30 October 2008

Concelebration 7

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. If, he said, you want to make the point to somebody that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is One Sacrifice ... not a lot of similar sacrifices but the same sacrifice ... the best thing you can do is to take him him into a church with a lot of altars and a priest standing muttering silently at each, and tell him that each of those men is doing the same action. Mascall was probably thinking of the Church of S Mary Magdalene in Oxford, then a great Catholic centre but now sadly most terribly lapsed. It was there that, except when he was on the rota to celebrate in Christchurch Cathedral, he said his daily Mass, old style, Introibo ad Altare Dei through to Et Verbum caro factum est. Not infrequently, every altar was occupied by a priest offering that same eternal sacrifice. One thinks also of the Shrine Church at Walsingham, its twenty or so altars abuzz with sacrifice. 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 making, each of them, the customary arrangement with the priest just before him or the one just after, to serve his Mass in return for him serving yours.

And despite the contempt into which the Private Mass fell in the decades after Vatican II, I am convinced that it should be put back into the repertoire of every-day Western Catholicism. Not when there are laypeople needing a Mass: it is obviously the 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). Nor do I feel that a Private Mass is appropriate when it is not possible to find a layperson to answer it and there is a public Mass which one would be welcomed to concelebrate. But we should remember that Vatican II did preserve inviolate the right of every priest to celebrate a Private Mass, with one or two caveats (e.g.; not during a concelebration within the same church). And subsequent magisterial documents have repeated this right. And successive editions of the Novus Ordo Missal have provided (and, most recently, revised) the rite for celebrating the 'New Mass' privately.

But ... cat-out-of-the-bag ... I do feel that the opportunity to say a private Mass is also the opportunity to return to roots, resourcissement, by saying the ancient Western Rite. The unlatined could use the English Missal which, for decades, was the rite of Catholic Anglicans. It's what those adverts in the Church Times of fifty years ago meant when a church invited you to attend it by flaunting the lovely phrases 'Western Rite' and 'Full Catholic Privileges'.


Fr William said...

Thank you, Father, for this most enlightening series of posts, which I am saving for future reference.

May I trouble you for clarification on one point? From my reading of the present (Novus Ordo) Latin Rite, it seems that the presence of a server is assumed even at a Mass sine populo. Is it your understanding that this is an absolute canonical requirement; or an expectation which is so normative that if a server is not available then Mass, while licit, is ordinarily best not celebrated; or entirely dispensable (in which case does the priest reply "Et cum spiritu tuo", etc., to himself?) - always assuming, of course, that there were no public Mass at which one might concelebrate. And would the answer be any different if it were the ancient Latin Rite being used?

James said...

I second your question Fr. William, when saying mass completely by oneself, does the priest make the responses? I assume he would have to, does he do this in the name of the defunct who will partake in the Communion?

Fr. J

rev'd up said...

Fr. O'Connell's "The Book of Ceremonies," 1943, regarding Mass without a server writes on p. 58:

"If a priest says Mass without a server and if there is no one to answer the prayers, he must make all the responses himself. he should say the "Confiteor" only once..."

He then suggests arrangement of cruets and the procedure for ablutions. The Missale Romanum and the English Missal give parentheticals for the "confiteor" and "Orate fratres" in the event of a solitary Mass. In the event of their being only ladies present, it is acceptable for a female to make the responses; however, she must do so from the nave and may not be within the chancel.

This is the "old fashioned" way of doing things and makes perfect sense once you get the hang of it. In these days of hundred-kilometer radius parishes, it becomes necessary for a priest who desires to say Mass daily to say it solitary. Nevertheless, he says Mass on behalf of his absent parishioners.

I third Fr. William's praise of this series Father.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

This is indeed a service Father Hunwicke and I have been following most closely.

rev'd up is quite Fr William, the solo priest does indeed answer everything for himself - and on behalf of his flock and with the communion of saints and the holy angels and the whole Church Triumphant, Militant and Expectant!

It has always irritated me the notion that "where two or three" only should apply to the offering of the Holy Sacrifice... If indeed one was simply holding a prayer meeting there may be little point in continuing alone (though this too is moot with me), but as one is offering "The" Holy Sacrifice which is not separate but the same as that "once only once and once for all" with and through Christ in the Mass... with all that the Sacred Mysteries mean with regard to communion - both corporate and divine, both temporally and spiritually... one could never be said to be "alone"! Rather one is "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses"!

My pastorate is geographically large but I offer Mass daily and broadcast it on the internet so that the faithful who are miles away or housebound can at least make a spiritual communion.