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Monday 12 August 2019

Wojtyla Institute 2019 - Shaped by the Liturgy

Shaped by the Liturgy
A presentation to the Wojtyla Institute by Fr. John L. Hodgins, August 2019

Dom Gregory Dix, the great Benedictine scholar in his seminal book, THE SHAPE OF THE LITURGY, defines liturgy as: “the act of taking part in the solemn corporate worship of God by the ‘priestly’ society of Christians, who are the Body of Christ, the Church.”

By looking at the main themes of Dix’s work we may see how the Eucharistic Liturgy or Mass has shaped the people of God and how it continues to shape Catholics as we celebrate the various rites or expressions of the Mass, both Eastern and Western.  

Dom Gregory claimed that all forms of the Mass share the fundamental fourfold shape of the Liturgy: Taking, Blessing, Breaking and Sharing i.e. 

1.   Taking the offered bread and wine
2.  Blessing the elements which become the Body and Precious Blood of Christ;
3.  Breaking the Bread (technically The Fraction)
4.  Sharing in Holy Communion (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ)

Specifically, today we will look at the Liturgy of the Personal Ordinariates erected under the Apostolic Constitution of 2009 – Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC)

Liturgy for the Ordinariates created under AC is now contained in the various “Divine Worship” (DW) rites approved and published by the Holy See. In 2015 Divine Worship: The Missal (DWM) was first published for use in the Ordinariates by members around the world as well as for all Catholics who choose to attend or fulfill their Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligation in an Ordinariate parish.

We will look at the historical background to this form of the Liturgy and see how DW came to bring the English Catholic or Anglican patrimony back into full communion with the Holy See.  DW is one form of the Liturgy, one expression of the Western Catholic Rite in harmony with the entire Catholic tradition of East and West.

Today, of course, DW is celebrated by only a very small number of Catholics (less than .01% of Catholics worldwide).  

The Western (Latin) Rite

The Western Rite for Holy Mass is the most widely celebrated in the Ordinary Form (OF) or in the Extraordinary Form (EF) sometimes called the Tridentine or Latin Mass.  The Ordinary Form (with which we are all familiar) is often referred to as the Novus Ordoor of the "New Mass" following Vatican II.  The normative language for this Mass is also Latin. In Canada the Novus Ordo is most often celebrated in modern English, in French or in one of the many modern languages that Catholics speak in Canada.

The Extraordinary Form (EF), i.e. the Usus Antiquior (the more ancient usage) is the traditional Latin Mass with its particular ceremonial including the priest ad orientem i.e. facing liturgical East and the ‘silent canon’ along with various developments and modifications up to the pontificate of Pope St. Paul VI. 

DWM has elements of both the OF and the EF forms of the Roman Rite Mass. It is set in traditional English. A simple way to describe the English of DW is to refer people to the popular English form of the Our Father or the Hail Mary e.g. Our Father who art in heaven.  Hallowed be thy name . . . Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Dom Gregory Dix may help us understand how the OF and the EF forms of the Mass, along with DW, share a common structure or “shape”.  A recounting of the early history of the shape of the Mass will help us understand why and where DW fits into the history of the Church.

All Mass rites have two fundamental parts i.e. the ‘Liturgy of the Word’ followed by the ‘Liturgy of the Eucharist’.  

Dom Gregory points out that all forms of the Mass share the four-fold shape. This shape goes back to Mass as first celebrated in the churches both East and West in the first century and even before the New Testament canon was settled.  The fact that the Mass predates the New Testament of the Bible is often a surprise to Catholics as well as Protestants.

We are dealing with worship and sacrificial offering that has shaped the Church from its very foundations.  You will be familiar, perhaps, with the maxim Lex orandi, Lex Credendi often translated as: The law of worship is the law of belief

Nowhere does this maxim apply more so than in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist or Mass where what we say, sing and do, shapes what the Church believesteaches and confesses, as Jaroslav Pelikan the Orthodox scholar would put it. (The Christian Tradition, J. Pelikan). 

The first of the two ‘parts’ or sections of the Mass is the Synaxis (Greek for “meeting”). The second part is the Eucharist proper (Greek meaning “Thanksgiving”). 

The Synaxis derives from the Jewish synagogue service of the Word and follows that pattern:

A.    Greeting and Response

B.     Lections interspersed with 
C.    Psalmody (usually chanted) 
D.   Bishop’s Sermon: a charismatic function of the Bishop.
E.    Dismissal of the Catechumens -- those not yet initiated into the
        Body of Christ – the Church.
         Note the ‘Judas Walk’ hymn – a vestige of the dismissal of catechumens.
F.    The Intercessory Prayers of the Faithful
G.   Dismissal of the Faithful (when only the Synaxis is celebrated.)

