At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. And having agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And about the third hour, he went out and saw others standing in the market place idle; and he said to them, ‘Go you also into the vineyard, and I will give you whatever is just.’ So they went. And again he went out about the sixth, and about the ninth hour, and did as before. But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing about and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here all day idle?’ They said to him, ‘Because no man has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘Go you also into the vineyard.’ But when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers, and pay them their wages, beginning from the last even to the first.’ Now when they of the eleventh hour came, they received each a denarius. And when the first in their term came, they thought that they would receive more; but they also received each his denarius. And on receiving it, they began to murmur against the householder, saying, ‘These last have worked a single hour, and you have put them on a level with us, who have borne the burden of the day’s heat.’ But answering one of them, he said, ‘Friend, I do you no injustice; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go; I choose to give to this last even as to you. Have I not a right to do what I choose? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ Even so the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen.
From today’s Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, look with favor upon our weakness, and stretch forth the right hand of Your majesty to help and defend us. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
At that time, when Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. And behold, a leper came up and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if You will, You can make me clean. And stretching forth His hand Jesus touched him, saying, I will; be made clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a witness to them. Now when He had entered Capharnaum, there came to Him a centurion who entreated Him, saying, Lord, my servant is lying sick in the house, paralyzed, and is grievously afflicted. Jesus said to him, I will come and cure him. But in answer the centurion said, Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, and have soldiers subject to me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. And when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following Him, Amen I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel. And I tell you that many will come from the east and from the west and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be put forth into the darkness outside; there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. Then Jesus said to the centurion, Go your way; as you have believed, so be it done to you. And the servant was healed in that hour.
Sermon, 1:30 pm, Solemn High Mass, Second Sunday after Epiphany
At that time, a marriage took place at Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now Jesus too was invited to the marriage, and also His disciples. And the wine having run short, the mother of Jesus said to Him, They have no wine. And Jesus said to her, What would you have me do, woman? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the attendants, Do whatever He tells you. Now six stone water-jars were placed there, after the Jewish manner of purification, each holding two or three measures. Jesus said to them, Fill the jars with water. And they filled them to the brim. And Jesus said to them, Draw out now, and take to the chief steward. And they took it to him. Now when the chief steward had tasted the water after it had become wine, not knowing whence it was - though the attendants who had drawn the water knew, - the chief steward called the bridegroom, and said to him, Every man at first sets forth the good wine, and when they have drunk freely, then that which is poorer. But you have kept the good wine until now. This first of His signs Jesus worked at Cana of Galilee; and He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.
1. When you celebrate the usus antiquior, does the act of holding together thumb and forefinger from the consecration until the ablutions make a psychological or spiritual difference for you? If so, how would you describe it?
The God of heaven is beyond our ability to comprehend. The universe cannot contain Him. This allows us to grasp, however imperfectly, the depth of the love that He had for us; to become so small as to enter the womb of the Virgin Mary as a child. The knowledge that the God of heaven became so tiny as to be only available to sight under a microscope, leads me to accept without question what some liberals have called crumb theology. Yes, that tiny crumb on the paten is the God of majesty who became fully what we are without ceasing to be fully His divine self.
Our faith has everything to do with the body. All we need do is look at our religious language to see that Truth: Body of Christ, Precious Blood, Sacred Heart, and Immaculate Conception. Awareness of my own body and its participation in this mystery makes me realize that the crevices of my fingerprint might contain trace elements of the Host I have just raised in my hands.
So yes, holding thumb and forefinger together does make a spiritual difference. Reverence for the Most Precious Body of the Lord means that I should preserve these trace elements until the ablutions are available.
2. If you began your priestly life celebrating only the usus recentior and later learned the usus antiquior, did learning to hold the fingers together strike you as more devout, or as a nuisance, or something else?
The one thing that became abundantly clear when learning the Extraordinary Form was that I was not in charge. I could not pick and choose this or that option depending on my homily or my personal preference. No, here I had to conform myself to the liturgy. This was experienced both spiritually and physically. In the spiritual life, it is my hope that I can be conformed ever more to the likeness of Christ. This becomes possible in the Extraordinary Form. I never experienced it as a nuisance. I took it up readily and easily.
3. Has this traditional practice affected the way you view the corresponding lack of rubric in the usus recentior? Have you considered adopting, or do you adopt, the traditional practice in the modern rite? Why or why not?
When I celebrate Mass in the Ordinary Form, my preference is to use many elements that I have learned from the Extraordinary Form, especially because the rubrics are absent in the Ordinary Form. This includes the act of holding together thumb and forefinger from the consecration until the ablutions. This also includes the use of an amice with the alb, crossing the stole, wearing the maniple and using the biretta.
4. In your mind, how does this practice fit into the overall “ethos” or spirit of the classical Roman liturgy?
The act of holding together thumb and forefinger from the consecration until the ablutions is just one action among many in the traditional Roman rite. But the more I can conform myself to the rite, the more I pray I may conform myself to Christ. I believe that the more reverence that I can show in the ars celebrandi, the more reverence might be called forth from the congregation. In my experience, this has been the case. Some loved it, some hated it, and some did not even notice it.
5. In your pastoral experience, has any layman ever commented on or asked about the holding-together of the fingers? Do you think it is noticed and has any bearing on the piety of the laity?
