(The first part of my notes finish up the material I intended to cover last week, then begins Talk V. Also, to save time, I did skip some portions, which will be in brackets.)
The liturgy is far more than words
Another example of minimalism that sometimes cramps the liturgy can be seen in what people think of as the "essentials" and "important" elements of the liturgy, and what are seen as, for lack of a better term, "parsley on the plate." Anyone care to offer their view of what are "essentials" and what are "important"—and what inclusions aren’t?
Notice what Benedict says in paragraph 40. He highlights the importance of "liturgical norms"—no surprise; also, the "harmony of the rite"—I think he means, since there are options, to be thoughtful in how the parts are brought together; "vestments, furnishings, and the sacred space." All these items need great care. And he talks about the texts, proper readings and prayers—again, no surprise. But then, note this:
Equally important for a correct ars celebrandi is an attentiveness to the various kinds of language that the liturgy employs: words and music, gestures and silence, movement, the liturgical colours of the vestments. By its very nature the liturgy operates on different levels of communication which enable it to engage the whole human person (40).
Note he said these (highlighted) items are "equally important"! I think a lot of Catholics are accustomed not to considering the music, or the silence, or the gestures, as "equally important."
The mention of gestures is important, because many of them pertain not to the priest, but to the people—bowing, genuflecting, signs of the cross, and so forth.
[(Here, we could look at Spirit of the Liturgy sections on postures.)
(Now, someone might observe he doesn’t specify anything about incense—for that matter, he doesn’t specify things like candles, or altar linens etc. I’d also point out he refers to the "great riches" of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, which expresses the norms for Mass—and these things are spelled out there. While incense is not "essential" for liturgy, the norms for Mass simply take it for granted that it is used to some extent throughout the year, as a normal feature. While incense is not mandatory, except for a few occasions, it is also not treated as something exceptional. Finally, these things fall under the broad category of beauty—what do we do to make the entire liturgy beautiful?)]
The simplicity of its gestures and the sobriety of its orderly sequence of signs communicate and inspire more than any contrived and inappropriate additions. Attentiveness and fidelity to the specific structure of the rite express both a recognition of the nature of Eucharist as a gift and, on the part of the minister, a docile openness to receiving this ineffable gift (40).
I realize this won’t be so popular, but this is where little add-ons like: the sign of peace going on for awhile, hand-holding during the Our Father, or the "blessing" in the communion line, become an issue. The pope is reminding us about the importance of the overall simplicity and sobriety of the Roman Rite.
This is a good time to cite Vatican II: "The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 34).
[We might wonder what all this means for us?
Some of what we’ve talked about are questions of "right and wrong" but also, "better and worse." Not everything is on the same level of importance. But what happens is, again, a certain minimalism: if it’s not "wrong" then that means its indifferent or even good. Example: I’m not going to "abolish" the practice of the "blessing" during communion, for a variety of practical considerations; but honestly, I do believe it would be better if we didn’t do it. It would be better if it were more occasional, and not a big expectation.]
Sing or say?
The role of music in the liturgy is not always well understood.
Here’s what Sacrosanctum Concilium, the principal document on the liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, said about that:
The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy (112).
Note well: the treasury of music is greater than the treasury of painting or sculpture. Also note: music is a "necessary or integral part" of Mass.
Holy Scripture, indeed, has bestowed praise upon sacred song, and the same may be said of the fathers of the Church and of the Roman pontiffs who in recent times, led by St. Pius X, have explained more precisely the ministerial function supplied by sacred music in the service of the Lord.
Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites. But the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship (Ibid.).
So the Council here is talking about particular music in Mass, music "united to the words"—i.e., the prayers of the Mass themselves.
Many don’t realize that the Mass actually provides complete music, for the entire liturgy. It is not necessary to add any hymns! Last Advent and Lent, you may recall we tried something "new"—instead of an opening hymn, we used a kind of psalm with an antiphon-response. Why did we do that?
Here’s what the General Instruction on the Roman Missal says are the choices to be made for the "entrance chant":
After the people have gathered, the Entrance chant begins as the priest enters with the deacon and ministers. The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.
The singing at this time is done either alternately by the choir and the people or in a similar way by the cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant:
(1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting;
(2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual;
(3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms;
(4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop (47-48).
What has been routine, here and in most parishes, is to use option 4; what we did is to attempt option 3, or in some cases to use an English translation of option 1.
Someone might say, all are legitimate options; and that’s correct. But put this section together with what we saw earlier, from Vatican II: the importance of the music being "united to the words" of the Mass itself—meaning the antiphons "from the Roman Missal" itself, or the Gradual. The same is called for at the Offertory and at communion.
