Westminster Cathedral’s main altar

From the blog Holy Smoke by Damian Thompson:

The big free-standing altar [read: "picnic table"] that cluttered up the sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral has gone for good, it seems – with the full approval of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who is happy to celebrate Mass at the proper altar at the back of the sanctuary, under the baldacchino.   [People don’t realize that the baldacchino has theological importance. It is a sign of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  The tabernacle veil and the baldacchino hark to the descent of the cloud on the mountain and on the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament, indicating the presence of God.  Moses would enter into the cloud and emerged transformed by the presence of God’s kabod, his gloria.]


Unlamented: the "accessible" modern altar

Not only has the new altar (above) gone, but the hideous wooden platform on which it stood is now firmly locked away in a warehouse, never to return. And its location is being kept a secret, lest Tabletistas steal it back and try to restore what they imagine is "Vatican II worship".   [Perhaps we could set up some DaVinci Code style hunt for the platform and altar!  Let’s leave them clues and see how long it will take.]

The metal-framed altar was temporarily removed (as it always is) for Holy Week services, and then someone suggested to Archbishop Vincent Nichols that it should not return for his installation. I gather that he went up to Bentley’s original stone altar – where Mass can be celebrated west or east – and decided that, yes, this was the right place for him.

The wooden floor of the sanctuary has now been restored to remove the marks left by the platform, installed for the visit of John Paul II in 1982. I wish I could say that Archbishop Nichols celebrated eastwards, as the Pope would no doubt like him too – but, hey, one brick at a time[Hey!  Nice image!  "… one… brick… at a… time… ", there.  I’ve got it!  o{]:¬) ]

One great blessing: the new Archbishop has presumably put paid to any mad re-ordering schemes for the cathedral. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, for example, apparently toyed with a plan to move Bentley’s altar forward and install his own throne under the baldacchino. (Such modest chaps, these "Vatican II" prelates – they like their seating arrangements centre-stage.)  [They make themselves thrones such as no Roman Emperor had, placing themselves where God had been placed.  The old Roman arrangement of a sanctuary kept the priest and sacred ministers under control.  They often were turned sideways, singing toward a wall so that there was never a question that it wasn’t about them.]

Anyway, I’m hearing a lot of other good things about the new regime at Westminster Cathedral. But this is enough to be getting on with.

Great news!

Let’s us also pray for a return for ad orientem worship!

There are great churches all over the world with magnificent main altars.  These altars are the architectural focus of the building, drawing the eye and mind.  But in most of these places, they set up ironing-boards or picnic tables creating an eyesore, and theological confusion.  The main altar is important.  When you set up another altar in front of it, you confuse the meaning of the sanctuary and therefore the building.  Side altars are not so much a problem, but those altars in front of the main altar are.  

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45 Responses to Westminster Cathedral’s main altar

  1. Michael says:

    The natural next step is the ad orientem Mass. There is no room behind for movements and genuflection. In any case, the ad populum in Westmister Cathedral is a violation of its architecture – plainly, it was not designed for it.

  2. Cristero says:

    Ladrillo por ladrillo, Padre Zeta.

  3. Graham says:

    I agree with your comments about the space behind the altar.
    It was very tight indeed at His Grace’s installation Mass with his 4 area bishops all celebrating Mass ‘ad populum’ with him.
    As you know His Grace celebrated Mass at the Birmingham Oratory a few months ago ‘ad orientum’ (although novus ordo) but done well!
    Watch this space – next time Westminster Cathedral!

  4. Nathan says:

    Greetings–Fr Blake of St Mary Magdelen in Brighton also commented on this (http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com/2009/06/still-at-high-altar.html)and said that he heard talk of moving back the small wall behind the high altar to give more room for the versus populum Mass. Let’s hope, though, that ad orientem becomes the norm there.

    In Christ,

  5. Pes says:

    The old Roman arrangement of a sanctuary kept the priest and sacred ministers under control. They often were turned sideways, singing toward a wall so that there was never a question that it wasn’t about them.

    Would it not be very simple to make that change, which also costs nothing?

