MAGISTERIAL AUTHORITY AND LITURGICAL REFORM (5) – “There is still work to be done”

Rev José Mario O Mandía

One of the gifts that the liturgical reform brought to the Church is the more extensive use of Sacred Scripture. Sacrosanctum Concilium taught: “The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years” (SC 51). The cycle of readings for the Mass provides a lot of material for the meditation of the faithful, thus making them more familiar with the Word of God and immersing them in it.

In the Offertory of the Mass, the Roman Missal (third edition) indicates how the people “express their participation by making an offering, bringing forward bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist and perhaps other gifts to relieve the needs of the Church and of the poor.” The offering of “other gifts” reminds the lay faithful of the teaching of Lumen Gentium (no 34), that “all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (I Peter 2:5).” The document continues, “Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.”

One may ask, “Has the reform been completely and faithfully implemented?”

Pope Francis says no. In fact, he confirmed that “today, there is still work to be done in this direction, in particular by rediscovering the reasons for the decisions taken with regard to the liturgical reform, by overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, a partial reception, and practices that disfigure it.”

He explains his point, saying that it “is not a matter of rethinking the reform by reviewing the choices in its regard, but of knowing better the underlying reasons, through historical documentation, as well as of internalizing its inspirational principles and of observing the discipline that governs it.” He adds, however, at the end of the same paragraph: “After this magisterium, after this long journey, We can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” (Discourse to participants of the 68th National Liturgical Week in Italy on 24 August 2017)

What are the “unfounded and superficial readings, a partial reception, and practices that disfigure it”?

We can cite some examples.

SC (no 21) teaches that one has first to distinguish between “immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change.” This is why it prescribes that “careful investigation is always to be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised” (SC 23).” Moreover, it indicates that the power to revise the liturgy belongs to the Apostolic See, and if Church law indicates it, to the local bishop or the conference of bishops (cf SC 22, sect 1 & 2). It then adds: “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (no 22, 3).

In the three decades following the Council, a lot of experimentation was done at the whim of the celebrant, turning the Mass into a show and priests into performers. Just recently, on November 22, Pope Francis reminded the faithful “This is Mass: to enter in the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. And when we go to Mass it is like going to Calvary, just imagine: going to the crucifixion scene, at that moment we would realize that that man there is Jesus: would we allow ourselves to chat and take pictures? To make out a little show? No, because it is Jesus, we would certainly be in silence, in tears, and in the joy of being saved. When we enter the Church to celebrate Mass, we shall think of this: I’m entering the Calvary, where Jesus gives his life for me: and thus, the show, the comments, the chatter that distracts us from this beautiful thing that is Mass, disappear. The triumph of Jesus.” 

He concluded: “Participation in the Eucharist makes us enter in Christ’s Paschal Mystery, making us pass with Him from death to life, namely, there in Calvary. The Mass is to redo Calvary, it’s not a show.”

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