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Saturday 3 December 2011

The Prairie Messenger: Source of the Problem?

Much has been written on this blog over the last ten months on the matter of kneeling in Canada. Some have perhaps found it boring, some have found it informative and helpful. Regardless, I have been blogging on this because I have believed it to be necessary.

While I have no proof, it is my opinion and there are others, including some priests and deacons who share my view, that the professional Catholics in Canada had no desire to see the new Missal or GIRM implemented until at least 2012 when they could see how it went in the United States, as if there was going to be a problem. I suppose they were looking for a backlash so they could say to Rome, "see, we are right not to implement."

They were ordered by Rome in February to implement on Advent I, they had no choice. A meeting was held at the Congregation which included the President and General Secretary of the CCCB where it was made clear to them. It is my view that many resent this and will do only the minimum and in fact, will do less by setting up obstacles to what the GIRM really says or, as in the case of Fred Henry in Calgary, do his own thing.

So, where does this issue on kneeling come from?

The writer below is not the originator of this view but he was a proponent of it here in Canada; though clearly this theology view was certainly all the rage for a long-time, still is in many parts and it has infected many. It is the biological solution that will fix this.

This monk has left a progeny of dissent and their numbers are declining and quickly. They know that their work has been straw but they cannot admit it to themselves.They are still clinging to power but they see that power being stripped away.

They profess to do all this for us, the "laity" and they condemn "clericalism" but they actually hate the laity who love the Church and they are the worst form of clericalists. They are Protestants but did not have the honesty to get up and leave.

You see, they realised it to late and like the manager of whom Our LORD spoke, they are too proud to big and too old to work. So, they stay and suck the life out of the Church for a room and board and while they are still here they sow their seeds of discontent.

Unfortunately, this monk uses historical inaccuracies and does not go into the detail to explain why we may have certain practices. Just because the East does something does not mean it is necessary in the West. The East did not experience Luther and did not have to counter massive disbelief in the Real Presence or Ministerial Priesthood. If we were meant to do as the Last Supper, then we should have Holy Communion "reclining at table" sitting on the floor.

He makes claims and attributes them to Fathers of the Church but he provides no references nor the context of their alleged statements for the reader to verify. We are to take his word for it, his interpretation. He is after all, a cleric.

This Benedictine monk display an incredible ignorance of history and liturgy and he makes continual references to sexuality and displays a rather prophetic phrase from the news recently; you'll pick it up, just don't be drinkin' your coffee over the keyboard.

For your lazy Saturday morning with coffee, here are three articles below from Andrew Britz, OSB (St. Benedict, pray for us). Here is what Catholic Insight had to say about Father Britz. Given that one book of his writings has blurbs from Joan Chittister, who provided the Foreword and Mary-Jo Leddy who calls it a "textbook in political discernment," you kind of get the direction from where he comes. (the lack of capitalisaton of Eucharist is from the PM -- even blogger's spell check wants to capitalise it, Blogger knows!)

Corpus Christi (Prairie Messenger, June 7, 1993)

The eucharist is the centre of our church life, the symbol that signifies the fullness of Christian life. In celebrating the eucharist the church is expressing itself at its deepest level. The eucharist makes present to a celebrating community the full benefits of the Lord’s passover from death to the newness of life.

These three modern expressions, which could easily be expanded, indicate how important the eucharist is to Christian life. The “old” theology, which nurtured most of us pre-Vatican II Catholics, in its own way also highlighted the eucharist’s centrality: the mass is the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary; bread and wine lose their fundamental natural meaning and are transubstantiated into the real presence of Christ; one cuts oneself off from the Christian community and from God (commits a mortal sin) if one intentionally misses Sunday mass.

One might have a personal preference for the old or the new, but in neither school of expression can one avoid an important truth: the mass or eucharist is central to church life, and what we express in that liturgy has monumental ramifications for the communal life of the church and for the self-understanding of each individual Christian.

One would expect, in such circumstances, that the church would struggle mightily in every age and culture to give the eucharist its broadest and fullest expression so that everyone might be personally flabbergasted at the meaning Christ gave them when they became part of his body in baptism. Yet a study of church history shows that the exact opposite is the case.
In most of our history the eucharist was given narrower and narrower expressions.

