What is the “Secret” in the Mass? (CMP)
Answer: The answer is a bit complex. When Mass is sung, most of
what is sung by the choir or congregation can be described as psalms or
hymns—music that praises and glorifies God, rather than constituting a
prayer—the Kyrie and Agnus Dei being minor exceptions. All of
this music developed over a number of centuries, progressively enriching the
celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. If we consider only Gregorian chant,
this development extends slightly beyond the first millennium. We have
written about it in the Parish Bulletins for February, March, and
April AD 2006.
In the second millennium, great composers wrote choral music of great
complexity and harmony.
At the same time that
choral music was developing, so to were the ceremonies carried out by the
clergy at the altar.
● Kyrie (6th
● Agnus Dei (7th
● Credo (11th
century, at the request of the Emperor)
● Offertory prayers
(Gallican - 14th century)
● Psalm at the Lavabo
● Suscipe sancta
Trinitas (medieval - prescribed in 16th century)
● Prayers at the foot of
the altar (16th century - previously private)
● Elevation of the Host
(about 13th century)
● Elevation of the
Chalice (14th-16th century)
● Communion prayers
● Last Gospel (16th
century - previously a recessional or thanksgiving prayer)
● Blessing (11th - 17th
Since both the parts of
the Mass assigned to both the choir and the clergy at the altar increased in
length, many of the parts assigned to the latter began to be recited in a
relatively low voice, not audible beyond the Communion rail. This enabled
the choir to sing without clashing with the voices of the clergy, and
without unduly prolonging the length of the Mass. Thus, the clergy must
recite the prayers at the foot of the altar quietly during the singing of
the Introit; the munda cor meum during the Gradual psalm; the
Offertory prayers during the singing of the Offertory psalm; much of the
Canon during the Sanctus; and the pre-Communion prayers during the Agnus
We should also note that
in every Mass there is at least one set of three prayers that are read or
sung by the priest. These are usually addressed to God the Father but
occasionally to God the Son, asking for some grace, often through the
intercession of the Saint of the day. The first and third sets conclude
with the words “Per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum,” which is answered “Amen.”
These prayers are called “orations,” or simply the prayers,” or somewhat
ambiguously, “the collects,” which name applies more specifically to the
first in each set.
The first prayer in each
set is called the “Collect,” or “gathering prayer,” (“oratio ad Collectam”)
which expresses the general public intention of the Mass, and which is
recited immediately after the Glória (or Kyrie if there is no
Glória. As the choral singing is over, this set of prayers is
prefaced with “Dóminus vobíscum,”
and “Et cum spíritu tuo,” and all are
sung or recited in a
clear voice to be heard by all.
The last prayer in each
set is called the “Postcommunion” as it is recited or sung after Holy
Communion, when the Communion psalm has been sung and the priest has
purified the chalice and paten. The first is prefaced “Dóminus
The clear voice is used
as no one else is singing. Generally, it is a prayer that requests some
grace in connection with the Communion we have just received.
The middle prayer in
each set is recited after the Offertory prayers, including “Súscipe
sancta Trínitas.” It is prefaced with the prayer “Orate,
fratres,” most of which is said
and answered at the altar in a low voice, for the choir is anticipated to be
singing the Offertory Hymn. The prayers are recited in a low tone to allow
the choir to sing until it ends with
“Per ómnia sǽcula
sæculórum,” in a clear voice. The prayers generally ask God for the
acceptance of the offerings, and the sanctification of those who offer
them. The name of this prayer comes from the Latin word for “setting apart”
the offerings, secernere, which is rendered as “secreta,” or
“secret” in English. While the Secret is generally rendered in a low voice,
the text of these prayers is not secret and can be found in any hand missal.
I will it
the Gospel for the third Sunday after Epiphany a leper asks Jesus to be
healed: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus stretching
forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And
forthwith his leprosy was cleansed.”
