Sunday, January 23, 2011


I was going through my daily "rounds" among the blogs which I follow when I came upon this niiiice article in Zenit.Org. Something which is worth taking note of, especially if you're a priest. The emphases are mine, and so are the commentaries in red:

More Than Words: External Signs of Faith by the Celebrant

The Significance of Genuflections and Other Gestures

By Father Nicola Bux

ROME, JAN. 21, 2010 ( Faith in the presence of the Lord, and in particular in his Eucharistic presence, is expressed in an exemplary manner by the priest when he genuflects with profound reverence during the Holy Mass or before the Eucharist.

In the post-conciliar liturgy, these acts of devotion have been reduced to a minimum in the name of sobriety (somehow he makes it sound like an accusation. The tone of reproach is not lost on me). The result is that genuflections have become a rarity, or a superficial gesture. We have become stingy with our gestures of reverence before the Lord, even though we often praise Jews and Muslims for their fervor and manner way of praying (He makes a very important point here, If you'll ask me).

More than words, a genuflection manifests the humility of the priest, who knows he is only a minister, and his dignity, as he is able to render the Lord present in the sacrament. However, there are other signs of devotion.

When the priest extends his hands in prayer he is indicating the supplication of the poor and humble one. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GRIM) establishes that the priest, "when he celebrates the Eucharist, therefore, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he says the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ" (No. 93). (As an afterthought to be able to bring about  this  combination of humility and dignity is altogether an art. I always believed what my professor in the weekly Liturgy Academy that we had in the seminary of Bidasoa called the ars celebrandi, or the art of celebrating. This was something which Pope Benedict mentions in Sacramentum Caritiatis.) An attitude of humility is consonant with Christ himself, meek and humble of heart. He must increase and I must decrease.

In proceeding to the altar, the priest must be humble, not ostentatious, without indulging in looking to the right and to the left, as if he were seeking applause. (This is a sad reality in many a concelebration that I've attended. Include idle chatter  in the repertoire. Yeah, we may consider fraternity among priests as a reason to chitchat in the processional but then, are we getting on to the liturgy  or is this just the usual thing that we priests do? you know, just another Mass to add to the various that I've had in the day) Instead, he must look at Jesus; Christ crucified is present in the tabernacle, before whom he must bow. The same is done before the sacred images displayed in the apse behind or on the sides of the altar, the Virgin, the titular saint, the other saints.

The reverent kiss of the altar follows and eventually the incense, the sign of the cross and the sober greeting of the faithful. Following the greeting is the penitential act, to be carried out profoundly with the eyes lowered (something which I always do) In the extraordinary form, the the faithful kneel, imitating the publican pleasing to the Lord.

The celebrant must not raise his voice (this is what I have difficulty in doing; of course I'm not shouting my head of all the time during the homily but then somehow it really difficult not to be impassioned at certain points...and then there's the issue of the microphone, well, sometimes) and should maintain a clear tone for the homily, but be submissive and suppliant in prayer, solemn if sung. "In texts that are to be spoken in a loud and clear voice, whether by the priest or the deacon, or by the lector, or by all, the tone of voice should correspond to the genre of the text itself, that is, depending upon whether it is a reading, a prayer, a commentary, an acclamation, or a sung text; the tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering" (GRIM, No. 38).

He will touch the holy gifts with wonder, and will purify the sacred vessels with calm and attention, in keeping with the appeal of so many saints and priests before him. He will bow his head over the bread and the chalice in pronouncing the consecrating words of Christ and in the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesi). He will raise them separately, fixing his gaze on them in adoration and then lowering them in meditation. He will kneel twice in solemn adoration. He will continue with recollection and a prayerful tone the anaphora to the doxology, raising the holy gifts in offer to the Father.

Then, he will recite the Our Father with his hands raised, without having anything else in his hands, because that is proper to the rite of peace (?...somebody clarify me about this please). The priest will not leave the Sacrament on the altar to give the sign of peace outside the presbytery (aprub!!!), instead he will break the Host in a solemn and visible way, then he will genuflect before the Eucharist and pray in silence. He will ask again to be delivered from every indignity not to eat and drink to his own condemnation and to be protected for eternal life by the holy Body and precious Blood of Christ. Then he will present the Host to the faithful for communion, praying "Dominum non sum dignus," and bowing he will commune first, and thus will be an example to the faithful (well you could tell this to the Misa ng Sambayanang Pilipino and its supporters).

After communion, silence for thanksgiving can be done standing, better than sitting, (if I were the celebrant I would prefer to sit, not that I'm less respectful, but then sitting in some instances is also a position of prayer)as a sign of respect, or kneeling, if it is possible, (this is something which I do whenever I concelebrate and we're situated in the pews with kneelers. It's useful for recollection and prayer after having communion, and prevents you from engaging in small talk with your brother priest-concelebrants)as John Paul II did to the end when he celebrated in his private chapel, with his head bowed and his hands joined. He asked that the gift received be for him a remedy for eternal life, as in the formula that accompanies the purification of the sacred vessels; many faithful do so and are an example.
Should not the paten or cup and the chalice (vessels that are sacred because of what they contain) be "laudably" covered (GRIM 118; cf. 183) in sign of respect (-- and also for reasons of hygiene -- as the Eastern Churches do? The priest, after the final greeting and blessing, going up to the altar to kiss it, will again raise his eyes to the crucifix and will bow and genuflect before the tabernacle. Then he will return to the sacristy, recollected, without dissipating with looks and words the grace of the mystery celebrated.

In this way the faithful will be helped to understand the holy signs of the liturgy, which is something serious, in which everything has a meaning for the encounter with the present mystery of God.
In accordance to the prescription given by Msgr. Bux, I might as well receive a grade of 90, since much of these things I've already been doing, not to brag about it. 

I've made a small realization as I watched the televised Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by Fr. Jojo Zerrudo in his parish of the Divine Mercy this morning. I just came in from celebrating the 6 o'clock Mass at San Jose Parish and I came upon the rest of the seminary formators at the Father's Refectory watching the Mass being celebrated. 
At least he could've found a nicer antipendium for the altar...

To be frank my enthusiasm was quite dampened. Lest anybody get me wrong, I appreciate the Tridentine Mass for its beauty and solemnity (in fact I'm looking forward to celebrating it in the future), with its legitimate place side-by-side with the Novus Ordo of Paul VI. Fr. Zerrudo is doing a lot and is to be commended for all this effort to allow more people to get to know this great heritage of Tradition. But I found it less than my expectations. At least they could've gotten a worthier cloth for an antipendium, not that green flappy cloth which looks like it could might as well grace any billiard table. And that big thing that hung by the side of the celebrant's face...Fr. Jojo looked like one of those people in the takeout counters in MacDonalds. (no offense) These are just some of my personal musings, lest some disgruntled pinoy traddy jump at me from the  shadows and tear me to pieces. The rest of the priests who were with me and were watching the Mass as it progressed were no doubt looking for that same "dignity" and "quality" (words loosely used), but didn't find much.

This led me to think that it's not so much in the rite. I've known stories from the past about our old (and legendary) priests in the Diocese of Palo going their own way in the pre-Vatican II liturgy (yes, there were also liturgical abuses back then, whether you accept it or not). It's in the unction and care with which you celebrate the liturgy, whether Tridentine or Novus Ordo. At least this was something which I took very much in mind when I celebrated the 5:30 Mass in another parish this afternoon. It was no Tridentine Mass, but it sure was a Novus Ordo Mass which was really solemn as it could be, something which allowed all of us to enter into that spirit of prayer I believe (but don't ask the little children who were raising a din by one corner of the church during the homily, please).

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