    At the very least, turn the cantor’s music stand to face the middle of the sanctuary instead of the congregation. These are small and cost-free changes that can help place the focus where it ought to be.

  6. thomas says:

    The solemn high mass yesterday at Our Lady of Grace in Greensboro, NC was celebrated ad orientem.

  7. Augustine says:

    Father,

    I like your comment on the location of the cathedra. I think it’s particularly beautiful that in Eastern Churches the Bishop is enthroned outside the sanctuary, among his people, and then goes into the sanctuary on their behalf.

    Oh that the Latin Church would remember the sacred order of its sacred buildings!

    Augustine

  8. Dave N. says:

    Kavod.

  9. Kimberly says:

    It lifts your heart to heavenly things. Why oh why can’t people see that.

  10. Mitchell NY says:

    I think the same needs to be done in many Churches now that the EF is being celebrated once again. At the Pontifical Mass Last Friday at St. Jean Baptiste, NYC the celebration was EF ad orientem and the table Altar was indeed obscuring the view of what what happening at the Main Altar. They should at a minimum be movable, but I advocate their removal. This is good news for all at Westminster…

  11. TNCath says:

    Let us hope and pray that other cathedrals/basilicas follow Westminster Cathedral in the restoration of the main altar under the baldacchino, especially the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. At the National Shrine, having that choir in blue choir robes behind the celebrant and in front of the main altar is terribly distracting.

  12. This is very good news. I hope other churches begin to follow the practice at Westminster. I attended Mass in the Extraordinary Form yesterday at Our Lady of Grace in Greensboro NC, and was quite happy the see the magnificent high altar in use. I don’t see why ad orientem worship is so discouraged.

  13. Paul Waddington says:

    A Pontifical Solumn Mass in the Extraordinary form was celebrated last Saturday in Westminster Cathedral by Bishop Arnold using the High Altar and ad orientem. This was on the day of the Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society.

  14. Warren Anderson says:

    Why not make sure that platform never returns and construct a bonfire with it on the eve of Saint John’s day? The 23rd of June, as in tomorrow.

  15. Paul says:

    This reminds me of a question. I was at a training for Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers and the question came up about what we are actually bowing/genuflecting to when approaching the sanctuary. One lay person said “the Tabernacle.” (that was my thought). The priest gave an embarrassed laugh, and said it was to the altar because that was where the Sacrifice takes place.

    My church is NO, but has the tabernacle in the center, on the rear altar, and has a table altar in the front center. The priest celebrates ad populam, and after bowing/genuflecting, walks around and kisses the table altar at the beginning of mass.

    My feeling is that both altars deserve respect, but that the bowing/genuflecting should be directed toward the tabernacle, where the Real Presence is. Am I wrong? Or is there a distinction that I am not aware of? Any comments would be appreciated.

  16. James Christian says:

    I understand that you do not like the altar that is being removed from Westminster cathedral, but the fact remains that the eucharist has been celebrated upon it, and it was probably dedicated according to the rites of the Catholic church. Whether or not the altar was a worthy one to begin with is a fair question, but the dignity given to it by subsequent celebrations of the eucharist and the rite of dedication is certain. This altar has stood as a sacramental sign of Christ himself (Dedication of a Church and Altar, #4). Calling it a picnic table is disrespectful. Is not one of your goals and purposes a restoration of reverence for the things of God? How do snide comments like calling a Catholic altar a picnic table help with that?

  17. Stitchwort says:

    Paul, I’m sure there are many here who could answer your query far better than I, but but it is my understanding that one genuflects to the tabernacle in recognition of the Real Presence, and bows to the altar where the Sacrifice takes place.

    You are fortunate that in your parish the tabernacle is still in the center, (which, in my not-so-humble opinion is where it belongs) but that probably contributes to some of the confusion. In our parish, it is off to the side, and it is very obvious, when the priest processes in as he (or they, if another of his order is concelebrating with him) perform each gesture in the appropriate direction. I forget (mea culpa!) which they do first.

    If the tabernacle is empty, as on Good Friday, the genuflection is omitted. And of course, a physical inability to perform the gesture relieves the individual of the obligation.

