Friday, 26 September 2014

Praying the Mass Part 1 - Preparation for the Holy Sacrifice: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar


Preparation for the Holy Sacrifice: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

The first prayer we consider in this series is in fact not strictly speaking a part of Mass at all but rather a preparation for the Mass: the prayers at the foot of the altar, especially Psalm 42, Iudica me. In fact, this is something that should be very familiar to regular Juventutem Mass-goers, since this is the psalm containing the line which gives Juventutem its very name:
 Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam 
I shall go up unto the altar of God, to God Who giveth joy to my youth

This line, which occurs in the middle of the text of Ps. 42, is used as an antiphon, said before and after the psalm is recited. This is a way in which Holy Mother Church directs our attention to it as something important, as a focal point for our meditation as the psalm is recited.

The psalm itself concerns David, who fleeing from Absalom’s revolt and under attack from his enemies, longs for the day when he will return to the sanctuary of the Lord and offer joyful sacrifices. There is, therefore, a tension throughout the psalm between present miseries, hope in the Lord, and an expectation of future joy. We can easily perceive a parallel with our own spiritual lives. 
Now it seems that originally the sacred ministers would say what we now know as the prayers at the foot of the altar while still in the sacristy; the Introit was then chanted as they processed into the church. Over time it evidently became more convenient to say it upon arriving at the foot of the altar; but we may also note that this position only serves to reinforce the sense: the priest stands at the bottom of the steps and prepares to ascend them to approach the altar of God. This idea of ‘going up’ is an important one in the language of Jewish sacrifice: the high priest goes up, firstly ‘up’ to Jerusalem, which is situated upon a hill; ‘up’ to the Temple; finally ‘up’ to the altar of sacrifice in the Temple. Our Blessed Lord prepares for His passion by going up to Jerusalem; He then ascends mount Calvary to go up to the altar of the cross. We should, then, have these images in mind as the priest stands at the foot of the steps, and says ‘I shall go up unto the altar of God’. 
But the priest is not worthy of this commission. The high priests of the Old Testament would go through a most elaborate ritual of cleansing, not to mention periods of fasting and so on, before they performed sacrifices (for more detail about this, see especially the classic of Fr. Meagher, How Christ said the First Mass). 
The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant, by Peter Paul Rubens 
Are we, who offer the true sacrifice, the very Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to prepare less than they who offered only signs and shadows of what was to come? It is fitting, then, that the priest reflect on his sinfulness and unworthiness, and beseech the forgiveness and help of God, while we, the faithful, join him in earnest supplication to ask God to look not on our sins but the faith of His Church. 

And so the psalm opens, ‘judge me, O God, and distinguish my case from that of an unholy people; from the wicked and deceitful man rescue me’. In the context of the Jews, the ‘unholy people’ suggests the gentiles; for the high priest, it suggests anyone ‘unclean’, among whom he begs not to be counted. But what does it mean for the Christian? It means ourselves, our sinful nature. St Paul, we remember, admonishes us to put on the ‘new man, who according to God is created in justice and the sanctity of truth’, while discarding the ‘old man’. The Christian life is one of a battle against our fallen nature, with its perversions, falsehoods, and concupiscence. We require the constant help of God’s grace to defeat the wicked and deceitful man within us, which always threatens to count us among an ‘unholy people’.
In our sins it may seem that we are deserted: we are afflicted by the enemy of our soul. But God’s strength (quia tu es Deus, fortitudo mea) suffices for us and prevails.  The temptations and sins, and the pain of the punishments for our sins, constitute a great trial, but with faith this is turned into a purification and renewal.
Our intellect has been darkened by original sin, but God enlightens us with His grace. He is our guide, leading us on His holy mountain and tabernacles, that is, to the Holy Sacrifice, to Christ really and substantially present in the Eucharist; and to the heavenly liturgy of the life to come.
We rightly are sorrowful over our sins, but in recreating us according to His image, God restores to us true joy. Our sinfulness, we remember, was the old man; but God’s grace makes us new, so that whatever our age we can proclaim, ‘God, Who giveth joy to my youth’. It is that true and eternal youth of blessedness, a youth nourished here on earth by the Most Holy Eucharist, which gives to our soul an ever-new vigour (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16).
God has not rejected us; the theological virtue of hope points us beyond the present valley of tears; we will sing His praises forever.
This psalm therefore encapsulates all that the priest, and with him, the faithful, should reflect upon in preparation for the holy sacrifice: sorrow for our past sins, and our reliance on the grace of God. Having recited it with his sacred ministers (or the acolytes at a Low Mass), he then reaffirms that ‘our help is the name of the Lord’, and ‘liturgically’ confesses before the Blessed Virgin Mary, St John the Baptist, Ss. Peter and Paul, and all the saints, and implores their intercession. We are aware that every liturgical act, even a ‘private Mass’ said with only one server (or even, if necessary, no server at all), is witnessed by a great crowd, the saints and angels, among whom there is more joy at one repentant sinner than at ninety-nine just. And they are surely ready to help the priest and the faithful be disposed for the holy sacrifice. Let us not neglect their help; and confident in the everlasting mercy of the Lord, we are finally ready to go up, up to the altar of God, God who gives joy to my youth.

