From the Pastor: Happy Easter
It is Easter Sunday. That means that this bulletin article was written during Holy Week. That also means that the pastor was too busy to write it. So here is a “re-run” of one of my favorite bulletin articles from years past, titled, “Do you know how to calculate the date of Easter?”
The other day I was going through the Baltimore Book of Prayers and came upon a mathematical method for computing the date for Easter. I have to admit that I had never put much thought into this particular aspect of computing the Easter date. I had known there was something about Easter falling on the first Sunday after the first Tuesday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Or something like that. Or perhaps there was something about the Paschal full moon instead of the astronomical full moon. Of course, because of different time zones in various parts of the world I never knew exactly where the moment of the full moon was calculated. Was it in Jerusalem? Rome? San Antonio? But I am rambling...
Regardless of exactly how the date was set or where it was set, it only makes sense that there is a mathematical method of calculation to find it. After all, calendars and all they contain are mathematical. New Years, number of days per month, high tides, sunset and sundown, moon phases, eclipses and other such occurrences are determined not by simply watching and observing but can be “predicted” in advance due to calculations based on the Earth’s rotation, the speed of the planets revolving around the sun and other known factors which require mathematics. The whole universe is laid out logically and logics is a science within mathematics. Or is it that mathematics is a science within logic? So there is a formula for calculating the upcoming (and past) dates for Easter.
No, I am not yet ready to tell you what it is. Before that I have to admit how pathetic it is that I have to check the calendar to know when Easter falls. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia “The computus paschalis, the method of determining the date of Easter and the dependent feasts, was of old considered so important that Durandus (Rit. div. off., 8, c.i.) declares a priest unworthy of the name who does not know the computus paschalis.” Yes, I am an unworthy priest. Mea culpa. And now for the moment you have all been waiting for (drum roll, please!)...
Straight from the Baltimore Book of Prayers, pages 19 and 20, “A Rule for Finding Easter of any Year in This Century or the Next.” Ooops, I cannot get to it quite yet. “This century” was the 19th, for that is when the book was published, “or the Next” was last century. Which means that I cannot verify without a little mathematical work (which I am not willing to do and perhaps not even capable of doing, but we will never know) if this formula holds true for this century or if it needs to be tweaked each century. Now back to the formula.
1st. Divide the date of the year by 19, and call the remainder a;
2d. divide the date of the year by 4, and call the remainder b;
3d. Divide the date of the year by 7, and call the remainder c;
4th. Divide 19a [for this century; + 24 for the next] by 30, and call the remainder d;
5th. Divide 2b + 4c + 6d + [5, this century; 6, next century] by 7, and call the remainder e;
Then Easter will be the 22d + d + e of March; or the d + e - 9 of April.
Exceptions-- 1st. When Easter would fall on April 26th, put it back to the 19th.
2d. When it would fall on April 25th, put it back to the 18th, if a is more than 10, and d is 28.
I sure hope this helps you understand the easy way to calculate the date we celebrate Easter, from which we then calculate many other feasts. That is, unless you happen to follow the Orthodox and perhaps some Eastern Catholic liturgical calendars, in which case the Easter date is sometimes the same and sometimes different.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Last of the series
For the last of my series of writings about postures and gestures at the Traditional Latin Mass, I now present you with something you probably think you already know enough about: How to properly receive Holy Communion. But I can tell you from experience that many people, even those who attend daily Mass, do not pay enough attention to their posture at this very important moment.
It seems so simple. Rise from your pew at the proper time, come forward to the altar rail (or “Communion rail”), kneel and wait for Father to place the Sacred Host on your tongue. But there is much more to it than that. First of all, only practicing Catholics who have kept at least a one hour fast from food and drink (water and medicine being exceptions), and are not aware of any unconfessed mortal sin may receive Holy Communion. This is not a posture or gesture so I won’t dwell on it further here, but it is an essential teaching that must be followed for the sake of one’s soul. Except for the priest celebrant, nobody is obliged to receive Holy Communion in order to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, even one at which attendance is obligatory, so please, if you should not receive, don’t!
Although this is just a parish custom, at Epiphany of Our Lord, the choir members come forward first. Please allow them this courtesy so that they can receive and still have a few moments spent in prayerful thanksgiving before they start singing once again. As soon as the entire choir is lined up at the rail, feel free to fill in the rest of the open space. Can you come down the side aisle instead of the center aisle if you are sitting in the outside pews? Yes, if you wish. Do you need to come up pew by pew? No, but trying to convince people that it is OK to come “out of order” is a lost cause. Do you need to kneel next to the person in front of you? No, in fact, if another person leaves an open space at the rail between themselves and the corner or the next closest person, feel free to move past everybody to fill in the opening! Must you kneel? Yes, unless you have a serious physical impediment. Must you receive on the tongue? Yes. Can you cross your arms over your chest and receive a blessing if you are not able to receive Holy Communion? No. Stay in your pew. You will get a blessing as Mass ends.
