Jul 15, 1989


Online Edition – Vol. V, No. 5: July/August 1999

Letters to the Editor

No Singing Excuse

In the June 1999 Adoremus Bulletin, a reader inquired whether alterations may be made in the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei). Your response was" "No" when it is recited; "yes" when it is sung. My purpose in writing is to point out a 1970 instruction of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship which, as far as I know, is still in effect. (That instruction appears in Documents on the Liturgy, 1963-1979.)

The pertinent part of the instruction (para. 3.a) reads:

3. The liturgical texts themselves, composed by the Church, are to be treated with the highest respect. No one, then, may take it on himself to make changes, substitutions, deletions, or additions.

a. There is special reason to keep the Order of Mass intact. Under no consideration, not even the pretext of singing the Mass, may the official translations or its formularies be altered. There are, of course, option forms, noted in parts of the Mass: the penitential rite, the eucharistic prayers, acclamations, final blessing." [Emphasis added]

Richard F. Papcun — Colonial Heights, VA

We meant to make it clear that changing texts any time they are sung is not an acceptable interpretation of the rules stated in the document you quote (and others); yet changing words when they are sung has become commonplace. We plan to address this problem in more detail in a future issue. See "Worthy is the Lamb" in the December 2002 – January 2003 issue.

Posture Confusion

Anent "Every Knee Should Bow — But When?" (Adoremus Bulletin, June 1999):

For almost 25 years, I have opened our parish Church and set up the altar, and served all funeral Masses. It is melancholy to observe the different postures people from various other parishes take attending the Mass. Some people kneel, some stand and others just sit. Unless orchestrated by the celebrant of the Mass, there is no uniform posture taken by the congregation during the Mass.

One wonders why our bishops fail to come out with some clear directives on the correct postures that should be taken during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Is this asking too much?

Berman E. Deffenbaugh, Jr. — San Antonio, Texas

Kneeling Bias?

Your review of the imbroglio over kneeling vs. standing in the liturgy was most welcome and informative, albeit a bit biased. It may be a slight overstatement to suggest that those who advocate the standing position are any less devoted to the Real Presence or other articles of faith.

Consider the following:

1. The earliest Christian iconography always depicts Christians at the Agape and (otherwise at prayer) in the "orans" position, i.e. standing with arms extended heavenward. A visit to the Catacombs will verify that.

2. In the ancient Eastern-rite churches (Orthodox and Uniate), from ancient times to the present, the faithful stand (sometimes for hours!) during the celebration of the liturgy. These traditions are older than our present rites.

3. Anyone who has visited the ancient Roman basilicas and the cathedrals of Europe knows that they were designed for people to stand at prayer in the liturgy. The addition of kneelers (and sometimes chairs) is a much later afterthought. It is not the ancient tradition.

4. The posture of kneeling in Christian art is very much connected with the feudal system: knights in obeisance to their lord, etc. As such it is a wonderful posture of humility, submission, adoration, etc. Agreed.

5. Thus kneeling is an appropriate gesture of adoration, for instance, in the exposition or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Forty Hours Devotion, private prayer, etc. But one must ask is this really the same mode of prayer that is called for at the public celebration of the Eucharist? Is the Sunday Eucharist primarily an exercise in adoration? Is it not rather primarily an act of thanksgiving as the name implies? This is not to deny the act of adoration, but I don’t think it is not main focus of the sacred action at the altar.

For instance, the liturgy calls for an affirmative sung acclamation of the assembly after the elevation of the Sacred Species as well as the response of the "Great Amen" at the final doxology before the "Our Father". Is kneeling for these sung acclamations of the assembly really the right posture for these moments? Is the expressive mode of prayer at these times simply adoration or is it not much more? Does it not perhaps make more sense to have the people on their feet for these sung acclamations?

From a musical point of view alone (I am a liturgical musician) I find it awkward and meaningless to have the congregation sing these jubilant acclamations of praise and affirmation on their knees. It simply is the wrong modality of prayer. It is not the way to "proclaim the mystery of faith."

6. I hesitate to use the same "argumentum ex tourismo" that has been effectively used by those who find great convenience and sense of unity in attending the same Latin Mass wherever in the world they travel but as a matter of fact standing during the Eucharistic prayer seems to be most prevalent outside the United States and may well indicate a return to perhaps an even more ancient practice. Who knows?

Richard Cross – Tarrytown, New York

You have a good grasp of the now-standard arguments in favor of changing the traditional kneeling posture during the Eucharistic Prayer and elsewhere during the Communion Rite. But as virtually every recent poll shows, many Catholics today have lost the sense of the Mass as a sacrifice, and a sense of reverence, awe and adoration during the Eucharistic celebration. Kneeling expresses this aspect of the Mass more clearly than any other posture.

