Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra issued a letter on the liturgy for Pentecost Sunday as the Australian bishops began full implementation of the new General Instruction for the Roman Missal This is quite a wonderful letter and he touches on so many aspects on the Mass and how it is celebrated that I am totally in agreement with. I also really like the tone of the letter in while he is correcting some abuses and areas that need improvement in the celebration of the sacred liturgy he is mainly reflecting and teaching on the reform of the Mass and how it should be celebrated. [Via Overhead in the Sacristy]
The new version of General Instruction is one of a number of indications that the
Church is moving into a new phase of the ongoing journey of liturgical renewal, the roots of
which reach back to the Second Vatican Council and beyond. In earlier times, it seemed that
the process of liturgical renewal begun by the Council was complete. But that is not the case.
The journey of liturgical renewal, we can now see, is only in its early phases, and the
appearance of the General Instruction is one indication of this. Other still more important
indications will be the appearance in the not too distant future of the new translation of the
Roman Missal and the new translation of the Lectionary. Now is the time, the Spirit is saying
to the Church, to take stock of the liturgical renewal of the last forty years, to discern as
clearly as possible what has succeeded and what has failed, and to make adjustments in the
light of that discernment.
This means that all of us will have to be open to learn, and that is not always easy. Over
recent decades, liturgical habits have taken hold, some of which have been beneficial, others
detrimental to the celebration of the liturgy. It is never easy to break the hold of bad habits,
especially when we do not see them as bad. Openness to learn always involves humility, a
preparedness to recognise that I do not know all the answers. In the case of the liturgy, that
humility involves a preparedness to learn from the Church, to whom alone the liturgy
belongs; and in the new General Instruction and the new translations of the Missal and
Lectionary, it is the voice of the whole Church, the Bride of Christ, that we hear.
He then goes on and makes some general observations on several subjects.
Silence Our worship generally has become very chatty, to the point where one of the challenges
now is to allow silence to play its part in the liturgy. This might begin with our places of
worship. Where once our churches were places of silence for the sake of prayer in the
presence of the Blessed Sacrament, the custom has arisen in more recent years for people to
talk freely in the churches, certainly before and after Mass. The same is true of the sacristy:
where once silence was the rule (again for the sake of prayer and recollection) often now the
sacristy has become a noisy and distracting place. Once was too that the priest was expected
to pray the prescribed prayers as he vested for Mass, and this was one factor which
contributed to an air of silence in the sacristy. I wonder would it be possible to encourage an
air of silence or at least quiet in sacristies before Mass, and to make our churches places
where there is a silence which supports prayer. Of course there are times when one has to talk in a sacristy or a church, but it is a question of the prevailing atmosphere. In that sense, I am
speaking more about prayer than about silence for its own sake. …
The style of language used at Mass will change when the new translation of the Roman
Missal appears, perhaps late in 2009. It will be a more elevated and sacral idiom, which may
feel strange at first. But it is important to realise that the language of the liturgy was never
everyday language; it was always more elevated and even slightly old-fashioned. That is
because it is ritual language. For the celebrant to say at the start of Mass, Good morning,
everyone and for the people to reply Good morning, Father is everyday language which in
other contexts would be perfectly appropriate. But in the liturgical context it is out of place
because it misunderstands ritual and the language that it requires. It can suggest a casual or
informal approach to the liturgy which focuses more on the priest and the people than on their
common worship of God. Therefore, in this new phase of renewal, another thing we need to
understand better is the kind of idiom appropriate for worship.
He says perfectly why this type of language seems so out of place for me. The "good mornings" and "have a nice day" are so casual that they disrupt and set the wrong tone for the sacred mysteries as we once again return to Calvary in that one sacrifice that brought us our redemption. Even worse is the practice of some priests to poll the congregation at the end of Mass as to who is visiting, has birthdays, or anniversaries. This is liturgically jarring for me to go from Golgotha to a warm up act at a comedy club.Good intentions of why this is being done aside, it transforms the role of the priest being In Persona Christ to his being a Master of Ceremonies and to create an artificial sense of community that ends up downplaying our real community with all of our prayers being directed in worship to God. When we are in union with Christ and his Church as we receive Communion that is when we are in the fullest sense community.
The Bishop has so much to say that I just direct you to his full letter where he also writes about sacred music, the body as in regard to gestures, beauty, and creativity. Towards the end he also gives specific directions in the Order of Mass and then a some reflections on Communion services. His letter really covers a lot of area and even addresses the excessive use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, lay preaching, etc.
As a side note considering that the Bishop is Australian I found his "The Sign of
Peace is not just a hearty G’day to the world; …" pretty funny to my American ears.