Gutting the Mystery out of the Mystery

While the doctrinal exposition in “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” is beyond reproach, a whole dimension of our Eucharistic problem was left untouched.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle, wearing a protective mask, right, attends a Nov. 16, 2021, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Long-awaited, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” has finally arrived. It is a superb re-statement of traditional Catholic teaching on what the Sacred Liturgy calls “the mystery of faith.” Of course, the “big” question was how or if the bishops would deal with the problematic public figures of the Church whose civil acts contradict the mystery of the Eucharist. Secular media – and, regrettably, not a few Catholic media outlets – got the answer wrong; the bishops did deal with that issue, quite handily and we should be grateful to George Weigel for spelling that out in great detail.

So, now that the document is written, all is well, and we can all go off on our merry way? Hardly. While the doctrinal exposition is beyond reproach, a whole dimension of our Eucharistic problem was left untouched. I am referring to how that doctrine is liturgically enacted. Perhaps the bishops thought the re-statement was sufficient; perhaps they thought addressing particulars of worship was out of place; perhaps they thought the problem areas will best be handled in the upcoming three years of “Eucharistic revival.” If the last thought is the case, let me offer some serious practices that need serious attention. As Catholics, we are not disembodied heads; we are flesh-and-blood creatures; therefore, what we say we believe needs to be reinforced by the signs and symbols of the Sacred Liturgy.

Truth be told, I have not heard of a single theologian or priest contesting the settled doctrine of the Eucharist. However, in my capacity as an editor of two national magazines, spanning three decades, I have never ceased to receive complaints of how the lived liturgy undermines that settled teaching. Yes, lex orandi, lex credendi.

The fundamental difficulty in “owning” our Eucharistic doctrine is that our rites have been gutted of “mystery,” the very lead word of this episcopal text. In the last encyclical of St. John Paul’s life, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, he declared that his goal in penning that letter was to rouse the whole Church to “Eucharistic amazement.” Amazement happens when mystery is properly celebrated, bringing in its wake awe and wonder. I see very little amazement in congregations over the past forty years, and I believe that is so because of the introduction of so many practices that undermine amazement. In actuality, I have found that most people attracted to the Usus Antiquior are drawn there, precisely to avoid those things that have drained the Usus Recentior of power.

With this in mind, I shall present a list (by no means exhaustive) of mistaken directions taken, in no particular priority order (since all of them together have brought about Eucharistic “malaise”; let me also note that not one of these “mistaken directions” was called for by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council; indeed, not one of these was even dreamed of, in all likelihood.

How “mystery” has been gutted

Loss of Latin: To be sure, the Council Fathers opened up the possibility for a greater use of the vernacular (e.g., in the Scripture readings, prayer of the faithful), but they were quite clear that Latin should not only be retained in the liturgy but that the faithful ought to be able to respond to the Latin prayers and sing the venerable Gregorian chants.1 Every major religion retains a place of honor for a sacral language, lest the pedestrian override the sacred.2

Movement of the tabernacle: In the Credo of the People of God, Pope Paul VI lovingly referred to the tabernacle as “the living heart of each of our churches.” So, what should we make of the relegation of the tabernacle to a side altar, separate chapel (or closet), resulting in the replacement of Christ at the center, usually by an enthroned priest? Out of sight, out of mind. With the tabernacle off the central axis, should we be surprised by the rise of chit-chat and the entrance of people into their pews resembling their mode of accessing a seat in a movie theater?

Removal of altar rails: Ripping out altar rails signaled the desire to obliterate the very necessary distinction between the sacred and the profane (a good reading of Mircea Eliade’s book of the same title would have provided fair warning). What is enacted in the space around the altar needs to be visually set apart because what is enacted there is entirely removed from our commonplace experience of daily life: Heaven is coming down to earth. With that distinction lost, those of us on earth have had difficulty ascending to Heaven (which is what should be occurring at every Mass).

