turning point. The Council spoke with strength and clarity against the principal dangers of the time, declaring that the Son is eternally begotten, not created, and that He is consubstantial with, rather than ontologically subordinate to, the Father.

Dante and Beatrice adoring the Blessed Trinity. “Gazing upon His Son with that Love which / One and the Other breathe eternally, / the Power—first and inexpressible— / / made everything that wheels through mind and space / so orderly that one who contemplates / that harmony cannot but taste of Him” (Paradiso, 10; Mandelbaum translation).

The three hundred years of Christianity that preceded Nicaea were a period of grave and often contentious uncertainties about the relationships between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Relatively little doctrinal development occurred during the first two centuries. The triune nature of God was established in Holy Scripture, invoked by Apostolic Fathers (Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch), and explained by Apologists (Justin Martyr, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch), but the Church lacked a precise and philosophically robust understanding of her trinitarian beliefs. Thus, the dogma of the Trinity existed, but it did not always satisfy inquiring minds, and it was vulnerable to potentially catastrophic theological attacks—such as that of a certain heresiarch by the name of Arius.

In the third century, theologians supplied insights that brought greater coherence and clarity to trinitarian orthodoxy, thus laying the groundwork for the triumph of Nicaea. Three of the most prominent were Hippolytus of Rome, Tertullian, and Origen; in this article I will focus on Origen, who gives us an early example of the intimate relation between orthodoxy and liturgical orthopraxis—or in other words, between doctrinal Truth and the poetic Truth that ordinary Christians experience in the expressive language and multisensorial artistry of the Church’s public worship.

A sixteenth-century iconographic rendition of the First Council of Nicaea.

The Triune God in the Liturgy of the Early Church

Though records are sparse, liturgical devotion to the Holy Trinity was present, if not pronounced, in the first three centuries of Christianity. The three Persons were invoked in the administration of sacraments, St. John Cassian (d. 435) reports that Egyptian monks ended their psalmody with a brief hymn “in honor of the Trinity” (Institutes, II.8), and St. Basil (d. 397) indicates that the faithful had long praised the Holy Trinity when lighting the Vespers lamp:

Who was the author of these words of thanksgiving at the lighting of the lamps, we are not able to say. The people, however, utter the ancient form, and no one has ever reckoned guilty of impiety those who say, “We praise Father, Son, and God’s Holy Spirit.” (De Spiritu Sancto, ch. 29)

A fascinating passage from St. Cyprian’ s treatise On the Lord’s Prayer, written in the middle of the third century, interprets the liturgical horarium as a symbol and “sacrament” of the triune God:

In discharging the duties of prayer, we find that the three children with Daniel, being strong in faith and victorious in captivity, observed the third, sixth, and ninth hour, as it were, for a sacrament of the Trinity.... For both the first hour in its progress to the third shows forth the consummated number of the Trinity, and also the fourth proceeding to the sixth declares another Trinity; and when from the seventh the ninth is completed, the perfect Trinity is numbered every three hours, which spaces of hours the worshippers of God in time past having spiritually decided on, made use of for determined and lawful times for prayer. (ch. 34)

Origen and the Appeal to Sacred Liturgy

We see, then, that the Church’s intuitive understanding of the Holy Trinity, perhaps in a wide variety of poetic and ritualistic forms, had filtered into her life of communal prayer. Origen’s writings show us how these liturgical manifestations of trinitarian belief could then return to the theological domain and influence the formulation of dogma.

A portrait of Origen attributed to the sixteenth-century French printer Guillaume Chaudière.

On two occasions of which I am aware, Origen mentions trinitarian liturgical practices in a way that is particularly significant. He doesn’t merely describe these practices; he appeals to them as justification for trinitarian beliefs that were, in these pre-Nicene days, still unsettled. One instance is found in De Principiis (I.3.5):

It seems proper to inquire what is the reason why he who is regenerated by God unto salvation has to do both with Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and does not obtain salvation unless with the co-operation of the entire Trinity; and why it is impossible to become partaker of the Father or the Son without the Holy Spirit.

