Bring Liturgy to the People and Elevate People to the Liturgy

Enrico Finotti

The liturgical reform was made for pastoral reasons: to bring the people closer to the liturgy and to make it understood by the ordinary people who frequent it. Isn’t a return to the precise observance of the rubrics and the literal pronunciation of prayers out of place, when a looser dynamic helps to capture the attention of the faithful, especially children?

A priest

The primary intent of the liturgical reform was not to bring the subjective religious sensitivity of the individual faithful into the rites, but to make the mystery of Christ, which is implemented in the objectivity of liturgical signs conforming to dogma, as understandable and usable as possible to the people summoned, which here and now celebrates it. This is a fundamental fact because the content of the liturgy is not primarily the subjective religious experience (individual or community) of those present, but the mystery “which comes from above” (Jas 3:17) and which the Church has received and continuously transmits per ritus et preces in the succession of centuries. 

It is not a question of celebrating our natural religiosity in its psychological, sociological and subjective dimension, that is derived from the environment and culture in which we live, but of entering into the objective and sovereign worship of Jesus Christ, the only high priest who can penetrate the heaven and intercede on our behalf (cf. Heb 4:14-16). The reform, therefore, took care of every detail so that the people of God are more easily and more effectively introduced into the worship of the Lord Jesus and elevated to the liturgy of heaven and be forged and purified by it to become in Christ a perennial sacrifice pleasing to the Father (cf. Prayer of the Eucharist III). 

Once this principle has been established, it is easy to understand how authentic pastoral care must have a sense of its limits and duties towards objective liturgical laws, beyond which there is no longer the guarantee and the sign of worship that is holy and pleasing to God and that of His only-begotten Son, but a corruption of this, even if cloaked by the apparent reason to interest the assembly more and capture its attention.

In this respect, the liturgy tends intimately towards unity, Christ and his mystery being one for all, and in this sense, it requires a fundamental uniformity in the substance of the dogma, of the language connected to it and of the “great repetitions” (J. Ratzinger) rituals consecrated by Tradition.

Of course, it must also be admitted that the Church wants all the faithful to have an intimate part in the rite and participate in it with the adhesion of mind and heart. This is achieved above all through sacred silence, which is intertwined in the ritual junctions, allowing for interiorization. In the secret sanctuary of the heart of each believer, the gift of God that descends from above and the offering of one’s life with all the subjective dimensions of one’s existential experience meet. Education in the fruitful use of the silentium liturgicum is an exercise that is very necessary and still far from the interest of enlightened pastoral care.

The proper object of the liturgical celebration is therefore the mystery of Christ, while in individual and group prayer the range of personal piety and the spiritual sensitivities of the environments, cultures and singular charisms are opened with the utmost availability.

It is no coincidence that the Church distinguishes between liturgy and popular piety, as the Lord himself already distinguished between public prayer and prayer done in secret, giving himself the example in his life. It is urgent to make recourse to this distinction, avoiding falling into a double and opposite error: reducing everything to the liturgy by lowering the tenor and identity of sacred rites, or on principle excluding popular piety and the regime of personal prayer, making the heart spiritually dry. However, the reciprocal relationship between the two forms must always be maintained, so that the liturgy never lacks the contribution of the faithful bathed in the grace of prayer, nor that continuous verification, purification and elevation to popular piety, which only the liturgy can ensure. as it is direct worship of the Lord himself and of the Church his bride. (From La spada e la Parola. Il liturgista risponde, 2018©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Photo: Reuters / Benoit Tessier)