Desiderio Desideravi 60b: Formation During the Mass

We continue with section 60 and how the clergy may be formed by the liturgy. Pope Francis concedes these are a few examples, and not the complete set of possibilities. But if one is confused about where to start, these aren’t bad places.

Approaching the altar for the offering, the priest is educated in humility and contrition by the words, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.” [Missale Romanum (2008) p. 515: «In spiritu humilitatis et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine; et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus»] He cannot rely on himself for the ministry confided to him because the Liturgy invites him to pray to be purified through the sign of water, when he says, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” [Missale Romanum (2008) p. 515: «Lava me, Domine, ab iniquitate mea, et a peccato meo munda me»]

Some liturgists dismiss these utterances as pious intrusions on the Mass. Over the years, I would tend to look upon these rituals of word and gesture, even if done silently, as formative of a priest’s attitude and approach. Anything positive in that will impact the communal aspect of the liturgy. One illustration is the tone brought to these orations:

The words which the Liturgy places on his lips have different contents which require specific tonalities. A true ars dicendi is required of the priest by the importance of such words. These give shape and form to his interior feelings, in one moment in supplication of the Father in the name of the assembly, in another in an exhortation addressed to the assembly, in another by acclamation in one voice with the entire assembly.

I’d observe that musicians in the liturgy also have these different tone. It’s important for the musician, or any minister really, to recognize these differences. Not all words, songs, and actions are the same. There is no single elevated speech to perform.

Very vital words that lead the priest into the imitation of Christ:

In the Eucharistic prayer — in which also all of the baptized participate by listening with reverence and in silence and intervening with the acclamations [Cf. GIRM 78-79] the one presiding has the strength, in the name of the whole holy people, to remember before the Father the offering of his Son in the Last Supper, so that that immense gift might be rendered newly present on the altar. In that offering he participates with the offering of himself. The priest cannot recount the Last Supper to the Father without himself becoming a participant in it. He cannot say, “Take this, all of you and eat of it, for this is my Body which will be given up for you,” and not live the same desire to offer his own body, his own life, for the people entrusted to him. This is what happens in the exercise of his ministry.

From all this and from many other things the priest is continually formed by the action of the celebration.

The full document, copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana is here on the Vatican site.

About catholicsensibility

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