  18. Martin T says:

    [Perhaps we could set up some DaVinci Code style hunt for the platform and altar! Let’s leave them clues and see how long it will take.]

    First tell them the clues are “ineffable” then give the answer directly and clearly, but in Latin. They would never get it.

  19. Sean says:

    One down, three-hundred thousand to go!!

  20. Bernie says:

    From what I have been able to learn about the structure called the baldacchino: The baldacchino (or ciborium) actually has its origin in ancient Roman mausoleum design (see the tomb of Cecilia Matella on the Via Appia Antica outside Rome). These were often large cylindical, square, or octagonal buildings (or smaller, commemorative forms)over an individual’s tomb, or tombs of a family. Constantine’s architects utilized the funerary symbolism when they constructed the Christian martyria basilicas outside the walls of Rome, the most important one being St. Peter’s on the Vatican hill. The mausoleum architectural form was transformed into the ‘ciborium magnum’ and placed over the altar which was positioned over the tomb of the martyr. The original ciborium in the first St. Peter’s was actually over Peter’s tomb, not the altar. In fact, there is some question as to whether there was, originally, even an altar in the apse behind the tomb. The edicule over the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem –in fact, the entire rotunda– greatly influenced subsequent church architecture along these lines. The early basilicas/churches symbolized the tomb of Christ in that the martyrs buried under the altar died in Christ. The relics of the saints and martyrs were transferred from the catacombs to under the altars of the tituli churches within the walls of Rome as the churches were gradually built or rebuilt over time. The ciborium/canopy/baldacchino (the terms are used interchangeably) came standard in nearly all churches and was required in the RC Church by the “Caeremoniale Episcoporium”. I’m not sure but that the requirement still stands. The baldincchino is also used over the bishop’s throne and over statues although, in these cases we are obviously seeing the application of an evolved symbolism. I wrote this fast, sorry if it’s not clearly presented.

  21. pelerin says:

    Being an occasional visitor to Westminster Cathedral, I too was so pleased to see the high altar being used again. I attended a NO Requiem Mass there on Wednesday for the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Hume and was surprised to see that that too was celebrated at the high altar. The sanctuary is now spacious again. The majesty of the original cathedral archecture has returned.

    I understand that the so called new altar was installed for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982.

  22. RBrown says:

    I understand that you do not like the altar that is being removed from Westminster cathedral, but the fact remains that the eucharist has been celebrated upon it, and it was probably dedicated according to the rites of the Catholic church.

    Whether or not the altar was a worthy one to begin with is a fair question, but the dignity given to it by subsequent celebrations of the eucharist and the rite of dedication is certain.

    This altar has stood as a sacramental sign of Christ himself (Dedication of a Church and Altar, #4). Calling it a picnic table is disrespectful.

    Is not one of your goals and purposes a restoration of reverence for the things of God? How do snide comments like calling a Catholic altar a picnic table help with that?
    Comment by James Christian

    I think you’re missing the point by not realizing that the Novus Ordo is intended to be celebrated as a meal. Klaus Gamber, whose book “Reform of the Liturgy” is much admired by BXVI, thought that the contemporary celebration of the mass is more like a TV cooking show.

    Thus the use of “picnic table”.

    Further, I would hope that you realize that the use of a Protestant Eucharistic table at mass is in itself disrepectful.

  23. Justin says:

    “I think you’re missing the point by not realizing that the Novus Ordo is intended to be celebrated as a meal.”

    Tell that to Pope Benedict then. I guess the so-called hermeneutic of continuity is therefore wrong. (Then again I’m an ultramontanist – which means if you don’t agree with the Pope – you’re probably wrong!)

    The Novus Ordo is meant to be celebrated in a worthy and dignified manner (see the GIRM, SC, RS). The fact that so many do not do so and treat it as a celebratory meal means that they are being disrespectful to the wishes of the council and the Magisterium of the church.

    There are altars which resemble picnic tables. For all it’s faults, the forward altar at Westminster Cathedral (thankfully now removed) did not resemble a picnic table.

