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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Saturday, 29 October 2011

STEP TO THE STARS: LIFE IN VALAAM MONASTERY



Valaam Monastery recall a vivid page – in the past. Recently, as if to strengthen me, I have learnt that two novices, whom I saw in passing by on Valaam, and whom I noted in my notebook, have accomplished a feat during those years. I have learnt that they have become a "light unto the world", that they are alive. Valaam gave them an obedience. And so vivid links spread from this "now" – to the past, and this past is a light for me. In this light is that Valaam, far away. And I thought that it would be profitable to recall and relate about it: Valaam is the same as before, shining. I.S.Shmelev

Thursday, 27 October 2011

THE ENTRANCE RITE

st john the theologian


INTRODUCTION

Before having a look at the Entrance Rite of the Catholic Mass, I would like to draw your attention to a scriptural text.   It is found in chapter 4 of the Apocalypse and is very appropriate when we look at the Entrance Rite. 

After this I looked and there in heaven a door stood open.   And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."   After this I was in the Spirit , and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne....
The Apocalypse, like much Jewish literature, has several levels of meaning so that this interpretation of the text does not exclude others.  .  It is obvious that John the Seer is being invited through the open door between heaven and earth into the Presence of God the Father on his throne.   It is also clear from reading the Apocalypse that its description of heaven is modelled on the temple of Jerusalem.   Where in the Jerusalem temple was the throne of God, where he was present so that they could be his people and he could be their God?   In the Holy of Holies there was the tip of Mount Sion.   In the first temple there were on either side a large golden statue of a cherubim and, in front was the Ark of the Covenant.   God's throne was between the two statues, and the Ark was his footstool.   In the second temple, statues and Ark had vanished and there was just an empty space.   Nevertheless, every year on the Day of the Atonement, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with great trepidation, to pour out the blood of a bull and ram onto the tip of Mount Sion, while the rest of the blood was sprinkled over the temple.  This ensured the Presence of God in the temple for another year.   Hence there was a link in the Jewish mind between atonement sacrifice and divine presence


In fact, the Aramaic word for sacrifice is Qurbana, in Hebrew korban, comes from the Hebrew root, karav which is a verb meaning "to approach", "to draw near".   Sacrifice involved offering to God and being accepted by God, thus establishing a connection.   How did the Jews know that their sacrifice had been accepted, without which it would be a non-event?   The places, the altars where acceptance by God was guaranteed were established by covenant.  Hence Jesus asked what is more holy, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering.   The most sacred place of all was where the blood of the Atonement was poured one a year.   This was where God's Presence was, where God lived among men without leaving his place in heaven, hence where heaven and earth were joined.   It was his throne, his mercy-seat, because God was present, not by force but because of his constant love for his people, even for the whole of creation.   When John went in the spirit from earth to heaven, it was to the throne of God he was taken, to the celestial equivalent of the Holy of Holies, the place that is both throne and altar.


The open door between earth and heaven is implied in several places in the Gospels.   Angels appear in a number of circumstances.   Angels from heaven unite with shepherds on earth to sing God's praises at Christ's birth.   The heavens are open for Christ's baptism and at the transfiguration.   After the temptations in the desert, angels from heaven and beasts from the desert on earth minister to Jesus.  In the "Our Father", the kingdom is where God's will is done on earth as in heaven, and sins are forgiven in heaven if we forgive debts on earth.  Angels are involved in both resurrection and ascension.  We shall see that this union between heaven and earth is also part of the liturgical tradition of the Church.   If we remember that the Christian altar is also called in Tradition the throne of God, the mercy seat, then we understand why this passage has been chosen in an article  on the Entrance Rite. 


