Cinquant’anni Dopo 10-11: In the Person of Christ

Fr Ev farewell MassWe continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano. I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. Others are out there.

The dialogues are among the most important parts of the Mass. I would suggest there are many dialogues at Mass that involve other persons. Responsorial psalmody is both the proclamation of the sung Word of God as well as a dialogue with the liturgical assembly.

Of course, there are other parts of the Mass in which the priest, acting “in persona Christi Capitis” [“in the person of Christ the Head”] enters into a nuptial dialogue with the assembly. But the only purpose of this face-to-face is to lead to a tête-À-tête with God which, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will become a heart-to-heart conversation.

That experience of cor ad cor loquitur would certainly be a prime grace hoped-for in the spiritual life of Christians.

Cardinal Sarah adds a citation from SC, but inaccurately, I think:

The Council thus proposes other means of promoting participation: “acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes” (no. 30).

The Constitution reads that encouraging these means will promote participation. It is the encouragement in context of the non-participating assemblies of the 1960’s that was deemed an important need. When the faithful engage in these spoken and sung words as well as bodily postures they are fulfilling the rubrics of the Missal with regard to their own participation.

A misinterpretation of good liturgy follows:

An over-hasty and all-too-human interpretation has led some to conclude that it was necessary to make sure that the faithful were constantly busy.

Post-conciliar liturgical reform also promotes silence. There is a difference between silent attention when other people are serving and biding one’s time for one’s next opportunity. Clergy are often, but not always, good role models for this. There are also collective times of silence: after readings, after the invitation to pray, and at other important moments.

The contemporary Western mentality, shaped by technology and fascinated by the media, tried to make the liturgy a work of effective, rewarding instruction.

Not only media, but also the Church’s misplaced catechetical instincts.

In this spirit, many have tried to make liturgical celebrations convivial. Liturgical ministers, prompted by pastoral motives, sometimes try to instruct by introducing profane, show-business elements into liturgical celebrations. Don’t we sometimes see a proliferation of testimonies, scenery and applause? They think that this will foster the participation of the faithful, whereas in fact it reduces the liturgy to a human game.

Often it does. Announcements, staging, and clapping all can reduce liturgy to something less than it could be. I tend not to worry over much about applause–it’s second dictionary definition is affirmation for an idea expressed. It’s not always about affirming performance. The local pastor is the best judge of the context of things such as testimonies and applause.

Note: I Wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site. Your comments, however, are most welcome.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Cinquant’anni Dopo 10-11: In the Person of Christ

  1. Liam says:

    As you know, silence is one of those things – like the parochial celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours – where a significant wing of progressive liturgists have labored but often been rebuffed by the prioritzation of other values. In the case of silence, one particular higher value (at least in typical American Catholic parishes) is Thou Shalt Not Add More Time To The Mass Than Is Absolutely Necessary – a value that may have taken even deeper root in post-WW2 Catholicism when Masses all had to be in the morning (no Masses beginning after noon) and parishes prioritized the logistics of getting congregants out and in and out. In any event, here is a topic where Cdl Sarah may not understand the likely objects of his criticism well.

    In the American context, I do think conviviality is an issue meriting critical assessment – it’s often an implied value (sometimes, it becomes an express value*). It’s an issue because our culture so emphatically values extroversion (which I mean in the Jungian/MBTI sense) – so much so, that introverts get Stockholm syndrome and internalize a critique of the limitations of introversion in a kind of pathetic rather than spiritually healthy way (it seems to be a common affliction in Catholic parishes – watching the introverts on committees engage in a kind of reverse egoism that makes one realize how easy it was for Maoist reeducation camps to succeed in a culture like China’s…).

    * I’ve certainly witnessed by clergy and lay ministers who regularly judge the merits of corporate worship by the standards of liveliness for liveliness’ sake, and who have a dread of anything that seems to smack of unliveliness, for lack of a better term.

