Now all this 'spiritual nourishment' is effected, not on an altar, but on a table. An altar stone containing relics is no longer required. Tabernacles are no longer to be placed on these tables - indeed, if they were, the president would have great trouble addressing his congregation. The six candles used at High Mass, and which recall the Jewish Menorah (candle stick), with Christ, 'The Light of the World' being the central and seventh 'candle,' are gone. No longer does the priest face the crucifix which is, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) is 'the principle ornament of the altar... placed to remind the celebrant and the people that the Victim offered on the altar is the same as was offered on the Cross,' and 'which must be placed on the altar as often as Mass is celebrated.' Instead, the president now faces a microphone! (Some conservative priests have a cross lying flat on the table, but such is not mandated.) No longer is the altar covered with three linen or hemp cloths to absorb any possible spillage of Our Lord's Blood - cloths symbolic of the shrouds in which Our Lord's Body was wrapped. Nor is there any requirement to use linen - any material will do. As for the priest-president, he no longer says the Lavabo inter innocentes... ('I will wash my hands among the innocent, and will encompass Thy altar, O Lord'). Instead, he now recites a single verse from Psalm 50 in which no altar is mentioned and in which he simply asks for God to forgive his sins. The sacred vessels are no longer handled only by sacristans or those in Holy Orders, but by laymen, often chosen from the congregation at random. Nor are the vessels any longer made of precious metals and covered with a veil, symbolic of their mysterious and sacred character. At the end of the 'meal' the 'cup' need not be purified at once; its purification can be deferred to a later time. In some places (in accord with 'optional' rubrics) it is handed unpurified to a layman who places it off on a side table. Altar rails are gone so that the sanctuary is joined to the nave - the distinction between the sacred enclosure and the world is obliterated in the same manner as that between the priest and the layman. Communion is received in the hand and standing - if not distributed in a basket. Kissing the 'table' is done but twice, and not before every blessing and Dominus vobiscum as before. Signs of the Cross are reduced to 3. but by now, one is hardly surprised. As Cranmer said: 'An altar is for a sacrifice, a table is for a meal.'
The priest facing the people
All this is done with the priest facing the congregation. He is no longer an intermediary between God and man, but the 'president' of an assembly, presiding at the table around which the faithful are to gather and 'refresh' themselves at the 'memorial supper.' (All phrases from the General Instruction.) At great expense altars were destroyed and replaced by tables placed - at least symbolically - there no longer being any distinction between the sanctuary and the nave - in the center of the community.
Why this extraordinary change. Cardinal Lercaro, the president of the Consilium, informed us that this 'makes for a celebration of the Eucharist which is true and more communal...' (DOL 428). Paul VI approved the new arrangement because it was now 'placed for dialogue with the assembly,' and because it was one of the things that made the Sunday Mass, 'not so much an obligation, but a pleasure; not just fulfilled as a duty, but claimed as a right' (DOL 430).
The significance of the positional change of the president is very great. How can a priest perform a Sacrifice to God as both an alter Christus and an intermediary between man and God, when he is facing the 'ontological' congregation? Many religions other than Catholicism have sacrificial rites, but in none of them is this inversion seen. And within the Catholic tradition there is no more precedent for the priest facing the congregation than there is for the laity gathering around the table to partake of a 'paschal meal.' Can anyone imagine the High Priest of the Jews acting this way before the Holy of Holies? Can one imagine a child asking his father's forgiveness while facing his school-friends? Be this as it may, this inversion once again makes the non-sacrificial nature of the Novus Ordo Missae clear.