Rather than highlighting the communal nature of Christian worship, the liturgy became more and more the domain of the clergy and an expression of clerical power. It became something the clergy did for the people. For a priest to celebrate mass became the greatest privilege in the world.

What a surprise that must be for Jesus Christ who gave us a religion he so carefully grounded in reality through such everyday sacramental signs as breaking bread together, drinking wine among friends, indulging the body with the best perfumes, massaging the sick lovingly with oil, making love with uncontrollable climaxes of pure sexuality!

Once the clergy had full control of the liturgy they quite naturally, over many centuries, reshaped it to fit their own image of the perfect church. The everyday work and workplace of the vast majority of the church members no longer rated.

We can speak only for the western world in which we live: we live in a church in which a strong majority of women, especially those professionally trained, experience the church as a community biased against them. We get excited by the divisions the ordination of women is causing in the Church of England, and yet remain blind to the much deeper divisions that continue being enacted in our liturgy and in the exercise of authority in our church.

But it is not principally a problem of our communities of religious women. It is a church problem. Bright young women cannot come to trust a church which they see preferring men to women. They are not about to enter religious life.

We must address fully and honestly the place of women in the church. We must acknowledge as wrong all that has made them feel they are not called to celebrate as full citizens of God’s reign. If women cannot celebrate Corpus Christi (being the Body of Christ) with joyful abandon, it is a sign that we have not been faithful to the Lord.

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Kneeling at the eucharist (Prairie Messenger October 2002)

In their latest newsletter the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Liturgy declares that in normal circumstances “the only licit posture” during the eucharistic prayer is kneeling; the preface with its ancient opening dialogue is apparently not seen as part of the prayer. Churches built in recent times without kneelers must now have them added to the structure (see page 5).

While demanding considerably more kneeling than is suggested to national conferences of bishops in the Vatican’s updated General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the American bishops see any variance from the prescribed norms as either “a private inclination or an arbitrary choice.”

Those seem like harsh words indeed for those pastoral liturgists who are convinced that standing at the eucharist has been indisputably the traditional practice of the universal church for more than half of its history, and is still the uniform practice of the Eastern churches.

One must wonder what the universally recognized “heavyweight” among eastern doctors of the church, St. Basil, would think on reading that to believe it is right and proper to stand at the eucharist is no more than “a private inclination or an arbitrary choice.” That same Basil once declared — admittedly in an excessive outburst of rhetoric — that it is a mortal sin for a Christian to kneel publicly anywhere during the Fifty Days of Easter, or anytime during the whole year (Lent included) during the eucharistic prayer.

No wonder that the first privilege excommunicated Christians lost was that of standing among the faithful at the eucharist. But lest one think that this is only eastern theology burdened with the thinking of such bishops as the Cappadocian Fathers, one does well to remember that, at the heart of the Roman Canon, the only eucharist prayer of the Roman Rite for more than a thousand years, the People of God are called the circumstantes: those standing around the table of the Lord.

Saint John Chrysostom, the church’s key theologian on the meaning of the priesthood of Christ, interpreted the first-century dialogue that opens every eucharistic prayer in both the East and the West as the People of God’s empowering of their clergy to celebrate for them the Sacred Mysteries of the Lord’s death and resurrection in the eucharist.
While GIRM suggests to the bishops’ conferences that they have the people kneel from the Sanctus to the end of the Last Supper Narrative, the American bishops call for kneeling until the Great Amen — ostensibly to give a uniform sign to the whole eucharistic prayer.

One can understand that the American bishops could find no rationale for rising after the Last Supper Narrative, but their solution is even more difficult to understand. They end up asking the People of God to stand for the introduction to the prayer, which is to set the tone for what is to follow, and for their complete acceptance of the prayer in the Great Amen, which St. Augustine says should reverberate throughout the church like a thunderclap.
To kneel during a prayer that is introduced, situated and given its colour by the ancient dialogue and the preface, and then to rise in order to accept it surely makes little sense.