  24. Paul, according to the current GIRM, one should genuflect to the Tabernacle entering and exiting the Sancturary, however, not during the Mass itself (no thank you GIRM 274), Though I know many who ignore this rubric, and genuflect to the Tabernacle throughout the Mass (e.g. EWTN)

    Deo Gratias!, I agree, bonfire for the wooden platform is a great idea.

  25. Brian says:

    The main altar is important. When you set up another altar in front of it, you confuse the meaning of the sanctuary and therefore the building. Side altars are not so much a problem, but those altars in front of the main altar are.

    Our local bishop recently forbid moving the low altar for a local TLM (it had been moved to the side, in front of a side altar, for every TLM since September 14, 2007.)

    Is there any theological basis for forbidding the moving of a portable (i.e., not fixed) low altar for celebration of a Traditional Latin Mass?

    Does a bishop have the canonical authority to forbid this?

  26. TJM says:

    I have a question. Now that the main altar is being used again, I assume the celebrant still faces versus populum? Tom

  27. James Christian says:

    I think you’re missing the point by not realizing that the Novus Ordo is intended to be celebrated as a meal. Klaus Gamber, whose book “Reform of the Liturgy” is much admired by BXVI, thought that the contemporary celebration of the mass is more like a TV cooking show.

    Thus the use of “picnic table”.

    Further, I would hope that you realize that the use of a Protestant Eucharistic table at mass is in itself disrepectful.

    Comment by RBrown

    I don’t understand your point about the Mass as meal. The Mass is the sacrifice and the paschal banquet (meal) of Christ, cf CCC 1382.
    Whatever a Protestant Eucharistic (sic) table is, the altar in Westminster Cathedral, made of material approved by the appropriate ecclesial authority, dedicated according to the proper rite by the bishop, and used for the valid confection of the eucharist is a Catholic altar deserving of respect and not a picnic table.

  28. roydosan says:

    Tom, yes – all the Masses are being celebrated versus populum with the exception of the LMS annual High Mass which is in the EF.

  29. RBrown says:

    Tell that to Pope Benedict then.

    I guess the so-called hermeneutic of continuity is therefore wrong.

    The hermeneutic of continuity refers to interpretation of VatII. JRatzinger has on more than one occasion made it clear that the reform of the liturgy was not done with the aforementioned hermeneutic.

    Then again I’m an ultramontanist – which means if you don’t agree with the Pope – you’re probably wrong!)

    Although I’m not an ultramontanist, I do agree with the pope.

    I recommend JRatzinger’s “Memoirs” and his “Spirit of the Liturgy”. For an ultramontanist like you, it should be pleasurable reading. It should also help you understand that you do not agree with the pope.

    Also the Gamber book, which as I noted above, the pope endorsed. Ultamontanist that you are, you need to come over to Gamber’s position.

    The Novus Ordo is meant to be celebrated in a worthy and dignified manner (see the GIRM, SC, RS).

    That doesn’t mean that it is not to be celebrated as a meal.

    The fact that so many do not do so and treat it as a celebratory meal means that they are being disrespectful to the wishes of the council and the Magisterium of the church.

    Once again, I recommend the two Ratzinger books.

    There are altars which resemble picnic tables. For all it’s faults, the forward altar at Westminster Cathedral (thankfully now removed) did not resemble a picnic table.
    Comment by Justin

    I already answered that objection.

  30. David says:

    I remember attending the first TLM mass since Vatican II at the San Xavier del Bac Mission in Tucson about a year and a half ago. There was an incredible moment during the preparations for mass when the table altar was moved away, and the high altar was exposed in all its glory. Pictures from that mass can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catholicsun/2138142089/

  31. Justin says:

    Actually RBrown, you drawn an arbitrary distinction between the interpretation of Vatican II and the current liturgical problems in the Church. The Pope asks that we look at the teachings and practices of the Church in light of a hermeneutic of continuity with the tradition. This means that when we celebrate the Mass of the Second Vatican Council, we are asked to celebrate it in continuity with the tradition of the Church.