It is totally false to claim that the practice of the priest facing the people is a return to primitive practice. At the last Supper, the Apostles did not sit around the table in some casual manner, but, rather, as in any solemn Jewish feast, they sat facing the Temple of Jerusalem. As Msgr. Klaus Gamber, Director of the Liturgical Institute at Regensburg states, 'there never was a celebration versus populum (facing the people) in either the Eastern or Western church. Instead, there was a turning towards the east.' Not surprisingly, it was Martin Luther who first suggested this inversion. It is true that there were certain churches in which the priest did incidentally 'face the people,' but this was because architectural restrictions occasionally imposed this necessity in order to have the altar placed over a particularly sacred tomb - as with St. Peter's and St. Cecilia's in Rome. Father Louis Bouyer in his Liturgy and Architecture has conclusively shown that there is absolutely no evidence from antiquity that the priest ever faced the people when saying Mass for any reason. Those who talk of returning to early Christianity - be they reformers or post-Conciliar theologians - would do well to remember our Lord's complain made through the mouth of the Prophet Jeremias: 'They have turned their backs to Me, and not their faces'(2:20).
The truth of the matter is that the priest has, whenever possible, faced the east. And this, as St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, because: 1) The way in which the heavens move from East to West symbolizes God's majesty; 2) It symbolizes our desire to return to paradise, and 3) Christ, the Light of the world, is expected to return from the East. (Summa, II-II, Q 84, 3 ad. 3)
Despite all this, Paul VI assures us that 'nothing essential has been changed in the Mass.'
CHAPTER XII, part 15
THE LITURGICAL REVOLUTION
Can we accept a doubtful consecration?
It is hard to see how conservative Novus ordo Catholics can argue that the changes in the Mass, and above all, the changes in the consecratory formula, have not rendered the Mass invalid. Certainly, in the face of the evidence given, they must agree that the matter is open to debate. But if it is open to debate, there is doubt - and above all, there is doubt with regard to the form of the Consecration.
Under such circumstances, Catholics are obliged to abstain from any participation in such rites. Listen to what Catholic theologians have said about using a doubtful form of a sacrament: 'The very raising of questions or doubts about the validity of a given manner of confection a sacrament - if this question is based on an apparent defect of matter or form - would necessitate the strict abstention from use of that doubtful manner of performing the sacramental act, until the doubts are resolved. In confecting the sacrament, all priests are obliged to follow the 'medium certum' (the certain means).'
'Matter and Form must be certainly valid. Hence one may not follow a probable opinion and use either doubtful matter or form. Acting otherwise, one commits a sacrilege.'
No wonder then that traditional theologians like J. M. Herve instruct the priest to: 'Omit nothing of the form, add nothing, change nothing; Beware of transmuting, corrupting or interrupting the words.'
In what way is the Eucharist the sacrament of unity?
The post-Conciliar Church repeatedly tells us that the Eucharist is the 'sacrament of unity.' One must be careful how one understands this perfectly legitimate phrase. The traditional Church teaches that only Catholics in state of Grace can worthily receive the Sacred Species. Unity is, by definition, a characteristic of the true Church, and those who have the privilege of receiving communion from her, partake of that unity.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, the post-Conciliar concept of 'unity' is vastly different. The new Church envisions itself as having lost 'unity' with those outside itself due in large part to its own failings. It seeks to re-establish this unity by a false ecumenism - by asking those separated from her to join he in partaking of the Eucharistic sacrament without in any way demanding that they accept the fullness of the Catholic faith or that they be in a state of grace. And so it naturally follows that in the post-Conciliar Church, non Catholics are allowed to receive the Eucharist providing they show 'some sign of belief in these sacraments consonant with the faith of the Church'(DOL 1022, 1029). 'Some sign of belief' is, to say the least, a vague phrase. And further, it is unclear whether this consonant belief is to be with the traditional teaching of the Church, or only in the warped post-conciliar theology. Certainly, if our 'separated brethren' had full belief, they would become Catholics. But many Protestants who are in a state of mortal sin can be said to have 'some sign of belief' in the Eucharist. Be that as it may, non-Catholics are now permitted to communicate at the post-Conciliar rite, and this is enshrined both in practice and in the New Code of Canon Law. And why shouldn't this be so when one considers the following text taken from the documents of Vatican II.
