As we read yesterday, a community might have a church already in use. At some point, a liturgy is needed to mark a shift in status ((perhaps from chapel or oratory) or to celebrate a significant renovation or restoration. Chapter III of the RDCA, brief though it is, gives these important differences from the previous chapter:
2. All the directions given in the Introduction to chapter two apply to this rite, unless they are clearly extraneous to the situation which this rite envisages or other directions are given.
This rite differs chiefly from that described in chapter two on these points:
- a) The rite of opening the doors of the church (see chapter two, no. 34 or no. 41) is omitted, since the church is already open to the community; consequently, the entrance rite takes the form of the simple entrance (see chapter two, nos. 43-47). However, in the case of dedicating a church closed for a long time and now being opened again for sacred celebrations, the rite of opening the doors may be carried out, since in this case it retains its point and significance.
- b) The rite of handing over the church to the bishop (see chapter two, no. 33 or no. 40 or no. 47), depending on the situation, is either to be followed, omitted, or adapted in a way relevant to the condition of the church being dedicated (for example, it will be right to retain it in dedicating a church built recently; to omit it in dedicating an older church where nothing has been changed in the structure; to adapt it in dedicating an older church completely restored).
- c) The rite of sprinkling the church walls with holy water (see chapter two, nos. 48-50), purificatory by its very nature, is omitted.
- d) All the rites belonging to the first proclamation of the word of God in a church (see chapter two, no. 53) are omitted; thus the liturgy of the word takes place in the usual way. A different, pertinent reading is chosen in place of Neh 8:1-4a and its responsorial psalm, Ps 19b:8-9,10,15 (see chapter two, no. 54a).
2a would seem to suggest that if a church were closed for renovation, a period of months, that the opening of the doors could be ritualized. From my experience, I remember this was done for a parish renovation that took six months, but not for one that required just four weeks.
2b seems very clear. My recollection with my “six month” parish was that we didn’t “hand over” the building to our bishop. It had already been done a half-century before when the original structure was dedicated.
2d brings us to an interesting point with readings. If dedicating a church already in use doesn’t trigger certain rituals, including the special Lectionary reading, then it probably doesn’t raise the event to the level of a liturgical observance. In other words, the original dedication of a church already is use is the proper observance. And if that is true, then this Mass of Chapter III becomes more a ritual Mass and not a solemnity. Treatment of the Gospel reading would need to follow ordinary practice. My 1996 parish’s rededication was celebrated on the Sunday of Christ the King. I don’t recall us departing from that day’s Lectionary, except for the second reading.