Now for some tips on how to receive Our Lord reverently and properly. When kneeling to receive Holy Communion, you are a lot lower than the priest, (especially a tall priest) who is standing. Do not bow your head! He must be able to see your mouth in order to place the Host on your tongue! As the priest approaches, tilt your head back slightly, open your mouth, stick out your tongue to the end of your lower lip, and keep still. Those who keep their mouth closed as the priest gives the Benediction have an unconscious tendency to then “help” the priest by quickly opening their mouth and moving their head forward (like a fish gulping a worm) or by making a lizard-like “licking” motion, both of which often result in the back of the priest’s thumb and/or forefinger getting coated with saliva. Yuck! Fortunately, it is mostly only the next “licker” who is affected by this, since the pads of the priest’s fingers, with which he picks up the next Host, remain dry! If you keep your eyes closed as you receive, both of those issues are completely eradicated. Some people seem to have a “shy” tongue, which, when the mouth is open, quivers at the back of their mouth. Fight against this or Father must put his fingers inside of your mouth to deposit the Host! Still others, though much rarer, “grasp” the Host with their lips and work it into their mouth bit by bit. This may result in any loose edges on the Host becoming Eucharistic crumbs falling to the floor to be trampled upon. As for how far to open your mouth, if the Host could fit in vertically rather than just through a horizontal “slot” you have you mouth just about right. Finally, keep your hands below the rail, not folded under your chin where they will interfere with the use of the paten, and do not rest your elbows or forearms on the rail. Grasping the rail to assist in getting down or up is perfectly acceptable, though.
Feel free to save these bulletins to help your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers whom you are consistently inviting to assist at the TLM for their first time so that they will know what to do and what to expect. (You are doing that, aren’t you?)
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Still more on gestures and postures at Mass
I left off last week explaining some of the gestures the congregation makes at Mass. Continuing along this line of helpful suggestions (again, very little is actually mandated by the rubrics, but there are traditional customs to follow). I already mentioned following the altar boys’ gestures of making the sign of the cross and beating the breast. You may also follow them when they, using the right thumb and with an open palm, make three small crosses, one each on their forehead, lips and breast before the Gospels are proclaimed. (I mention Gospels in the plural, since there is the one read shortly after the Epistle as well as what is called the Final Gospel at the end of Mass. In addition, in most parishes you may hear the priest read both the Epistle and Gospel a second time in the vernacular language, during which the postures and gestures are the same as when they were first read in Latin.) It is also quite appropriate for the congregation to join the priest and servers with head bows at the Holy Names of Jesus, Mary and the Saint(s) of the day. If there is an Asperges before the Missa Cantata, the people stand and, bowing, make the sign of the cross as they are sprinkled. Another place for standing and bowing is during the incensations. When the thurifer approaches and bows, you bow in return and then sit after you he incenses you.
Our parish’s local tradition is that at the low Mass, nobody in the congregation says a word throughout the entire Mass. Not a peep. Not even an “amen” at communion (there is no “amen” at this point in the high Mass, either). They do not join in the prayers at the foot of the altar before Mass but they do join in the prayers after Mass (Hail Mary, Saint Michael, etc.). Most, but not all, parishes will have such silent low Masses. Some, though, will have what they call a “dialogue” Mass, where the people answer the priest along with the altar boys. That is why you will occasionally hear a visitor blurt out “Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam” before realizing that nobody else is joining in with them. If they came with a large family, it may take a few responses before they finally figure out that it is only their own voices they hear! Even though they normally will remain silent after that, they may, out of sheer habit, still not be able to hold back an occasional “Et cum spiritu tuo” to my “Dominus vobiscum.”
This is good for you to know because we do the opposite at our sung Masses, where the people are welcome to sing/chant along with the schola if they are capable of doing so. That is not the case everywhere, so you may be the visitor chanting the Kyrie before you realize that the rest of the congregation is silent, and only the schola and you are chanting! Now, before you start singing along with our schola, please note that good manners are essential for congregational singing. Those who sing should show restraint in volume, and not sing over the choir. If you sing, you must be confident enough to literally stand out in a crowd. Last week I mentioned that those who join in the singing/chanting of the Mass remain standing while they sing, even if the priest, servers and their spouse kneel or sit. (Remember what I wrote about genuflecting at the Creed?) For instance, if you are singing the Sanctus along with the choir, you remain standing while you sing, even though your wife and kids may be kneeling. (And, yes, I assumed that the man was the one singing, as traditionally all Catholic choirs were composed of males only, often separated into boys choirs and men's choirs. Guys, it is manly to chant the Mass!) Singers, whether in choir or not, do not normally kneel while singing the Mass. Uniformity? Who said we need complete uniformity?