Then follows the Eucharistic Sacrifice:

A.   Greeting and Response

B.      The exchange of the of Peace
C.       Offertory (Offering of Bread and Wine with other Gifts)
D.   The Eucharistic Prayer of Thanksgiving
E.       The Fraction or Breaking of the Bread
F.        Holy Communion
G.    The Dismissal of all with the exhortation to live eucharistically

Traditionally those who were not confirmed (anointed with the oil of chrism) were not allowed to participate in the second half of the Liturgy – the Eucharistic Sacrifice. 

In the Eastern Rites children were, and are today, chrismated (anointed) in infancy at the time of the water rite of Baptism and so share in Holy Communion from infancy forward. 

DW, in line with Western Catholic practice, presumes a separation of the rite of Confirmation from the water rites of Baptism. The timing for Confirmation has varied over the centuries as well as the age for those admitted to Holy Communion.  We won’t get into that discussion today other than to say that Ordinariate parishes tend to follow local custom.

Texts and accompanying ceremonial developed into a variety of medieval Western rites (small ‘r’) of the Eucharist.  These various texts with ritual rubrics (red lettered directions) for the Mass included the Roman (followed across central Europe), Mozarabic in Spain, the Ambrosian Rite in Milan, Italy, the Sarum (from Salisbury in England) and other variations which had papal approval such as the Dominican rite which is still celebrated today in Dominican communities as are the Mozarabic, Ambrosian and a few other rites of historically small communities.

The Ordinariate or Divine Worship (DW) form of the Mass is then, just one expression of the Latin or Western Catholic Rite and, of course DW shares, the twofold aspects of Synaxis and Eucharist along with the universal fourfold shape of the Liturgy.

Distinctive forms of celebrating Holy Mass developed from the early first century rites of the Eucharist. These settled into three modes of celebration in the West by the 6th century A.D. and these modes remained virtually unchanged for over 1,000 years before the Reformation and Counter-Reformation of the 16th century.  

Three Modes of the Mass

The three modes of the Mass in the West are: 

A. The Pontifical Mass, is highly structured with elaborate ritual and ceremonial recognizably derived from the pre-Nicene Church presided over by a bishop with each person taking their own role according to order in the Eucharist.

B. The Missa Cantata, High (Sung) Mass is an eighth-ninth century simplification of the Pontifical Mass which retained much of the old corporate character, being sung and allowing for the fulfillment of the separate “liturgies” of all the “orders”: the Priest (or Presbyter) delegated by the bishop, the Deacon, the Subdeacon, the Acolyte/s, the Lector/s along with all the laity. This was the official form of the rite in the Middle Ages that was presented in well-equipped parish churches on all Sundays and holy days. This is the form of Mass that we celebrate on Sundays in the Ordinariates.

C.  Finally, there was the Low Mass which was said by the priest so that he might be able to fulfill his obligations to celebrate the Mass with regularity. This mode of the Mass is customarily spoken in a low voice; hence the name. This form of the Mass is brief and allows the working laity opportunity to be present at the Eucharist daily. 

As we look at the development of the DW Mass alongside the other Western Catholic rites we must consider the theological impact of the Low Mass and how it has shaped the piety and practice of faithful.  

This development of the Mass form meant that the corporate worship of the Eucharist was telescoped into a focus for the subjective devotion of each separate worshiper in the isolation of his or her own mind. 

To many, this third “low” mode for celebration of the Mass began to seem, in many settings, more important than the corporate act. The part the individual lay person played in the corporate action was largely reduced from “doing” to “seeing” and “hearing.  The individual was allowed, or even encouraged, to retreat within to “thinking” and “feeling.”  A focus on “seeing” (ceremonial) and “hearing” (music) over time led those caught up in the individualistic spirit to see the corporate nature of the Eucharist as detrimental to proper “thinking” and “feeling” – the modern hallmarks of the human condition. 

Dix maintains that the shift of emphasis from a corporate to an individual focus grew rapidly in the fifteenth century Western Church, and reached its full development in the sixteenth century. Some have even called it “the Protestant conception of the Eucharist.” 

Dom Gregory considered the Protestant Reformers both victims and products of a sacramental minimalism. They tried to retain the Eucharist as central to worship but could not carry their followers with them since Protestant devotion was so individualistic.  In the end, most Protestant churches embraced, as their centrepiece, the Synaxis, the Word-based worship derived from the synagogue.

The Liturgy of the Word had been considered essential but not exclusive in the early Church.  Early Christians allowed non-Christians and catechumens in for this part of the liturgy.  Dix sums it up in these terms: What happened was that Protestantism, in the main, embraced the synagogue, and rejected the temple i.e. rejected the corporate worship of sacrifice. 