'The Ecclesial Communities separated from us do not have the full unity with us that derives from baptism... Nevertheless, when in the Lord's Supper they commemorate His death and resurrection, they attest to the sign of the life in communion with Christ and await His glorious Second Coming'(Decree on Ecumenism).
The General Instruction and Paul VI's definition of the Mass
So far we have shown that everything in the new 'mass' points in one direction. It was created to accommodate the Protestants, and to foster that unity which is the 'internal mission' of the new Church. Hence it implicitly or explicitly denies the sacrificial nature of the Mass. But there is more. The General Instruction on the Novus Ordo insists that it is not the priest-president who celebrates the rite, but rather the 'people of God', or the 'community.' And why not, if, as Vatican II states, 'salvation is a communitarian' affair? We shall now examine this General Instruction and above all the definition of the Mass it contains.
The General Instruction serves as a sort of preface to the new rite and was promulgated along with it in Paul VI's Constitution Missale Romanum. It is to be found in the new Missals in the same location that the Quo Primum and De defectibus occupied in the old. According to the Sacred congregation of Divine Worship, 'the Instruction is an accurate resume and application of those doctrinal principles and practical norms on the Eucharist that are contained in the Conciliar Constitution...' and 'seeks to provide guidelines for catechises of the faithful and to offer the main criteria for Eucharistic celebration...' Cardinal Villot is even more specific: 'The General Instruction is not a mere collection of rubrics, but rather a synthesis of theological, ascetical [and] pastoral principles that are indispensable to a doctrinal knowledge of the Mass, to its celebration, its catechises, and its pastoral dimensions'(DOL 1780).
In view of all this it is difficult to agree with Michael Davies' contention that the Novus Ordo Missae must be judged independently of the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum which contains the General Instruction. On the contrary, if we are to understand the new rite, we must have recourse to this General Instruction - even if it is, as Michael Davies says, 'one of the most deplorable documents ever approved by any Supreme Pontiff.' Moreover, it should be clear that, regardless of who actually wrote it, it is Paul VI who promulgated it in his official capacity.
Now, according to paragraph 7 and 8 of this document
7) 'The Lord's Supper or Mass is the sacred assembly or congregation of the people of God gathering together, with a priest presiding, in order to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason Christ's promise applies supremely to such a local gathering together of the Church: 'Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.'(Matt. 1:20) (DOL 1397)'
8) 'The Mass is made up as it were of the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist, two parts so closely connected that they form but one single act of worship. for in the the table of God's word and of Christ's body is laid for the people of God to receive from it instruction and food. There are also certain rites to open and conclude the celebration.(DOL 1398)'
In the traditional Mass it is clearly the priest alone who celebrates; the Real Presence is effected independently of, and regardless of, whether or not an 'assembly' is present. In the above definition however, the phrase 'with a priest presiding' is by no means essential to what occurs. One has only to leave it out to see that the action of the rite is performed by the 'assembly or congregation of the people of God gathered together.' Other sentences of the General Instruction add weight to such an interpretation. Thus paragraph 60 states that the priest 'joins the people to himself in offering the sacrifice' and 62 that 'the people of God... offer the victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also together with him.' The point is continuously stressed within the rite itself by the insistent use of 'we' in all the prayers.
The concept of 'presiding,' despite the fact that it is found in Justin Martyr, is innovative. The verb 'to preside' comes from the Latin prae-sedere, which means literally to 'sit in the first place,' and signifies, as Webster's Dictionary states, 'to occupy the place of authority, as a president, chairman, moderator, etc.' To preside at an action in no way means to accomplish the action personally - indeed, in almost every situation where a person 'presides' he is isolated from the action performed. The president of the French Assembly doesn't even cast a vote! Nor does the President of the U.S. Senate, except when there is a need to break a tie. further, one can hardly avoid the political implications of the term.