Communion fast: Prior to Pope Pius XII, the Communion fast began at midnight; it was undoubtedly quite onerous, so that the frequency of Communion advocated by Pope St. Pius X was noted in the breach more than in the observance. Wisely, Pius XII mitigated that fast to three hours for solid foods and one hour for liquids. Pope Paul VI modified the fast even further, to the present discipline, namely, one hour for solid food or liquids. The standard definition of fasting is abstaining from food, so as to experience hunger. The purpose of the Eucharistic fast is to make us feel physical hunger, the better to know the spiritual hunger for the Bread of Life. Without being glib, one can say that if anyone is truly hungry after one hour, that person has an eating disorder. Diminishing the fast has also diminished the uniqueness of Holy Communion. Further, the one-hour fast has taken away from potential recipients the “excuse” for abstaining from Holy Communion when they judge themselves not properly disposed.

Standing for Holy Communion: For centuries, Catholics of the Western Church have knelt to receive their Eucharistic Lord (Eastern Christians historically have stood). The problem is not so much with standing as such but with the lack of any sign of reverence. When standing was first introduced, communicants were told to genuflect before receiving; that was replaced by a supposed profound bow, and that was reduced to a nod of the head. So, standing in line (as in a grocery store) is merely a prelude to finally arriving at the check-out counter. Have we forgotten St. Augustine’s admonition: “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”?

Yet another benefit of kneeling at an altar rail is that communicants kneeling shoulder to shoulder make much more clear that Holy Communion, after affirming our union with Christ, likewise affirms our communion with one another.

Mass facing the people: Versus populum celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is a true novelty (St. Peter’s in Rome is the exception that proves the rule). In every religion where sacrifice has been offered, from biblical Judaism to the worship of the pagan Greeks and Romans, priest and people face the same direction, presumably facing the Divinity being implored. In the Christian scheme of things, divine worship was conducted facing liturgical east (whence comes the Rising Sun and the Risen Son). The snide dismissal of this posture as “the priest with his back to the people” displays a tremendous ignorance of history and theology. No, it is priest and people facing God together. Ironically, the versus populum position is far more clericalistic because, perforce, it makes the priest the center of attention, resulting (even unintentionally) in his functioning as a kind of ring-master.

The early Christians believed that the Lord would come again in glory not only from the East but during the celebration of the Eucharist. And so, in St. Peter’s Basilica (which faces west), at the beginning of the anaphora or Eucharistic prayer, the deacon urged the faithful to “turn toward the Lord” – and the whole assembly turned toward the front door of the Basilica, turning their backs on the Pope!

Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion: In promulgating Immensae Caritatis (1973), Paul VI gave very precise indications for recourse to the non-ordained for distributing Holy Communion; those norms were subsequently incorporated into the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Having spoken in over 90 dioceses of the United States over the years, I can say with total confidence that I have never seen a situation in which those norms are verified.

Lay distribution of the Holy Sacrament diminishes two sacraments at one and the same moment: the august nature of the Eucharist (if anyone can distribute It, what’s the big deal?) and the unique identity of the ordained minister. St. Thomas Aquinas, in one of his hymns composed for the feast of Corpus Christi, Sacris Solemniis, has us sing, “as only the priest can confect (the Eucharist), only does he distribute.”

In all too many places, circumlocutions are used to obfuscate the clear meaning of the proper liturgical terminology of “extraordinary” ministers, so that we hear of “Eucharistic ministers,” “special ministers,” and even worse, “bread/wine ministers”!3 This widespread abuse feeds into the modern American mentality of “get ’em in, get ’em out,” as well as the theologically and liturgically malformed notion that “active/actual” participation requires getting as many people up on the stage as possible.

Communion in the hand: This practice arose in the Low Countries, France, and Germany after the Council. Pope Paul consulted the worldwide episcopate about this phenomenon, with the vast majority of bishops voting strongly against it. In Memoriale Domini (1969), the Pope, fearing a schism, acquiesced to the will of the disobedient countries, allowing the continuation of Communion in the hand, there and only there. But it didn’t end in those places; it spread like wildfire. As in many other countries, some liturgists and bishops in the United States sought to get on the bandwagon, with the issue being raised several times for a vote of our bishops, each time defeated. Finally, through the machinations of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (then president of the episcopal conference), the illicit polling of absent bishops through mail-in ballots (!) brought about victory for those proponents in 1977.