    When we talk about “intention” we’re not talking about Fr Joe Blogg’s intention, or the intention of the congregation or even the intention of a Bishop. Rather we speak of intending to do what the Church does – which is to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (see the GIRM, or the CCC).

    Your suggestion that the NO is MEANT TO BE celebrated as a community meal primarily legitimizes the view of The Tabletistas et al. What you’re saying is they are right to have their “let’s all gather round and worship each other” focus on the Mass.

    What we see and what the Holy Father has asked of us, is that we celebrate the Mass of Vatican II, just like we interpret the documents of Vatican II in a hermeneutic of continuity. We saw this very clearly in the accompanying letter to SP which sets out his hope that the OF will be enriched by celebrations of the EF.

    Further, your suggestion that because the Novus Ordo can be both sacrifice and meal, therefore it is intended to be celebrated as some sort of family barbecue. The meal aspect is but one aspect of the Mass. It doesn’t mean that the primary aspect is no longer one of Sacrifice (certainly this is not the Church’s intention). The Angelic Doctor saw no contradiction between the two – and his great hymn, Panis Angelicus, and the titles we ascribe to the Sacred Species such as the Food of Travellers, the Medicine of Immortality – speak to that effect very well.

    RBrown, I put it to you that what you are doing is putting your own individual spin on the issue. Instead of accepting what the Church identifies as her intention in offering the Mass, you have chosen to suggest that her intention has now changed into one of throwing a celebratory meal and left it at that – without also mentioning the fact that the Church has never changed in her teaching about the Mass being first and foremost a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving to God. The works you ascribe make no effort at doing what you are doing. Criticisms of the Novus Ordo is not the same thing as your suggestion that the Mass is inherently different (and your accusation implies a difference of kind, not merely a difference of degree), from that which the Church has always believed and done.

  32. Kells says:

    This move is truly welcomed. Archbishop Nichol’s installation was so dignified by the use of the main altar and now the space in the sanctuary is remarkable. Perhaps the main altar at the Basilica of the National Shrine will start to be used again. Perhaps for the upcoming ordination of Archbishop-Elect DiNoia? The sanctuary would really lend itself to such a change.

  33. Central Valley says:

    Brick by brick at Westminster…..now onto the concrete cathedral in Los Angeles.

  34. Mr. H says:

    Glad to see things moving in a positive direction in London.

    Damian Thompson is a must read for news out of the British Isles.

    Mr. H
    http://www.allhands-ondeck.blogspot.com/

  35. Roland de Chanson says:

    Picnic table? I am scandalised! Well, not really. Actually, that was priceless. Sentis cum Ecclesia, Ecclesia Vera! I guess I don’t feel as bad now since I once referred to the abominable table as a bar and the presbyter as the barkeep. I was persona non grata among the V2 fanatics that night.

    Picnic table. I’ll have to use that some time. I’ll credit you and your blog for the heretics I offend.

    Later supra laterem! Servare Liturgiam est mundum servare. You have an ear for the bon mot or “sound byte”.

    Age quod agis.

  36. stigmatized says:

    why couldn’t they have just put a small square table on the floor of the nave in front of the people when they wanted it to feel like a meal more? that is the only way really. what they were really aiming for is a clerical apotheosis like the ones they have at s.patrick’s cathedral several times a day.

  37. Matthew G. Hysell says:

    Your interpretation of the baldacchino is not entirely accurate. [I think it probably is.]

    It is supposed to evoke the image of the marriage bed, thus indicating that the Eucharist is the focal point of Christ’s love for His Church.

    You might want to reconsider your uncharitable remark about the “picnic table.” After all, the Holy Sacrifice was celebrated there, and it was indeed dedicated to this purpose. Let’s not be flippant–we’re supposed to be Christians. [You can call it what you want. Staying with your evocation of linen… perhaps… ironing board?]

  38. RBrown says:

    I don’t understand your point about the Mass as meal. The Mass is the sacrifice

    The syncretism of Paul VI considered the mass as a memorial of the Sacrifice of Christ AND of the Last Supper. NB: no 12 in the following.