  Just as John was invited through the open door to take part in the liturgy in heaven, so we too are brought together and, by taking part in the liturgy of the Church on earth, will be sharing in the liturgy of heaven   As the Letter to the Hebrews says:
You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 
The heavenly Jerusalem and temple were not a Christian fantasy.    Nor were they invented for the convenience of the prophets and writers of apocalyptic.  The temple was built according to a plan revealed by God to Moses.   From this was deduced that it reflected heavenly reality.   It came to be believed that it was a projection on earth of God's dwelling place in heaven which was the "real" temple in a "real" Jerusalem.   I have even seen it argued that Jewish beliefs about the temple were behind Plato's notion that heavenly "ideas"  are the reality behind the things of earth.  The idea was adopted and emphasised by Jew and Christian alike after the destruction of Jerusalem with its temple in 70AD.   It meant that, whatever took the place of the destroyed temple would retain its identity with the temple that had existed before because both had received the identity from heaven.   Here, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we see the Christian life in language taken from the temple and the idea that  we are not the only ones gathered before the living God, and that our assembly is part of a far greater assembly spanning heaven and earth.


THE ENTRANCE OF THE BISHOP


In the early Church, the entry of  the bishop was a joyous affair.   Both St John Chrysostoml in the East and Saint Augustine in the West say how difficult it was to get started.   People used to shout things like "Glory to God!!" and "God be praised!!" and made a general hub-bub and such a clamour that, had you been there, you would have thought  you were in a Pentecostal revival meeting.   Both bishops had difficulty controling the exhuberance of the peoples' devotion, and, perhaps, this kind of situation led to the introduction of the solemn procession in which the bishop entered,while a psalm and its antiphon were sung.   Often, the Gospel Book was carried in the procession and was laid on the altar., The Gospel Book was held in great reverence because, in its solemn reading, Christ would manifest his Presence in their midst.   Indeed, the joy, the exuberance, the person of the bishop, the solemnity and the reverence for the Gospel Book are all about presence.   You can say that the whole of Catholicism is about the many-faceted divine Presence and our participation in it.

Jesus said that he would be present when his disciples are called together in his Name.   Is it a matter of using a formula, simply saying that we are gathered in his name?   Does he enter our company whenever we want, according to our whim?   Is being gathered together in his name something that happens at our own initiative rather than his, and he trots into our presence like a little dog, whenever he is called?   Eucharistic Prayer III puts the truth of it very simply.   It is addressed to the Father and says:
You are indeed holy, O Lord, and all you have created rightly gives you praise, for through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power and working of the  Holy Spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy, and you never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to  your name.
God the Father calls us through his Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit; and he calls us for a specific purpose, to offer a pure sacrifice; and calls us in a specific context: just as the whole of creation rightly gives God praise because he is making it holy simply by creating it and holding it in being, so we, as representatives of the whole of humanity and rational voice of the whole cosmos, join in with our voices and actions according to our calling as God's priestly people, and we offer the pure sacrifice that God himself has provided on behalf of all that exists.   Because of our sins, a sacrifice that we ourselves provided would never be pure, which is why human beings had lost the function of being the voice of creation; but Christ has died for us, and we have regained it again. This sacrifice is nothing less than the Son's total act of self-giving on the cross in loving obedience, to the very last drop of his blood,  a self-giving that has taken him up to the Father in the Resurrection-Ascencion.   When at the Father's command, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in his act of sacrifice, then the Father's will is done on earth as in heaven, the kingdom of God is being realized, and we are sharing the divine life of the Holy Trinity which is what the kingdom is all about.

 To be gathered together in Christ's name is to be brought together by God the Father through Christ in the power of the Spirit.  We cannot do it ourselves.   We can only rely on God.   For this reason there is joy when the bishop, or his assistant the priest, arrives, because he is successor of the Apostles to whom Jesus said, "He who hears you hears me."  ,  As successor of the Apostles and representative of Christ in the community, he is the guarantee that the community has been called in Christ's name, that Christ is present among them, and that they can celebrate the Eucharist together.   For the early Church, ecclesial love is the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, "that they may we one, as you Father in me and I in you; that they may be one in us..."; and this love is manifested in  the harmony of charity in the Christian community which is, at the same time, harmony brought about through from obedience to the bishop who is the centre of communion.   As we shall see when we look more deeply at the Creed, this harmony makes it possible to share the truth in love and to recite the Creed with one heart and mind. .  