Less often, there are times when the congregation will kneel and kiss objects. There are two days--Candlemas and Palm Sunday--when the faithful may be invited forth to receive candles and palms, respectively, at the altar rail, where they will kneel as when receiving Holy Communion. When the priest gives them the candle or palm they kiss his hand before receiving the object, then kiss the object, much like the servers do at a high Mass when exchanging sacred objects with the priest. Then they stand and return to their pew in anticipation of the procession. Also, at the mid afternoon service on Good Friday, the people will come forward and reverence the Cross with a genuflection and kiss. If there are other days like this, they escape me at present.
That’s it for this bulletin. More to come next week about the correct posture for receiving Holy Communion.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: Continuing a continuation
For the last two weeks I have been promising to give you some directions as to proper postures and actions in the Traditional Latin Mass. I have pointed out that the Missal contains no detailed instructions for the people in the pew and that local traditions differ somewhat from place to place on account of this. Knowing that, you should never be scandalized if a visitor comes to Mass and does something different than what you are used to. Likewise, nobody elsewhere should be scandalized if you are attending Mass as a visitor and your postures don’t conform to the local customs. That being said, though, prudence would indicate that “when in Rome, do as the Roman do” rather than simply sticking with what you are used to.
There are many competent authorities who have written about this very topic. I do not claim to be an authority whatsoever in this regard, so I need to defer to others. Unfortunately, not all of the authorities (again, most likely do to local custom) agree with each other as to the best postures to take. So, for the sake of “uniformity” (which, I told you last week, is long ingrained in my Catholic training, for better or for worse) and for the sake of practicality, I have decided (yes, the pastor gets to make a few decisions now and then!) that we at Epiphany of Our Lord will follow the guides given in the Saint Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal which we have on hand for those who forgot to bring their own missal with them. The guide is located inside the front cover of the missal, making it very easy to follow. Unfortunately, this guide, for some strange reason, only covers the sitting, standing and kneeling for a Sung Mass (either a Missa Cantata or a Solemn Mass). Fortunately for those with a missal from Baronius Press (publishers for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter), included with the missal was a similar guide with identical postures for the sung Mass but also including the low Mass postures. It is copyrighted so I cannot reproduce it in this bulletin but it is available on the web in PDF form if you don’t have one and wish to print one out yourself. Perhaps in the next week or three I will be able to make a similar guide for your use. Stay tuned...(but no promises!). [By the way, at our low Mass you simply kneel for almost everything. Exceptions are: stand for the processions before and after Mass, for the Gospels and for the Creed (if there is one; also, the servers may kneel); sit for the sermon and offertory; and genuflect anytime the priest does if you are standing at the time.]
But sitting, standing and kneeling are only part of the postures at the Mass. It is also common for the congregation to follow the altar boys’ gestures. Make the sign of the cross when they do during the prayers at the foot of the altar (technically, Mass hasn’t started at that point). Feel free to strike your breast along with the threefold mea culpa at the servers’ Confiteors, during the Agnus Dei, and at the Domine, non sum dignus before your communion. As mentioned above for the low Mass, everyone genuflects along with the priest whenever he does, as long as you are standing at that time. There is an exception for those who are singing. (I know I haven’t yet gotten around to explaining when and what to say/chant/sing but I will get there eventually.) For instance, at the Creed of a Sung Mass, the priest and servers and congregation will genuflect when the priest prays the words “Et...incarnatus est” through “Homo factus est” and genuflect or kneel again when the choir chants those lines. (If it is a long chant the priest, servers and congregation will be seated during the choir’s chant of those lines and will simply bow the head instead of kneeling.) But those who are singing do not genuflect at the priest’s first genuflection, as they will not be singing those lines at that time! I know, I know. That throws uniformity right out the window. But the Traditional Latin Mass experts say that those who are singing along with the choir do not follow the postures of the rest of the congregation while they are singing, but rather follow the postures of the choir. More on that next week.
I have again run out of room so let me leave you with the proper way to strike your breast (as mentioned above). The priest and servers are told to hold their fingers outstretched, palms slightly curved, and just touch the tips of the fingers to the breast at those so-called “beatings.” But very ancient writers tell us that the sound of everyone beating their breast (with clenched fist) would fill the entire church with the beautiful echos of penance. Take your pick. Not everything has to be uniform!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka