Monday, 26 November 2007

All change at St Peter's

Fr Ray clued me in to the fact that it isn't only lace which has reappeared in St Peter's. As you can clearly see, (click the pics to enlarge) over a beautiful frontal embroidered with Pope Leo's arms, a 'big six' is now fully back in its proper position, with a crucifix in the centre, instead of being huddled to one end in a rather embarrassed way. The only thing that is rather strange is that there isn't a seventh candle as there should be when the bishop of the diocese celebrates solemnly. Even Paul VI used to use three stumpy candles in one corner and four in another, if my memory does not play me false. But let's give him time……
And while he's looking for wherever Noe or Marini (1st edn) has hidden that seventh candle, perhaps he might give some thought to two other points. The first is this awful deposition of the chair—though a splendid piece of carpentry, one can scarcely call it a throne—which you can see the Sanpietrini carrying away like a stage prop. The seat of a bishop is such a potent sign, and the seat of Peter all the more so, that simply to treat it like a bit of furniture that can be moved aside for the dancing is symbolically very impoverished. Can't he sit in, or at least towards the apse, as of old, even if he won't go right to Bernini's Chair at the back (yet)?
And there there is that awful business of priests (& deacons?) holding ciboria which the Holy Father has to consecrate as it were from a distance. Is the consecration really valid if the celebrant can't even see the ciborium? There has to be a better answer. Does everyone really have to go to Communion, and does every Host have to be consecrated by the Pope? Couldn't Communion be distributed at the side altars from the reserved Sacrament? Sure, I know it's desireable to receive from Hosts consecrated at that Mass, but surely common sense would suggest that it isn't always practical or fitting.
But these are (relatively) minor points which I'm sure the Holy Father will sort out all in good time. I just thank God that there is a pretty good chance he will turn his attention to them when he can. I used to think 'change and decay in all around I see', but now I tend to hum 'changed from glory into glory' and 'God bless our Pope, the great, the good'!


Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Father, you have hit the nail on the head.

I love Pope Benedict, but I don't love that upholstered white chair.

Could I leave the following comment, in the hope that Mons. Guido Marini might read it ?
(Well, you never know.)

At last, a fitting papal throne for Pope Benedict !

Couldn't it be sited in the apse, in front of Bernini's glorious Cathedra Petri ?

It seems a shame to lock it away in a store room somewhere.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not just concerned with lace Father, but "continuity". You make some very important points, especiallyt about the chair, and consecration.

Berolinensis said...

Father, I am glad you raised the point of the hosts held by the priests at the sides. I have been wondering about this for quite a while. I am by no means a sacramental theologian, but I do think this is problematic in several ways. There must be some limit regarding distance, and as you say, visibility seems also to be an issue. It is difficult to describe an intention that extends to determined hosts that cannot even be seen. Since this concerns the validity of the consecration, it is not a minor point either. I am sure that this was all thought about before adopting this manner, but I would really like to have it explained to me.
On the other hand, the concelebrating cardinals who don't go up to the altar are even farther away from the hosts on the altar and still they are considered to be consecrating them - also kind of a stretch, no? Then again, in the extraordinary form, at an ordination, the new priests also concelebrate without seeing the host at all. However, at least they know exactly where they are, viz. on the corporal.

Thorny issues.

As you say, that could be avoided. It surely is one of the plagues of our time that everyone thoughtlessly walks up to communion. At big papal outdoor Masses, where you have no control over who is there, whether they are even Catholic etc., I am afraid some sacrileges occur, as was evidenced by that story about someone who tried to sell a Host consecrated by Pope John Paul via ebay. I thinkt it is high time to recognise that, while communion at Mass is highly desirable (if properly disposed - here is a field of urgently needed catechesis), there are times where it is not practical. The huge papal affairs seem to be one of these occassions.

As for the chair: I think the throne we saw at the consistory and thrones like it were never used during Mass. Instead, a simpler but high-back chair, covered in white or red cloth was used.

Here used by Pius XII:


Paul VI:

I think the Pope could well return to this (perhaps - although not if I am to decide ;-) - with a few less steps and drapery).

ADV said...

