The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar |
Part Twenty-three : The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The Mass of the Faithful
part seven - Thanksgiving to the End of the Holy Mass
In this installment we will cover the Thanksgiving after reception of Holy Communion to the end of the Holy Mass. In the Novus Ordo this could mean anywhere from two minutes to half-an-hour depending on a) how long the liturgical choir continues to penetrate any chance of sacred silence during and after Communion; b) how many verses the liturgical choir chooses to sing after the final blessing, or/and c) how long winded the presider is in telling a final joke or inviting a lay person up to push some social or financial function of the parish before the final blessing, thus imprisoning people in place and making even further mockery of what should be a Holy Mass.
In the True Holy Sacrifice of the Mass silence is golden. This is especially pertinent after reception of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The tradition was always to return to the pew and silently kneel in thanksgiving for being able to receive Him. This golden time of silence allowed one to pray and be grateful for such an august gift of grace.
After administering Holy Communion to the people, the priest returns to the altar where he either consumes the remaining hosts or places them in the ciborium and returns them to the tabernacle, genuflecting before closing the doors of this sacred, permanent receptacle on the altar. He then says the prayers of ablutions as the altar server pours wine into the chalice:
Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus: et de munere temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum.
Father then holds the chalice for the altar server to pour a little wine and more water over his thumbs and index fingers extended over the chalice to purify his fingers as he prays,
Grant, O Lord, that what we have taken with our mouth, we may receive with a pure mind: and that from a temporal gift it may become for us an eternal remedy.
Corpus tuum, Domine, quod sumpsi, et Sanguis quem potavi, adhaereat visceribus meis: et praesta; ut in me non remaneat scelerum macula, quem pura et sancta refecerunt sacramenta: Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
The priest then consumes the water and wine and wipes his mouth and fingers with the purificator as he purifies the chalice and paten by drying them, placing the purificator over the chalice, then the paten on top and folding up the corporal into the burse and placing the veil over the chalice and the matching burse on top as it was at the beginning of Mass. During this time the server has returned the Missal from the Gospel side back to the Epistle side, always genuflecting reverently at the base of the altar in the center.
May Thy Body, O Lord, which I have received, and Thy Blood which I have drunk, cleave to my inmost parts, and grant that no stain of sin may remain in me, whom these pure and holy sacraments have refreshed. Who lives and reignest world without end. Amen.
Now this time after reception of Holy Communion was always meant for the faithful to spend quiet time with Jesus in meditative prayer. That golden silence is something very, very rare in the New Mass Paul VI foisted on the faithful. In fact, the sacerdotal role in many parishes has been taken away from the priest for the laity have assumed the duties of 'purification' as if that is possible. More oft than not the priest sits after distributing Holy Communion (Note: there are parishes where the priest sits during Holy Communion while the lay ministers distribute the hosts and cup in the true Protestant spirit) while the laity - from altar girls to unnecessary Eucharistic ministers of both genders - busy themselves 'cleaning up crumbs and specs left on the 'Lord's table' (very few call it an altar anymore) and consuming the precious blood themselves as if they've got to chug every last drop from the plethora of cups - many times glass - and then hurriedly wipe them out while the priest remains sitting. Please! Meanwhile, the choir is most probably droning on with the choir director intimidating all to sing along no matter what key as long as 'all participate for the good of the people.' Not to do so is harmful to the unity of the community. Doesn't give much time for thanksgiving does it? But it does afford plenty of time for those who have lost the essence of the meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to make their exit, even during Communion. After all, with everyone standing today, leaving is less conspicuous.
One might think many would stay afterwards to spend some quiet time with Our Lord but that is not the case. First of all because once the closing hymn is completed and those remaining clap and give loud kudos to the choir and instrumentalists, the inside of the church becomes a social hall. No longer do they wait until outside the church to chat and socialize. No, as soon as the 'service' is over it's a free-for-all. And, because Our Lord's holy tabernacle is very seldom even in view, there is no reminder of how reverent the faithful should be. The few who do want to spend some quiet time with Him sometimes need a road map to find where He resides in the maze of 'multi-purpose' rooms. Wherever He is in the modern churches, you'll find few standing watch. Sad isn't it?
The only things the Novus Ordo has retained is the Communion Antiphon, the Post Communion Proper (petitions of thanks to God similar to the Collect) and the Dismissal. In the New Mass the blessing is before the Dismissal. In fact, built into the New Order is a time for 'brief announcements' which, in truth, have no place within the structure of the Mass. In the Tridentine Rite the Conclusion of the Mass is introduced by the Dominus vobiscum - "The Lord be with you" answered by Et cum spiritu tuo - "And with thy spirit" and then Ite, Missa est - "Go, the Mass is ended" followed by the response Deo Gratias - "Thanks be to God." If there was no Gloria, such as during Advent or Lent, the priest says Benedicamus Domino - "Let us bless the Lord" to which Deo Gratias is the reply. The words of dismissal represent Christ's Ascension, when He sent His Apostles forth to evangelize the world. In Easter week the words "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia," are added. In Requiem Masses Father will say Requiescat in pace - "May they rest in peace" to which the response is Amen. Even with the priest's formal words of dismissal, the people must not leave; the Mass is not yet ended. There is a short prayer to the Blessed Trinity, offering devotion and homage
as the priest bows and dwells briefly on the end for which he has offered to God, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Victim on Golgotha. He then prays the Placeat tibi
Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitas, obsequium servitutis meae: et praesta: ut sacrificium, quod oculis tuae majestatis indignus obtuli, tibi sit acceptabilie mihique et omnibus, pro quibus illud obtuli, sit, te miserante, propitiabile. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen
May the performance of my homage be pleasing to Thee, O holy Trinity: and grant that the Sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered up in the sight of Thy Magesty, may be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy, be a propitiation for me, and for all those for whom I have offered it. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
How beautiful this prayer and so humble. Why would the Novus Ordo ever have eliminated such a meaningful prayer? Could it be because 'Sacrifice' is so emphasized? Sad, isn't it? Looking back over the entire structure of the Holy Mass you'll see how much has been sacked. And why? For expedience sake? Doesn't make sense. What also doesn't make sense is the elimination in the New Order of the Last Gospel.