“What’s wrong with Communion in the hand?” “Is the tongue any holier than the hand?” Those superficial queries miss some fundamental points of doctrine. We are not receiving ordinary bread in Holy Communion, but the very Bread of Life, Christ Himself. Therefore, our mode of reception ought to reflect the uniqueness of the action. Almighty God, speaking to us in Psalm 81, invites us: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Some argue that adults feed themselves; they are not fed like children. The truth of the matter, however, is that as we approach the holy altar, we do so, precisely, as children of our Heavenly Father. As a matter of fact, being fed in the ancient world was a sign of hospitality and even of royalty (we belong to the royal people redeemed by Christ). We still have a vestige of that idea as newly-weds feed each other the first pieces of the wedding cake.

Some counter that Communion in the hand was the practice of the ancient Church, which theory has been widely questioned.4 Indeed, there are many practices of the ancient Church that few would want revived – like lifelong penance! What is certainly uncontestable is that for over a millennium, reception on the tongue was universal.

When did a call for its abandonment occur? At the time of the Protestant Reformation. As Thomas Cranmer was fashioning the liturgical books in England, he consulted the radical revolutionary, Martin Bucer. Bucer strongly condemned reception on the tongue for two reasons, in his judgment: it gave undue reverence to the “bread,” as it called it; it elevated priests above the laity (see below the shocking bluntness about his aim in banning administration of Holy Communion on the tongue).5 And so, we should not be surprised that 70% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence (the very statistic that precipitated episcopal alarm) and have a truncated understanding of the Sacred Priesthood (and a concomitant decline in priestly vocations) since the introduction of Communion in the hand more than four decades ago.

Some concluding thoughts

As I said at the outset, of the eight problematic liturgical usages I have highlighted, it is important to note that not a single one of them has its origins in the Second Vatican Council, while many of them actually arose through disobedience and disregard for existing norms. The confluence of all eight areas has undoubtedly led to a Eucharistic melt-down.

A wake-up call came my way some years ago as a man, who had not been to Mass since 1967, informed me of his reaction to his return in 1999 for the funeral of his mother: “What happened while I was away? The priest chatted us up from across something that looked like an ironing board. A woman gave out Communion to people standing, who took It in their own hands. I felt like I had walked into a different religion.” That man’s Rip Van Winkle experience should tell us that some things are very wrong.

Simple re-statement of doctrine (even when done very well) is insufficient; the doctrine must be bolstered by the signs and symbols we employ. We have all heard the remark of the Fundamentalist pastor who gently prodded us: “If I believed what you Catholics say you believe about the Eucharist, I would have to crawl up the center aisle on all fours!” That’s the appropriate response to “mystery.”

The present document of the episcopal conference is excellent, as far as it goes. With the three-year “Eucharistic revival” being launched, would it be vain to hope that our liturgical praxis be reviewed and, where necessary, corrected?6 To aid in that process, it might be worthwhile to reflect on some of Cardinal Newman’s insights into the nature of liturgy and its development (see some of those below). If the bishops of our nation engage in a genuine examination of liturgical conscience, they could have an impact not only on the Eucharistic faith of Americans, but far beyond our borders.7

I have left aside the matter of liturgical music (which is a whole other can of worms), but I would like to suggest that the words of a hymn coming from the immemorial Liturgy of St. James offer a healthy guide to foster a sense of mystery and a recovery of the sacred, leading us to that awe and wonder proper to one’s approach to our Eucharistic King:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav’nly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow’rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
“Alleluia, Alleluia,
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”


Addendum: St. John Henry Cardinal Newman on the Sacred Liturgy

To believe and not to revere, to worship familiarly and at one’s ease, is an anomaly and a prodigy unknown even to false religions, to say nothing of the true one. Not only the Jewish and Christian religions, which are directly from God, inculcate the spirit of reverence and godly fear, but those other religions which have existed or exist, whether in the East or the South, inculcate the same. Worship, forms of worship — such as bowing the knee, taking off the shoes, keeping silence, a prescribed dress and the like — are considered as necessary for a due approach to God.

P.S. VIII 5 (30.10.1836)

Every attentive reader of Scripture must be aware what stress is there laid upon the duty of costliness and magnificence in the public service of God.