There are many biblical references to kneeling for worship and prayer. Kneeling did not originate with feudalism.

The "acclamation" following the Mysterium Fidei (mystery of faith) is the people’s acknowledgement that the Body of Christ has just been made present in the consecrated elements, a personal and communal affirmation of faith, similar to an "amen" (Hebrew: "so be it") at the conclusion of a prayer.

The "early church" arguments offered would be more persuasive if those who invoke them were more consistent in applying the principle. For example, one never hears of a liturgist urging a return to bread and water fasts, public penance for adultery, and other strict ascetical practices common in the early Church. Thus the "more traditional than thou" arguments for liturgical changes, which ignore the past several centuries of development in Catholic doctrine and liturgical practice, seem unconvincing.

(For the record, we are biased in favor of reverent and beautiful celebrations of Mass as the Council intended, and we presume you are, too.)

Board of Bowdlerizers

As the revision of the Old Testament of the New American Bible continues, will they issue a corrected translation of the book of Psalms, or do the CCD translators hope to force Rome to accept an "inclusivized" Old Testament?

Is there any word on the status of the project to produce a Catholic edition of the Contemporary English Version, the American Bible Society translation that may be used in Masses with children? And do you know if there is any plan to alter the parts that were changed to make the Bible sound more Protestant (e.g., I Corinthians 11:29 reads "If you fail to understand that you are the body of the Lord, you will condemn yourselves by the way you eat and drink"?)

And. . . is [there] any word of a project to produce a Catholic edition of the Living Translation, the slightly more literal successor to the Living Bible?

We’re using the revised Sunday Lectionary at the Cathedral in Allentown. Sort of. Last Holy Thursday at the Lord’s Supper Mass the Deacon ­ in front of Bishop Cullen and with the congregation holding missalettes in their hands ­ changed the first "the Father" in the Gospel to "God". He also skipped over "the Father had put everything into his power" completely. Then he changed "Master" to "Lord".

I can’t tell you what other changes he made, because at that point I threw away my missalette in disgust. I was told afterwards that he was only making the changes that some committee had decided on. Well, I don’t know if this Board of Bowdlerizers is national or local, but I do know that they have no right to censor Scripture.

Don Schenk – Allentown, Pennsylvania

It is very hard to keep track of the many recent Bible re-translations and revisions. Every week seems to bring an announcement of another "updated" version.

The American Bible Society, the Protestant body founded in 1816 that has produced more modern translations of Scripture in more languages than any other organization, now has a full-time director of "Catholic ministries" and other Catholic staff.

Vatican approval of a Catholic edition of the Contemporary English Version, a translation intended for children and learning-impaired adults, has been delayed because its use of the "dynamic equivalency" theory of translation is tantamount to paraphrase, and it does not conform to the Holy See’s "Norms for the Translation of Biblical Texts for Use in the Liturgy", which require greater fidelity to the original texts, a more literal, "formal equivalency" approach to translation.

One example of "dynamic equivalent" translation occurs in Saint Luke’s account of the Nativity. According to the CEV, Mary "dressed him in baby clothes and laid him in a feedbox."

In 1991, the NCCB approved the CEV-based "Children’s Lectionary" for experimental use, and this temporary approval was extended until 2001.

We will continue to update our readers on Bible translations. See the Biblical and Liturgical Translation page on this web site for related documents.

Simple affection

Perhaps at age 46 I am too young to remember the dismal state of pre-Conciliar hymnody, but this is the second time I have heard of "Mother Dear, O Pray for Me" and now "On This Day, O Beautiful Mother" referred to as "waltzes". I never heard any of the hymns sung in any way that suggests the dance. "Hail, Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star", is also in triple time, by the way; somehow it has escaped the hatchet of those who attack all sentiment as sentimentality.

"On This Day" is my favorite Marian hymn, not because of its Mariological content, but because of its simple and childlike affection, which made the centerpiece of every May procession I ever participated in. Its harmonies are clear and very simple.

With all my formation in the ways of prayer, I am invariably led back to the conclusion that the highest form of devotion is simply to "see, and know, and love". It’s not all the formation we need in the Christian life, but it carries the poor in spirit a long way.