Even before the sixteenth century the Eucharist had begun to pass from an objective rite of communal action, as witnessed to in Scripture, into a more subjective rite of feeling. The Reformers' insistence on the internal and subjective doctrine of "justification by faith alone" corresponds completely with the simple said service which, in the words of Dix was: performed by a single minister, at which the people had only to look and listen and silently pray.” 

Rather than rediscovering the spirit of Christian worship in the early church, the habits of people had gradually grown inward due to the habituation of centuries, the shaping of the people of God by the normative Low Mass

Dix gives various examples as evidence that show the link between the subjectivity of mediaeval Eucharistic devotions and the reformed liturgies. Both are based on inner subjective and meditative personal reflections on the Passion of our Lord as a merely historical event.

By the 14th century the idea of the Eucharist as a corporate action binding heaven and earth, past and future with the present, and binding believers of all time into unity, was, for most lay people, lost.  

This emphasis on the sacrament as the focus of personal religion was maintained without much change by the Protestant reformers and the Catholic counter-Reformation alike. Over time, both parties sought to replace personal adoration with personal reception of the sacrament, as the central point of lay Eucharistic devotion. 

Dix would not have us think that one’s personal feelings toward God in the rite were not of importance in the primitive Church. What he is saying is that by making this individualist focus central, the original intent of the Eucharist i.e. to bind the Church of God into a unity of time and eternity, is undermined. 

Subjectivity breeds individualism. Who we are as Christians cannot be solely based on feelings and experiences that may vary from one to another. 

The principal thing that our Lord instituted to bind individuals together as one in Him is the sacrificial action of the Eucharist.  Tragically the Church had come to be divided over the gift Christ has given for her unity. This brings us to the Reformation, Counter-Reformation and for our purposes to the Liturgy, in English, that succeeded centuries of liturgy almost exclusively in Latin or Greek.

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation 

Some have said that Protestantism does not know what to do with the Eucharist. With its emphasis on inner experience, the logical end would be rejection of all external forms, and exclusive concentration on the “inner light” of Quakerism. This would be hard to explain given the importance of the Eucharist in the Bible, which historically has been considered the final authority by most Protestants. 

The difficulty arises precisely out of the only meaning which Protestantism could assign to the Eucharist which did not contradict its own basic principle of “justification by faith alone” – viz. that the liturgy is a very specifically solemn and moving reminder to all who attend with faith in the passion and atonement of Christ.  

So, the Eucharist is seen as a valuable means of eliciting devout feelings of gratitude, love, confidence and union with Christ in those who make use of His ordinance. To partake of the Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is then simply a pledge of re-dedication to God’s service given by His followers. 

The problem with this is that the Lord’s Supper is, for Protestants, not any different from other forms of worship such as a non-Eucharistic service of the Word or private devotions. 

Many of the Reformers who (especially in England) retained a sense of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist were appalled by the downplaying of the sacrificial offering of the Mass. 

Many others had been seduced by the individualist degeneration of the understanding of the Eucharistic offering, mentioned above, which led to a loss of form – the Shape of the Liturgy was obscured.  The communal and transcendent meaning of the Eucharist, as originally conceived, reflected the unity of the Church Militant, the Church Expectant and the Church Triumphant in Heaven. 

The Liturgy had, for many, become focussed on the Passion with little understanding of the eschatological orientation i.e. the return of Christ following the Resurrection and Ascension. The Eucharist, in this understanding, was stalled in the past and the problem was reduced to simply making the past present. 

A popular view, which was never official Catholic doctrine but was widely embraced, interpreted the Mass as Christ re-sacrificed at every Mass.  Protestants rightly rejected this popular misconception as blatantly unbiblical. Their limitation, though, opted to bring the past into the present by means of mere memory and reflection. It did not occur to either group that they had both missed the original intent of the Eucharistic rite which was communal and transcendent participation in the eternal “now” of Christ’s Sacrifice offered once for all. 

These concerns were, of course, reflected in the liturgical revisions both of the Council of Trent and in the various English liturgies that were published, especially the Book of Common Prayer in its original 1549 version followed by a more Protestant version in 1552 and finally the normative edition for the Church of England over a century later in 1662. 

Anglicanae Traditiones

The task of Anglicanae Traditiones, the Interdicasterial Commission set up to develop the DW liturgy, was to look to the sources both pre- and post- Reformation and to decide which were to be included in the DW ritual books of the Ordinariates including rites for Baptism, Marriage, Confirmation, Funeral, etc. and approved by the Holy See.

The largest task was the assembling of DW: The Missal – a truly monumental task which sifted and measured mountains of material into a Catholic rite in conformity with the teaching of the Church while retaining the traditional English forms so much of which had been set to patrimonial music.