    • Todd says:

      In the American context, agreed. Conviviality, chattering, and so on–merit assessment in particular situations. Probably not universal condemnation without personal experience. Americans are individualistic and contrary enough to decline public participation in conviviality as such. But I’m a skeptic for putting a theological blanket over it when the easier–and more intentional–solution is to leave the quiet Church open for many quiet hours each day. Even introverts need communal connections, and even extroverts require times for contemplation. It’s the American expectation of one-stop shopping in play: that the Mass will provide for all our social and contemplative needs, all in a one-hour host on Sunday. Wrong.

      Part of the assessment of, say, overly exuberant peace exchanges is to provide meaningful times for people to share in a faith/religious/ritual context. My assessment is that Americans very much desire authentic connections with others. More so than fifty years ago. On the surface, maybe it’s too huggy and kissy for some. But it’s not just culture intruding on liturgy. The context of Mass should tell us something more is at work here.

      • Liam says:

        Oh, I wasn’t talking so much about the Pax*. No, I am mostly talking about presidential styles that “ride” a congregation’s energy, and where music selection is critiqued with that liveliness in mind. (One thing I miss about a former parish was how fine its liturgical culture in terms of restraining ministerial ego-needs from being given much shrift in the celebration of the liturgy; it was a sensibility cultivated over decades.)

        * In fact, I will note a practice I see prevalent in suburban parishes in Greater Boston that appears to have taken root in the last flu epidemic season a couple of years ago: The Wave(TM). People studiously avoiding Touch and instead waving. I actually find it even more secular than handshakes and hugs. That’s not to say that I’ve never witnessed the conversion of the Pax into something it’s not meant to be, but I don’t frequent places that do that anymore….

    • JennyN says:

      one particular higher value (at least in typical American Catholic parishes) is Thou Shalt Not Add More Time To The Mass Than Is Absolutely Necessary

      That’s been around for a while. It’s said that one particular priest was a favourite of King Henry II of England (1133-1189) because he could gabble through morning Mass in 10 minutes flat – thus allowing the king to get an early start on the day’s hunting.

      [Snarky note: this is the kind of thing that makes me wish the Rad Trads who claim that everything was better / more reverent in The Old Days knew more about what the Old Days were really like…]

      • Liam says:

        To their credit, there are plenty of Trads who admit that widespread preconciliar praxis was far from ideal. Also, it should be noted that there were areas where there was a much higher standard of praxis (in Germanic lands, France, the Low Countries, among other places), so it doesn’t work to assume that typical Irish-American praxis was the norm everywhere….

        On the other hand, there are uber-rad trads who see the liturgical and sacramental revolutions of Pope St Pius X as the hinge points that need to be reversed…. They may be WOTLP (Way Out There, Like Pluto), but it’s important to understand how far certain backwaters can go.

  2. JennyN says:

    there was a much higher standard of praxis (in Germanic lands, France, the Low Countries, among other places)
    France? Ah yes. Where, when the King entered the royal chapel in the palace of Versailles, the courtiers turned their backs to the altar to greet him…

    so it doesn’t work to assume that typical Irish-American praxis was the norm everywhere….
    Well, as I gave the example of a Plantagenet King of England – and large chunks of France – I think we’re talking Anglo-Norman here. (But since you do mention Ireland even if indirectly, perhaps I should mention that the attitude of the Angevins, like most of their successors, was that the Irish existed to be Done Unto).

    • Liam says:

      I was not talking of ancien regime France. Rather, France was an area in the vanguard of the Liturgical Movement that led up to Vatican II. Event in the EF communities in France today, you will observe much more active participation by the faithful in the Mass in ways that are rare in the USA.

      • JennyN says:

        Even in the EF communities in France today, you will observe much more active participation by the faithful in the Mass in ways that are rare in the USA.
        I’ll take your word for it, since I have no experience of living in the US. I did spend some years in France, however, but didn’t observe any practice by “EF communities” – perhaps because it’s now quite some time since the Catholic Church has been any kind of serious force in French cultural, social or political life (the attempted anti-gay marriage and adoption stuff notwithstanding).

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