P.S. VI 295 (23.9.1839)

… did our Saviour say that magnificence in worshipping God, magnificence in His house, in its furniture, and in its decorations, is wrong, wrong since He has come into the world ? Does He discourage us from building handsome Churches, or beautifying the ceremonial of religion? Did He exhort us to niggardness? did He put a slight on architectural skill ? did He imply we should please Him the more, the less study and trouble we gave to the externals of worship ? In rejecting the offering of Herod, did He forbid the devotion of Christians?

P.S. VI 301 (23.9.1839)

This is what He condemned, the show of great attention to outward things, while inward things, which were more important, were neglected. This, He says Himself, in His denunciation of the Pharisees, “These ought ye to have done,” He says, “and not to leave the other,” the inward, “undone.”

P.S. VI 301 – 302 (23.9.1839)

Persons who put aside gravity and comeliness in the worship of God, that they may pray more spiritually, for- get that God is a Maker of all things, visible as well as invisible; that He is the Lord of our bodies as well as of our souls; that He is to be worshipped in public as well as in secret … there are not two Gods, one of mat-ter, one of spirit; one of the Law, and one of the Gospel. There is one God, and He is Lord of all we are, and all we have; and therefore, all we do must be stamped with His seal and signature. We must begin, indeed, with the heart; for out of the heart proceed all good and evil; but while we begin with the heart, we must not end with the heart.

P.S. VI 304 (23.9.1839)

Let us … be at least as exact and as decent in the service of God, as we are in our own persons and our own homes.

P.S. VI 311 (23.9.1839)

The Bible then may be said to give us the spirit of religion; but the Church must provide the body in which that spirit is to be lodged. Religion must be realized in particular acts, in order to its continuing alive.

P.S. II 74 (1.1.1831)

There is no such thing as abstract religion. When persons attempt to worship in this (what they call) more spiritual manner, they end, in fact, in not worshipping at all. This frequently happens… Youths, for instance (and perhaps those who should know better than they), sometimes argue with themselves, “What is the need of praying statedly morning and evening? Why use a form of words? Why kneel? Why cannot I pray in bed, or walking, or dressing?” They end in not praying at all. Again, what will the devotion of the country people be, if we strip religion of its external symbols, and bid them seek out and gaze upon the Invisible?

P.S. II 74 (1.1.1831)

We must begin religion with what looks like a form. Our fault will be, not in beginning it as a form, but in continuing it as a form. For it is our duty to be ever striving and praying to enter into the real spirit of our services, and in proportion as we understand them and love them, they will cease to be a form and a task, and will be the real expressions of our minds. Thus shall we gradually be changed in heart from servants into sons of Almighty God.

P.S. Ill 93 – 94 (20.11.1831)

Rites which the Church has appointed, and with reason, – for the Church’s authority is from Christ, – being long used, cannot be disused without harm to our souls.

P.S. II 77 – 78 (1.1.1831)


1So concerned about the near-total abandonment of Latin in the wake of the Council (contrary to the express wishes of the Council Fathers) that Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, all regularly promoted the ongoing use of Latin in the Latin Church.

2This leaves aside how the loss of Latin has contributed to the “balkinization” of the Church, with a parish offering multiple Masses in multiple languages every weekend, destroying any possibility of parochial unity.

3During a visit to one parish, a woman introduced herself to me thus: “I am your ordinary minister of Communion.” “You mean ‘extraordinary’.” “No, I do it every week!

4For a thorough discussion of the history of Communion in the hand, consult: Athanasius Schneider, Dominus Est: It Is the Lord! (Newman House Press, 2008).

5Bucer to Cranmer: “I have no doubt that this usage of not putting these sacraments in the hands of the faithful has been introduced out of a double superstition; firstly, the false honour they wished to show to this sacrament, and secondly the wicked arrogance of priests claiming greater holiness than that of the people of Christ, by virtue of the oil of consecration. . . . As, therefore, every superstition of the Roman Anti-Christ is to be detested, and the simplicity of Christ, and the Apostles, and the ancient Churches, is to be recalled, I should wish that pastors and teachers of the people should be commanded that each is faithfully to teach the people that it is superstitious and wicked to think that the hands of those who truly believe in Christ are less pure than their mouths; or that the hands of the ministers are holier than the hands of the laity; so that it would be wicked, or less fitting, as was formerly wrongly believed by the ordinary folk, for the laity to receive these sacraments in the hand. . . .”

