Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sub utraque specie...

One of the greatest ironies of the Second Vatican Council was that it attempted to make the Church's traditional Liturgy more traditional. I could just about imagine Michael Davies, and many like him, turning red in the face at my saying that (those who advocated the unfounded notion that the Novus Ordo of Paul VI fell out of the sky on an unsuspecting episcopate!), but it is true. Just as Lumen Gentium attempted to ''moderate'' the Infallibism of Pius IX and the ultramontanist content of Pastor Aeternus (by ''sharing'' the infallibility of the Pope with the collective body of the Bishops), so Sacrosanctum Concilium attempted to ''reform'' the Liturgy within a more traditional periphery. The desire of reform surely indicates that the Rites were faulty in some way, or not doing what they were supposed to? I have often found that Traditionalist objections to certain elements within the New Rite (although I share some of them) are simply whinings for a return to Catholic Liturgy of the 1940s and 1950s - in the days when the Roman Rite was so far removed from Tradition that Low Mass and Benediction were the norm in most parishes. In fact Roger Martin, in his article Liturgy and Christianity, speculates that the only reason Traditionalists like traditional Liturgy (of a rather late vintage) is because, for them, it enshrines the old Scholastic system (I would elaborate and say that this applies more to Low Mass than traditional Liturgy, per se), in other words, it is desirous that churches have as many side-Altars packed into the Nave as humanly possible (following this logic, why not do away with the High Altar completely? What is the point of High Mass when all the Sacred Ministers and other persons involved in it could be saying private Masses at all those side Altars?), and it is also desirous that we have as much Benediction as we can get away with, etc, etc. Therefore, among other reasons, ''traditionalists'' aren't really traditional in any meaningful sense at all - they just pine after Catholicism of the second millennium with all its abuses and superstition.

Among the more traditional liturgical practices revived at the Second Vatican Council is the salutary custom of distributing Holy Communion under both kinds. In the early Church (in West and East), Communion was ordinarily administered under both kinds, indeed it was seen (rightly) as a matter of Divine precept. Our Lord plainly says: Drink all of this (Matthew 26:27), but the practice gradually fell into abeyance in the Roman Rite about a thousand years ago. In the Middle Ages there were certain revivalists like John Wycliff, the Lollards, the Hussites etc, who questioned the Church's discipline regarding the distribution of the Sacrament and advocated a return to a more traditional, biblical, understanding of Holy Communion, but these were all condemned as heretics, until the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in its ''do the exact opposite of the what the Reformers are doing'' attitude (how could the Catholic Church possibly be wrong?!), finally forbade the Chalice to all but the Celebrant at Mass. Another of the orthodox Articles of Religion goes: The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

What, therefore, are the reasons that the custom of administering Holy Communion under both forms fell into abeyance in the West and why do Traditionalists wish to maintain this untraditional, and unScriptural, tradition? Like Low Mass it arose from theological speculation (and like Low Mass, I see the distribution of Holy Communion under the form of Bread alone, except in cases of extreme necessity, as a huge aliturgical problem - like lace cottas of course). Traditionalist apologists for the Bread Alone theory argue that the reason the discipline became crystallized in the West was because of dangers of profanation of the consecrated Sacrament. While this is an intelligible motive, it does not negate the greater issues at stake here - namely, whether the custom flies in the face of Divine ordinance, or even whether communicants under a single kind receive half the Sacrament. It doesn't do to be too concerned about profanation. I see this as a godless form of rubricism, sterility in the Liturgy, and extra-liturgical concern about the Blessed Sacrament. I would be more concerned about frequent Communion and people receiving unworthily, and certainly too often, as a form of profanation than if the Celebrant drops the Ciborium, or the Precious Blood is spilled on the mensa of the Altar. Accidents happen - I'm sure the Lord knows this!

