GIRM 398-399: Last Words on Liturgical Renewal

With this post, we come to the end of another church document. Here are the last two sections, reminding us of the importance of proceeding cautiously with liturgical innovation:

398. The norm established by the Second Vatican Council, namely that in the liturgical renewal innovations should not be made unless required by true and certain usefulness to the Church, nor without exercising caution to ensure that new forms grow in some sense organically from forms already existing,[Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 23] must also be applied to implementation of the inculturation of the Roman Rite as such.[Cf. Varietates Legitimae 46] Inculturation, moreover, requires a necessary length of time, lest the authentic liturgical tradition suffer hasty and incautious contamination. Finally, the pursuit of inculturation does not have as its purpose in any way the creation of new families of rites, but aims rather at meeting the needs of a particular culture, though in such a way that adaptations introduced either into the Missal or coordinated with other liturgical books are not at variance with the proper character of the Roman Rite.[Cf. Varietates Legitimae 36]

399. And so, the Roman Missal, though in a diversity of languages and with some variety of customs,[Cf. Varietates Legitimae 54] must in the future be safeguarded as an instrument and an outstanding sign of the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite.[Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 38; Apostolic Constitution, Missale Romanum 61]

With this you have the direct statement that the Roman Rite is the end result, to a degree, of the Western rites of Christendom. In this approach, the Roman Rite sees itself as eminently adaptable to any human culture, but always preserving the quality and foundation of the traditional Rite. And to a degree this has happened through the centuries. Rome has indeed absorbed much from the other rites, and it continues to do so today, either by the official acceptance and recognitio of worldwide “customs,” or even by maintaining a certain Roman integrity in the face of less legitimate adaptations.

Any final comments on the GIRM before we move on to the next document? Those following us: what were your observations? Those reading through the GIRM for the first time: was it what you expected? And for anyone else, was it confirmation of what you knew, or did it expand your horizons?

I will share a bit of my own experience when I was asked to participate in an archdiocesan task force about a decade ago. Many people on the committee were alarmed with what they heard about the new GIRM. I spent several hours with the Latin text, the 2002 translation, and my old trusty GIRM from grad school. I charted out the changes from 1975 to 2002, and checked a few translation points here and there. I found much that was good in this document. By and large, it serves the Church well, even if the tightening of rubrics is a bit more restrictive than what was and is called for. A parish could do a lot worse than follow all the practices set forth in the GIRM.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to GIRM 398-399: Last Words on Liturgical Renewal

  1. Liam says:

    “By and large, it serves the Church well, even if the tightening of rubrics is a bit more restrictive than what was and is called for. A parish could do a lot worse than follow all the practices set forth in the GIRM.”

    Amen. If parishes spent more time exploring what is permitted (and why) than in inventing (or rationalizing the perpetuation of earlier inventions) in a discriminating and perseverant manner, they might be pleasantly surprised.

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