Dramatizing the liturgy of the Word?

– Enrico Finotti

On some occasions the liturgy of the Word is dramatized with the children of catechesis and in certain celebrations images and films are projected. The opinions among us are somewhat divergent. What about this?

The Church has always celebrated the liturgy of the Word so that it is proclaimed by the living voice of the reader and heard by all the people summoned. This modality had its origins in the synagogical liturgy, as is well established in the sacred Scriptures and in ancient sources. The sacred representations certainly originated from the Christian liturgy, but they never replaced it. Undoubtedly the Church assumed some dramatic expressions to embellish the liturgical proclamation, but these are very sober and completely functional to an even more noble and effective liturgical proclamation. The most evident case is that of reading the Passion with the three deacons and the schola for choral interventions. Even the cantillatio can give greater strength and color to the proclamation of the readings, in particular to the Gospel text. This modality should be better known and practiced, according to the proposals also included in the current liturgical books (see Appendix to the Roman Missal). Now the dramatization with its characters and their theatrical movements tends to weaken the sense of God’s presence and obscure the perception of the mystery of Him that speaks to his people. The attention of the assembly, in fact, is strongly attracted by the human protagonists and their gestures. In this way the climate of prayer and spiritual concentration, which are indispensable elements of the liturgy, vanishes. Even the contents of the Word of God are somewhat conditioned by the interpretation of the actors and their precariously rendered objectivity. The liturgical proclamation instead adheres more precisely to the sacred text and exposes it with sobriety and essentiality. Analogous to theatrical dramatization is the projection of movies and images. In reality liturgical rituality has characteristics of nobility and measure that do not occur in the theatricality of the sacred representations and the ritual modules of the liturgy have their own laws and structures, refined by the secular experience of the Church. The case of dramatization outside the liturgy in the context of catechesis and pastoral care in the sphere of the oratory is different.


The gifts for the Offertory


Many times when the offertory procession is made, the various gifts are commented. Is it to be done?

The offertory gifts must respect the primacy of the oblates (bread, wine and water), which are necessary for the Divine Sacrifice, which must never appear as discounted and almost insignificant appendices. Any other gifts must be treated in their sobriety and quality, not to indulge in unnecessary distractions and banalities. The offertory procession is accompanied by the singing or by an intervention of the organ and never must interfere with comments and even less with applause. The submission of offers cannot be transformed in a personalistic role, or in a market walkway. The essential purpose of the offertory procession is to arouse in everyone the inner movement of the offering of oneself in union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This intimate oblation, proper to all those present, can only take place in silence, in the sacred atmosphere, in the proper forms, in the rejection of theatrical excesses. The message of a quality offertory procession transpires with efficacy from the simple force of a noble, sacred, dignified and solemn rite, which imposes itself on the gaze and does not end up with noose and entertainment of any kind. It would be enough to think of the beauty and sacredness of the solemn procession with the holy oils in the Holy Thursday Mass of the Chrism. Unfortunately, at present one of the original meanings of the offertory procession seems to have disappeared, namely that of introducing the oblates into the holy assembly with supreme honor, since they must become the Lord’s sacramental Body and Blood. This honorary entrance is similar to that reserved for the Evangelization, the Processional Cross and the Sacred Ministers.


(From “Il mio e il vostro sacrificio. Il liturgista risponde”, 2018©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)