Thursday, November 27, 2008

Vestments, Do we need them?

Not too long ago, I found myself in a discussion with one of the local
youth group leaders. It turned out to be quite an interesting discussion,
and it turned out that we were both interested in Liturgy. Eventually we got onto the
topic of vestments, and my other friend chimed in about the vestments
we use for the first Friday vigil. The question, why do we
wear appareled amices (as well as why do we use so many candles) was asked.

My response was because they look good. The conversation kept going until,
the question grew to; why do we wear amices, why do we wear cinctures and why
do we wear cassocks underneath it all, an alb alone suffices. Quite right, the GIRM,
only mandates that just an alb be used and if it is constructed as not to require a cincture
and amice, then they are not required, as they serve no practical purpose. In the same way, a certain Latin Mass Chaplin I know thinks of the maniple, as not having any useful purpose; it’s just a useless ornament.

I responded, “well if you think about it, all the vestments serve no practical purpose”. These days we no longer need a chasuble to shield us from the elements, we don’t need a robe, a hood, or a belt, as well as two different forms of handkerchiefs.

Vestments for all intents and purposes, serve no useful purpose - the same can be said of incense, candles and churches, or for that matter religion (science can explain everything after all). You can all see where this is going, a very nihilistic end. “No so, the stole is still useful, it’s a mark of authority” was his response. But by that logic, then the chasuble, since it is a mark of charity is useful, same can be said of the chastity of the cincture, or the protection of the helm of salvation (Amice). Vestments suddenly take on meanings, beyond the mundane. They become symbols of heavenly realities.

Drama, evolved from liturgy, the ancient Greek plays were forms of worship of the gods. So just as the actor today puts on a costume and uses props, so to do our priests wear vestments and uses liturgical gear. The actor puts on a costume to be someone else. So does the priest and his ministers, they put on “Christ” , charity or as St Paul wishes to call it, the “armor of salvation”.

We believe that the sacraments convey grace. They are more then just the symbols we see, and the same can be said of vestments. Perhaps the priest, who only wears his stole, relies on his authority, or perhaps the priest who makes a point of wearing the cincture fosters chastity in his life. When we look from this angle, things suddenly become clear. Would there be some hidden agenda show by the priest refusing to wear the chasuble?

Vestments are symbolic, that’s why I prefer Gothic vestments, and they are fuller signs of the realities they represent. The long flowing chasuble is a better sign of the charity that should envelop all, the appareled amice gives us a better understanding of the term helmet of salvation, and the fullness of the surplice communicates to us more effectively the great baptismal grace we all receive.

Vestments are hot, bothersome and impractical, but then again, so is religion…….

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't worry, it's just bread after all

I reinforce what Stephan has said regarding Catholic Education.....
Perhaps if the mystery of faith was presented in a more serious way....
And maybe if we refrain from dropping the most precious treasure of our faith...
As well as handing it and passing it around as if it were mere bread....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thoughts on why young people leave the Church

There were a couple of things this week which got me thinking about why young people (particualrly those who go to Catholic schools) opt out at end of school or have well and truly opted out before leaving school. As Bishop Holohan of Bunbury said earlier this week, Confirmation has become the "Sacrament of Farewell".

People have put all sorts of reasons to this. The conservatives say that it is because the Church offers no challenges to young people and liberals say it is because the church is too conservative; and there is an element of truth in either argument.

However, a lot of the blame can be placed at the foot of modern approaches to the liturgy. After hearing Roman's description of his Graduation Mass, I thought of other Masses that I attended at school - thankfully they were not as outrageous. The liturgists have to extend themselves a little bit further all the time so that now they have a Mass of totally all their own creation. The emphasis is on what they can create and understand in the their own narrow world (ie. the Brisbane housewife approach to liturgy) and do not open up to the wider church and the cosmos. The Mass has then degenerated into a self-affirmation, or self-worship session.

I was serving at a Mass for an inner city Catholic School a few years ago. Although in the words of the headmaster that many of the students were "unchurched", all of these "unchurched" people were given tasks in the litugy presumably to be "inclusive". The order of Service book was more alppalling in that it had a description of the Mass (obviously to help the "unchurched" students) which was along the lines of "we first tell stories and then we share a meal together".

This, combined with my own experience at school, brings me to the conclusion of what is the reality. Catholicism, is so completely dumbed down when it it presented to high school students that it ceases to have any credibility at all. To a 15 year old "telling stories and sharing a meal" has no meaning and makes Catholicism look absurd. How can anyone call it a serious and credible belief system compared to any of the great religions of the world? How could any of this be of use to ones relationship with God? How does the faith have any relationship with western philosophy and thought?

To be frank, the Roman Catholic Church in Brisbane is killing itself. As the generations of un-churched parents send their un-churched kids to Catholic schools, in which a parody of the faith is presented, the church will find it harder to think that the Catholic schools are a tool for evangelisation.

