By FR. J. D. CRICHTON Editor of LITURGY Sunday was undoubtedly a great day for the Catholic Church in this country. In my own church there was, I thought, a new note of joy in the people's prayers and responses and one reflected the reform of the liturgy has really begun, If there were inequalites and hesitation in some churches, as there were in my own, this was but to be expected. We are emharking on something that is entirely new to us and we cannot expect that everything will go smoothly all at once.
If, in some churches, there was a sense of unease, this will have been due to the fact that many congregations in this country have been without experience of active participation in the Mass. For them, the change will perhaps have been painful and the results of the new form of celebration disappointing. But all of us, both priests and people, need to renew our conviction about the doctrine and practical principles that arc to be found in the Constitution on the Liturgy and in the Instruction issued this autumn.
For me, the most striking thing about the Constitution is its urgent concern for the people. Over and over again we are told that it is their spiritual good that is being aimed at in the promotion of liturgical practice and in the reform of the rites: "The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short. clear and unencumbered by any useless repetitions: they should be within the people's powers of comprehension."
But all this is not going to remain merely an ideal. It is the church's determination, insisted upon by Popes, by Bishops in council and out of it, that the people shall be able to take their part in public worship. If, then, our enthusiasm wilts in the coming months, and if we are bothered by certain practical difficulties we shall do well to reflect on the great truths that are taught by the Constitution, It sees our worship as that of the people, that of a community which is nothing other than the people of God. It tells us that this is an ordered or hierarchical community in which' each group or member have their own parts to play, parts that should not be taken from them whether by priests or choir. These parts, reading, singing, praying and answering, when done by the different members of the worshipping community show forth the real nature of the true church, as the Constitution says.
By our worship, in other words, we areshowing forth to the world what our church really is, namely, the people of God met together to praise him, to be joined to his sacrifice and to be formed into one body which is a fellowship of love.
But if the liturgy is communal and hierarchic it is also didactic.
One of its chief functions is to teach the people. Few things are insisted on so much by the Constitution "In the liturgy God speaks to his people. and Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel." Surely, last Sunday morning all must have felt the power of God's word as it was proclaimed to them in their own language and with the reader facing them. Certainly in my own church the attention was intense and I am sure that the people felt in a new way the importance of the scripture readings in the Mass if only because they were seen not as something added to the Mass but as part of it.
There is one final reflection I would wish to make : one undoubtedly felt a certain discomfort in the alternation between Latin and English texts as one celebrated Mass. I think the people felt a similar discomfort and I would plead that we might be given permission to use a number of authorised English-Latin missals, if not at once then very soon, for I fear the task of translating the liturgical texts is going to be a long one.
Such permission has already been granted in a number of other countries and if the people's texts should be uniform there does not seem to be the same necessity than those of the priest should be. My own view, for what it is worth, is that probably neither priests nor people will settle comfortably into the new liturgy until all the texts of the ministry of the Word are in English.