Patricius has written Elevations… which is interesting when you get to know its author a little. He loves making conservative readers bristle by his rhetoric! I have always used standard unleavened wafers that you buy ready made and keep in an airtight container. They are practical and break cleanly, if you do the Fraction carefully and along the scored line on the back of the host. The western Church has used unleavened bread for a long time unlike the πρόσφορα of the Byzantine and other oriental Churches.
I see no reason why a πρόσφορον could not be used in the Latin rite. The usual type used in the Byzantine Liturgy is quite large and thick. A piece is ceremonially cut out of the centre to be consecrated during the Liturgy, and the remainder is given to the faithful at the end as the Ἀντίδωρον. I could imagine the same kind of leavened bread being pressed flatter and baked to resemble a disk of about half an inch thick. The bread can be quite similar to Turkish pita bread used for making döner kebabs. It can be handled in the same way as an unleavened wafer and broken at the Fraction, care being taken to avoid crumbs getting everywhere. But, a point I will make is that I don’t, both for practical reasons and some measure of conformity to the ways of the Diocese to which I belong as a priest. I use unleavened hosts.
I am not sure what kind of host would have been used in fifteenth-century England in an average country church, but they would not have been very different from the wafers you buy in church supplier’s shops nowadays. Leavened bread in the Latin Church goes back a very long way. Host pressing irons in convents and museums are the usual evidence of this method of making them, and some of these irons go back a long time. I order my hosts from our own church shop which is presently moving from Canterbury to Lydd in Kent where it will be open for mail and internet orders.
As for devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, there is also a long history. Essentially it is an extension of devotion at the Easter Sepulcre from the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday until Easter Sunday morning – the way it is in the Use of Sarum. In the Roman rite, things shifted to the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday to the Mass of the Presanctified. Thursday began to be the day associated with Corpus Christi as for the Ascension. The proper we have of the Maundy Thursday Mass with a few bits and pieces for the Roman Maundy Thursday procession were written by St Thomas Aquinas. From that time, Corpus Christi spread from Orvieto to the north of Rome to the entire Latin Church. The Sarum missals of the early sixteenth century contain the Mass of Corpus Christi with the same proper. Eucharistic processions and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament were as characteristic of pre-Reformation England as nineteenth-century France.
Corpus Christi certainly marks a spirit of joy and the quote from Hilaire Belloc:
Where’er the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s music and laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Things have changed a lot in Italy and France now, but I have personally seen some lovely displays of popular piety in Catholic Germany and Switzerland. I am inclined not to sneeze at popular piety, because sometimes we discover how little spirituality we have ourselves. I have been to Lourdes and Fatima, and have been able to observe the faith and hope of those who are hopelessly ill or dying, but yet pray for a miracle. Who would I be to smash those shrines and tell those people to get back to work and that they are worth their money? In all the tackiness and sentimentalism, there is faith and hope, a real love for God and the whole supernatural order. Personally, I prefer quiet days in monasteries to noisy pilgrimages and busloads of vulgar Italians and Spaniards – but they have also come to seek God.
Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is important, but it is important to catechise the faithful. The primary purpose of the Blessed Sacrament is Holy Communion at Mass, but the Sacrament can convey grace in other ways too. There is the concept of the Spiritual Communion from the days when most lay folk rarely communicated.
I have little experience of the more “purist” forms of Western Orthodoxy or Old Catholicism, but I see the link with the Jansenist movement and some of the movements in seventeenth-century Anglicanism. Everything can be made so dry and sterile that ordinary folk can no longer relate. Swiss and German Old Catholicism was never a popular movement as Soloviev acidly criticised them. Any kind of Western Orthodoxy that has had any pastoral success has tended to imitate post-Tridentine Roman Catholicism like the Anglo-Catholic movement in England. This is the big difference between Patricius and myself. I am a priest with long experience of seminaries, parishes and community life. We are bodies and souls and need both ἔρως and ἀγάπη in our relationship with the sacred. My concern is as pastoral as it is academic. My experience is not his.
