Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mass - something to do or see?

Here is an interesting reflection from an article by R. Kevin Seasoltz on Eucharistic Devotions and Reservation. Kevin ponders the effect that certain liturgical actions (maybe devotional actions) have on our perception of the Eucharist. The fundamental question - is Eucharist something we do or something we see? Here's a paragraph from the article:

"In the high Middle Ages there developed quarrels over the exact moment in which the bread and wine were changed into the body and blood of Christ. Clearly the focus of attention was not on the liturgy of the Mass itself, but rather on the understanding of real presence and the transformation that took place in the bread and wine. Such theological debates encouraged developments in the manner and meaning of elevating the host at Mass, a practice which provides the earliest example of eucharistic exposition.

The exaggerated emphasis on the text of institution as constituting the consecratory moment in the Mass, at least in western theology and practice, resulted in an overshadowing and obscuring of the other essential components of the Eucharistic Prayer, such as thanksgiving, invocation of the Holy Spirit, memorial, and praise. This is certainly a problem that continues down to the present time. Instead of treating the proclamation of the institution narrative as a ritual narrative and an integral part of the Eucharistic Prayer, some presiders tend to transform the text and accompanying gestures into a mime, thus giving the impression that they are literally Christ presiding at the Last Supper. This is surely not the meaning of Vatican II's assertion that the priest acts 'in persona Christi capitis' (that he functions in the person of Christ as head of the body).

It is significant that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal prescribes only one elevation in the Eucharistic Prayer and that at the conclusion of the doxology. At the preparation of the gifts, at the text of institution and at the communion of the assembly, the presider shows the elements to the people, he does not elevate them. However, it is not uncommon today for priests to elevate the host and chalice after the texts of consecration and then protract both the elevations and accompanying genuflections, thus turning the gestures into what appears as a rite of benediction. Liturgical ministers should not inject their own private devotions into the public celebration of the liturgy."

1 comment:

  1. "Is the Eucharist something we do or we see?"...after reading this a second time I realized(?) you're referring to the actions of the celebrant.

    You also allude to the distinction between 'devotion' and 'liturgy'...which I think is a distinction that is glossed over. My opinion is that if this was more clearly understood it would benefit us all.

    Very recently I drilled down on this matter in a post about 'The Divine Office' and the laity's participation...'Confessions of a Liturgical Pray-er'

    Peace and all good.