Of course, the reason given for kneeling is to show profound adoration. The eucharist is unquestionably the heart and soul of our liturgy and thus requires our most profound response. But is begging for mercy and/or adoring God on our knees our most profound response?

The ancient dialogue and the preface would indicate otherwise. They clearly call us to enter into the mystery of Christ with joyous thanksgiving, and in a celebratory mode that places the Christian community not as foreign visitors beyond the communion rail but at the heart of the celebration.

St. Augustine says it beautifully in one of his Eastertide homilies: “It is your mystery which has been placed on the altar of the Lord; you receive your own mystery. You say Amen to what you are” (272).

Anthropologists remind us, again and again, that celebration is the deepest action of the human person. Many of those who advocate kneeling at the eucharist do so because they are afraid that thanking God “for counting us worthy to stand in his presence”  (Eucharistic Prayer II) is too shallow a response. St. Augustine’s homily, on the other hand, states that by centring, first of all, on the grace we have already received, our reverence for the special presence of Jesus Christ in the eucharist will only be deepened.

One can only hope and pray that the Canadian bishops will hold fast to their traditional teaching that the deepest expression of the Christian people on the Lord’s day is to stand with heads held high in God’s presence, in loving service of Jesus’ “flesh given for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). — AMB
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Standing at the eucharist (Prairie Messenger November 2002)
If one looks up the word “kneel” in a New Testament concordance, one can find quite a few references, many of them speaking in a positive manner of the first Christians — and, indeed, of the Lord himself — kneeling in prayerful worship of God Almighty.

Yet for many centuries we have no record of the Christian community, which certainly knew its Scriptures well, kneeling at the eucharist. Indeed, church leaders and theologians went so far as to say it was a sin for a Christian to kneel at the eucharist. 

In the West, Augustine spoke of kneeling at the Lord’s Supper as a denial of one’s Christian dignity. It is our mystery that is placed on the altar; we, in Christ, celebrate who we are.
In the East, which normally saw things in a broader perspective, the act of kneeling at the eucharist was deemed a denial of the Lord’s resurrection; you cannot sing “Alleluia” on your knees. Thus St. Basil went so far as to declare it a mortal sin to kneel publicly during the Fifty Days of Easter or during the eucharistic prayer.

When suddenly, with the Peace of Constantine, the Christian community was able to come “above ground,” they spontaneously did something unheard in the ancient world: they constructed their places of worship without an explicit god-symbol. They saw themselves, assembled in Christ’s name, as his living presence. No wonder they could not kneel.

We know, however, that before the first millenium had run its course, the laity were beginning, here and there — but not for many more centuries in Rome’s major basilicas — to kneel at the eucharist.

Something quite revolutionary had to have taken place for the church to change a universal tradition — indeed, one that its great church fathers had deemed could be broken only under pain of sin. As kneeling is once more being explicitly promoted as the preferred posture for the laity at mass, it is important to study carefully what led the church to make a 180° turnaround.

Much of it had to do with the development of the theology of the ministerial priesthood. Greatly influenced by the wave of pagan priests who saw the writing on the wall with the Peace of Constantine and “converted” to the new religion, the developing theology of the priesthood emphasized the eucharist as sacrifice and that only sacred people could carry out the required rituals.

The priest became the active agent in the liturgy, doing sacred things for the laity who assumed a passive role. If those in authority (now all clerics) did not see the priest as the only truly active agent, they would never have allowed the central act of worship to be conducted in silence in a language unknown to the People of God.

Little bells were rung three times during the liturgy, encouraging the laity to take note what the priest was doing at that moment. The rest of the time they were to be gainfully occupied with their own private devotions.

A large crucifix was hung over the priest’s head, giving the laity something worthy of their attention during the mass. The highlight of the mass was the elevation of the host, which the priest with the sacred power given him in ordination had changed into the Body of Christ. There was virtually no connection any longer between the consecrated host and the faithful assembled in community.

Indeed, the split had become so great that even the vessels on the altar were deemed so holy it was a sin for an “unconsecrated” lay person to purposely touch them. And, of course, the very sanctuary (cut off from the assembly by the communion rail) was so holy that it was a sin for a woman to enter it during the liturgy.

