Crickets and Sacraments

from the cupAt PrayTell, Fritz Bauerschmidt wonders about the practice of wordless reception of the Eucharist among clerical concelebrants at Mass. It strikes me we have a lot of dialogue prior to the Communion procession: Eucharistic acclamations, including an Amen response to the entire anaphora, the Lord’s Prayer, a verbal exchange of peace (which may not be omitted from the Mass), and an adaptation of the centurion’s prayer.

Instead of thinking about adding words for priests, I was wondering about subtracting them for the laity. How would this impact the celebration of Mass?

Think about the other six sacraments:

  • Baptismal dialogues precede the water bath, and even adults have no given response to their encounter at the font.
  • In confirmation, there is the double dialogue with the minister, but again: how necessary is this, given the silence of infants, parents, and godparent at infant chrismation?
  • Considering Penance, there is the “legal” formula for absolution–that seems essential to the ritual.
  • When a sick believer is anointed, there is also a double formula. The rite is otherwise wordy prior to this, especially if there are no abbreviations for a seriously sick person.
  • Exchanging consent at marriage seems vital, but remember: the clergy need not speak at all during this part of the liturgy. A cleric is witness, not minister.
  • Likewise ordination rites are wordy, perhaps the most of all the sacraments. The most visually significant moments are often done in silence.

I’m disinclined to suggest a rewrite on this in the Order of Mass. On the other hand, I don’t think words matter as much as the simple, profound gesture of the bow and the humble reception of the consecrated bread and wine.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Crickets and Sacraments

  1. Anthony Phillips says:

    a verbal exchange of peace (which may not be omitted from the Mass
    Let’s be careful here. Paul VI’s Missal directs that the priest says, ‘Pax Dómini sit semper vobíscum,’ and the people responed, ‘Et cum spíritu tuo.’ If that’s what you mean, you’re right. But that’s all that’s needed. The rubrics continue: ‘Postea, pro opportunitate, sacerdos subiungit: Offérte vobis pacem…’ Pro opportunitate translates as ‘when appropriate.’ So all that hand-shaking we’re subjected to should only be done when appropriate. And I’d argue that it’s almost never, ever appropriate.

    Now, I’m no fan of Paul VI’s liturgy, for several reasons: (i) it’s inferior to the Tridentine rite, (ii) whatever the defects of Vatican II, the Pauline liturgy did not follow its directives, and (iii) no pope has the moral right or authority to change the church’s liturgy. You may or may not agree. But perhaps we can agree that one of the defects of the Pauline liturgy is that it forces people to be so busy speaking (and shaking hands) that they don’t have time to pray. And also that it robs us of some of the powerful gestures that in some ways carry more meaning than words: genuflecting when the Incarnation is mentioned in the Creed and the Last Gospel, for instance, and at other sundry occasions during the year. I was going to say kneeling for Communion too, but we can’t really blame Paul’s liturgy for that larceny.

    • Todd says:

      I’m aware of this opinion, and we’ve discussed it here before. I think the use of the “pro opportunitate” phrase to interpret the gesture is wrong. It modifies the invitation to exchange the gesture. I’ve started another thread to delve into it further.

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