Praying the Mass


Juventutem London is delighted to present a new series of posts about praying the Traditional Mass. We will be looking at some of the prayers found in the Missal, and discussing a little about their history and theology, and offering some brief reflections which may be helpful in understanding and praying the Mass. 
This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive commentary on the Mass. If anyone is eager for something like that, then I can recommend these books to start with (some of which can be found on the internet for little or no cost):

N. Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Dogmatically, Liturgically, and Ascetically Explained [a really marvellous study, which doesn’t shy away from the spiritual interpretations largely shunned by twentieth-century scholars. A little ‘heavy’ and ‘dry’ at times in terms of theological content, however, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea].
C. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, in 2 volumes [this is a comprehensive history of the Mass. Jungmann’s scholarship is second to none, but be warned! Jungmann was a major player in the liturgical movement of the twentieth century, i.e. an advocate of liturgical reform, and this attitude is not entirely absent from his book].
A. Fortescue, The Mass [less detailed than Jungmann, but very readable and scholarly. Caveats apply: Fortescue tends to be rather snooty about certain mystical interpretations of the rites, assuming that only practical origins count as an explanation of the liturgy]. 
G. Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy [written by an Anglican with Catholic sympathies. There are some questionable parts, but it is still a valuable resource].
M. Müller, CSSR, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass [a very engaging read, full of pious reflections on the Mass and inspiring anecdotes rather than scholarly history. The first section on the Mass as a sacrifice is especially valuable in my own opinion].
Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy [if what floats your boat is a discussion of liturgical change throughout history, but especially in the twentieth century before the Second Vatican Council, then this book is one of the most important written on that subject].

There are of course many other books and articles around, all with their own strengths and weaknesses: these are simply mentioned as a few fairly accessible sources for anyone who wants to make a more in-depth study of the liturgy.
Our intention here is to draw attention to a few points of interest and especially of devotional value to Juventutem members, and of course any other readers who may be interested. In the future we plan to have various series on other topics that touch on the traditions of the Church.
We’ll be beginning this series of posts shortly with the prayers at the foot of the altar, in particular the psalm Iudica me, which is the psalm that contains the line ‘to God Who giveth joy to my youth’, and therefore lends Juventutem (‘youth’) its name. After that, the plan is to make some general comments concerning methods of praying the Mass for lay people, before turning specific prayers of the Mass where we will see these principles applied.

+JMJ+

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Solemn High Mass on Friday 26 September 2014



Solemn High Mass, followed by a social in the hall under the church on Friday 26 September.

Confessions from 7:15pm, Mass at 7.30pm.

St Mary Moorfields Catholic Church, Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS

The social is for those aged 18-35. The Mass is, of course, open to everyone and all are welcome.

Food and drink will be provided at the social after Mass. If you can, please bring along a dish or a bottle to share. If you plan on bringing something please contact Bryn at:
brynleylevans@outlook.com


***JOIN THE CHOIR***


If you would like to join our choir then please contact John Simmonds at: johnds42@googlemail.com

We sing the Gregorian chant propers for each Mass we sing and often sing polyphony, depending on which singers are available each month. We are open to new people joining the choir, so if you are interested please contact John. We practise from 6.15pm before each Mass in the hall under the church.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Juventutem London Mass and Social: 27 June




Solemn High Mass, followed by a social in the hall under the church on Friday 27 June.

Confessions from 7:15pm, Mass at 7.30pm.

St Mary Moorfields Catholic Church, Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS

The social is for those aged 18-35. The Mass is, of course, open to everyone and all are welcome.

Food and drink will be provided at the social after Mass. If you can, please bring along a dish or a bottle to share. If you plan on bringing something please contact Bryn at:
brynleylevans@outlook.com



***JOIN THE CHOIR***

If you would like to join our choir then please contact John Simmonds at: johnds42@googlemail.com

We sing the Gregorian chant propers for each Mass we sing and often sing polyphony, depending on which singers are available each month. We are open to new people joining the choir, so if you are interested please contact John. We practise from 6.15pm before each Mass in the hall under the church.

***SUMMER RECESS FOR JULY AND AUGUST***

Juventutem London has traditionally taken a break during the summer months of July and August. We will advertise events for September and onwards once our plans are finalised.

In August the Latin Mass Society holds its annual three day pilgrimage from Ely to Walsingham for the conversion of England.


Monday, 28 April 2014

Friday 30 May Mass and Social

Solemn High Mass, followed by a social in the hall under the church on Friday 30 May.

Confessions from 7:15pm, Mass at 7.30pm.

St Mary Moorfields Catholic Church, Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS

The social is for those aged 18-35. The Mass is, of course, open to everyone and all are welcome.

Food and drink will be provided at the social after Mass. If you can, please bring along a dish or a bottle to share. If you plan on bringing something please contact Tess at: teresanevard@hotmail.com

There is a Facebook event which you can use to invite others.


***JOIN THE CHOIR***

If you would like to join our choir then please contact John Simmonds at: johnds42@googlemail.com

We sing the Gregorian chant propers for each Mass we sing and often sing polyphony, depending on which singers are available each month. We are open to new people joining the choir, so if you are interested please contact John. We practise from 6.15pm before each Mass in the hall under the church.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Friday 25 April Mass and Social


Solemn High Mass, followed by a social in the hall under the church on Friday 25 April, Easter Friday.

Confessions from 7:15pm, Mass at 7.30pm.

St Mary Moorfields Catholic Church, Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS

The social is for those aged 18-35. The Mass is, of course, open to everyone and all are welcome.

Food and drink will be provided at the social after Mass. If you can, please bring along a dish or a bottle to share. If you plan on bringing something please contact Tess at: teresanevard@hotmail.com

There is a Facebook event which you can use to invite others.


***JOIN THE CHOIR***

If you would like to join our choir then please contact John Simmonds at: johnds42@googlemail.com

We sing the Gregorian chant propers for each Mass we sing and often sing polyphony, depending on which singers are available each month. We are open to new people joining the choir, so if you are interested please contact John. We practise from 6.15pm before each Mass in the hall under the church.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

March Meeting



Our next Mass is coming up, on the 28th of March, at St. Mary Moorfields: