Skip to comments.Catholic Liturgy - Substituting the "Lamb of God"
Posted on 07/14/2004 2:29:16 AM PDT by NYer
ROME, JULY 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: It is common in my diocese for priests, after the Lamb of God, when the Missal reads "This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world ..." to substitute a different (but still true) title or description of Christ -- usually related to the Gospel of the day. For example, "This is Jesus, who today calls us to take up our cross and follow him ..." Is this permitted? -- C.S., Hamilton, New Zealand
A: The short answer to this, and to other similar questions regarding priests altering prescribed texts or composing new ones, is no.
But -- and there is a but -- in some countries and religious congregations, small additions have been made to these prayers with proper authorization from the Holy See.
The general principles involved are those announced in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 24-26.
No. 24 reminds priests that while some adaptations of the liturgy are possible these "consist for the most part in the choice of certain rites or texts, that is, of the chants, readings, prayers, explanations, and gestures that may respond better to the needs, preparation, and culture of the participants and that are entrusted to the priest celebrant. Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass."
Nos. 25 and 26 refer to other adaptations reserved to the diocesan bishop or to the episcopal conference which often require the definitive ratification of the Holy See.
The recent instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum" has also weighed in on the topic of unauthorized alterations in No. 31:
"In keeping with the solemn promises that they have made in the rite of Sacred Ordination and renewed each year in the Mass of the Chrism, let Priests celebrate 'devoutly and faithfully the mysteries of Christ for the praise of God and the sanctification of the Christian people, according to the tradition of the Church, especially in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.' They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions. For as St. Ambrose said, 'It is not in herself ... but in us that the Church is injured. Let us take care so that our own failure may not cause injury to the Church.' Let the Church of God not be injured, then, by Priests who have so solemnly dedicated themselves to the ministry. Indeed, under the Bishop's authority let them faithfully seek to prevent others as well from committing this type of distortion."
The document returns to this theme in Nos. 58 and 59: grounding the priest's obligation to respect the liturgical text on the rights of the faithful to a truly Catholic liturgy and on the authentic meaning of liturgy itself.
No. 58 says: "All of Christ's faithful likewise have the right to a celebration of the Eucharist that has been so carefully prepared in all its parts that the word of God is properly and efficaciously proclaimed and explained in it; that the faculty for selecting the liturgical texts and rites is carried out with care according to the norms; and that their faith is duly safeguarded and nourished by the words that are sung in the celebration of the Liturgy."
No. 59 continues: "The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy."
What is important to consider in the case presented is not so much whether the additions involved are theologically correct -- they might well be -- but the fact that an individual priest takes upon himself the role of changing what the Church has established.
By praying in words of his own choosing, and not those chosen by the Church, he, in a sense, betrays the "we" of the presidential prayers which make him the Church's representative before God and obscures the faithful's right to join through his ministry in the prayer of the universal Church.
Such acts are probably often done with the best of intentions and even spring from pastoral motives. But they are objectively acts of theological egotism that transform the common patrimony into an individual's private domain.
As mentioned above, this does not mean that the liturgy is totally untouchable; however, any changes must be made according to the proper procedures.
To take the present examples, some episcopal conferences, above all in Latin America, have, with the Holy See's approval, added the words "Jesus Christ" to the Agnus Dei so as to strengthen the people's faith in the real presence. The priest thus says: "This is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sins ..."
Other episcopal conferences, such as the Italian, have composed alternative opening prayers reflecting the readings of the day for the three Sunday Cycles.
Such concessions are particular and may only be used within the confines of the countries for which they have been approved.
All the same, they give an idea of the real possibilities for liturgical adaptation when done according to the mind of the Church.
There are many more illicit abuses being practiced throughout the diocese of
the world. Only some of the most common ones are listed here. Note that there is
no attempt to prioritize the abuses as to most to least common or any such
ranking. The abuse and the related Church teaching on the proper practice are
All the texts of the Mass - prayers, responses, Epistles, Gospel - must be
according to the norms approved by the Church. Under no circumstances can
anything be changed outside of the rules laid down by the Church. This is
clearly stated, even in Vatican II! The modernist usage of inclusive
language is getting more widespread.
