By: Louis J. Tofari
A reader writes:
I heard a sermon by a traditional priest describing the role of the paten at Mass: He explained that the paten represents the Israelites and that, in the TLM, the Host is removed from the paten after the Offertory because of Israel’s rejection of Christ and is only replaced onto the paten after the Pater noster to symbolize Israel’s conversion and acceptance of Christ just before the Second Coming.
The priest didn’t go on to say this, but I then thought about the Novus Ordo and how the Host remains on the paten constantly to represent the new theology of Vatican II that says that the Jews still have their covenant and therefore are saved in their own way.
Is the way the Novus Ordo uses the paten a promotion of the errors of the Council and a danger to the Faith?
I am glad that you offered me the opportunity to address an issue that often arises concerning the actions of the traditional Roman Mass, that is, of their symbolic value or interpretation. There is a danger in applying a symbolism to every action of the Mass, because the actions of the ministers usually exist for practical or historical reasons, while only much later in time were symbolisms—some rather arbitrarily—attached to them. In fact, the Roman Mass is renowned for its sense of practicality (an element of Romanitas) and its eschewing of the mere symbolic.
A good case in point is the use of candles on the altar during Mass which is prescribed by liturgical law. Originally, candles were merely used for the practical reason of illuminating the church’s interior. Only later in time was a mystical purpose applied to the burning of candles during the sacred liturgy. It might also surprise readers to know that some authorities in the Early Church were opposed to the use of candles for mystical purposes, as they saw a connection with its former pagan cultus use.
Now concerning the paten, this sacred vessel shaped like a plate has a very practical purpose: to hold the fragmented Host (or fractio panis—one of the most ancient terms for the “Mass”) and to prevent any accidental desecration after the Fraction has occurred. In more ancient times, the patens were often rather large, like the size of a dinner plate or charger. The paten had to be rather large to hold all of the Sacred Fragments obtained from a rather large Host (much larger and thicker than today’s celebrant’s host).
Also, in earlier times, the altars were rather small, even less than a modern card table in some cases. So due to the size of the paten, it would be removed from the altar after the Offertory and held veiled first by an acolyte, and then at a later point of the Canon, taken up (still veiled) by a subdeacon. This was especially the practice during the ancient Papal Mass, though later, only the subdeacon would be allowed to hold the veiled paten.
The paten would be returned to the altar for the Fraction of the Host, which in ancient times was more elaborate (and lengthier ritual) than today—because of the papal liturgical practice of the frumentum, which is a fascinating subject for another time—hence the introduction of Agnus Dei chant by Pope Sergius I, which was sung repeatedly (with just the ending “miserere nobis”) until the Fraction of the Host was completed.
Later the Fraction was reduced in its ritual to the simple and very practical form we know today, while the Agnus Dei chant was moved to its present position in the Ordinary (after the Canon) along with the addition of the clause “dona nobis pacem” in connection with the giving of the Pax during a Solemn Mass.
Eventually the size of the Host was reduced to what we are accustomed to seeing today, while the dimensions of altars were increased. Nevertheless, the custom of removing the paten from the altar at Solemn Mass continued to be practiced as a memorial of the ancient practice. It was not until the medieval period—when applying symbolisms to everything was the rage—that any signification was given to the practical and historical reason for removing the paten from the altar at the Offertory and then returning it during the Pater noster.
However, it should be noted that the commonly-given symbolism is that the subdeacon holds the veiled paten before his face to demonstrate the blindness of the Jews to the coming of the Messiah. However, that being said, the rubrics actually require the subdeacon to slightly lower the paten so he can gaze upon and adore Christ during the Elevations. (See photo above)
It might also be interesting to know that the practice of veiling the paten (because it is a sacred vessel, though historically also possibly from the practice of the frumentum) during Solemn Mass also applied to Low and High Masses. Since there is no subdeacon at these forms of the Mass, the celebrant hides the paten partially under the right side of the corporal and the remainder of the paten with the purificator.
There are two other noteworthy mentions connected with the paten.