Here Origen invokes the Church’s baptismal practice in affirming the unity of the Trinity and, more specifically, the full membership of the Holy Spirit in that divine unity. The discussion was a topical one insofar as the pre-Nicene understanding of the Holy Spirit developed more slowly than that of the Father and the Son; Origen himself, in the preceding paragraph (I.3.4), falls unintentionally into heterodoxy: “For although something else existed before the Holy Spirit, ....”

The second instance is in the Dialogue with Heraclides, a document discovered in 1941 by British soldiers who were looking for a place to store ammunition. Bishop Heraclides was caught up in a doctrinal controversy related in some way to prayers used in the eucharistic liturgy, and Origen insists that when praying we should ward off heretical notions by respecting both the distinction of Persons and the unified divinity in the relationship between Father and Son. He continues:

Offering is universally made to Almighty God through Jesus Christ inasmuch as, in respect of his deity, he is akin to the Father. Let there be no double offering, but an offering to God through God.

With admirable concision, Origen makes a profound argument about the nature of the Holy Trinity by drawing our attention to established liturgical practices. The Church prays to the Father through the Son, and therefore the Persons must be somehow distinct; yet the prayer is not a dual offering, and therefore the Two must be One God.

Friday, May 24, 2024

The Mass of the Ember Friday of Pentecost

Like the Mass of the Ember Wednesday of Pentecost, that of the Ember Friday does not have a clear overarching theme, although there are many literary connections between its various parts. The Introit is taken from Psalm 70. “Repleátur os meum laude tua, allelúja, ut possim cantáre, allelúja; gaudébunt labia mea, dum cantávero tibi, allelúja, allelúja. Ps. In te, Dómine, sperávi, non confundar in aeternum: in justitia tua líbera me et éripe me. Gloria Patri. Repleátur... – Let my mouth be filled with Your praise, alleluia, that I may sing, alleluia; my lips rejoice as I sing to Thee, alleluia, alleluia. Psalm In Thee, o Lord, have I hoped, let me never be put to confusion; in Thy justice, deliver me and rescue me. Glory be. Let my mouth be filled…” The first part of this was perhaps intended to remind us that at Pentecost, the mouths of the Apostles were filled in such a way that they were able to speak in various tongues of the wondrous of God. (Act. 2, 11, the last verse of the Epistle of Pentecost.)
The Epistle, Joel 2, 23-24 and 26-27, begins with the words, “O children of Sion, rejoice, and be joyful in the Lord your God, because he hath given you a teacher of justice” “Rejoice” looks back to the Introit, while “a teacher of justice” looks forward to the Gospel, in which Christ appears as the teacher of justice foretold by the prophet. “At that time, it came to pass on a certain day, as Jesus sat teaching.” Among those who sat with Him to hear Him were “Pharisees and the teachers of the law.” The words “qui fecit mirabilia vobiscum… – who did wonders with you” also join the Epistle to the Gospel, which ends with the words “we have seen wonders today.”
The Prophet Joel, depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1508-12. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Some ancient lectionaries attest to a different Epistle for this day, Acts 2, 22-28, the continuation of the first reading of Ember Wednesday, verses 14-21 of the same chapter, which recount St Peter’s preaching on the first Pentecost; this custom remained in use in some places until the era of the Tridentine reform. This reading is also very cleverly chosen in reference to the Gospel; St Peter says that God did wonders through Jesus “in your midst”, while the Gospel says that the friends of the paralytic let him down through the roof “into their midst.” Durandus notes (De Div. Off. 6.120.1) that the Apostle’s words about the Lord’s passion and death were chosen because the reading is assigned to a Friday: “Jesus of Nazareth… you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain, Whom God hath raised up… For David saith concerning him, ‘… my tongue hath rejoiced… moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.’ ” Part of this citation of Psalm 15, “My flesh also shall rest in hope”, is sung as the third antiphon of Tenebrae of Holy Saturday, which would normally have been sung on the evening of Good Friday.
