Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Memories and the Confiteor

Whether or not one has the third Confiteor before Holy Communion in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass  is a subject that can raise hackles all round.

What is forgotten, though I have mentioned it before, is the fact that the very reception of Communion during Mass is a comparatively recent custom. I don't mean because people formerly didn't go to Communion very often —when I was a child, my parents would go three or four times a year — but that it didn't happen at Mass, and Communion at Mass didn't become commonplace until the years after the First World War. At Westminster Cathedral, Communion was distributed between Masses in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Here in the seminary at Wonersh, Communion was distributed before the early morning 'Community Mass' until about 1925. Thanksgiving was made during the Mass itself, at which, often hymns were sung. There was a later High Mass in addition, and the entire college were expected to assist at both but communicate at neither.

The rite of Communion had a Confiteor because it rarely took place at Mass, but was a separate rite simply lifted in. Given the success of the movement for frequent Communion and the Liturgical Movement's achievement in moving Communion habitually to within Mass, it made sense to ask whether that Confiteor was necessary, if the Communion were to be treated as a part of Mass itself.

There are a number of things that have changed as a result of moving Communion to within Mass. I suppose few people now would think it inappropriate (indeed it seems an obvious thing to do), but there is no question that it has shifted the focus of the celebration away from the Sacrifice and towards the people to some extent. One encounters increasingly the attitude that if one has not received Holy Communion, one has not been to Mass. Some go as far as to assert that if one has not received Communion under both kinds, one has not received properly, and therefore has not really been to Mass. This does need some corrective action, though perhaps returning Communion to an extra-Missal position might be going rather far.

12 comments:

Fr Gary Dickson said...

I do not use the 'third' Confiteor at Low Mass but I do if we have a (rare) Solemn Mass sung by the Deacon, where it is one of the more beautiful parts of liturgy. I see no reason why this third Confiteor cannot be retained even if it was lifted in from the extra-Missal Communion Service.

I think the issue of people assuming they have not been to Mass if they have not received Holy Communion denotes a serious problem, especially in view of the current push for Lay led services of Holy Communion -even on Sundays. The push for these services seems to go hand in hand with the understanding of Mass as a kind of perfunctory ritual by which Holy Communion is brought about and received, rather than as both the actio Christi (Sacrifice) and Sacrament.

There appear to be three misunderstandings around today that need solid catechetical correction: first, reaffirmation of the fact that we are obliged to attend Mass on Sundays, not to receive Holy Communion; second, that Mass has a value in itself whether we receive Holy Communion or not (an important pastoral point since those who are unable to receive now stick out like a sore thumb), and third, that we should be properly disposed to receive (we have long lines for Holy Communion and little or none for Confession).

David O'Neill said...

Going back to my youth (40s/50s) we still had fasting from midnight. As a chorister my Sunday Mass was either Missa Cantata or Missa Solemnis at 11am. I still recall the first time we had a communicant at the 11am Mass, it quite took the celebrant by surprise.
The only time we had Communion at a solemn Mass was Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
I don't think the Confiteor was said as the Deacon sang it at Christmas Midnight Mass & at no other time

+ Edwin said...

As a young Anglican Server in the late 1940's I would receive Communion at 8am on Sunday and serve at the 11am Sung Mass. Only the elderly and the infirm were expected to communicate at the later celebration - and we were permitted to serve only if we had served an early mid-week Mass; I think mine was 7am on Friday. Autres temps, autres moeurs!

Patricius said...

I received my first Communion in 1962 when the fast was just three hours. We were encouraged to receive communion frequently and I certainly recall priests urging frequent communion. Only very gradually did it seem to catch on with the adults. A few years later I signed up as a "knight of the Blessed Sacrament" which involved a promise to receive Holy Communion" every week and to make the morning offering every day. I have absolutely no recollection of a third confiteor.

Alácsi Ervin János said...

Mr. O'Neill is right in pointing out that the entire controversy about whether or not there should be yet another Confiteor before communion is rendered moot by the fact that it is simply part of the solemn form of the Mass, even in the '62 books (albeit recited aloud by the deacon in the name of all present). The real significance of this detail is that our point of reference should always be the most solemn form possible. Everything else should be a concession to circumstance and pastoral discretion.