First, after the subdeacon has received the paten and veiled it, he descends to his position at the center of the foot (or just before the first altar step) and genuflects to the altar, though there is actually no reason for this reverence. This too is a relic of an older and now defunct practice in the Roman Mass, that of the Offertory Procession, when the subdeacons would return from collecting the gifts from the faithful at the sanctuary’s perimeter, and thus would reverence the altar upon their return. Though the reason for this genuflection no longer exists, it was retained in the missal’s rubrics (and confirmed by the Sacred Congregation of Rites early in the 20th century) in memory of the ancient practice.
Second, the paten is not taken from the altar and held veiled by the subdeacon at a Solemn Requiem Mass, though it is still covered by the corporal and purificator. Again, this recalls the more ancient practice of not distributing Holy Communion during a Requiem Mass, and so the Host was not fractioned for this purpose, thus a large paten was not required.
As for the practice in the Novus Ordo Missae, the use of the paten was greatly simplified, and so it is no longer veiled after the Offertory as the celebrant’s Host remains on the paten up until his Communion. Furthermore, the ministerial office of the subdeacon was abolished in the Novus Ordo, so the paten is also never removed from the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist segment.
Once again though, while this Novus Ordo reduction of praxis concerning the paten is to be decried (especially considering that the consecrated Host never rests on the corporal, a practice that is not only ancient but also profoundly symbolic), the distinction must be clearly made that this was not done by the Consilium to omit the medieval signification given to the subdeacon holding the paten, but merely to simplify what was considered an outmoded and complicated ritual.
1 In my book, The General Principles of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, I offer a brief explanation about how Romanitas characterizes the actions of the ministers, as well as a supporting quote from the great liturgical historian, Edmund Bishop.
2 For further reading about the liturgical use of candles, I suggest the book, Candles in the Roman Rite.
3 The sources for the ancient practices of the Papal Mass are the Ordines Romani. To read further about the ancient form of the Papal Mass and its influence about the current practices in the traditional Roman Mass, see Adrian Fortescue’s brilliant work, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy.
4 It is a general principle for the sacred ministers (as opposed to the inferior ministers, i.e., the servers) that they do not genuflect when going from the side of the altar (or within its ambit) to the center and vice versa. The exception to this rule occurs after the Consecration (and until the Blessed Sacrament is reserved after Communion), when the Host is exposed to those on the predella. Thus in the case just mentioned, the “archaic genuflection” of the subdeacon is a specific rubric and an exception to the general principles.
5 As described in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) for the Novus Ordo Missae.
So much to learn, so little time…such beautiful catechism.
THANK YOU for this series!
Reading articles like this make me miss the traditional mass I was privileged to experience even more. I would never choose the Novus Ordo over the mass of all times. I left my parish when it became clear that the new priest did not believe the mass was a sacrifice.
For those who doubt – who are convinced – the Eucharist is not possible in a NO, please read this article:
Thank you, Dennis. I just got back from my local N.O. parish where I was able to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion on this First Saturday of the month as Our Lady of Fatima has requested. Now off to fill Her other requests which she has asked of us for First Saturdays. It’s the least we could do, try to obey.
Thank you, Louis for these informative teachings. I have much to learn.
Cortez, I say this and ask this out of charity and respect. Other than the fact that Paul 6 promulgated the NO, how can you say it is Catholic? Everything about it comes from the protestant reformers of the 16 and 17rh Centuries. To imitate heretics cannot be pleasing to God.
The Novus Ordo Missae suppresses the most essential theological element of the Mass as defined by the Council of Trent – the unbloody renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary under the appearance of bread and wine. This is the major defect in the rite.
This is the heart of Catholic theology regarding what the Mass is, and it is also the heart of Catholic life. To systematically and deliberately omit this Divinely revealed truth, and offer it to God as an act of worship is an abomination.
Our Lord purchased the Church with His Precious Blood, (Acts 20:28) and the Church is commissioned to teach all nations (Matthew 28) what He has commanded to be made known. The mystery of the Mass is at the centre of this. The creators of the Novus Ordo held these truths in contempt, and by doing so, spurn the Precious Blood.
