Fr. Peter De Rosa
There is a notion in some quarters that lay participation in the liturgy is a kind of fringe benefit, and that the Vatican Council Fathers spent too much time on it.
But the liturgy is not of secondary importance. That we should enter into its fulness is fundamental to that renewal of the Church's life for which the Council was called.
The Council's constitution on the liturgy was not just the product of the second session. It was the culmination of long years of thinking and practical initiatives on the part of individual bishops and local episcopal conferences in many parts of the world.
Until the character and quality of the Church are renewed by the formation that the liturgy must give, it will not be able to face up to those problems of
THE Church is not a free' for-all, but a hierarchical society established by Christ, and "hierarchy" simply means organised priestly rule, not The apostles, to whom Christ taught the mysteries of the kingdom, were to be the shepherds of his people. "The man who listens to you, listens to me", he told them.
Peter was the chief shcph-erd, and the rock on which the Church is built. But the apostles with him, and their successors in the Apostolic College, are together the witnesses of the Catholic faith and the rulers of God's people.
The Catholic bishops have all met in Council. They came from the four corners of the earth to do so. There is a feeling in some quarters that, after taking all that trouble, the Fathers "did nothing but talk about liturgy" and indulge in polite animosity. in the Latin tongue; that the seven hills of Rome have brought forth a rather sickly mouse. The truth is, however, that the liturgical decree is one of the most important documents ever drawn up in Western Christendom. In order to reform the Church the bishops decided to reform 'the liturgy. This is not the approach of starry-eyed idealists, but of good, hard-headed theologians and pastoral men of a practical bent, as bishops ought to be.
These bishops really believe that the people's participation in the liturgy will help as nothing else can to transform the Church and the world. They are not fobbing off upon the people a sanctuary-substitute in lieu of serious discussions of modern problems.
They are not shepherds trying to pull wool over their sheep's eyes. They are desperately trying to coax their thirsty flocks towards the waters of refreshment.
Sometimes those who boast most about the glories of the universal Church in Council pay the least attention to what the Council says. It's a kind of holy carnival, very nice to watch. Gives You something to talk about.
They are like the little old lady who said, "They're going to hold a Council. How wonderful. I hope they don't change anything".
A few of the old brigade will still contrast the Anglo-Saxon caution of the English bishops with the over-exaggerated "community sense" of their Continental (or "foreign") counterparts. "We are not wogs nor incipient communists. We believe in personal values." Anybody would think the English had a secret Empire of holiness to which the rest of the Church .had no access.
Moreover, our bishops voted "Yes" on the liturgy decree, and to them. as to all the successors of the apostles, our deepest thanks are due.
Home truths, it seems, take a long time to sink in. Perhaps the genius is often the man who meditates on platitudes and sees there really is something in them.
Take the eace of Pius X. He had some important things to say about the liturgy as long ago as 1903. Only lately has he been taken as seriously as he deserved. Pius X claimed that active participation in the sacred mysteries and the public and solemn prayer of
the Church is the primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit. But. of course, he was ahead of his time . . .
Pius XI said, "It is absolutely necessary that the faithful are not present at functions as strangers or mute spectators". (But the winds are still variable: the tide may yet turn.)
Pius XII wrote Mediator Dei in 1947 to show how the Church through her sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies and gives meaning to every phase of human life. And in 1958 the Sacred Congregation of Rites said: "Of its nature, the mass requires that all those who are present at it participate in it in the way proper to them. The laity bring to the liturgy their active participation, and that in virtue of their baptismal character".
By now the winds had reached gale force and the Sea was tearing up the much-loved promenade. Those not in favour of taking part in public worship were finding it hard to hide from the storm. But what to them must have seemed the Church's almost savage insistence on liturgy reached its climax in the Council.
No place is proof against thc tidal waves of statements such as these: "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of liturgy . . . (and) is their right and duty by reason ol their baptism".
"The man who listens to you, listens to me." Full, active participation in public worship is the aim to be considered before all else. Christ's bishops have said so. It is the people's right and duty. Christ's bishops have said so.
We don't need to be eminent logicians to be able to conclude:
those who turn their backs on the primary source of the Christian spirit are going to get a niggardly share of the same; they are not fulfilling their duty to God as members of Christ's Mystical Body.