This also relates to what the pope—again, following the Council—said about the importance of Scripture in the liturgy; because with the use of the first three options, we are using actual Scripture as song, where hymns, at their best, are only based on Scritpure. And, to be honest, a lot of hymnody only has thin Scriptural content.
Here’s something else from Sacrosanctum Concilium: "The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care" (114). The Council has twice referred to a "treasure" or "treasury" of music.
What do you think that includes? Here’s what the holy father wrote:
The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost (SC 42).
Here again is the Council:
The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services
But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30 (Sac Con 116, emphasis added).
And here is the pope:
Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration. Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons. Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (SC 42, emphasis added).
Now, does that mean only Gregorian chant? Of course not. But clearly it means some Gregorian chant! During the past year or so, we’ve used Gregorian chant for exactly one prayer at Sunday Mass—we used the Agnus Dei for awhile, then the Sanctus.
Talk V begins here...except this first section, on Latin, I had to skip due to time. The folks at the talk did not have an issue with Latin in any case...
[What’s with the Latin?
Last week we looked at the role of sacred music. We saw that Gregorian chant has "pride of place." This obviously raises the issue of using Latin in Mass, because Gregorian chant is in Latin. But Vatican II had even more to say about maintaining Latin as part of our prayer, and we’ll see that in a moment. After we look at that, we’ll see what the pope has to say about specific parts of Mass, and then what he says about "active participation."
From the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, December 4, 1963:
Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.
These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language (36, emphasis added).
In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them (54, emphasis added).
Here’s what Pope Paul VI said in Jubilate Deo, a booklet of chant issued by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, April 14, 1974:
This minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant has been prepared with that purpose in mind: to make it easier for Christians to achieve unity and spiritual harmony with their brothers and with the living traditions of the past.
Hence it is that those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse to Gregorian chant the place which is due to it….
In presenting the Holy Father's gift to you, may I at the same time remind you of the desire which he has often expressed that the Conciliar constitution on the liturgy be increasingly better implemented. Would you therefore…decide on the best ways of teaching the faithful the Latin chants of "Jubilate Deo" and of having them sing them…
For some, the use of Latin is wonderful; for many, it is a curiosity, something new (!); for a few, it generates strong reactions. I think it is important to get rid of this notion that using Latin is somehow contrary to Vatican II, and I think we saw that. It’s ironic that the General Instruction says the following: "Since no Catholic would now deny the lawfulness and efficacy of a sacred rite celebrated in Latin, the Council was also able to grant that ‘the use of the vernacular language may frequently be of great advantage to the people’ and gave the faculty for its use" (12). In fact, there are Catholics who are specifically denying the "lawfulness and efficacy" of using even some Latin in Mass.
But the question remains—other than that Church says so, why use it?
1. It connects us to our own tradition, and not just a small part of it, but the vast bulk of it.
While Latin is not an original language of the Bible, it does date from Bible times—that is, the New Testament. The Bible already existed in Greek; the next stage, around 300 to 400 – was to translate it into the "vulgar" or common tongue: Latin. And so it remained for over 1,000 years!
The Bible was, in fact, translated into other languages along the way, but Latin remained the norm, down to the very present! That’s correct: the Church still uses the Nova Vulgata—New Vulgate—as the benchmark translation of the Bible, a linear successor to the first Vulgate, translated by St. Jerome.
What is true of Scripture is true of the Mass, of the vast bulk of the Church’s theology, spiritual writings, and music. Of what wasn’t written in Greek, the vast majority was composed in Latin.
Now, of course, we can translate all that, and we do. But anyone familiar with foreign languages knows things don’t always translate well. Ask anyone who speaks Spanish: manana means a lot more than "tomorrow," and to a Hawaiian, "Aloha" means a lot more than "hello."
2. It does, indeed, challenge us to go beyond ourselves, beyond the familiar and ordinary—this is something that the liturgy is supposed to do.
Let me share something from a book called Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread by Father Francis Randolph:
Father Randolph raises the subject of
what worship is and how prayer works….Worship that remains purely at the level of the human intellect is not really prayer; it is simply an exercise in mutual admiration and exhortation. Worship, to be genuine, must lift us out of ourselves and direct us toward God, who is incomprehensible and indescribable. Forms of words and actions are only symbols that we human beings can use to help us raise our hearts and minds to the transcendent. Briefly, prayer is a matter of the heart, not merely the head (195-6).
He goes on to talk about contemplation, "a purely wordless prayer," in which the
surface of the mind is idle: everything is going on at a deeper level, in the "heart" or at the "apex of the soul." Words mean very little, they glance lightly off the surface. For the contemplative soul, it is actually impossible to keep the attention on the intellectual surface of the mind and still be able to pray…This is what happens when contemplatives are faced with the new Mass in their own language…. When they do find a Latin Mass, particularly if a great part of it is silent, they feel much more relaxed and will remark that "they really felt like going to Mass again" (198).