Since it is theologically possible for a protestant to use the Novus Ordo Missae, this leads to an enormous problem regarding the intention of the minister to do what the Church does.
By using the defective Novus Ordo, even by a validly ordained Priest, the intention to do what the Church does is not made manifest, and so the rite has a built in doubt regarding its validity.
So, it is of doubtful validity as a Sacrament, and offensive to God as an act of worship because it suppresses the truths that He has provided us to worship Him with. We are to worship God in “Spirit and in truth”. The Novus Ordo makes this impossible, and so an informed Catholic cannot attend it. IT is better to stay home if there is no SSPX or other traditional Mass offered by a priest with valid orders.
We don’t go by supposed miracles to arrive at a certainty. Our Lord warned against false signs and wonders, and the deception of the elect, if that were possible. Many will be deceived by all sorts of things coming from all sorts of sources. But in order to deceive even the elect, a massive deception will have to come from a source that looks almost like the Catholic Church. Be careful about those miracles. Catholic sacramental theology trumps them, and the Novus Ordo comes up short.
“Since it is theologically possible for a protestant to use the Novus Ordo Missae, this leads to an enormous problem regarding the intention of the minister to do what the Church does.”
Perhaps it is “theologically possible” for a Catholic priest to have the proper intention when celebrating the Novus Ordo.
Until you examine the 1968 Ordination Rite of the NO. The intention of ordaining a priest to offer the sacrifice was totally stripped out of all the prayers. And the form of consecration was changed making the whole thing even more doubtful.
I’m going to presume in charity that you have the good intention to defend Holy Mother Church, so I hope I don’t come across as anything but civil towards a fellow Catholic in a dreadfully confusing and dark time of history.
Catholics are forbidden to attend or receive Sacraments that are merely probable.
It might be possible for the Novus Ordo presider to have an interior intention to do what the Church does, but we simply don’t know. He is using a concocted rite that suppresses and omits Divinely revealed Catholic truth.
The manifest/external intention to do what the Church does is absent in the Novus Ordo presider. This makes the Novus Ordo invalid or doubtful/probable at best.
And just so we also consider the whole issue, it is offers false worship to God, which is a violation of the first three Commandments.
It’s more than just a case of gimmie gimmie gimmie my Sacraments and get me out of here. What about what we owe God in worship?
So it’s invalid at worst and merely probable at best sacramentally speaking, and it offers false worship to God, denying Him the honour we are obliged to give him through the true Mass.
I think the Novus Ordo is a disgusting abomination, whether there are guitars and altar girls, or a reverent parish with all the nice trappings that make it appear to have come from Catholic tradition.
Last year after this issue became clear in my mind, I decided that by God’s grace, I would never again attend it. If there’s no traditional mass available, I will stay home.
When one sees what these people did in creating their horrible Novus Ordo, and then reason that it could not possibly come to us from the Catholic Church, then why would anyone trust the bastards when they cook up some phoney new rite of ordination or episcopal consecration?
The 1968 bogus rites of Holy Orders changed what Pius XII said what was necessary for validity only 20 years beforehand.
I know our Catholic Church is under siege. I apologize to you and to God for any wrong words I say or wrong moves I continue to make. I go in and out of the matrix as I try to survive this. Here is a wonderful pep talk I watched today which helps us to come out of the matrix, for those of us who constantly drift back and forth in and out of reality. I guess many of you will find fault and criticize parts of this you disagree with, but I am merely posting it for those like me who are somewhere on some front line and trying to figure out how to remain pleasing to God. This is a constant effort here. I pray God ends this soon. I just want to be a good Catholic. I can’t even figure out what that is. I am a product of Vatican 2, trying to remain a child of God. And even though I rarely see it, I love my Catholic faith more than anything else. It is the most important thing in my life. Praying here for God to allow us to live it freely as He intended.
Also, since our Church has been hijacked, I barely know my Catholic faith, so I am grateful for these little lessons, Louis. Hopefully, they will continue to instruct and form this ignorant Catholic for the Greater Glory of God.
