Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thoughts on the Mandatum

The Evening Mass on Holy Thursday used to be my favourite bit of the Triduum.  It was the most meditative and the most moving.  However I have never really liked the "washing of the feet", here are my thoughts, following what I've read eslewhere today about women being "given permission" to have their feet washed.

(A)
The dear departed was invariably picked to have his feet washed; being male, being a solid member of whichever parish we were in and being someone who would not say "no".  He hated it; trying to find decent socks, shoes that he could easily get off and on with arthritic fingers, making sure his toenails were decent and making sure he put out his left foot only, he didn't want any priest to be startled by his hammer toe on the right foot.  We'd never start that Mass in the right frame of mind, he'd be worrying too much, and he a server of some standing, proficient in both rites.  This was different, it was about him as a man, not a server, and he simply hated the attention.

Thought (1): It is disruptive to the congregation.

(B)
My old Novus Ordo Missal says the following:

The washing of the feet may follow the homily.  The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place.  The priest  goes to each man.  With the help of ministers, he pours water over each one's feet and dries them.

Thought (2) : that word "may"... it is optional, remember that, it is optional
Thought (3): those words "suitable place".... I maintain the sanctuary is NOT a suitable place.  My first parish in Salford was blessed with a very large sanctuary, but the priest (no Trad) always insisted that chairs were positioned infront of where the altar rails would have been, had they not been removed.  He said, "it is about serving the people of God, and that takes place outside the sanctuary, we serve God in the sanctuary".  He had a point, and I happen to agree with him.  Indeed, I've been informed that if this ever takes place in the Orthodox liturgy, it obviously happens on the layman's side of the iconostasis.  I would also argue that hospitals, prisons etc are suitable places.  The Mandatum could be seen as "liturgy in the streets" in a way that no other aspect of the liturgy can.
Thought (4): you don't need 12, but you knew that already
Thought (5): If women are permitted, women are permitted, deal with it.  However, this woman won't be volunteering.  Having been privileged enough to receive the Sacrament of the Sick in the old rite where one's feet are anointed with the sacred oil... oh dear no! Priests and women's feet, it is too intimate... I actually kept my shoes on and he did a double anointing on both hands instead... we were both uncomfortable about the intimacy of seeing my feet, that felt right, I was not about to expire, I was not on my death bed, though the sacrament was absolutely necessary, undressing before him would have been wrong.  It was unsaid, we both just knew that naked female feet were not appropriate.

(C)
Thought (6)
Is it actually "liturgy" at all?  It could be argued that it is a form of preaching, and before Pius XII, was not preaching seen as a non-liturgical act?  Indeed, just like the maniple is removed before the homily and the homily takes place outside the sanctuary because it is not a liturgical act, there is no maniple  for the washing of the feet, there is a REAL TOWEL.  Hmmm.....that says to me it was originally not intended to be liturgical.... therefore it can be performed anywhere and on anybody as an act of symbolic service to God's people by priests, mother superiors, bishops, popes.... just not in the sanctuary... because it is non-liturgical. BUT we are in a mess because preaching is considered to be a liturgical thing these days and the maniple is not worn in the new rite.

(D)
Thought (7)
If it is just a re-enactment of Christ's symbolic act of service to the Eleven, then surely it should only be performed by a Bishop on priests (and probably only in a Cathedral).  It is a heirarchy thing, and if it is clerical, then it is clerical and laypersons should not be used, especially to "represent" the priesthood. 
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I now attend a 12 noon Mass on Holy Thursday because I have become so uncomfortable with seeing the Mandatum take place in the sanctuary.  The noon Mass has no Mandatum and I then return to the church for the stripping of the altar and watching in the evening.... it is the stripping of the altar that sends the shivers down my spine.... and to me, it is that act that is the essence of that special day.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Holier than thou...

I don't normally take any notice of stuff on Rorate Caeli, I think the site is indecent....

However as they were good enough to highlight and warp the Holy Father's homily for today's readings, I feel inclined to draw out some exegesis of my own, making points that the Holy Father did not choose to draw out, but ones that are nevertheless relevant to us all.

The passage in question is 1 Sam 15:16-23.  I use the DRB translation because it is out of copyright.