 The great sub-apostolic theologian of this harmony in the local church is St Ignatius of Antioch who was martyred around 10AD.   He exhorts the Magnesians:
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled. There is one Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is more excellent. Therefore run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one.
For St Ignatius, there is no Eucharist that is not conducted by the bishop or one of his presbyters.  This is a typical quotation:
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
Thus, the arrival of the bishop completes the Christian community, uniting it because, as St Cyprian of Carthage said, "The Church is in the bishop and the bishop in the Church."   It is now gathered together in Christ's name.   It is now "Church" in the full sense of the word.   Christ is present among us, and in Christ we are in the presence  of the Father before the throne.   The Church, while remaining an earthly reality has become full of heaven so that we are one with the heavenly host.   In the words of the Apocalypse, we have passed through the open door and are now before the throne; and this, as we shall see, is the basis for our understanding of the Christian altar..


By beginning Mass we participate in the kingdom, and this involves participating in the life of the Holy Trinity.   We imply this by the proclamation, "In the name of the Father...etc"   It is even more explicit in the Byzantine Rite.


ENTRANCE RITE IN THE BYZANTINE LITURGY

"Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and unto ages of ages.."
 People:
Amen.
The Great Litany and the Antiphons (*)


Deacon:
In peace let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For the peace of God and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For our Archbishop (Name), our Bishop (Name), the honorable presbyters, the deacons in the service of Christ, and all the clergy and laity, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For our country, the president, and all those in public service, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For this parish and city, for every city and country, and for the faithful who live in them, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and temperate seasons, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For travelers by land, sea, and air, for the sick, the suffering, the captives, and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and distress, let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Priest:
Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.
People:
To You, O Lord.
Priest (in a low voice):
Lord, our God, whose power is beyond compare, and glory is beyond understanding; whose mercy is boundless, and love for us is ineffable; look upon us and upon this holy house in Your compassion. Grant to us and to those who pray with us Your abundant mercy.


Priest:
For to You belong all glory, honor, and worship to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.
People:
Amen.
The First Antiphon


(The designated verses from the Psalms are sung with the hymn:)
People:
By the intercessions of the Theotokos, Savior, save us (3).
Deacon:
In peace let us again pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.
People:
To You, O Lord.
Priest (in a low voice):
Lord, our God, save Your people and bless Your inheritance; protect the whole body of Your Church; sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house; glorify them in return by Your divine power; and do not forsake us who hope in You.


Priest:
For Yours is the dominion, the kingdom, the power, and the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.
People:
Amen.
The Second Antiphon


(The designated verses from the Psalms are sung with the hymn:)
People:
Save us, O Son of God, (who rose from the dead), to You we sing: Alleluia (3).
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.


Only begotten Son and Word of God, although immortal You humbled Yourself for our salvation, taking flesh from the holy Theotokos and ever virgin Mary and, without change, becoming man. Christ, our God, You were crucified but conquered death by death. You are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit - save us.


Deacon:
In peace let us again pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Deacon:
Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.
People:
To You, O Lord.
Priest (in a low voice):
Lord, You have given us grace to offer these common prayers with one heart. You have promised to grant the requests of two or three gathered in Your name. Fulfill now the petitions of Your servants for our benefit, giving us the knowledge of Your truth in this world, and granting us eternal life in the world to come.


Priest:
For You are a good and loving God, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.
People:
Amen.
The Third Antiphon


(The designated verses of the Psalms are sung with the Apolytikion.)


The Entrance




(While the Apolytikion is sung, the priest carrying the holy Gospel Book comes in procession before the Beautiful Gate and prays in a low voice:)


Priest:
Master and Lord our God, You have established in heaven the orders and hosts of angels and archangels to minister to Your glory. Grant that the holy angels may enter with us that together we may serve and glorify Your goodness. For to You belong all glory, honor, and worship to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.


(The priest blesses the entrance saying in a low voice:)
Blessed is the entrance of Your saints always, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.