3. It is beautiful.
Now, some will say, "no it isn’t, I hate it."
But notice: many, many people request the Ave Maria sung at a wedding or funeral; I’ve never had anyone say, "oh, but it would be better in English."
Why in Latin? I doubt those who request it understand the words of the prayer. They want it for one reason: it’s beautiful. What’s more, I have never had anyone ask for a solo of the Ave Maria in English—i.e., the Hail Mary. Why not?
The same is true of the chant recordings that continue to be very popular—they buy Gregorian chant, or Russian chant—how many buy English chant? Do all these people understand the Latin? Of course not. So how is it that it speaks to them, that it seems to have such power? What they are experiencing is called…beauty.
I know the response: "But I can’t understand it!" On some level, that’s true: if the priest prayed the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin, almost no one would understand the prayer, no question.
But when we talk about a short prayer, which almost everyone knows by heart because it’s prayed at every single Mass, that doesn’t wash:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi; miserere nobis.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world grant us peace.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of power and might
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua Hosanna in excelsis
Heaven and earth are full of your glory Hosanna in the highest
Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini Hosanna in excelsis
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord Hosanna in the highest.
A number of the words sound familiar: pacem—peace; gloria—glory; hosanna—hosanna. Others sound like words we use: benedictus—benediction, beneficial; sanctus—sanctify, sacred; nomine—nominate, nominal; dominus—dominate, Dominic; excelsis—excellent; pleni—plenty; terra—terrestrial, "terra firma."
If you say, I don’t understand each word, that is true; but to say, "I can’t understand" the prayer? That’s not really correct, is it?]
Specific Parts of the Mass
The pope comments on the various parts of the Mass; we might look at these as a series of "bullet points," and talk about them:
· It’s important that the liturgy of the word always be "carefully prepared and celebrated." This applies to the readers and the cantors who proclaim the psalm. The pope recommends steps to foster appreciation for Scripture, including celebrating the liturgy of the hours—as we do—and "vigils," meaning a Mass with extended readings, such as for Easter, which can be celebrated on other major feasts (45).
· The pope recommends homilies include catechesis, and thematic homilies can be useful to this end (46).
· The preparation of the gifts is not merely an "interval" between other parts of Mass, it has its own importance; otherwise the fundamental unity of Mass can be misunderstood. That said, it is a relatively simple rite that shouldn’t include "undo emphasis or complexity" (47).
· Quoting the GIRM, he calls the Eucharistic Prayer is "‘the center and summit of the entire celebration.’ It’s importance deserves to be adequately emphasized" (48).
We might just ask the question: how might we do this? What are some things we already do to emphasize it?
· The Sign of Peace is another rite that should not be over-emphasized, although it often is. Again, he cites the GIRM, which calls for restricting it to those immediately around oneself. He also raises the question about whether its well placed (49).
Perhaps the most famous phrase from the Second Vatican Council—in relation to the liturgy—is from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 14:
"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy."
This is the section of Vatican II that is most often brought up in all the debates and tugs-of-war over the celebration of the liturgy: questions of style of music; Latin v. local language; how much the choir sings, what prayers are sung, text translations, and whether or not things not actually part of the liturgy should be added into it.
So we are going to see what Pope Benedict has to say about actuosa participatio; then we’ll look at what he has to say about Eucharistic adoration.
Let’s look at paragraph 52. Do you notice anything that contrasts somewhat with the quote I just read to you, from Vatican II? Note the pope slightly rephrases it, to include the term "fruitful." What do you make of that?
I think the pope is trying to draw attention to something that the rest of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and the Council as a whole, emphasized—everything we’re talking about must be fruitful.
And it is possible he’s raising a concern: has everything that has happened, in the name of the Council, in relation to the liturgy, been "fruitful"? Much earlier in the exhortation, and again shortly after that, the pope refers to "abuses." He doesn’t emphasize the point, but certainly the matter has been emphasized many other places, not only his own writings, but also several actions of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I think in this letter, Pope Benedict is "accentuating the positive"—he’s trying to point in a direction that will be "fruitful."
Note: he refers to the "entire People of God." This can be taken two ways:
Ø Each and every member of the People of God, of any age or condition, engaged in "full and active" participation; or:
Ø "active, full and fruitful" participation for the Church…as a whole.
Which do you think is meant? (I.e., is it not true that many members of the Body are not, in fact, going to participate in the fashion of the first meaning—so must it not mean the second?)
The pope seems to be emphasizing the Body of Christ as a whole; this makes sense insofar as the liturgy is an action of the whole Christ, head-and-members, and is for the sake of the Body as a whole—which, of course, benefits each individually. But this is not an "individualistic" thing.
