Through him, with him ...

Author: ZENIT


“Through him, with him ...”

ROME, 10 FEB. 2004 (ZENIT).

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: In our parish, the priest has invited people to join him in the “Through him, with him and in him.” I thought this was reserved especially for the priest—am I wrong? If it is not appropriate, what would be the most charitable way to approach him?—K.S., Utica, New York

A: You are quite correct. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 151, clearly states: “At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest takes the paten with the host and the chalice and elevates them both while alone singing or saying the doxology, ‘Per ipsum’ (Through him). At the end the people make the acclamation, Amen. Then the priest places the paten and the chalice on the corporal.”

The priest says or sings this prayer alone (or with other priest concelebrants) because it forms an integral part of the Eucharistic Prayer, which has always been reserved exclusively to the priest.

The people give their assent to the priest’s words through their saying or singing the Amen, often called the great Amen as being the most important of the Mass. This Amen is seen as the definitive conclusion to the Eucharistic Prayer and its doxology (a prayer of praise) symbolized by the fact that the priest does not lower the chalice and paten until the people conclude the Amen.

True, the present rite of the Mass includes the assembly’s proclamation of the mystery of faith after the consecration. But this is not, strictly speaking, a part of the Eucharistic Prayer, and this rite is omitted if for some good reason a priest celebrates alone or concelebrates with no ministers or assembly present.

This practice of the people joining in the doxology is found in several places, sometimes due to a priest’s mistakenly inviting the people to join in. More often, it probably sprung up shortly after the introduction of the vernacular, from the people’s spontaneously joining in a rhythmic text. If this was not corrected in time, a habit formed—and this usually proves very hard to eliminate.

As to how you should approach your priest? I suggest that you kindly point out to him the relevant norms but at the same time suggest an alternative way of distinguishing the importance of this moment.

One possible suggestion is to ask him to sing the doxology so that the people’s response is also sung. Another possible way of solemnizing this Amen is to follow the practice, now common at papal Masses, of repeating it three times in a simple but uplifting tone. This also provides a key for making the musical transition to the Our Father.

This solution, along with an appropriate catechesis, might also help ease the change in custom in those churches where joining in the doxology has become an ingrained habit. In these cases it is necessary to move toward fidelity to liturgical law while avoiding unnecessary confrontation by apparently impinging and curtailing the assembly’s range of action.

Just as in the moral life, the most effective way of combating a bad habit is not to concentrate so much on repressing the vice as to form the contrary virtue. ZE04021021

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Follow-up: “Through Him, With Him ...” [02-24-04]

In response to our reply on the people joining in the “Through him, with him, in him” (see Feb. 10), one priest wrote describing how he politely persuaded his flock to stop joining in the doxology: “by pointing out [to the faithful] that the ‘Amen’ is their part.”

“While the ‘Mysterium Fidei’ proclamation is to be said or sung by priest and people,” he wrote, “the ‘Amen’ is only said by the people. So I tell them, ‘I won’t say (sing) your part, if you don’t sing my part.’”

The priest is correct regarding the celebrant’s not joining in the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer and I think his pastoral suggestion is a very valid one.

I would point out however, that the rubric which states that the people together with celebrant and concelebrants sing the acclamation after the priest sings the ‘Mysterium Fidei’ is found only in the present English Missal and does not correspond to the Latin.

The new General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 151, also makes no mention of the priest’s joining in when it says: “After the consecration when the priest has said, ‘Mysterium fidei’ (Let us proclaim the mystery of faith), the people sing or say an acclamation using one of the prescribed formulas.”

However, I would not labor this aspect too much for, unlike the final Amen, it is more practical than theological. In some cases, pastoral necessity requires the priest to intone and join in this acclamation in order to assure that it is sung.

A correspondent from Australia asked if the Sanctus were not an example of priest and people joining in the Eucharistic Prayer?

While the Sanctus (Holy Holy Holy) did not form part of the earliest known Eucharistic prayers, it entered very quickly, first in the East and later into the Roman Rite, perhaps introduced by Pope Sixtus III (died 440). Although it is, in a way, a part of the Eucharistic Prayer, it is so in the manner of an acclamation, proclaimed by all, which expresses very well both the universality of the Sacrifice and that the Eucharist is, above all, a sacrifice of praise.

In principle it should be sung by priest and people, although during several centuries the people were habitually substituted by the choir which sang an elaborate version during which the priest recited the Sanctus silently and began the recitation of the rest of the canon.

The very fact that the community aspect of the Sanctus has always existed, and has been constantly confirmed in Church documents, shows that the Church has never considered it either an exception nor in contradiction to the principle that only the priest alone should recite the Eucharistic Prayer.

Writing from the Philippines, an Irish priest who often ministers to the deaf suggested that there is, perhaps, one official precedent for the congregation praying the doxology with the priest. This would be the Eucharistic Prayer for the Deaf approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Protocol No. 1621/85 for the bishops of England and Wales.

“The text, with the official introduction,” he writes, “is in Liturgy, Volume 16, No. 6, August-September 1992, pp 39-48, published by the Liturgy Office of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.”

The text for the last part of the Eucharistic Prayer with the rubric is:

we praise you for ever
with Jesus, your Son,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

 He takes the chalice and the paten with the host and lifts them up while the people respond:

we praise you,
we thank you,
we adore you
for ever and ever.

Our correspondent comments: “It would be impossible for the priest to sign while holding up the paten and chalice!”

This might indeed constitute an exception, although considering the extraordinary circumstances involved and the necessary demands of sign language, I do not think we can draw any general theological conclusions from this fact.

Finally, another Irish correspondent, a woman from County Mayo, asks if the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you” should also be said or sung alone.

According to the rubrics, this prayer should be said by the priest alone; the people answer with Amen. The only place where I have found this prayer said by all is in Ireland. When I enquired during a recent visit, a priest told me that the common recital had been recently introduced as a special means of asking for peace in the country.

This may have been the reason (I have no other source of information on this topic). From a theological and pastoral prospective such a motivation would appear to greatly limit the scope and depth of Christ’s peace no matter how desirable the cause.

I did notice that the common recital was very unevenly practiced, largely depending on who celebrated Mass.

I was also unable to ascertain by whose authority it was introduced. Such a change would normally require the approval of a two-thirds majority of the bishops and the Holy See. ZE04022423

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