Another Traditionalist argument for Communion under the form of Bread Alone is precisely that the older custom has been in abeyance for a thousand years in the Roman Rite, and that therefore a revival of the tradition amounts to little more than liturgical archaism (soundly condemned in Mediator Dei, aka Ego Liturgia sum, by Pius XII). But surely where a custom is wrong a revival of the more ancient and correct custom is praiseworthy? As Our Lord Himself said: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. (John 6:53). Whatever you might think of the whole ''but each communicant receives the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Saviour under a single kind alone, and so communicants who receive under both kinds receive nothing more than communicants who receive under a single kind'' theory (which is beyond the scope of this post) is unimportant. Anciently the Church in the West was more traditional in this regard, as in many others, but during the Middle Ages, because of questionable Scriptural exegesis, selective (and I daresay revisionist) Patristic commentary and Scholastic reasoning (is there anything meritorious about Scholasticism?), minimalism, centralization and Papal decree was seen as more important. If only the Council of Trent had hearkened to the Reformers in this, and a few other, respects - the Catholic Church could have prevented a major schism. Instead, the Catholic Church never being wrong, she decided to cling to the tradition and succeeded in merely perpetuating a huge error (rather like an ill-behaved child, after a telling off by her parents, sulkily going to her bedroom to brood, or even a solipsist nutcase content to think that everyone is else wrong except him). The Council of Trent arguably was the axe to the tree of traditional Liturgy (a Papal axe), which even in the Middle Ages was not totally dead and gone as it is now. Is there any surprise, then, that there was so huge a reaction against this mentality in the 1960s?

Of course, for advocating a return to a more traditional practice, Trads will just label me a Modernist, or even a Protestant (I have already been labelled a ''heretic'' on another blog for thinking that I am ''more catholic than the Pope''). How very sad that I am so poorly understood...


  1. I've just been banned from a Catholic forum because I had the audacity to suggest that not everything Rome approves is right.

    I'm very sympathetic to communion under both kinds. If the sign is the reality, as we believe, then the fulness of the sign is in communion under both kinds. Unfortunately, although a worthy reform, it was botched like nearly everything else. Yet another missed oppotunity.

    That, as the argument goes, our Lord's body, blood, soul and divinity is received under either kind is, I agree, just another example of scholastic rationalism dictating liturgical practice. Our faith in the sacraments aren't increased because we can explain them in terms of Aristotelian metaphysics, because God is totally beyond any such human concept.

  2. Paul Smeaton (blog above is fairly dormant): I wouldn't label you a modernist, Protestant or a heretic. Bit of a wowser perhaps :-) I am slightly baffled by the fact you seem to find most 'Trads' both ignorant and ill intentioned. That just hasn't been my experience at all. Most seem to understand we live in a rich and beautiful Church, but one where some individuals make mistakes, sometimes catastophic mistakes, often we suffer external attacks and sometimes we're attacked from within. In my experience (mostly in London and in Australia) most seem to want to do their best to aid the Church in whatever way they are called to. From reading your blog, I would think you have a tremendous amount to offer. I would think the best way to help build up the liturgy would be to persevere with groups and individuals with the same aims, even if you differ on some points. Nothing that's worth doing is easy. Moreover, I'm not convinced that liturgical minimalist agendas are as ingrained as you seem to suggest - if indeed they even exist!

  3. I usually receive the Eucharist under both kinds if possible, however it often isn't practical.
    Many schools don't give the Eucharist in both kinds to their students, not for religious reasons but due to the fact that the most precious blood of Christ still has 14% alcohol content and governors and teachers are terrified about what a tiny sip might do to some of their students.

    When I am a school chaplain next year, I will make sure the chalice is offered at all masses to all Catholic students who approach the Lord's table reverently.


  4. In this, i fear, i am something of a dissenter wrt to thee. The aforesaid council to my sense wanted to make things 'look', 'appear' traditional- but it stops here. A little bit from Hippolytus,a dash from Ambrosius, a piece from this and that,- this is the ultimate Protestant temptation- primitivism based on error and subjective interpretation, not on Tradition- which is over, above, throughout and beyond time. You rightly highlight revisionist views on the doctrine of the Fathers-that's what the last so-called 'council' did as well, except that instead of subverting the Fathers to Scholasticism they subverted him to Modernism(by which i mean Loisy,etc)- a process which indeed predates the council and which finds a culmination therein.

    I was reading excerpts from Paschasius Radbertus-rather generous ones- in Dom Casel's book on the Anamnesis- they are so profound-there indeed you find a genuine patristic synthesis. Radbertus is my new patristic hero, after Basil the Great.

    In terms of dialectics, Vatican II represents the synthesis of Scholastic Catholicism and Protestantism.But the next stage must overcome the spirit of Vatican ii, the Reformation and Catholic Scholasticism without synthesising them, but precisely overcoming and superceding. That would be the restoration of the Tradition in its fulness, then the Great Catholic Monarch will appear, etc, etc. In spite of whatever can be said liturgically of Pius X, his motto does ring a bell with me, there's something traditional with it: Omnia instaurare in Christo.