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P6601119.HTM

    Catholic theology has long considered the Eucharist to be a memorial of the Sacrifice of Christ that was instituted at the Last Supper. Protestantism, denying both Transubstantiation and the Mass as Sacrifice, considers the Eucharist a memorial of the Last Supper.

    The new catechism restores the proper Catholic Eucharistic theology. If there is, however, a difference between it and the theology of the Novus Ordo (Paul VI in the text himself refers to it), then we have a lex credendi lex orandi anomaly.

    and the paschal banquet (meal) of Christ, cf CCC 1382.

    The Pascal Banquet of Christ is an eschatalogical phrase (future glory), not a reference to the past (memorial of the Last Supper).


    Whatever a Protestant Eucharistic (sic) table is, the altar in Westminster Cathedral, made of material approved by the appropriate ecclesial authority, dedicated according to the proper rite by the bishop, and used for the valid confection of the eucharist is a Catholic altar deserving of respect and not a picnic table.
    Comment by James Christian

    Let’s say a priest often takes a youth group on outings, hikings, etc. Let’s also say that the priest customarily says mass on a picnic table, the same one each time. That practice does not change the fact that it is still a picnic table.

    BTW, the Protestants do have something they call the Eucharist.

  39. Natasha says:

    That is exciting news about Westminster. I pray that the same will eventually be done at the cathedral in Edinburgh. They put the choir between the altars and it looks awfully crowded and it is not possible to see the main altar.

  40. depeccatoradvitam says:

    Perhaps the hideous wooden platform should have been handled \”briquet by briquet\” as in charcoal and never a phoenix to arise.

  41. Ohio Annie says:

    But the altar in question is not in fact a picnic table and should not be referred to as such.

  42. Adam says:

    I was at the mass for the late cardinal Hume there and the High Altar was used. But it is so cramped for the celebrant and the auxiliary bishops were pushed to the side with the MC and deacons being far too prominent at the Eucharistic prayer. Check Rome and see that the MC and deacons are behind the Pontiff, not to the side of him.
    The Westminster cathedral altar also has the candles behind and not on the altar. This should be corrected with the candles placed on the altar. Behind is very odd.
    Of course the alter would be better about 2 feet forward but this would be a major job. Still it is far better now than it was with the crazy temp altar.
    +Nichols needs to be bold. It would be good to make far greater use of this high altar and also to use the pulpit in the naive as well, as is now being down. The temporary little stand he used at the Hume mass for the sermon looked pokey and quite surreal.
    |Why the arch did not use the pulpit I do not know.
    But things are changing and that is good.

  43. Sandy says:

    “Placing themselves where God had been…” strikes me more than any other statement, Father. Years ago the Lord hit me over the head with that one – realizing that the priest’s “throne” was where the tabernacle and/or the old altar had been. Reminds me of certain Scriptures that appear to speak about this happening. It is another instance of two groups – one who is oblivious to the symbolism of man replacing God and the others who “get it”.

  44. Phil Steinacker says:

    Father Z actually said: “But in most of these places, they set up ironing-boards or picnic tables creating an eyesore, and theological confusion.”

    He did NOT refer to the now removed altar as a picnic table; he was making a reference to certain images that can be evoked by this style of altar.

    He was not disrespectful of a specific altar; he WAS, perhaps, disrespectful of the style in question, and expressed that via an unfavorable comparison.

    I agree with him.

    BTW, isn’t anybody here going to express outrage over the ironing board reference? I thought not. So, it appears some of us are offended by a comparison to a picnic table but not by one to an ironing board.

    I would have thought those in love with an over-emphasis on the Mass as “meal” (please note legitimizing absence of article) would be able to do a typical liberal stretch so that Eucharist as “meal” might render “picnic table” as not so offensive (in fact, as theologically correct), and choose instead to be outraged by the spiritual vulgarity of the ironing board comparison – for which, I admit, I am momentarily stumped to produce appropriately new church symbolism by which its use might be similarly defended.

    Give us time, though; with sufficient imagination we should be able to produce a post-concilar document creating something out of whole cloth that we all can love. We always have, haven’t we?

    Don’t get your panties in such a twist.

