WADE ST. ONGE

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Excerpt: An Acceptable Sacrifice

[FROM CHAPTER 5: ISSUES]

8. A. Holding Hands at the Our Father; Using the Orans Position During the Our Father. Regarding holding hands at the Our Father and using the orans position during the Our Father (the extending of one’s arms and raising of one’s hands), it is clear that neither of these actions are provided for in the rubrics. The practice of holding hands at the "Our Father", it seems, was introduced to show unity. However, if that was the case, it logically follows that we should hold hands throughout Mass. This, however, would be a “duplication of signs”, because our singing or reciting of prayers together also expresses our union. In any case, as Rome says: "The prolonged holding of hands is [strictly] a sign of communion" (Notitiae 11 [1975] 226). This is problematic, because the ultimate sign of communion is the reception of the Eucharist. As Scripture says: "Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf [body of Christ]" (1 Cor. 10:17). If ultimate unity is achieved through Holy Communion, why would we even bother introducing another posture of unity that is inferior to one that we are going to experience very shortly? The holding of hands, on the contrary, is in general merely a sign of personal unity from a human or physical perspective, not a spiritual one, and usually arises spontaneously only among small groups. If the hand holding is meant to express peace, as some claim, it fails to do so: "The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace" (Notitiae 11 [1975] 226). Furthermore, we already have a gesture for that at the Rite of Peace: "For according to the tradition of the Roman Rite, this practice does not have the connotation either of reconciliation or of a remission of sins, but instead signifies peace [primarily], communion [as one of many signs] and charity before the reception of the Most Holy Eucharist" (RS, 71). This is what happens when gestures that are not officially liturgical are introduced into the Mass apart from the proper authorities. Whatever the merits of the argument might be, the fact remains that the introduction of this practice by the liturgists was just another attempt to take the focus off Jesus in the Eucharist - in this case, the Eucharist as sign and instrument of communion, and place it instead on the community.

[FROM CHAPTER 4: OPTIONS]

4e. Silent Canon. It is also permissible to say the Canon silently. A priest may choose to do so in order to convey the notion that he alone offers sacrifice in the strict sense, and at this peak moment of the Mass, intercedes for the people with the Lord, and offers sacrifice on their behalf. He may also choose to do this to make for a more solemn atmosphere, as the Eucharistic prayer out loud in the vernacular sometimes takes some of the mystery and reverence out of the consecration. When the canon is recited in the same tone and manner as the rest of the Mass, it does not seem as though it is any more important than the Confiteor or the Collect. When the people observe the priest praying the Canon in silence, they immediately realize there has been a shift in meaning and importance, and if bells are not used, it is essential to make clear to the people that we have entered a more solemn and important time and event in the Mass. Even if bells are used, the silence accentuates the solemnity.

E2. The Holy Father on the Silent Canon. The Holy Father attaches a great deal of importance to the Canon, as it is the high point of the entire liturgy – in fact, the entire life of the Christian. Thus, the Holy Father comes out strongly in favour of the “silent canon”. So we read: “Silence especially, might constitute communion before God. . . . In the West the silent Canon - overlaid in part with meditative singing - became the norm. . . . It is really not true that reciting the whole Eucharistic Prayer out loud and without interruptions is a prerequisite for the participation of everyone in this central act of the Mass” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 215). “The first words of the various prayers should be said out loud as a kind of cue for the congregation, so that each individual in his silent prayer can take up the intonation and bring the personal into the communal and the communal into the personal. Anyone who has experienced a church united in the silent praying of the Canon will know what a really filled silence is. . . . Here everyone does pray the Canon together, albeit in a bond with the special task of the priestly ministry.” (Ibid., 215). But “in no sense does the whole Canon always have to be said out loud” (Ibid., 214).

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