6True renewal or revitalization is only possible when one is willing to admit that mistakes have been made and, equally, to be willing to change course.

7The German bishops have declared that they want their perverse “synodal way” to spread far beyond the confines of their country. Why should something truly good and holy not spread?

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About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 280 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas founded The Catholic Answer in 1987 and The Catholic Response in 2004, as well as the Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, a clerical association of the faithful, committed to Catholic education, liturgical renewal and the new evangelization. Father Stravinskas is also the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, an organization, which serves as a resource for heightening the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.


  1. A most excellent prescription of what is needed to rectify the 55-year assault on the Holy Eucharist.

    I would add only one additional suggestion to the fine list presented. Immediately after Holy Communion and the door to the tabernacle has been closed, there should be 2-3 minutes where all present kneel in silence to reflect on the fact that all who have received now have the living Christ within. Currently, as soon as the tabernacle door is closed, the sacred vessels are quickly cleaned, the final prayer quickly read and there’s a mad dash to the door. Would anyone even think of dining at an expensive restaurant, gobbling down the food and then commenting to one’s companions, “Sorry, but I’ve got to run; the kid’s got a soccer game.”

    • I think just bringing back the altar railing would eliminate a few of the abuses.More people would want to receive on the tongue as they would be kneeling and in a more respectable and reflective position. I don’t remember how handicapped people knelt or if they just stayed home.That is a logistic problem.Most people don’t follow the Eucharistic prayers and fade out. They might as well be in Latin. I am 81 and miss the altar rail.

  2. Long-awaited, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” has finally arrived. It is a superb re-statement of traditional Catholic teaching on what the Sacred Liturgy calls “the mystery of faith.” … in my capacity as an editor of two national magazines, spanning three decades, I have never ceased to receive complaints of how the lived liturgy undermines that settled teaching. Yes, lex orandi, lex credendi.

    That truth is sometimes expressed as, “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi”,  more precisely conveying the truth: how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live. The difference between the two ways of stating the idea is significant. Adding “lex vivendi” reminds us of a truth taught by Christ:

    Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will know them by their fruits. …
    — Matthew 7:15-16

    The fruit of how one lives, the fruit of what one does and fails to do, reveals what one really believes. The devil is far more capable of making “a superb re-statement of traditional Catholic teaching” than our best theologians. As St. Paul put it:

    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
    — 2 Corinthians 11:13-14

    I had the opportunity to work in a diocesan chancery office for a couple of years, doing work that occasionally required discussing matters with the bishop, and more often with priests. I also had the opportunity to meet with bishops regarding the abortion issue due to my having held a leadership position in a statewide Pro-Life organization. So I have probably come to know bishops and priests a little better than your average Catholic. I am happy to report that for the most part the bishops and priests I dealt with seemed like very good people who took their vocations quite seriously. So the Scripture citations presented here are not intended to declare that our bishops are “false prophets” or “false apostles.” Not at all. I am only making the point that stating the truth superbly is not sufficient. What the bishops do and fail to do speaks much louder than the most beautiful statement of the truths of the Catholic faith.

    In the matter of politicians well known for advocating and facilitating the murder of God’s children by the millions being allowed to receive the Eucharist, history — and Christ — will judge our bishops by the fruits of their actions and inaction.

    Not finding a way to effectively prohibit such politicians from receiving the Eucharist brings forth bad fruit: it scandalizes Catholics who understand Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, confirms the disbelief of Catholics who doubt the truth of the Real Presence, and legitimizes “legal” child killing, shouting loudly that the bishops don’t really believe it is all that bad.