The Mass is made equivalent to the Lord's Supper. While the phrase can be found in Scripture (I Cor. 11:20), it is in no way part of Catholic theological tradition. Indeed, the phrase 'Lord's Supper' was specifically used by the Reformers to distinguish their services from the Catholic Mass. To state that they are equivalent is, to say the least, offensive to pious ears.
Far worse is the statement that 'Christ's promise applies supremely to such a local gathering... Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst.' Let the meaning be clear. If this is accepted, Christ is no more present at Paul VI's 'mass' than he is when a father joins his children for evening prayers! One is reminded of Cranmer's statement when this issue was brought up with regard to the Anglican (Episcopal in America) rite: 'Christ is present whensoever the church prayeth unto Him, and is gathered together in His name...'
Many were horrified by this definition. As the Critical Study of the NOM by the Roman Theologians stated, it in no way implied 'either the Real Presence, or the reality of the sacrifice, or the sacramental function of the consecrating priest or the intrinsic value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice independent of the people's presence... In a word, it does not imply any of the essential dogmatic values of the Mass.'
In an attempt to obviate this and other criticisms which the Critical Study presented, a second version of the General Instruction was promulgated (1970). That this was in fact a 'white wash' is quite clear; those responsible (ultimately, once again, Paul VI) stated that in reviewing the initial version 'they found no doctrinal errors.' It should be added that no change in the rite itself was made.
'A review of the General Instruction both before and after its publication by the Fathers and periti of the Consilium found no reason for changing the arrangement of the material or any error in doctrine'(DOL 1371).
Indeed, that they changed it at all was 'in order to avoid difficulties of all kinds, and in order to make certain expressions clearer...' they assured us that absolutely 'no innovations were introduced' into the second version and that the 'amendments were few in number, sometimes of little importance, or concerned only with style'(DOL 1371). Yet the amended version did its task. Despite such clear cut statements, and despite the fact that it in no way 'clarified' expressions, but rather obfuscated them, the conservative Novus Ordo Catholics found it mollified their consciences. Let us consider how the definition reads now: 'At Mass or the Lord's supper, the people of God are called together, with a priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord or eucharistic sacrifice. For this reason Christ's promise applies supremely...'
A careful reading of this changed definition will show that its authors were correct when they said that 'no innovations were introduced' (one must smile at the innovators expressing themselves in this manner) and that 'the amendments were only a matter of style.'
First of all, the Mass is still made equivalent to the Lord's supper. Moreover, this is a persistent pattern. the complaint of the Roman theologians holds true of both versions of the General Instruction. Throughout both, as they said, the mass 'is designated by a great many different expressions, all acceptable relatively, all unacceptable if employed as they are separately and in an absolute sense.' the study cited as examples: 'The Action of Christ and of the People of God, The Lord's Supper or Mass; the Paschal Banquet; the common participation in the Lord's table; the memorial of the Lord; the eucharistic Prayer; the Liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, etc.'
The phrase which speaks of 'presidency' is still unessential to the definition. What has been added is that the priest is 'acting in the person of Christ.' but the priest can do this in a variety of ways, as for example, when he teaches, exhorts, councils, or exorcizes in the name of the Lord; and hence no substantial change in meaning results. Other parts of the emended Instruction, despite the insertion of several ambiguous allusions, in no way contradict this definition. In order to avoid the accusation that I have either misinterpreted the definition or misjudged the document, allow me to give two statements taken from books used in post-Conciliar seminaries - both have the semi-official approval of the new church. The first, Father Richstatter's Liturgical Law Today: 'The priest also sees his relation to the laity in a new perspective. The priest is no longer the one 'officially delegated' to perform a clerical action in which the people are invited to participate. for example, the second edition of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal systematically refuses to speak of the priest as 'the celebrant': as though the priest alone celebrates. It is the community who celebrates the liturgy [my emphasis]. The priest celebrating has different responsibilities than the laity, but it is not the priest alone who celebrates. the priest sees his role more as a leadership role within an action which belongs to the community.'
Again, consider the following quote from the commentary on the General Instruction which was written and edited, among others, by Father Martin Patino, one of the members of the Consilium who assisted in preparing the new Order of the Mass: 'The [New] mass is not an act of the priest with whom the people unite themselves, as it used to be explained. The Eucharist is, rather an act of the people, whom the ministers serve by making the Saviour present sacramentally... This former formulation, which corresponds to the classical theology of recent centuries was rejected because it placed what was relative and ministerial (the hierarchy) above what was ontological and absolute (the people of God).'
A further change, or rather, addition, was made in the definition given in paragraph 7 of the new Instruction. After the quotation from Matthew it added: 'For the celebration of Mass, which perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross, Christ is really present to the assembly gathered in his name; he is present in the person of the minister, in his own word, and indeed substantially and permanently under the eucharistic elements.'
Once again, there is nothing in these ambiguous phrases that would offend a Protestant. Nowhere are we informed that the celebration involved is other than a memorial - and the word 'memorial,' like the phrase 'the Lord's Supper,' is another Reformation term used to distinguish a Protestant service from the Catholic Mass. The new Instruction states that the Mass'perpetuates' the Sacrifice of the Cross; this is another bit of ecumenical sleight-of-hand. the traditional expression is that the Mass renews the Sacrifice of the Cross. further, the Instruction states that Christ is 'really' present, as much in the assembly as in the priest and in his words. Nothing suggests to us that he is any more present in any other parties or 'elements' than he is in the assembly of the people. Some may argue that the reference to His 'substantial and continued presence in the eucharistic elements' suffices to remove all doubt about the orthodoxy of the definition. but this 'substantial' presence is in no way differentiated from His 'presence' in the assembly or the priest-president. Moreover, the use of the term 'perpetual' suggests that no 'change' has occurred. One is reminded of Luther's comment that 'if Jesus is present everywhere, perhaps he is also present in the Eucharist.'
Conservatives who would defend the new 'mass' may also contend that the General Instruction itself nowhere specifically states that the people confect the sacrament. This indeed is true. for in fact, in no place does the Instruction state that a sacrament is confected. What exactly do the people of god do? 'They gather together to celebrate the memorial of the Lord OR the eucharistic sacrifice.' The text does not say AND the eucharistic sacrifice, and clearly implies once again that such is in no way different from the memorial of the Lord as Protestants understand it. Moreover, the term 'Eucharist' literally means 'thanksgiving,' and this ambiguity makes it possible once again, to bring the entire definition into line with Protestant theology, according to which the 'sacrifice' is only one of 'praise and thanksgiving,' and never one of propitiation or immolation. Looking elsewhere in the Instruction is not much help. such phrases as 'the Mass is the culminating action by which God in Christ sanctifies the world and men adore the Father...' or 'the eucharistic Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification is the center of the entire celebration,' if anything, confirm the Protestant orientation of the rite.
Looking briefly at Paragraph 8 of the Instruction (unchanged), one finds nothing to contradict what we have said up to now. As noted previously, the division of the rite into the 'Liturgy of the Word' and the 'Liturgy of the Eucharist' implies that the word of God is only found in Scripture, and that the 'Word (Logos - another name for Jesus Christ) is not made flesh. The term Eucharist, meaning thanksgiving, allows one to see the second part of the service as only a 'sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.' (And nothing in the rite itself would lead us to believe differently.) Now this second paragraph affirms that the entire affair is carried out on a 'table,' and that from this 'table' the faithful are 'instructed' and 'fed.' Once again, this is fully in line with the Protestant idea that the function of a minister is primarily to instruct. While 'Food' can have a spiritual connotation, its use in this situation is more consistent with the breaking of the brief post-conciliar fast with a little bread and wine. Once again, Protestantism prevails -indeed, triumphs.
