November 26-December 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 158

The Germs of GIRM

Part Thirty-one:
We proclaim, not confirm the articles of Faith.

    Well, back to the tedious work of examining the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which, please God, we will publish in book form once the entire commentary is completed.

    One of the specious charges leveled by defenders of the new order of things continue to make against the Traditional Latin Mass is that "no one understood the Mass when it was in Latin." The fact that it was the Traditional Latin Mass which produced thousands upon thousands of saints up to our present era does nothing to dissuade people from making this patently absurd charge. Illiterate peasants in the Middle Ages understood the Mass quite well. They learned the Mass by immersion. The Traditional Latin Mass of its nature communicates reverence, solemnity, sobriety, Christocentricity. Can any honest person say that hordes of Catholics today understand the nature of the Mass?

    Indeed, my wife Sharon and I attended several weekday Masses at St. Brigid's Church in Westbury, New York, in late August of this year as I was cleaning out my former residence in Bethpage. Each of the lectors at the 12:10 Masses we attended were incomprehensible, with one butchering one name after another contained in a reading from the Book of Judges. A Spanish-speaking priest was equally incomprehensible in his proclamation of the Gospel as well as in his reading a homily prepared by a homiletic service. As Sharon commented to me astutely after we had made our thanksgiving following the conclusion of the Mass, "Isn't Mass in the vernacular so much more understandable than the Latin?" The idiom of the celebrant of a Traditional Latin Mass is unimportant; the Mass communicates everything. The same is not true, obviously, of the Novus Ordo. Paragraph 66 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "As a rule, the homily must be given by the priest celebrant or is entrusted by him to a concelebrating priest, or, as circumstances dictate, may even be given by a deacon, but never by a lay person. In particular cases and with just cause, the homily may even be offered by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration, but cannot concelebrate. There must be a homily on Sundays and holydays of obligation and it may not be omitted except for a grave reason in any Mass celebrated with a congregation. On other days, too, the homily is to be commended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent and the Easter season, and on other festive days and occasions when the people go to church in great numbers. A brief period of silence is suitably observed after the homily."
Comment and Analysis:

    All well and good, up to a point. The actual fact of the matter, however, is that there are instances in parishes where the homily is delivered by a nun or by a layman. Whether this basic law of the Church will be enforced is up to a local bishop. However, a similarly worded reminder of this basic law, which was contained in Inaestimabile Donum in 1980, has been ignored (as has most of the edicts in that document, issued by what was then called the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, which was a follow-up to Pope John Paul II's 1980 Holy Thursday letter, Dominicae Cenae) has been ignored and gone unenforced in many places. As the Traditional Latin Mass emphasized the sacerdotal role of the alter Christus, it was unthinkable that anyone other than a priest or a bishop or a deacon would deliver a sermon. It is a telling commentary that there has to be a reminder of this fact given in the revised G.I.R.M. Moreover, the mania for talking is one of the key defects in the Novus Ordo. As there is so much emphasis on reading and talking and vocal participation, there is very little time for reflection. So little time for reflection, as a matter of fact, that G.I.R.M. must include a reminder that "a brief period of silence is suitably observed after the homily." It was traditionally the case in the Traditional Latin Mass that sermons were not delivered during weekday Masses, except on very rare occasions. It was understood that the faithful were attending Mass to be sanctified by their interior participation in the unbloody perpetuation of the Sacrifice of Calvary and by their reception of Holy Communion. They did not need to bombarded with wordiness, no less wordiness and showmanship from entertainers or long-winded commentaries from priests for whom English is not even their second language.

    Paragraph 67 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "The symbol or profession of faith serves as a way for all the people gathered together to respond to the word of God proclaimed in the readings taken from the Sacred Scripture and explained in the homily, and so that, by professing the rule of faith in a formula approved for liturgical use, the great mysteries of the faith may be recalled and confirmed before their celebration in the Eucharist is begun."
Comment and Analysis:

   The purpose of reciting the Creed is not "for the people gathered together to respond to the word of God proclaimed in the readings. . . .and explained in the homily." The purpose of the Creed traditionally is for the priest, in the name of the Church (included those assembled for a particular Mass), to proclaim the articles of the Faith contained in a formula devised at the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople. We are reminded that the truths of the Faith are immutable and that we must submit to those truths without one iota of dissent. We do not "confirm" the mysteries contained in the Creed. The Church re-states the articles of Faith, which is a lot different than "confirming" them. Additionally, it is interesting to note that Paragraph 67 nowhere indicates that it is the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which is to be used in what is now called "the Profession of Faith." A "rule of faith" is to be used according to "a formula approved for liturgical use." What does that mean? Can adaptations be made by national episcopal conferences? Can entirely different creeds be substituted? Can the Filioque be changed as it has been in many of the Eastern rites which are in full communion with Rome? Can translations which confuse the Incarnation and Nativity ("He was born of the Virgin Mary and became Man," which communicates, either advertently or inadvertently, that our Lord did not become man until He was born) pass muster? As is the case with so much of G.I.R.M. (and of conciliar and postconciliar documents), its inherent vagueness leads to a great many problems, not the least of which are attempts by liturgical revolutionaries to assert that they are justified in attempting to reformulate the Creed to suit the needs of "diverse peoples" and the "inculturation of the Gospel."

    Paragraph 68 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "The profession of faith is to be sung or said by the priest together with the people to respond and to give their assent to the word of God, heard in the readings and through the homily, and for them to call to mind the truths of faith before they begin to celebrate the Eucharist. If it is sung, it is begun by the priest, or, as necessary, by a cantor or the choir. It is sung by all together, or by the people alternating with the choir. If not sung, it must be recited by all together or by two parts of the congregation responding one to another."
Comment and Analysis:

    GIRM's re-definition of the purpose of the Creed (including its refusal to call the Creed by its proper name) is made manifest by re-stating much of what is contained in Paragraph 67 in Paragraph 68. It is almost as though the authors of GIRM believe that a positivistic attempt to make gratuitous assertions which fly in the face of tradition will become accepted merely as a result of their being repeated over and over again. And while it is the case that the faithful may alternate with the choir or schola in a High Mass in the Traditional Latin Mass, GIRM once more demonstrates the mania for vocal participation by its insistence that everyone recites the "profession of faith" together if it is not sung. Lost, therefore, is the understanding that the priest is our representative before the Blessed Trinity at the altar of sacrifice. The ethos of participatory democracy once more prevails. A final aspect of Paragraph 68 that must be noted here is its failure to indicate that the Creed, properly termed, cannot be omitted on Sundays or what are now called solemnities (the holy days of obligation, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, et al., most of which have their own proper octaves in the Traditional Latin Mass). The plain fact of the matter is that the Creed is omitted on those days when it is mandated, and GIRM does not give any indication at all that priests have no option to omit it. Quite interesting, wouldn't you say?

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Next Monday: Part Thirty-two: The devisive elements of the New Mass

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For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

November 26-December 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 158
CHRIST or chaos
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