ASK THE LITURGIST (24) – Comments

– Enrico Finotti

There are several priests who explain the readings before their proclamation. At other times the commentator introduces the individual readings. What to think about it?

It is necessary to distinguish between the anticipated homily and the comments to the readings. Explaining the Word of God before it is proclaimed is in contrast with the secular practice of the Church, which only after hearing the Word of God proceeds to its mystagogical explanation through the homily.

The comments, distributed at various points of the celebration and even before the individual readings, need a specific argument. They certainly had their utility in the years immediately following the liturgical reform, as the meaning of the various parts of the ritual, the composition of the lectionary and the value of gestures and behavioral modalities that were new with respect to the previous liturgy had to be explained to the people. However they had to be gradually overcome as the assembly was made capable of participating safely in the new ritual forms. Fifty years after the liturgical reform the comments should be completely overcome: in fact the strength and effectiveness of the rites and readings is not in their explanation, but in their very execution, done with competence, taste, proper ways and inner participation. This overcoming is already foreseen in the dictates of the liturgical constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, when it states: “The rites … do not need many explanations” (SC 34).

We must avoid that everything is always and immediately understood and explained, but let a margin of mystery and elusiveness pervade the liturgy in its expressions. In this way the charm and majesty of the things of God is created and a certain inner effort is stimulated for a spiritual journey that requires research, reflection and personal commitment. In particular we must avoid some conditioning on the way we understand, both the Word of God and the general sense of the whole celebration. To induce the assembly to read the liturgy of the day in the light of a single perspective imposed on the view of all does not respect the freedom of the Spirit, which offers each person personal and specific insights. A complete and unconditional proclamation of the Word ensures this. At the same time, an apparatus of commentaries that especially overwhelms the Eucharistic celebrations of Sundays of the strong times and of certain solemnities, inspired by partial and insufficient visions, tends to exploit the entire liturgical complex of a sacred time, such as Advent or Lent, serving partisan goals and pastoral goals, certainly good ones, but not always in harmony with the celebrated mystery. An authentic art of celebrating, exercised by each minister, offers by itself the best expressive modality and the most effective communicative force, without the need for cumbersome captions.

(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)

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