By Diogenes (articles) | May 23, 2008
I'm pleased to see rumors surfacing that Pope Benedict has plans to install some guidelines for the concelebrated Eucharist in order to initiate a "return to the original meaning of concelebration, which is a sign of unity of priests."
The problem is the blurring of the ikon of priestly offering that occurs most blatantly in mega-Masses. As Benedict phrased it, "To adore ... is possible also at a distance; but to celebrate, a limited community is necessary which can interact with the mystery." If the altar is situated at first base, I can worship the sacred species from the left field bleachers, but for a priest to put out his paw to confect the Eucharist at 180 yards distance stretches the theology of concelebration to the breaking point. Something important got lost.
Of course the imagery of priestly Eucharistic sacrifice can be deformed in the opposite direction. Several bloggers who followed the Jesuits' recent General Congregation registered their bafflement and dismay at the photos displayed of the daily Eucharist, in which the assembled priests neither concelebrated nor assisted in choir dress, but simply "went to Mass" garbed as laymen. By no means limited to the Jesuits, this non-advertence to priesthood distorts the theology of the sacrament and betrays a confusion about the meaning and purpose of ordination. The message communicated to the faithful is that the priest regards his priesthood as a hobby that he may indulge or ignore as convenience so inclines him. Recent popes have strongly urged that all priests celebrate Mass every day, even in the absence of a congregation, but this appeal is accorded the same respect the priest has for the petrine office in general.
Slowly, and sporadically, signs of reform are making themselves felt. Those 1970s ponchos are giving way to chasubles in some places. One occasionally finds the altar in a sanctuary. Most importantly, the regard Benedict has for the liturgy of the Eucharist, and for his priesthood as a servant of that liturgy, has begun to communicate itself to a younger generation of Catholics and to the clergy that will minister to them ten, and twenty, and thirty years from now. The return of concelebration to its proper domain is part of the this effort of wholesome restoration which, if it can survive the guerrilla actions of the liturgists, augurs a more authentically Catholic experience of worship.
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