Prepare for a very very small church in Brisbane in the future.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ukrianians at Marian Valley

All Saints

I apologizes for the late posting, I have been extremely busy with my academic life lately.
For the Feast of All saints, Fr William Define FSSP visited our Community here in Brisbane and Sung Solemn Mass.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Since yesterday it was the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica I thought I would post two of my pics of the basilica. I also have a movie which I shall provide shortly when I find out how to embed the movie.

Here is the statue of the Emperor Constantine whihc is is the narthex of the basilica. This was supposed to have been carved in his own lifetime. I like it because of its strong classical and imperial bearing.

As for me personally I celebrated 9 November at the St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney. More of my observations of the style of revamped cathedral to come later.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Getting ready for the Sacred Liturgy - All Saints Day

Instead of focussing on the actual ceremonies I thought I would post some pics of the prep work before the liturgy celebrated on Saturday.

Getting familiarised with the form of the Gospel facing Liturgical North (unfortunately compass South at St Lukes but I suppose the Gospel is being proclaimed towards the darkness of Antarctica).

Lighting candles while Roman tries to find an Evangelarium. I'm pretty sure I was lighting them in the correct order.

Roman will undoubtedly show some pics of the actual liturgy.


A view of St Clement celebrating Mass in his basilica. But was he "presiding"?

One of the unique things that came out of the liturgical changes after Vatican II was the introduction of the concept of the priest presiding over the community at prayer. This has now got to a stage where in this archdiocese the priest is now referred to as a "presider". At the recent clergy conference a session was held on the art of "presiding". The term "presider" is commonly used by those to remove any notion of priesthood and lead us to a protestant form of worship.

I therefore thought that I would, with my limited knowledge and limited scholarship of matters liturgical, find out how this evolved.

The first reference to "presiding" is in Sacrosanctum Concilium n41

The bishop is to be considered as the High Priest of his flock from whom the life of Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and upon whom it in some way depends.

Therefore all should hold in the greatest esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his Cathedral church. They must be convinced that the principal manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of God's holy people in the same liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in one prayer, at one altar, at whihc the bishop presides surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers cf. St Ignatius of Antioch).

But as it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his church, he must of necessity establish groupings of the faithful, and, among these, parishes, set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the bishop, are the most important, for in some way they represent the visible church constituted throughout the world....Efforts must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all the common celebration of Sunday Mass.

This is followed up by GIRM n30 which states:

Among the parts assigned to the priest, the foremost is the Eucharistic Prayer, which is the
high point of the entire celebration. Next are the orations: that is to say, the Collect, the Prayer
over the Offerings, and the Prayer after Communion. These prayers are addressed to God in the
name of the entire holy people and all present by the priest who presides over the assembly in the
person of Christ.43 It is with good reason, therefore, that they are called the ‘presidential prayers.’

31. It is also up to the priest, in the exercise of his office of presiding over the gathered assembly,
to offer certain explanations that are foreseen in the rite itself.

The layout of the Church itself is to reflect the presiding function:

310. The chair of the priest celebrant must signify his office of presiding over the gathering and of
directing the prayer
. Thus the best place for the chair is in a position facing the people at the head
of the sanctuary, unless the design of the building or other circumstances impede this: for example,
if the great distance would interfere with communication between the priest and the gathered
assembly, or if the tabernacle is in the centre behind the altar.

This office of "presiding" does not appear in any of the pre-conciliar documents. Much of them such as in my analysis of Mediator Dei talk of the priest as interceding for the people and leading their prayer.

Much of the lead for the liturgical changes was the account by St Justin written about 150AD where he refers to the president or the presider (the translation of Jungmann's work follows this term) of the assembly. Of course in the tradition of St Ignatius this presider would have been a bishop or presbyter. A number of assumptions have been made from this; namely that there was no priest and the liturgy was primarily the work of the people (another misconception). The idea of presiding also seemed to drive the idea of the priest facing the congregation when of course Justin is silent about what people did in detail.

So here we expose an unintended consequence of wording. The term has been used to totally turn a liturgy on its head and, but furthermore:
  • encourage an attitude of arrogance over a community ie. a priest lords over his community

  • resulting in a talk show approach to liturgy (ie, the david letterman style)

  • denigrate the importance of priesthood now it is essentially the community that celebrates and he is merely there to keep things going (ie. an MC in more fancy dress)

I agree with Fr John McGavin, that this is "the most damaging legacy of the implementation of Vatican II" (The Priest Vol12 May 2008)

The priest leads his flock in prayer, and should do this in all humility, whether at the Altar directly in adoration to the Altar Cross, which stands at the point of reference of the entire liturgy (Ratzinger: Spirit of the Liturgy) or at the sedilia during the liturgy of the word arranged in an appropriate way so that his focus, and that of the congregation's can always be on Christ present at the Altar.

That is why the whole idea of removing High Altars out of old churches was a complete fallacy, and in the end a waste of time and money of little spiritual benefit.

PS: This congregation is focussed!