  3. This was very well explained, so much so that I found it difficult to disagree with any part of it. Perhaps this pandemic is just what we need to make these changes. I say this because although so many Catholics are going out to coffee shops and restaurants and fitness centres, but are not going to Church for fear of covid, and only those to whom the Eucharist means anything are attending Mass (there has been a kind of flushing); the latter will likely cooperate with the adjustments without much complaint. I don’t know if the others (the former) are coming back. I mean, what are the bishops going to do? Suddenly declare that the hiatus regarding Mass as obligatory is now over and that you have an obligation to attend Mass? These people would laugh. The moral authority of the Church has been utterly wounded (within the Church). The moral authority that the Church used to possess in the world outside the Church is gone and will probably never return, certainly not in my lifetime (it will take centuries to re-establish that). We have the smaller Church that Pope Benedict spoke of. The point about being more than disembodied heads is so important. Mass is somewhat like a lecture series (with Christ sidelined, the homily has become the high point) with rather mediocre music, attended mostly by women, and centred too much on the priest. The sanctuary has become a stage. Men are put off by that, especially if the priest is a bit on the effeminate side and delights in being the centre of attention (men pick that up very easily). I think this might be the time to bring about those changes. Let’s communicate with the congregation and explain what we are doing and why we are doing it. They’ll come along. But all this requires a spirit of leadership, and I just don’t see where that is going to come from. We just don’t have such leaders (except only here and there). The bishops, for the most part, are still too timid. Things need to get worse before they get better. Moreover, if there was some division on this document, how great will be the division over what you are proposing here. In the end, however, I can’t disagree with this article.

  4. All around, and for quite some time, the sense one gets is that the clerical church states the rules, but does not force the soul to connect the dots within himself as to whether they convict or oblige discernment and change. Faith cannot be commanded, nor grace worshipped, except voluntarily. There is this generous charitable giving of space, to let the soul come to the fuller picture of his actions, defective or already perfect, on his own.

    What is this handling called? That’s what is needed, a lengthy church document that describes how and why the Church forces no one to do anything and why. Wise or not, the Church today lovingly politely proffers fraternal suggestion. The responding voluntary element is the mark of conscience and love, the gold of religion and righteousness.

    Sometimes a slap might be needed. The world and the church need to be rightly re-masculinized for that to appear. Until then, all that can be done is to pray others receive the grace of conviction, conversion.

    The Church desires to reflect the Infinite mercy of the Godhead; it doesn’t want to cut off or decide that continuing conversion is no longer possible for someone. The Church somehow kwows that humanity is fragile today and one stroke of too-excessive force might risk loss of a soul due to imprudent zeal and loss of manymore followers for resentment to authority.

    Why not episcopal openness to talk exactly about where we are in this conundrum.

    But in the end, grace still works everything. Isn’t it true.

    Thank God for Fr. Stravinskas, what a gift to the Church.

  5. Gutting The Mystery…

    That is an apt description of the “New Order of the Roman Rite,” or “OF” or what has been called by Laszlo Dobszay “The Bugnini Rite.”

    I submit that the biggest thing “gutted” in “Recent Rite” of the Mass are the words of prayer that are deliberately cut out.

    In comparing the Roman Rite of our parents and grandparents (the Ancient Rite) to the “Recent Rite” of 1970, it is worth noting that scholars will often repeat the old adage that the liturgy of the Roman Rite is distinguished by its “noble simplicity.” The old adage about “noble simplicity” was referring to the “Ancient Rite” or “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite, the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church through 1969, and NOT the “New Order” fabricated in 1970.

    Two examples serve to show what is taken away from the Catholic faithful by the abusive implementation of the New Order of the Mass.

    First, look at the prayer of the mingling of the water and the wine, and ponder the maxim about “noble simplicity.”

    BEFORE the Bugnini amputation, for centuries, the mingling prayer in the Roman Rite of The Mass was this:

    “O GOD, WHO IN CREATING MAN DID EXALT HIS NATURE MOST WONDROUSLY, AND YET MORE WONDROUSLY RE-ESTABLISHED IT ANEW, by the mystery of the mingling of this water and wine, grant that we may come to share in His Divinity, who has humbled himself to share in our humanity.

    After the Bugnini gutted this prayer, it became this:

    “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

    The mingling prayer of the EF or “Ancient Rite” has “noble simplicity.” The Bugnini product has mere simplicity, and guts “the nobility” (the words I put in capital letters).

    The second example is the suffocating suppression of the Roman Canon.

    By this act of suppression, “contemporary Church leaders” treat the endowment of all Catholic faithful as if it is their own personal property, and steal it from us, and deny us the right to pray the Roman Canon, the most ancient Eucharistic prayer in use (until 1970) in all of Christianity.

