Matters Liturgical: November 2006 Archives

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From the homily of His Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of Saint George in Istanbul:

Every celebration of the Divine Liturgy is a powerful and inspiring con-celebration of heaven and of history. Every Divine Liturgy is both an anamnesis of the past and an anticipation of the Kingdom. We are convinced that during this Divine Liturgy, we have once again been transferred spiritually in three directions: toward the kingdom of heaven where the angels celebrate; toward the celebration of the liturgy through the centuries; and toward the heavenly kingdom to come.

This overwhelming continuity with heaven as well as with history means that the Orthodox liturgy is the mystical experience and profound conviction that "Christ is and ever shall be in our midst!" For in Christ, there is a deep connection between past, present, and future. In this way, the liturgy is more than merely the recollection of Christ's words and acts. It is the realization of the very presence of Christ Himself, who has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name.

At the same time, we recognize that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith (lex orandi lex credendi), that the doctrines of the Person of Christ and of the Holy Trinity have left an indelible mark on the liturgy, which comprises one of the undefined doctrines, "revealed to us in mystery," of which St. Basil the Great so eloquently spoke. This is why, in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer. Therefore, we kneel in humility and repentance before the living God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious Name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment we have divided. We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day may come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.

And yet, Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ, this con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence, together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty, namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. We are honored to venerate the relics of these two spiritual giants after the solemn restoration of their sacred relics in this holy church two years ago when they were graciously returned to us by the venerable Pope John Paul II. Just as, at that time, during our Thronal Feast, we welcomed and placed their saintly relics on the Patriarchal Throne, chanting "Behold your throne!" So, today we gather in their living presence and eternal memory as we celebrate the Liturgy named in honor of St. John Chrysostom.

Thus our worship coincides with the same joyous worship in heaven and throughout history. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom himself affirms: "Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared thanksgiving, one choir" (PG 56.97). Heaven and earth offer one prayer, one feast, and one doxology. The Divine Liturgy is at once the heavenly kingdom and our home, "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21.1), the ground and center where all things find their true meaning. The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we must be with one another in spite of our differences and even divisions. In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the communion of saints, and all of God's creation. The entire universe becomes "a cosmic liturgy", to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated.

The only appropriate response to this showering of divine benefits and compassionate mercy is gratitude (eucharistia). Indeed, thanksgiving and glory are the only fitting response of human beings to their Creator. For to Him belong all glory, honor, and worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Ave, Verum Corpus!

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I do love this painting of Saint Martin's Mass. It is the work of an unknown Hungarian master and dates from 1490. Saint Martin's acolyte, clothed in a flowing sleeveless surplice, holds a lighted taper in one hand and lifts the bishop's chasuble with the other. Saint Martin is totally absorbed in his priestly service. Notice his pontifical vestments: the alb, green dalmatic, and red chasuble bearing the image of the Crucified. His amice is adorned with a green apparel and the maniple is clearly visible on his left arm.

Angels assist at the elevation of the Sacred Host, spreading a kind of "sacring cloth" beneath it: an exquisite expression of reverence that serves, at the same time, to cover Saint Martin's arms. His sleeves have fallen almost to his elbows. Looking closely at the Host, one sees that it too bears the imprint of the Crucified. Both Saint Martin and his acolyte are gazing intently at the Body of Christ.

The altar is covered with fair linens and with a corporal. Two candles are burning. The missal and mitre rest on the left side of the altar. The precious chalice is covered with a white linen pall; behind it, at the foot of the crucifix, there is a covered ciborium. The altarpiece depicts the Crucified Jesus with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint John. In all, there are three representations of the Crucified: on the back of the chasuble, on the Host, and on the altarpiece. Clearly, this is the sacramental actualization of the Sacrifice of the Cross.

The kneeling man dressed in black appears to be a cleric; he folds his hands in an attitude of devotion and lifts his eyes to the Body of Christ. Just behind him one barely sees the head of another worshiper. A lady coiffed in white looks on from a distance; behind here there is another woman. The door of the church is open and, just outside, is a young layman come to see the elevation. Perhaps he was drawn there by the sound of the church bells ringing the Sanctus. He is kneeling in adoration and his hands are folded.

The whole painting breathes a climate of adoration and wonder. Every person in it is fully, consciously, and actually engaged in the Mysterium Fidei. I think of it as an image of authentic liturgical renewal.

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Father Tim Finigan over at The Hermeneutic of Continuity offers three compelling reflections on the question. His suggestions give some substance to what is generally called "the reform of the reform." Can the so–called Novus Ordo be salvaged? I don't pretend to have the answer, but Father Tim makes some excellent observations.

One can at least begin by doing what the current GIRM allows, such as:

1. the unified position ad apsidem of priest and people during the Liturgy of the Eucharist;
2. on the part of the priest: abstinence from all extraneous, subjective, and casual remarks;
3. respect for the Proper texts of the Mass as given in the Graduale Romanum and in the Missale Romanum;
4. the cantillation of the priest's and deacon's parts according to the traditional tones of the Roman Rite;
5. the fitting use of incense and bells.

Celebrating in the vernacular, there remains still the problem of the frightfully flawed translations in the 1974 Sacramentary. I try to post here my own translations of the Mass texts each day — for lectio divina and comparative study if for nothing else — as well as General Intercessions based on the lectionary, feast, or mystery being celebrated.

A Holy Baptism

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Yesterday I had the joy of baptizing Michael Mario Guidone, son of Michael and Kerry Guidone, Oblates of the Benedictine Monastery of the Glorious Cross in Branford, Connecticut. It is very unusual to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism in a monastery. The baptism was recorded in the registers of the neighbouring parish church. Michael and Kerry, being Oblates, belong to the "extended monastic family" ; having the Baptism during the Sunday Conventual Mass allowed the nuns of the monastery and other Oblates and friends of the monastery to participate.

Little Michael Mario claims Saint Michael the Archangel and the Blessed Virgin Mary as his patrons. He was also named in memory of a much loved former pastor of Saint Anthony Church in New Haven, Father Mario Bordignon of the Missionary Society of Saint Charles (Scalabrinian Fathers).

The celebration opened in the narthex of the monastery church where the infant was named and signed with the cross; then the parents with Michael Mario, and his godparents took their places in the church. After the Liturgy of the Word, Sister Marie–Zita intoned the Litany of the Saints. The first anointing (with the Oil of Catechumens) followed. I sang the solemn blessing over the water of the font.

After the Renunciation of Sin and the Profession of Faith, little Michael Mario was carefully unwrapped and immersed in the holy bath of regeneration. The Second Anointing (with Sacred Chrism) followed. Mom and Dad clothed him in a splendid new white garment. Michael's godfather received the lighted candle; it had been beautifully prepared by Sister Elfriede, the sacristan.

Before the Ite, missa est, we went together to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary to entrust Michael Mario to her loving protection. We ended with the Salve Regina.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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