After the priest has kissed the altar and turned to bless the people (except at Masses for the Dead which illustrate that the Church does not have the same jurisdiction over the dead as over the living. Also, no Requiem Mass is permitted on great feasts, for our private sorrows must not take precedence over the joy that should rein over the whole Church on such days.) with
Benidicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius,+ et Spiritus Sanctus
To which the faithful respond "Amen." Then the priest proceeds to the Gospel side where he reads the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John, symbolic of after Pentecost when the Apostles went forth to preach the Word, Who was made flesh, in following the authority of Christ, He who hears you, hears Me." The Last Gospel represents the propagation of the word of God throughout the world after the descent of the Holy Ghost. The Gospel remains the same always and for this reason the Last Gospel, really the first of St. John's, is said at every Mass ever since it was proclaimed by Pope Saint Pius V.
May Almighty God the Father, the Son, + and Holy Ghost, bless you.
At this point in the Mass of the Roman Rite the entire congregation stand after the blessing. In the New Order Mass everyone would already have left. During their rite kneeling is at a minimal if at all depending if kneelers are still in the 'church.' The priest begins the Last Gospel with the salutation again Dominus vobiscum - "The Lord be with you" and the server responding Et cum spiritu tuo - "And also with thy spirit." This
is the second time this greeting is used and are in commemoration of Christ's two appearances to the Apostles immediately after His resurrection. The priest and congregation sign themselves three times on the forehead, mouth and heart + Initium sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem - +The beginning of the holy Gospel according to St. John
The servers and faithful then respond Gloria tibi, Domine - "Glory be to Thee, O Lord."
The priest then reads the Gospel of St. John from the Latin Vulgate chapter 1, verses 1-14 with everyone genuflecting with the priest at the words Et Verbum caro facum est - "And the Word was made flesh." At the conclusion of the Gospel, the altar servers respond Deo Gratias - "Thanks be to God."
In High Masses, the priest bows at the center of the altar, retrieves the veiled chalice from the altar goes to the foot of the altar where he takes his biretta from the server, genuflects and exits while the choir chants an appropriate liturgical Gregorian hymn. In Low Masses, once the priest has reached the foot of the altar he kneels with the servers and leads the Prayers after Low Mass. These are called the Leonine Prayers for it was Pope Leo XIII who prescribed them for the universal Church in 1884 for the Church in Russia, well before Our Lady made the request to pray for the conversion of Russia at Fatima. These Leonine Prayers consist of three Hail Mary's, the Salve Regina - Hail, Holy Queen, the Oremus and the Prayer to Saint Michael followed by Cor Jesu sacratissimum - "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus" three times, each time responded to by Miserere nobis - "Have mercy on us." Then the priest leaves the altar. Only then do the faithful leave the church or chapel. It has always been the Catholic custom to wait until the server has extinguished the candles on the altar before leaving the pew, genuflecting and exiting.
Yet, as you have seen throughout this series on the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, so many customs and traditions have been abandoned for the sake of novelty and streamlining. In the process the true meaning and essence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has also been sacrificed in favor of 'being in tune with the times.' How sad, how very sad that the majority of the universal Church does not realize the great loss we Catholics have suffered in our beloved Church. Perhaps the prayer after the Mass - the Oremus says it all for Leo was truly a visionary in realizing the dangers of modernism and communism that awaited the flock:
Oremus. Deus, refugium nostrum et virtus, populum ad te clamantem propitius respice; et intercedente gloriosa et immaculata Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beato Joseph, ejus Sponso, ac beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, et omnibus Sanctis, quas pro conversione peccatorum, pro libertate et exaltatione sanctae Matris Ecclesiae, preces effundimus, misericors et benignus exaudi. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Let us pray. O God, our refuge and our strength, look down in mercy on Thy people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St. Joseph her spouse, of Thy blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the freedom and exaltation of our holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."
Thus in one-half hour or so, the time required for an ordinary low Mass, the principal events of Our Lord's life are represented, as well as the chief doctrines of His Church.
In the course of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the celebrant observes not less than 500 ceremonies, such as bowing, striking the breast, and making the sight of the cross. These ceremonies aim not only to give honor to God, but also to impress upon the faithful the sublimity of the Holy Sacrifice.
December 17-24, 2001
volume 12, no. 161
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF THE FAITH