  5. The first generation of Traditionalists can't be blamed for failing to see clearly amidst the toxic fallout that enveloped them after the Council. For them, rolling back to conditions in the reign of Pius XII as normative, or at least "safe", seemed the obvious and necessary strategy. This was true both of Michael Davies (whom I knew) and Archbishop Lefebvre. I've often wondered with regard to the latter (whom I continue to regard as a heroic figure) how things might have developed if he'd named, not Pius X, but Gregory the Great as patron of the Fraternity (and, by extension, the entire Traditionalist movement). He was, however, formed entirely, and in a very direct and personal way, by integrist neo-scholasticism and the ideological struggles of the 19th & 20th century Popes – these defined his intellectual milieu; and as a consequence, the "narrative" was cast entirely in those terms, to the absolute exclusion of any more genuinely radical analysis. As I say, it's unjust and unreasonable to blame these men for clinging to such of the wreckage as they could lay hands on in the immediate wake of the collapse. What's patently ridiculous is the spectacle of second - and even third-generation Trads straining obsessively at the Modernist gnat while swallowing entire caravans of big, ugly camels, refusing absolutely to refine the “foundational narrative” in any way. This is “Crisistianity” - a reality-falsifying ideology as completely enclosed within self-subsistent, self-validating circularites as Bolshevism, and every bit as soul-sapping.

    That a minority of second-and third-generation “Trads” find themselves re-discovering the very problems that the Council sought to address (dimly and incoherently, the Tradition being already stone-dead, though nobody had noticed yet) is unsurprising; nor is it surprising that the guardians of the Foundational Narrative should wish to silence them with high-pitched accusations of “modernist deviationism!”

    More from me later, on Protestantism and forbidding the laity the Chalice.

  6. Liturgical minimalism outside London,I think, is dictated by difficult situations. The small choir who sing at our Sunday Mass is gathering age(to put it politely), those with families arrive tired sometimes late, having had struggles to find two matching shoes, the numbers attending ,if not going down, are certainly not growing,despite the "post-motu proprio" world in which we live. The numbers and forces are just not there.In our area, the Traditional Mass for Corpus Christi had to be cancelled because a priest could not be found. Despite all the crowing of the Latin Mass Society things seems be much worse now. I also think that this present Pontiff's glamorous mix of Vatican II In Lace, makes for confusion twice confounded. Militancy and enthusiasm seem to have gone, a bit like the cloth caps socialism in the new Blairite world. Since the M.P. and the Roman restoration of Lace rochets & big mitres traditionalists are frightened to bite the hand that appears to have fed them.
    I too have never found a church with a satisfactory liturgical observance. If we had our Tardis, where would we go ? Westminster Cathedral in 1920 ? Solesmes 1890s, Westminster Abbey 1400s ?
    Alan Robinson

  7. Let's state the obvious plainly: depriving the laity of the Chalice is a monstrous abuse, which neither legitimate concern for profanation, nor the spurious, reductionist manoeuvrings of medieval scholasticism pretending to refine Dominical injunctions, can excuse. Roman Catholics habitually discuss Protestantism as though it were some kind of perverse, insensate revolt, dropping out of a clear blue sky (certain regrettable administrative deficiencies and isolated scandals notwithstanding). The fact is that the revolt began in reaction to long-standing abuses and distortions in theology, liturgy, ecclesiology and pastoral care that were already far removed from Orthodoxy. The Protestants, however, lacking any contact with the living Tradition, and no means of appropriating it, reconstructed Christianity out of whatever was to hand, arranged in accordance with the spirit of the age and their private fads. By and large, they succeeded only in grappling to their bosoms characteristically Roman Catholic distortions - an unbalanced Augustinianism, the penal/forensic soteriology of Anselm, and the reductionist tendencies of scholasticism – and running off a cliff with them. When eventually the Protestants did seek to open a dialogue with the Orthodox, it was quickly broken off by the latter, for whom the cure seemed at least as bad – if not worse – than the disease: an internally generated reaction, within the one heterdox reality.

  8. Max, I would too if I could (I did when I attended New Rite masses frequently, although curiously many elderly parishioners in my old parish did not communicate under both kinds). But presently it is just not an option in the Old Rite.

    Ardmacha, minimalism is unacceptable in a cathedral or collegiate church where they have all the facilities to properly celebrate the Sacred Liturgy. In such churches, denial of the Chalice to the Laity is a manifest abuse, and there should be no such thing as a Low Mass. However in parish churches I think it is praiseworthy to do all that you can to emulate the Liturgy in a cathedral church, where the Bishop is the principal Celebrant. People think I am a liturgical snob for my opinions but I sometimes think that people who contribute to a parish church often hide behind the cloak of ''we don't have the facilities'' because they simply can't be bothered with the Divine cult.