Concilium #22: (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church,
that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. (2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain
defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops' conferences, legitimately
established, with competence in given territories. (3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything
in the liturgy on his own authority.
Canon 928 The eucharistic celebration
is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language,
provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved.
"Only the Eucharistic Prayers included in the Roman Missal or those that the
Apostolic See has by law admitted, in the manner and within the limits laid down by the
Holy See, are to be used. To modify the Eucharistic Prayers approved by the Church or to
adopt others privately composed is a most serious abuse."
Be aware that it is possible to invalidate the Mass if the key words of the
Eucharistic prayer are not properly performed as previously described. ("This is My Body" and
"This is ... My Blood")
Scott Hahns The Lamb's Supper - The Mass as Heaven on Earth.
Foreword by Fr. Benedict Groeschel.
Part One - The Gift of the Mass
Hahn begins by describing the first mass he ever attended.
"There I stood, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothers, slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn't feel sure that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest Christians, I'd found countless references to "the liturgy," "the Eucharist," "the sacrifice." For those first Christians, the Bible - the book I loved above all - was incomprehensible apart from the event that today's Catholics called "the Mass."
"I wanted to understand the early Christians; yet I'd had no experience of liturgy. So I persuaded myself to go and see, as a sort of academic exercise, but vowing all along that I would neither kneel nor take part in idolatry."
I took my seat in the shadows, in a pew at the very back of that basement chapel. Before me were a goodly number of worshipers, men and women of all ages. Their genuflections impressed me, as did their apparent concentration in prayer. Then a bell rang, and they all stood as the priest emerged from a door beside the altar.
Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical Calvinist, I'd been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a ritural that purported to "resacrifice Jesus Christ." So I would remain an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.
As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn't just beside me. It was before me - in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, "Hey, can I explain what's happening from Scripture? This is great!" Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: "This is My body . . . This is the cup of My blood."
Then I felt all my doubt drain away. As I saw the priest raise that white host, I felt a prayer surge from my heart in a whisper: "My Lord and my God. That's really you!"
I was what you might call a basket case from that point. I couldn't imagine a greater excitement than what those words had worked upon me. Yet the experience was intensified just a moment later, when I heard the congregation recite: "Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God," and the priest respond, "This is the Lamb of God . . ." as he raised the host. In less than a minute, the phrase "Lamb of God" had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn't ready for this, though - I was at Mass!
This practice is so widespread--it is done by cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons--that most of the faithful think these ad-libs are part of the liturgy.
They seem to have no objection, so it will likely continue.
What--someone has to file a formal complaint, notarized and witnessed, time-stamped, with copy served by process-server to get Bishops, Cardinals, and priests to actually do what's required?
I certainly hope that your love of the GIRM (and the other instructions on the Liturgy) preclude you from APPROVING this silliness.
I actually have no problem with this, and even do it myself, at the Penitential Rite, and during Baptisms, to explain what is happening and the significance of each portion of the baptismal rite.
Changing the words in the Sacramentary, no. But adding a few here and there to tie in with the Gospel... I'll take my cues from the bishops, who don't seem in a big hurry to put an end to it themselves.
BTW, I've seen embellishments to the Penitential Rite at Papal Masses.
I think what I most often hear is "This is Jesus, the Lamb of God,... "
The second way actually seems a little clearer to me, but maybe it's because it's what I'm used to.
Well, then, you can't really claim to 'love the GIRM' (which by extension includes all pertinent Instructions.)
This is quite simple--it's a zero or a one.
And it is irrelevant to the discussion whether the Vatican leftyliturgywonk emplaces such foolishness in Papal ceremonies. We know who he is (you posted an NCR article about him...) and he's a jerk.
"Well, THEY do it" is precisely the excuse my children have tried to use--as I assume yours may have, too. What was YOUR reaction to that one?
