Saint Thomas Aquinas

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dare We Compare the Masses? Part 5: The Laity and the Holy Sacrifice



So far we have examined three points concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that we may have an objective way to compare the Tridentine Mass (Extraordinary Form) and the Novus Ordo Mass. The intent is to see which of the two rituals best presents the reality of what happens during the Mass. In order to properly form this comparison it must done using right reason in observing objective truths of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. So far we have defined the essence of the Mass as Sacrifice. We objectively defined what right worship consists of, which is adoration, prayer and sacrifice. And we have identified the objective role of the priest in the Mass, in persona Christi. Now we must define the role of the laity.

If we can identify the role and purpose the laity in attending The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this will give us another objective element in our comparison model of the two rituals. The laity are defined as being all of the faithful other than those ordained or professed religious. The laity could be said to be "the ordinary people." Some take this in a negative way, but as we shall see, there is nothing negative regarding the role of the laity. There are traditionally four aspects concerning the role of the laity in the Mass. You will notice a pattern here as the role of laity is directly related to what we have defined in the essence of the Mass, right worship, and the role of priest. The 1959 prayer book for the laity titled, 'Blessed Be God' gives us a nice outline as to what intensions the laity should offer up when they attend Mass. They are as follows...

1. To adore Thee and give Thee the honor which is due to Thee, confessing thy supreme dominion over all things, and the absolute dependence of everything upon Thee, Who art our one and last end.

This first purpose concerns itself with man's obligation to recognize God for who He is and what is rightly due to Him. Since man is dependent on God for his very existence, it stands to reason that man should give thanks to God and give Him the worship that is due to Him. Saint Thomas tells us from the Summa, "It must be said that every being in any way existing is from God." So man comes to Mass first first to offer right worship that is due to God.

2. To thank Thee for innumerable benefits received.

The second purpose is closely linked to the first. It follows that right worship also includes not only recognizing God for Who He is, but also in giving thanks to Him. Everything we have in our lives including, relationships with friends and loved ones, food, shelter, clothing, our health, and most importantly our salvation, comes from God as a gift. In accordance with this reality we give thanks to God during the Mass. Saint Teresa of Avila's words come to mind, "In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks."

3. To appease Thy justice, irritated against us by so many sins, and to make satisfaction for them. 

We have already discussed the essence of the Holy Mass as Sacrifice. This third purpose for man attending the Mass is to appease God's justice. Since man's sin against an all perfect God can never be redeemed by a sacrifice from man himself, God the Father receives the Sacrifice of His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. In this unique manner Christ is also recognized as King. That is, He conquered evil and now reigns over man as "King." "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..." The laity in a special way by their royal priesthood, participate in this Holy Sacrifice. Although the priest alone stands in persona Christi offering the Sacrifice on part of the faithful, all of the laity properly give thanks, offering and praise to almighty God in this perfect Sacrifice, in union with the priest. When we realize this it urges us to present ourselves as often as possible at The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The great Saint, Padre Pio said it best, "If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass....Renew your faith by attending Holy Mass. Keep your mind focused on the mystery that is unfolding before your eyes. In your mind’s eye transport yourself to Calvary and meditate on the Victim who offers Himself to Divine Justice, paying the price of your redemption."

4. To implore grace and mercy for myself, for _, for all afflicted and sorrowing, for poor sinners, for all the world, and for the holy souls in Purgatory.

The final purpose is to petition God for His grace, for ourselves and for others so that we may be provided with all of our temporal and spiritual necessities. The most precious way in which we receive graces and become one with God, is by receiving the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. When we partake of Christ's Real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, we then also, if we are properly disposed in a state of grace, receive more grace from God so that we may become holy and enjoy union with God. Again we listen to Saint Pio, "Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we ourselves, do not know."


Notice how these four purposes are ordered, and how none of these reasons have to do with the laity being entertained. We first step into the Mass with the intention of coming to give God His the worship that is due to Him. We then thank Him for all we received from Him. Next we ask God to accept the perfect Sacrifice of His only Son, so that we may be freed from our sin. Finally we then ask for His grace for ourselves and others, so that we may all reach the end for which we were created, which is eternity with God. Jesus gives us Himself in the Most Holy Sacrament so that we may be one with Him and receive the graces we need to do God's will and reach eternal salvation. When we engage in these four aspects of the Mass with our full devotion, we then fully participate in the Mass. Participation is not a physical action we must perform during Mass. It involves right worship and prayer during the Mass. This can be done by following the ritual with a Missal, following the Mass in prayer, or in meditation.

The laity attend Mass for the glorification of God, and so that they may reach the end for which we were created. The Mass is centered on God first, not man. Even when the laity first come to God it is only because God first calls that person by His grace. That person however responds properly because as the text of the Mass says, "it is meet and just." We then thank Him and then petition Him for His graces and unite ourselves with Him in the Holy Eucharist. This is critical to remember as we begin to compare our two rituals. If a ritual better orients the laity towards these four purposes, so they can better fulfill their desired participation, then that ritual would be superior to another ritual which does not orient the laity as well towards these intentions. Although there are other elements we could consider, we now have four critical objective elements for which to compare our two rituals. As we know there have been many works concerning the Holy Mass that have been written over the course of Church history. For the purpose of this series we have only gone as deep as necessary in order to present a fair objective comparison of these two rituals. In the next part we move on to begin our comparison.


1 comment:

Gabriel said...

The Latin Mass is beautiful; but I think the whole point of changing the liturgy in the first place was to engage the laity to go out into the world and share what we receive at the Mass, with those who are starving for the love of Christ.

When we go to Mass, we receive Truth, Grace and Life, not for a mere personal selfish sanctification, but rather for service in the world, spreading what we receive like a blaze of fire. There are billions of souls on earth starving for the love and truth of Christ.

Frightfully, to those to whom much is given, much more will be required-- and Catholics were given everything in the Mass, whether it is the Novus Ordo or the Tridentine Mass.

Jesus Christ is very clear on how everyone will be judged. The sheep will be separated from the goats, not based on the theology we know, but on the love we shared.

Archbishop Sheen put it well:


"It could very well be that we have entirely too much insistence upon a knowledge of Christian doctrine, and not enough insistence on the doing. Our blessed Lord never said that, 'if you know my doctrine you will do my will' ---but He did say that, 'if you do my will, you will know my doctrine'.