The Body of Christ no longer had any relationship to what the laity were. It was what they received. And, as the final putdown, they received it not in the hand so that they could feed themselves, as would any adult, but rather in the manner in which parents feed their children — directly into the mouth.

When this process of change was complete — it took several centuries — the church had turned itself inside out. Priests no longer drew their liturgical power by gathering the faith of the community. (St. Augustine once said that in the sacraments the word does not get its power by its being spoken by the priest but in its being believed by the people.) Priests no longer acted in the name of the community; they did things for the community.
The laity were no longer central to the liturgical act; they were no longer expressing their deepest meaning, thus becoming the sacrament they were celebrating. Rather, they were reduced to receivers. The most active function left to them was to look upon the host and adore. And what could be more appropriate for that than kneeling?

The Second Vatican Council and the Roman congregations in the years after the council looked carefully at all these developments that led the church to put aside its universal tradition of standing at the eucharist. Many things were changed, some quite obvious. Women were allowed to read during the liturgy, and, to the consternation of many, were allowed in the sanctuary and could be ministers of communion.

The most important change, however, was not so obvious. The laity, assembled in Christ’s name, had once again become central to the celebration. Indeed, the Vatican documents began talking about everyone actively celebrating, with the priest being the “principal celebrant.” With this shift in theology, Augustine’s and Basil’s words on standing while celebrating their own mystery made perfect sense.

Congregations overwhelmingly took to standing not because it was easier (many find it harder) but because it seemed appropriate. It fit.

The church, and especially our bishops, must look closely at why kneeling is once again being promoted as the proper posture at the eucharist. If, as many suspect, it is to reverse the theology of the laity that has come out of the council, there simply is no room for compromise. — AMB
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There is a lot above to digest but it is clear that this monk and those whom he has influenced have a view of the church that is a rupture. This is not what is envisioned in Sacrosanctam Concilium or the Third Edition of the Roman Missal or the GIRM.
What he does not tell you is that up to 1975, there was no "rubric" for the laity to kneel at all. The 1975 GIRM and the 2002 GIRM mandate kneeling at the "Consecration" as a minimum. But the GIRM recognises the "laudable practice" of particular communities and regions over decades, centuries even to maintain the practice which they have developed. He is contradicting himself. In fact, the Church is recognising the "community" in allowing this kneeling to continue.
It is the "liturgists," nuns and monks and priests confused over their own vocations and obviously, their sexuality who have wreaked havoc on the people of God whom they desire to empower. They are like the manager to whom Our LORD parables, too proud to beg, too old to work.

They are the worst form of clericalists. They are always right and the laity loyal to our Holy Mother, the Church are wrong.

They have left no progeny to take up their dissent. They are old, sick and dying, the bishops whom they have influenced are gaining in age and in ten years will be nearing or past retirement.

Last Sunday, I met a 16 year old who desires to be a priest and on Tuesday, I had dinner with a Deacon to be ordained in May, the future is in good hands.

The LORD has not abandoned His Church.


Anonymous said...

WRT the East, at the Divine Liturgy prostrations are made:
* at the beginning of "It is meet and right to worship Father, Son and..."
* at the end of the prayer, "We praise Thee, we bless..."
* at the end of the prayer, "It is truly meet to bless thee, the Theotokos" (or whatever hymn is used in its place)
* at the beginning of the Lord's Prayer
* when the Holy Gifts are brought out for communion
* when, afterwards, the priest, holding the Gifts, says "Always, now and ever..." (except for those who have communed, who should simply bow)

In the East is it also the norm not to have pews. As such, if the reason for not kneeling is to be more like the East, by all means, rip up the pews and on with the prostrations!

Vox Cantoris said...


Anonymous said...

"massaging the sick lovingly with oil, making love with uncontrollable climaxes of pure sexuality!"

I laughed myself to tears on that one. I don't remember reading about a sacrament of "uncontrollable climaxes of pure sexuality." That is vintage 60's groovy pass-the-joint sixties theology right there...