(He then raises the holy Gospel Book and says:)
Priest (Deacon):
Wisdom. Let us be attentive.
People:
Come, let us worship and bow before Christ. Save us, O Son of God who rose from the dead, to You we sing: Alleluia.
(The priest enters the sanctuary. The Apolytikion is repeated and the Troparion of the church and the Kontakion of the day are sung.)
The Trisagion Hymn


Deacon:
Let us pray to the Lord.
People:
Lord, have mercy.
Priest (in a low voice):
Holy God, You dwell among Your saints. You are praised by the Seraphim with the thrice holy hymn and glorified by the Cherubim and worshiped by all the heavenly powers. You have brought all things out of nothing into being. You have created man and woman in Your image and likeness and adorned them with all the gifts of Your grace. You give wisdom and understanding to the supplicant and do not overlook the sinner but have established repentance as the way of salvation. You have enabled us, Your lowly and unworthy servants, to stand at this hour before the glory of Your holy altar and to offer to You due worship and praise. Master, accept the thrice holy hymn also from the lips of us sinners and visit us in Your goodness. Forgive our voluntary and involuntary transgressions, sanctify our souls and bodies, and grant that we may worship and serve You in holiness all the days of our lives, by the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and of all the saints who have pleased You throughout the ages.


Priest:
For You are holy, our God, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever...
Deacon:
...and to the ages of ages.
People:
Amen. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us (3).
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.




Amen. Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.


Deacon:
Again, fervently.
Priest (turning towards the Prothesis, the priest says in a low voice:):
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.


(Then turning towards the holy Table, he says:)
Blessed are You on the throne of glory of Your kingdom, seated upon the Cherubim, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.


People:
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.


SOME COMMENTS ON THE BYZANTINE ENTRANCE

According to Fr A. Schmemann, the original order has been changed.  In the early centuries, Constantinople had a large cathedral, Hagia Sophia, and a large number of other churches; but there were no canonically independent parishes, the whole city being one pastoral unit.   Processions were extremely popular and on a Sunday or feastday, the community met in Hagia Sophia and then went in procession to the church where the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist) was to be celebrated.   During the procession they sang the three antiphons and psalms or something equivalent.   At the doors of the church a prayer was said, and then the patriarch, clergy and people entered with the Gospel book while the Trisagion was sung.   Once everybody was in his place, the Great Litany was sung.  Thus, the Little Entrance as it is called was originally the entrance of the community and ministers which form the body of Christ capable of "doing Eucharist" in synergy with the Holy Spirit who makes them what they are.
Besides the initial "Blessed be the kingdom.." at the beginning, there are other themes we have already seen.   The Great Litany is characteristic of Byzantine worship and reminds us that the Church is now in the presence of God on his mercy-seat with Christ at his right hand.   God is present on his throne with the cherubim, as in the Holy of Holies.  We pray together with the angels, so heaven and earth are joined.  There is also frequent mention of the Holy Trinity in whose life we share and whom we praise. 


Another change, according to Fr Schmemann, is that the concept of "sanctuary", which originally referred to the whole church, and the "royal doors", which originally meant the doors of the church, became restricted to the area around the altar which is separated from the nave by an iconstasis.   The prayer at the entrance is now said just before the moment when the bishop or priest enters the sanctuary; and this reduces the impact of the moment when priest and people unite as "church", as the basic sacrament of the kingdom of heaven on earth in which context the Eucharist is celebrated.   Nevertheless, the prayer makes much of the hierarchy of the angels in heaven who are asked to enter with us to unite their prayer to ours in praising God.   This reflects the hierarchic nature of the Church which makes possible the harmony which is a necessary condition for us to pray authentically.


  Finally, the celebrant says towards the holy table (altar)
.Blessed are You on the throne of glory of Your kingdom, seated upon the Cherubim, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Here is a passage from "The Eucharist" by Fr A. Schmemann on the significance of the altar in Byzantine Liturgy.
According to the witness of all tradition, the altar is a symbol of Christ and Christ.s kingdom.   It si the table at which Christ gathers us,   and it is the sacrificial table that unites the high priest and the sacrifice.   It is the throne of the King and Lord.   It is heaven, that kingdom in which "God is all in all".   And it is precisely from this experience of the altar as the focus of the eucharistic mystery of the Church that all the "mystique" of the altar developed - as heaven, as the eschatological pole of the liturgy, as that sacramental presence that converts the whole temple into "heaven on earth."   And therefore the entrance, the drawing near to the altar, is always an ascent.   In it the Church ascends to the place where her genuine "life is hid with Christ in God."   She ascends to heaven when the Eucharist is celebrated.
    
THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST
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That this reference to our entry into the kingdom is part of the universal Tradition is shown in the ritual of the Assyrian Church of the East, a church that has been separated from the Great Church, both Orthodox and Catholic, since the fifth century.   It has a very ancient liturgy, being very conservative, and its language is still Aramaic, the language of Our Lord.   Here is the whole entrance rite that we can  compare with our own.
Like the Orthodox Church the liturgy begins with preparation of the bread and wine before the entrance..  Unlike the Orthodox, preparing the bread begins with baking it, using a special formula which includes oil and "melka" which, they say, was given to them at the very beginning of their existence, a holy leaven that must be part of the eucharistic bread for it to be valid.   If a priest runs out of melka, he has to get more from his bishop before he celebrates.  Since the Gulph War there is de facto intercommunion in practice between Catholic Chaldean Christian and the Assyrians,


Their churches are generally without icons or statues.  They say that this is simply not their custom, but that they have nothing against them.   No one accuses them of being iconoclasts; and, under Orthodox or Catholic influence, if they put an icon or statue in their churches, then nobody cpmplains.   Like their cousins the Jacobites, they do not have an iconstasis but rather a curtain; though many do not use it.


THE ENTRANCE RITE IN THE ASSYRIAN LITURGY
Priest: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for ever.


Glory to God in the highest (three times) and on earth peace and good hope to men of all times for ever. Amen.
All pray: Our Father in heaven,hallowed be Thy name,Thy kingdom come.
Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, our Father in heaven. Heaven and earth are full of the greatness of Thy glory; angels and men cry out to Thee:Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou.



Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth. Give us the bread of our need this day, and forgive us our offences, as we have forgiven those who haveoffended us. And bring us not into trial but deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.





Priest: Strengthen, our Lord and our God, our weakness by Thy grace that we may administer the holy mysteries which were given for the renewal and redemption of our nature, through the mercies of Thy beloved Son, Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.


Here follows verses from Psalms 96 or 144, the choir responds by singing alternative clauses. After each clause is said: Hal-le-lu-Yah.


Priest: Before the glorious throne of Thy majesty, my Lord, and the high and exalted seat of Thy honour and the awesome judgement seat of the power of Thy love, and the absolving altar which Thy will has established and the place where Thy honour dwells, we, Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture, with thousands of Cherubim which sing halleluiahs to Thee, ten thousand Seraphim and Archangels which hallow Thee, do kneel and worship and confess and glorify Thee at all times, O Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen
The Assyrian entrance rite is divided into two, each ending in a prayer by the priest.   The first is an extended declaration of the presence of the kingdom where the will of God is done on earth as in heaven.   It is, at one and the same time, kingdom of God, where God reigns, carrying out his own will on earth as in heaven by his Word, and the kingdom of heaven, where the heavenly hosts join with the Church on earth to sing God's praises.   "Glory to God in the highest..." are the words of the angels at the birth of Christ, and "Holy, holy, holy.." is sung by angels at various theophanies.  Thus, right at the beginning are the themes of the kingdom, the Blessed Trinity, heaven and earth joined in praise and the Our Father, are all joined together.  After the priests prays a prayer pleading strength to fulfill his ministry, two choirs sing the Introit, each choir singing an alternate verse and adding Alleluia.  Afterwards, the priest prays to God present on his glorious throne, his judgement seat and absolving altar etc, and reference is made to the large number of angels etc    In going into God's presence, the altar becomes a full-blown theophany.


THE ROMAN RITE


The Roman rite is the shortest of the rites, and much is implicit where elsewhere it is explicit.   Perhaps no eucharistic prayer is so clear in the Mass being an ascent into heaven and in our sharing in the heavenly altar with the angels and saints as the Roman Canon, but it was in Latin and was said silently; and, anyway, scholastic theology had reduced in importance everything in it apart from the words of institution; so we should not be surprised if the centrality of the altar as the focus of attention in the Mass became obscured, locked away in the traditional prayers.