The first Alleluja verse is taken from the book of Wisdom, 12, 1. “O quam bonus et suávis est, Dómine, Spíritus tuus in nobis! – O how good and sweet is Thy Spirit, o Lord, within us!” This reading of this verse differs from the Greek, which says simply “For Thy spirit is incorrupt in all things”, and from several manuscripts of the Vulgate which read “For Thy spirit is good in all things.” The chant itself is a relatively new composition, not attested in any of the early graduals catalogued by the musicologist Dom René-Jean Hesbert, a monk of Solesmes Abbey, in his “Antiphonale Missarum Sextuplex.”
The paralytic lowered through the roof, in a fresco of the 8th or 9th century preserved in the basilica of St Sabbas on the Aventine Hill in Rome. On the left side is shown the calling of Ss James and John.
For the Church Fathers, the healing of the paralytic read in today’s Gospel, Luke 5, 17-26 (with Synoptic parallels Matthew 9, 1-8 and Mark 2, 1-12), is particularly important as a symbol of the forgiveness of sins granted to us by Christ, which is one of the articles of the Creed. This is justified, of course, because when asked to heal the paralytic, Jesus first says to him, “O man, your sins are forgiven”, and only heals the man physically when challenged, as if His first statement were a blasphemous usurpation of God’s authority. As St Ambrose says in the Breviary lesson for today, “although we must accept the truth of the story, and believe that the body of this paralytic was truly healed, nevertheless, recognize also the healing of the interior man, whose sins are forgiven him.” (Expos. in Evang, Lucae 5, 5) This is important enough a point to merit the repetition of the story in St Matthew’s version later on in the year, on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost.
Indirectly, this episode also shows the divinity of Christ, since He does not deny what the Pharisees assert, that only God has authority to forgive sins. The confession of the Christ’s divinity, and the refutation of heresies that deny it, seems to be an important theme of the Pentecost octave, as noted earlier this week in regard to the Mass of Tuesday.
The Offertory is repeated from the Mass of the Third Sunday after Easter, perhaps continuing the theme of praising God from the other parts of the Mass. “Lauda, ánima mea, Dóminum: laudábo Dóminum in vita mea, psallam Deo meo, quamdiu ero, allelúja. – Praise the Lord, my soul; I will praise the Lord in my life, I will sing to my God as long as I shall live, alleluia.”
The Secret is noteworthy as the only prayer of Pentecost week that refers directly to the historical event of the feast itself. (It is also a very fine rhetorical composition, whose word order defies direct translation into English.) “Sacrificia, Dómine, tuis obláta conspéctibus, ignis ille divínus absúmat, qui discipulórum Christi, Filii tui, per Spíritum Sanctum corda succendit. – May that divine fire consume the sacrifices offered in Thy sight, o Lord, even that which through the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the disciples of Christ, Thy Son.”
The same catalog by Dom Hesbert mentioned above shows that the Communio of today’s Mass was originally “Spiritus ubi vult spirat”, which is now sung on Ember Saturday, and that of today was originally sung tomorrow. Until the Tridentine reform, the original order seems to have been preserved everywhere except for Rome itself. There is no obvious reason for them to change places, and that which is now sung today, which begins “I will not leave you orphans”, seems like a much better choice for the last day of Pentecost. “Non vos relinquam órphanos, veniam ad vos íterum, allelúja, et gaudébit cor vestrum, allelúja. – I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you again, alleluia, and your heart with rejoice, alleluia.”
A very nice polyphonic setting by William Byrd, who would have known this as a text for the Ember Saturday.

Bankrupting the Banquet: Reflections on the Distribution of Holy Communion

Among other things, the National Eucharistic Revival launched by the USCCB is an invitation to reflect on our treatment of the Holy Eucharist and the way it may influence our beliefs. Two decades ago the Reverend Massimo Salani made international news by accusing fast food of being Protestant. Characterizing the popular form of eating as the complete oblivion of food’s “sacred nature,” the Italian Patristics scholar went on to opine that fast food “reflects the individualistic relation between man and God introduced by Luther” and is thus “the fruit of a Protestant culture.”[1] While Salani’s theory won praise from the Italian Minister for Agricultural Resources, both the German Lutheran community and the McDonalds Corporation were quick to issue letters of rebuttal, almost as if both were equally insulted by association with the other.

