Phenomenology of two Masses (Part VI)

In the EF, the priest does not go to the altar except after the following: the initial “In the name of the Father…”, the “Judge me O God, and distinguish my cause”, the first exchange with the server, a doxology, the two confessions (priest’s and servers’), the absolution, and a second exchange.

He then utters a pair of prayers. Let us hear these prayers:

1: Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may be worthy to enter with pure minds into the Holy of Holies: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Comment: once again the sanctuary that is within the sacred Church is distinguished from the Church. This distinction is reflected architecturally with the altar rail behind the priest and the high altar before the priest.

2. We beseech Thee, O Lord, by the merits of Thy Saints, whose relics are here, and of all the Saints, that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to forgive me all my sins. Amen.

Comment: Here, the priest speaks in the royal “we” and seeks forgiveness on himself. He is about to conduct the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


Finally, after all this preparatory work, the “Introit” is recited. This apparently has no parallel — at this moment in the liturgy — with the OF, but we can liken the “Entrance Antiphon” of the OF to it. Fortunately, some OF liturgies incorporate the Entrance Antiphon. (Some places even do so in Latin, intoned in Gregorian chant; it is quite lovely). Unfortunately, many OF liturgies involve some banal hymn written by the Catholic duo, Haugen and Haas, or “Hagen Daz” – (banal lyrics and awful tunes by and large). Or some other writer with atonal melodies (an oxymoron). It is always crucial, in sober analysis, to distinguish the official liturgy from the actual performances. The new English Translation has rectified the previous, quite defective, translation and thus helps one actually grasp the official liturgical prayer of the OF better.

The Introit is proper to the day and gears our minds to the readings to come or the saint commemorated.

There is then an exchange between priest and server in the thrice threefold Kyrie. I should like to return to the issue of the Holy Trinity at this point. It was noted in the comment box that the Introit itself often has a doxology (Gloria patri…). I would like to point out, again, the Trinitarian character of the Kyrie. It strikes one immediately, for there are three statements: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. And each of these is said three times.

Nor is the observation superficial or extraneous. Each person of the Holy Trinity may be addressed as “Lord”. But only the second person is “Christ”. The instructional remarks in Missals indicate that each of the three persons is being addressed in the Kyrie. Each person is beseeched thrice, the second person in the middle three petitions: Christe eleison. Thus, the prayer is decidedly Trinitarian, following the organic development under Pope Gregory the Great.

Having grown up using the OF, I had always thought that we were addressing, in the Kyrie, simply the second person. That we did it three times for emphasis. And indeed it seems that that is exactly what the OF presents the Kyrie as, a prayer to the second person. That this is the case can be shown through examination of the longer version of the prayer. In the longer version, each statement is preceded by one of 8 possible prefatory remarks. For instance, in Option 1, we hear, for the first Kyrie, “You were sent to heal the contrite in heart”. Who was sent? Obviously, the second person! Yet these words preface the first “Lord have mercy”. And of course the second petition, Christe, is also addressed simply to the second person, and the prefatory remark understandably does as well: “You came to call sinners”. The prefatory remark at the third petition, Kyrie, is also Christo-centric: “You plead for us”. Thus, the Kyrie in the OF option 1 is decidedly not Trinitarian but Christo-centric. Option 2 is the same. Option 3 is the same. Option 4 is the same. Option 5 could be read as open to a Trinitarian reading, but likely is not. Option 6 is certainly Christo-centric and not Trinitarian, as are Options 7 and 8.

In short, the EF Kyrie is Trinitarian, while the OF Kyrie is not Trinitarian but Christo-centric. This is not a negligible difference. Why? We are called to have relationships with each of the persons of the Holy Trinity. This call is foregrounded when we address each person distinctly. It is true that in both the EF and the OF the prayer is most frequently directed to God the Father Almighty. This is as it should be, of course. The prayer is often through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That is a very Trinitarian structure; this Trinitarian structure follows the pattern of economic activity. For the Father is not sent; rather the Son and Spirit are sent. Both liturgies capture that economic pattern. (I will return to that in a future post. It is most certain that the OF captures that economic pattern; this claim requires no argument. I will also examine whether the EF captures that pattern, for that would be the concern that someone might raise.) Seldom in either liturgy do we directly address the Holy Spirit, but in the EF we do during the third set of three Kyrie petitions. Hence, the EF is also distinctively pneumatological in this moment.