   Nevertheless, The presence of the kingdom was implied, unnoticed in the "In the name of the Father...", and the traditional teaching on the altar being, at the same time, throne and altar, the place where God is actively present because it is the place where the sacrifice of the Atonement is offered, is stated in the prayers at the foot of the altar.
"Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum que laetifical juventutem meam."   I shall go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.   Going to the altar and into the presence of God is one and the same action   After his act of penitence, the priest climbs the steps to the altar, a little reminder that taking part in the Eucharist is an ascent into heaven; though few have noticed this because the importance of the altar has been swamped by the importance of the tabernacle.   It is again implied at High Mass, whether in the old Mass or in the Novus Ordo, because, on ascending the altar, the priest kisses it and then incenses it.   He is doing what the High Priest did in the Holy of Holies before invoking God's Name as a sign of adoration and respect in God's presence.   The Kyrie eleison reminds us of the mercy seat without saying so, and the Gloria can remind us that we sing God's praises in the company of angels.

In the Novus Ordo, the bishop or priest enters the sanctuary and kisses the altar.  If there is a Gospel Book it is laid on the altar  If it is a solemn Mass, he incenses the altar before going to the celebrant's chair.   He makes the sign of the cross, announcing that what is being done is done in the name of the Blessed Trinity and then greets the people.   There are several alternative greetings. 


It can be said that the sacrament of baptism comes especially to life in our sharing in Christ's sacrifice in the Eusharist because we are baptised into his death and resurrection;, and our confirmation is seen to be working when we celebrate the Eucharist as Church being dependent on the bishop or priest who presides,because this sacrament celebrates our union in the Spirit with the hierarchic Church..   In fact, the bishop greets the people with the same words that he greets the individual who has just been confirmed.   He says, "Peace be with you."


  My favourite is
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
This indicates that we are not only called together  in Christ's name as Church, we also share in the life of the Trinity, God's own life.


In another, the work of the Holy Spirit is implicit in the word "grace":
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, we can use the simplest greeting of all
The Lord be with you
We shall say more about thus greeting when we meet it again before the reading of the Gospel.   Here it is enough to bring to your attention the fact that, as far as meaning goes, to bless "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", means the same as "The Lord be with you", because whatever Christ does is also done by the Father and the Holy Spirit, even if each divine Person has a different relationship to what is being done according to his position in the Blessed Trinity.


The answer to all three greetings is:
And with your spirit.
This reply is only given to bishops, priests and deacons because it means, "And may the Lord be with what you received at ordination."   If the Lord is not present empowering what he has given at ordination, then the ordination won't work.   If the Lord is not with us who receive, thenwe will be incapable of benefiting from the ministry.   Within the Church, the power to give and to receive comes from God.


THE ASPERGES OR PENITENTIAL RITE




If the Entry Rite has as its purpose the bringing together  to form, together with their priest, the Catholic Church in that place, it is fitting that the community renew their baptism collectively.   This is done either by the blessing of holy water by the priest and the congregation is sprinkled with it in memory of their baptism, or by a penitential rite    The first stresses that our baptism and the Christian life are given to us by God.   The second stresses the necessity to repent and to change in order to receive what God is offering us.
If it is the feast of the Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord, the Sundays of Eastertide or any other Sunday or suitable big event, he may bless the water and then sprinkle it on the people.   If he is enterprising, the choir will sing the Vidi Aquam in Eastertide, or Asperges me during the year or another suitable hymn.
On an ordinary Sunday, feastday or weekday, the priest will introduce the penitential act.
Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries..
Then follows the act of contrition, a version of the old Confiteor, a short petition with a response or a penitential act integrated with the Kyrie.   The priest responds:
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.   To which the people respond, AMEN
The Roman Rite is the only one to have a penitential rite at this point.  All the other rites assume that the Christian life is a penitential one, but are pre-occupied with being brought into God's presence here and are busy praising him or pleading his mercy.   The act of penitence began as part of the priest's prayers before the celebration.  Then it was said in a low voice at the foot of the altar in the private Mass.   Pope Pius Vth's Mass was really the private Mass with additions for public Masses - which was why it needed reform - so that the practice entered the public celebration.   In the changes, it is said, it became part of the modern Mass by liturgical mistake.   However, if it was a mistake, it was a providential one, because people are losing their sense of sin because they are losing their sense of God; and it must be emphasised that we can only worthily offer sacrifice with a pure heart.   This was said in the Didache, which has an order of Mass for the turn of the first century and begins with an act of penitence. 