  9. Ardmacha, like Tolkien I'd give a bit for a time machine - I would probably go either to Jarrow in St Bede's time or to the Hagia Sophia. I'd certainly love to have been a fly on the wall during an Ecumenical Council - who was it that punched Nestorius in the face?

    Moretben, your comment about the first generation of Traditionalists (the likes of Mgr Gilbey, Evelyn Waugh, and J.R.R Tolkien) is interesting. I can't say that I know much about Mgr Gilbey (save one or two details), but certainly Waugh and Tolkien were men of their time. Tolkien grew up serving Low Mass at the Birmingham Oratory in the early 20th century, so you can just imagine the lace cottas and Baroque liturgy he was familiar with. He attended Pontifical Liturgy whilst on holiday in Italy in 1955, but outside of this context I can't imagine him having much to do with anything except Low Mass and the Rosary (which he kept at his bedside table). During the Council he admonished his son (then slowly loosing the Faith) to make a practice of frequent Communion to rekindle the Faith, and to pray for the Pope, and I used to agree with all that he said but I don't now. Waugh was the same - he even said that what first attracted him to Catholicism was not real Liturgy but Low Mass! I'm sure you've read A Bitter Trial...

    Of course in those days how could anyone see beyond the Catholic Church? Orthodoxy was little known in the West, especially in Newman's time, and even now is little known (or understood). I know many Traditionalists who cannot stand the Orthodox Church - usually for silly reasons, which are half distorted by prejudice (Emperor-worship, stuck in the 9th century etc). Traditionalists are simply unwilling to admit that the Catholic Church can err, and undoubtedly has erred (amusingly, the other day I visited a friend's house, and she showed me a French Catechism dating from 1849, in which it said that the Pope was by no means Infallible in his own person!) - such a notion is unacceptable to them, and so they cannot view the history of Liturgy and Tradition in the Catholic Church with an objective eye (and this is largely what I do on this blog). And so Traditionalists either can't work me out, or they think I am attracted by Orthodoxy, or they think I am nasty, or even a heretic (the h-word has indeed, as you already know, come into the battle).

    I agree entirely with you about the denial of the Chalice to the laity. Wasn't one of Cardinal Humbert's silly charges against Michael Cerularius that the Greeks intincted the Lamb with the Precious Blood? I think that this is one of the only sure ways of integrating the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds into the Old Rite. The present discipline - of having a lay person administer the Chalice, wipe it with a purificator, and then turn it a quarter of the way around, is both silly and abusive.

    The Reformation was a tragedy by and large. There needed to be one (that much is obvious), but not an Iconoclast and heretical one. What needed to happen was a genuine renewal of Tradition and reform of the Church's life - to rid it of Medieval abuses and superstition such as Low Mass, and to rekindle the Liturgy to that which it was of old in the days of the Fathers. The Counter Reformation, the Church's response to the Reformation, was just typical of the era and didn't resolve anything (if anything, it just made it worse by simply perpetuating the errors of the Scholastics) - decadance, abuse, Baroque Liturgy, lace cottas, gradines, the Jesuits and most fatal of all, Liturgy by decree and centralization, the creation of the S.R.C, and the imposition of the much-revised Liturgy of the Papal court upon the whole of Europe. Tradition died a death at the Council of Trent.

  10. It was St Nicholas and he punched Arius.

  11. "...the Jesuits..."

    Do you remember, quite recently, the challenge to provide an example of a saint subordinating "truth" to institutional "loyalty"? Well, here it is:

    "I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it" (Ignatius Loyola).

    Now to be fair, this was intended to be an exercise aimed at mortification of the intellect, rather than a manifesto. There is is, nevertheless: contemporaneous with the final transformation of the Western Church into the iron beehive of Trent.

  12. I agree. Counter-Reformation was a reaction to Reformation- a reaction largely orchestrated by Jesuits and also Oratorians-new orders that verges on the secular- look at Card. de Berulle in France and his over-emphasis on the humanity of Our Lord and the Sacred Heart cult. Not only liturgy, but above all Baroque architecture and iconography which is distinctly secular. There is a church in Vienna- i forgot which one- where Baroque is raised to extremes. The same in the New World, in the Jesuit Colonies there.

    I also find Moretben's idea on the naming of Archp. Lefebvre's movement-what if he named it after Ss Peter and Paul- just imagine the effect.