No one has ever commented on the way I hold my hands after the consecration. There have been many comments on the increased reverence in the celebration of the Mass, however. I have even heard some liberals comment that there is increased reverence and silence because of some of the initiatives I have offered at the Mass. These initiatives in the liturgy also were accompanied by preaching on the Mass as well as preaching on contraception, same-sex “marriage” and abortion. It is the combination of all of the above which caused the visceral anger among the liberal, heterodox crowd that caused my removal from (my previous) parish.
I was never really that radical. I was grounded in the Catholic Faith and did not knowingly swerve from its teaching. But, I was involved in what we euphemistically referred to as, “Liturgical Rowdy.” I had been a church musician, teacher, cantor and recording artist from the late 70’s throughout the 80’s. I had no real liturgical training, but I had a great deal of liturgical experience.
In the early 80’s, with a group of musicians I had formed, we recorded a cassette production designed to demonstrate what was available and appropriate for liturgical services. The album had hymns, a Hispanic style Gospel acclamation, a polyphonic motet, a Brazilian Batucada, and a charismatic praise song. There was even a ballad style psalm and five-tone Asian experience thrown in. The collection was published by a small local Catholic Publishing house that was a promoter of modern liturgy.
That small Catholic Publishing house was part of the problem. I belonged to a national association of church musicians where all these Catholic publishing houses flocked to sell their music. The music that had the most sales was the newest music that was chosen for the liturgies of the annual convention. We all gathered there, and sang the music, clapped our hands and took the best music home to try on our unsuspecting congregations. This was liturgy as a commercial operation.
What we had to say about this music was how it made us feel. We felt important; we were worth something. It felt like prayer. For the moment, we were deeply devoted, caught up in the mystery and the energy of the faith. It was a great feeling but it was gone by morning.
What we had to say about this music is that it made us feel at home. One heterodox DRE was heard to exclaim: "Lady of Spain"....one of my favorites! Also, you know, I can just see the Entrance Procession done to a well-rendered Polka! The costumes, the make-up, the flags...!” Whether Polish, Hispanic, Asian or white American, all this music affected us where we live. The faith had visited us and made it part of our experience. That is when I saw the danger of this approach. Our experience was what mattered.
So whatever you brought to the liturgy was acceptable. It could be enfolded in this mystery. There was never any mention of sin. No one spoke of confession. Indeed, with these national conventions on liturgy, with dozens of priests attending, no one mentioned confession, and no one was made available for confession.
And indeed, if the liturgical experience could change from generation to generation, from culture to culture, what was to prevent the faith from changing? Also, have not other authors spoken of the loss of asceticism in modern religious life in giving rise to all sorts of abuses.
The turning point came for me around the turn of the century (2001). It was an argument and the argument centered on a particular text from the Great Vigil at Easter, the Exultet. He insisted that he had the right to use this cool new text and tune from this famous composer. (By the way, the composer was not a Catholic.) I took the side that we did not have the ability to alter the text of the Mass. The problem was that the cool new text and tune resonated with the hearer, it better represented his prayer. He had determined that the ancient text was inappropriate for modern people, and that he was responsible for creating the experience for these people. Our experience was what mattered.
So when you see a contemporary liturgy, do you see there the rise of same-sex relationships, the increased use of contraception and abortion, the proliferation of marriage without sacrament, and indeed, second marriages without annulment or sacrament? Why would we be faithful to the tradition or the sacraments, if whenever we go to church no one is being faithful to liturgy or church or sacrament? There was a time when a catechist was heard saying it was fine if you did not believe in Jesus. When I questioned that catechist’s fitness for the ministry, I became the mean one. And don’t check on whether your catechist or religious educator was married in church. You might have no volunteers. Any attempt at purity will be rejected by the semi-Arian church. Our experience was what mattered.
There are two different churches living side by side. One is concerned for itself. The liturgy must make me feel good. Our experience is what matters. Father is turned toward the people and we are centered on ourselves and our experiences. If I do not have a good experience, then I must complain and withdraw my funds of support. When you mention to them that they are using 19th century styles and protestant forms, they tell you to go read Acts 2, about the birth of the Catholic Church. The problem is that there are no videos from the first century, and the hard evidence is of a completely different experience. I remember a charismatic Christian referring to the Propers we sang as lacking the Spirit of God. He did not realize that what he just said was that the Word of God lacked the Spirit of God. What he counted as evidence of the Spirit was the guitars and the drums and the highly emotional content of the music. He said, “The Holy Spirit is alive today... in ways not limited to, but certainly such as this.” I am sorry, but the only time you may be absolutely convinced of the Spirit of God is when you have fallen into total silence and opened yourself to the Word you have heard.
The other church is centered on Christ. It is turned toward Christ, and it is so immersed in the great mystery of the Incarnation that we might be converted to Christ and even transformed by Him. When I approach the liturgy, it is not to change it or alter it in any way to suit my preferences. I am there to be transformed by Him, to be changed into His likeness. My experience is that I do not belong here. I am a sinner and I should not even be allowed to approach. It is only by His mercy that I am enfolded in this mystery and given the opportunity to change myself into His likeness.
Omnia Christus Est Nobis
Christ is everything for us!
I am a Roman Catholic Priest from California. I spent 13 wonderful years years as a member of the Province of the Pacific in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The outline of my life can be traced here.