One of the distinctive elements of our life in the personal ordinariates is the calendar which regulates our celebration of the liturgical year as a particular community within the wider Catholic Church. For the next three weeks will we differ from the celebrations in many diocesan parishes, where they continue with the Sundays of the year or Ordinary Time, and ourselves embark on the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesimatide. The apostolic constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus indicates that the liturgical books approved for our use by the Apostolic See are amongst the principal means by which legitimate elements of our Anglican patrimony are to be retained in the Catholic Church, both ‘as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared’ (AC III). As we begin this distinctive season, then, it is worth asking how this treasure might offer us (and, perhaps, others) that nourishment of faith, and so bring us to a deeper, more sincere knowledge of the mystery of our salvation in Christ.
This homily was given at Saint Mary, Mother of God, Washington, D.C.
Between the feast of Our Lady’s purification and the start of the pre-Lenten season, with Septuagesima next Sunday, the Church today keeps this fifth Sunday after the Epiphany of the Lord. In the ordinary form of the Roman rite, these ‘green Sundays’ are known as Sundays per annum or Sundays of ‘ordinary time’. They are marked by a return to normality after the festal celebrations of Christmas or of Easter, and they seek to return the faithful to the normal course of events in the liturgical year. In the extraordinary form (and in the ordinariates), the kalendar orientates these Sundays by two significant feasts – the Epiphany of the Lord and Pentecost (or Trinity) – giving a specific point of reference for these otherwise wayward days.
This spiritual conference was given by Mgr Andrew Wadsworth before the celebration of a Solemn Mass for the dead, in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The Mass was organised by Juventutem DC, a group of young adults who seek to encourage their peers in the faith and to build a relationship with Jesus Christ through the older form of the liturgy of the Church. The Mass was celebrated at St Thomas Apostle, the home of a new Community-in-Formation for the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri:
Given that this morning of recollection has been sponsored by the newly-formed chapter of Juventutem DC, I thought it might be appropriate to offer a few thoughts on the name ‘Juventutem’ and its obvious reference to Psalm 42 which is ot be found in the prayers at the foot of the altar that occur in the Traditional Latin Mass. In most Masses in the Extraordinary Form, Psalm 42 is said in its entirety. In almost all Masses at least verse 4 of this psalm is said. In Sung Masses, it is not heard as the prayers at the foot of the altar coincide with the singing of the introit and the kyrie. In Masses during Passiontide and in Requiem Masses (such as this morning’s Requiem Mass for All Souls), the psalm is omitted but the antiphon retained.
Although commentators often disagree in their explanation of the origins of certain features of the liturgy, it would seem that historically, this penitential act has occupied its place at the beginning of Mass, at the foot of the altar, from the time when the Roman liturgy was spreading into Gall-Frankish territory. The psalm did not gain an entrance into many rites of Mass, however, even through the later Middle Ages and for a considerable time after. In the liturgies of religious orders such as the Carthusians and Dominicans Psalm 42 did not appear in their rite of Mass when these orders were established in the 13th century. Even when it was inserted, only a single verse was recited, Introibo ad altare Dei. Even when the psalm itself is omitted, the antiphon is said once.
Over the past few months I have been fortunate enough to assist at two parishes that retain the rite of sprinkling before the principal Sunday Mass. One of these is a parish that celebrates an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata, the other is a church of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
Whilst the Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water appears in the Missale Romanum of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it forms part of the celebration of the Mass in a way that is different from the older form and the new Ordo Missae for use in the Personal Ordinariates. The English translation of the rubrics in the Ordinary Form reads, “From time to time on Sundays, especially in Easter Time, instead of the customary Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place”.
Here, then, there is certainly a clear sense that this act is a ‘memorial of baptism’, but it seems that some of the wider symbolism of the ceremony is missed by this relocation. For example, whilst the penitential nature of the rite is elevated – no bad thing – this happens at the risk of reducing the richness of the sprinkling’s baptismal symbolism, because we move from an act of communal renewal to one that is explicitly penitential. We cannot confess the sins of another, and so the communitarian nature of the action is diminished. The explicit link between the Lord’s Day and the renewal of the memory of baptism is also surely important, and this is somewhat lost if the ceremony is only to take place ‘from time to time’, or only during the paschal season.