  If not already included in the act of penitence, the next thing is the Kyrie.   The common language of Rome in the time of our Lord was Greek, and the Mass was originally celebrated in Greek.   Some believe that this is a left-over from that time, while others believe it to be a later importation.   In the extraordinary form each petition is said or sung three times, and in the Novus Ordo it is said or sung twice; though it can be sung three times if the music requires it.
Some believe that the Kyrie is what remains of a litany, like the Byzantine Rite's Great Litany before the mercy seat of God.
KYRIE ELEISON         LORD, HAVE MERCY
CHRISTE ELEISON    CHRIST, HAVE MERCY
KYRIE ELEISON         LORD, HAVE MERCY


On Sundays outside Advent and Lent and on feastdays and solemnities, this is followed by the GLORIA.


GLORIA
This is a very old Christian hymn indeed and was originally in Greek  where it is used in the Divine Office in the Byzantine Rite.   It may have been translated into Latin by St Hilary of Poitier and became part of the Entrance Rite in the Latin Mass.   There are three sections. 


  The first is in praise of God the Father.It opens with the hymn of the angels at the birth of Christ.   We are in God's presence, and it is assumed that we are also in the presence of the angels.  We have met this in the Assyrian Liturgy:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.
It then goes on to elaborate:We praise you,we bless you, we adore you,we glorify you,we give you thanks for your great glory,Lord God, heavenly King, O God almighty Father.

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 "Glory" means that by which a person's talent, beauty, rank or deeds are recognised.   Thus, according to the fashion of St Paul's time, the "glory" of a woman was her hair.  The scrambled egg on a general's cap and sleeve is his "glory" because it is the army's way of showing he is a general.   In St JOhn's Gospel, the Father and Jesus are "glorified" by the Cross because it reveals that God is self-giving Love.


The peace that people of good will will receive is that which comes from the harmony.between God and his creation brought about by Christ on the Cross.   The people praying are asking that the glory of God which is visible in heaven will become evident on earth by the peace reigning in people of good will.   It reflects the "Our Father" which asks that the Father's name be hallowed and that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven with the coming of the kingdom.
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   The second section calls the Son  "Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of God," and asks him to have mercy on us and hear our prayer.  The third praises Christ's uniqueness and end with a doxology, returning to the Father through the HolY Spirit.   The whole prayer has been called "the Great Doxology" in comparison with the "Small Doxology" which is< Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit etc"

COLLECT  

The entrance rite terminates with the collect said or sung by the celebrant, at the chair in the Novus Ordo or at the altar if we are using the extraordinary form.   The celebrant and people form one single body, so it is normal that the Christian community should speak with one voice, but the priest is praying as the voice of the gathering.   The prayer is normally addressed to the Father through Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and the people answer, "Amen".  In the Roman Rite it is normally a model of precision, packing much meaning into a short space.  Other rites tend to be more poetic and longer.    

In contrast to this, Protestants often point out the danger of just praying with the lips and automatically.  They prefer spontaneous prayer.   However, if they pray often and long, then they tend to repeat themselves, or to speak for the sake of speeking, "giving God the news".

The Jews have always been aware of the danger of mechanical prayer when we use fixed formula.  We come out of the same prayer tradition.   The ancient rabbis recommended that people use the fixed prayers of the liturgy in their private prayer before they celebrate the liturgy.  Use the texts in our prayer of the heart; and this should allow us to cwelebrate the liturgy with greater depth, avoiding superficiality.


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CONCLUSIONS

Lumen Gentium calls the Church the "universal sacrament of salvation".   Its whole nature is sacramental.   Just as Mary could not be Mother of God without the Holy Spirit, neither can the Church be the Church without the Holy Spirit.   The sacraments are actions by which the Church continually becomes itself, at once acts of the Church in the Spirit and of Christ in the same Spirit.   The context in which they  take place and are understood is the Church's liturgy which is the product of the Holy Spirit and the Church in synergy.

