ORDER OF THE MASS
Question. What exactly will aw Normative Mass entail?
A. R., Birmingham.
Answer. Last week's question, about the forthcoming revised Order of Mass, dealt with a matter that is naturally and properly one of considerable interest to all Catholics. More than any other topic, the question of proposed liturgical changes inevitably provokes letters from readers, some addressed personally to me, others sent to the editor for publication.
As I mentioned last week, the liturgical reformers have made no great secret of their plans and we are already aware in some detail of what is implied by the forthcoming Normative. or standard Mass. Contrary to what was suggested by some of the more sensational reports, the general Order of the Mass will remain as at present.
There will still be an entry rite, followed by a Liturgy of the Word, the Offertory, the Canon or prayer of consecration, the Communion and the dismissal rite. Indeed, when the proposed revisions were outlined just over a year ago in the Consilium's periodical, one could not help wondering at some of the more hairraising rumours that had gone around.
It is simply false to suggest that all reference to sacrifice is to be omitted; the reforms that are being made are all based on common sense, past traditions, and present pastoral needs. Quite a few reports spoke of a "Mini-Mass" but, when one considers the changes planned in the Liturgy of the Word, the possibility of a third reading from Holy Scripture and the plan to provide an extended psalm with a refrain, to be sung after the first reading, it would be equally appropriate, and just as superficial, to speak of a "Maxi-Mass."
In general the length of time taken for Mass should be no different from what we know at present and the main outlines of the liturgy will be unchanged. There will be no anarchic freedom for the individual celebrant to do simply as he pleases but, equally, the liturgy will be made more pliable than at present and on at least eight points there will be room for local development to suit differing needs and cultural traditions.
Most people will be pleased by the way in which the entry rite is to be tidied up and, after the entry chant, there will be a short but genuine penitential service. For this the jejune but familiar "1 confess" may be used, as at preesnt, but it will be open to different counties to settle on more genuine and relevant prayerforms.
The idea of a three scripture readings on Sundays may suggest trouble. An Old Testament reading, an Epistle and a Gospel are all very well in monasteries but what of the timetables in our city,churches and what of the harassed mothers and fathers, marshalling their charges for Mass?
Just the sort of innovation you might say, that thoughtless celehates would think up! The third reading will probably be optional and, if it comes to counting the minutes. the abbreviation of the Offertory should more than compensate. The time taken for the celebration of Mass will be just about the same as art present.
Why the shortening of the Offertory? The only really worthwhile offering in the Mass is Christ's own selfoffering, achieved once for all on Calvary, made present sacramentally. not at the Offertory at all, but during the Canon.
At the Offertory we simply dedicate the bread and wine that are to be the signs of Christ's self-offering and, as we do so. we add gifts of money and, more important, we offer ourselves.
Anything we can give is infinitely inferior to the one offering that really matters, the sacrifice of Christ. The present Offertory rite does not make these points kt all obvious and we can only await the publication of the
new Order for the Mass and hope that it will make the real meaning of the Offertory appear in an unambiguous manner.