So the first thing we see is that an "individualistic" approach to these questions isn’t going to work. "We shouldn’t sing the Our Father because I don’t like to sing." That actually is an argument some make—that because some folks don’t sing, then prayers to be prayed by "all the faithful" should never be sung. Likewise, the argument is applied to having choral settings of the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
Do you see another flaw in this approach? The pope points it out: "‘participation’ does not refer to mere external activity"! This would seem obvious, but again, so much tug-of-war on these issues stands or falls on this very misunderstanding.
Instead, the pope suggests we focus on "a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relation to daily life" (52).
We might here look at something Benedict wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy: participation means "a principal action in which everyone has a part" (171): i.e., "part-icipatio." (Here refer to handout, pages 171-177.)
On that definition, what is the "principal action" we’re talking about? Benedict (i.e., Ratzinger) says, the Eucharistic Prayer—this is the living heart of the Mass.
At this point, we recall what we quoted last time from the Vatican II constitution on the sacred liturgy about the Mass being essentially Christ’s own action. Ratzinger wrote, "in this oratio, the priest speaks with the I of the Lord" (Ibid., 172).
Also, note on page 173: "The real ‘action’ in the liturgy in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself." This is what is new and distinctive about Christian liturgy—"God himself acts and does what is essential."
So, for example, this isn’t about exercising a particular ministry or function at Mass. Many make this link: if their role as a reader, or extraordinary minister of holy communion, is modified, they complain that their "participation" is diminished.
The problem, as Benedict notes, is this confuses the importance and essential quality of the ministry of the priest; related to this is failing to appreciate the Mass is, at its center, a sacrifice—and a sacrifice requires a priest. Again, if "participation" is taken to mean external activity, then the lay faithful are likely to see their participation at Mass as rather less than the priest. See how that makes a kind of competition, dividing up parts?
Instead, as he said, we participate as a whole Body, all together. No need for a tug of war.
So: what are the "ingredients" for genuine participation?
Over several paragraphs, I think you can find the following highlighted:
Ø Citing the Council, he says they are "instructed by God’s Word" and "nourished by his Body"—i.e., they frequently receive the Eucharist; "they give thanks," referring to the Mass itself; they "offer the immaculate victim" not only through the hands of the priest, but with him, "learning to make an offering of themselves" which seems to make sense only if their whole lives are offered, in union with the Mass; and finally, being drawn "day by day into ever more perfect union with God and each other"—clearly beyond the Mass. (52)
Ø Then he cited "personal conditions" as follows:
1. Spirit of constant conversion
2. Recollection and silence
3. Fasting (i.e., before Mass)
5. Participation in the life of the Church as a whole, particularly mission activity.
Note: while the pope agrees with the Council about coming to communion, he wants to be careful about a misunderstanding: participation in Mass does not equal coming to communion. Sometimes we cannot and should not approach "the table of the Eucharist."
"Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life" (55).
This raises the delicate issue of non-Catholics coming to communion. He explains here why, unlike many Protestants, we don’t consider merely being baptized sufficient basis for sharing the Eucharist: "We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter" (56).
To say it even more briefly: receiving communion means you are a full member of the Catholic Church (and not in a state of mortal sin). If you aren’t actually a member of the Catholic Church, then don’t receive the Eucharist until you are ready to do that.
He notes there are special circumstances where a non-Catholic can go to confession, be anointed and receive the Eucharist. These arise where someone (a) believes the same thing as Catholics about these sacraments (b) has no access to his own clergy, (c) is in danger of death and (d) is properly disposed. Archbishop Pilarczyk has said each case must be submitted to him individually.
The pope makes some good points about "active participation" that sort of "radiate outward" from the Mass itself:
Ø Participation via the media: TV, radio, Internet
Ø Participation for the sick who cannot come to Mass—we come to them.
This is why I think it important to have a dismissal of those taking the Eucharist to the sick, rather than have folks come up in the communion line.
Ø Participation for those in prison
Ø Migrants and openness to different traditions
We may need to think about use of Spanish in the Mass some day soon.
We’ve already looked at the use of Latin—but note well, he included this in his discussion of "active participation"—clearly he doesn’t see this as a barrier to authentic participation!
The pope concludes his discussion of actuosa participatio by turning to interior participation—and here, he focuses on two things: inviting the faithful to have their exterior gestures connect to interior disposition; and two—related to this—greater catechesis on the meaning of what happens in the liturgy itself.
Possible discussion of various gestures and movements in the Mass here…
This will come as no surprise, but here the pope makes an important point—consistent with everything we’ve looked at so far: "In particular, given the close relationship between the ars celebrandi and an actuosa participatio, it must first be said that ‘the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well’" (64, citing proposition 19 produced by the Synod).