Moreover, those who are not allowed to participate in the liturgy, either through positive prohibition or because the clergy neglect to instruct them properly. are suffering a cruel injustice. It's no less cruel because it's been going on a long time without anyone noticing.
Those laity who insist on their full, conscious and active participation in the Mass can't be branded as cranks any more. Those who don't so insist, arc either weak in faith or moral endeavour, or are simply unable to read.
The Church in Council has spoken. It's no use going on in the old ways as if the basic principles of participation were still under discussion. It is not the bishops' final, studied decision which is in question: only our response to it. When the Council says "Amen" we don't talk, we act.
But things are not as easy as all that. We need to be told how to act. Obviously, the use of the vernacular is going to make things much easier.
In fact, following the Council's liturgical decree the vernacular has already been introduced in vast areas of Europe, in France, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Germany, Portugal and Switzerland. Brazil, Canada and South Africa also have this not inconsiderable though scarcely more than elementary benefit of being able to understand God's living Word. Other countries like America have given an early date for the introduction of the vernacular.
At home our bishops have demurred but not without reason. There was a genuine difficulty about the Motu Proprio of Paul VI which appeared after the second session of the Council. It seemed at first as it' the Pope had curtailed the bishop's competency, given by the decree, in approving translations from the Latin text for use in liturgy.
The French bishops took this line: the Pope couldn't possibly have meant to take away such competence from the bishops. Apart from contradicting himself —for the Council's decree is the work of Pope and bishops together —the Pope would have effectively denied what he himself said was the primary purpose of the Council: to manifest the episcopacy in the Church.
Far from the Council being the coming-of-age of the bishops there was, if the Motu Proprio was interpreted to strictly, a danger of perpetuating their adolescence.
After all, to be able to judge the quality of the translations of the bible and their fitness for liturgical use is hardly an extraordinary qualification in men set apart by God to rule his Church as apostles and teachers. This is especially true in those countries where standard translations have been employed for centuries or where the bishops have long ago approved, sometimes even commissioned, modern translations.
The Pope, by amending the Motu Proprio, has settled any doubts. The bishops approve the translations. Rome confirms them. It's as simple as that. A letter to Rome and a letter back, and we can have the indispensable use of our mother tongue in worship. Remember, the. English are a byword abroad for refusing to speak any language but their own.
But it would be foolish to think that the vernacular will solve all our problems. Our parishes won't rise from the dead by the mere exchange of a dead for a living language. The successors of the apostles alone can put us in living liturgical contact with our living Lord. It was for this that they were consecrated.
Pius XII, realising this, said to the bishops of the world in Mediator Dei • "We exhort you. venerable brothers, to regulate and order in your dioceses the manner and the method according to which the ecople will participate in the liturgical action."
That was in 1947. The response was overwhelming.
In 1949, Cardinal Suhard of Paris drew attention to the pastoral character of the liturgy, and of the Mass in particular. He gave detailed directions to his clergy on matters of translations, readings, ways of helping the people to join in public worship.
In 1951 at their congress, the French bishops announced national Directories for liturgical instructions). That same year their Directory on the sacraments appeared. Archbishop Guerry, in his Introduction, said: "The episcopal Directory is the proof indeed that there exists, in the middle of the twentieth century, a Church in France which is a reality".
The French Directory on the Mass came out in 1956, a superb document. It was drawn up for the faithful who want to take part in the sacred mysteries, and for priests whose ambition it is to make known to the faithful the riches of the liturgy, and so to make their parishes alive.
Whole streams of Directories had emerged from individual bishops, from the bishops of Nancy, Strasbourg, Bordeaux. Aix, Annecy, Cambrai, Carcassonne etc. There was the delightful document of Card. Gerlin of Lyons in 1953, Initiating Children in the Mass.
A Centre of Pastoral Liturgy was set up to co-ordinate individual efforts. In 1956 a Higher Institute Of Liturgy was founded and was attached to the theology faculty of the Institut Catholique in Paris. its two year Course is of university standard and the lecturers are all accredited experts.