    Intinction: shall we have azymos or artos with that one? The orthodox practise intinction with artos not azymos. I hear about sacramental 'pipes' being used in the High Middle Ages in the West- does anybody know about that?

  13. Of course we have an interesting rubric in the Old Rite (obviously not found in the 'EF' form of the new rite): Rit.Serv. X, 6. '...Minister autem dextera manu tenens vas cum vino et aqua, sinistra vero mappulum, aliquanto sacerdotem eis porrigit purificationem, et mappulum ad os abstergendum.'

    Whilst this is clearly an albution (c.f. Russian praxis after receiving the Mysteries) is it also a relic of the distribution of Communion from the chalice?

  14. Paul Smeaton, I'm sorry I neglected you. I think that Traditionalists are a bad thing in terms of Liturgy - all they seem to want to do is revive the Catholic Church of the Counter Reformation period - so Baroque liturgy with lace cottas, gradines, Low Mass and Benediction rather than real Liturgy which consists of Sung Office and High Mass.

    Unfortunately most trads that I have met aren't really interested in looking objectively at where the Catholic Church has gone wrong liturgically (and Traditionally). This is why the genuine revival of real Tradition and Liturgy in the Catholic Church cannot be coordinated by Catholic Traditionalists - and Benedict XVI (God bless his ecclesiastical socks) just made matters worse with Summorum Pontificum. He simply played into the hands of the Trads. This is just as I saw it.

    Moretben, oh yes I do remember that! I can't remember where you posted that challenge, but it is certainly resonant. Tolkien said that the virtue of loyalty is only virtuous when put to the test to abandon it. This is true in some circumstances, but in terms of Church and Liturgy I would beg to differ. Unlike Ignatius Loyola, I would put it: ''How many fingers am I holding up, Winston? Four. Good! And if the Pope says there are not four, but five, then how many?'' That is the question which Traditionalists simply cannot get to grips with - the question of how far the limits of Papal primacy can be stretched.

    Rubricarius, I have never made that connexion before, thanks for sharing. In the light of this post, it is interesting to think exactly how the Precious Blood was administered to the lay people in the West before the days of slow liturgical decline...

  15. "It was St Nicholas and he punched Arius. ", said "thehandmaid". Does that mean it was a Christmas present ?

  16. I had thought it was St Spirydon, in his pine-cone hat, but that was another story. I must apologise to his icon next week.

  17. Although very frequently accused of picking and choosing liturgically, I have to say I'm quite pleased we English Missal Anglicans at S'mag's do administer the chalice, it being a wonderful thing restored to us on our exit from the Roman jurisdiction!

    The principle is picking and choosing things that are good, authentic, scriptural and traditional.

  18. ex fide;

    I don't by any means like everything I find in the Catholic Church, liturgical or otherwise; but 'picking and choosing' is not the solution, because that way ultimately lies Protestantism - the exaltation of your own opinions over those of Holy Mother Church.

  19. The Handmaid, thank you for clarifying that.

    Joseph, you're better off outside the jurisdiction of Rome. This side of the Tiber, if you reverence Tradition over the latest Papal innovation, you're suspected of heresy. It doesn't seem to matter anymore what you believe, but who you obey and who you're in communion with. I don't know why I ever wasted my time with Traditionalism - as Amlach son of Imlach said: You have followed a fool-fire to the end of the world!

    My view is that if Popes deviate from Tradition they should be brought to book and forced to recant. Nothing can be both new and true.

    By the way, in what way do you administer the the Chalice to the lay people at St Magnus?

  20. I neither need nor want a Tardis. I make a short trip to St Pantaleimon and St Theodore, an undistinguished, largely whitewashed, mock-gothic box. There an assortment of Orthodox Christians – English,Scots, Cypriot, Slav - together with our beloved parish priest, and in unqualified, loving communion with our bishop, come together to constitute the visible Body of Christ – to make present and effective “that which we have received”. We don't do it faultlessly. We don't even do it well. We do it, as our Deacon once observed, “so badly that no-one can even get used to the same mistakes” . We don't do the canonical tones, or always present the correct icons. We do it in a haphazard mixture of modern English, Koine Greek and Church Slavonic. We do it naturally and unselfconsciously, unafflicted by factional bitterness, desperate nostalgia or legalistic, ideological scruples; untroubled by liberal agendas, conservative reactions or “personal preferences”. We inhabit the living Tradition, where Christ our God gathers and speaks to His people. What more could anyone want?