Liturgicae Instaurationes 1

As we get into the main body of Liturgicae Instaurationes, we read first of one of the core principles applied to liturgical reform, “noble simplicity.”

1. The new norms have made liturgical formularies, gestures, and actions much simpler, in keeping with that principle established in the Constitution on the Liturgy: “The rites should be marked 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 as a rule not require much explanation.” (SC 34.) No one should go beyond these defined limits; to do so would be to strip the liturgy of its sacred symbolism and proper beauty, so needed for the fulfillment of the mystery of salvation in the Christian community and, with the help of an effective catechesis, for its comprehension under the veil of things that are seen.

Notice the perspective of the Consilium here. They see the new Roman Missal as adequately leaned down. The limit we are cautioned against is the trespass of stripping more things away from the liturgy. If aspects of the liturgy present spiritual or pastoral problems, catechesis is the proper remedy, suggests Rome, not further pruning.

A disclaimer follows:

The liturgical reform bears absolutely no relation to what is called “desacralization” and in no way intends to lend support to the phenomenon of “secularizing the world.” Accordingly the rites must retain their dignity, spirit of reverence, and sacred character.

And a caution for presiders and other liturgical leaders:

The effectiveness of liturgy does not lie in experimenting with rites and altering them over and over, nor in a continuous reductionism, but solely in entering more deeply into the word of God and the mystery being celebrated. It is the presence of these two that authenticates the Church’s rites, not what some priest decides, indulging his own preferences.

Keep in mind, then, that the private recasting of ritual introduced by an individual priest insults the dignity of the believer and lays the way open to individual and idiosyncratic forms in celebrations that are in fact the property of the whole Church.

The ministry of the priest is the ministry of the universal Church: its exercise is impossible without obedience, hierarchic communion, and the will to serve God and neighbor. The hierarchic character and sacramental power of the liturgy as well as the respectful service owed to the believing community demand that the priest fulfill his role in worship as the “faithful servant and steward of the mysteries of God.” (See 1 Cor 4:1.) without imposing any rite not decreed and sanctioned by the liturgical books.

I was thinking of my young Iowa friend and his indulgence for forty-minute Masses. I’m not sure that forty minutes for a Sunday liturgy is a reasonable expectation of the laity. But I’m sure that Tridentine mannerisms don’t quite make up for blurry-fast speech and the iundulgence of personal idiosyncracies.

It strikes me, and this is borne out by experience, that offenders against these prescriptions are not necessarily progressive clergy as a group. If I were to generally characterize liturgical abuse coming from priests, it would be those who are unable or unwilling to enter into the mystery of the Word and Sacrament they celebrate.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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