And Samuel said to Saul: Suffer me, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said to him: Speak. And Samuel said: When thou wast a little one in thy own eyes, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed thee to be king over Israel. And the Lord sent thee on the way, and said: Go, and kill the sinners of Amalec, and thou shalt fight against them until thou hast utterly destroyed them. Why then didst thou not hearken to the voice of the Lord: but hast turned to the prey, and hast done evil in the eyes of the Lord. And Saul said to Samuel: Yea I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and have walked in the way by which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalec, and Amalec I have slain.  But the people took of the spoils sheep and oxen, as the firstfruits of those things that were slain, to offer sacrifice to the Lord their God in Galgal.  And Samuel said: Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams.  Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. Forasmuch therefore as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from being king. 

If you care to read the preceding verses, the Lord makes it abundantly clear that NOTHING of Amalec must remain.  It is all tainted with evil, the whole lot.  It all has to be destroyed.  And of course we read this today in the spiritual sense, seeing Amalec as sin itself: something which must be rooted out completely.  Sin must not be found on the Lord's anointed (and these days, that is you and me folks, we are anointed). 

Now we transgress and transgress again.  That is human nature, and it doesn't make us failures.  BUT if the Lord gives us an instruction, then we follow it.  We cannot love Him unless we obey.  To be disobedient to a command of the Lord, especially when it was given personally, is serious stuff. 

Saul disobeyed the Lord.  He allowed his army to take booty and he did not slay Agag, king of Amalec.

It is Saul's response to Samuel's dressing down that interests me.  Saul says "yes but we used the best of the booty to make sacrifice to the Lord".  He is almost saying, "yes, but we honoured God most beautifully and timelessly (all lace and fiddleback chasubules), it really was all rather splendid and edifying".  But the Lord is not impressed. Saul is standing up for the Lord's people, to be fair that is honourable, but he most blatantly was not showing any leadership.  He most blatantly was not behaving like a king, even though he is being very nice to make excuses for his subjects.

If you are not obedient to His commands, then no amount of splendid worship will please God.

We still have the command to put the ban on sin, to eradicate it completely.  Nothing has changed except that it is now encompassed in the twofold commandment of loving God and neighbour.

So peeps of a traditional persuasion: have you put the ban on sin, are your spiritual leaders guiding you out of love of God and neighbour, have you really not tried to cover up some avarice and lust and mask it or excuse it through undertaking some fancy but traditional and male-only liturgical dance, ad orientem round the altar of sacrifice, as if doing so covers a multitude of sins?

Monday, 4 January 2016

More from Tyrrell...

Happy New Year, dear readers...

New year, new resolutions, so here are some goodly words from George Tyrrell to spur us on.  They come from a chapter entitled "The Angelic Virtue", but could be about so much more than chastity, or indeed perhaps chastity is so much more encompassing than the narrow confines of the definition which it has.

The Church, taught by Christ, bids us acquiesce in truth that this world is not our home, but our school; that it is designed to school us in that which is best among our capacities, namely in courage, in heroic endurance of suffering for the sake of God and God's cause. For in this our very highest capability is exerted and strengthened and perfected.
...

Any impulse to do what is irregular is itself irregular, and cannot be approved or encouraged by reason.  If murder is wrong, I may not encourage a tendency to murder.  If I may not take my neighbour's property, I may not wilfully long for it.  Man is under a natural obligation of tending towards the perfect control of every controllable impulse; hence even inculpable rebellions should displease him as being opposed to his final perfection, i.e, to that ideal which he should aim at.  They are not matter for blame, but for regret; but to approve them or not to regret them would be blameworthy.

Notice how he says a "natural obligation" for tending towards self-control, it isn't even something from the higher eschelons of the spiritual life, undertaking this probably isn't even meritorious in any way, it is very much a baby step in being human.  It is the endurance in sticking to this natural obligation under the result of so much opposition that makes the struggles of so many, so heroic.

....and here is something that seems to have been lost in the last 100 years; an appreciation of the seriousness of even the slightest direct and deliberate concession to sensuality for its own sake.

... the practical wisdom of the Church's severity in regarding the slightest direct and deliberate concession as grievous, is evident when we reflect that here, as in some other matters, a slight concession, far from mitigating irregular desire, increases it; and if the first impulse is not resisted, it is indefinitely less likely that the second will be.  In fact it is like a boulder rolling down a hill, which becomes more hopelessly unmanageable at every bound.  It is the failure to realise this law, or to accept it in faith from the experience and wisdom of the Church, that lies at the root of so much difficulty in this matter.

Now we just follow in the world's wake, happily trying to regularise what is irregular or avoid this topic completely as some sort of anachronism... hey ho.... it can only end in tears...... to say that we don't have the capacity, through grace, through the aid of the sacraments, to be joyfully chaste is a blasphemy of the highest order, it mocks Christ in His life, passion and resurrection.

O tempora! O mores!