Dear Cortez, we are all victims of the evil impostors and infiltrators that had their day at Vatican II and by vomiting up the revolting ceremony called the Novus Ordo.
If you want to be a Catholic in this completely unprecedented crisis, you need to go to an SSPX chapel and stay there.
It is only fairly recent in my own journey that I saw and understood the issues that have plagued the Church in the last five decades.
Going to the SSPX has been one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. I found it helpful to adopt a moderate sede position in order to make sense of things, but that is not absolutely necessary. The important thing is to go to the traditional Mass offred by a priest ordained in the traditional rite of ordination by a bishop consecrated in the traditional rite. Reject Vatican II as a whole, reject the Novus Ordo entirely as an evil, alien ceremony and hold fast to the traditions our ancestors in the Faith handed down through the centuries. Reject the modernist heretics claiming to be the Catholic hierarchy and don’t submit to them.
Respectfully, my friend, that link was NEVER meant to prop up the New Order, never meant for you to find comfort in going there, or give you permission to attend the abomination.
That article expresses how wickedly sick and theologically ill the New Order is, and that God in His Wisdom would use a miracle to try to get the folks’ attention, to cause AWARENESS to the Real Presence. Yes, maybe even there, in spite of everything, the Real Presence is at the New Order, provided matter, form and intent are met.
This is the message the SSPX wants you to know about the New Order and your attendance there:
Are we obliged in conscience to attend the Novus Ordo Missae?
If the Novus Ordo Missae is not truly Catholic, then it cannot oblige for one’s Sunday obligation. Many Catholics who do assist at it are unaware of its all pervasive degree of serious innovation and are exempt from guilt. However, any Catholic who is aware of its harm, does not have the right to participate. He could only then assist at it by a mere physical presence without positively taking part in it, and then and for major family reasons (weddings, funerals, etc).
-SSPX website FAQs
Well said. Thanks for that. In light of what is positively known, I would still be wary of a supposed miracle, and put it into the “false signs and wonders to deceive the elect” category. If it is a true miracle from heaven, then it is an endorsement of false worship.
One day, and that may or not be our day, God will permit the Mass to be taken away.
Dear Cortez, Your love for God and His Holy Church is exemplary. Thank you for sharing that love and for your humility and perseverance and acceptance of your cross. God bless you. Your sister in Christ, Lynda
Bless you and your dear family Cortez, you are on the right path and Our Lady protects Her little ones. I understand the Sede position and respect these devout Catholics, but disagree with the severity of their views. I’m 65 yrs old and was educated in the parochial school system., fortunately my first eight years were pre VII and received an excellent foundation from the good sisters, most of whom were quite elderly. Through the very dear Fr Nicholas Gruners guidance I was brought back to a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, this was at least 25 yrs ago and I attended daily mass at a local novus ordo parish, at that time the motu proprio of BXVI was not released and even now daily Latin Mass is not available where I reside. I know that the True Presence is still at the Novus Ordo Mass where the rubrics are followed and I don’t believe one should miss Sunday obligation so due to restraints caring for my elderly mother in law at this time I do 7: o’clock Sunday mass at novus ordo and my husband attends the Latin mass at one o’clock. Sorry to add all this seemingly unnecessary info but I feel it’s important to recognize that many of us came to the deep understandings concerning the VII debaucle while attending the Novus Ordo Missae. Jesus is still present at the Novus Ordo Missae and it will be a joyful day for me when the Novus Ordo is irradicated, but until my dear mother in law passes I will continue to fulfill my Sunday obligation at my local NO parish.
Meant to said that even though I believe Jesus is still present in NO Missae it will be a joyful day for me when that mass becomes null and void and the Mass of All Times is fully restored.
Dear Theresa, I’m also in a position where I am unable to attend Latin Mass. I am begging God to send that Holy Prelate soon who will be with us, as Our Lady of Good Success promised, during the complete restoration of The Church as She has said is coming. I am counting on The Holy Virgin as my hope to get me through these trials. I know God gave Her to us for situations such as these. I cling to Her. I thank you and Lynda for easing my mind and soul. God Bless you. Keeping your family in my prayers.