Other changes were made in the revised Instruction. A Forward was added which feebly attempted to reiterate the teaching of Trent on the Mass, but at the same time the Forward or Introduction insisted once again that it is the 'people' who are responsible for the celebration of the NOM: 'for the celebration of the Eucharist is the action of the whole Church... they are a people called to offer god the prayers of the entire human family, a people giving thanks in Christ for the mystery of salvation by offering His sacrifice.' The net impression left is that the second version of the Instruction does little (if anything) to affirm orthodoxy or to assure us of the reality of the Consecration. Indeed, all it does - and such was its intent - is to provide conservative Catholics the opportunity of mollifying their consciences. It should further be noted that, while Paul VI may have made his belief in the Catholic teaching on the Mass explicit in other documents or speeches, this in no way changes the immediate situation. What is important is that nowhere in the NOM or the General Instruction is such a belief made specific.
Conservative post-Conciliar Catholics argue two ways - 1) that the General Instruction in no way affects the validity of the NOM, and 2) that the changes in the second version of the General Instruction somehow make the rite acceptable and capable of being interpreted in an orthodox manner. Whatever position they take, they cannot deny that both the NOM and the General Instruction are ingenious and masterful compilations of ambiguity aimed at obfuscating Catholic teaching and propagating Protestant unbeliefs. Indeed, one has to express a certain amazement and awe at the skill with which this has been achieved. 'The children of the world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.'
Passing mention should be made of the changes mandated in the Missal of 1959 by John XXIII, popularly called the 'Mass of John XXIII,' the Mass of the 'Indult'. Many of the changes in this Mass were significant, even radical for the time. It was initially introduced 1) as the first step; down the slippery path to the NOM; 2) to introduce the faithful to the idea that their time-honored rites could be changed, and 3) to determine how strong the resistance to the new rite would be. It became obsolete three years later with the additional changes introduced to accustom us to the NOM, and has recently been brought back by an 'Indult' in order to give the faithful the impression that the present hierarchy is returning to tradition. Many falsely advertise this Indult mass as the Tridentine or traditional Mass. It is not. It is the Mass of John XXIII. Moreover, the Indult requires that those who take advantage of it, accept without reservation the 'doctrinal soundness and legitimacy' of the NOM; the teachings of Vatican II, and that have no connection with groups that do not. Some 'bishops' insist that those attending these celebrations must first sign a statement to this effect. Even those who do not sign such a statement implicitly accept the terms of the Indult. (This is to say nothing of accepting priests whose ordinations are open to question - after all the current ordination rite confers on priest-presidents the power to 'celebrate the liturgy' and not to say the Mass.) Once again, this rite should not be confused with the so-called Tridentine or traditional Mass. Nor should the unwary be fooled by the term 'Latin Mass' which may well be nothing else than the Latin version of the heretical NOM. One is reminded of the fact that Cranmer had his rite translated into Latin for the benefit of those at Oxford University who wanted their worship to be in Latin.
One thing is clear: however ecumenical the post-Conciliar Church is, one group it will have nothing to do with is the traditional Catholics. John Paul II has participated in every conceivable rite, be it Islamic, Buddhist, Lutheran, Jewish or whatever. but he has never participated in or approved of the traditional Mass. Notwithstanding all the debate about 'abrogation' or the status of the Apostolic Bull Quo Primum, the traditional Mass is forbidden. As Paul VI said, the NOM was created to 'replace' it. The attitude of the post-Conciliar hierarchy parallels that of Cromwell, the ravisher of Ireland:
'I had rather that Mahometanism were permitted amongst us than that one of God's children should be persecuted... I meddle not with any man's conscience. But if by liberty of conscience you mean a liberty to exercise the Mass, I judge it best to use plain dealing and to let you know... that will not be allowed of'(English Liberty, 1650).
Some are willing to concede all that I have said but proclaim the NOM to be a true and Catholic Mass because it was promulgated by a valid pope. This however is a two-way argument. It the NOM is in fact a false rite, it is prima facie proof that the person promulgating it was not acting as the Vicar of Christ, but acting on his own. I have already called attention to the use of 'institutional violence' in its introduction. According to Plato, he who governs other than by divine right, acts as a despot.