Regardless of where one stands on the value of fast food, the topic raises a question about the relationship between dining and the Catholic sacramental life. Indeed, Fr. Salani could just as easily have asked not whether fast food is Protestant, but whether fast food is now, thanks to the way we currently administer Holy Communion, Catholic.
Specifically, while the rite of communion in the traditional Latin Mass (and in all other historic apostolic rites) takes on the form of a high banquet or feast, communion in the typical Novus Ordo Mass celebrated in the U.S. today generally resembles the experience of eating at a fast-food restaurant. I stress “today,” for it would be simplistic and misleading to lay blame on the 1969 Missal per se.[2] But we can at least suggest the following. Even when the communion rite of the traditional Latin Mass is celebrated poorly by a hasty priest, the form of it remains unmistakably that of a grand banquet. On the other hand, the more negotiable form of the Novus Ordo communion rite, together with the implementations of the USCCB and the guidance of some American liturgists, have clearly made possible a number of practices that more often than not sell our banqueting birthright for a bowl of McPottage.
At the Lamb’s High Feast
In a traditional Latin Mass, everything about the communion rite betokens participation in a great feast. Only the choicest vessels, made out of silver or gold, are used and only the finest linens. The atmosphere, even when there is only a single priest in somewhat of a hurry, is one of solemn leisure. The communicant stops, kneels, and waits. He is honored by the approach of the priest himself, not a lower minister and certainly not a fellow layman, just as diners at a fine restaurant are particularly honored when the chef comes out and visits their table (I apologize for the profane comparisons here and throughout, but they are necessary for the argument).
When the priest arrives, accompanied by his “waiter,” a formally-dressed acolyte, precious dishware (a gold paten) is placed under the communicant’s chin and he is treated to three things: a beautiful invocation directed specifically to him, “May the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep thy soul unto eternal life. Amen”; a mini-Benediction (for the priest makes the sign of the cross with the Host in his hand before distributing it); and the sacred Host itself. The prayer is particularly relevant to our discussion. The chef at a fine restaurant is likely to “pray” that his patrons obtain the intended effects of the fare he has served: hence he says something like, “Enjoy your meal.” The purpose of Holy Communion, on the other hand, is not pleasure for the body but bliss for the soul: hence the priest’s precise yet succinct prayer to each and every communicant.
The communicant then usually lingers for a little while in gratitude. In some parishes, kneelers even wait until everyone on their side of the aisle has received before rising and returning to their pews, both to prolong their adoration but also to show good manners in not rising from the table until everyone has finished.
Of particular importance throughout this ritual feasting is the communion rail. Its opponents depict it not only as a barrier between God and man but as an impediment to the Lord’s supper, for it keeps the congregation segregated from the altar, which in the great tradition has been understood as both the locus of sacrifice and a mensa, a table on which a meal is shared. Yet they overlook how the chancel rail, like the Byzantine iconostasis, is not a partition separating but a seam uniting heaven and earth, sacred and profane; and subsequently, it is more of a window than a wall. Moreover, the communion rail is a table, a banquet setting for the communion of God and His children in the congregation. Underscoring this function was the custom in some parishes of placing a fine white linen communion cloth—a tablecloth, if you will—on the chancel rail.
The Happy Meal
The ethos for Holy Communion at the average American Nouvs Ordo is noticeably different. The communion rail now gone and the striking descent of the priest from the high altar now ameliorated by architectural changes to the sanctuary and by the team of Eucharistic ministers diluting his distributive office, the communicants form a single file line from which they never fully escape. As they hasten forward (in my experience, the line usually moves quickly), they are advised to make some gesture of reverence as they approach the Blessed Sacrament as long as it is not the traditional genuflection—presumably because it might impede efficiency.[3] In the traditional communion rite, the line breaks as individual communicants find a place at the rail and then prepare for Holy Communion. In the most common current dispensation, by contrast, there is no local (and possibly no psychological) transition from reaching the head of the line to receiving the Eucharist.
All of this smacks of a fast-food arrangement, with its focus on speed and efficiency. Customers form single file lines either in the restaurant or in the drive thru, and their food is ready for them before they are seated.