The "third" Confiteor only became an issue because the low Mass became the norm and when the popularity of the dialogue Mass started growing. If, however, one is able to see the Ordo Missae in light of its historical development, and its parts in their proper place, it is clear that whatever happens before the Introit pertains to the celebrant and his assistence. Hence even in dialogue Masses the "clerical" character of the prayers at the foot of the altar should be respected and the "dialoguing" should only start after the Introit.

Once this is conceded, the "third" Confiteor will start making a whole lot of sense...

Fr Gary Dickson said...

To take up a point by Alacsi Ervin Janos, “it is clear that whatever happens before the Introit pertains to the celebrant and his assistance...the "dialoguing" should only start after the Introit”. The Confiteor said at the foot of the altar was originally part of the priest’s private preparation for Mass in the sacristy and only became attached to Mass after the Council of Trent. Thus a Confiteor for the people’s Communion (the so-called third Confiteor) might be said to make good sense at all Masses.

Anonymous said...

I had a good friend. He was my parish priest and he knew that two things often worried me. One was my feeling that it was hard for me to keep the promise made for a firm purpose of amendment in the act of contrition. The other was the promise made in the Novena to the Holy Spirit I used every day. He accommodated me by straight after confession we went to the Altar and I was allowed by him to receive from the reserved hosts. I did at least try to be as perfectly worthy as it was possible for me. I know the screams of scrupulosity etc that will now be heard in the comments. Also the parish priest never gave comminion at high mass of sundays. I asked why and he gave me his reasons. They did not seem unreasonable

Fr William Young said...

In the 1970's, at Quarr, I think, the New Rite confiteor was sung by all to the tone of the third confiteor, with et omissione incorporated into it. I have never undrstood why this is not used at the beginning of solemn Mass in the new rite, but I have never come across it since then, anywhere. Is it forbidden? I have never been able to find a noted version of the new Latin confiteor. I see no reason why it should not be available for use ad libitum.

Pastor in Valle said...

Is it not in the new Graduale? I remember that Pluscarden used to sing it, and perhaps still do.

gemoftheocean said...

I despise the so-called people's confiteor.

1) allegedly, the server says the responses on behalf of the people - the prayers at the foot of the altar and 'the people's confiteor' has ergo ALREADY been covered - unless of course, TPTB were lying about that...which is doubtful because

2) the priest responses to the server is always in the plural (regardless of actual number of servers) which indicates an acknowledgment that the server DOES stand in for 'all the people.'

3) The fact that over time European snob/highhandedness cut the people out of receiving Communion at Mass (unjustly!) should have no bearing on the matter. Things have been righted.

[I have to say I despise the fact that in England the TLM folks keep their mouths shut during even the simplest of responses such as 'et cum spiritu tuo' et cetera. It comes off as a peasant/snob attitude. The 'snobs' think the simple responses are 'work' that should be done by others, and the 'peasants' act like 'peasants' thinking they aren't 'worthy' - the worst is they want to pidgeonhole visiting Americans in with themselves. Spare me.

gemoftheocean said...

Anathema Sit on the 3rd Confiteor. Argue away about the prayers at the foot of the altar being tacked on before the Mass proper. Frankly, a LOT was tacked on to the Mass proper from the beginning. At one time 'the Mass' was 12/11 guys sitting around with Jesus one night 'reclining at table' where Jesus said the words of consecration. So from that point of view everything else is 'tacked on.' Frankly, if 'the people' didn't get there in time, that's their problem. We don't repeat other things because 'the people' waltzed in late. You'd get dirty looks if you showed up habitually as the priest ascends the altar steps. These days in the EF form 'on time' mean 'in the pew when the priest walks out to start Mass.' The server allegedly says it 'for the people' ['the people' being assumed to be ignorant unlettered jerks unable to answer for themselves.] The Latin responses of the priest to the server would seem to indicate this given a priest always uses the plural latin form for 'you' regardless of how many servers there are, indicating the 'you' means 'the whole church' is in some way present at every Mass. So that 3rd Confiteor is now completely superfluous.

Anonymous said...

It is not in the new Graduale or anywhere else that I have seen. However, it would not be at all difficult to adapt the traditional tone to the new form of the Confiteor. It was done on a tape of chants the Latin Mass Association used to distribute, and is much nicer than the monotoned Confiteor one sometimes hears.

Where would one look to find the authority backing up the claim that the third Confiteor is still part of the Solemn Mass in 1962?