Isn’t there something more to our Lord’s answer than merely, “I will do it”?
Answer: Absolutely. In English the phrases “I will” and “I
would” are ambiguous. They can mean that the speaker intends to do
something, or intends to do it if some condition is fulfilled—even to do
something that he would rather not do. Or they can indicate that the
speaker actually wants to do the thing in question. In the Gospel
mentioned, the Latin of the Roman Missal has the leper say “si
vis potes me mundare” and Jesus to respond “volo mundare”—with
both underlined words being forms of “volare—to want.” (θέλῃς and
Θέλω in Greek). Clearly, the healing of the leper is an act of the will of
God, which is what brought all creation into existence, and which
continuously preserves it. The English translation would more correctly
convey the meaning as “you/I will it,” rather than simply “you/I will.”
Socialism, Contraception, and the Bishops
have discussed the possibility of “civil disobedience” in connection with
the Obamacare/Health and Human Services (HHS) dictate that religious
institutions provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients as
part of their employees’ medical insurance coverage. Aren’t Catholics
obliged to obey civil laws?
Answer: No power on earth has the authority to
order anyone to sin—not the president, not the Pope, not any human being.
Nor will God send an angel from heaven to cause us to violate His Law. Sin
is contrary to God’s unchanging will, and is always disobedient to Him, to
Whom we have the ultimate obligation of obedience.
We are not looking for
some special privilege for Catholics—the Obama requirements are morally
abhorrent to other people of good will. It is a dangerous precedent to
allow the government to contravene the moral beliefs of citizens using the
mighty powers at its disposal. Religion has always been a threat to power
hungry governments, and perhaps the most effective way for such regimes to
neutralize the power of religions and religious leaders is to get them to
compromise on the tenets of their faith. Should religious organizations
cave on something essential to the Natural Moral Law, in the minds of the
faithful they will lose their authority to speak out about any other moral
or dogmatic issue.
is no more than “the nose of the camel under the tent” of religion. The
state will soon be back—there is so much more for the godless to achieve.
After the coverage for abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia is secured,
there will be little to keep the state from requiring these practices at its
direction. If religious agencies allow adoption by homosexuals, who will
listen to their condemnation of homosexual “marriages”? How can the
authorities of any church speak with authority after trading off
non-negotiable moral principles?
The U.S. Constitution is
the supreme law of these United States. There is no reason to assume that
it means anything other than what it says. It is relatively easy to read,
with only a few legal terms that require recourse to a dictionary
(attainder, marque and reprisal, habeas corpus, etc.). Amendment I clearly
states (in part): “Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....”
The free exercise
much more than the right to attend a worship service of one’s liking. It is
the right to make one’s beliefs known in the free marketplace of ideas, it
is the right to prayer at moments when prayer is appropriate or necessary,
and it is freedom from coercion to behave in a manner opposed to one’s moral
principles. The First Amendment applies to everyone within the jurisdiction
of the United States—not just to Catholics.
An establishment of
likewise, is more than the bureaucracy that constitutes a state church. It
is an interference with the free marketplace of religious ideas, an
interference with the right to pray, and the prescription of a set of moral
principles at variance with the Natural Moral Law. Sterilization is the
sacrament of the “Progressive” religion, contraception is the sacrament of
the liberal religion, and abortion is the sacrificial worship of the devil.
Beyond violating the
First Amendment, the Obama/HHS dictate, and all of Obamacare, violates the
Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people. Nowhere in the Constitution is the
power to regulate medicine or to require anyone to purchase or provide any
sort of medical treatment (or anything else) delegated to the federal
government—therefore, it has no such powers.
As this was being
written (February 10th) we received the following:
Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama announced a compromise Friday in
the dispute over whether to require full contraception insurance coverage
for female employees at religiously affiliated institutions.
Under the new plan, religiously affiliated universities and hospitals will
not be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. Insurers
will be required, however, to offer complete coverage free of charge to any
women who work at such institutions.
The Obama “compromise”
is no such thing. Insurance companies do not and cannot provide anything
for free. Whatever they pay out in claims is paid for by their policy
holders. Saying that they will provide coverage “free of charge” (which
Obama has no constitutional authority to say) is simply saying that the
costs will be spread around to all of the company’s policy holders, or
stolen from the shareholders. That means that the conscience of even more
people will be violated, and people with no interest in having birth control
insurance (e.g. men, and infertile women) will be required to have it and
pay for it. For the larger companies that self-insure, there will not even
be the fiction of “free of charge,” for the insurance companies merely
administer such plans, sending the company a bill for all of the medical
costs plus the administrative costs.
One might ask, Why has
the government chosen to wage war against religion? What do Obama and his
minions stand to gain from putting Christians between a rock and a moral
“hard place”? Indeed, don’t they stand to lose a voter base that often
Perhaps the answer is
that the war against the Church and against religion is part of a larger
power grab. The Tenth Amendment has been a dead letter since the 1930s or
earlier. The free exercise clause of the First Amendment has been
dead for forty years or more. But, in latter nineteenth century, in the
twentieth century, and now under Bush, and then Obama, we have seen even
bolder attempts to centralize power in the Executive branch of government.
“Article I Section 8.
The Congress shall have power to ... declare war....”
Wars are no longer declared by Congress (e.g. Korea, Viet Nam, Serbia, Iraq,
Afghanistan, etc.) or even with the tacit approval of Congress, (e.g.
Amendment IV: The right
of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no
warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the
persons or things to be seized.
Today, people are
x-rayed and strip searched at airports, and perhaps other transportation
hubs. Warrantless searches are regularly conducted with no reason and with
no idea of what might be found. Property seized is held even after its
owner is proven innocent of wrong-doing. Searches are conducted by invasion
with disregard for property and the lives of people and animals.
Amendment V: No person
shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless
on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in
the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time
of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same
offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled
in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of
life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private
property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The Executive branch has declared itself competent to
indefinitely and secretly imprison persons without charge, counsel, or
trial, in contravention of the Seventh Amendment; and to torture them in
contravention of the Eighth Amendment, US law, and international treaty;
and, ultimately, to assassinate them. Claiming security or environmental
concerns it deprives owners of the right to use their property, without any
Though the Senate has not ratified the UN’s International Criminal Court
(ICC), the Executive has been cooperating with that court, supporting the
prosecution of its cases.
Yet crimes committed in the Executive branch go unpunished.
The Vatican has not ratified ICC.
Ah, Yes! the UN The US
has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but some
local jurisdictions have incorporated the Convention’s draconian assault on
US officials are chomping at the bit to adopt the UN Small Arms Treaty as a
means of eliminating the Second Amendment right of the people
to keep and bear arms.
The US (and the Vatican) have
agreed to the UN World Heritage Convention, placing significant national
treasures under UN supervision.
The list of sites includes Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty; the
National Parks at Yellowstone, Carlsbad, Redwood, Hawaii, Grand Canyon, and
the Everglades among others, and with more to come.
Vatican City, its holdings in Rome, and Saint Paul’s outside the walls are
likewise under UN supervision!
What is to be done?
Obtain and read one of
those pocket sized copies of the Constitution—know what the federal
government is supposed to be doing and not doing. Become informed about
what they are doing. Vote only for people who can be trusted to keep their
oath to uphold the Constitution.
Recognize that Obamacare
and other socialist legislation was passed in large part due to the support
of Catholic religious, priests, and bishops. Be sure they know that they
will get none of your money or other support until they repudiate socialism
Pray!! Pray for our
putative president and congressmen to respect the Natural Moral Law, and
their oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Pray that the Pope,
bishops, and clergy come to understand that globalism and socialism are
inherently evil and lead to violations of God’s law. Pray for the
conversion of hearts!