Instead of receiving from a priest, chances are that the communicant will be receiving from an “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion,” often located at various points throughout the church (again to aid efficiency). As has been mentioned already, it is an honor to receive one’s fare from the chef himself (the “high priest,” as it were, of the dinner), but in a decent restaurant one can at least expect to be served by a duly-uniformed waiter. What one would not expect is to have diners from the next table suddenly stand up and serve you your food. Yet this is precisely what happens with lay Eucharistic ministers. They are not priests, they are not members of a minor order (acolyte), and they are not even laymen performing the function of a minor order (altar boys).[4] They are fellow diners who may or may not have taken a workshop on how to distribute God.
Instead of a precious vessel made out of gold or silver, the priest or Eucharistic minister may be holding in his or her hand cheap earthenware. From it he/she proffers a Host and says, “The Body of Christ.” This brief declarative statement, no longer than “Have a nice day,” replaces the beautiful prayer addressed to the individual for his eternal salvation as well as the mini-Benediction. Gone too are the gold patens and the communion cloth that add to the festive splendor and that reinforce belief in the Real Presence of every particle of the Host.
Although one is still permitted to receive on the tongue, it is more common for communicants to receive on the hand, a practice that further facilitates a fast-food mentality. Under this arrangement, it is easy to begin the return to one’s pew before the Host is actually in one’s mouth. Such an impatient action, should it occur (and it does), is roughly comparable to the fast-food customer who pops some fries into his mouth as he takes his tray and finds a table. McDonalds refers to the counter area where orders are picked up as the “grab and go” zone. The term is also a fitting description of Holy Communion at the average Novus Ordo parish. And should the communicant try to slow things down by kneeling down and receiving on the tongue, he may be denied Holy Communion. 
It is not difficult to see, incidentally, which of the two dining paradigms we have described better accords with the Eucharistic passages of the Bible. With the exception of the miracle of the fish and loaves (a picnic setting, so to speak, necessitated by the circumstances), scriptural foreshadowings of the Eucharist tend to involve grand or traditional feasts, such as the Wedding of Cana or the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Moreover, the Last Supper itself took place during no mere meal but the Seder, the highest and most solemn banquet of the Hebrew year, with every its dimension steeped in ritual and ceremony. Finally, the earthly liturgy that Christ instituted in the cenacle is itself a participation in His heavenly wedding feast described in the Book of Revelation. Since every Mass not only synthesizes all of the just sacrifices from Abel on but anticipates this great eschatological banquet in Heaven, it is fitting to have this hidden reality reflected in signs and gestures that are suitably august.
Reply to Objections
Two objections can be raised against our thesis, the first being that, despite the “grab and go” temptation, Communion in the hand as well as Communion standing up remain closer in form to that of a banquet. Few people at a feast, after all, are either spoon-fed by another or take their food on their knees. Yet this is precisely where the analogy—as all analogies eventually do—begins to fail. At an earthly banquet, an adult must indeed be somewhat active in taking food to his mouth. At the heavenly banquet, however, we are more like what St. Paul refers to as “little ones”—helpless infants seeking sustenance from our Parent. The gesture that a communicant takes in the traditional Roman rite is one of perfect receptivity (which is not to be confused with passivity).[5] He is like a fledgling chick, head tilted back, mouth open, pleading for Life.
The pelican, a type for the Eucharistic Christ, on a tabernacle door
This image may be mildly insulting to those who think of themselves as all grown up, but it is evocative of the gala logikos, the “rational milk” (or “milk of the Word”) that St. Peter admonishes us to receive as newborn babes (1 Pet. 2:2); and it hearkens to the ancient association of Christus passus with the mythical pelican. According to a Greek legend, a male pelican returned to the nest after a three-day absence to find his young killed by a serpent. To bring them back to life, he tore open his breast and let his blood trickle onto them. Church Fathers like St. Jerome saw in this tale an allegory of the Eucharist, which is why in Eucharistic hymns like St. Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro Te, Devote, Jesus is addressed with the words, Pie Pelicane, and why tabernacle doors sometimes contain the relief of a pelican immolating itself. And if Jesus is the Pelican whose blood is life-giving Logos-milk, then we are certainly His newborn babes, smitten by the old serpent of sin and recumbent before Him.[6]
