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Don’t forget that the Mass is a sacrifice
SIR – Nicholas Hinde (letter, September 7) is probably correct to suggest that the high point of Mass nowadays is Communion, and that the identity of the sacrifice of the Mass with that of Calvary is neglected. This makes an interesting contrast with the state of affairs before the introduction of the vernacular liturgy. Before the Council the high point was more likely to be the Consecration, precisely because this is the moment at which Jesus’s sacrifice at Mass takes place. Once the priest has pronounced the words “This is my Body” and then “This is my Blood”, Jesus’s Body and Blood are separately present, and so the sacrificial death itself becomes actively present.
The loss of a strong sense of the Mass as a sacrifice identical (in terms of the essential salvific action of Christ) with Calvary is perhaps understandable in light of recent liturgical changes. Nowadays the congregation sees what the priest is doing, and hears the words of Consecration in English, and so can easily be distracted by the re-presentation of what Jesus did and said at the Last Supper. When the elevations and the bell were all the congregation saw and heard, this distraction was less likely.
The value of encouraging a strong awareness of Christ’s sacrifice prior to Communion derives from the fact that the communicant’s disposition affects the fruitfulness, or degree of union with Christ, brought about by Communion. The more the communicant is consciously united by love to Jesus, the more he is actually united to him on receiving his Body and Blood, and nothing is more likely to provoke love for Jesus than calling to mind the suffering and death he endured for our salvation. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Of course other forms of preparation for Communion also contribute to making it fruitful. There is the long-term formation resulting from regular prayer and the continuous quest for holiness, and the medium-term preparation of frequent Confession (St John Paul II
recommended monthly Confession for weekly communicants). But the practice of devotion in the course of the Mass is surely also indispensable.
One hears over and again the mantra that anyone not in mortal sin is entitled to communicate, and this is true so far as it goes. But a complacent attitude to communicating without participating in the liturgy in the best possible way, by calling to mind Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross, may well be depriving Communion of some of its unifying power and sanctifying effect.
A bad precedent for the Church
SIR – An archbishop has made demands that the Pope should resign because of certain decisions His Holiness has made (Cover story, September 14). These demands have caused much confusion, but there is an obvious solution.
The Pope is the Sovereign Pontiff and is empowered to make his own decisions for his own reasons, though he may accept advice at his discretion and we may humbly ask him to change his mind. Nobody is entitled to say that he must change his mind or he must go, which is what the resignation demand amounts to. He must not be dictated to. Nor does this show him any respect for his dignity as Vicar of Christ. The person doing so should receive no credit or support. How is it that nobody has said this? Decisions require judgment. How can anyone judge the Pope?
In any case, it would not be a good precedent that popes should be removed for their decisions only to be replaced by others who might be subject to the same procedure, and so ad infinitum. This could damage stability and might even encourage overambitious cardinals.
Fr Damian Grimes MHM
God and Greek
SIR – I much enjoyed Desmond O’Grady’s gripping article about the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (Feature, September 14). It is thought that the words Constantine heard on the eve of the battle weren’t the Latin – “In hoc signo vinces”, as stated – but the Greek, ἐν τούτῳ νίκα, or, in its transliterated form, “en toutoi nika”. This means “In this, conquer”, rather than the Latin meaning, which is “In this sign, conquer.”
Far be it for me to say whether God spoke Greek, but Constantine did, as did all early emperors, as well as their grand predecessors. Caesar’s last words weren’t “Et tu, Brute?” but the Greek, “Kai su teknon?” – “You, too, my child?” Much more moving, I think.
Editor, The Oldie,London W1
SIR – Secular media coverage of “Breggzit” fosters the falsehood that jobs and money are the only relevant matters. Catholics who are thereby deceived should note a recent more important one. The European Parliament, by a two-to-one majority vote, has attacked Hungary for contravening EU “values”.
That is unsurprising, because “Hungary bucks the secularist trend” (Feature, December 17). Increasingly public Christian symbolism, government transfer of public schools to religious institutions, more numbers of marriages and births, government use of EU money to subsidise pro-life advertisements, and tax-advantages for multi-child families (including unborn children) are not among the EU’s
Many of the EU’s so-called “values” are linked to “human rights” which are interpreted in accordance with a rigidly relativist governing policy. A prominent MEP critic of Hungary expressed the difference concisely: “We have invented human rights, and not Christian rights, on this Continent.”
EU membership requires submission to what Pope Benedict XVI called a “dictatorship of relativism”. That is why I voted to leave it.
Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Battling for Britain
SIR – With reference to Will Gore’s review of David Blair’s film Hurricane (September 7), readers with or without a Polish heritage might be interested to know that in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral we have a gilt bronze medallion of Our Lady of Vilna. This was given to the Cathedral in 1944 by 317 (City of Vilna) Polish Fighter Squadron, which flew with the Royal Air Force during World War II. Vilnius (Vilna) is now the capital of Lithuania.
SIR – John Jolliffe (Letter, September 14) rightly pays tribute to the part played by the Poles in the Battle of Britain, but we should not ignore the contribution made by the Czechs. Some 2,500 Czechs flew with the RAF. They formed three fighter squadrons and one bomber squadron, and some 500 lost their lives. After the war, they were treated abominably by the communist authorities in their homeland, where many suffered disgrace and imprisonment.