My experience of the Use of Sarum and doing it as authentically as possible has shown that there is less “bobbing” (genuflecting) that in the classical Roman rite. There are profound bows at certain moments, but fewer of them. I do things as at the eve of the Reformation. It wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is, but it is well documented and relies very little on “reconstruction” or conjecture. It is rather similar to the Dominican rite and many of the monastic usages, characterised by sobriety and “noble simplicity”.
From there to destroying lock, stock and barrel… There is a lot of Patrician rhetoric and many pinches of salt to be taken. I do appreciate sobriety in the liturgy. This is perhaps to some extent my reaction from the baroque extravagance of Gricigliano! Popular piety needs to be fostered but the faithful also need to learn about the liturgy. In France, the most positive influence come from the newly restored Benedictine monasteries following the Revolution and Romanticism. One of the most well-known examples of this movement was Père Emmanuel and his parish at Mesnil-Saint-Loup. It all constituted the early Liturgical Movement.
Patricius’ suggestions remind me of the Synod of Pistoia and the Jansenists, Father Jacques Jubé of Asnières and what actually inspired the movement towards the Novus Ordo of Archbishop Annabile Bugnini accepted by Pope Paul VI. The inspiration is the idea of pristine purity from the Church of something like the third century (if such was not an illusion) and a highly cerebral notion of the liturgy and theology. It is a thicker iconostasis of elitism than the jubé or the rood screen ever was! Perhaps I took on some influence from Dom Guéranger as I read the Institutions Liturgiques written in the 1840’s. In medio stat virtus, and right or wrong is not on one side only. Jansenist purism is a tendency, as had Pharisaism been in Judaism in the time of Christ since the return from the Second Exile. In the end, it is the fine balance between our northern paganism, Greek philosophy and Jewish monotheism. Christianity became something extremely complex, and it has become lost in time over the centuries. Tradition has bequeathed us a few remnants, so not everything is entirely gone.
The Elevation is an established custom at Mass in the various western rites. In my Sarum Mass, I elevate the Host as in the Roman rite and elevate the chalice to a height of about my face. I rarely celebrate Benediction, as I rarely have lay faithful at Mass. I reserve the Sacrament in the hanging pyx and I keep an oil lamp lit (it consumes a lot of olive oil). I have never celebrated Mass coram Sanctissimo, and have never seen it done, not even at Gricigliano! The Holy Week usages of Sarum have been quite an eye-opener. The Easter Selpulcre isn’t merely an “altar of repose a day late”, but the emphasis is different. It remains throughout the Paschal Vigil ceremonies, and until a short ceremony of removing the cross and putting the third host of Maundy Thursday into the pyx just before the Mass of Easter Sunday.
I am an Anglican and distribute Holy Communion under both kinds. I usually do so by intinction, a great way to avoid people wanting Communion in the hand (at least the way it usually happens in Roman Catholic parishes). We do need to be careful where we keep the Blessed Sacrament. My hanging pyx isn’t very “secure” but I live in the countryside. In cities, the usual way is (or used to be) to open the tabernacle on the altar each evening and transfer the Blessed Sacrament to a safe behind the high altar. Satanists still find ways to steal the Blessed Sacrament and use it for evil rites. Profanations still happen and for reasons of hatred of Christianity.
What would I do if I were the Pope? It is the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Patricius will never be the Pope and nor will I. I would never want that degree of authority or influence over such large numbers of innocent people. The Protestants tried stamping out “superstition” (the remnants of northern paganism tolerated to make monotheism assimilable) and they failed. People either returned to Catholic ways or gave up religion altogether. The neo-Jansenists of the 1960’s and 70’s tried it and emptied their churches. Those who left will never return. That is the terrifying responsibility of authority!
What would be the solution? It isn’t changing the world or remaking the Church. It is looking at ourselves and seeing what we can bring the world in terms of prophecy, spirituality, love and beauty. I have been edified by simple pilgrims walking on their knees to the shrine of Fatima. I have seen very sick people dragging their hands round the grotto of Lourdes. The hope is there, however primary their faith or knowledge may be. There is a spark that we have no right to quench. We are not the Pope, but even a lowly priest has responsibility, and this is why I have written this article.