The Sacred Heart of *sotto voce*

When I was teaching in Australia in the seminaries of this diocese or that archdiocese, it was Father PJ who nicknamed me *sotto voce*, referring to the diminished “voice” by which the Roman Canon is pronounced in the “Extraordinary Form” of the Latin Rite. I had assisted a great deal in keeping the Latin Mass Society of Australia alive at the time. And previous to that, I had insisted in a meticulously researched article in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review that however quiet that “voice” is to be, the words are actually and indeed to be exactly pronounced, without which there simply are no consecrations, no Mass. *sotto voce* does not mean saying nothing, being a stone. It means that one would surely hear something indistinguishable in the first pews of a good sized church. In other words, the priest is speaking, just not to the back pew of any sized church. Take the picture above. If you were the priest and you were reciting the words of consecration, and you saw Christ our God there with you such as is depicted, you would continue speaking – as He Himself would bid you to do – but in a voice that was quiet but which He could distinctly and clearly hear, there, right in front of you. Get it? The Apostolic Penitentiary backed me up on this, encouraging any cases be brought to them of priests who don’t speak at all during the consecrations. I’ve seen this. Tight lipped. Nothing. And obstinate. Too bad, that. I know someone right now at the CDF, as it was called, who bullies concelebrants into basically saying nothing, because, he says ever so breathlessly, “It’s the Mass of the Celebrant!” That’s so wrong on so very many levels. Anyway, now that that’s out of my system…

I’ve noticed that I’m going a bit quieter at the time of the consecrations at Holy Mass. This isn’t affectation, something that is happening from the outside, forced. No. It’s been something that’s been happening on its own, as it were, over some time. It’s a spiritual thing. I wonder if other priests have noticed this. And actually, I think it’s that they all notice this, but with myself being such a dullard I’m guessing that I’m the only one who has not been ever so privy to what I’m now going to say and this ever since they were ordained. Better late than never, right?

The Holy Mass is generally addressed to God the Father – Te igitur clementissime Pater… – but, of course, while the narrative of the Mass leading up to the consecrations is addressed to the Father, reciting what Jesus was doing, the consecrations suddenly slip the priest into the first person singular of Christ Jesus Himself so that one is speaking directly to the Apostles at the Last Supper, and similarly directly to the trillions of souls who have ever been, are now, or ever will be at the self-same Holy Sacrifice at the altars of their churches, or offered in war on the tops of jeep-hoods, or in a bunk in Dachau or Auschwitz, or in whatever prison cell: “…given up for you,” and “…poured out for you.” It’s just that I’ve been noticing the Heart, if you will, of the Sacred Heart, as the words are pronounced by such an unworthy subject as myself, but myself nevertheless with Him in these statements of His, He who has so much love for us, and we who are so oblivious to all that which He does for us, and how it is that as He is lifted up on the Cross He draws all to Himself. Christ’s loving us no matter the cost and unto death is – I don’t know how else to say it – it puts one in awe, but even while being bidden by those words in the first person singular to be in total solidarity with the true Speaker, Jesus, one with His love. Of course, we know nothing, and in this world are on the outside, as it were, in perception really of anything. Yet, one’s voice naturally goes quieter. One is before the tremendous and fascinating, before the Great Mysteries. There are rubrics about having one’s voice go quiet. This is a description of what should already be happening. This is the Sacred Heart of *sotto voce*.

6 Comments

Filed under Eucharist

6 responses to “The Sacred Heart of *sotto voce*

  1. nancyv

    Let those who have ears, hear…
    sigh…this is so beautiful. Thank you Father for sharing these private public moments in the Mass. Thank you Jesus!

  2. Aussie Mum

    It’s good that you share and explain these things for us. Thank you Father.

  3. Beautifully stated, Father.

  4. Monica Harris

    How does a priest survive even ONE MASS, except through the graces given him by Jesus Christ and His Sacred/Sacrificed Heart? The Fire is all consuming, whatever voce.

  5. Aussie Mum

    After reading your post yesterday, Father, I read what Cardinal Sarah had to say earlier this year in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. You and he so well express the great and beautiful reality of the priesthood which often goes unrecognised in our mostly post-Christian world. He spoke of ‘the perfect configuration and total identification of the priest with Christ, High Priest of the New Covenant and of the good things to come (Heb 9:11)’ and said that, ‘(i)n this sense, the priest is not only an alter Christus, another Christ, he is truly ipse Christus, Christ himself. By the Eucharistic consecration, he is totally configured to Christ, he is so to speak “transubstantiated,” transformed, changed into Christ.’
    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/12/29/cardinal-sarah-we-must-rebuild-the-cathedral-we-do-not-need-to-invent-a-new-church/
    He also compared the Church to a beautiful cathedral and its demise in the West to the damage sustained by Notre Dame.

    • pelerin

      Thanks to Aussie Mum for her link to Cardinal Sarah which I had not seen. I love his description of the spire of Notre Dame being ‘like a finger stretching out towards Heaven pointing us toward God.’
      I always thought the delicate spire was the perfect contrast to the two solid towers on either side which are still standing. Now it is gone the gap in between is poignant. I went past it in August this year and heard someone say it was a bit like seeing someone smile with a gap in their front teeth. To those of us brought up in the 20th century it seemed the spire had always been there whereas in actual fact it had only been there since towards the end of the 19th century. What will replace it will remain to be seen but sadly for this grandmother I fear I will never know.

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