The matter of consecration... Father, you are the first person I noticed raising an issue of 'substance'. I also noticed the ciboria on the altar were not all on the corporal? Am I correct in assuming that at one time all the elements to be consecrated had to be and if so why not now?

JB said...

I'm so glad this question has been brought up; this is one major problem that I have with Papal Masses; during televised Masses seeing priests and nuns standing in the congregation far away from the altar (not even in the Sanctuary!) holding a ciborium filled with Hosts awaiting the Consecration: I’ve even seen priests/seminarians processing out of St. Peters with the Ciboriums whist the Consecration is actually taking place.

I'm sure I've read somewhere, but I can't for the life of me remember where (if only I could!!), that only the Hosts which are present on the corporal are actually consecrated. If this is not the case then how is it that the Hosts which are not even near the altar during a Papal Mass are consecrated but not the extra Hosts which the priest at my parish removed from the ciborium this morning and placed on the credence table before the offertory? And if distance from the corporal does not affect Consecration, than surely dubious people who require Hosts for nefarious purposes can sit in the pews with a Host and await the Consecration, then leave. I’ve been meaning to ask my priest about this; meanwhile, I hope that someone here can help me out.

Cynic said...

I seem to recall it being decreed in JPII's time that you could receive the plenary indulgence associated with the Apostolic Blessing if you were watching on TV (provided it was live - no sneaky videoing and then getting a plenary indulgence any time you wanted by just replaying the tape!)

Now there's the answer to the shortage of priests! If elements can be consecrated without the consecrator being able to see, or being anywhere near, the ciborium or chalice, but merely by the elements being in some way "involved in" the liturgical action, why not just get everyone to stick a wafer and a glass of wine in front of the telly and let them be consecrated over the airwaves?

The only problem I can see is that you'd have to licence the entire Catholic population as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, but surely we're half way there already?

Philip said...

Excellent post, Father! I hope that the Holy Father will reform matters liturgical, so that the whole building, once again, fulfills its vocation and the Pope is sat in the place of the ceremonial throne of Peter, at the liturgical east end. As for six candle power... it rocks (as does seven candle power, or course).

Please write to Rome and inform them of their liturgical errors! ;-) Joking aside, though, things just seem to be getting better and better. The "Beauty of Holiness" is back! I just wish my PP was in the loop. If I hear that bl**dy "Gathering Mass" one more time... argh!

Fr Justin said...

Thanks, Philip. But you're not alone; my parish sing that wretched Gadarene Mass every other Sunday. I hate it, but somehow, there are more important battles to be fought. We'll get there in time±

Philip said...

Very true. Catechesis is a huge problem where I am. While I accept one can become overly 'precious' about certain matters, I was rather stunned by the behaviour of a (cradle) Catholic a few weeks ago who, having received Holy Communion, walked back from the altar overtly chewing the Host and talking (to her husband) with the Host still visible in her mouth.

Somerimes, I think that I'm the only one who sees such behaviour as scandalous and irreverent. While I would never, in a million years, consider myself better than anyone else; nonetheless, should I have spoken to her politely about this matter? She'd have probably whacked me one.

dcs said...

I'm sure I've read somewhere, but I can't for the life of me remember where (if only I could!!), that only the Hosts which are present on the corporal are actually consecrated.

Many priests don't even use a corporal. It's not that the elements to be consecrated must be on the corporal, it's that priests used to be trained to focus their intention to consecrate on the elements on the corporal.

There is a blurb in Fr. Jone's Moral Theology about a "distance limit" for the consecration (I don't recall the paragraph number offhand), but I don't know what his reference might be -- perhaps St. Alphonsus.

I am sure that this was all thought about before adopting this manner

Sad to say, I am not in the least bit confident that it was thought about before it was done.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

No seventh candle here (see link below). I do not think I have ever seen a seventh candle on the papal altar at St Peter's. It would not be logical (the Roman rubrics are always logical!) as St Peter is not the Pope's cathedral. Perhaps he uses the 7th at The Lateran?

Fr Justin said...

The seventh candle was certainly used at St Peter's, at least at a coronation. See:

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Indeed I stand corrected, here is a splendid large photograph:
what fun this all is – perfect therapy for the winter, and its edifying to the soul!

Thank you for the video link, Fr Justin.