  45. RBrown says:

    Actually RBrown, you drawn an arbitrary distinction between the interpretation of Vatican II and the current liturgical problems in the Church. The Pope asks that we look at the teachings and practices of the Church in light of a hermeneutic of continuity with the tradition. This means that when we celebrate the Mass of the Second Vatican Council, we are asked to celebrate it in continuity with the tradition of the Church.

    Once again: JRatzinger pointed out that the liturgical reform was a break in the continuity of the liturgical tradition of the Church.

    I continue to recommend his two books.

    When we talk about “intention” we’re not talking about Fr Joe Blogg’s intention, or the intention of the congregation or even the intention of a Bishop. Rather we speak of intending to do what the Church does – which is to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (see the GIRM, or the CCC).

    Intention is expressed in the Sacramental Form and in the entire liturgy itself. (This is the principle behind Minimal Intention, which is always general–that the specific Sacramental intention of the Church is expressed in the Sacramental Form and liturgy. I recommend Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae.)

    My point is not that the Sacramental Form of the Novus Ordo is inadequate–it is essentially unchanged from the Greg Rite. Rather it is that there are components of the Novus Ordo (not essential for valid consecration) that are at best ambiguous expressions of this specific intention.

    Your suggestion that the NO is MEANT TO BE celebrated as a community meal primarily legitimizes the view of The Tabletistas et al.

    In light of the Novus Ordo and Paul VI’s comments, I think they make a good case.

    What you’re saying is they are right to have their “let’s all gather round and worship each other” focus on the Mass.

    What I’m saying is that the Mass as Meal theology–intended as detente with Protestantism–was a component of the composition of the Novus Ordo.

    What we see and what the Holy Father has asked of us, is that we celebrate the Mass of Vatican II, just like we interpret the documents of Vatican II in a hermeneutic of continuity. We saw this very clearly in the accompanying letter to SP which sets out his hope that the OF will be enriched by celebrations of the EF.

    The pope has also pointed out that there is a lack of continuity between the liturgical reform and the documents of Vat II. You can do the math.

    Further, your suggestion that because the Novus Ordo can be both sacrifice and meal, therefore it is intended to be celebrated as some sort of family barbecue. The meal aspect is but one aspect of the Mass. It doesn’t mean that the primary aspect is no longer one of Sacrifice (certainly this is not the Church’s intention).

    I noted above that Paul VI’s attempted a syncretism of Catholic Eucharistic doctrine with Protestantism–the Eucharist as memorial of both the Passion and Death AND the Last Supper.

    The Angelic Doctor saw no contradiction between the two – and his great hymn, Panis Angelicus, and the titles we ascribe to the Sacred Species such as the Food of Travellers, the Medicine of Immortality – speak to that effect very well.

    That is incorrect. In the Summa Theologiae St Thomas makes no reference to the Eucharist as Meal. He uses the Sacrament and Sacrifice couplet.

    As I noted in the previous post, any reference to the Eucharist as a Banquet, etc., is a reference to future glory.

    RBrown, I put it to you that what you are doing is putting your own individual spin on the issue.

    No, I’m considering the matter according to actually what is, not what I wish would be.

    Instead of accepting what the Church identifies as her intention in offering the Mass, you have chosen to suggest that her intention has now changed into one of throwing a celebratory meal and left it at that – without also mentioning the fact that the Church has never changed in her teaching about the Mass being first and foremost a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving to God. The works you ascribe make no effort at doing what you are doing. Criticisms of the Novus Ordo is not the same thing as your suggestion that the Mass is inherently different (and your accusation implies a difference of kind, not merely a difference of degree), from that which the Church has always believed and done.
    Comment by Justin

    You seem to be engaging in revisionist history. There is a reason the Pauline Mass is called the Novus Ordo. If you follow the link above, you will see that Paul VI himself refers to it as an innovation. Now you’re trying to say that it was not an innovation.

    I noted earlier that the Protestant concept of the Eucharist is based on considering the Eucharist as a memorial of the Last Supper. The consequence of that is that the Eucharist is a Christianized version of the Passover which it decidedly is not.

    Once again, I recommend JRatinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy”.