The Commission recognized eight principles upon which it would conduct its task.  We will not look at all of these. However, the first, according to Bishop Lopes, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (North America),  was generally  acknowledge as central:  to preserve for Catholic worship the worthy Anglican liturgical patrimony, understood as that which has nourished the Catholic faith throughout the history of the Anglican tradition and prompted aspirations towards ecclesial unity.

DIVINE WORSHIP texts and rubrics seek to engage people in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice through actions, shared prayers, music and ceremonial ad orientem (eastward facing to the horizon of the eschaton). 

This expression of the liturgy along with traditional hieratic English focuses worship on the transcendence of God through the mediation of Christ which shapes us.

The 1549 English BCP, a source for DW, had retained the four-fold shape of the Liturgy and though it was modified in 1552, Queen Mary restored the Catholic faith and Liturgy to the English-speaking world during her reign. The four-fold shape of the liturgy as anciently conceived survived then into the reign of Elizabeth I and was in the process of being revived again under King James II at the end of the 17th century before the revolution which installed the Protestant William of Orange on the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland.

It can be argued that the Catholic shape of the liturgy was never fully lost in the years before Catholic emancipation in the British Isles and across the English-speaking world in the 19th century.

The offering or “taking”, and “thanking” (eucharistia),  along with the anamnesis of the person and work of Christ, followed by the Breaking of the Bread and Holy Communion, were retained in the Mass in many places as recusants survived until full Catholic emancipation and the “Second Spring” as Cardinal Newman called the Catholic revival celebrating the re-establishment of a Catholic hierarchy in England.

Pope Benedict, is a great student of Blessed John Henry Newman who had been received into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 1845 and is to be canonized this October. Pope Benedict insisted that various elements and prayers in the BCP be included in DW: The Missal and other Ordinariate rites. So, there is much to commend the original Book of Common Prayer, especially the beautiful translations into hieratic English of the old Latin prayers e.g. the so-called Collect for Purity (with which we opened our session today.)  This collect is prayed at the beginning of the traditional English Eucharist:

ALMIGHTY GOD, unto Whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from Whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name. Through Christ our Lord.  AMEN. 

Through the 19th and 20th centuries the Anglican liturgy continued to accommodate those who held traditional beliefs about Eucharist, especially belief that the consecrated bread and wine are the real Body and Blood of Christ. 

For others, to restore the theology of ancient corporate four-fold action of the ancient Eucharist is, by definition, a negation of the basic Protestant idea. The idea that result of which is the fragmentation into thousands of denominations that continue to proliferate to this day. They remain divided; victims of subjective piety and Protestant individualism. 

The ancient piety expressed in corporate liturgy and the corporate action of the Eucharist was simply no longer a part of their world-view. 

A synopsis of the period can be made with this quote by DIX: 
The old conception had been of the Church in its hierarchic unity entering into Christ’s action, by the co-operation of all its various “orders” (each having its own “office”, as St. Paul conceived it), and so in His action “becoming what is” eternally – His Body. 

The new conception is of worship as a strictly personal mental reflection upon Christ’s action in the past. This conception held that we cannot enter into Christ’s life and Passion, since as a matter of history the Passion is unique and finished. 

This way of thinking continues to insist that the real Eucharistic action consists in the individual’s own personal mental remembrance of the Passion; and is not an act of the universal Body of Christ throughout time and space. Hence, they believe, there is no more need for a priest ordained to act in persona Christi for the whole Body, or indeed even the possibility of such a priesthood. 

In this view, there is no possibility of pleading the Eucharist for another, or for the dead in Christ, though we may pray together at worship just as we intercede at other times.  Since the individual action is purely mental, the external means to the action – the bread and wine – need only be a “token”.  

DW: The Missal explicitly teaches the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  A prayer reflecting this view from the BCP is explicitly included in DW: The Missal at the direction of Pope Benedict. The so-called Prayer of Humble Accessis placed just after the Agnus Dei:

WE DO NOT PRESUME to come to this Thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy Table. But Thou art the same Lord, Whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink His Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us. Amen. 


What DOM GREGORY DIX has to say carries the weight of extensive scholarship. With lucidity he describes the historical development of Western attitudes towards the liturgy. The forces of subjectivism, as we have seen, have been at work in our Western culture for the past millenium. In fact, subjectivism contributed to the Reformation’s virtually exclusive emphasis on the interior and individual response to God by faith alone. 

Much of the historical material necessary for the interpretation of the primitive Eucharist was unknown or not understood as late as 1900.  Christians continue to re-evaluate their understanding of the Eucharist in light of the participatory shape of the Liturgy.  

DW: The Missal seeks to draw together the transcendent and corporeal elements of the Eucharist. This is a contribution to unity among Christians. As this unity grows, it happens as we are together shaped by the Eucharist, the very means our Lord instituted to draw us together in Him: “that they all may be one.”

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