    The ancient Christology of the Roman Canon is attested by scholars both old and new, from Fr. Adrian Fortescue, the great early 20th century English scholar of the Liturgy of East and West, as well as modern scholars like Fr. Robert Taft, SJ, whose testimony I quote below, from the article posted by Fr. John Hunwicke of Oxford. The article link is here:

    As Hunwicke wrote (with quotes from Taft):

    ‘The late Archimandrite Robert Taft, of the Byzantine Rite, was a learned expositor of all things Byzantine, even venturing so far into a separated-Byzantine mindset as to question the legitimacy of the second-millennium Ecumenical Councils. But he did know his history.

    Witness a paper of his which had as one of its aims to sweep away myths, including the common superstition among illiterate and superficial Western dabblers in Liturgy, that everything Eastern is more ancient, venerable, and authoritative than anything Western. Taft wrote:

    “Here too of course one must avoid cliches and know what one is talking about. The decidedly Christological stamp of the old Roman Canon is a sign of great antiquity. This eucharistic prayer, obviously formulated before the impact of the late fourth century pneumatological resolution at Constantinople I (381 AD) reflects a primitive euchological theology much older than almost any extant eastern anaphora except Addai and Mari … pace the common myth that everything Eastern is automatically older.” (Eastern Presuppositions and Western Liturgical Reforms.)

    In an earlier paper, he wrote: “The old Roman Canon of the Mass has a weak pneumatology not because it is defective but because it is old, so old that it was composed before the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit became a problem to be resolved.” (h/t to Steve Perisho)

    (Hunwicke continues)

    This venerable Prayer [The Roman Canon] is our Western heritage; and a very great disservice was done to us in the 1960s when, without the slightest hint of a mandate from the Council, a great crowd of alternative Eucharistic Prayers was thrust upon the Western Church…. One of these prayers, the pseudo-Hippolytan Prayer II, because of its seductive brevity, has de facto superseded the Roman Canon in almost universal use, despite the fact that the GIRM makes clear that it was provided solely for optional use on weekdays.

    The gutting is real, and what is missing is what is what is noble, the very essense of the Roman Rite of the Mass.

    In his memoirs, Fr. Louis Bouyer, after the ordeal of working with Bugnini, and discovering his deceitfulness, writes that Bugnini was “a man as bereft of Catholic culture as he was of basic honesty.”

    Bereft…and gutted.

    If we want to restore the Mystery of the Mass, restore what Bugnini et all stole from us, and just recite the EF, the “Ancient Roman Rite,” in the vernacular.

  6. Excellent article! (My only disagreement would be with the praise for George Weigel’s article, which I previously commented on.) As Father says, we are a Church of signs and symbols. Unless we restore these, I don’t believe that any document will have much effect on belief in the real presence.

  7. Thank you, dear Fr. Peter. I concur in everything expounded out here. Please, keep speaking out the Gospel truth about our Catholic (Universal)faith. We need more people like you in our world of today. Our Lord Jesus Christ will surely reward you with eternal life. Amen. Please, do keep me in your prayers, and rest assured of mine. Remain in God’s unfailing loving and mighty care.

  8. All the more why so many seem upset when a member of a denomination decides to swim the Tiber… Our faith has sought, to our own detriment, to become the church of the slap happy, relevant & therefore meaningless.
    All the “documents” they can produce will not put the stuffing back in until we restore the reverence, awe & majesty to the Sacred Mysteries.

  9. Excellent presentation. After Archbishop Roche;’s strong statement that the Tridentine Mass cannot be sustained, but rather we must turn to what the Vatican Council prescribed, we need to recognize that nothing mentioned here was mandated by the Council, and that a great service could be done simply to go back to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and follow it.
    However, concerning sacred music, it is not sufficient to quote a hymn; the Council also mandated the retention of the Solemn High Mass, which is a completely sung Mass with sacred ministers, proper Gregorian chants, and appropriate singing on the part of the congregation. Here is the beauty of the liturgy, which is an underlying support of all the issues presented by Fr. S. so well.

  10. I have been denied communion myself, and recently seen a couple of others have the same experience at a different parish, because we wished to receive on the tongue vs. on the hand. It’s hard not to feel some resentment.