Yes! I have read most of Scott Hahn's books or listened to his tapes and it never gets old. I have re-read some quite a few times....
When the guys who write the rules don't observe the rules, what is one to think of the rules?
Niner, I can't name one priest, off the top of my head, who doesn't, on occasion, add some commentary or words to some part of the Mass. I've even seen it done on EWTN!!
If the bishops want it to stop, they need to stop doing it themselves.
Or "This is Jesus, the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world, happy are those....."
And "my brothers and sisters" has been around so long, I can't remember when I last heard "My brethren."
I guess the whole idea that Jesus being the Lamb as part of a sacrafice needs to be explained a little more thoroughly.
"What--someone has to file a formal complaint, notarized and witnessed, time-stamped, with copy served by process-server to get Bishops, Cardinals, and priests to actually do what's required?"
Bishops, cardinals, and priests can disregard liturgical law, canon law or anything else they wish. Complaints don't help (except of course when priests are being too traditional).
Only us schmucks in the back pews are required to follow the rules.
I think you are missing the pattern of leftist thought. They only demand strict adherence to those norms which are considered sufficiently liberal. They have no problem playing fast and loose with "rules" which are just too constrictive or "outdated", or which are still tainted with the old theology (the few that are left).
After all, they have found in the past that if they simply don't pay attention to this or that rule for long enough, the rule will be changed or completely eliminated.
Not all the abuses drive me crazy, but this one does.
I've heard some really weird things during this
special and sacred moment in the Mass.
I attended a Legion of Mary congress one time where the priest came up with this stunner, "This is Jesus, Son of Mary. Happy are we who walk in their shoes."
All during Communion the song "Walk a mile in my shoes" was going through my head!
And this same priest insisted that a layman give the homily. It was Father's Day, and this layman was the father of a large family. Father wanted him to tell us what "being a father is all about" (as if he himself didn't know he was a father, too!) The Legion officials refused to budge, and poor Father finally gave up, but invited the man up after Communion to give a "reflection".
The whole Mass was sprinkled with irregularities.
Disobedience is a sin, period.
And it's especially ugly coming from a priest.
How about this classic: "These boots were made for walkin'"
They may not drive you crazy but they should definitely make you upset. It may seem repetitive on my part to keep referencing Bruce Sabalaskey's document "Is Your Mass Valid" , but you, as a catholic, have a right to a valid liturgy. That said ....
Before getting into the specific abuses, it is important to understand the rules for celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These rules are officially called rubrics. These rubrics are contained in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), and many clarifications have been made in other documents such as Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum).
The most serious type of abuse makes the Mass "invalid." For a Mass to be invalid, the Consecration of the Eucharist does not occur. Going to an invalid Mass is like not attending Mass at all since Jesus is not physically present via the miracle of transubstantiation. The issue of fulfilling the Sunday obligation under such a circumstance will be dealt with later in this article.
The lesser abuse is called "illicit." These type of abuses are less serious and do not cause the failure of the Consecration of the Eucharist. There are a wide variety of these types of abuses which detract from the holiness and reverence in the Mass. However, an illicit Mass can still be a valid (as opposed to invalid) Mass.
In general, experimentation is gravely wrong, as stated in Vatican II's Instruction on the Orderly Carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy (Liturgicae Instaurationes):
"The effectiveness of liturgy does not lie in experimenting with rites and altering them over and over, nor in a continuous reductionism, but solely in entering more deeply into the word of God and the mystery being celebrated. It is the presence of these two that authenticates the Church's rites, not what some priest decides, indulging his own preferences."
"Keep in mind, then, that the private recasting of ritual introduced by an individual priest insults the dignity of the believer and lays the way open to individual and idiosyncratic forms in celebrations that are in fact the property of the whole Church."
Abuses of any kind causes scandal, meaning that such practices are obstructions to a person's way to increased Faith (see Matthew 18:6-9). As Inaestimabile Donum says, "The use of unauthorized texts means a loss of the necessary connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi" (translation: people believe as they pray).
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.