Maria Regina Weiner, T.O. Carm. — Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Better Bulletin Inserts Needed

My parish is currently doing a two month "trial" of Catholic Update, inserting it in the bulletin once a month. Catholic Update is a four-page insert that attempts to treat a variety of "relevant" issues for adult Catholics. Unfortunately, the doctrinal content tends to be quite shallow, and sometimes flat-out heretical. The inserts also frequently take a "bad-old-days" attitude towards any teaching, practice or devotion promoted prior to Vatican II, while indiscriminately endorsing anything "modern".

Thankfully, the parish has specifically asked for peoples’ input into the decision to run the insert permanently.

While I’m delighted to see they have recognized a need for ongoing adult education, I’d like to recommend one or two possible alternatives of a more orthodox nature. However, so far I’ve had no luck finding anything suitable.

The alternative wouldn’t even need to be a "periodical" per se if some company had a series of 12 or more tracts, brochures, whatever, that could at least get us through the first year, that would be a good beginning.

Do you have any suggestions? Thanks so much!

Margaret Kalb – via email

Yes, we do have a suggestion — a very inexpensive one. Reprints of many articles that appear in AB would make excellent "bulletin inserts". We suggest Father Cassian Folsom’s "Sacred Signs and Active Participation at Mass" [AB May-June 1998] as a good one to start with.

Call or write us to request permission for reprint. (NOTE: For this purpose, we will waive reprint fees to parishes who send a request from the pastor.)

Rosary During Mass

This week there was an attached article about Mary in our parish bulletin that stated: "The Eucharistic liturgy is the culmination of the gathering of the Christian community and thus devotional practices, such as praying the rosary, are not to be inserted into liturgical celebrations".

Has the Church ever condemned the tradition of praying the Rosary during Mass? My personal interpretation of the wonderful article entitled "The Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration" in the last Adoremus Bulletin, is that ‘devotions of piety’ — in other words, the Rosary — should harmonize with the liturgy (Mass) and not be suppressed from the Mass. Am I mistaken in my understanding of that?

Mike – via e-mail

Marialis Cultus (1974) gives clear answers to this question, stressing that "liturgical celebration and the devotional practice of the rosary are seen to be neither in opposition nor on an equal plane". The rosary "is a devotion that finds its origin in the liturgy, and that … leads naturally to the liturgy, while yet remaining outside the threshold of the liturgy itself." Therefore, "[t]o recite the rosary during a liturgical service … is a misguided practice, which unfortunately still prevails in some places."(#48).

More on Music

I have been following with fascination the ongoing discussions involving liturgical music. The letter titled "Saccharin Bonbons" by Richard Cross [May 99] really got my undivided attention. It is the closest thing to my recollection of history that I’ve read among the all the letters and articles in the Adoremus Bulletin. Very few Catholics of my age (65) have ever sung Gregorian Chant. Many talk with nostalgia of "the good old days" but cannot recall ever actually singing the beautiful free chant we call Gregorian.

Let’s face it, there has always been junk in various eras of liturgical music. The ’60s produced some of the tritest stuff ever forced on gullible assemblers of hymnals. That has been followed by the disgraceful rewriting of classical lyrics to make them politically correct but silly. (GIA’s Worship version of Hymn #391, "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice", has to take the cake.) But buried in these Hymnals are some beautiful modern songs and psalms that congregations are singing.

As an amateur singer who absolutely believes we exist only to help the congregation in its worship, I believe some good things are happening today. Music directors and pastors are learning to pick out the best of the music from modern and ancient liturgical music sources. And they are aligning those selections with the Scriptural readings for the Mass, not just to sound "pretty".

We need to help them.

George C. Creel – Davidsonville, MD

And "help them" is just what we’re trying to do. The Adoremus Hymnal, published in 1997 by Ignatius Press, along with our audio tape, "Short Course on Gregorian Chant" is a good start.

What’s Missing?

Our Archdiocesan newspaper (Catholic Standard, 6/3/99, page 11) has a quote from the FDLC as follows:

"From the Federation of Diocesan Liturgy Commissions, which is affiliated with the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy: ‘Limit discussion to perpetual adoration; dialogue with people who are advocates of various devotions; determine what is missing in our celebration of the Eucharist that leads people to want these devotions.’"

Is the FDLC saying that we should change our Liturgy until it satisifies all emotional needs, and then we will not need any extra-Mass devotions? Does the FDLC take it upon itself to modify the Liturgy of the Mass to meet needs discovered by surveys and polls?

Charles J. McCarthy via email

We cannot explain the FDLC’s intentions, but the fast-growing revival of Eucharistic Adoration has been encouraged by many bishops and the Pope and this is truly good news. Click here for information on our Eucharistic Adoration booklet.

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The Editors