  11. Whatever the merits of this essay, if we are going to get change we do not want to present long lists of demands, what is needed is to ask for small changes where there is an obvious need. The acclamation after the elevation of the chalice is an absurd interruption, followed as it is by ‘therefor’. This therefor refers of course to the words of institution, not to our acclamation. BUT what we should point out is that it is an essential to liturgy that there be only one possible response to any prompt, and here we have a choice of three! It is just a matter of common sense that it should be changed. Getting even a tiny change would be precedent for further ‘minor adjustments’.

    • Regarding the “interruption” of the memorial acclamation: In the Byzantine Rite, the congregation offers an “Amen” after each of the two consecrations. In the Tridentine liturgy, when a polyphonic Mass was/is sung, it was/is quite common to separate the Benedictus from the first half of the Sanctus; the Benedictus came/comes– right after the consecration of the wine; in other words, exactly where the current memorial acclamation occurs.

  12. I am grateful the communion fast was mentioned but disagree that the fast from midnight was “quite onerous.” Muslims fast the entire day from food and water. Evangelicals and other’s of us fast. A midnight fast is minimal. Rogation day fasts and Friday fast, and an obligatory fast for Easter and Advent need also be reinstated. What we are dealing with in the Church is too frequent and too familiar reception of the Eucharist and the sense that it is unjust and humiliating to ask people in irregular marriages to abstain from the Eucharist but still go to Church. Reinstating all this would go along way towards killing the false idea that communion is a “prize for the perfect.” It would give us solidarity with those not in communion because of sin while clarifying what the practice of receiving is – that we don’t do it, “in sin.” On the practical line, it provides “cover” for anyone not going to commumion, and would allow them to save face somewhat.

  13. I am grateful the communion fast was mentioned but disagree that the fast from midnight was “quite onerous.” Muslims fast the entire day from food and water. Evangelicals and other’s of us fast. A midnight fast is minimal. Rogation day fasts and Friday fast, and an obligatory fast for Easter and Advent need also be reinstated. What we are dealing with in the Church is too frequent and too familiar reception of the Eucharist and the sense that it is unjust and humiliating to ask people in irregular marriages to abstain from the Eucharist but still go to Church.

  14. “When I took the Host he gave me, the other one fell onto my hands….But while I was holding the Host in my hand, I felt such a power of love that for the rest of the day I could neither eat nor come to my senses. I heard these words from the Host: ‘I desired to rest in your hands, not only in your heart’.” (Faustina diary #76)
    Receiving in my hand I can kiss Him and love Him the more and my hand can touch my face where He laid in His flesh, blood, soul and divinity. The Lord looks at the hearts of men. One can show reverence outward and still not love Him. Receiving by mouth does not guarantee internal reverence and love for the Lord Christ. I do wish there would be a longer silence after receiving.

  15. Great article, though I would add one other thought. When I was growing up, singing at Mass was to offer glory and praise to God,,, not as a performance to get an applause. And growing up Byzantine Catholic, our Cantor faced the alter (as did the priest) leading us in song. Not facing us looking for approval.

  16. Excellent article with an excellent list of some of the actions needed to demonstrate what we claim to believe. This is a true service to provide such a good summary.

    However, since these “changes” are essential parts of the “ Vetus Ordo” which happens to be suddenly declared prohibited, anyone who tries to implement them will meet with condemnation by the current regime.

  17. In the mid-1940s, our Jefferson City [Missouri], parish had a wooden Holy Communion railing covered by a white linen cloth. If you put hands on the railing, you put them under the cloth.
    So, in addition to the priest’s ciborium, the altar boy’s metal paten, were the linen-covered railiing. Small or no chance that the Sacred Host would fall to the floor.
    Respect for the Sacred Host was extremely elegant

  18. Father – I agree with all that you had to say about us no longer having the signs and symbols that indicate the real Presence.

    I do not believe the midnight fast was onerous. Most people are in bed at midnight, and if you get up at 6 or 7 and go to 8 or 9 o’clock mass you are only fasting for a few waking hours.

    Also, I believe that Mr. Weigel inaccurately stated the strength of the bishops’ statement. It was not strong.

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