The pelican’s affinity with Our Lord also puts into perspective the inappropriateness of recent experiments in intinction, where the communicant takes the Host and then dunks it in the Precious Cup. This chips-’n’-dip motion of the layman is far removed from the practice of several Eastern rites, where the communicant receives both species (the Body intincted in the Blood) from the priest in a fledgling manner similar to that of the believer at a Tridentine Mass. And, of course, it gives the rite of communion an additional air of nonchalant informality, at least in cultures affected by the habits of Super Bowl Sunday snacking.
Second, it may be objected that Communion under both kinds is more banquet-like, since obviously banquets involve drink as well as food. As with Communion in the hand, there is an ancient Roman precedent for this practice, though likewise it is debatable that what we are doing today actually restores the tradition. Few proponents of the former, for example, seem to realize that the original practice, in some places at least, required a woman’s hands to be covered by a cloth when she received the Host.
The issue with Communion under both species is not so much that the Precious Blood is shared (which is theologically unproblematic and even in some respects commendable), but how it is shared. The answer to that question today is, again, fast-food-like. The communicant moves to a second station, almost always staffed by a lay Eucharistic minister, as if he were driving up to the second window of a drive thru. There he takes the Chalice in his hands (further undermining his fledgling orientation), imbibes his share, and goes. Having this second station can also undermine respect for the Eucharist, for invariably—in order not to hold up “traffic”—other communicants pass by the Chalice without acknowledging the presence of their Eucharistic Lord. And it hardly resembles the ancient practice, where only the deacon (the sous-chef of the Sacrifice, so to speak) took a golden straw called a fistula, lowered it in the Chalice, and put his finger over one end so that it would hold the Precious Blood. Then, moving to the communicant (not vice versa), he would suspend the fistula over the person’s open mouth and release his finger so that the Blood would empty into it, pelican-like.
two fistulae
Conclusion
Entitling this article “Bankrupting the Banquet” is not intended to be sensationalist or to suggest that when Mass is celebrated in a fast-food manner the Sacrament loses any of its efficacy. Both “bankrupt” and “banquet” come from bancus (the Latin for bench), the former in reference to a banker’s counter, the latter to a dining table. Keeping this etymology in mind sets into relief the content of our critique: by removing the communion rail and all the other elements of grand feasting, we have literally bankrupted the Roman rite, ruptured or broken the banquet bench on which the communion between God and man appropriately takes place.
Consequently, nature abhorring the vacuum that it does, an ethos of efficient consumption comparable to that of the American fast-food industry has crept into our solemn worship. The result is an atmosphere and an etiquette at odds not only with the sacrificial, regal, and divine character of the Eucharistic liturgy but with its festive, leisurely nature. Exorcizing the spirit of Burger King from the banquet of the Heavenly King remains an urgent and pastorally pressing task. If, as National Eucharistic Revival would suggest, the Church is serious about restoring a sense of reverence for the Eucharist, she may wish to reconsider how she distributes It.
An earlier version of this essay appeared in The Latin Mass magazine 16:3 (Summer 2007), pp. 38-41. Many thanks to the editors for allowing its publication here.
Notes
[1] From an interview that appeared in Avvenire, November 8, 2000. English translation from 2000 Religion News Service Star Telegram, Ft. Worth, Texas.
[2] Indeed, many of the features of a contemporary American Mass I am about to describe are not at all mandated by the 1969 Missal. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the new Missal and many post-conciliar directives either permit or insufficiently guard against the encroachment of “fast-food” practices in the liturgy.
[3] While the American adaptations to the General Instructions for the Roman Missal discourage kneeling or genuflecting during the reception of Communion (the bishops’ effort to forbid the practice outright was rejected by the Vatican), they do not state why these practices are now so objectionable. One respected liturgical scholar once suggested to me that the motive was purely logistical: kneeling and genuflecting interrupt the flow of the communion line.
[4] Even tonsured clerics were not permitted to distribute Holy Communion: only the major order of priest (for the Body) and the major order of deacon (for the Precious Blood) had such privileges.
[5] The Blessed Virgin Mary, for instance, was utterly receptive to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement, not utterly passive.
[6] The pelican metaphor also underscores the inappropriateness of Eucharistic ministers whose activity alienates the priest—acting in persona Pelicani, as it were—from the Divine Pelican’s blood and brood. For the pelican does not ask some other bird to revive his young after his act of self-sacrifice but carries the act through to its completion himself.

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