The Belgians, with Dom Lambert Beauduin, and the Germans, with the Abbey of Maria Laach, had a big start even on the French. And Austria had Pius Parsch with his early demands for an authentic people's liturgy and Jungmann with his monumental historical researches and kerygmatic theology.
The facts speak for themselves. Only a few more will be quoted to give some impression of the vitality of the liturgical movement and the bishops' interest in it.
By 1957, five out of the six dioceses of Belgium had Directories.
In Germany, the bishops took control of the liturgical stirrings and founded an Institute. Rules were drawn up and issued as early as 1942.
Italy has benefited from the dynamic influence of Cardinal Lercaro with his A messa figliolo, a Directory for Bologna but extended to many Italian dioceses. Card. Montini's pastorals for Lent 1958 and 1959 arc now world famous. His whole effort was directed to making the people participate in the worship of the Church. Full commentaries on his texts were given in a weekly religious magazine.
In 1958, the Argentine episcopate put out a national Directory, the result of two years work by its theological and pastoral commission. Considering the country's shortage of priests and the standard of education among the populace this was a superb document, and adapted to the local conditions.
In Spain, apart from the amazingly progressive work of the Archbishop of Barcelona, the Junta nacional de Apostolado liturgico was established. A two-year campaign was set on foot to stir up the faithful to participate in the Mass. The Junta nacional was, of course, presided over by a bishop and had representatives from all the dioceses of Spain from the beginning. It gives assistance to the liturgical commissions in each diocese.
In 1960 Mass-Directories were drawn up by five bishops of the province of Montreal and extended to eight other dioceses. In the same year the episcopate of Chile sent out its Directorio pastoral para la santa misa.
Everywhere from places as diverse as French Canada, India and Latin America the call of Pius XII has been answered in a dramatic way.
Certain conclusions are wellestablished as a result of this brief survey.
Without the enthusiasm and guidance of the bishops liturgical worship is still-born. When the liturgy is dead, the parish is dead. When the parish is dead, the apostolate is dead.
It is agreed everywhere that after Rome tor the Council) has made decrees the Diocesan or National Directories are needed more than ever to prepare the clergy, and. by means of them, the minds of the faithful for the changes. It is up to the bishops to see that the new decisions are put into practice.
The anxieties of the people about changes must be taken into consideration but only with a view to dispelling the anxieties and so facilitating change. The pastors must not acquiesce in the inertia of their flock hut lead them to desire to do what the Church wants them to do.
The bishops who issued Directories invariably consulted their scholars and their clergy, thus effectively admitting that charismatic (Spirit-inspired) gifts existed in their subjects as well. In this way, too, the bishops ensured the support and not the disfavour of their subjects..
The one aim of the Directories —as of the Conciliar decree—is to promote full participation in worship. Full participation is by voice, gesture and heart. Rubrics exquisitely performed without interior devotion are like a beautifully bound book without print or pictures on its pages.
These Directories are not optional but normative.
The changes are to be made progressively. Not a single modification is to be introduced without the reason for it being given to the faithful.
The liturgy must become the standard form of Christian education. There must be true catcchesis, without polemics or apologetics. The people must be taught about their religion by means of the rites in which it is embodied.
The Mass is invariably divided into the liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic liturgy. The roles of the priest and people in each are outlined.
The mystery of the Christian assembly is explained at length, and the attitudes to be adopted at every stage of the Mass are laid down. The use of bilingual texts once encouraged is now obsolete because of the permission for the vernacular. Much stress is given to children's instruction in the Mass. Card. Gerlier wrote: "It is in the course of these (boring) Masses that an irresistible nausea develops at all religious practices.
Often the Directories appended lists of recommended chants and hymns suitable for the Mass, and excellent bibliographies.
4uthenticated facts are like moRintains, majestic and inescapable. Episcopal zeal for the liturgy throughout the Church is an authenticated fact. The decree of Vatican Il was only the Catholic expression of what innumerable, individual bishops throughout the world had been saying and doing for a considerable time.
"Zeal for (he promotion and restoration of the liturgy is rightly held to be a sign of the providential dispositions of God in our time, as a movement of the Holy Spirit in his Church" (Decree par. 43.).
"He who listens to you, listens to me", said Christ to his apostles and their successors. Lord Jesus, we are listening. Speak.