Sunday, January 27, 2013
Domine, non sum dignus...
Today in the Extraordinary Form was Septuagesima Sunday; there are nine Sundays left before Easter, and three til Ash Wednesday. It is now a time to prepare for Lent. Father wears violet now, and the Ordinary of the Mass is more solemn. No longer is it the brightness of the Missa de Angelis and Credo III-my personal favorites- but rather the Missa Orbis Factor and Credo I (I think). Soon, it will be Mass XVII or XVIII without the organ, and the Gloria is not said. (On a tangential note-I find it interesting that the Latin Rite gradually builds up its penitential character in the sacred liturgy for Lent, and Sundays are definitely more somber. On the other hand, the Sundays of the Eastern Rites are much more celebratory, though the Divine Liturgy is not said during the week, and there is much more fasting. Also, the East builds up to Advent as well, while in the West it sorta just drops in on us).
The Sundays of Ordinary Time (after Epiphany and after Pentecost) are lumped together, when in reality they are not of the same spiritual character. Lent is a time to purge away the sins that one holds on to, and the '-gesima' Sundays are the time to map out the battle plan. It is not easy carving out time for getting to Adoration, or for getting to Mass during the week; that is why it is nice to have a reminder. I need a reminder to do something three weeks in advance, so I can be prepared for when I actually need to plan something. I am quite sure most of us are the same way.
While making the sign of the Cross with the Sacred Host, the priest says, "Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen." (“May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.”)
At the TLM, I served on the outside Gospel side. This is a very simple job; the only special duties one has involve holding the Missal during the incensing of the altar at the Offertory, setting out the communion rail cloth, and holding the paten under the chin of communicants during the distribution of Holy Communion.
Seeing the distribution of Holy Communion from the other side is a beautiful experience. To fall on one's knees before the Lord is humbling and equaling. The young children kneel, the old people kneel, and so does everyone in-between. No one is special because of their material wealth or status. No one is in a rush, and no one feels pressured to take the Sacred Host and move out of the way quickly because their appearance indicates their impoverished situation (I see this occasionally at St. Martin's, and I think it really offends our sensibilities, and this is heightened by the way Holy Communion is received in the Ordinary Form.) In fact, quite the opposite. Everyone is so focused on Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament that no one notices these things. It is beautiful to see a parent with a baby in their arms, and the younger children beside them.
Also, when the expectation is to kneel for the majority of Low Mass, much of Sung Mass, and for the reception of Holy Communion in both, people kneel, even if it is hard for them. I think we should not only go back to kneeling at the rail, but more people should kneel. From what I have seen today and in the past, more people than one might think can kneel. Fr. Charles knelt at the ripe age of ninety-five (or ninety-six, I'm not sure but the point stands!) on the marble at St. Martin's during the Good Friday service, and since it was rather spontaneous, I don't recall putting a pad out for him. Today, I saw many older people kneel, and that is the case in many TLM communities. Got a baby? No problem. The rail is high enough that one does not risk dropping the baby or falling over.
I am not trying to be uncharitable, with this, and please, if you cannot kneel, then no one will mind if you go to the middle or end and stand. Also, we should sit the elderly who indicate they can't kneel in the front, as much as possible, so that tall people like myself don't hurt their fragile feet by kicking the kneeler on top of them. However, kneeling is a humbling posture. The antidote to the vice promoted in our society today is humility. (Ah...getting a little self-righteous perhaps. On perfection, I am a work-in-progress.) In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Ratzinger talked about the importance of gestures in the Sacrifice of the Mass, since the Eucharist is the 'source and summit of our faith' and the signs found in our actions at Mass express this more deeply. I can't help but think that my great-grandmother and grandfather, and my great-great grandmother and grandfather, knelt for their entire lives when they received Holy Communion, at least as far as I can tell.
Now, granted, I chose a picture of the Blessed Mother where she is not kneeling. But Acts of the Apostles doesn't tell us how the early Christians received, nor does it matter since kneeling goes back to the time of the Church Fathers (always a good indicator of something the Apostles instituted), and besides, she was most humble and would not have objected to kneeling. I think her facial expression is beautiful, and it really jives well with the ancient formula for receiving the Eucharist, which the priest prays on our behalf, so that we might be brought to eternal life through the reception of the Body of Christ. That prayer squares up nicely with the "Domine, non sum dignus," that Father prays immediately before Communion for us, and that is said together in the Ordinary Form.