All this gives great importance to the gathering of the Church in whose liturgy the sacraments are going to be celebrated.   We have seen the joy with which the people greeted the bishop.   For the Church to be fully present, it has to have the hierarchic element, either the bishop or his representative, the priest.   However, once constituted, it is the universal witness of the liturgy of East and West that their attention becomes focused, not on themselves, but on the altar as both place of sacrifice and throne of God's presence, together with his angels and saints.   As we have seen earlier, we are gathered together with our priest to offer pure sacrifice.   Called together in Christ's name, Christ is present by  the power of the Spirit, and we pass through the open door into the presence of the Father: we are the Church.   Because Christ is not divided, we are intimately united to all Christians in heaven and on earth.   In fact, we are the visible part of the universal Church gathered together in one place, the top of the iceberg;and when we offer,  the whole Church offers.


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  Going to Mass implies leaving behind this world and passing through the open door to God's throne.   The paradox is that, the more radical the break, the stronger union with God in heaven, the more the kingdom of heaven is present on earth.   It is the way of the martyrs.  It is the way of St Therese who never left her convert but became patron saint of missionaries.   The secret is not what we do, but what God does through us.   The secret is to allow God to do what he wants in and through us.  The ascent into heaven which is the Eucharist begins with the gathering together in the Entrance Rite.   The more we turn our attention to God and open ourselves to him, the more the Church is visible on earth.    

We are in a situation where there are two forms of the Roman Rite.   The ordinary rite has generally done away with altar rails and rood screens, and have turned the sanctuary into a stage.   For the ordinary rite, the whole church is a sanctuary, just as it used to be in Constantinople.   Communion (often in both kinds) is usually received standing, and the consecrated host is received in the hand if the person receiving communion presents his hands, in the words of St Cyril of Jerusalem, as a throne.   Usually, the priest is stationed at the other side of the altar, with his face in the direction of the people.   On the other hand, in the extraordinary form, there is a sanctuary, with altar rails, if possible a rood screen, and an altar facing the traditional way.  The people receive communion on the tongue under only one kind.  The language is Latin except, perhaps, for the readings.


The first thing I have learned is that you cannot trust the criticisms of the advocates of the Novus Ordo when they criticise the extraordinary form; and you cannot trust the criticisms of the Novus Ordo by those who advocate the extraordinary form.   It is not that either side is lying.   There are many examples of what they criticise about the other side that they can point to, accusations that are obviously true; but they are beside the point.   On both sides there are those, perhaps even the majority, who celebrate a very balanced liturgy centred on God.   The "hermeneutic of continuity" is not just a tool for castigating the Novus Ordo nor simply a method to make it change direction.   It is a way by which we look at both forms to discover their inner unity..


Here is a video which contrasts "liturgy facing God"  (old Mass facing East) with man-centred liturgy (new Mass with the altar facing the people).  It is very good when it describes the virtues of the old way: it is a caricature when it talks of the ordinary form of Mass.  
 Both the old and the new liturgies are entirely focused on God when they are celebrated properly because both forms are focused on the altar.  Facing east is also good symbolism, but it is secondary.   An Oratorian priest, directing a priests' retreat on the extraordinary form at Belmont, told us that his Oratory church faces north.  He said that, where the altar is, there is "liturgical east".  That is special pleading.  People face east or they don't.   The truth is that facing east can be dispensed with: facing the altar cannot.  Priest and people face the altar and, therefore, they are facing God, in both forms of the rite.


   It is not helpful, and neither is it remotely true in many, many cases to characterise the "other lot" as directing the Mass at each other or that they become a closed circle in which God is marginalised.   It seems to be forgotten that a majority of the episcopate, together with priests and l;ay people,in fact prefer the Novus Ordo?    When people make sweeping statements about Mass facing the people, receiving communion standing and in the hand, they are merely practising what the Pope calls "the hermeneutic of rupture" in reverse! 


  I know that the changes were often fostered and carried out by people who had become expert liturgists overnight.   I know that the motive why the altar "was turned round" was to make it more visible and more prominent, not so that priest and people should stare at each other across it.   I know that the Vatican II reform is still in process and will need a lot of study and a lot of prayer before we can say that it is over.  Rather than caricature the other side at this time, let us return to the roots and find out what the two sides have in common and debate the concerns of each in a friendly and ecumenical fashion.   Only then will what the Pope hopes to happen come about; so that each side will influence the other.  I hope this series will make a small contribution to this necessary dialogue.



















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